Discover the Heart of Portugal

Trip Length 7 Days
Group Size 4-14
Difficulty
2

Starting from

$3,199

for REI Members

$3,499 for non-members

Departures

Sep 2019-Nov 2020

Head off the beaten path into authentic Portugal. Savor its layers of history, culture, cuisine and exquisite natural beauty.

Venture into central Portugal, a crossroads of scenery and history. Gentle hikes draw us through a kaleidoscope of landscapes, from the sapphire lagoons and wind-lashed cliffs of the Atlantic coast to the lush valleys of the Rio Zezere. We follow its banks to the village of Dornes, one of the country’s Seven Wonders.

Remnants of the past punctuate our travels. Spend a night in a palace in the magical forest of Buçaco, a walled arboretum featuring flora from the Age of Discovery. Marvel at Tomar, founded by the Knights Templar; Almourol, a fortresslike castle on an island; and Obidos, a castle town on a site once occupied by the Romans. Our adventure ends in Porto, a vibrant city with a labyrinth of medieval streets--a fitting end to our journey into the living heart of Portugal.

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Trip highlights

  • Discover Portugal’s best kept secret – the Centro region
  • Hike along the beaches and cliffs of the wild Atlantic coast to Azenhas do Mar
  • Explore walled castle towns and riverside villages of the Knights Templar
  • Begin and end in two historic and vibrant Portuguese cities – Lisbon and Porto
  • Delight in fresh cuisine – seafood, local cheeses and Portuguese wines

Activities

This trip is rated Easy Active [2]. Trip members should be capable of hiking up to 4 hours (up to 5 miles) on consecutive days.Hikes may include trails with loose dirt, rocks, sand, numerous stone stairs of variable height, and sections with steep ascents and descents. Elevation gain/loss is minimal on this trip.

  • Hiking
  • Walking

What's Included

Lodging and meals as indicated on the daily itinerary. Wine with dinners. Professional guide services. Transportation during the course of the trip.

Accommodations

Hotels, 6 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hike the wild Atlantic coast; explore the castle town of Óbidos.

Our trip begins in Lisbon, Portugal with a 9am group rendezvous. A short drive brings us to Adraga Beach in Sintra-Cascais National Park. We hike along the rugged coast and through pines, with gorgeous views of the wild Atlantic. We pass brave fisherman perched on the cliffs hooking the day's catch. Our hike ends in Azenhas do Mar, a small village perched above an ocean pool. After lunch we explore the medieval UNESCO castle town of Óbidos. The tiled entrance to Óbidos opens onto a historical center with churches and cobbled streets lined with whitewashed, bougainvillea-draped houses. A walk along the castle walls gives us magnificent views and an appreciation for a forgotten way of life. We spend the first two nights in Foz do Arelho next to the Óbidos Lagoon. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 4 miles, elevation gain/loss: 574’; City walking tour: 1 mile.

Day 2

Discover Caldas da Rainha and colorful farmers’ and fish markets.

We start our day with a visit to the peaceful spa town of Caldas da Rainha which translates to “Spas of the Queen”. It was named after Queen Leonor who believed in the thermal waters’ medicinal properties. We walk along a route with sculptures by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, the local 19th century ceramicist known for his sarcastic political commentary and cabbage leaf pottery. We stop to visit the local farmers’ and fish markets before a guided visit of the famous Bordalo Pinheiro ceramics factory. After lunch we take a short hike along the coast and enjoy sweeping views over the rugged Atlantic coast and Óbidos Lagoon. Choose to return to our hotel on foot or take a short transfer. Tonight, we enjoy a stroll and dinner in the nearby, charming fishing village of São Martinho do Porto. Breakfast and dinner included.

Hiking: 2 miles; Walking: 2 miles; Optional hiking: 2 miles.

Day 3

Hike in Serra de Aire National Park and the Mira de Aire Caves.

Our hike in the Serras de Aire Mountains begins in Fornea de Alcaria. We are provided with views over the valley leading to a plateau and ending at the bottom of a limestone amphitheater, an extraordinary geological phenomenon. Next, we visit the Mira de Aire caves, a Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal site. The caves are the largest in Iberia extending for 7 miles. Over thousands of years, rainwater has created beautiful sculptures in the limestone. Once in the heart of the cave, more than 600 stairs deep, we stop for tapas and local wines, aged at an ideal cool temperature. We spend the next three nights in Tomar, one of central Portugal’s most charming riverside towns. We walk to dinner on the pedestrian streets of the cross-shaped medieval neighborhood. Breakfast and dinner included.

Hiking: 3 miles; Walking: 1 mile.

Day 4

Tour Tomar’s Convent of Christ and Almourol castle on the Tagus River.

We walk from our hotel to the UNESCO World Heritage site Convent of Christ for a guided tour. The Convent, built by the Knights Templar in 1160, is a unique Portuguese monastic fortress that was in construction for nearly five centuries. Next, we make a stop to see the Aqueduct of Pegões, a major public work built in the 16th century. With 180 arches stretching over 6 kilometers, this monumental work was designed to supply water to the Convent of Christ. We transfer to Constancia and enjoy lunch in beautiful gardens along the Tagus River. After a short walk we take a boat ride to the medieval Castle of Almourol perched on a small island in the middle of the Tagus River. After our visit we return to our hotel to enjoy a free night in Tomar. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking: 3 miles.

Day 5

Enjoy a boat ride to charming Dornes village.

Today we explore along the riverbank of the Zezere River to Vale Serrão. Our hike rewards us with extraordinary panoramic views over the still river waters amongst the lush vegetation. We board a small river boat and journey to Dornes, a picturesque riverside village. It is located on a small peninsula and is known for its pentagonal tower, thought to be built by the Knights Templar, which rises majestically above the surrounding houses. In the evening we relax and enjoy a Portuguese​ dinner together. Breakfast and dinner included.​​

Hiking: 3.2 miles.

Day 6

Hike in Buçaco National Forest; overnight in a former royal palace.

Today we hike in the magical Buçaco National Forest. The forest dates back to the 6th century when it belonged to a Benedictine monastery. The virgin forest was conceded to the Barefoot Carmelites in the 17th-century for their spiritual hermitage to withdraw totally from the outside world. Our hike follows the water trail, full of springs and streams immersed in a forest with exotic tree species. The forest retains characteristics of a primitive forest in the mountains of central Portugal with high ecological relevance. It is renowned by for its rarity and unique biodiversity. We overnight in the historic Buçaco Palace Hotel. The Portuguese royal family enjoyed Buçaco so much, they built both a royal summer palace and hunting lodge in the center of the forest. Today these royal sites have been converted into the Buçaco Palace Hotel where we overnight. We gather for a farewell dinner in the palace dining room. All meals included.

Hiking: 2.2 miles; Optional hike: 1.6 miles.

Day 7

Say farewell; return to Porto or Lisbon.

This morning we say goodbye to our guides and each other, making a final transfer to Porto. Drop-offs at the Porto airport and a designated downtown hotel are available. You are welcome to schedule your homeward flight for any time after 2pm or stay on and explore this vibrant city. We also have the option to return to Lisbon with our guides. Breakfast included.

Transfer: 1.5 hours to Porto or 2.5 hours to Lisbon.

Discover the Heart of Portugal Departures

  • Prices are per person, based on double occupancy
  • Prices are per person, based on double occupancy
  • Prices are per person, based on double occupancy

Gear list

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

Packed by you (Required)

Recommended

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Travel Documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (1-800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice, which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Meet your guides

Nuno R.

A native of Portugal, Nuno has travelled extensively in South America and teaches scuba diving in the summers. His love of the outdoors, hiking, cycling and camping is shared with kids of all ages at summer camps.

Meet your guides

Pedro M.

This 2015 REI Top Guide began leading hiking and cycling tours in 2007. A native of Portugal, Pedro attended college in Connecticut and earned his master's degree in economics in Lisbon. In addition to guiding he enjoys hiking, cycling, surfing and soccer.

Adventure Expert

Janel

Gentle hikes lead us through a variety of landscapes as we discover the unspoiled beauty of Portugal’s hidden treasures that have served as critical cultural crossroads and witnessed key historical moments.