Grand Lusitania with Guelph Arts Council

A thorough exploration of Portugal, Spain’s lesser known but beautiful and fascinating small neighbour, from the northern region of Minho and the country’s wine capital, Porto, via the old university town of Coimbra, the great shrine of Fatima, the picturesque Alentejo region, and the world-famous Algarve, important historically since this is where Portugal’s worldwide expansion got under way, to the beautiful capital, Lisbon and its scenic surroundings, including Cabo da Roca, the European mainland’s westernmost point. 

This tour features no less than nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, first-class hotels, excellent food, and fine wines; it is offered in collaboration with Guelph Arts Council and is conducted by Jacques Pauwels, PhD, author of ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of Peoples and Places’ (London, 2009) and many other books published in ten languages.

BOOKING INFORMATION

April 09 - 24, 2024

$5,995.00 per person based on two people sharing

Single supplement: $1,100.00 Land Only; $4,895.00

Waitlist Only

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*If the tour is SOLD OUT, please contact us to be added to the waitlist.


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Tuesday, April 09: Flight

Late evening departure on Air Canada’s non-stop flight from Toronto to Lisbon.

Day 2 - Wednesday, April 10: Nazare

Late-morning arrival in Lisbon, where we will be met by a private tour coach to take us north to Obidos, the best preserved and most picturesque medieval town in Portugal, where we will stop for lunch and a short visit. Then we continue northward to Nazare, a famous fishing village with a long beach popular with surfers. Check into the centrally located first-class/four-star hotel Praia (https://www.hotelpraia.com/en/Homepage) and free time to settle in. There may still be time for a walk on the beach or in the old town before dinner in the restaurant of our hotel. 

Day 3 - Thursday, April 11: Caminha

After breakfast, short drive inland to the town of Batalha, site of a decisive battle, fought in the year 1385, where a Portuguese victory secured the small country’s independence from neighbouring Spain. Visit to the impressive Gothic monastery that was built to commemorate the great victory and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-attractions/batalha). In the afternoon, scenic drive, sometimes along the coast and sometimes inland, past the great city of Porto, to the northernmost periphery of Portugal, a region known as Minho. Our destination is Caminha, a fortified town situated on the estuary of the Minho River, which constitutes the border with Spain. Dinner and overnight in the first-class Hotel Porta do Sol, overlooking the river and Spain on the other side (https://hotelportadosol.com/en).

Day 4 - Friday, April 12: Caminha

A full day of sightseeing in Minho, an area of outstanding natural beauty with mountains, river valleys, and a dramatic Atlantic coastline known as the Costa Verde or “Green Coast”. Our program will include most if not all of the following: the village of Ponte de Lima with its long medieval bridge; the historic towns of Guimarães, Portugal’s first capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-city-guides/guimaraes-guide), and Braga, the country’s ecclesiastical centre, whose Bom Jesus do Monte church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-attractions/bomjesus); Citânia de Briteiros, one of the most important protohistoric archeological sites of the Iberian Peninsula; and a scenic ride back to Caminha along the coastal road. No group dinner this evening, which means an opportunity to try traditional seafood specialties such as cod and grilled sardines, with shellfish as a (sometimes considerably pricier) alternative!

 

Day 5 - Saturday, April 13: Lamego

Departure from Caminha after breakfast. We head for Porto, Portugal's second major city, perched on the banks of the Douro River; the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the cradle of Portugal's independence. The country was in fact named after the Latin name of this city, Portus Cale (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-city-guides/ribeira-porto). After a panoramic sightseeing tour and some free time to enjoy lunch, shop, visit museums, and/or explore the city on your own, we head inland, following the Douro River upstream, to the town of Lamego in the heart of the Port wine country. Dinner and overnight in a traditional hotel, a former winery, the Vascondes de Varzea.

(https://www.hotelruralviscondesvarzea.com/en).

 

Day 6 - Sunday, April 14: Lamego

A full-day exploration of the scenic Douro Vally wine country, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, with visits to a “quinta” or winery owned by the world-famous firm of Sandeman, a scenic boat tour on the Douro River, and a visit to Casa de Mateus, the magnificent palace - and lush gardens! - associated with the world-famous wine of the same name; a wine tasting is also included. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. Today, group lunch OR dinner.

Day 7 - Monday, April 15: Coimbra

This morning motor south to the Buçaco Forest, an ancient, walled arboretum boasting more than 250 tree and shrub species, including huge centenarians and exotics introduced by Portuguese mariners; the forest is featured on UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage Sites (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Bu%C3%A7aco_Forest). On to Conímbriga for a visit to the impressive ruins of a major Roman settlement, with a forum, paleo-Christian Basilica, baths, aqueducts, etc. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Con%C3%ADmbriga). Then we arrive in Coimbra, an ancient city which is home to the most famous university in the Portuguese-speaking world and, founded in 1290, one of the oldest in Europe, and now ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-attractions/velha-universidade). Our local city tour will focus on this venerable institution, and particularly its fabulous library. Dinner and overnight in the first-class Hotel Tivoli Coimbra (https://www.nh-hotels.com/hotel/tivoli-coimbra)

Day 8 - Tuesday, April 16: Evora

Departure from Coimbra after breakfast. Drive south to Fatima, the town where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before three peasant children in 1917, for a look at the impressive sanctuary and time for lunch. Continue into the Alentejo, a vast region whose name means “beyond the Tejo [i.e., Tagus] River”. This is Portugal’s garden, featuring huge cork plantations, wheat fields, and vineyards. Our destination is the picturesque town of Evora, situated close to the Spanish border. Dinner and overnight in the first-class Évora Olive Hotel, situated in the heart of the beautiful historical city centre (https://www.artsoulgroup.com/evoraolivehotel/en).

Day 9 - Wednesday, April 17: Evora

Morning walking tour of old Evora, already an important city when Portugal, then known as Lusitania, was ruled by the Romans, whose memory is conjured up by the remains of city walls and baths as well as the ruins of what must have been an impressive temple; the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-city-guides/evora-guide). Also short sidetrip to view the extraordinary prehistoric site of Os Almendres, where no fewer than 92 megaliths are sprinkled on a hillside. Return to the hotel and rest of the day free to shop or explore Evora on your own. No group dinner this evening.

Day 10 - Thursday, April 18: Algarve

Departure from Evora after breakfast. We motor southward to the Algarve, southern Portugal’s world-famous coastline, sprinkled with historical fishing villages, picturesque towns, and seaside resorts. Our destination is the small resort of Alvor, situated on the banks of the estuary of the Alvor River and boasting one of the larges sandy beaches. Accommodation in in a four-star hotel overlooking the beach just outside the small resort of Alvor, the Pestana Dom João II (https://www.pestana.com/en/hotel/pestana-dom-(joao?gclid=CjwKCAjwwb6lBhBJEiwAbuVUSjDYLGt8Zdheauuslif0Pza5zfOlKa0o9eqoGCAewd3XU17jib1mEhoC4CcQAvD_BwE) Hopefully we will arrive early, so there will be time for a walk on the beach or into the town before dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.  

Day 11 - Friday, April 19: Alvor

Few tourists visiting the Algarve know that this part of the country also happens to be the starting point of Portugal’s great discoveries and subsequent worldwide expansion, truly amazing for a relatively small country. This morning we visit the place where much of this accomplishment was orchestrated under the auspices of Prince Henry the Navigator, namely the town of Sagres with its fishing village, beaches, fortress, and Cape Saint Vincent. Return to the hotel after lunch and afternoon at leisure.

Day 12 - Saturday, April 20: Lisbon

Departure after breakfast. Drive to seaport of Setubal, where we stop for lunch and will hopefully have an opportunity to visit the impressive medieval Monastery of Jesus. In the afternoon we cross the estuary of the Tagus River via the impressive 2 km-long Bridge of 25 April, reminiscent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and arrive in Portugal’s magnificent capital, Lisbon. Our home here will be the first-class/four-star Jupiter Lisboa Hotel (https://www.jupiterhotelgroup.com/en/page/lisboa/jupiter-lisboa-hotel-lisbon-hotels.6634.html). Today, group lunch in Setubal OR dinner in Lisbon.

Day 13 - Sunday, April 21: Lisbon

After breakfast, panoramic sightseeing tour of central Lisbon, with the Castle of Sao Jorge and the Cathedral in the picturesque old Alfama District, and the Baixa or “downtown,” a network of squares and avenues constructed after the infamous earthquake of 1755, which levelled most of the Medieval city; one of the attractions here is the Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator in the Jugendstil, built around 1900 to connect the Baixa and Chiado Districts. In the afternoon we continue our sightseeing program with a thorough visit to the historic neighborhood of Belém, situated along the Tagus River. The prime attraction of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the grand Jeronimos Monastery, constructed in the early 16th century and financed with profits generated by the spice trade. It is a fine example of so-called “Manueline” architecture, inspired by the Medieval Gothic tradition, the new ideas of the Renaissance, and the great voyages and discoveries of the Portuguese in that era. Belem’s other great monument is the Belem Tower, symbol of the city. Finally, a visit to Belem would not be complete without a visit to the local pastry shop that is the birthplace of a world-famous delicacy known as Pastéis de Nata or Pastéis de Belem! Dinner in a typical restaurant.

Day 14 - Monday, April 22: Lisbon

Full-day excursion to the sophisticated Atlantic coastal resorts of Estoril and Cascais, plus Sintra, a wonderful little town that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of its 19th-century Romantic architecture (https://www.portugalvisitor.com/portugal-city-guides/sintra-guide), and Cabo da Roca, a rocky cape rising almost 150 meters above the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the westernmost point of mainland Europe. Return to Lisbon in late afternoon and evening at leisure. No group dinner.

 

Day 15 - Tuesday, April 23: Lisbon

Morning visit to the Gulbenkian Museum, located close to our hotel, one of the world’s finest private art collections, with works ranging from ancient Egypt to the 20th century, by masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Turner, and Degas. Afternoon free to explore Lisbon on your own or shop, for example in the nearby famous department store, El Corte Ingles.  This evening, our final group dinner will be accompanied by a performance of traditional Fado songs!

 

Day 16 - Wednesday, April 24: Flight Home

After breakfast, transfer to the airport and return flight to Toronto with Air Canada, departing around 1 PM and arriving around 4PM.

ITINERARY PDF

EXPLORE THE AREA

INCLUDED

Included in the tour price are: - Return flight Toronto-Lisbon with Air Canada, including one checked suitcase; - Accommodation based on double occupancy, in 4-star/first-class hotels; the supplement for a single room (mostly a “double for single use”) is $1,100; - Breakfast daily and all but two dinners, sometimes including wine; - Overland transportation by private coach; - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned; - Gratuities for the bus driver and local guides.

NOT INCLUDED

Not included are: - All items of a personal nature; - Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above; - Travel Insurance, available upon request.

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