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Walking Vacation Walking Portugal's Douro River Valley​

Activity Level: Easy / Moderate  |  Daily Mileage: 4 - 8 mi  |  Daily Walking: 2 - 4 hr
Pre-trip Extension:
Porto · 2 nights $295

Post-trip Extension:
Lisbon · 2 nights $295
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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - Depart U.S. / Fly overnight to Porto, Portugal

Depart the U.S. and travel to Portugal. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary and airline tickets.

Day 2 - Arrive in Porto and transfer to Porto hotel

VBT Air Package guests: Upon arrival at Porto's International Airport, proceed through immigration, claim your luggage and clear customs. If your luggage is delayed, fill in a PIR form before leaving the customs area. VBT representatives are not allowed into the customs area. Make certain that your VBT luggage tags are affixed to your bag so your VBT representative can identify you. After exiting customs, enter the arrival hall and look for your VBT representative, who will be holding a VBT sign. Transfer to your Porto hotel in the city center. Transfer time is approximately 30 minutes, depending on traffic. 

VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel Booklet that includes information and recommendations on what to see and do in Porto during your stay.

Day 3 - All guests meet in Porto, Portugal

VBT No-Air Package guests: Meet your VBT Trip Leaders at the Pestana Porto Hotel in Porto at 9:00 a.m. The hotel is located at Praça da Ribeira, nº 1 and the phone number is +351 22 340 2300. Please contact the hotel to advise them of any travel delays or changes so the staff can pass the message on to your VBT Trip Leaders.

VBT Air Package & Pre-Trip Extension guests: After breakfast, meet your VBT Trip Leaders in the lobby of your hotel at 9:00 am.

This morning, join your VBT Trip Leaders for a brief orientation before departing on a short transfer to the Minho – one of three regions we will visit in Portugal. At the heart of the Minho region, we follow the Lima River to the attractive riverside town of Ponte de Lima, named after its famous Roman Bridge. Here we will have lunch before beginning our pilgrimage on part of the famous religious route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Caminho de Santiago.

Our walk today begins with a crossing of the legendary Ponte de Lima. Five of its original Roman arches remain. The ancient Romans believed that oblivion itself waited on the opposite shore of the river, and consequently refused to cross. It was only after an army commander waded to the other side and shouted back his troops' names to show that his memory was unaffected that the rest braved the river. 

After crossing the bridge we begin our journey through a bucolic landscape. Pilgrims from around the world have been walking this “Way of St. James” for more than a millennium to arrive at Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where many believe St. James was buried. Soon, these pastures give way to huge vineyards surrounding beautiful manor houses. One of these manor houses is a Paço, a small country palace designated as an accommodation for the king during his travels through the countryside.

Our accommodation for the next two nights is in the Paço de Calheiros, which has been owned and operated by the family of Count Calheiros since medieval times. The present-day family home was built in the 17th century. Its stalwart structures and three-foot granite wall have stood the test of time remarkably well. Consider yourself royalty as you stroll along the perfectly manicured grounds with breathtaking views of the Lima Valley. If the day is clear you may also catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean.

In the evening, get to know your host, Count Calheiros, at a welcome reception to be followed by a lavish dinner fit for a king.

Day 4 - Historic Villages in Portugal's Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerés

Today, our Portugal travel experience will take us to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerés in the northern Minho region. With its forested valleys and mountain pastures, this is Portugal's only national park. The little mountain villages in the park seem lost in time, but have adapted to the new world of tourism with well-marked footpaths that link them together. There'll be time to learn about the villages' unique grain storages known as espigueiros. These wood or granite structures – tall, narrow, encasements with slanted sides – keep animals away from harvested grains.

We descend into the valley between the granite peaks of the Peneda-Gerés National Park, arriving in the ancient village of Soajo. This road was originally paved by the Romans with large paving stones, and for centuries has been walked by pilgrims from Peneda to Soajo; thus, it is known as the Caminho da Fé, the Way of Faith. Alternatively, it is also referred to as the Caminho do Pão, the Way of Bread, as the inhabitants of this valley have made their living by moving their livestock up and down the mountains with the change of seasons. As we walk past aqueducts used for irrigating fields and powering flour mills,we may even see the indigenous Cachena milk cows or the wild Garrano horses. 

Nearing the village of Soajo, with its dramatic backdrop of the Serra do Soajo Mountains, we walk under a grape arbor and past small terraced gardens and vineyards.  Winding our way through the village, and its ancient granite houses, we arrive at the communal granary, and its granite espigueiros.

Back at our manor house this afternoon, you may opt to venture out and explore the forests that surround Paço de Calheiros on well-kempt trails, or join us for a walk through the Count's gardens as we harvest fresh produce for a Portuguese cooking class in the manor house's kitchen. Our cooking efforts will be rewarded with a wonderful dinner that features the Count's very own vineyard wines

Day 5 - Douro River and Portugal's Wine Region

After breakfast we must say our farewells to the Count and his family andwe'll shuttle to the Douro River Valley and Portugal's wine region. In 1756, the Douro Valley became the first controlled and demarcated winemaking region in the world. It's all thanks to the Marquis de Pombal who planted granite pillars in 1756 to define the boundary that produced the finest port. Today, the entire valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This magnificent landscape continues to inspire poets, painters and photographers from all over the world.

Our accommodations for the next two nights are in the heart of the wine region near the town of Pinhão. The wine estate of Quinta Nova established the first wine hotel in Portugal in its lovely 18th-century manor house, offering spectacular views of the Douro River Valley. It is now considered one of the most beautiful winemaking estates in the Demarcated Douro Region.

From this 18th-century manor house, we can lace up and hike a ten-mile network of well-marked hillside trails among cypress, orange and almond trees, with sweeping views of the valley. We'll also learn some of the estate's wine-making secrets. By day's end, you just might be able to sip, swirl and tell the difference between vinho verde, or green wine, and white port. Every month here offers new insight into the wine-making cycle. Visitors in September and October can actually help to pick grapes, the spectacular Duoro Valley serving as a sublime backdrop.

Day 6 - Vineyard walks in the Douro River region

We spend the day as we like, picking from Quinta Nova's various options. Explore more trails that hug the hillsides,relax by the pool or head into the town of Pinhão's train station to view its “Wine House” museum.

Complement your Portugal vacation by catching a train to Paso da Regua. From here, rabelos, or wooden sailing ships, carried wine up and down the Douro River to other regions. The Douro Museum here tells more of the story.Perhaps you’ll opt out and enjoy a tranquil Douro River cruise instead.

If you prefer, join us for a fun “wine-caching” game. In this modern-day scavenger hunt, a GPS helps you scour the estate's trails for hidden treasures.

Throughout this portion of our trip to Portugal our two days at Quinta Nova, you will be gastronomically tantalized by the estate's home-style meals and wonderful wines.

Day 7 - Train ride along the Douro River/Ervamoira ruins/Port tasting

This morning, we venture onward with a short train journey along the scenic Douro River to the eastern Beiras region. Tracing the Douro River, we'll take in tiny white visions of other quintas nestled on hillsides. As we alight our train, four-wheel drive vehicles await to take us deep into the Côa Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For 2,000 years an incredible range of cultures has passed through here, and recent digging expeditions have unearthed Roman, late-Roman, Paleochristian, Visigoth and medieval ruins. But for many, the most remarkable find has been an array of stone carvings from the Paleolithic era.

Day 8 - Exploring the medieval town and castle of Marialva

After a sumptuous breakfast, venture out to explore Marialva and its castle. Though its origin dates back to the sixth century BC,  it was not officially granted a town charter until 1179. This hillside medieval village seems carved from the craggy slopes, so it's easy to see why it once served as an important military fortress. Wandering these streets on old stone-paved roads makes for an otherworldly experience; you'll want to leave no history-drenched corner unexplored. Venture up to the medieval castle for a guided tour, where you'll learn more about Marialva's remarkable past.

After lunch you may want to continue exploring the stone village, perhaps meeting some of the elders. You can walk through the craggy countryside to the neighboring town of Meda or simply relax by the swimming pool and reminisce about your tour of Portugal.

This evening's farewell dinner is bound to be one of your favorite meals, featuring family recipes passed down over generations to our hotel's owner. What better way to celebrate the end of your walking tour than with good friends, great food and generous wines!

Day 9 - Transfer to Celorico da Beira train station / VBT No-Air Package ends

After an early morning breakfast, we'll conclude our Portugal visit with a short shuttle to the nearby town of Celorico da Beira where we say good-bye at the town's small train station.

VBT No-Air Package guests: Our tour finishes at the train station in the town of Celorico da Beira. Important: Train departures from Celorico da Beira prior to 8 a.m. are not recommended. If you depart earlier, you are responsible for your own transfer arrangements from the last hotel.

VBT Air Package guests: We will continue our Portugal vacation with an early morning train journey from the town of Celorico da Beira to Lisbon, approximately 3 hours. We'll arrive in Lisbon mid-day. After your included transfer from Lisbon's train station to your city center hotel, you will have the remainder of the afternoon to explore the historic capital of Portugal. Spend a night at the Hotel Lisboa Plaza, located next to Lisbon's main avenue, Avenida da Liberdade. You will receive City Information in your Final Travel Booklet containing recommendations for transportation options, cafés,  museums and Lisbon restaurants. As a guest of the Hotel Lisboa Plaza, you will receive a complimentary pass to the National Ancient Art Museum.  

Day 10 - Depart for U.S.

After breakfast*, transfer to the Lisbon International airport (approximately 30 minutes) for your departing flight**. Please note: Ensure that you are ready in the hotel reception area at the designated time.

* Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, breakfast at the hotel may not be available. Please check with the Front Desk to verify the times that breakfast is served.

** Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

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