Pre-Tour: 25 March – Arrival in Porto
Check in at hotel and free time to rest or go out on your own to shoot/go for a stroll.
O/N Hotel Dom Henrique Downtown
A stay at Hotel Dom Henrique Downtown places you in the heart of Porto, walking distance from Bolhao Market and Almas Chapel. This 4-star hotel is within close proximity of Holy Trinity Church and Porto City Hall.
Day 1: 26 March – Porto | City center
While Portus Cale (the Romans’ “sheltered port”) has a long history, modern Porto largely eschews its distant past and presents itself to visitors as a busy commercial city rather than a prettified tourist destination. If that puts you off, it shouldn’t, because commerce is written into Porto’s DNA, from the great trading river at the heart of the city to the Baroque churches and Neoclassical buildings funded by merchants who made good. If it’s never quite what you’d call gentrified – especially in the old riverside back-alleys – modern Porto does at least look better now than it has done for decades. Since 2001, when it was declared European City of Culture, many of the streets and squares have been reconstructed and historic buildings restored, particularly in the riverside bairro of Ribeira – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – where the waterfront cafés and restaurants are an obvious attraction.
O/N Hotel Dom Henrique Downtown
Day 2: 27 March – Porto
Porto’s waterfront – known as the Ribeira – has changed dramatically in recent years, from a rough dockside cargo zone to one of the city’s major tourist attractions. The arcaded quayside, the Cais da Ribeira, is one long run of restaurants and cafés looking across the river to the port wine lodges on the other side. However, come down in the morning – before the parasols and blackboard menus have been put out – and the Ribeira still ticks along in local fashion. Between the postcards and touristy ceramics you’ll find dusty grocery stores and a warehouse or two, piled high with bags of potatoes. Meanwhile, behind the arcades and heading up towards the cathedral is a warren of stepped alleys that thumb their noses at the riverside gentrification.
In the afternoon we will drive approximately 10kms to photograph the sunset on a chapel by the sea (Capela do Senhor da Pedra). Originally, the stunning marble- and granite-strewn beaches of Miramar were the site of ancient pagan worship. Specifically, the giant boulder jutting into the sea was where rituals were once performed and where the Capela do Senhor da Pedra (Chapel of the Lord of Stone) sits to this day.
As part of the mass campaign to Christianize Europe during the 17th century, the hexagonal structure was constructed to ‘reclaim’ the land from the ‘heretic,’ naturalist pagans who sought enlightenment at the very same site.
O/N Hotel Dom Henrique Downtown
Day 3: 28 March – Porto | Viana do Castelo
After checking out we travel north for 1 hour towards Viana.
We will have lunch in Caminha. Controlling the Minho estuary, Caminha is located at the northernmost point of the Portuguese coastline. Its strategic position meant that the fortified town was long crucial to defending the northern border of Portugal against Galician ambitions. Possessing one of Minho's finest churches, Caminha is also a dynamic craft centre specialising in leather.
We then move on to Viana do Castelo and after checking in we will explore the city. Viana do Castelo is the main seaside resort of the Costa Verde and undoubtedly the most charming. A humble fishing village in the Middle Ages, its heyday was in the 16C when its sailors went cod fishing off the shores of the New World, and formed trade relationships with the Hanseatic towns. From the period are its Manueline and Renaissance residences, which give the old town its present charm.
At sunset we will photograph from Monte Santa Luzia location of the massive Templo do Sagrado Coração.
In the beautiful city of Viana do Castelo, Hotel Laranjeira offers an unparalleled view of the historic centre. A house away from home
Day 4: 29 March – Gerês National Park | Soajo
After breakfast we head out to the Gerês National Park. With the deep, verdant valleys of Gerês, desolate landscapes of the Serra da Peneda, this grandiose region in the far north of Portugal is all about contrasts. The purpose of this national park is to protect these leading landscapes and archaeological sites, as well as its highly diverse flora and fauna (stags, wild ponies, golden eagles). Its farming population, whose traditions remain very much alive, live here in harmony with the environment. Gerês National Park is a protected UNESCO location.
Later we head to Soajo located on the edge of the Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês. Over the next two days we will visit several picturesque locations and around the National Park. At Tibo Lookout we will have wonderful views looking across the border into Spain, the smooth granite domes, reminiscent of Yosemite.
O/N Casa do Adro, Soajo
Day 5: 30 March April – Soajo | Sistelo
Before breakfast we will visit Lindoso Castle. Nearby we will wander among the old granaries (espigueiros) photographing them in the early morning light. These grain stores which number about sixty, cover a rocky platform at the foot of the castle and form an extraordinary concentration, like a cemetery, of small granite buildings, perched on piles and some of which are topped with one or two crosses. Their careful construction dates back to the 18C and 19C. They are still used today for the storage and drying of maize.
Later on in the afternoon we will drive to Sistelo, also known as "Little Tibet" due to the agricultural terracing. It is a true hidden gem enclosed in a valley at the entrance to Peneda Gêres National Park. We'll photograph here till sunset.
O/N Casa do Adro, Soajo
Day 6: 31 March – Soajo | Braga | Aveiro
Leaving Soajo after breakfast we drive to Braga, home to Bom Jesus do Monte, a stunning 18th-century site where pilgrims ascend by a series of punishing stairs only to return via funicular. The religious site at Bom Jesus do Monte’s roots date all the way back to the 14th century, when the tradition of making pilgrimage (especially to anywhere on high) blossomed as a way for devotees to demonstrate their faith, often in extremely physical manners.
Then onward to the city of Aveiro, also known as "The Portuguese Venice" due to its system of photogenic canals and colorful, whimsically painted high-bowed, flat-bottomed fishing boats – moliceiros – reminiscent of the gondolas of Venice. Moliceiros are traditionally hand-painted with many themes and were used to trawl for seaweed and eels in Aveiro Lagoon. Today, like gondolas, they are often used for tourism and propelled from the stern with a long oar. Unlike a gondola, however, they can also utilize a small sail.
We will photograph sunset alongside the mail canal with a view of the Moliceros moored along the banks
Housed in a sumptuous historic building overlooking the main canal
Day 7: 1 April – Aveiro
Before sunrise we make the short drive to the seaside town of Costa Nova, with its candy cane-striped houses, photogenic market and beautiful beaches. Then we head back to Aveiro for breakfast.
Stand on the bridge (actually a busy roundabout) over the Canal Central and most of central Aveiro is within a couple of minutes’ walk. The town’s traditional industries are recalled by imposing statues of local workers on the bridge, notably the salineira with her salt tray. Pastel-coloured houses line Rua João Mendonça on the north side, with the old town streets and Mercado do Peixe (fish market; Tues–Sat 7am–1pm) just behind. Other arms of the canal branch off at intervals, with tiled houses facing each other across the water.
Aveiro has a preponderance of Art Nouveau buildings – the legacy of returning wealthy emigrants in the early years of the twentieth century. At the top of the pedestrianized Rua Coimbra, Praça da República is flanked by the blue snowflake-design tiled facade of the seventeenth-century Igreja da Misericórdia and the Câmara Municipal, a century older.
Day 8: 2 April – Aveiro | Obidos
Leaving Aveiro after breakfast we will make 3 stops on our way to Obidos, each town containing a significantly important religious site; Tomar, Alcobaça and Batalha.
The medieval Convento de Cristo, a magnificent castle overlooks the river Nabão. It is known as a convent, but it was built in 1160 as a headquarters for the secretive Knights Templar, the formidable Catholic military that answered to the Pope.
Alcobaça (Cistercian Monastery–story of Pedro and Ines, the corpse bride of Portugal).
The monastery itself was founded in 1153 by Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese king. It survived the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake, but was extensively looted by invading French under Napoleon, when the extraordinary library was looted, tombs robbed, and decor demolished. It served its final days as a monastery in the mid-19th century, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town of Batalha developed alongside the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vitória, constructed in 1386 to keep a vow by Portuguese King Dom João I to the Virgin Mary that he would build it if Portugal defeated Castile at the Battle of Aljubarrota on 14th August 1385. Extravagant celebrations commemorating this victory are held next to the monastery in August of every year.
The Monastery of Batalha, a masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic, is a magnificent piece of architecture that combines various influences from its lengthy period of construction, which lasted several reigns.
Outstanding in the interior are the Founders' Chapel with its fine stained-glass windows (between 10 and 12:30 light through stained glass inside), the cloisters, the Unfinished Chapels with their Manueline and Flemish Gothic features and the Chapter House.
Continuing our drive south brings us to the ancient hilltop village of Óbidos. We enter by the walled medieval town’s main gate, stopping to photograph the distinctive blue azulejo tiles decorating the balcony. Taken from the Moors by Portugal's first king in 1148, all of Óbidos has today been declared a national monument. This romantic town is stunning – one of Portugal’s most picturesque gems – full of well-preserved white-washed houses and small churches – including the charming Igreja de Santa Maria – with decorative Manueline porticos and flower-laden window boxes, sinuous cobbled streets with intimate recesses, and Romanesque arcades and sun-warmed village squares. From its lofty ramparts, the panorama includes terracotta rooftops of the village and surrounding homesteads, vineyards and distant whirling windmills. The Castelo de Óbidos – often called one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal – is currently awaiting the UNESCO classification of World Heritage Site.
O/N Hotel Louro
Day 9: 3 April – Obidos
Another day to wander back in time in this fortified village. Also known as the “Wedding City”, after a custom whereby the ancient kings gave the village to their queens as a wedding present. Perhaps more curiously still, five hundred years ago the sea reached the foot of the ridge on which Óbidos stands and boats were once moored below its walls. As the sea later retreated, it left a fertile green plain and the distant Lagoa de Óbidos, with the town now marooned inland. In 2015, it was designated a UNESCO City of Literature because of its literary heritage and contemporary creative scene.
Day 10: 4 April – Sintra - Quinta da Regaleira | Palácio da Pena | Sintra Center
Sintra is a mandatory location in this itinerary. This is one of the epicenters of tourism in Portugal and it brings you to a small town that looks like a real Disney world full of castles and deep forests. We will explore some of the most amazing locations in Sintra such as the Well of Quinta da Regaleira, the mystical Pena Palace and the traditional city center of Sintra.
A destination with captivating views of the old town and Sintra Natural Park, modern design and contemporary Portuguese find their natural setting in the heart of Sintra.
Day 11: 5 April – Castelo de Mouros | Praia da Adraga | Cabo da Roca.
Today we visit Castelo de Mouros followed by the amazing beach, Praia da Adraga for long exposure photographs. Finally we move to Cabo da Roca, the western most point of Europe for a sunset session before heading to Lisbon.
Brown's DownTown is a terrific 3-star hotel ideally situated only 150 metres from Lisbon’s popular MUDE Design and Fashion Museum. The Baixa Chiado shopping district, National Theatre and popular restaurant hotspot of Bairro Alto are also located close to the contemporary hotel. Convenient amenities and chic design afford guests a comfortable and enjoyable stay while in the Portuguese capital.
Day 12: 6 April – Old City of Lisbon
We explore the Old City of Lisbon, one of the longest-established cities in Western Europe. From our centrally-located hotel in the Baixa District – Europe's first great example of neoclassical design and urban planning—we walk and travel by charming old cable cars to visit some of the oldest neighborhoods within a short distance from our hotel.
Nearby Castelo, one of the earliest parishes in Lisbon, dates back to 1147. The commanding hilltop presence of the medieval Castle of São Jorge provides photogenic panoramas of Lisbon’s historic center below. Moorish Alfama – the oldest district in Lisbon – survived the great 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and tsunami which destroyed most of the city. Today it remains a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares.
Brown’s Downtown Hotel, Lisbon (D)
Day 13: 7 April – Old City of Lisbon
Today we will have more time to explore the old city. We will also explore the Belém district to photograph along the waterfront. The Torre de Belém, the symbol of Lisbon, is an architecturally outstanding old fortress and the shoreline reflections can be beautiful. Sixteenth-century Bairro Alto represents Lisbon’s flamboyant alternative side, and is probably the best place in the city to hear mournful fado music – the distinctive popular songs of Lisbon with origins in the 1820s. Here, interesting architectural details are universal and the narrow streets are also adorned with colorful graffiti – and laundry unabashedly flapping on clotheslines overhead!
Brown’s Downtown Hotel, Lisbon (D)
Day 14: 8 April – Monsaraz
We leave early morning from Lisbon and head into Monsaraz. Located on the border between Spain and Portugal, the village of Monsaraz is one of the most impressive sites in the country. It occupies a strategic position on higher ground overlooking the Guardiana valley. It is as if time has stood still within the walls of this medieval city with its higgledy-piggledy cobblestones and whitewashed houses.
At sunset we will photograph the town from the walls of the fort with sweeping views across the landscape.
O/N Monte Santa Catarina
Day 15: 9 April – Piodão
After an early breakfast our first stop as we head east towards the Spanish border will be the charming town of Monsanto, voted “most Portuguese village in Portugal” in the 1938.
Following our stop in Monsanto we will continue our drive north through the Sierra d'Açor to the town of Piodão, arriving sometime in the early afternoon. Nestled in the mountains of Portugal, this lovely village in the mountains of Portugal is made almost entirely of schist rock. The schist houses are capped with slate roofs, their colors causing them to blend in with the stone pathways that wind among the buildings. The few non-schist buildings, as well as various window shutters and architectural accents, add pops of color to the otherwise earth-toned settlement.
All but abandoned a couple of decades ago, this remote settlement still depends on small scale agriculture supported by the much needed boost that tourism has brought–and the newly-painted, bright white Igreja Matriz stands out against the surrounding dark stone.
Inspired by the local architecture, Casa da Padaria (literally, the Bakery House) is located in the Açor mountains in the historic village of Piódão