Starting in lively Lisbon and ending in proud Porto, the Heart of Portugal combines a dazzling mix of Roman, Moorish and Baroque architecture with the small towns, seacoast, food, wine and music of this tradition-rich country. Venturing far from the tourist crowd, this tour has a real "Europe in the old days" feel to it. Your Rick Steves guide will take you on an intimate adventure that connects you with the Portuguese people, from salty harbors to sun-baked farms to lovingly-tended vineyards. Join us for the Heart of Portugal in 12 Days!
You'll get all this!
- An extra-small group, limited to 20-24 people — less than half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Portugal come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 21 group sightseeing events • Lisbon walking tour • São Jorge Castle • Monastery of Jerónimos tour • Monument to the Discoveries • Gulbenkian Museum tour • Fado performance • Évora walking tour • Olive oil tasting • Cork farm visit • Batalha's Monastery of Santa María • Fatima visit • Alcobaça Monastery • Conimbriga's Roman ruins and museum • Coimbra walking tour • Coimbra musical performance • Port wine tasting and lunch • Porto panoramic bus tour • Porto walking tour • Porto's Stock Exchange Palace • Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Museum and park • Douro River cruise...and more
- All group transportation from Lisbon to Porto
- 11 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Portugal guidebook, Portuguese phrase book, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2013
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Portugal
We'll gather at our Lisbon hotel around 5 p.m. for a "Welcome to Portugal" get-together, followed by a short orientation walk through our neighborhood, a stroll down the fancy Avenida da Liberdade, and dinner together. Sleep in Lisbon (3 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Neighborhoods of Lisbon
This morning we'll take a walking tour through Lisbon's colorful downtown neighborhoods — the Barrio Alto, the Alfama and the Baixa — including a panoramic view of this vibrant city from São Jorge Castle. Along the way we'll learn about "village" Lisbon's neighborhood life, the poetry of the revered Fernando Pessoa, and Portugal's "Carnation Revolution" which peacefully ended nearly five decades of fascist rule in 1974. You'll have the rest of your afternoon and evening free to visit any of Lisbon's "niche" museums (tile, Fado, Port wine, and other Portuguese specialties). Or, your guide will help point you in the right direction for a half-hour train ride to Sintra — famous for its gardens, palace and castles. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Seafaring Belém and the Gulbenkian
We'll begin our day with a bus tour through Lisbon, taking in the view from Edward VII Park and ending at the world-class Gulbenkian Museum, where we'll see how an international oil tycoon assembled a priceless art collection spanning 5,000 years. Then we'll drive to Lisbon's seafaring Belém District, home to many of the city's most historic buildings. Sticking close to the waterfront, we'll learn about Portugal's golden age of exploration at the heroic Monument to the Discoveries, and how faith, money, and a knack for sailing combined to build the dazzling Monastery of Jerónimos. Tonight we'll regroup and enjoy a soulful Fado performance with dinner. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Historic Évora
Today we'll head east to the laid-back Alentejo countryside and the history-rich university town of Évora. We'll take a walking tour of Évora's preserved-in-whitewash old section, marveling at its Corinthian-columned Roman Temple and its macabre Chapel of Bones. As you'll discover in your free afternoon and evening, Évora has a world-apart feel to it that really connects you with traditional Portugal. Sleep in Évora (1 night). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: Olives, Oaks and Nazaré
This morning begins with a memorable visit to a working farm and estate. We'll have a chance to meet farming locals, and taste-test their olive oil. Then we'll wander through their forest of cork oaks, learning how the bark is harvested and how it's being regulated today. We'll cap off our visit with lunch together, including some of the estate's wines. This afternoon we'll follow the sun as we make our way to the old fishing town of Nazaré. Upon arrival we'll take an orientation walk, and learn why old women still wear seven layers of petticoats. Sleep in Nazaré (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 6: Royal Intrigue, Alcobaça and Óbidos
We'll begin today with a visit in Alcobaça to tour the ornate Baroque-Gothic Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria, and hear the star-crossed story of King Pedro and his doomed mistress, Inês. Later we'll enjoy a chance to explore the delightfully-preserved town of Óbidos — given to the queen as a wedding gift 800 years ago — before returning to Nazaré for a free afternoon, where you can stroll the long crescent of ocean beach. We'll end our day with a vertical trip up the funicular to the Sitio neighborhood, where we'll enjoy its sweeping views, and dinner together with some of Europe's best and freshest seafood. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Batalha and Fátima
We'll continue our journey north, stopping in Batalha to visit its grand Monastery of Santa María, a symbol of Portuguese pride and its victory (with help from English archers) over Spanish domination 600 years ago. Then we'll visit the nearby pilgrimage site of Fátima — a favorite of Pope John Paul II — where three children shared controversial visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. Later we'll connect with Portugal's ancient Roman past, wandering the evocative remains of Conímbriga. Our destination this afternoon is Portugal's historic capital of Coimbra, where we'll enjoy an orientation walk and a relaxing dinner together. Sleep in Coimbra (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Classic Coimbra
Today we'll happily stay-put in Portugal's easiest-to-enjoy city. We'll start with a walking tour through Coimbra's maze of narrow lanes and its steeped-in-tradition, 700-year-old university. The palatial university library — with 30,000 books from the 18th-century — is like nothing you've seen before. The rest of your day will be free for making more discoveries on your own. Tonight we'll rendezvous for a performance of Coimbra's unique style of Fado...more likely devoted to revolutionary student ideals than lost love. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: Douro Wine Country
We'll drive to Portugal's most famous wine-making region today: the lush, green Douro Valley, where we'll visit an old family estate and winery (quinta) with spectacular views of the surrounding valley. It's a perfect chance to learn all about the proud art of making fine port — and taste it too! Later in the afternoon we'll make our way to our hotel and wrap up the day with dinner together. Sleep in the Douro Valley (1 night). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 10: Vineyard Views and Porto
Today we'll travel through terraced wine country on our way to the port city of Porto. On arrival in this rustic Portuguese San Francisco we'll take a panoramic bus tour of Porto's classy neighborhoods, dynamic downtown and bustling port. Then it's all aboard for a relaxing cruise on the Douro River. We'll finish our day of sightseeing with a tour of the Serralves Foundation, a contemporary art museum and park that includes an irresistible, pastel-painted Art Deco mansion. Sleep in Porto (2 nights). Boat: ¾ hr. Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Savoring Proud Porto
This morning we'll take a walking tour of Porto's riverfront Ribeira district, including the lavish rooms of its Stock Exchange Palace, the exquisitely-gilded Church of Santa Clara, and São Bento Train Station. Then you'll have time to wander on your own through Porto's lively city center — or seek out some more sipping at an old Port Lodge. This evening we'll enjoy a final dinner together, sharing travel memories and toasting new friends. Saúde! No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: Tour Over After Breakfast
Your guide will help steer you to Porto's airport, which is an easy metro or taxi ride away. Or you may want to stay for further Portuguese adventures on your own.Adeus!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Heart of Portugal in 12 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to four hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Portugal before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Portugal guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Portuguese and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Many of Lisbon's sights are closed Mondays. See your guidebook for more details. Confirm all sightseeing plans with any tourist information office.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Lisbon that we do not do as a group: House of Fado and Portuguese Guitar (closed Mondays), National Tile Museum (closed Mondays), National Coach Museum (closed Mondays), Maritime Museum (closed Mondays).
If you would like to visit Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon, we recommend that you include time before your tour starts. While you will have time in the afternoon on Day 2, Sintra can be a full day outing depending on your interests. See your Rick Steves' Portugal guidebook for more details.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). Lisbon and Porto both offer good transportation options, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy.
The most direct option is to fly into Lisbon and out of Porto. If you have extra time and flexibility, you might want to consider a round trip flight into and out of Lisbon, which will require a train journey or low-cost flight from Porto and an additional overnight. Porto also has good connections throughout Europe and you may want to consider flying home via another European city (additional overnight required).
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a railpass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at email@example.com or 425/771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
Maria Jose Cardoso
"Maria was exceptional in every way. I was very impressed with her encyclopedic knowledge of Portugal's history and culture, her engaging manner and excellent English skills, her strong organizational ability, her patience with the tour members, and her welcoming and hospitable personality."
— William in Chicago, IL
"Rick Steves consistently provides excellent, skilled, organized and masterly guides for the trips I've been on, and Cristina is superlative in all categories. She is a dynamo, bursting with energy and compassion, friendliness, and, above all, passion for her country's history and heritage. She is the 'WOW' for this trip."
— James in Clearwater, FL
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Visiting the Baroque Library (built in the 18th-century with 200,000 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century volumes) at the University of Coimbra, seeing the artist Joana Vasconcelos's show at the art museum in Lisbon, listening to the Fado singers and wandering through the various towns' nooks and crannies all contributed to a wonderful trip."
— Patricia in Poulsbo, WA
"I had some pre-conceived notions about what Portugal would be like and they were blown apart. Portugal is a lovely, cosmopolitan country with warm and friendly people."
— Shirley in Citrus Heights, CA
"I thought Lisbon was fantastic."
— Melanie in Indianapolis, IN
"There were many 'wow' moments on the Portugal tour. Perhaps the one that stands out is our visit to the Douro Valley. The dramatic terraced hillsides were totally unexpected and truly spectacular, as we wound up to dizzying heights above the river, visited a small Porto winery and walked along the terraces."
— Rick in Sausalito, CA
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Lisbon Story (1994)
- The Convent (1995)
- Voyage to the Beginning of the World (1997)
- Capitães de Abril (2000)
- Colossal Youth (2006)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Fado/folk: Camané, Carlos do Carmo, Mariza, Misia, Amália Rodrigues
- Pop/folk: Lura, Madredeus, Dulce Pontes, Tonicha
- Jazz/reggae: Cool Hipnoise
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Portugal
- Portugal: A Companion History — Jose H. Saraiva
- The Portuguese Empire, 1415-1808: A World on the Move — A. J. R. Russell-Wood
- Prince Henry the Navigator: A Life — Peter Russell
- Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe — Laurence Bergreen
- Food of Portugal — Jean Anderson
- The Lusiads — Luís Vaz de Camões
- The Crime of Father Amaro — Jose Maria Eça De Queiros
- Baltasar and Blimunda; Blindness — Jose Saramago
- Pereira Declares: A Testimony — Antonio Tabucchi
- A Small Death in Lisbon — Robert Wilson