Get to the heart of Porto and northern Portugal on this unique 12-day itinerary that combines history, gastronomy, and stunning countryside. Starting with a selection of guided tours and day trips, you'll explore Porto's UNESCO-listed city center, sample the best local cuisine, and cruise the Douro River through spectacular wine country. On day six you'll shift to a more independent itinerary, self-driving your way south through Coimbra, Nazare, and Obidos as you explore the rest of the region's highlights at your own pace.

Highlights

  • Dive into Porto's culinary scene with a food tour & cooking class
  • Board a river cruise deep into the heart of the Douro Valley 
  • Sample port & vinho verde at local vineyards
  • Tour the medieval university town of Coimbra
  • Discover dramatic sea cliffs & crashing surf at Nazaré
  • Explore the colorful cobbled streets of Óbidos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Porto - Culinary Excursion Porto
Day 2 Douro Valley Cruise - Peso de Régua Peso de Régua
Day 3 Transfer to Pinhão Pinhão
Day 4 Transfer to Porto Porto
Day 5 Free Day in Porto - Cooking Class  Porto
Day 6 Day Trip to Viana Do Castelo Porto
Day 7 Drive to Coimbra via Aveiro  Coimbra
Day 8 Guided Tour of Coimbra Coimbra
Day 9 Drive to Nazaré  Nazaré
Day 10 Free Day in Nazaré  Nazaré
Day 11 Drive to Òbidos Óbidos
Day 12 Depart Portugal  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Porto - Culinary Excursion

Porto's Old Town of Foz
Porto's Old Town of Foz

Welcome to Portugal! Upon arrival at Porto, you will be met by a driver who will transfer you to your hotel. Take some time to rest before you start exploring. 

In the late afternoon, you will learn more about Porto and its cuisine with a 3.5-hour walking tour of the historic downtown. Guided by a friendly English-speaking native, this excursion offers a first-hand look at the culinary renaissance that the city is experiencing, including the rebirth of specialty food shops and new restaurants that are adopting old methods.

You'll take part in several distinct tasting locations that harken back to an era of simple, quality products and recipes created by people who love what they do. Learn about these family-owned businesses and why they are an integral part of what makes gastronomy in Porto so unique. Furthermore, you'll witness the revival of Portuguese cuisine while you explore local restaurants, cafes, and stores offering the best of Porto.

The evening, of course, would not be complete without an introduction to the famous drink of Porto: Port wine. As you taste three different versions, including one vintage, you will learn about the history of this drink and why it is a timeless favorite.

Day 2: Douro Valley Cruise - Peso de Régua

Cruise down the Douro River
Cruise down the Douro River

In the morning you'll hop aboard a riverboat for a scenic cruise down the tranquil Douro River. Relax and admire the beautiful scenery of the valley and the rolling hills along the riverbanks. After breakfast and lunch on board, you'll disembark at Peso de Régua to spend the night in the heart of the Douro Valley, a fertile grape-growing region that produces some of Portugal's best wines. 

You can transfer to a nearby quinta (winery) where you'll tour the vineyards and production facilities, and enjoy a wine tasting before checking in to your hotel in time for dinner.

Day 3: Transfer to Pinhão

The stunning Douro Valley
The stunning Douro Valley

Today you'll continue exploring the enchanting Douro Valley, with a full day of activities en route to your destination of Pinhão. Depending on your interests, you can customize your day based on how you'd like to explore the valley. 

Consider starting with a visit to the famed Mateus Palace, and a guided tour of the grand 18th-century house and chapel. 

If you're interested in the region's famed wineries, prepare to spend some time tasting. At one of the valley's best vineyards, you'll learn all about the history, flavor profiles, and production processes of the local varietals, including Port; you'll then sip and savor wines in a tasting. If Port's not your thing, your specialist will tailor your tour to the area's superb blends and table wines. 

You can also visit a local olive oil producer, as olive oil is also one of the most regarded products in the region; learn about harvesting the fruit, pressing techniques, and of course, sample the goods! Once you've excited your appetite, you can tuck into a delicious lunch at a typical Portuguese restaurant, paired with stellar wines from the valley. 

If nature calls, explore the river on a traditional wooden rabelo boat, then stop to take in the magnificent views of the river from above; there are myriad viewpoints from which you can look out onto the valley, so be sure to bring your camera! Tonight your specialist can help arrange a great dinner before you spend the night in the riverside town of Pinhão.

Day 4: Transfer to Porto

Amarante's Romanesque bridge
Amarante's Romanesque bridge

This morning you'll head back to Porto, exploring the Vinho Verde wine region along the way. Stop in the picturesque town of Amarante for a guided tour. Full of history and tradition, Amarante is particularly known for its iconic bridge, the Ponte de São Gonçalo. During the second French invasion, known as the Peninsular War, the bridge played a significant role in helping the Portuguese army to defend its city for as long as possible. As you walk through the streets of Amarante, you'll notice the Serra do Marão mountains creating a dramatic backdrop against the city's red roofs and stone streets.

After a delicious winery lunch and a tasting of regional specialties, you'll arrive back in Porto in the afternoon. Settle into your hotel and then explore the city's nightlife. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and wine cellars down along the bank of the Douro River. Or you can wander through the historic Vitória district, where you'll find lively restaurants spilling out into the streets.

Day 5: Free Day in Porto - Cooking Class 

Porto's scenic skyline
Porto's scenic skyline

Today you will have a free day to enjoy Porto on your own before an afternoon cooking class.

You could check out chic shops, sample the delicious goods at the famed market, wander the gardens of the Serralves Foundation and explore the museum's contemporary artwork, or work up your appetite with a stroll along the river as you sink into the rhythm of this beautiful city.  

You can also visit a small-scale canning factory, which produces gourmet-quality tinned fish. What makes this purveyor unique is its hand-made processing techniques, which have been used here for the last century. Tinned fish isn’t just a delicacy in Portugal— it's a traditional way of life that continues to adapt to the times.  

In the evening, head downtown for a unique, laid-back cooking class with a top Portuguese chef. Your three-hour hands-on workshop introduces you to the flavors of traditional cuisine, along with the techniques used to cook them up. After, you'll sit down to the dinner you've prepared, paired with dynamic local wines and spirits.

Day 6: Day Trip to Viana Do Castelo

Viana do Castelo's romantic cityscape
Viana do Castelo's romantic cityscape

After breakfast, you'll pick up your rental car and embark on the self-drive portion of your itinerary—starting with a day trip north to Viana do Castelo.

The jewel of the Costa Verde, Viana do Castelo is blessed with an appealing medieval center, an attractive riverfront, and lovely beaches just outside the city. The old quarter showcases leafy 19th-century boulevards and narrow lanes crowded with Manueline manors and rococo palaces, all dramatically presided over by the pearly white, neo-Byzantine Santa Luzia church on the hilltop high above the town. Its setting just by the Rio Lima estuary makes Viana a handy base for exploring the lower Lima Valley.

When visiting this cute town don't forget to stop at:

  • O Marquês - a tremendous backstreet find, this place is jammed with locals for the platos do dia. Think baked cod with white beans or roasted turkey leg with potatoes and salad. It’s a friendly, satisfying, family-run affair.
  • Monte de Santa Luzia - there are two good reasons to visit Viana’s 748 foot (228 m) eucalyptus-clad hill. One is the wondrous view down the coast and up the Lima Valley. The other is the fabulously over-the-top, 20th-century, neo-Byzantine Templo.
  • Casa Primavera - at this authentic fishers' hole-in-the-wall decorated with framed pictures of boats, locals gather in the late afternoon for small plates of shrimp and other seafood snacks washed down with champarrião
  • Arte Viana - if Viana's Costume Museum leaves you lusting after your very own traditional Portuguese outfit, stroll a few blocks south to this main street boutique that sells a fabulous array of colorfully woven and embroidered dresses, scarves, slippers, handbags, and jewelry. Even if you're not in the market to buy, the window displays alone are worth a look.

Day 7: Drive to Coimbra via Aveiro

Start the day in Obidos
Start the day in Obidos

After breakfast, head south to Coimbra, stopping at Aveiro along the way. 

Aveiro (uh-vey-roo) is situated on the edge of an extensive coastal lagoon system and is a prosperous town with a good-looking center and a youthful, energetic buzz. It's occasionally dubbed the Venice of Portugal thanks to its small network of picturesque canals. But where the Italian city has gondolas, Aveiro has moliceiros—colorful boats traditionally used for seaweed-harvesting but now used for canal cruises.

There are several beaches within easy striking distance, and the nearby São Jacinto nature reserve provides walking and birdwatching (Aveiro’s name is probably derived from the Latin aviarium (place of birds).

If you'd like to spend some more time in nature, the Buçaco Forest is the place to stop. This incredible place is home to more than 250 species of trees and shrubs (some are hundreds of years old), and six walking trails that allow you to explore them. Apart from the green scenery, you can also find lakes, fountains, and small chapels built by the monks of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. Be sure to stop at the Palace Hotel do Buçaco, even if you won't be dining or staying the night. Luso is also a charming sylvan village and makes for a nice off the beaten path stop. 

After your excursions, continue to Coimbra, your base for the night. Rising scenically from the Rio Mondego, Coimbra is an animated city steeped in history. It was Portugal’s medieval capital for more than a century and it's home to the country’s oldest and most prestigious university. Its steeply stacked historic center dates to Moorish times and is wonderfully atmospheric, with its dark cobbled lanes and a monumental cathedral. On summer evenings, the city’s old stone walls reverberate with the haunting metallic notes of the guitarra (Portuguese guitar) and the full, deep voices of fado singers.

Day 8: Guided Tour of Coimbra

Coimbre's historic core
Coimbre's historic core

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time for a guided tour of Coimbra. This is the medieval capital of Portugal and the site of the country’s greatest university: the University of Coimbra, established in 1290. The city wears its weighty importance in Portuguese history with dignity and pride, witnessed by its multicolored collage of buildings that span nearly a millennium. Observe how Coimbre's historic core cascades down a hillside creating a lovely setting along the east bank of the Rio Mondego.

Once you've experienced Coimbra with your guide, you'll have the rest of the day to continue discovering the city on your own.

Day 9: Drive to Nazaré 

Nazaré's dramatic sea cliffs

After breakfast, hit the road and start making your way south toward Nazaré. En route, there are several fascinating natural wonders and historic highlights worth a stop.

Tomar is one of central Portugal’s most appealing small towns. To understand what makes Tomar truly extraordinary, cast your gaze skyward to the crenelated walls of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Convento de Cristo, which forms a beautiful backdrop from almost any vantage point. Eight-and-a-half centuries after its founding, this venerable headquarters of the legendary Knights Templar is a rambling concoction of Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance architecture that bears extravagant witness to its integral role in centuries of Portuguese history, from the founding of Portugal as a nation-state to the Age of Discoveries.

Religiously significant, Fatimá is the site of an important Catholic shrine. As many as six million people a year make a pilgrimage to the glade where, on 13 May 1917, the Virgin Mary is said to have first appeared to three awestruck peasant children. Where sheep once grazed there are now two huge basilicas on opposite ends of a vast half-mile (1 km) esplanade.

If you love offbeat experiences, then the Caves of Mira de Aire should be on your itinerary. Dating back to 150 million years ago, they are the largest caves in the country and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal. 

After exploring central Portugal, continue to Nazaré. With a warren of narrow, cobbled lanes running down to a wide, cliff-backed beach, Nazaré is Estremadura’s most picturesque coastal resort. The town center is jammed with seafood restaurants, bars, and local women in traditional dress. To get a different perspective, take the funicular up to Promontório do Sítio, where picture-postcard coastal views unfold from the cliffs. Nazaré often hits the headlines for the record-breaking feats of gutsy surfers who ride monster winter waves that roll in north of town at Praia do Norte.

Day 10: Free Day in Nazaré 

Tomar makes a great stop on the way to Lisbon
Tomar makes a great stop on the way to Lisbon

Today is yours to enjoy the seaside village of Nazaré or opt for a day trip to explore the surrounding area.

Alcobaça, a town with a charming center with a little river and bijou bridges, as well as the magnificent 12th-century Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça —one of Portugal’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Towering above the rush-orange rooftops of tiny Batalha, the Unesco-listed Santa Maria da Vitória monastery transports visitors to another world, where the solid rock has been carved into forms as delicate as snowflakes and as pliable as twisted rope. Among the supreme achievements of Manueline architecture, it draws admirers of architecture, history, religion, and warfare from far and wide.

Leiria is an agreeable mixture of medieval and modern, a lively university town built at the foot of a promontory fortified since Moorish times. The town’s dramatically sited castle is a commanding presence above the narrow streets and red-tiled roofs of the historic center, built along the lazy curves of the Rio Lis.

Day 11: Drive to Òbidos

The quaint streets in Òbidos
The quaint streets in Òbidos

After a leisurely breakfast, head south to Òbidos for a self-guided tour of this incredible town. Surrounded by a classic crenelated wall, Òbidos’ gorgeous historic center is a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and flower-bedecked, whitewashed houses livened up with dashes of vivid yellow and blue paint.

Explore at your leisure, then treat yourself to a delicious traditional Portuguese lunch. If you dine al fresco, situate yourself so you'll have a great view of the historic village and its stunning castle, which dates back almost a millennium. Stroll around the fortification and see if you can stop to check out the wares of local vendors around town. If you're lucky, you may be able to find a cart slinging ginjinha, a traditional Portuguese cherry liquor.
  

Day 12: Depart Portugal

Goodbye, Lisbon!
Goodbye, Lisbon!

It's time to say goodbye to Portugal! Head south to Lisbon Airport, where you can drop off your rental car before catching your flight home. Safe travels!