Arrive Porto, Portugal Tour begins: 2:00 PM, Freixo Palace Hotel. A transfer is included from Porto Int'l Airport to Freixo Palace Hotel in the city's historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built as a lavish residence for the Dean of Cathedral Porto in 1750, the hotel is a restored rococo palace whose interior includes a richly paneled salon and a hall of mirrors with frescoes and gilded columns. Amenities include a spa, Turkish bath, and an outdoor pool with views of the city skyline. Today you'll get a guided tour of Porto's historic district and its beguiling architecture, from medieval to baroque to Beaux-Arts, winding alleyways, miradouros (lookout points), opulent palaces and churches. Public art is everywhere in the boldly colored painted tiles (azulejos) that adorn city buildings. Please join us for a welcome reception followed by dinner at the hotel. Stay Two Nights: Freixo Palace Hotel (D)
Porto, Portugal Colorful, eclectic Porto rises on staggered hills beside the Douro River where the river empties into the Atlantic. Port wine originated here in the 17th century and is still the region's mainstay product, brought down from the vineyards of the Douro River Valley. Begin the day with a drive through the valley and some of the most unusual and breathtaking wine country in the world - where the serpentine river winds along deep gorges and mountains ringed with terraces and carved into vast patchworks of vineyard estates, and baroque villas, like hilltop castles, dot the landscape. The hardy grape varieties suitable for port are all native to the region and thrive in the sandy, infertile soil with roots that reach down thirty feet or more in search of water. Stop at a winery for a tour and tasting, followed by lunch. Return to your palatial hotel in Porto's historic district to relax and spend the afternoon and evening as you please. (B/L)
Monte Real, Portugal Visit one of the oldest universities in the world at Coimbra, a city on the Mondego River in central Portugal. The University of Coimbra was actually founded in Lisbon in 1290 but relocated here in 1308. City life revolves around the university and the hilltop Royal Palace of Alcacova, which has housed the school since 1537. Head south for the coast, stopping at Conímbriga, a town famous for its Roman ruins which date from the 2nd century.
Lunch at a local restaurant, then continue on to Alcobaca and its 13th-century monastery, a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic architecture. In the Middle Ages, the monastery had a major influence on Portuguese culture as a center of learning, agriculture and engineering. Chapels, gardens and cloisters grace the compound, along with a kitchen with running water and a vaulted church of austere beauty. King Peter I and his queen are buried here in elaborately sculpted tombs with a tragic history of murder, revenge, and devotion. Depart for Monte Real and arrive early evening; check into the Palace Hotel where dinner tonight is followed by a performance of fado (fah-doo) a soulful music genre that originated in the bars and cafés of 19th-century Lisbon. Stay: Palace Hotel Monte Real (B/L/D)
Évora, Portugal This morning, depart for the city of Tomar and its spectacular hilltop monastery, Convento de Cristo. The city was born within the monastery's fortress walls, built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. The Knights were an order of warrior monks who ruled over a large swath of central Portugal until they were disbanded in 1312. A monument to the Christian reconquest of lands from the Iberian Moors, the monastery later became a symbol of Portugal's age of exploration, astonishing in its rich ornamentation and architectural styles that span 500 years. Explore the wonders inside this labyrinthine complex that includes the fortified Round Church, modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and adorned with flamboyant ceiling paintings, murals and Renaissance cloisters.
Lunch at a local tavern, then head for Évora, a walled medieval town of whitewashed houses and wrought-iron balconies. Évora's history reaches back 2,000 years; Portuguese kings resided here during the country's Golden Age. A guided tour of landmarks includes the ruins of a Roman temple, and royal palaces rich in Manueline architecture. Check into your luxury hotel, a converted 15th-century convent. Stay Two Nights: Convento do Espinheiro (B/L/D)
Évora, Portugal Drive into the Monsaraz region in Alentejo wine country for a visit to the Herdade do Esporão winery. Established in 1267, the estate includes a medieval tower and chapel, and some of the largest wine cellars in Portugal. Enjoy a tour, lunch and tastings of both wine and olive oil, then head to Monsaraz itself, for a tour of this town whose hilltop citadel was once strategically important in the struggle between Christian and Muslim forces for control of the region during the Middle Ages. Return this afternoon to your hotel in Évora; dinner this evening is at your leisure. (B/L/D)
Lisbon, Portugal Depart Évora and arrive late morning in Portugal's colorful capital city of Lisbon, where the Castle of São Jorge presides over an historic center of pastel medieval houses and opulent monumental architecture. Visit the dazzling National Tile Museum, dedicated to the art and history of painted ceramic tiles, whose bold colors and designs decorate buildings all over the city; the art of creating azulejos is a time-honored tradition. A Lisbon city tour includes the 500-year-old Jerónimos Monastery, whose Gothic cloisters are steeped in architectural art reflecting centuries of wealth from the sea trade.
Next, drive along the coast for a tour of the seaside town of Cascais (cush-caish), a summer playground on the Portuguese Riviera; stop for a photo at Boca do Inferno, a giant chasm battered by sea waves. Return to Lisbon and check into your hotel, located close to the luxurious Avenida da Liberdade; tonight, join us for a Tauck Exclusive - a private tour and dinner at Palacio de Queluz, a lavish 18th-century royal retreat exquisitely designed. Stay Two Nights: InterContinental Lisbon (B/L/D)
Lisbon, Portugal Today, visit Sintra - a romantic city of castles, monuments, and palatial estates. A city tour includes the National Palace of Pena, a Romanesque retreat inspired by castles on the Rhine; the Castle of the Moors, a mountaintop fortress built in the 9th century with panoramic views of the city; and Cabo da Roca, a cliffside point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean which is the westernmost tip of Europe. Return to Lisbon for time at leisure to spend as you please; join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner at your hotel. (B/D)
Depart Lisbon, Portugal Tour ends: Lisbon. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from InterContinental Lisbon to Lisbon Airport. You should allow a minimum of 3½ hours for flight check-in. (B)