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Portugal: Walking the Route of Historic Villages

Trip Length 8 days

From $3,895

  • Follow an age-old route through Portugal's most historic villages with expert local guides every step of the way
  • Take in stunning views from a mountaintop castle overlooking "the most Portuguese village in Portugal"
  • Enjoy hikes through the Serra da Estrela National Park, located in the mountainous central massif
  • Take a walking tour of Lisbon, with its Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries, and narrow lanes of the Old Quarter

Long the Iberian Peninsula’s best-kept secret, Portugal’s countryside is dotted with medieval castles and charming villages—a land characterized by old-world charm and a warm, welcoming people. It is also a land that has seen its share of conflict and conquest, as the stone walls and towers of its hilltop villages bear out. As you travel from one one beautiful village to another on this immersive journey, you’ll learn about Portugal’s people, culture, and rich history, from tales of Roman rule and successive invasions by Visigoths and Moors, to the haunting sounds of fado singers as you enjoy a walking tour of Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Our expert local guides will bring the past and present of this proud land to life for you, so you really feel the warmth and soul of old Portugal.

Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon

Plan to arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) in the morning. An MTS representative will be waiting outside of customs to welcome you and transfer you to the hotel. We’ll have some time to check in and freshen up before lunch, after which we'll take a walking tour through the old town of Lisbon, and the Mouraria and Alfama neighborhoods. We’ll finish our day with a festive welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Olissippo Oriente

Day 2: Lisbon – Salvaterra do Extremo – Monfortinho

After a hearty breakfast, we'll begin our journey inland to the small village of Salvaterra do Extremo, near the border of Spain, where today's hike begins. The village was originally a stronghold used by the Romans and the Arabs, and it retains a special charm to this day. As we stroll around we'll see traditional homes made of shale, the House of Sardões (lizards), a moon-shaped well, the bell tower of Casa da Câmara (complete with storks in the belfry!), and the cylindrical granite stiles. Our hiking route today is approximately 7½ miles on varied terrain along an ancient Roman road. At the end of the day, we'll continue on to Monfortinho, where we’ll stay for two nights. 

Hiking time: 7½ miles, 4 hours (954-feet ascent, 990-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Fonte Santa

Day 3: Monfortinho – Idanha-a-Velha – Monsanto – Penha Garcia – Monfortinho

Today we'll hike from village to village through a beautiful landscape. The villages we'll see are among a group of 12 villages in Portugal's Historic Villages Program (Programa de Aldeias Históricas), which seeks to restore and promote places that are important to the history of the country. We'll begin in Idanha-a-Velha, one of the oldest towns in Portugal with a history of Roman settlement dating back to 16 AD. Those who visit this small, peaceful village will find it difficult to imagine that it was once a prosperous Roman city almost as rich as Lisbon.

Once we've explored Idanha-a-Velha, we'll hike up to the old stone village of Monsanto, an ancient fortified village perched against the face of a rocky cliff where houses sit wedged between giant boulders. Monsanto has managed to resist change for hundreds of years, earning it the title of "the most Portuguese village in Portugal." We'll hike through this unique village up the steep rocky slope to a castle perched above it. Our effort will be rewarded with a nice picnic lunch enjoyed along with one of the most stunning panoramic views in Portugal.

After lunch, we'll continue our exploration of Monsanto before heading back to Monfortinho. We'll stop along the way for a brief 1½-mile side hike to the the village of Penha Garcia. This ancient village dates back to the Neolilthic period and is considered by many the “Nativity Scene” of the Beira, with a labyrinth of streets winding among small, flower-covered houses. It's a true gem to explore! We'll then get back on the trail to Monfortinho in time for dinner and some rest. 

Hiking time: 7½ miles total, 5½ hours (1,795-feet ascent, 495-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Fonte Santa

Day 4: Monfortinho – Sortelha – Belmonte – Linhares da Beira – Penhas Douradas

After breakfast, we'll leave Monfortinho and head to the medieval village of Sortelha. Sitting high atop a rocky promontory at 2,500 feet, the walled fortress is dominated by the ruins of the Castelo de Sortelha—giving us a fascinating insight into ancient architecture. Next, we'll continue to the unique village of Belmonte, dominated by a 13th-century castle that was transformed into a 15th-century manor house by the family of Pedro Alvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil. Adjacent to the castle is a labyrinth of ancient alleyways that make up the old Jewish quarter. Still home to dozens of Jewish families, this is the largest Jewish community in Portugal.

We'll then continue to Linhares da Beira, a Lusitanian hill fort situated on the western slopes of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. We'll walk through the village and see simple granite houses standing side by side with elegant manor-houses, still displaying signs of their ancient nobility.

Our day ends at Penhas Douradas, on the central high plains of Estrela Mountain—the first mountain resort in Portugal.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Casa das Penhas Douradas

Day 5: Hike in Serra da Estrela Natural Park (Penhas Douradas Region)

Today takes us through the diversified landscape of Penhas Douradas, a region of Serra da Estrela Natural Park marked by rocky outcrops, boulders, and crags, several of which resemble human forms. Our destination today is the dam of the Vale do Rossim, a picturesque lake with a small beach perfect for resting, soaking our feet, and enjoying a nice picnic. We'll then make our way back to our hotel, arriving in the early afternoon, after which you can take the rest of the day to rest or explore.

Hiking time: 5½ miles, 3 hours (1,092-feet ascent, 1,046-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Casa das Penhas Douradas

Day 6: Penhas Douradas – Piodão – Lousã

Today we'll leave Serra da Estrela behind, starting our route towards the small town of Lousã. En route, we'll visit the photogenic village of Piódão, where cobblestone avenues lined with shale houses cascade down a gentle slope. With its white facades and cylindrical buttresses, a beautiful church dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição clearly stands out among the shale houses. The inhabitants of Piódão erected this church at the beginning of the 19th century using their own gold and money.

We’ll reach our destination, the charming town of Lousã, in the middle of the afternoon, with plenty of time to rest or explore.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Melia Palacio da Lousã

Day 7: Lousã – Lisbon

Today, we'll start at the Castle of Arouce and hike on the magnificent trail of the Serra da Lousã, passing through villages long since lost in time. This narrow trail, molded by the passage of mountain people over the centuries, winds gradually uphill, with occasional views of a cliffside castle in the distance. The trail will take us to village of Talasnal, where we’ll wander through small, winding alleyways under the shade of houses made entirely of shale. Here, we can drink fresh, cold water straight from the village's spring fountain, or just sit back, relax, and contemplate the beautiful scene around us.

We’ll continue our journey along a beaten path, crossing bridges and creeks and guarded by the shade of chestnut trees as we climb towards Casal Novo for our final village visit. From Casal Novo, we’ll walk downhill through woods, where mimosa tenuifloras are abundant, until we finally reach the best view upon the valley, and the castle that was once the scene of battles between Christians and Moors. We’ll then proceed through terraces of ancient farms that have been turned into abundant gardens until we reach the end of our route.

After lunch, we'll have the opportunity to take a dip in the refreshing waters of nearby river pools before returning to Lisbon. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll depart for an epic ending to this trip—a special dinner in a typical "casa de Fado," which is a restaurant that features traditional Portuguese fado music.

Hiking time: 4 miles, 3 hours (1,607-feet ascent, 1,607-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Olissippo Oriente

Day 8: Depart from Lisbon

Three hours before your scheduled flight, your guide will transfer you to the airport and assist you in the check-in process.

Please note that the actual duration of the planned hikes may vary, depending on the fitness of the group, desired number of stops, weather conditions, and unexpected detours.

  • Breakfast

Apr 16 - 23, 2016

May 21 - 28, 2016

Sep 10 - 17, 2016

pricing

2016 Prices
$3,895 (4-16 members)
$500 single supplement

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Casa das Penhas Douradas — Manteigas

Hotel Fonte Santa — Monfortinho

Hotel Melia Palacio da Lousã — Lousã

Hotel Olissippo Oriente — Lisbon

"This was an awesome trip. The itinerary was fantastic. The guides were welcoming, flexible, encouraging, and delivered an experience that will never be forgotten. The duration was perfect - small villages, varying hikes to see the differing landscapes, great food, great itinerary to understand Portugal -- its land and people, and warm, gracious, and unusual accommodations." Pamela Kudlick

  • Follow an age-old route through Portugal's most historic villages with expert local guides every step of the way
  • Take in stunning views from a mountaintop castle overlooking "the most Portuguese village in Portugal"
  • Enjoy hikes through the Serra da Estrela National Park, located in the mountainous central massif
  • Take a walking tour of Lisbon, with its Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries, and narrow lanes of the Old Quarter

Long the Iberian Peninsula’s best-kept secret, Portugal’s countryside is dotted with medieval castles and charming villages—a land characterized by old-world charm and a warm, welcoming people. It is also a land that has seen its share of conflict and conquest, as the stone walls and towers of its hilltop villages bear out. As you travel from one one beautiful village to another on this immersive journey, you’ll learn about Portugal’s people, culture, and rich history, from tales of Roman rule and successive invasions by Visigoths and Moors, to the haunting sounds of fado singers as you enjoy a walking tour of Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Our expert local guides will bring the past and present of this proud land to life for you, so you really feel the warmth and soul of old Portugal.

review

"This was an awesome trip. The itinerary was fantastic. The guides were welcoming, flexible, encouraging, and delivered an experience that will never be forgotten. The duration was perfect - small villages, varying hikes to see the differing landscapes, great food, great itinerary to understand Portugal -- its land and people, and warm, gracious, and unusual accommodations." Pamela Kudlick

DAILY itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon

Plan to arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) in the morning. An MTS representative will be waiting outside of customs to welcome you and transfer you to the hotel. We’ll have some time to check in and freshen up before lunch, after which we'll take a walking tour through the old town of Lisbon, and the Mouraria and Alfama neighborhoods. We’ll finish our day with a festive welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Olissippo Oriente

Day 2: Lisbon – Salvaterra do Extremo – Monfortinho

After a hearty breakfast, we'll begin our journey inland to the small village of Salvaterra do Extremo, near the border of Spain, where today's hike begins. The village was originally a stronghold used by the Romans and the Arabs, and it retains a special charm to this day. As we stroll around we'll see traditional homes made of shale, the House of Sardões (lizards), a moon-shaped well, the bell tower of Casa da Câmara (complete with storks in the belfry!), and the cylindrical granite stiles. Our hiking route today is approximately 7½ miles on varied terrain along an ancient Roman road. At the end of the day, we'll continue on to Monfortinho, where we’ll stay for two nights. 

Hiking time: 7½ miles, 4 hours (954-feet ascent, 990-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Fonte Santa

Day 3: Monfortinho – Idanha-a-Velha – Monsanto – Penha Garcia – Monfortinho

Today we'll hike from village to village through a beautiful landscape. The villages we'll see are among a group of 12 villages in Portugal's Historic Villages Program (Programa de Aldeias Históricas), which seeks to restore and promote places that are important to the history of the country. We'll begin in Idanha-a-Velha, one of the oldest towns in Portugal with a history of Roman settlement dating back to 16 AD. Those who visit this small, peaceful village will find it difficult to imagine that it was once a prosperous Roman city almost as rich as Lisbon.

Once we've explored Idanha-a-Velha, we'll hike up to the old stone village of Monsanto, an ancient fortified village perched against the face of a rocky cliff where houses sit wedged between giant boulders. Monsanto has managed to resist change for hundreds of years, earning it the title of "the most Portuguese village in Portugal." We'll hike through this unique village up the steep rocky slope to a castle perched above it. Our effort will be rewarded with a nice picnic lunch enjoyed along with one of the most stunning panoramic views in Portugal.

After lunch, we'll continue our exploration of Monsanto before heading back to Monfortinho. We'll stop along the way for a brief 1½-mile side hike to the the village of Penha Garcia. This ancient village dates back to the Neolilthic period and is considered by many the “Nativity Scene” of the Beira, with a labyrinth of streets winding among small, flower-covered houses. It's a true gem to explore! We'll then get back on the trail to Monfortinho in time for dinner and some rest. 

Hiking time: 7½ miles total, 5½ hours (1,795-feet ascent, 495-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Fonte Santa

Day 4: Monfortinho – Sortelha – Belmonte – Linhares da Beira – Penhas Douradas

After breakfast, we'll leave Monfortinho and head to the medieval village of Sortelha. Sitting high atop a rocky promontory at 2,500 feet, the walled fortress is dominated by the ruins of the Castelo de Sortelha—giving us a fascinating insight into ancient architecture. Next, we'll continue to the unique village of Belmonte, dominated by a 13th-century castle that was transformed into a 15th-century manor house by the family of Pedro Alvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil. Adjacent to the castle is a labyrinth of ancient alleyways that make up the old Jewish quarter. Still home to dozens of Jewish families, this is the largest Jewish community in Portugal.

We'll then continue to Linhares da Beira, a Lusitanian hill fort situated on the western slopes of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. We'll walk through the village and see simple granite houses standing side by side with elegant manor-houses, still displaying signs of their ancient nobility.

Our day ends at Penhas Douradas, on the central high plains of Estrela Mountain—the first mountain resort in Portugal.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Casa das Penhas Douradas

Day 5: Hike in Serra da Estrela Natural Park (Penhas Douradas Region)

Today takes us through the diversified landscape of Penhas Douradas, a region of Serra da Estrela Natural Park marked by rocky outcrops, boulders, and crags, several of which resemble human forms. Our destination today is the dam of the Vale do Rossim, a picturesque lake with a small beach perfect for resting, soaking our feet, and enjoying a nice picnic. We'll then make our way back to our hotel, arriving in the early afternoon, after which you can take the rest of the day to rest or explore.

Hiking time: 5½ miles, 3 hours (1,092-feet ascent, 1,046-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Casa das Penhas Douradas

Day 6: Penhas Douradas – Piodão – Lousã

Today we'll leave Serra da Estrela behind, starting our route towards the small town of Lousã. En route, we'll visit the photogenic village of Piódão, where cobblestone avenues lined with shale houses cascade down a gentle slope. With its white facades and cylindrical buttresses, a beautiful church dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição clearly stands out among the shale houses. The inhabitants of Piódão erected this church at the beginning of the 19th century using their own gold and money.

We’ll reach our destination, the charming town of Lousã, in the middle of the afternoon, with plenty of time to rest or explore.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Melia Palacio da Lousã

Day 7: Lousã – Lisbon

Today, we'll start at the Castle of Arouce and hike on the magnificent trail of the Serra da Lousã, passing through villages long since lost in time. This narrow trail, molded by the passage of mountain people over the centuries, winds gradually uphill, with occasional views of a cliffside castle in the distance. The trail will take us to village of Talasnal, where we’ll wander through small, winding alleyways under the shade of houses made entirely of shale. Here, we can drink fresh, cold water straight from the village's spring fountain, or just sit back, relax, and contemplate the beautiful scene around us.

We’ll continue our journey along a beaten path, crossing bridges and creeks and guarded by the shade of chestnut trees as we climb towards Casal Novo for our final village visit. From Casal Novo, we’ll walk downhill through woods, where mimosa tenuifloras are abundant, until we finally reach the best view upon the valley, and the castle that was once the scene of battles between Christians and Moors. We’ll then proceed through terraces of ancient farms that have been turned into abundant gardens until we reach the end of our route.

After lunch, we'll have the opportunity to take a dip in the refreshing waters of nearby river pools before returning to Lisbon. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll depart for an epic ending to this trip—a special dinner in a typical "casa de Fado," which is a restaurant that features traditional Portuguese fado music.

Hiking time: 4 miles, 3 hours (1,607-feet ascent, 1,607-feet descent)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Olissippo Oriente

Day 8: Depart from Lisbon

Three hours before your scheduled flight, your guide will transfer you to the airport and assist you in the check-in process.

Please note that the actual duration of the planned hikes may vary, depending on the fitness of the group, desired number of stops, weather conditions, and unexpected detours.

  • Breakfast
lodgings

Casa das Penhas Douradas — Manteigas

Hotel Fonte Santa — Monfortinho

Hotel Melia Palacio da Lousã — Lousã

Hotel Olissippo Oriente — Lisbon

Dates and Pricing

Apr 16 - 23, 2016

May 21 - 28, 2016

Sep 10 - 17, 2016

pricing

2016 Prices
$3,895 (4-16 members)
$500 single supplement

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