Iberian Peninsula: From Spain to Portugal
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Iberian Peninsula: From Spain to Portugal

The Iberian Peninsula has been divided for centuries. On this tour not only the differences between an Atlantic Portugal and a Mediterranean Spain become apparent, but also their similarities.

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Madrid

Madrid

27 km | 32 minutes
A

Madrid

Spain's vital centre

The capital of Spain emerged from the Moorish city of Madschrit in the 10th century AD. With three million inhab­i­tants, it is now the third largest city in the EU after Paris and London.

The rela­tively unim­portant city was chosen as the capital by the Spanish kings because of its central loca­tion on the Iberian Peninsula. Madrid did not actu­ally become an economic and cultural center of Spain until the 19th and 20th centuries. Consequently, the city's medieval archi­tectural landscape is far outdone by such ancient cities as Toledo, Seville and Granada. No city can compete with Madrid, however, when it comes to nightlife: the multi­tude of bars, bodegas and restau­rants are impos­sible to over­look.

Accommodation: A small hotel in historical Madrid

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast

The hotel is located within a historic 19th century building in the centre of Madrid, oppo­site the Teatro Real de La Ópera and close to the Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor.

During its resto­ra­tion, care was taken to preserve the orig­inal struc­ture and deco­ra­tive elements of the house. The rooms of the different categories are stylishly furnished in harmo­nizing colors. In the morning, a rich Breakfast buffet is served in the vaulted cellar. The central loca­tion is ideal for exploring the many histor­ical and cultural sights of the old quarter “Villa y Corte”. The nearest metro station is a five-minute walk away.

Market San Miguel

Culinary temple of Madrid
Opened in 1916 as a market hall, the cast-iron building was converted into Madrid's first culinary market in 2009. In the mean­time a fantastic gastro­nomic range has been estab­lished there. With over 10 million visitors, it is regarded as the culinary temple and modern quintessence of Spanish cuisine. Every­thing is avai­l­able; Iberian ham, fresh seafood, Mediterranean rice dishes or special cheeses from Castile, Asturias or the Basque Country. Over 30 fixed and mobile stalls guar­antee a wide selec­tion.

Palacio Real

Of the fairy­tale splendour of the Bourbon rulers
Italian archi­tects were to bring the splendor of Versailles to Madrid for the Spanish king, Philip V, in the middle of the 18th century – it never­the­less became a very Spanish building: austere, square and powerful, lush and baroque, but above all gigantic. The Palacio offered the king and his court seven floors and 100,000 square meters of space. Today, 50 of the 280 royal apart­ments are open to the public. The visit resem­bles a some­what rushed short trip through a fairy­tale world full of precious paint­ings, tapestries, ceiling frescoes, stucco orna­ments, chan­de­liers, furni­ture, clocks, crockery, swords, rifles, armor, maps, books – and finally through the Royal Pharmacy. Even if there is hardly time for detail, one gets an impres­sion of the immeasur­able splendor that the Bourbons allowed them­selves, while most of their subjects lived on a little bread and lamb.

From Madrid to Córdoba

Rental car pick-up

Madrid

17 km | 23 minutes

Rental car pick-up

Broker: Sunny Cars GmbH
Company: ALAMO
Vehicle: Opel Astra or similar (CDMR)
Loca­tion: Madrid Airport (Desk at Airport)

From Madrid to Córdoba

403 km | 4:30 h
The journey from Castile to Andalusia leads across the Sierra de San Andrés, a scenic mountain range protected by a natural park.

Real Jardín Botánico

Oasis in the metropolis of millions
More than 200 years ago, in 1781, Charles III had the Botan­ical Gardens built next to the Prado. And more than 200 years old are also the oldest of the approx­i­mately 30,000 trees, bushes and flowers from all over the world, among which visitors wander as if in a large garden. They came from the Spanish colonies in America and the Phil­ippines. Since 2005, the Jardín Botánico has also housed the bonsai collec­tion of former Prime Minister Felipe González.

Consuegra

The Windmill battle of Don Quixote took place in Consuegra. Twelve windmills dating back to the 16th century are still preserved. These may also be viewed from the inside. In some the old grinding mech­a­nism can be seen, others host art and craft exhi­bi­tions.

Desfiladero de Despeñaperros

The only pass over the Sierra Morena leads through the picturesque gorge of Despeñaperros. The mountain scenery around the river of the same name is now a nature park where lynxes, wolves, deer and eagles again live in the cork oak forests. Not always has the pass been as peaceful as it is today. In 1212  a Chris­tian army conquered the strategic pass in a bloody battle which eventu­ally led to the downfall of Moorish Andalusia.
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Cordoba

Jewish-Moorish heritage

Around 950 AD, Cordoba was the most important city of the Chris­tian Occi­dent and can only be compared with Byzantium and Baghdad.

Its mete­oric rise from a Vandal settle­ment began in 756, when the first Emir ascended the throne and made Córdoba the capital of the Caliphate. He introduced new irriga­tion methods and previ­ously unknown crops. Science and archi­tec­ture expe­r­i­enced a climax. At the turn of the first millennium there was street lighting for an esti­mated 300,000 inhab­i­tants. The Jewish commu­nity was a stronghold for Chris­tian-Muslim dialogue. After the conquest and recathol­iza­tion in 1236, Cordoba fell into oblivion – a stroke of luck to which the preser­va­tion of the Moorish building fabric is owed. With Granada and Sevilla, Cordoba belongs to the three big cities of Andalusia, but it is some­what quieter than its sisters. Major attrac­tions include the Juderia, the Jewish-Moorish district and the Mesquita, once one of the largest and most beau­tiful mosques in the world and now a Roman Catholic cathedral. Those wishing to escape the throngs of tourists should go just a few streets further into areas frequented by locals.

Accommodation: A palacio in historical Cordoba

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast | 1x Parking

The 18th century palacio sits on Roman foun­da­tions in the Cordoba old town. The listed heritage building is now a 5-star hotel with 53 extrav­agant rooms in which histor­ical and modern elements harmo­nize.

A small pool surrounded by plants in the court­yard and a well­ness area in the vaulted cellar make the stay complete. The restau­rant with a glass floor over Roman ruins is one of the hotel's most impres­sive features. Those who prefer to dine else­where due to the high prices or occa­sion­ally long wait will find a large selec­tion of restau­rants and tapas bars in the imme­diate vicinity.

Palacio de Viana

Andalu­sian mansion with lovely court­yards
The tradi­tional Andalu­sian manor house has twelve snug court­yards, which is why it is also called Museo de los Patios. The patios are richly deco­rated and adorned with plants and already worth a visit on their own. But also the palace itself offers a collec­tion of remark­able objects: Among other things, hand­guns, histor­ical furnish­ings and paint­ings can be seen. In May, the Palace Museum grants free access during the annual Patio Festival.

Judería

Historic city center of Córdoba
This former Jewish quarter in Córdoba is now the city's old town. It dates back to the 10th century when a large number of Jews moved into the tolerant caliphate and settled down near the Mezquita. This period of multi-reli­gious flour­ishing came to an end in 1492 when the Spanish Catholic kings took over. The Sephardic (Spanish) Jews were driven out along with the Moors. Today, Judería is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. White­washed houses with court­yards exuding the smell of flowers line the narrow alleyways. The Calleja de las Flores, where the resi­dents have adorned their houses with flowers, is espe­cially beau­tiful. The last surviving syna­gogue in Andalusia is also worth a visit.

Mezquita

Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
Covering an area of over 23,000 square meters, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is one of the largest sacred build­ings on earth. Ever since the Reconquista, it has served as the city's cathedral. Its name, “Mezquita” is related to the English word for “mosque,” and points to the building's Muslim origins. The Mosque was built on the site of a former church. After taking more than 200 years to complete, it rivaled even the most beau­tiful mosques of its day in Mecca, Damascus, Cairo or Istanbul. Upon entering, visitors are overwhelmed by the sight of a forest of columns and arches together with a supernat­u­rally beau­tiful play of colors. The inner court­yard with its Almanzor fountain is also defi­nitely worth a look.

Las Ermitas

Hermitage in the Sierra Cordoba
Hermits built settle­ments here in the heights of the Sierra Cordoba during the early Chris­tian period. Even today, it is still a place of mystical quietude, even though only a handful of monks from the Barefoot Carmelite order still live here. The obser­va­tion deck provides a lovely view of Cordoba. Those who are in good phys­ical shape can reach the hermitage by foot. The trail from El Brillante in northern Cordoba is three kilome­ters in length and is quite steep.

From Córdoba to Sevilla

147 km | 2:00 h
Known for its 11 unique church steeples, Spain's hottest city, Ecija, is often referred to as the “Frying Pan of Andalusia.” Further down the road in an area of fertile farm­land you will reach Carmona, one of Spain's quaintest towns.

Castillo de Almod­óvar

Picture-perfect Spanish castle over­looking the Guadalquivir
This castle was extremely important to the provin­cial capital of Córdoba on account of its proximity to the Guadalquivir river. It was built by the Arabs in the 8th century and was restored by the Chris­tians in the 13th century. It includes a total of nine towers, of which the two most promi­nent ones on the southern and northern sides can be climbed. These offer the best pano­ramic view of the plain. The castle's armory, cisterns and walls replete with battle­ments are still largely intact. Guided tours are also possible.

Écija

Palaces in the frying pan of Andalusia
Écija, the city of towers, lies on the Genil River between the two Andalu­sian metropol­itan cities of Córdoba and Seville in a sun-drenched plain, also referred to – with little charm – as the frying pan of Andalusia. But it is also consid­ered one of the most important art centers in Andalusia, where the aristoc­racy competed in the 18th century. In the central square, the Paza de España, stand the most important build­ings: the Town Hall, the Roman Baths and the Church of San Francisco.

Carmona

Historic town on the mountain
The city is strate­g­ically located on the Alcores, a mountain range in the central plain of Andalusia. From there you can see all the way to the Sierra Morena in the north and to the summit of San Cristobal in the south. Carmona is one of the oldest places in Andalusia and has been cont­in­u­ously inhabited since prehistoric times. Iber­ians, Catha­g­ians, Romans, Moors: all have left their traces in the city. Partic­u­larly striking is the citadel of Peter the Cruel, in which a Parador has found its place today. From Córdoba one enters the city through the Moorish city gate, which in turn is built on a Roman construc­tion.
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Seville

Nightly life in the Barrio de Santa Cruz

The capital of Andalusia is one of the hottest cities in Europe. It is therefore not surprising that much of the city life takes place at night.

Don Juan's home­town is an espe­cially exciting place during the Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and Seville Fair festivals, which involve week-long, lively cele­bra­tions. Although Seville has less Moorish archi­tec­ture than either Cordoba or Granada, the townscape is consid­ered partic­u­larly “Andalu­sian.” Many major and minor sights can be seen along the route from the Real Alcázar, the Royal Palace, to the Barrio de Santa Cruz, a picturesque district with an abun­dance of small squares and court­yards deco­rated with flowers.  Outside its histor­ical center Seville has many modern suburbs created by the recent economic boom: new neighbor­hoods have sprung up practically overnight, resulting in a traffic grid­lock that is not limited to the rush hours.

Accommodation: A boutique hotel next to the Basilica

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast | 1x Parking

The hotel is located in a small resi­dence next to the Basilica. The simple but elegant facade contrasts with the Moorish inte­rior with its bright colours, bubbling fountains and compelling scents.

The building was constructed of the same mate­r­ials used in Seville 800 years ago. At the centre of the building is the court­yard, around which the 15 guest rooms are grouped. Inci­dentally, all furnish­ings in the hotel are avai­l­able for purchase.

Puente del Alamillo

Harp bridge over the Guadalquivir
This cable-stayed bridge over the Guadalquivir was built for the Expo ‘92 and was the world’s first cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge without backstays. Twenty-six steel cables are attached to a spar reaching a height of 142 meters and which is slanted at a 58 degree angle, causing this elegant and expen­sive struc­ture to resemble a harp.

Casa de Pilatos

Most beau­tiful palace in Seville
This urban palace from the early 15th century became the prototyp­ical Andalu­sian aristo­cratic palace. Its elegance nearly exceeds that of the Alcazar and combines Gothic, Renais­sance and Mudéjar archi­tectural elements to create a symbiosis of Moorish and Chris­tian art. The “casa” owes its name to the fact that its owner allegedly saw the palace of Pontius Pilate while trav­elling in Pales­tine and recon­structed it in Seville. Today, the building houses a museum surrounding a unique court­yard. On display are paint­ings, furni­ture and antiques. The court­yard was used in 1999 for a scene in the movie “Mission: Impos­sible II,” where the flamenco dancer Sara Baras has a performance.

Museo de Bellas Artes

One of Europe's renowned art collec­tions
The 17th-century Abbey of Merced Calzada now houses one of Spain's most signif­icant art collec­tions. Works dating from the Gothic period all the way to the 20th century are on exhibit here. The collec­tion arose over the course of decades mainly through the secu­lariza­tion of church prop­erty, private gifts and acqui­si­tions on the open market. Master­pieces by El Greco, Pacheco, Velázquez and Alonso Cano are among the works on display. Of partic­ular interest are the reli­gious paint­ings of Zurbarán as well as the room dedicated to Murillo and the so-called “Seville School” of the 17th century.

A walk through Seville

From Alcázar to the Barrio Santa Cruz
This walk begins at the Alcázar and will take you to the city's major sights. It ends in the popular quarter of Santa Cruz, where you will find numerous bars, bodegas and restau­rants. (3 hrs, 7 km, eleva­tion change: 30 m)

From Sevilla to Lagos

274 km | 3:30 h
You will cross the border to Portugal near Ayamonte, then cont­inue west through the Algarve.

Ilha de Tavira

Swimming in a lagoon
The lagoon islands known as the IIha de Tavira are located south of Tavira and can be reached via a ferry. The low dunes and the several kilome­ters of sandy beaches are ideal for a day in the water. There is also a pede­s­trian bridge to the island further to the west.  

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FIESA

Interna­tional sand sculp­ture festival
This interna­tional sand sculp­ture festival is the largest of its kind in the world. The exhibit covers an area of 15,000 square meters and has a different theme every year. Artists from a number of countries work for months to construct a city using 35,000 tons of sand. You can admire the sculp­tures during the day and then enjoy an evening program of live music, theater and dance. There is also an area where anyone can try their hand at making a sand sculp­ture.

Silves

Crenellated lookout castle made of red sand­stone
Above the city of Silves towers a crenellated castle of red sand­stone. One can take a walk on the upper ring of walls and enjoy the spectac­ular views of the surrounding country­side. A shaft leads into a copper mine that was exploited by the Romans.  The Moorish cisterns are impres­sive as they are surrounded by four to seven meter high arches and reach a depth of 60 meters.
D

Algarve

Picture-perfect coast with 3,000 hours of sunshine

Landscapes dotted with cork, fig and almond trees interspersed with blos­soming orange and peach orchards: Many cold-stricken central Euro­peans dream of the Algarve, which enjoys over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and boasts beaches that are among the finest in the world.

Two mountain ranges cover the sparsely inhabited northern regions of Portugal's south­ernmost province. Between these mountains and the sea lie rolling hills of fertile land that produces up to four harvests a year. This area is hemmed in by a narrow coastal strip in the far south. While the mountai­nous West Algarve is incred­ibly scenic, most beaches and resorts are found in the east. The temper­a­ture rarely falls below 10° C in the winter, and the summer heat is tempered by a fresh breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.

Accommodation: A remote hotel near Lagos

3 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast

The hotel sits in the back country away from the hordes of tourist on the Algrave coast. From its elevated posi­tion on a hill, the prop­erty offers stunning views of the ocean and the Serra de Monchique.

Dispite the tranquil loca­tion, several beaches are just a few minutesdrive away. The 12 suites, the outdoor area with two swimming pools, the patio and the restau­rant with an open fireplace were designed in the rustic country style. The entire facility was created with one thing in mind: rest and relaxa­tion.

Lagos

Historic port town
This port town is one of the most beau­tiful towns in the Algarve region. It has just over 3,000 inhab­i­tants, but is heavily dominated by tourists throughout the year. To the south and west there are partic­u­larly bizarre rock forma­tions and secluded coves. The old town has been well-preserved and features historic attrac­tions such as theaters, restau­rants, cafés and all kinds of shops. There is even a German bakery. The signs of tourism are visible here all year round. There is a wide selec­tion of beaches to choose from and one beach to the east extends for many kilome­ters along the Bay of Meia Praia.

Costa Dourada

Coast of wild beauty
Costa Dourada, liter­ally: “Gold Coast”, is the name given to the stretch of coast between Sines in the north and the Cabo de Sao Vicente in the south, which is protected by a natural park over 100 kilome­tres long. The fact that the coast, despite its wild beauty and golden beaches, is less touris­tically devel­oped than the Algarve is due to the rough winds blowing from the Atlantic. Two bays in the south are regarded as fantas­tically beau­tiful: the Praia di Arrifana and the Praia di Carriagem. Of the few coastal towns, three are partic­u­larly worth seeing: Aljezur, dominated by a Moorish castle, the fishing village of Vila Nova de Milfontes and Porto Covo, surrounded by beau­tiful beaches.

Aljezur

Scenic old town below a castle
This town in the western part of the Algarve region features a lovely old town at the base of the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle. The sweeping view of the Serra de Monchique is reason enough to come for a visit. Aljezur is divided into two districts. The older one consists of build­ings typical of the region and is built into the hill of the castle. The more modern district of Igreja Nova was added after the earth­quake in 1755. Nearby beaches include the Praia da Amor­eira with its wonderful dunes, as well as Monte Clerigo and Arrifana.

From Lagos to Lisboa

293 km | 3:00 h

The route north is best taken by motorway. Along the way you will pass the farm labourer town of Grandola, which became famous in the 1974 Carna­tion Revo­lu­tion.

A Catholic radio station played the banned song “Grandola, vila morena” (Grandola, You Brown City), which was the secret starting signal for the revo­lu­tion against the military dictator­ship.

Castro Verde

Histor­ical town surrounded by cork forests
This small town surrounded by cork forests is located in the sparsely popu­lated Baixo Altenjo region and not far from Ourique, where the deci­sive battle between the Moors and the army of King Alfonso is thought to have taken place. The Royal Basilica of Castro Verde was built as a monu­ment to this historic victory. Scenes from the battle can still be seen depicted on the painted tiles (Azulejos) lining the church's inte­rior.

Grândola

The secret starting signal for the Carna­tion Revo­lu­tion
This town near the scenic Serra de Grândola belongs to Alentejo, which was home to many farm workers during the 19th and 20th centuries. The region was known for its choral songs, which were often sung by the workers while in the fields. The singer Zeca Afonso composed his song “Grândola, Vila Morena” in this style and had it broad­cast during the night of April 25, 1974. This was the secret starting signal for the Carna­tion Revo­lu­tion, which made the city famous throughout the world. Franz Joseph Degenhard later trans­lated the text into German. When entering the town from the direc­tion of Lisbon, you can still see a monu­ment displaying the song's lyrics.

Serra da Arrábida

Mountain wilder­ness with diverse vegeta­tion and a view of the sea
The Parque Natural da Serra da Arrábida is a mountain wilder­ness with a rich diver­sity of plant life, including wild olive trees, holm oaks and myrtles. The best place to start when exploring the park is in the vicinity of Port­inho. From there, you can cont­inue on to the Convento de Novo da Arrábida, a 16th-century monastery, and then on to the 500-meter-high Alto do Formons­inho with its magnif­i­cent scenic over­look.
E

Lisboa

Portugal's cheerful capital

The city at the mouth of the Tejo was already a Phoeni­cian port when the Romans conquered it. After the turmoil of mass migra­tion and more than one hundred years of Visigoth rule, “Lischbuna” expe­r­i­enced a cultural heyday among the Moors and became the Portuguese royal resi­dence under King Alfonso in 1260.

With the great discov­eries of the 15th century, Lisbon became one of the richest cities in Europe. The heyday of the city was abruptly ended by a terrible earth­quake in 1755, which killed over 90,000 people. Although it was gener­ously rebuilt, Portugal's capital never regained its former importance and did not become a modern metropolis until the late 20th century.
The cityscape is char­ac­terised by great differ­ences in alti­tude with magnif­i­cent vantage points, often with terraces. Oldest district is the picturesque Alfama east of the cathedral with narrow stairways, hidden back­yards and idyllic squares.

Accommodation: An 18th century boutique hotel

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast

This small quaint 18th century palace hosts one of the most charming and stylish boutique hotels in the capital. From its central loca­tion next to the National Art Museum, it provides stunning views of the ocean.

Guests can enjoy the private garden with the natural scent of flowers and the sea or relax in the top-floor library. The rooms are sunny and cheerful. This is a gentle and romantic inn that is favoured by artists and writers.

Elevador de Santa Justa

Riding the elevator from one part of town to the other
This elevator joins two parts of Lisbon with each other: Baixa and Chiado, which is higher up. This dist­inc­tive steel struc­ture was built in 1902. It was orig­inally powered by a steam engine, but this was replaced with an electric motor in 1907. The impres­sive struc­ture is 45 meters high. Its two cabins are adorned with wood paneling and brass fixtures and have room for 24 people each. If you take the elevator one level higher than the upper exit, you will get to see two orig­inal elevator machines in action. The next level up opens to a café with a spectac­ular view over­looking Baixa, Chiado and Castelo de São Jorge.

Lisboa Story Centre

A guided tour into the past
The Lisboa Story Center takes you on a journey into the past of Lisbon. Each epoch from the beginning to the present is accompa­nied by an audio and video guide – also avai­l­able in English and for chil­dren. The center­piece of the inter­ac­tive exhi­bi­tion is the earth­quake of 1755, which can even be relived. The exhi­bi­tion informs about the appear­ance of the city before and the recon­struc­tion. The tour lasts one hour.

Rossio

Vibrant square in downtown Lisbon
The Praça de Dom Pedro IV, as this square in downtown Lisbon is called, is a popular gathering place. This is partic­u­larly due to the two tram lines that meet here and the trains heading to Sintra. At the center of the square stands a 23-meter-high marble column and a bronze statue of King Pedro IV. He is depicted with four women at his feet repre­senting justice, wisdom, strength and temper­ance, which were virtues attributed to the king. The square is lined with lovely street cafés where you can sit and observe the vibrant city life.

From Lisboa to Sintra

30 km | 33 minutes
The short leg leads west towards the Serra de Sintra.
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Sintra

Fairy-tale village and world heritage site

The picturesque town 25 km west of Lisbon is perched on a cliff between two canyons. The 10 km of lush high­lands between the town and the coast are protected by the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Sintra served as the summer resi­dence of Portugese kings for 800 years. The National Palace now contains a museum that is open to the public (closed on Wednesday). The mild climate and scenic landscapes attracted wealthy resi­dents from other parts of Europe who tried to outdo each other in the construc­tion of lavish villas. The result was a curious ensemble of castles and mansions that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archi­tectural attrac­tions of Sintra are enhanced by the natural beauty of the surrounding country­side as it slopes down to the sandy beaches and coves along the coast. The beaches can be crowded on week­ends.

Accommodation: An old officer's house in Sintra

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast | 1x Parking card

Orig­inally built for an officer's family in 1890, today's guest house opened its doors again in 1994 after six years of vacancy and an elab­o­rate reno­va­tion.

The name trans­lates to view­point house, which is owed to the wonderful views towards the Atlantic Ocean and across Sintra. The eight spacious rooms are all indi­vid­u­ally deco­rated and named after one of the magnif­i­cent palaces in the area. Some have beau­tiful stucco ceil­ings. Breakfast is served in the dining room, with direct access to the garden. Hostess Char­lotte cont­in­u­ally cares for the welfare of her guests.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Muslim palace and royal summer resi­dence
This 10th-century Muslim palace used to be known as the “alcázar” and, with its promi­nent conical chimneys, is the most dist­inc­tive landmark in Sintra. From the 14th century until the 20th century, it served as the royal summer resi­dence. It features a conglom­erate of different archi­tectural styles. Arabic influ­ence can be seen in the carved wood ceil­ings and in the elab­o­rate 15th and 16th century ceramic tiles, or “azulejos,” covering the walls. The palace's current appear­ance dates back to the time of Manuel I during 15th and early 16th centuries, which saw the devel­op­ment of a pecu­liar mixture of Gothic and Moorish orna­menta­tion known as the Portuguese late Gothic style.

Quinta da Regaleira

Enchanted castle and a deep well
The Quinta from 1904 is a unique interplay of house and garden in Italian style. Sculptors, stonemasons, landscape gardeners and craftsmen have created an enchanted and at the same time royal summer resi­dence for the family of António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. Winding paths lead past fountains, viewing points and small grot­toes. At the very top you come to a well shaft, the depth of which can only be guessed at first. A spiral staircase leads to the under­ground complex. After a descent of 27 meters you have reached the bottom. Several under­ground passages lead back into the open from below.

Castelo dos Mouros

Monastery in the ruins of a Moorish castle
The castle whose ruins lie in the forest outside of Sintra was built by the Moors during the 8th and 9th centuries. In the year 1147, the Portuguese king Alfons I. captured the castle and had a Chris­tian chapel built on the site. The Portuguese rarely used the building complex, whereby the castle fell into disre­pair in the course of the following centuries. The remaining walls were exten­sively reno­vated during the Romantic Era around the year 1860. Today, the orig­inal castle is mostly a ruin.

From Sintra to Luso

283 km | 3:30 h

Mafra

A monu­mental example of Baroque exces­sive­ness
This town is famous for its enor­mous monastery palace. Construc­tion of the Palácio Nacional de Mafra began in 1711. It features a total area of 40,000 square meters and over 1,200 rooms. Its monu­mental archi­tec­ture attests to the Baroque exces­sive­ness of Portugals abso­lutist rulers. Their seem­ingly endless finan­cial resources came from their owner­ship of gold mines in Brazil. The basilica is open to visitors.

Obidos

Portugal's Rothenburg
Obidos, Portugal's answer to Rotheburg in Germany, is surrounded by a 13 m high and 1.5 km long forti­fied wall. Visitors can walk completely around the town along the top of the wall, which has been preserved unchanged since the 16th century. The Old Town in the shadow of a medieval castle contains numerous patri­cian villas along the narrow streets and quaint squares. Many galleries and shops display the works of local artists. Like most places in Spain, Obidos was conquered by the Moors in 711 and only won back for the Portuguese crown 400 years later. The church of Santa Maria dates from this period and stands oppo­site the old pile of shame. The section of coast­line west of Obidos is as idyllic as it is inac­ces­sible. The best route is via Foz do Arelho, where Obidos Lagune flows into the ocean.

Lagune von Óbidos

Going for a swim and walking along the beach
This lagoon on Portugal's west coast is 1.8 kilome­ters across at its widest point and reaches 5 kilome­ters inland from Foz do Arelho. During the middle ages, the lagoon went as far as inland as Obidos. Many people in Portugal come here for their beach vaca­tion. If you take a stroll along the beach or walk further inland, you may be rewarded with the sight of waterfowl and migratory birds, including flamingos.
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Coimbra

Scenic old town with a college-town flair

The univer­sity town of Coimbra has influ­enced the intel­lectual life of Portugal for centuries and is seeped in tradi­tion.

College students still make up one-fifth of the popu­la­tion. The scenic old town features a wealth of historic build­ings. The old univer­sity library has the most beau­tiful Baroque hall in the country and houses over 30,000 volumes, including 2,000 price­less manuscripts. The Kathedrale Sé Velha resem­bles a fortress, and the Augus­ti­nian Monastery of Santa Cruz houses the final resting place of the Portuguese king Afonso Henriques. Here, you can examine the the Manue­line archi­tec­ture, which was an ornate style introduced during the reign of King Manuel (1495 to 1521) and which repre­sents a curious mixture of Gothic orna­ment and nautical motifs from the early Colo­nial Period.

Accommodation: Palácio Hotel do Buçaco

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast

The summer palace of King Carlos was built above the spa town of Luso according to the plans of an Italian archi­tect in 1887 and converted into a luxury hotel in 1909.

Walking paths lead through a large park with old trees and hiking routes into the Serra do Buçaco start right at the doorstep. However 5-star service or a swimming pool with spa area can not be expected and the rooms are starting to look tired. Those willing to look past these signs of mild decay, with an eye for the authentic charm of the ensemble, are rewarded with a trip back in time into aristo­cratic 19th century.

Serra do Buçaco

Enchanted forest and a fairy-tale palace
During the Colo­nial Period, Portuguese seamen brought back a wide variety of plants with them from their voyages. Many of these were planted in the fertile mountains of Buçaco, so that a fairy-tale forest with 300 exotic and 400 indige­nous types of trees grew up here over the centuries. The forest enjoyed special protec­tion from the nearby Carmelite monks, who threat­ened to excommu­nicate anyone who cut down even just one of its trees. Toward the end of the 19th century, King Carlos built a neo-Gothic summer palace here that has since been converted into a luxury Hotel. There are several trails leading through this magical forest and some of them will take you up to the highest mountain in the area and its scenic over­look, the Miradouro da Cruz Alta.

From Luso to Salamanca

288 km | 3:30 h

Caramulo

Climatic spa in a rugged mountain landscape
The Serra do Caramulo is known for its healthy air and clear water – people drink the Agua do Caramulo everywhere in Portugal. Then there is also the beauty of the rugged mountains. The town of Caramulo is located at an eleva­tion of 800 meters and is surrounded by hills. In the old village, the Roma­nesque church and the pillory in front of it are worth a visit. The town is also the starting point for several hiking trails into the beau­tiful surrounding area.

Viseu

Wine growing center with charming old town
The city of 20,000 inhab­i­tants is located in the famous wine-growing region of the Dão. In the 16th century it was one of the most important schools of painting in Portugal. In the old town there are still many palaces and houses from the Renais­sance. Cobble­stone streets lead to idyllic squares and churches, of which the Roma­nesque-Baroque cathedral from the 12th century is the most impres­sive.

Ciudad Rodrigo

Walled border town with an exten­sive history
This city was founded as early as the 6th century BC by the Celtibe­r­ians. A wild boar made of granite and dating back to this era can still be seen here today. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, the Romans came and named the town Augustóbriga. The Suebi and the Visigoths later lay waste to the region during the Migra­tion Period, and the town was refounded in the 12th century by its name­sake, Count Rodrigo. The city enjoyed its brief heyday during the Romantic era, after which it sank back into being a sleepy border town. Cuidad Rodrigo is still surrounded by its old walls, which measure two kilome­ters in length and include seven gates. Thanks to its centuries-old build­ings, the town was declared a historic site, or “Conjunto histórico-artís­tico.”
H

Salamanca

The city 200 km north-west of Madrid is situ­ated in a deso­late region plagued by flight to the cities, an area where the winters are as unmercifully cold as the summers are hot.

Never­the­less, the 2,000-year-old city on the Rio Tormes remains one of the most popular tourist destina­tions in Spain, due in no small part to the histor­ical univer­sity which has shaped the local history and produced a large number of renowned scho­lars. It was thus here that Columbus presented his ambi­tious plan to reach the West via India to a group of skeptical professors. Today Salamanca is home to over 40,000 students, which explains the city's cosmopol­itan flair and vibrant night life. The entire Old Town with its numerous regis­tered landmarks from the 16th century is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Accommodation: A hotel in the Old Town

2 Nights | 1x Double Occupancy | Bed & Breakfast | 1x Parking

The small boutique hotel on the edge of the Old Town is one of the most attrac­tive accommo­d­a­tions of its type in western Spain, thanks in no small part to the owner's metic­u­lous atten­tion to detail.

Wood, in partic­ular, was used in a surprising variety of ways, from the gleaming parquet floor to the inlaid tables to the hand-carved beds. The bath­rooms furnish­ings were made of white marble. While not every guest will need the tele­phone, fax connec­tion or minibar, they will certainly appre­ciate the air-condi­tioning and the noise reduc­tion provided by the double glazed windows. The hotel also features a good a bar and a parking garage.

From Salamanca to Madrid

Rental car drop-off

From Salamanca to Madrid

229 km | 2:30 h

Rental car drop-off

Loca­tion: Madrid Airport (Desk at Airport)

18 days
from € 2,119.00
per person based on two people sharing a double room
Services
  • Accommodation in a double room
  • Meals (as listed above)
  • Sunny Cars Permit for Portugal (payable on site)
  • Climate Compensation



You can start this tour on any date.
Best Travel Time: April–October

The prices can vary depending on the season.
Your Consultants
Leslie Jalowiecki

Ph.: +49 (0)2268 92298-67


Melissa Nußbaum

Ph.: +49 (0)2268 92298-57


Jessica Parkin

Ph.: +49 (0)2268 92298-23

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