Silver Coast & Golden River: Art, Architecture & Culture of Portugal

8 Sep – 26 Sep 2017

  • Region:
    • Europe
    • Portugal
  • Status: waitlist
  • Code: 21726
Overview

Tour Highlights

  • With Dr John Wreglesworth, explore the distinctive history of fascinating Portugal, adjacent to but so different from Spain.
  • Trace the diverse influences of medieval Iberian Islam and Portugal’s South American and Far Eastern empires on Portuguese visual culture.
  • Enjoy the sophistication of modern Lisbon, with its marvellous art museums, including the magnificent Calouste Gulbenkian collection.
  • Encounter the intricate Portuguese Flamboyant Gothic style in such masterpieces as royal tombs and rich tracery at Alcobaça and Batalha Monasteries.
  • Wonder at the sumptuousness of royal palaces like Renaissance Sintra and Baroque Queluz, and their magnificent gardens.
  • Visit powerful medieval castles that lined the frontiers between Christian Portugal and Muslim territory.
  • Trace the development of Portugal’s extraordinary, idiosyncratic Manueline style, a rich Renaissance idiom encrusted with ropes, coral, anchors and other signifiers of the country’s imperial maritime past.
  • Tour the historic University of Coimbra, including the glorious high Baroque Library (Library visit subject to confirmation closer to the date).
  • Wander through untouched medieval frontier towns, fortified to resist the encroaching Spaniards.
  • Stay in beautiful and fascinating heritage accommodation, like the medieval Convento de São Paulo and two pousadas, hotels occupying converted medieval monuments.
  • Savour delicious local dishes in distinctive restaurants and enjoy a performance of traditional Fado music.
  • Feast your eyes on walls of rich blue and white tiles, Portugal’s counter to imports of Chinese porcelain.

Testimonials

The high points of our tour were staying in beautiful historic hotels; learning about the history and culture of Portugal from an expert guide; visiting stunning palaces, churches, monasteries, castles and interesting museums, and Portugal’s exquisite Azulejos.  Sue, QLD.

This tour exceeded all expectations in every respect. The best ASA tour I have been on.  Nigel, NSW.

I enjoyed the tour immensely. The company was great, always important, and the guides were knowledgeable and interesting. I especially enjoyed the pousadas – such beautiful old buildings in wonderful surroundings and the wonderful Quinta das Lagrimas. Portugal is a beautiful country with friendly cheerful people so much in such a small area. It was good to learn the history in more detail and some of the more modern history. We also had our funny moments I enjoyed John & Liz and their delightful sense of humour, matched only by their extensive knowledge.  Maree, QLD.

19-day Cultural Tour of Portugal

Overnight  Lisbon (6 nights) • Redondo (2 nights) • Marvão (1 night) • Tomar (3 nights) • Coimbra (1 night) • Guimarães (2 nights) • Porto (3 nights)

Overview

Explore Portugal’s eventful history, encompassing struggles against its powerful neighbour Spain, conquests by North African Muslims and Christian reconquest, and learn how this tiny nation carved out a global empire. We wander through beautiful villages and fortress towns, explore grand palaces and gardens and visit fine churches and monasteries decorated in the unique ‘Manueline’ style; its encrustations of ropes, coral, anchors and seashells signify the country’s imperial maritime past. We also encounter the intricate Portuguese Flamboyant Gothic in such masterpieces as royal tombs at Alcobaca and view walls of rich blue and white tiles, Portugal’s counter to imports of Chinese porcelain. We journey through picturesque landscapes to explore Portugal’s prehistoric monuments, a stone circle at Os Almendres and an Iron Age hill-fort at Citania de Briteiros, and gauge the impact of the Roman Empire at Évora, at the abandoned city of Conimbriga, and at the imposing remains of Mérida, now across the frontier in Spain but formerly capital of Roman Portugal. The 12th-century cradle of the Portuguese kingdom is Guimarães, with pretty medieval houses and a fine castle. Captured from the Arabs by Christian crusaders in 1147, Lisbon has long been the nation’s capital. This charming city, built on seven hills along the river Tajo, has two outstanding museums: the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Throughout our journey we visit romantic castles and ornate palaces: Marvão, Tomar, Queluz, Sintra and the Templar castle of Almourol. Highlights include the historic University of Coimbra and the Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça, the country’s greatest medieval architectural complex. Solar de Mateus is Portugal’s best-known 18th-century manor house – it appears on the rosé wine label! We end in Porto, with its UNESCO World Heritage quayside on the river Douro, from which it exported its famous fortified wine. We sample Portugal’s fine cuisine, enjoy traditional Fado music and stay in charming heritage hotels. These include the Convento de São Paulo, a converted 10th-century monastery decorated with azulejos (glazed tiles); the Pousadas of Marvão and Guimarães; combined with 4/5-star hotels in Tomar, Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto.

Itinerary

The following itinerary lists a range of museums, and other site visits which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily and evening meals featuring the best of Portugal’s cuisine, indicated in the itinerary where: B = breakfast, L=lunch and D = evening meal.

Lisbon - 6 nights

Day 1: Friday 8 September, Arrive Lisbon
  • Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
  • Welcome meeting
  • Orientation walk

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to the Altis Avenida Hotel. There will be a short orientation walk in the area of the hotel in the late afternoon and the evening will be at leisure.

Lisbon owes its historical prominence to its magnificent natural harbour. The city lies on the north bank of the Tagus River (Rio Tejo), approximately thirteen kilometres from its mouth. At this point the river is almost two miles wide. It is spanned, on the west side of the city, by the long Twenty-fifth of April Bridge. Just east of the bridge, the Tagus suddenly broadens into a bay seven miles wide called the Sea of Straw (Mar de Palha), which lies on a strategic sea route and serves as a busy port, handling much of Portugal’s and Spain’s exports and imports. (Overnight Lisbon, Altis Avenida Hotel)

Day 2: Saturday 9 September, Lisbon
  • Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St. George)
  • Sé Catedral de Lisboa (Church of Santa Maria Maior)
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Collection
  • Welcome Dinner

This morning we take a tram to the Castle of St. George and then to Lisbon Cathedral. The castle is intimately linked to Lisbon’s history, as it is here that the Phoenicians are purported to have founded the first settlement. On this salient position, successive citadels became Roman, Islamic and Christian centres of power. King Afonso Henriques captured the castle in 1147. It was rebuilt by King John I in the 14th century and has recently undergone considerable restoration. The Castle, which overlooks Lisbon on all sides, is surrounded by a wild garden from which there are views over the city’s roofs and bell towers. Lisbon’s cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria Maior, is one of the major examples of Romanesque-Gothic architecture in the city. Although it was originally built in the 12th century, there were later additions from the 13th and 14th centuries (cloister, chancel, Chapel of Bartolomeu Joanes) and some less significant work in the following centuries. It has undergone several restorations since the 1755 earthquake.

After lunchtime at leisure, we visit one of Europe’s finest private art collections. Calouste Gulbenkian was a Turkish Armenian who derived his great wealth from the five percent commissions he took for selling Iraqi oil. He lived much of his life in Lisbon and donated most of his fortune and his collection to create a museum and foundation. The collection’s high quality reflects a faultless eye, with masterpieces of European painting, Islamic and Asian art, and a large corpus of the work of the jeweller René Lalique. Among the European works are paintings by Dirk Bouts, Carpaccio, Van der Weyden, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Turner, Manet, Degas and Monet.

This evening we enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the Altis Avenida Hotel’s panoramic rooftop restaurant Rossio. (Overnight Lisbon, Altis Avenida Hotel) BD

Day 3: Sunday 10 September, Lisbon
  • Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
  • Torre de Belém (Exterior)
  • Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

This morning we tour Lisbon and the district of Belém by coach, visiting the Jerónimos Monastery, a masterpiece of Manueline architecture, and the Torre de Belém (‘Tower of Bethlehem’), the robust fortress built to protect the mouth of the Tagus. Belém derives its name from the great church and monastery of the Hieronymite friars (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos), dedicated to St. Mary of Bethlehem. It is a fine example of Manueline architecture, a blend of late Gothic and Renaissance elements that was very popular in Portugal in the 16th century. The church attached to the monastery is unique in the boldness of its vaulted roof, which is supported by decorated columns that fan out as they meet it. It is richly ornamented with the navigation symbols that characterise the Manueline style. The tombs of Vasco da Gama and Camões, Portugal’s great national poet, are in the church. The monastery was begun in 1502 by Boytac (Boitaca), an architect of French origin, and was not finished until the end of the century. Four other architects worked on the project, their styles passing from the Gothic through the Renaissance to the Baroque.

The five-storey Torre de Belém was originally located at the centre of the Tagus. It now forms a type of small architectural peninsula jutting into the river (which has changed course). Built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon, it was erected in the Manueline style by Francisco de Arruda. Girt by a cable carved in stone, it has a stern Gothic interior but exhibits North African touches on its turrets and crenulations. Renaissance arches form its windows.

This afternoon, we visit the Museu Nacional de Arte Antigua, which is housed in the 17th century Palace of the Counts of Alvor. It has an important collection of Portuguese works from the 15th and 16th centuries and Flemish and German paintings (Cranach, Memling, Hieronymus Bosch, Mabuse, Holbein, etc.). There is also a fascinating group of 16th-century Japanese screens depicting the activities of the Portuguese in Japanese waters, and a small but excellent collection of Spanish paintings of the Golden Age, including Velázquez and Zurbarán. (Overnight Lisbon, Altis Avenida Hotel) B

Day 4: Monday 11 September, Lisbon – Mafra – Queluz – Lisbon
  • Palácio Nacional de Mafra
  • Palácio Nacional de Queluz and Garden

Today we drive out to visit Mafra and Queluz, two towns and palace complexes, situated just northwest of Lisbon. The Mafra National Palace dwarfs the town and was Portugal’s attempt to rival Spain’s Escorial Palace outside Madrid. This monumental Baroque and Neoclassical palace-monastery was built in the early 18th century and was funded with the tremendous amounts of gold that where being brought to Portugal from the colonies in Brazil. The complex includes the grand palace, an enormous basilica and a major library housing 40,000 rare books. The complex was completed in a relatively short thirteen years. On average there were 15,000 workers each day employed at the site, with 30,000 towards the end of the construction and an additional 7000 soldiers required to keep order!

During the 17th century the district of Queluz was occupied by estates owned by Lisbon’s nobility. In the early 18th century it was the idyllic country setting of the royal family’s estate and hunting lodge, which the Infante Dom Pedro (later Dom Pedro III), son of King Dom João V, ordered to be converted into a Summer Palace (1747 – 1794). This Rococo conversion was supervised by the architects Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and the Frenchman Robillion, who added a new west wing to the initial plan, known as the Robillion Pavilion, and worked on the decoration of the finest interior spaces such as the Throne Room, the Music Room and the Ambassadors’ Room. Restored after partial destruction by fire in 1934, the palace is still used for official receptions. Queluz palace contains an important art collection, including Portuguese furniture, painting, carpets, porcelain and tiles. Its formal gardens are very beautiful, with sculptures and ornamental lakes, and a tiled canal along which the royal family would take boat trips. (Overnight Lisbon, Altis Avenida Hotel) BL

Day 5: Tuesday 12 September, Lisbon – Sintra – Lisbon
  • Palácio de Pena, Sintra
  • Palácio Nacional, Sintra
  • Dinner and performance at a Lisbon Fado Restaurant

Today we drive to Sintra to visit the Royal palace complex. The Palácio Nacional, nestled in the verdant Serra de Sintra, was the summer retreat of the Portuguese Royal family. Founded sometime before 1415, it was largely constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its external profile is dominated by the two extraordinary conical chimneys of its distinctive kitchens. Within, you will visit these kitchens, as well as royal apartments separated by small courtyards with pretty fountains and decorated with very beautiful azulejos, artesonado (Islamic wooden panelling) and polychrome ceilings, and wood panel inlays. We also visit the Palácio de Pena, a palace constructed on the site of an Hieronymite monastery founded by Manuel I in 1509. To this was added an extraordinary ‘Gothick-Baronial’ fantasy palace in the 19th century. You will see parts of the old monastery, the palace that took its place, and the 19th-century additions to it.

In the evening we will experience Portugal’s haunting traditional Fado music, considered the country’s musical treasure and involving a singer accompanied by two guitarists. The songs are usually soulful and sad, about love and loss or things that were never accomplished. (Overnight Lisbon, Altis Avenida Hotel) BD

Day 6: Wednesday 13 September, Lisbon
  • Lisbon Maritime Museum
  • Afternoon at leisure

The ‘Age of Discovery’, during which the explorers of Europe sailed around Africa to Asia and across the Atlantic to the Americas, was led by the Portuguese. Superior navigation techniques and ship-building skills allowed Portugal to monopolise the newly discovered trade routes, bringing the country tremendous wealth and power. This morning we will visit the Maritime Museum in Lisbon, one of the most important museums of its kind. Here we will some of the models, maps, globes and artefacts that illustrate the glories of Portugal’s maritime history.

The afternoon is at leisure for you to further explore Lisbon. You may choose to take a taxi to visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (Tile Museum), or perhaps the Museu-Escola de Artes Decorativas (Museum of Decorative Arts) with its interesting display of furniture and tapestries from the 16th to 19th centuries. (Overnight Lisbon, Altis Avenida Hotel) B

Redondo - 2 nights

Day 7: Thursday 14 September, Lisbon – Évora – Arraiolos – Redondo
  • Os Almendres
  • Roman Temple of Diana, Évora
  • Cathedral, Évora
  • Casas Pintadas, Évora
  • Convent of the Loíos’ Friars (Pousada dos Loíos), Évora
  • Walking tour of Arraiolos & Castle

Our first visit today is to Os Almendres, the largest and most impressive neolithic stone circle in the Iberian peninsular. After a brief stop at this remarkable site, we proceed to Évora.

In the 15th century Évora had a population of 25,000 souls. Its present citizenry numbers only about 34,000, reflecting the fact that it is one of the least ‘developed’, and therefore most pristine, of Portugal’s historic cities. Favoured by the Romans, it became a Muslim city from 715 AD until captured by a Christian knight, Geraldo sem-Pavor (Gerald the Fearless), in 1166. It was an isolated Christian bastion until 1211 when it again fell to the Muslims. It was recaptured by Joâo I in 1382 and thenceforth became a royal residence. We shall visit the Roman Temple of Diana and a number of other monuments, including the Cathedral (begun 1186, possibly on the site of a mosque), the Roman aqueduct and the 16th-century Casas Pintadas decorated with unusual wall paintings of exotic animals.  We also visit the Pousada do Loíos, formerly the convent of the Loíos’ friars, which contains several Gothic-Manueline and Renaissance elements, and one of the most perfect Portuguese Mudéjar (Islamic) portals of the 16th century.

We next drive from Évora to Arraiolos, where we shall walk through the old town and see the castle. The castle stands atop a cone-shaped hill. Its plan is rectangular, with corner towers and a keep. Arraiolos’ clock tower is Manueline.

We stay two nights in the Convento de São Paulo. This former monastery dating back to 1182 feels more like a grand private home than a hotel. Backed by a heavily wooded hill, it faces an idyllic view of gently rolling hills covered with groves of lemon, olive, and cork trees. The convento is decorated with 50,000 azulejos, the largest private collection in Europe. Guestrooms are built into the monks’ cells. Each room is attractively decorated with antiques. The restaurant serves only produce and meat fresh from the hotel’s own farm. (Overnight Redondo, Hotel Convento de São Paulo) BD

Day 8: Friday 15 September, Redondo – Mérida – Elvas – Redondo
  • Mérida: Roman Theatre, Amphitheatre, Bridge and Aqueduct
  • Museum of Roman Art, Mérida
  • Aqueduct of Elvas

Over the next few days we explore Portugal’s frontier with Spain, visiting grand Roman ruins and a number of small towns dominated by castles that were frontier posts guarding against Hispanic incursion. Our purpose is to gain an understanding of the general development of this area.

This morning we cross the border into Spain to visit Mérida, the capital of Roman Portugal when it went by the name Emerita Augusta. Here we will see very well-preserved ruins from this age – a theatre with an elaborate scaenae frons (stage building) dating to 16BC, the amphitheatre dating to 8BC, the Roman bridge over the Guadiana River, its 60 spans forming the longest-surviving bridge from ancient times, and the important aqueduct that supplied this growing city.

Whilst in Mérida we also visit the Museum of Roman Art. Began in 1979, the museum’s architecture deliberately echoes the sturdy brick construction of the Romans with arcades of semi-circular arches. It houses the artefacts found over the centuries of excavation in and around the town.

On our drive back to Redondo we shall make a brief stop at Elvas to see the extraordinary Aqueduto da Amoreira, a massive aqueduct supplying much needed water to the town, which was begun in the 15th century. So vast was this construction that it took over one hundred and twenty-four years to complete. It is 8 kilometres long and comprises 843 arches up to 30 metres in height. (Overnight Hotel Convento de São Paulo, Redondo) BD

Marvão - 1 night

Day 9: Saturday 16 September, Redondo – Castelo de Vide – Marvão
  • Town and Castle of Castelo de Vide
  • Town and Castle of Marvão

Today, we continue our exploration of the Portuguese frontier. First we drive on to Castelo de Vide, situated on a spur of the Serra de São Mamede. Castelo de Vide is a town of old mansions and has a well-preserved medieval Judiaria (Jewish quarter). It also has a fine castle.

After lunch we continue on to Marvão. Marvão Castle stands over eight hundred metres above sea level on one of the highest points in the Serra de São Mamede. This rugged escarpment forms a natural point of defence, to which access can only be gained from the east, the direction in which the citadel’s dependent village has spread inside defensive walls. From Marvão the Portuguese could watch the nearby frontier and the Spanish town of Valencia de Alcántara, from where invading forces would frequently set out. The castle and its walls are well preserved, with superimposed layers from different periods. For example, several sections of wall, the Romanesque doorway of the keep (Torre de Menagem), the Gates of Treason (Portas da Traição), and a small cistern, all remain from the 12th century. At this time the region was taken from the Muslims by Don Afonso II. At the end of the 13th century the fortifications were improved and strengthened, seen in the pointed-arch gates and the town wall. In the 15th and 16th centuries the various entrances were reinforced and the keep took on its present structure. A large cistern was also built, a necessity in times of siege. The other fortified gates, the Porta de Rodão, Porta da Vila, Porta do Fortim and Porta da Rua Nova were built later, in the 17th century. These were part of a campaign to reinforce defences during the Wars for the Restoration of Independence fought between Portugal and Spain (1640-68). (Overnight Marvão, Pousada de Santa Maria) BD

Ourém - 3 nights

Day 10: Sunday 17 September, Marvão – Almourol – Tomar
  • Templar Castle of Almourol
  • Convento de Cristo, Tomar

We begin today with a visit to the beautiful Castle of Almourol, situated on an islet in the middle of the river Tagus. One of Portugal’s most attractive castles, Almourol was built by the Knights Templar in 1171. Its romantic setting has given rise to legends of enchanted Moorish women and captured princesses saved by itinerant knights. The castle, which has a tall central keep surrounded by curtain walls and nine towers, can be reached by boat (optional).

Next, we drive to the vast Templar Convento de Cristo at Tomar. In 1157 Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Templars, was awarded the site of Roman Nabantia for his services against the Muslims. He built a fortress and church there but moved to an adjacent hill and here withstood a Muslim attack in 1190. In 1314 the Templars of Portugal were transformed into a new Order, the Order of Christ, thus avoiding the dissolution and persecution suffered by Templars elsewhere in Europe. Tomar became the headquarters of the Order of which Henry the Navigator became Grand Master between 1417 and 1460. In the early 16th century Joâo III transformed the Order into a monastic brotherhood, necessitating further construction. The huge complex today is built around six great cloisters. At its heart is the Charola, the sixteen-sided chapel of the Templars, a typical centrally-planned Templar church which, like its counterparts everywhere, is a free imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The complex has a good collection of Flemish paintings and interesting tombs and fine architectural detailing. Its treasure, however, is its very famous, highly decorated central window.

We stay for the next three nights in Tomar. (Overnight Tomar, Hotel dos Templários) BD

Day 11: Monday 18 September, Tomar – Fatima – Nazaré – Óbidos – Tomar
  • Fatima
  • Maritime Village of Nazaré
  • Old Town and Castle, Óbidos

Today we drive to the pretty fishing village of Nazaré and the Castle of Óbidos, with a short visit to Fatima en route. In the early 20th century the small village became a religious centre following a series of visions by local children. The town now has two of the largest basilicas in the world and the town’s economy is based on its religious identity.

Nazaré is one of the most beautiful of Portugal’s maritime settlements, its fishing boats have eyes painted upon them to ward off the ‘evil eye’, and are hauled up onto the beach, where the sardine catch disgorged from them dries in the sun. We shall spend the morning and lunchtime exploring the town.

In the afternoon we visit the town and Castle of Óbidos, one of the most picturesque in Portugal. The ancient fortified town of Óbidos was taken from the Muslims by Afonso Henriques in 1148. The castle, with powerful square towers, is now a pousada. Óbidos is surrounded by high walls and its urban structure is clearly defined by its salient features, the castle, its medieval gates (Porta do Vale, Porta da Cerca, Porta do Telhal, Porto da Vila) and its parade ground. Its whitewashed houses set in lovely streetscapes, act as a backdrop to brilliantly-coloured azulejo, friezes and the bright flowers which grace its balconies. (Overnight Tomar, Hotel dos Templários) B

Day 12: Tuesday 19 September, Tomar – Alcobaça – Batalha – Tomar
  • Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça
  • Aljubarrota Battle Interpretation Centre
  • Dominican Monastery of Batalha

Today we drive west to Alcobaça and Batalha. The Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça is arguably the greatest medieval architectural complex in Portugal. Its huge central church is typically Cistercian, being modelled upon the motherhouse of Cîteaux (Burgundy). The complex has a number of very fine late medieval royal tombs, a great kitchen with a massive chimney (like those of the Palace of Sintra), a fine refectory and the excellent sculpture collection of the Portuguese royal house. Its Gothic architecture is graced with a number of beautiful Manueline additions.

In the afternoon we visit Batalha, site of a famous Dominican monastery founded and built by King Joâo I to commemorate his victory over the Spanish at Aljubarrota on the 15th of August 1385, which assured his accession to the throne. On our way to the monastery, we will stop at the new Aljubarrota Battle Interpretation Centre which will explain the complex politics at work in Portugal and Spain at the time, the battle itself, and how this event was so important in Portuguese history.

The monastery built to celebrate this Portuguese victory is extraordinary. From the 15th century are the church, the founder’s chapel, chapter house, two cloisters, and an octagonal chapel behind the apse. The pantheon of Portuguese kings was completed in the 16th century. Of particular note are the west front, with its innumerable sculptures (‘Christ in Majesty'; statues of the Evangelists, and saints), and fine Flamboyant-Gothic window. The profile of the complex is dramatised by extraordinarily intricate Flamboyant-Gothic entablatures, with a mass of detailed tracery and a vast number of small pinnacles. The interior is high and narrow, like Alcobaça. We shall visit all sections of the complex. (Overnight Tomar, Hotel dos Templários) B

Coimbra - 1 night

Day 13: Wednesday 20 September, Tomar – Coimbra
  • Old Cathedral, Coimbra
  • Old University, Coimbra (University Library subject to confirmation closer to the date)
  • Convento de Santa Cruz, Coimbra
  • Conimbriga Roman Site

We begin today in nearby Coimbra which was taken from the Muslims in 872, returned to Islam between 987 and 1064, and became capital of Portugal between 1139 (when Afonso Henriques was crowned) and 1385. It was the seat of Portugal’s only university a number of times between 1308 and 1537, after which it became its permanent home (until the Republic). The city is made up of a lower and upper town. In the upper town, or old city, we visit sections of the old university, of which the most imposing part is the University Library, a magnificent High Baroque ensemble in the ‘Joâo Quinto’ style (1716-1728) – note: Library visit is subject to confirmation closer to the date. We shall also visit the Romanesque Old Cathedral, one of the finest Romanesque churches in Portugal (founded c.1162), with an elaborate Gothic retable (c.1508) and a cloister (1218) in the Cistercian style. We then walk to the lower town to visit the convent of Santa Cruz (founded 1131) which was rebuilt in 1502.

Our final visit for the day is to the remarkable Roman archaeological site at Conimbriga. Here we shall see some of the most beautiful mosaic pavements preserved in situ in all of Europe. This site is still being excavated and continues to reveal treasures of ancient Portugal. We walk the Roman streets past houses and public buildings that give an indication of the importance and wealth of this Roman province. (Overnight Coimbra, Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas) BD

Guimarães - 2 nights

Day 14: Thursday 21 September, Coimbra – Aveiro – Barcelos – Guimarães
  • Barcelos Market
  • Guimarães old town and castle

Today we continue our journey north to the Minho region of Portugal. After a short visit to the picturesque town of Aveiro, we drive to Barcelos, a small town with a remarkable and lively Thursday market.

We end our day with a tour of the old town and castle of Guimarães.  Founded in the 4th century, Guimarães became the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century. Its landmarks include a 10th-century castle, where Afonso I was born, a Romanesque church – Nossa Senhora da Oliveira (rebuilt 1387-1400), a 14th-century monastery and church (St. Francis) and a Dominican convent now housing a notable museum of antiquities. Guimarães also boasts a magnificent suburb of 18th-century mansions.

Tonight we stay in the Santa Marinha Pousada at Guimarães. Set on a hill overlooking the city, the majestic, beautifully restored Santa Marinha Pousada was originally a 12th-century Augustin convent. It has a park with small gardens, courtyards with granite fountains, cloisters, fine azulejos, and balconies and terraces overlooking the city. It boasts fine cuisine which we shall enjoy tonight. (Overnight Guimarães, Santa Marinha Pousada) BD

Day 15: Friday 22 September, Guimarães – Braga – Guimarães
  • Chapel of São Frutuoso, Braga
  • Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães, Braga
  • Bom Jesus do Monte, nr. Braga
  • Citania de Briteiros

Today we drive to Braga and the small early medieval Chapel of São Frutuoso which is one of the very few remaining from this period in Europe. São Frutuoso was founded by the bishop of Braga around 560 AD to house his mausoleum. Around the 9th or 10th century the current chapel was built. This is one of the few surviving examples of pre-Romanesque architecture in Portugal. Its plan is a Greek cross (equal arms) with rounded apses and arcades composed of horseshoe arches, Corinthian capitals and a decorative frieze. In 1523, archbishop of Braga, Diogo de Sousa, ordered the building of a monastery for the Franciscan Order of Capuchins right by the chapel. Inside the chapel, there is what is believed to be the (empty) tomb of Saint Frutuoso. This saint became particularly popular around the time his relics were removed to the extremely important pilgrimage centre of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

We then visit the nearby Benedictine Monastery of Tibães. Built on the site of a former Roman villa, the Monastery of Tibães later became the mother house of the Order of Saint Benedict for Portugal and the colony of Brazil. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Monastery was a site of considerable artistic activity and had an enormous influence in the Baroque and Rococo art of Northern Portugal and overseas colonies. We shall also enjoy a group lunch at the Hospedaria Convento de Tibaes, located within the monastery grounds.

The extraordinary site of Bom Jesus Sanctuary near Braga was selected by archbishop Martinho da Costa; he built a chapel here in 1494. In 1522, archbishop João da Guarda established a religious order to cultivate the barren landscape around it. In 1722 Rodrigo de Moura Teles decided to create a religious sanctuary here, one of the first in Europe to be properly integrated into the (now lush) surrounding landscape. The church was built later (1784) by Carlos Amarante in an Italian inspired Neo-classical design. This church perches atop a hill framed by large old trees. It is approached by an extraordinary staircase composed of seventeen landings adorned with symbolic fountains, allegorical statues and other Baroque decoration depicting such themes as the Stations of the Cross, the Five Senses, the Virtues, Moses receiving the Commandments and, at the top, the eight biblical figures who contributed to the Condemnation of Jesus. The perspective of this stairway, topped by the church, is unforgettable. The stairs between the landings zig zag up the hill, creating a dramatic image of intricate sculpture and edging against brilliant white walls.

Our final visit is to Citânia de Briteiros, a fascinating archaeological site constituting a partly reconstructed pre-Roman settlement; this was the last stronghold of the Celtibrians against the Roman armies that invaded the Iberian Peninsula. The settlement is made up of the remains of 150 circular stone huts separated by paved causeways. Two of these have been reconstructed, and we shall also see the terraces and remains of the three stone walls which originally surrounded the settlement. (Overnight Guimarães, Santa Marinha Pousada) BL

Porto - 3 nights

Day 16: Saturday 23 September, Guimarães – Vila Real – Amarante – Porto
  • Solar de Mateus, Vila Real
  • Ponte São Gonçalo, Amarante
  • Convento de São Gonçalo, Amarante
  • Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar (exterior only), Vila Nova de Gaia

Today we drive through the Douro Valley, exploring this famous historical wine-growing region as we travel to Porto. We drive first to Vila Real where we encounter the Solar de Mateus, the most famous 18th-century manor house in Portugal, not least because it appears on the rosé wine label we all know! The palace, with its white walls relieved by an extravagance of stone façade decoration and extraordinary pinnacles, is an excellent example of Portuguese Baroque architecture. It is surrounded by water, gardens, tree-covered walks, a beautiful balustraded stairway, formal box-planted terraces and allegorical statues. Inside are magnificent carved wooded ceilings, precious furnishings and artwork.

After exploring the lovely town of Vila Real we drive to Amarante, a picturesque small town with its 16th and 17th century houses built in tiers up a hillside overlooking the River Tamega. Here we visit the Convent of São Gonçalo and one of Portugal’s most perfectly preserved Romanesque bridges. Amarante is also famous for its pastries and green wine!

The monastery of Serra do Pilar at Vila Nova de Gaia, directly above Porto, has a church in the 16th and 17th-century Mannerist style. It is from here that the Duke of Wellington watched his army take Porto during the Peninsula War. Near the round church is a lookout with magnificent views of the city where we shall stop to admire the panorama. In Porto we stay in the Hotel Infante de Sagres, a stately establishment built in 1951. (Overnight Porto, Hotel Infante de Sagres) B

Day 17: Sunday 24 September, Porto
  • Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis)
  • Casa do Infante (purported birthplace of Henry the Navigator)
  • Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace)
  • Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis
  • Hospital of Santo Antonio – Exterior
  • Lello Bookshop

Porto, also called Oporto, is the capital and port of the Porto district. The city lies 3kms from the Douro’s mouth. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and is the commercial and industrial centre for the zone north of the Mondego River. The city lies chiefly on the river’s north bank, with the older district on a hill to the east. The red-tiled warehouses of the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, where vast quantities of port wine are blended and stored, dominate the south bank. The Douro River is spanned by the Dom Luís I Bridge, built in 1881-85 by the French engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, with one of the largest arches in Europe; by the Maria Pia Bridge (1876-77), carrying the Lisbon railway line; and by the Arrábida Highway Bridge, which had the world’s longest arch when it was completed in 1962. Porto was the Portus Cale of Roman times when it became a flourishing settlement on the Douro’s south bank; the nomadic Alani tribe later founded the city of Castrum Novum on the north bank. The Visigoths took possession of the site in about 540 AD but yielded in 716 to the Muslims. In 997 the Christians recaptured Porto, which for a time became the capital of the counts of Portucalense during Muslim rule in southern Portugal. The Muslims again held the city briefly, but in 1092 it was brought finally under Christian domination. In the 14th century the city became an important port; Henry the Navigator was born there in 1394.

We shall spend two days exploring the city. The Church of Saint Francis is one of the few remaining medieval buildings in Porto and the only Gothic church in the city. It was part of a Franciscan convent and was constructed between the late 14th century and the early 15th century. Despite several building campaigns, its structure and exterior treatment remained unaltered. Diogo de Castilho, following the instructions of João Carneiro, built the Carneiros Chapel, or the Chapel of the Baptism of Christ, in the 16th century. The new Baroque main portal was added in the following century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the interior of the church was completely covered with gilt wood carvings, forming a sort of golden box. It is one of the most beautiful baroque interiors in the country. Although the wood carvings are not particularly stylistically coherent, they are all of great quality, the fruit of the best workshops in Porto.

The Casa do Infante (Prince’s House), also known as the Alfândega Velha (Old Customs House), was built in the 14th century as a customs house and mint, although its present condition derives mostly from its 17th-century remodelling. The name Casa do Infante comes from a popular belief that Henry the Navigator was born here in 1394. The medieval customs house (1354) was constructed under Alfonso IV who intended, by charging dues on goods carried by ships navigating Duoro, to reduce the income and therefore the power of the Bishop of Oporto. The original complex included a mint, storage house and living quarters for employees. Alterations since the 15th century have greatly altered its original structure, which once consisted of two high towers linked by a courtyard. In 1677, under Peter II, it was virtually rebuilt. The inner courtyard was retained, but its towers were greatly reduced in height, while its street façade gained two extra storeys, with a large staircase leading to the living quarters on the second floor. The storage houses were also greatly enlarged at this time. The façade gained another storey in the 19th century and now houses a city museum. Archaeologists have not only been able to reconstruct the medieval building but have also found vestiges of a Roman edifice under it; a Roman mosaic floor is now on display.

We then visit the Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace). A national monument, it is the headquarters of the Porto Commercial Association. It was built in the second half of the 19th century. Its spare Neo-classical façades give no hint of its Arabian Hall within. This vast extraordinary orientalist fantasy of a room designed by Gustavo de Sousa is sheathed in gold patterned and intricate arabesques. The core of this building is said to have been initiated by Afonso IV as the Royal Treasury Office. It was expanded in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries when storeys were added and its façades enriched.

Following time at leisure for lunch around the Cais de Ribera, the city’s stunning old port district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, we walk to the Museu Nacional Soares do Reis. This museum houses a fine collection of Portuguese art with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum was named after the sculptor Antonio Soares do Reis and a gallery is dedicated to his work.

We continue our walk past the Hospital of Santo Antoni, a Palladian Portuguese building designed by the English architect John Carr. This is still a functioning hospital and an important teaching hospital for the University of Porto (it has a modern and well-equipped interior!), so we will pause to admire its symmetry and sombre simplicity, so typical of Palladian architecture.

Our final visit is to the nearby Livraria Lello & Irmão, a fabulous historic bookshop with an interior decorated primarily in the Art Nouveau style with Gothic Revival features. An ornate staircase dominates the ground floor and rises to a second-floor gallery under a splendid stained glass skylight. Wooden bookshelves line the walls and intricately carved ceilings recall a bygone era.(Overnight Porto, Hotel Infante de Sagres) B

Day 18: Monday 25 September, Porto
  • Igreja do Carmo / Igreja das Carmelitas
  • Clerigos Tower & Church
  • Graham’s Port Lodge
  • Time at leisure
  • Farewell Dinner

This morning we visit two adjacent churches, the Igreja do Carmo and the Igreja das Carmelitas. The latter, to the left, once belonged to a 17th-century Carmelite convent. It has a simple classical façade, a bell tower, and a richly gilded interior. To the right is the 18th-century Carmo Church. It is a magnificent example of late Baroque architecture with a single nave made up of elegant gilt carvings in seven altars by master Francisco Pereira Campanhã. Its extraordinary side wall is completely covered in blue and white tile panels. A house, inhabited until about 20 years ago, separates the two churches. It owed its existence to a law that no two churches could share a wall. The separation of the monks at the Carmo and the Carmelite nuns also guarded each community’s chastity.

Nearby is the Torre and Igreja dos Clerigos. The tower is an 18th-century Baroque construction by Nicolau Nasoni. From its top there is a magnificent panorama of Porto. The church’s magnificent interior is decorated with Baroque-Rococo gilt carvings and a beautiful polychromatic retable.

We then cross to Vila Nova Gaia where we visit one of the major port lodges of the city, Graham’s English Port Lodge. Here we shall take a tour of this grand old building, learn about the port trade and sample a drop of this famous local wine!

Tonight we enjoy a farewell meal at one of Porto’s fine local restaurants. (Overnight Porto, Hotel Infante de Sagres) BD

Day 19: Tuesday 26 September, Depart Porto
  • Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Today the tour ends. You may choose to continue your travels in Europe or return to Australia. Participants returning to Australia on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Porto’s airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Europe. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Accommodation

19-day Cultural Tour of Portugal

A special feature of this tour is our stay in several heritage hotels. ASA has selected 3- to 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. Double/twin rooms for single occupancy may be requested and are subject to availability and payment of the Double (as Single) Supplement. Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • Lisbon (6 nights): 5-star Altis Avenida Hotel – a boutique hotel located in the historic centre of Lisbon on the Avenida da Liberdade. www.altishotels.com
  • Redondo (2 nights): 4-star Convento de São Paulo  a former monastery founded in 1182, feels more like a grand private home than a hotel. Set against a heavily-wooded hill, it presents an idyllic view of gently-rolling hills with groves of lemon, olive, and cork trees. The convento has extraordinary decoration consisting of 50,000 azulejos (glazed tiles), the largest private collection in Europe. Guestrooms are the former monks’ cells now attractively decorated with antiques. The restaurant serves only produce and meat fresh from the hotel’s own farm. www.hotelconventospaulo.com
  • Marvão (1 night): Pousada de Santa Maria – is set by the 13th-century walls of an unspoilt medieval hamlet. The pousada is housed in two medieval buildings and enjoys beautiful views across the Alentejo plains towards Spain. www.pousadas.pt
  • Tomar (3 nights): 4-star Hotel dos Templários – is a modern and comfortable hotel located a short distance from the historic centre. www.hoteldostemplarios.pt
  • Coimbra (1 night): 4-star Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas – a historical palace, beautifully renovated and situated within a 12-hectare garden, close to the university town, www.quintadaslagrimas.pt
  • Guimaraes (2 night): 3-star Santa Marinha Pousada – Set on a hill overlooking the city, the majestic restored Santa Marinha Pousada was originally a 12th-century Augustin convent. It has a park with small gardens, courtyards with granite fountains, cloisters, fine azulejos, and balconies and terraces overlooking the city. It boasts fine cuisine which we shall enjoy. www.pousadas.pt
  • Porto (3 nights): 4-star Hotel Infante de Sagres  a pink Neoclassic palace of the 1950s chosen for its location one block from Porto’s main thoroughfare and 800m uphill from the river. The hotel’s elaborate common rooms take their historic cues from their 18th-century antiques, exquisite blue Chinese porcelain vases, ornate gilded ceilings, and tiled floors adorned with elaborate Tabriz rugs. Illuminated by Italian stained-glass panels, the lobby staircase winds up to a lounge replete with richly-carved furniture, a sea of sofas, a regal fireplace and an 18th-century Gobelins tapestry. www.hotelinfantesagres.pt

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

How to book

Make a Reservation

ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION FORM

Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Double (as Single) Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double (or twin) room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 19-day Cultural Tour of Portugal involves:

  • Visiting many sites and towns that are built on steep hills and involve uphill walking. In particular, the historic city centre of Lisbon has steep, narrow cobblestone streets that can only be accessed by foot. Cobbled streets can be very slippery during rain showers!
  • A moderate amount of walking during site visits and standing.
  • The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
  • 3- to 5-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $7980.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 October 2016

AUD $8180.00 Land Content Only

AUD $1690.00 Double (as Single) Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3-5-star hotels
  • Buffet Breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ‘ASA’ designated flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour handbook
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Lisbon, Porto-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Terms & Conditions
Deposits

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we recieve written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to canel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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