Tour Date: 6 to 13 June 2024Location: Portugal

You are invited to join us on an exclusive rail-based holiday to the central Beiras region of Portugal. Our tour will be at a leisurely pace with plenty of time to see each place that we visit.

You are invited to join us on an exclusive rail-based holiday to the central Beiras region of Portugal. Our tour will be at a leisurely pace with plenty of time to see each place that we visit. We are based for all seven nights in the fine 4-star Hotel Vila Galé located close to Coimbra’s historical quarter with views of the River Mondego. Highlights of the holiday include the Roman city at Conimbriga, four UNESCO listed sites of Coimbra University, Alcobaça Monastery, Batalha Monastery and Convent of Christ in Tomar, River Mondego boat trip, the funicular and stunning beach at Nazaré, a trip on the last remaining metre-gauge line in Portugal, hopefully on the newly restored historic railcar, the National Railway Museum and a boat trip around the Ria de Aveiro canals. Coimbra is also the only town in Portugal that still operates trolleybuses. If you want “off the tourist track” then this one has it all.

 

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who lives in Lisbon. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

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Tour Highlights


  • No-fly
  • Unspoilt and untouristy
  • All seven nights at the same hotel
  • Swimming pool
  • Great food
  • Historic train
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

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Day 1, Thursday 6th June

Several flight options from the UK with direct flights from several airports to Porto. From Porto Airport we transfer to the city of Coimbra. If the Sud Express overnight train from Irun/Hendaye restarts, this will also be a travel option otherwise overland (by rail) is available via Hendaye and Vigo.  Evening free to relax.

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The cloisters at Coimbra Cathedral

Day 2, Friday 7th June (B,D)

Coimbra is the Oxford or Cambridge of Portugal, with the best and oldest university in the country dominating the skyline. The city holds an affection with the Portuguese people like no other, the name Coimbra coming from the nearby Roman city of Conimbriga. Finally freed from Moorish occupation in 1064, Coimbra became the capital of Portugal when King Afonso Henriques moved it south from Guimarães in 1139. For visitors, it still holds a wealth of historic interest. We will have a local guide for our walk around the historic centre and university. Coimbra’s two cathedrals lie in the shadow of the hilltop university. The Sé Velha (old cathedral) is regarded as one of the finest Romanesque buildings in Portugal, celebrating in stone the victory over the Moors in 1064. The Sé Nova (new cathedral) was founded in 1598. The Museu Machado de Castro is based around the lovely courtyards of the former bishops’ palace and contains some of Portugal’s finest sculpture, including medieval pieces. Also present are furnishings, paintings and vestments from the 12th-20th centuries. An interesting feature is a maze of underground Roman passages containing Roman sculpture and artefacts. After some free time, we end the afternoon with a short cruise on the River Mondego. Tonight, we will have our welcome dinner in the hotel.

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Botanical Gardens in Coimbra

Day 3, Saturday 8th June (B)

We catch an electric loco-hauled inter-city train (first class seats) for our journey south to the railway centre of Entroncamento. From here, our coach takes us the short distance to visit the UNESCO listed Convento do Cristo in Tomar, formerly a 12th century Templar stronghold. Our guide will once again join us to give us a guided tour of this important monument. After time for lunch, you will have a choice. Either remain in Tomar with the guide, or go with David on the local train to Entroncamento to visit the National Railway Museum. Over the last few years this museum has been improved and enlarged and is definitely worth a visit. We all meet up again at Entroncamento station for our train back to Coimbra.

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Convento do Cristo in Tomar (Alamy Image)

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The wonderful tiled railway station of Aveiro (Shutterstock)

Day 4, Sunday 9th June (B)

Today we head north by train to the attractive town of Aveiro. Also known as the Venice of Portugal, it has a series of canals and fine Art Nouveau mansions. At the Ria de Aveiro lagoon, which covers 25 square miles, we have a short canal cruise to explore this unique backwater. This is known as the Rota da Luz “route of light” running between gleaming salt flats, pale beaches and sparkling ocean. After time for lunch and to explore more of the town on your own, we meet up at the railway station to take a step back in time and ride on the last remaining metre-gauge line in Portugal. For many years the future of the Vouga line was in serious doubt, but it managed to hang on, and is now home to the metre gauge historic train. We will travel as far as Macinhata to visit the charming railway museum. We return to Aveiro on a service train and then back to Coimbra.

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Colourful boats on the canal in Aveiro

Day 5, Monday 10th June (B)

We have a rail trip on one of Portugal’s most under-rated scenic railway lines, the Beira Baixa. We first head south to Entroncamento where we catch our regional train along the Beira Baixa Line as far as Castelo Branco. This is the most beautiful section as we ride along the north bank of the River Tagus, with some sections rivalling the more famous Douro Valley. Look out of the “Gates of Rodão”, site of a natural dam that collapsed millions of years ago. We have time for lunch in Castelo Branco, the former capital of the old province of Beira Baixa (Lower Beira). It has been celebrated since the 17th century for the brightly coloured embroidered bedspreads which are made here. Lying near the Spanish border, the town was of great strategic importance. There are only a few remains of the medieval castle (Castelo Branco, or white castle), the most recent attack on the town coming in 1807 when Napoleon’s troops did a lot of damage. The most impressive feature of the town is the “Jardim Episcopal”.

Day 6, Tuesday 11th June (B)

Leaving Coimbra after breakfast, we take the Linha do Oeste and head south to pass through the important regional town of Leiria. This line is a quaint country line retaining a lot of its un-modernised charm. Our destination is the inland station of Valado-Nazaré-Alcobaça. We will be met by our luxury coach which will take us the short distance to the fine beach resort of Nazaré with its glorious sandy bay backed by steep cliffs. High above the town is the Ermida da Memória, reached by a funicular railway dating from 1889. Local legend has it that here is the site where the Virgin Mary saved the King from falling off the cliff during a deer hunt in 1182. We will have time in Nazaré for our own exploration, lunch or relaxing on the beach. If you like seafood, this is the day to try it, with an abundance of excellent seafood restaurants. We return to Coimbra by train.

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Nazaré

Day 7, Wednesday 12th June (B,D)

This morning we visit the former Roman city of Conimbriga in the morning, with free time in Montemor-o-Velho in the afternoon. First our coach takes us the short distance to visit the Roman remains at Conimbriga – the largest and most excavated Roman site in Portugal. Remains include one of the largest houses discovered in the Western Roman Empire. This opulent villa, known as the Casa de Cantaber, is built around ornamental pools in superb colonnaded gardens, with its own bath complex and sophisticated heating system. You will also get to see some of the finest mosaics anywhere in Europe on a walk around the site led by our local guide.

We then drive the short distance to the town of Montemor-o-Velho, with its attractive historic centre and a castle from where you have fantastic views. Free time for lunch and own exploration here. Our farewell meal will either be lunch in a restaurant in Montemor, or dinner in the hotel.

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Montemor o Velho Castle

Day 8, Thursday 13th June (B)

We return to the airport for our flights home or continue our holiday on the Douro: Rail, River & Wine tour.

By its nature, on this trip you need to be able to walk around locations with steep hills, stairs and cobbled streets, keeping up with the main group, and be able to lift your luggage on and off trains. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms. On train days, we have a 15-20 minute walk between the hotel and Coimbra B station.

why not stay on with David for our “Douro – Rail, River and Wine” tour.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (8 day)*

  • From Gatwick: £1,725
  • From Stansted: £1,685
  • From Manchester: £1,685
  • From London St Pancras (11 nights via Hendaye and Vigo): £2,225*
  • From Porto/Oporto: £1,450* if you book early for the overland from St Pancras we include a Interrail ticket which gives you free rail travel from/to your home station.

Options

  • Single Room Supplement: £280 (Hotel Vila Gale) or FREE (Hotel Vitoria or similar)
  • Pool view room with balcony: £164 for all 7 nights, per room (so £82 pp in double or twin)
  • Flight inclusive bookings made less that 3-months before departure might mean an increase in price.

Deposit

  • £600 with flights or £350 if joining in Porto. £1,000 if overland from St Pancras

Price Includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary: B = breakfast, L = Lunch D = Dinner
  • Services of our Tour Manager. Holiday is fully escorted

Online Booking


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Our online booking system will just ask for a £100 per person deposit. We will contact you to pay the Remaining deposit balance.

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

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We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

 

Hotel

  • Hotel Vila Galé, Coimbra (all 7 nights)

Overland by Rail

  • Leave St Pancras on the Tuesday. Change trains in Paris, Hendaye (overnight stay) and Vigo (overnight stay). Also possible to travel via Barcelona and Madrid.

Flight Options TBC

  • FR1175 18:55 Manchester to Porto (arr 21:15) – out on Wednesday for pre-tour night in Porto
  • BA2872 14:15 Heathrow to Porto (arr.16:35)
  • TP1331 12.00 Gatwick South to Porto (arr.14.25)
  • EZ2097 07:20 Luton to Porto (arr. 09:45)
  • FR8343 09.25 Stansted to Porto (arr.11.50)
  • EZ6147 18:10 Bristol to Porto (arr 20:20)
  • LH953/1178 09:15 Birmingham – Frankfurt – Porto (arr 15:40)

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