This is an independent sightseeing holiday based in Coimbra, the main city of central Portugal, traveling through the heartland of the country.
Spreading around the margins of the tranquil Mondego River, Coimbra, home to one of the oldest Universities in the world, it’s a city full of history and heritage.
Woman traveling in Coimbra city, Portugal
From here, you’ll start a journey to Serra do Bussaco, both a mountain and a botanical garden, to the Lousã Mountains, to the quaint “slate villages”, and to the beautiful beaches and coastline of Figueira da Foz.
Today, Coimbra is a thriving modern city cocooning an ancient centre with a vibrant and lively atmosphere thanks to the local people, the population of students from all over the country and abroad, and to visitors.
Visiting Coimbra is like taking a historical journey. This ancient city was at the forefront of the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago, being the first capital of the new Kingdom of Portugal in the 12th century.
Spend some time exploring the university quarter and the botanical gardens, amongst the oldest in the world.
Coimbra, river Mondego
Admire the architecture of the city’s great churches, visit its many galleries, or simply wander through the streets, soaking in the unique atmosphere of this magical living museum.
With Coimbra as a centre, this self-drive holiday includes a visit to the Serra do Bussaco, which is both a mountain and a botanical garden.
The site has the most diverse collection of plants and trees in the hole of Portugal, with its origins going back to the 10th century.
It is protected by the Vatican: a papal decree from the 16th century threatens to excommunicate anyone who damages the forest and another decree (since revoked), forbade the approach of women.
It is also the site of a decisive battle in the Peninsula wars in which the French were defeated by a joint force of Portuguese and English troops.
Aldeias de xito in Central Portugal
Nearby Coimbra, the maze of tracks of the Serra da Lousã leads to the traditional schist villages, the “Aldeias do Xisto”.
Traveling to the shore, discover the beautiful beaches and coastline of Figueira da Foz, in the Atlantic Silver Coast, where the river Mondego ends its journey.
Figueira da Foz, aka the Queen of Beaches, is a unique combination of a fishing port with a chic seaside resort with faded charm.
Here, you’ll find lovely Belle Époque architecture, the oldest casino in the Iberian Peninsula, and, from the surrounding green hills of the Serra da Boa Viagem, commanding views to the sea and the lovely beaches.
The region’s delicious cuisine and prized wines are truly some of the best parts when visiting Central Portugal. The flavours are fresh, vibrant, and often unexpected.
From fish dishes to succulent and hearty meat dishes, to conventual sweets, you won’t be disappointed!
From this region, come the finest cheeses and delicatessen meats, perfect to be paired with a glass of red wine, produced in the slopes of the Mondego.
The students sing a traditional fado song, accompanied by the exquisite Portuguese guitar, which says that “Coimbra has more charm in the hour of parting”. You’ll sure bring fond memories from this holiday, and miss Coimbra and Central Portugal!
Day 1 – Arrival to Porto.
Individual arrival to Porto Airport and rent-a-car vehicle pick up. Drive to Coimbra.
Day 2 – Coimbra
Resting quietly along the Mondego Riverbanks, you find Coimbra, your home for the week and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its narrow streets are home to centuries of History. It resonates from its historic buildings, its exquisite architecture, and its gastronomic heritage.
Once the stage of tragic love tales that every inhabitant knows by heart, the present life of the town revolves around its cosmopolitan relaxed feeling brought by the variety of nationalities that its academic tradition attracts.
The city’s ex-libris, the University of Coimbra – one of the oldest in the world – attracts students from all over the country and the world.
Alongside with tradition, the city, the river and its students will forever be immortalized in the lyrics of Fado songs and the feeling that once you’ve been in Coimbra, Coimbra will always have a place in your heart…
Woman traveling in Coimbra city, Portugal
Day 3 – Penacova
Just 30 minutes northwards of Coimbra, you’ll find Penacova. This quaint village, spectacularly sited on a crag high above the Rio Mondego is surrounded by the hills of Bussaco.
The geological heritage and importance of the area is visible in the famous “Livraria do Mondego” – the “Mondego’s bookshelf” – a distinct vertical quarzitic formation, that appears to look like books in a shelf.
Traditions and past history are deeply rooted in the village. Communal herds and ovens still exist in the nearby parishes up in the hills.
Artisan wood and iron tools, local handmade laces and tapestry can still be found in use. Experienced hands pass the knowledge to younger generations and the local communities act to promote the importance of the legacy of windmills and its profound importance to the village’s heritage.
Coimbra, botanic garden
Day 4 – Figueira da Foz
Figueira da Foz took its name from its situation at the mouth (foz) of the River Mondego and it has developed into one of the main seaside resorts in the centre of Portugal. A cosmopolitan and lively town, it first began to gain in importance towards the end of the nineteenth century when “bathing in Figueira” became a popular pastime amongst the aristocracy of central Portugal.
Figueira da Foz has an excellent beach which has the most extensive stretch of sand in the whole of mainland Portugal and provides ideal conditions for all kinds of water sports, with both sailing and powerboat championships being held here.
In the surrounding area, it is well worth taking a trip to the top of the Serra da Boa Viagem to appreciate the panoramic view from the Miradouro da Vela. From here, one can see not only the city and the salt-pans of the River Mondego, but on clear days the coastline is also visible as far as the Berlengas islands.
Beach Figueira da Foz
Day 5 – Day off
Treat yourself with a lazier morning on our comfortable location, meander early in the morning into the old parts of town before the city starts buzzling or just take the time to stroll around! The day is yours! Tomorrow there’s a whole new experience waiting…
Day 6 – Aldeias de Xisto – the Schist Villages
The Aldeias do Xisto are schist villages which have been partially or fully recovered. Around the town of Lousã, in the mountain range called Serra da Lousã, you’ll find many lovely examples of schist villages and memories of the previous rural mountain life.
A unique experience as it will take you through the mountains on set trails that go to and through these very special places. What can be observed are the old building techniques using schist, stone, and wood.
Tiny streets, little sheds and water fountains, community places and former commercial buildings. This very unique human built environment is lovely in the landscape, with breathtaking mountain views and clear, clean air.
The district is currently being rehabilitated for tourism and is ideal for sightseeing, hiking and nature sports. The area is a must do for those travelling to Central Portugal and can make a nice fresher alternative on hot days or a comforting mountain trip on colder days.
Come and discover it for yourself!
Day 7 – Bussaco
Between the majestic forest of Bussaco and the thermal spas of Luso and Curia, you will find a region that offers everything you need to make you feel good.
Start with the beauty of the landscape, whose main feature is the Bussaco Mountain, a magical place that earned protected status by papal decree in the 16th century and was transformed into a monastic retreat isolated from the rest of the world.
You can still see today, dotted around the mountain, the chapels and sanctuaries which form the Stations of the Cross and can be visited by following one of the trails of the National Forest. But there are other itineraries that present century-old trees, and a great number of lakes and stone crosses to visitors, where you can find memorable places such as Vale dos Fetos (Fern Valley) and the Fonte Fria (Cold Spring).
Another unforgettable picture will certainly be that of the Palace Hotel, emerging from amongst the leafy vegetation. Built in the late 19th century in the Neo-Manueline style for the last Portuguese Kings, the palace occupies part of the Santa Cruz Convent, of which the cloisters and a few cells still survive. General Wellington spent the night here during the Battle of Bussaco.
At the far end of Bussaco Mountain, where the highest range is 547 meters high, you’ll find Bussaco Woods, surrounded by a high wall with eleven entrance doors.
Make them your starting point for a stroll through Nature in the region and fall in love with the serene exuberance, almost magical, of Bussaco’s intense green color.
Aldeias de xito in Central Portugal
Day 8 – Individual departure or extra days
Hotel Dona Ines Coimbra
Hotel Dona Ines Coimbra
Hotel Dona Ines Coimbra (3***) or similar
Hotel Dona Inês Coimbra is located within a 10-minute walk of the Coimbra centre.
The hotel has a business centre, tennis court and outdoor pool. The modern rooms are all equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen satellite TV, a desk, a radio, a minibar and a safety deposit box.
You must be adequately insured to join our Guided sightseeing holiday and Independent sightseeing holiday . We do not insist that you insure with us but we require that you are adequately insured for the nature of your holiday.
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Please consult our Travel Insurance page, where you’ll be able to get more detailed info about insurance requirements and an immediate quote for your trip.