Groups accepted with a minimum of 6 pax.
This holiday will take us on some of the most scenic rail routes in Portugal while we criss-cross the country from north to south.
We will get to know the evolution of locomotives, trains and trams in Portugal with visits to different transports and National Railroad Museums.
Along our tour we will enjoy stunning landscapes, have the opportunity to visit lovely towns and villages and stop in strategic places to admire historic rolling stock as well as gorgeously decorated train stations.
We’ll also take time to wander and visit some UNESCO World Heritage Sites, impressive monuments and look at Portugal with different eyes, not forgetting the excellent gastronomy and wines!
Travelling by train offers the opportunity to admire beautiful landscapes in the calm and comfort of our own space; it provides a space in which to sit and observe; to read or chat or simply to enjoy moments of calm reflection and the reassuring rocking motion and chug-a-chug-chug of the engine.
We’ll start the tour up north with a train ride alongside the Rio Douro, one of the great unsung experiences of a visit to Portugal. The scenery is breath-taking, and many say it is one of the greatest railway journeys of the world.
From our base, Porto, we’ll also visit Viana do Castelo the jewel of Minho; take a slow train to Guimarães, the birth town of Portugal and a World Heritage Site and Aveiro with its beautiful system of lagoons and gaily painted houses.
In Porto, also a World Heritage site, we’ll ride on a charming tram to Foz and visit the National Tram Museum. And, of course, taste the famous Port wines.
Going south, we head to the bustling capital of Portugal, Lisbon. From here, we’ll spend one day in Sintra, once a favourite summer residence for Portugal’s royalty and still a fairy-tale landscape with lush green hills and hidden architectural gems.
Also, Tomar, once the seat of power for the Knights Templar, a secretive but influential religious order of warrior knights, who had close associations to the Portuguese nobility.
In Alentejo, crossing mesmerizing plane landscapes, we’ll visit Évora, a medieval walled city and World Heritage Site.
The train leads us further South, to the coastal wonders of the Algarve, but seen from a whole different perspective. The train lines run along the Ria Formosa, a Nature Reserve, offering privileged sights. And while Portugal is a wonderful destination onto itself, double your vacation fun with a visit to neighbouring Spain crossing on the old ferry in Vila Real de Santo António.
Day 1 -Arrival to Porto
Transfer from airport to Hotel
Day 2 – Porto – Tua
Today will be completely dedicated to trains: we depart from Porto São Bento station where no less than 20,000 painted tiles cover the walls, depicting scenes of royal gatherings and traditional rural life.
The Douro line is 203km long, it was built in 1887. Primarily dedicated to the transport of Port wine, it took 12 years to build, a difficult engineering project with its 26 tunnels and 30 bridges, all done by hand.
We’ll travel to Tua on a narrow gauge railroad that snakes through the Douro valley hugging the River. The scenery is breathtaking, patterned vineyards cover the hills, dramatic cliffs overhang the river and the river’s waters shimmer in the sun. Truly one of the greatest railway journeys of the world and a feast for the senses.
Tua was an overnighting place for railway workers and also the start of two other narrow gauge lines, now decommissioned. We can see some of the old rolling stock still here.
We will lunch in Tua at a famous restaurant full of local specialities before returning to Porto.
This day has an opt out in Régua.
Day 3 – Porto – Viana do Castelo
Today we take the Minho line to Viana do Castelo. Open in 1878 it now connects Portugal with Vigo in Galicia, Spain.
Our trip is very scenic taking in the fertile farmlands of the north before arriving in Viana do Castelo, the jewel of the Costa Verde, the pearl of the north.
It is one of the most beautiful cities in the north of Portugal. Situated at the mouth of the Lima River, between the ocean and the mountains, this city is steeped in tradition.
Viana do Castelo is blessed with both an appealing medieval centre and lovely beaches just outside the city. The old quarters showcase leafy, 19th-century boulevards and narrow lanes, rich in palaces emblazoned with coats of arms, churches and monasteries, and monumental fountains that constitute a wealth of heritage worth visiting.
Its traditional connection to the sea derives from being a crucial point of departure during the Age of Discovery, when many Portuguese explorers embarked to discover the unknown world as well as its later involvement with cod fishing and ship building.
Crowning the town is the Sanctuary of Santa Luzia reached by Funicular, soaring 160m in height and a length of 650m. It is the longest of all funiculars in the country.
Day 4 – Porto – Guimarães & Lousado Train Museum
Today we take the Guimarães spur of the Minho line. Opened in 1884 as a narrow gauge it was converted in 2002 to Iberian gauge.
Lousado, where the line splits, housed the old repair and maintenance sheds for the rolling stock. Today it has become the Lousado Train Museum.
The train depot sits right next to the station of Lousado and is home to a collection that offers railway enthusiasts a splendid arrangement of historical rolling stock. The museum’s four steam locomotives are joined by a large number of passenger and freight cars, partly used for very specific purposes. Among other things, visitors can see the CF PPV 6, Portugal’s oldest narrow gauge engine, built in England in 1874. Close to it a railcar containing an ambulance honours the life and work of the Portuguese neurologist and politician António Egas Moniz, a railway doctor who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1949. An exciting part of the museum looks beyond train operation, illustrating the equipment of train depots at the turn of the 19th century. In this context the collection features gantry cranes, machine tools for rail production and repair, a joinery, a saw mill, and three trolleys.
An important part of the collection – existing in the CP – of eight iron companies, from 1885 to 1977. It includes four steam locomotives, which head other trains formed by typology.
Guimarães is a charming and historic city and is regarded as the birth place of Portugal.
Its extensive history is reflected in the variety of national monuments and historic buildings found within the city.
It is a World Heritage Site, the proud birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first independent king of Portugal. It is associated with the emergence of the Portuguese national identity in the 12th century.
Its charming medieval centre is a warren of labyrinthine lanes and picturesque plazas framed by 14th-century edifices, while on an adjacent hill stands a 1000-year-old castle and the massive palace built by the first duke of Bragança in the 15th century.
An exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town, its rich building typology exemplifies the specific development of Portuguese architecture from the 15th to 19th century through the consistent use of traditional building materials and techniques.
Day 5 – Porto – Sernada – Macinhata – Aveiro & train museum
Today we will travel the iconic Linha do Vouga, the last surviving metre gauge railway line in Portugal. The line was opened by D. Manuel II in 1908 and was fully completed by 1913.
Part way along the line we find the railway museum of Macinhata do Vouga, one of Portugal’s most interesting train museums. It is part of the National Railway Museum. Inside we can visit the estate of the National railway companies and Vouga Valley, as well as a large room with locomotives and old carriages, from the beginning and the mid-twentieth century. Here we will find the most fascinating variety of steam driven engines, nationally produced train cars, or century-old wooden carriages.
On our return to Porto we’ll stop at Aveiro Train Station.
This charming building, which is full of natural light, has the most important outdoor tile collection in Aveiro from the Fábrica da Fonte Nova (1916) depicting regional motifs.
Day 6 – Porto – travel on trams & visit tram museum
Today we will enjoy Porto and its many attractions including its traditional trams.
The Electric Car Museum holds a collection of trams, trailers and vehicles and is installed in the old thermo-electric power station of Massarelos. It exhibits material related to the history of collective electric traction transportation on rails in this city.
Porto is Portugal’s most important northern city, an enchanting city that is well worth visiting. Dramatically situated at the mouth of the Rio Douro, it has a wonderfully atmospheric feel.
Designated an UNESCO World Heritage site for its historic buildings and outstanding monuments, highlights of Portugal’s second largest city include the formidable Porto cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos, Carmo Church and Lello bookshop. Porto offers a compelling synthesis of ancient and contemporary attractions.
Our day dedicated to the trams will give us time to appreciate this fascinating and vibrant city, rapidly becoming one of Western Europe’s most desirable tourist destinations. The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions and a buzzing nightlife. There is a lot to see and do in Porto and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors.
Day 7 – Porto – Coimbra Walk & Visit
Today we transfer to Lisbon, our second centre. We use modern trains on the Porto to Lisbon line to take us to Coimbra, home to one of the world’s oldest universities. But the city is no historic relic, it is an affluent city that is both liberal and forward thinking, in part due to the large student population.
Steeped in history and long regarded as Portugal’s cultural and intellectual centre, Coimbra is a timeless destination that has inspired the works of acclaimed poets and writers, a long-standing tradition of soulful Fado serenades and a truly unique legacy of high-spirited academic rituals.
It is acclaimed as the city of love. Coimbra, perched over the lovely Mondego River (the longest Portuguese river), is a varied and captivating city boasting an extensive history. It is crammed with interesting historical monuments, such as the famed university, but equally has a lively and vibrant atmosphere and great nightlife.
The beautiful historic university buildings, which include the library, the grand hall and the view from the “Owl” tower are World Heritage Sites. A lot to see and enjoy.
Day 8 – Lisbon – Cascais + Lisbon visit
Today we start with a tram ride to Belém, towards Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Monastery of the Hieronymites.
It is a royal foundation that dates back to the late 15th century, when it was commissioned by King D. Manuel I and donated to the monks. They would have to pray for the King, and provide spiritual assistance to seafarers that left the shores of Lisbon in quest for the new world. The monastery was also built to perpetuate the memory of Prince Henry the Navigator.
The monument’s rich ornamentation derives from the exuberance typical of Manueline art. Being symbolically linked to the Age of Discoveries, the monastery still preserves most of its magnificent structures, including its 16th-century Cloister, the friars’ former Refectory, and the Library.
We then take the Estoril line to Cascais. This line opened in its entirety in 1895. It runs along the River Tagus to the sea providing excellent views including the River Tagus, the Atlantic Ocean, and the historical sights of Belém.
Much of its monumental heritage is related to defense and navigation, as such, in terms of architecture, the many forts, located along the train line stand out, and were, until the 19th century, extremely important for the defense of Lisbon.
In addition to these are the many Roman and Visigothic ruins in Cascais (villages and necropolis), churches and chapels, as well as manor houses of the old Portuguese nobility that, from the end of the 19th century, began to use this coast as a summer resort.
Back to Lisbon for a visit downtown. If there’s a part of this multifaceted city that has seen it all, it’s Lisbon’s city centre – the Baixa.
After the Great Earthquake of 1755, this historic centre was successfully rebuilt due to the effort and persistence of Portuguese Prime Minister, Marquis de Pombal and is still considered one of the most impressive examples of architectural reconstruction in Europe for its advanced materials and techniques.
The oldest part of this scenic location is Rossio, known for its trains station, street shoe-shiners, historic theatres and mix of restaurants and coffee shops.
Wander through the dynamic Augusta Street to reach the stunning Praça do Comércio – one of Europe’s most distinguished squares and home to Lisbon’s oldest cafés – and enjoy the surrounding shops, open-air stalls and street performers that liven up the area.
Also be sure to taste the country’s famous sweet cherry liquor at Rossio’s ‘Ginjinha’ tavern.
Day 9 – Lisbon – Entroncamento – Tomar
This part of the rail line came into service in 1928. Today we will travel to Tomar, a former seat of the Order of the Knights Templar. Tomar is a city of great charm, rich in artistic and cultural wealth, whose greatest expression is the Convent of Christ, one of the chief works of the Portuguese Renaissance and World Heritage Site.
Tomar is one of central Portugal’s most appealing small towns. With its pedestrian-friendly historic centre, its pretty riverside park frequented by swans, herons and flocks of ducks, and its charming natural setting adjacent to the lush Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes (Seven Hills National Forest) it wins lots of points for aesthetics.
But to understand what makes Tomar truly extraordinary, cast your gaze skyward to the crenelated walls of the Convento de Cristo, once the seat of power for the Knights Templar (and later the Order of Christ), a secretive but influential religious order of warrior knights, who had close associations to the Portuguese nobility.
Their religious centre for the entire Iberian Peninsula, the Convento de Cristo is a fascinating complex that contains a large monastery, extensive fortifications and a unique circular church.
The general shape of the church is modelled after similar round structures in Jerusalem: the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Eight-and-a-half centuries after its founding, this venerable headquarters of the legendary Knights Templar is a rambling concoction of Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture that bears extravagant witness to its integral role in centuries of Portuguese history, from the founding of Portugal as a nation-state to the Age of Discoveries.
On our way we visit the National Railway Museum in the Entroncamento Railway Complex, currently occupying an area of 4.5 hectares.
The permanent exhibition houses remarkable exhibits, with one of the best displays of heritage collections in Europe.
Day 10 – Lisbon – Évora
The Évora line opened in 1863 and connects it to Lisbon. It was originally more extensive but today this spur finishes in Évora. In 2006, the single-track railway line was completely renovated.
Évora is one of the best tourist destinations of central Portugal and a World Heritage Site.
It is a delightful city that exudes Portuguese charm and boasts a vast array of fascinating historical monuments. Évora was historically a major trading and religious centre, a former importance that is reflected in the sheer variety of interesting sites, all of which are conveniently contained within the city’s ancient walls. It is a city full of life and cultural interest.
Day 11 – Lisbon – Sintra
The line between Lisbon and Sintra opened in 1887.
Today we take the suburban train to Sintra crossing the outskirts of Lisbon to the enchanting town of Sintra. Sintra is all about scenic splendour; a realm of romance where majestic fairy tale-like palaces, a grandiose castle, regal estates and charming red-tiled houses stand amidst a landscape of luxuriant, semi tropical forests and hilltops.
Characterised by its singular mystique and peacefulness, the Sintra area offers scenery of striking beauty with its rocky mountain range, lush greenery and sweep of pristine beaches. Named ‘Hill of the Moon’ by its Celtic settlers and ‘Mons Lunae’ by the Romans, Sintra’s sleepy mountain range is also home to an extensive natural park that stretches out to Cascais and its wave-lapped coast.
For five centuries, Portuguese royalty used their sumptuous, hilltop mansions and luxurious estates in Sintra as summer residences to enjoy the crisp air and refreshing microclimate of its mountain range far from the city heat. Once described as ‘Glorious Eden’ by 19th Century English poet Lord Byron, this dreamy, fairy tale land continues to draw the attention of world-class writers and film makers, who find inspiration in Sintra’s unparalleled beauty, history and legends.
Day 12 – Lisbon-Faro
Before departing for Faro, our next base in the Algarve, we’ll visit the National Coach Museum. The Coach Museum began in 1905 by initiative of the Queen D. Amélia of Orleães e Bragança. With the establishment of the Republic in 1910 the museum’s collection increases as a set of coaches and carriages of the extinct Royal House arrive, as well as vehicles coming from the church assets.
The Faro line opened in 1889 and crosses the South half of Portugal, from the large city of Lisbon, through the scarcely populated Alentejo plains to reach the cosmopolitan Algarve.
The origins of Faro date back to the Iron Age (5th-4th century BC). It is during this period that Ossonoba was born, which is thought to have been a colony or a Phoenician commercial warehouse until the beginning of the occupation of the Algarve in the third century B.C. During the Roman period, Ossonoba was one of the most important cities in the region, enjoying the right to mint money. At the time of the Christian reconquest, in 1249, the city main economic activities were the fishing and salt trade.
The old town of Faro, called Vila Adentro, lies inside an oval-shaped wall dating back to the Roman period some 2,000 years ago.
Day 13 – Faro – Lagos
Today we travel west to Lagos along a line opened in 1922. Lagos is a charming Algarve coastal town that has retained its traditional Portuguese character whilst developing into a cosmopolitan holiday destination that welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
Lagos has a delightful historic centre, which is surrounded by the ancient Moorish walls and overlooks a pretty harbour estuary.
Lying opposite the North African coast in the Bensafrim estuary, it attracted settlers and foreign invaders. It became a focal point for discovery voyages at the time of Portugal’s Golden Age of Discoveries.
Prince Henry the Navigator brought fame to the region by founding his navigation school in nearby Sagres, by residing in Lagos and building his famous caravels in the town.
Lagos soon became a hub of maritime activity as explorers such as Gil Eanes, the first to round Africa’s Cape Bojador in 1434, departed from the town in search of new land and fortune.
To the south of Lagos is the Ponta da Piedade headland, a series of highly weathered lime cliffs that are peppered with spectacular grottos, arches, sea caves and are regarded as the finest natural feature of the Algarve.
Day 14 -Faro – Vila Real Sto. António – Ayamonte (Spain)
Today we head east, to Vila Real de Santo António on a line opened in 1940.
We visit Vila Real de Santo António, reborn in 1773 after the 1755 earthquake.
The original fishing village was rebuilt on a grid pattern like downtown Lisbon. The works were completed extremely fast, in just one year.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the town was an important fishing and canning centre (mainly sardines and tuna). It was also the first city to have gas lighting in 1886.
From Vila Real S. Antonio, where the river Guadiana meets the sea, we’ll take the ferry to the Spanish town of Ayamonte. For centuries Ayamonte has been producing salt and shell fish and now the salt marshes are a haven for birdlife. We will tour the bustling small town before ferrying back to Portugal.
The route from Faro to Vila Real de Santo António and back runs through two Nature Reserves: Ria Formosa and Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo António.
Day 15 – Departure
Transfer to Airport.