"Flavours of the south"


DAY 1: LISBON

Situated on the north bank of the Tagus, Lisbon is one of the oldest settlements in Europe, its foundation being attributed to the Phoenicians c. 1.200BC. Over 500 years ago, Lisbon was the center of the world's richest and farthestreaching empire. In 1755 two thirds of the city were destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave, and a new Lisbon was rebuilt. Today it stands as one of Europe's grandest cities. It has managed to preserve its traditions, continually renovating its historic monuments and maintaining its black and white mosaic sidewalks, pastel façades and cobbled medieval alleys.
Today Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city boasting fashionable shops, modern art exhibitions and cultural centres. The city's historic quarters and monuments, the many museums, breathtaking views from the top of its seven hills, the local flavors that you can taste in modern restaurants as well as in traditional ones will make you fall in love with Lisbon.
Your private driver will pick you up at Lisbon's airport and will take you for sightseeing tour of the city: the historic centre and the Baixa, Lisbon's downtown, the monumental area of Belém with its 16th century Tower of Belém and Jerónimos Monastery, and the opportunity to taste a local gastronomic specialty, the "pastéis de Belém", in pastry shop that has been baking them since 1837.

Lunch is on your own.

If time allows, afternoon at leisure.

In the evening we suggest that you enjoy a wonderful dinner listening to Fado, the song of Lisbon, in a traditional restaurant in one of the old sections of the city.

DAY 2: LISBON-ARRÁBIDA-ARRAIOLOS-ÉVORA

This morning we travel south to discover the beautiful agricultural region of Alentejo. Leaving Lisbon by the 25th April Bridge, Lisbon´s Golden Gate, you will enjoy one of the best views of the capital of Portugal and the Estuary of the Tagus. The landscape will quickly change from dormitory towns to a beautiful countryside of vineyards, orchards, olive groves and pinewoods dotted with whitewashed windmills and villages. This is the the region of Setúbal and the Serra da Arrábida, a mountain range that rises and falls over the southern part of Setúbal Peninsula. The Arrábida Nature Reserve was created in 1976 to protect the local scenery and architecture. The southern side slopes go down to the ocean ending in cliffs 1 600 ft high. The coastline, the blue of the Atlantic and the Mediterraen vegetation that is not expected to be seen in an Atlantic landscape. The corniche road follows a section of the mountain affording views of both the northern and southern slopes, the Sado estuary and the Tróia Peninsula, 6 miles of sand and pinetrees that separate the river Sado from the Atlantic.
Soon we enter the region of Alentejo where arid plains stretch to the horizon, punctuated only by olive and cork-oak trees. Alentejo and its cork-oak forests make Portugal the largest producer of cork in the world ( 52% of the world's production). Endless wheat fields and the vineyards covering the rolling hills of northern Alentejo make the region a vast granary and one of Portugal's great wine regions.
We will stop for some free time in the charming village of Arraiolos which is perched on a hill in the great Alentejo Plain and is famous for its wool carpets. The 14 th century castle dominates streets of whitewashed houses with doors and windows frames painted blue. On the Praça do Município, Arraiolos' main square, you shouldn't miss a visit to the Centro de Interpretativo do Tapete de Arraiolos. There you can learn all about this highly-prized embroidered carpets: the history, the traditions and the making of these carpets. This small industry was established and grew up in Arraiolos in the 17 th century.

Arriving to Évora, you will have time to enjoy lunch before your local guide takes you for a walking tour of the historical centre of Évora. Évora is the capital of Alentejo, a Unesco World Heritage Site because of its ancient history, its many monuments dating from different periods, several medieval and Renaissance palaces and mansions and the medieval layout of its streets. A walled city since Roman times, Évora flourished when the Romans inhabited the town, declined under the Visigoths and in 715 was occupied by the Moors. Their long rule benifited the town, which became an important agricultural and trading centre at the heart of which stood the castle and the mosque. From the late 12 th century, Évora was the preferred capital of the kings of Portugal and in the 15 th and 16 th centuries enjoyed brilliant renown. Artists and learned men gathered at the court.
Your guide will take you to the Roman Temple and to visit the Cathedral, the Church of Saint Francisco and the adjacent Chapel of The Bones, a macrabe ossuary chapel built in the 16 th century by the Franciscans. During the tour you will be walking in narrows streets and alleys cut by arches, lined with brilliant white houses, picturesque squares with Renaissance marble fountains...

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Évora.

DAY 3: ÉVORA--MONSARAZ-ESTREMOZ-VILA VIÇOSA

Today our program will take you to the unspoiled village of Monsaraz and, in the centre of the most important marble region of Portugal, to the historical and picturesque towns of Estremoz and Vila Viçosa.
One of the hidden treasures of Alentejo – Monsaraz is a medieval town situated on the right bank of the Guadiana which forms the border between Portugal and Spain. This picturesque town is made up of white houses with red roofs, wrought iron balconies and big white chimneys. The car-free Monsaraz is great for strolling around through the narrow streets and over the small squares. The view of the surrounding landscape of Monsaraz is spectacular. From the castle you will see olive groves, winding roads, and the river area of the Guadiana towards Spain.
Estremoz is a pleasant city situated in a region of marble quarries and a well known centre for Alentejo pottery. The town still preserves its 17 th century ramparts and is dominated by its medieval castle built in the 13 th century and altered in the 18 th century. The castle was once the residence of king Dinis and his wife queen Saint Isabel, who died there in 1336. From the imposing keep, 90 ft high, there are superb views. In the modern town, the main square or Rossio is busy, especcially when the weekly market is held.

Free time for lunch. Lunch on your own.

Vila Viçosa on a hillside slope where oranges and lemons grow, is a town of shade and bright flowers. It was at one time the seat of the dukes of Bragança and also the residence of several kings of Portugal. Since the fall of the monarchy in 1910 Vila Viçosa has become a quiet little town: the atmosphere of the town near the ducal palace is that of a museum-city, evoking the sumptous past of the Bragança family. North of the town is a huge park of 4 959 acres which was formerly the Bragança hunt. At the the beginning of the 16 th century, the 4 th duke of Bragança decided to abandon the old fortress and built a huge Italian Renaissance palace. The plan consists of two wings at right angles, the main wing being 311 ft long. In the main public wing walls are covered with azulejos and ceilings are delicately frescoed. The other wing was for the family and is more intimate.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Vila Viçosa.

DAY 4: VILA VIÇOSA-BEJA-MÉRTOLA-ALCOUTIM-TAVIRA

This morning, before moving on to the Algarve, we will visit Beja, the second largest town of Alentejo, and Mértola that has a unique mosque-church.
Tucked in the vast, monotonous wheat fields of southern Alentejo, Beja is a town of beautiful architecture. After being a brilliant Roman colony (Pax Julia), the town became the seat of a Visigothic bishopric and then fell under Muslim control for four centuries. Today Beja is a town of white houses and straight streets that lives principally on the trade of local wheat and olive oil, and has the appearence of a flourishing agricultural market town. The most important monument of Beja is the Antigo Convento da Conceição founded in 1459 by duke of Beja Fernando, the father of king Manuel I. This Convent of Poor Clares was the home of the most famous Portuguese nun. Sister Mariana Alcoforado had an affair with a French officer and the nun's fine love letters to Count Chamilly were even published in France in 1669. The convent houses the Regional Museum that features the window through which the lovers exchanged secret passionate vows. Inside, the gilded church's 18 th century azulejos, marble altars and giltwood carved pannels.
The small town of Mértola suddenly emerges from the middle of the Alentejo countryside, rising in an amphitheatre up a hillside overlooking the confluence of the Guadiana and the Oeiras rivers. Dominating the town are the keep and walls of its 13 th century fortified castle. After the Christian reconquest in 1238 the mosque built between the 12 th and 13 th centuries was turned into a church, its structure not having been altered. In spite of the 16 th century renovations (Manueline vaulting and Renaissance doorway), the interior of the church strongly resembles that of a mosque, and still has the mihrab, decorated niche oriented towards Mecca. Mértola has three museum sets displaying the archeological findings and excavations: the Roman period in the building of the Town Hall, the Islamic period represented by a collection that is the most important of its kind in Portugal; and the remains Early Christian Basilica dating from the 5 th century.

Lunch on your own.

After lunch we take countryside roads and enter the Algarve. The name of the region derives from the Arabic "al-Garb", which means "the west". Here the Moors made their last stand in Portugal, retaining possessions from the 8 th until the 13 th centuries. The orange, lemon and almond trees still covering the landscape, the waterwheels for irrigation and the whitewashed houses with their cool interior patios are all legacies of the Moors. Nearly 3 000 hours of sunshine per year have transformed this one-time fishermen's backwater into one of Europe's favorite holiday spots.

Alcoutim is a pretty village on the banks of the Guadiana river with rolling green hills in the backdrop. Its origins go back to 2 500 B.C. , these early settlements being explained by the deposits of copper, iron and manganes. In Roman times, a number of mines were exploited in the area, and the ores were smelt locally and then shipped down the Guadiana to the Mediterraean. This hillside town of cobbled streets and small squares has a paved promenade along the river front where you can enjoy your lunch. The handicrafts and its ancient techniques are still preserved by the locals that continue to weave rag blankets, covers and linen cloths on wooden looms, the women make shawls and straw hats and lace.

Lunch on your own.

Tavira has a pleasant setting on the banks of the small Séqua and its estuary, at the foot of a hill topped with the remains of ramparts dating from the 13 th century. The Roman bridge and the Moorish walls testifie to the town's long history. In the Middle Ages and at the time of the Great Discoveries, Tavira was an important commercial port exporting local products such as dry fish and figs, salt and wine.The earthquake of 1755 demolished most of Tavira's buildings and silted up the harbour cutting the town off from the coast. In the past Tavira was an important centre for tuna and today continues some of its fishing activities.Tavira is said to have as many as 37 churches. The centre of Tavira is extremely attractive with its narrow streets and river banks lined with gardens. In the old quarter is the Church of Misericórdia with a beautiful Renaissance doorway. From there you can walk up to the castle which has some fine gardens within its crenellated walls . Higher up the hill is the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo which has preserved its Gothic doorway. Inside the church you can see the tombs of the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago and 7 of his knights responsible for the reconquest of Tavira from the Moors in the 13 th century.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Tavira.

DAY 5 TAVIRA-VILAMOURA-ALBUFEIRA

Today we will be in the two most important resorts of the Algarve: Vilamoura and Albufeira.
Vilamoura, is an ambitious and successful project of the late1970's, that has become a luxury resort and the most important golfing resort in Portugal. At the heart of Vilamoura is the marina which has a capacity to berth over 1000 vessels. The marina is surrounded by golf courses, large hotels and luxury holiday homes as well as a casino, restaurants and bars. Near the marina there is a preserved Roman site and museum – the Roman Ruins of Cerro da Vila. Excavations undertaken in 1964 have revealed a Roman city underneath Moorish and Visigothic remains. Apart from a patrician villa dating from the 1 st century with private bath and a cellar, there are also wells, a crematorium, stables, a wine press and, below, the ruins of the 3 rd century public baths.
Albufeira, the largest seaside resort in the Algarve and the most popular of all resorts of this region, both among foreign and Portuguese tourists. Fishermen's houses cling together along cobblestones alleys on a cliff overlooking a working beach. A stroll through the old town or along the east edge of the beach hints at Albufeira's humble fishing origins.
Once the last Moorish stronghold in Portugal, Albufeira kept its Arab name meaning "castle on the sea" and preserves its graceful architectural heritage in its old quarter. The white houses of the village form an attractive group atop a golden coloured cliff overlooking the beach. The cobbled alleys with Moorish arches and the streets converge on the main square where tourists and locals gather in the terraces of cafés.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Albufeira.

DAY 6: ALBUFEIRA-PORTIMÃO-LAGOS-SAGRES

Today we continue our discovery of the Algarve. Having seen in the eastern and central parts of the coast, today's program takes us to the Algarve's western coast.
Portimão is a fishing port situated at the back of a bay as well as modern town that lives from tourism and its fish canning industry. There is a good view from the bridge across the Arade when we approach Portimão.
Praia da Rocha is a grand beach, flat and golden backed by varicoloured cliffs. It was made famous by a group of English writers and intellectuals who settled there between the 1930 and 1950. This is when the village started to grow into one of the most popular resorts in the Algarve and one of the most popular in Winter. It owes its fame to its climate, its high number of sunny days and its vast beach which extends into a series of emerald green water and ocher-coloured cliffs pitted with caves.
Lagos is the gateway to the western Algarve and a popular resort, lively and cosmopolitan. The town lines the estuary of the river Bensafrim to command a huge bay. Lagos was an important harbour at the time of the Great Discoveries. Many of the expeditions organised by Prince Henry the Navigator set out from from here. Although razed by the 1755 earthquake, Lagos has managed to preserve both character and charm with its fort, walls and old quarter. On the waterfront at Praça da República is a statue of Prince Henry the Navigator and the old Mercado dos Escravos (slave market). Legend has it that in 1441 the first sale of African slaves on Portugueses ground took place here. Near the square is the Church of Santo António with an exhuberant interior that is a gilded baroque gem.
Lunch on your own.
Two miles west of Lagos is Ponta da Piedade promontory whose setting is especially attractive: reddish rocks worn by the ocean and sea caves contrast with the clear green of the sea. You will enjoy the stunning views of the coast.

Sagres is the only true town on the Sagres Peninsula, a land – as the sparse vegetation indicates - of almost constant wind.The windswept headland of Cabo de Sagres plunges dramatically on three sides. Here Prince Henry the Navigator resided, and his vision and finances fueled the Portuguese exploration of the world. Living at the southwesternmost tip of Europe, Prince Henry founded his famous school of navigation. The pentagonal 15 th century fortress on the promontory of Sagres provides great views of the cliffs and the sea. Inside the fortress, a vast courtyard and on the ground spreads an immense wind compass.

Cabo de São Vicente the most southwesterly point of continental Europe, towers above the ocean at a height of 246 ft. The cape served as a backcloth to several Bristish naval victories.
The old fortress on the point has been converted into a lighthouse. The views from the cliffs stretching ever northwards and of Cabo de Sagres to the east are impressive.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Sagres.

DAY 7: SAGRES-VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES-PORTO COVO-LISBON

Driving back to Lisbon we will show you the beautiful and unspoilded Costa Alentejana. The coastal lanscape is dominated by the Atlantic ocean which has created dramatic scenery with high rugged cliffs and wide expanses of sand.
Porto Covo is a picturesque village: low, whitewashed houses whose doors and windows are bordered in bright colours. All is peaceful and undeveloped. The 5 miles long dune beach Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro, named for a little island offshore is topped by a ruined Renaissance fort.
We will stop for lunch at Vila Nova de Milfontes, one of the loveliest towns along this stretch of the coast. The town is situated on the right bank of the Mira river, falling within the Nature Reserve of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast: the estuary gives shelter to several species of birds and marine life. This small fishing village is reputed to have harboured Hannibal and his Carthaginians during a storm. In the centre of the town you will easily find a restaurant where you can enjoy the fresh fish or seashells caught by the local fishermen.

Lunch on your own.

Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Lisbon.

DAY 8: LISBON

Your private driver will take to the airport (time to be announced).

Our quotes always include De luxe Mercedes or similar Car with English speaking driver

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MAIA LEGENDS, Agência de Viagens e Turismo - RNAVT 4284

Rua do Alentejo nº 44, 4º Esq
2835-756 Santo António da Charneca – Portugal
Telef:/Cell phones: +351 914 968 806 / +351 918 653 832
email: maia@maialegends.com