We traveled with EF Go Ahead tours in March, 2023 on their tour of Portugal which includes Porto, The Algarve, and Lisbon. What follows is a review of that tour.
Our tour started in Porto, also known as Oporto, a vibrant city located in the northwest of Portugal. Porto is the second-largest city in the country, after Lisbon, and is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and delicious wine. Porto is situated on the Douro River and is home to many iconic landmarks, including the Ribeira district, the historic center of Porto which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the famous Dom Luís I Bridge, which connects Porto to its neighboring city, Vila Nova de Gaia.
We had two days to explore Porto, its winding streets, beautiful riverfront, and incredible views.
The city is also renowned for its port wine, which is produced in the Douro Valley and stored in the numerous wine cellars that can be found in Vila Nova de Gaia.
The History of Port Wine in Portugal
Port wine, named after the city of Porto, has a long and fascinating history in Portugal, and is one of the country’s most beloved exports. Porto has been a center of port wine production for centuries. The wine is made from grapes grown in the Douro Valley, which are then transported down the river to the port houses in Porto, where they are aged and blended to create the unique and flavorful port wine.
Port wine has been produced in Portugal since the 17th century, and quickly became popular among British wine drinkers, who developed a taste for the wine during the wars with France. Today, port wine is enjoyed all over the world, and is considered one of Portugal’s greatest cultural and gastronomic treasures. We toured Ferreria and tasted some wonderful ports!
- Guided bus tour of the city with stops at the beautifully tiled train station, the city square and the famed neoclassical Stock Exchange Palace.
- Group breakfast daily and one group dinner.
- Optional excursion included a Douro River Cruise and a tour and tasting at a local Port Wine Cellar
After two days in Porto we checked out of our first hotel to make the trip to Evora, stopping first at the city and the University of Coimbra.
Coimbra is a charming city located in central Portugal, and is home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe – the University of Coimbra. The university is a major attraction in the city, with its stunning architecture and rich history dating back to the 13th century. The university’s library, known as the Biblioteca Joanina, is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, with its ornate baroque design and priceless collection of books and manuscripts. So much so it was used as the model for the library in the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.
Outside the university, visitors can explore the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, visit the Sé Velha cathedral, and enjoy the breathtaking views from the top of the city’s hill, where the ancient Moorish castle of Coimbra is located.
We had some free time in Coimbra after our tour and decided to explore the beautiful streets and have some traditional lunch, which in Portugal typically includes some type of fish. In this case, octopus.
From Coimbra we boarded our bus for the trip to Evora, our next hotel stop.
- Breakfast at our Porto hotel
- Drive south to Coimbra
- Guided walking tour of the Coimbra Chapel and the University of Coimbra
- Free time in Coimbra
Evora is a beautiful and historic city located in the heart of Portugal’s Alentejo region. The city’s rich history dates back to Roman times, and visitors can explore the impressive Roman Temple of Evora, which is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Evora is known for its stunning architecture, with many of its buildings dating back to the medieval period. The city’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its narrow streets, charming squares, and picturesque whitewashed buildings. Visitors can also visit the city’s impressive Gothic cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and houses some impressive religious art, including the Chapel of Bones.
The Chapel of Bones is one of Evora’s most famous attractions and is a unique and eerie place to visit. The chapel is located in the Church of St. Francis and is decorated with thousands of human bones, including skulls, femurs, and other bones, which are arranged in intricate patterns along the walls and ceiling. The chapel was built in the 16th century by Franciscan monks as a way to remind people of the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Despite its macabre decor, the chapel is a fascinating and thought-provoking place to visit, and offers a unique insight into the history and culture of Evora.
- Overnight in a local hotel
- Free time in the evening to explore and have dinner
- Breakfast at the hotel
- Guided walking tour of Evora
- Visit to the Church of St. Francis and the Chapel of Bones
- Tour of Alentejo Cork Factory
- Free time to explore and have lunch the next day
Alentejo Cork Factory in Evora, Portugal
The Alentejo region is famous for its cork production, and a visit to the Alentejo cork factory in Evora was a fascinating way to learn about this industry. We were given a guided tour that explained the entire cork production process, from harvesting the bark of the cork oak trees to the finished product. We were able to see the cork being cleaned, boiled, and molded into a variety of products, including wine stoppers, floor tiles, and even handbags. Of course, they also have a beautiful gift shop. I came home with many cork products from the region, from a handbag (pictured above) and sneakers.
The Algarve Region, Cape St. Vincent and the Sagres Fortress
The Algarve region in southern Portugal boasts some of the country’s most spectacular beaches, dramatic coastal scenery, and fascinating history. Our tour included a short stop at the rugged coastline of Cape St. Vincent, the southwesternmost point in Europe, and we took in the stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Nearby, the Sagres Fortress is a must-visit destination for history buffs, with its imposing walls and stunning views over the sea. The fortress was once home to Prince Henry the Navigator’s famous navigation school, which played a crucial role in the Age of Discovery. The Algarve region is also known for its beautiful beaches, which offer something for everyone, from secluded coves to bustling resort towns.
Our second day was supposed to include a boat ride along the coast, but unfortunately, the sea was too choppy. Instead, our guide took us to a new visitors’ area where we could walk the many steps down to the water and take in the spectacular vistas.
During our second night we explored the local beach, then had dinner on our own, which for me included one of the region’s local delicacies, grilled sardines.
- Overnight in a beachfront resort hotel
- Breakfast and dinner
- Stops at Lagos and Sagres
- Tour of the Sagres Fortress
- Stop at Cape St. Vincent
We said goodbye to the beautiful Algarve region and boarded our bus for our final transfer to Lisbon, Portugal where we started our tour with a local guide before a quick lunch stop on our own.
Lisbon is a vibrant and captivating city that offers visitors a fascinating mix of old-world charm and modern cosmopolitanism. The city is known for its steep hills, colorful streets, and stunning architecture. I’ve yet to note this, but the sidewalks all over Portugal are made of mosaic black and white stone, everywhere! If you visit, be sure to look down!
As our guided tour continued as we stopped at the beautiful Monument to the Discoveries, the impressive Jeronimos Monastery built to honor voyagers, and the Avenida da Liberdade before enjoying a traditional Fado show and dinner in the heart of the city.
The Monument to the Explorers in Lisbon is a stunning tribute to Portugal’s great maritime history. The monument, which was built in 1960, stands in the Belem district of Lisbon and is over 50 meters high. At the top of the monument is a statue of Henry the Navigator, the famous Portuguese prince who played a key role in the country’s Age of Discovery. The monument is also decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures that celebrate the many explorers who sailed from Portugal to explore the world’s oceans and discover new lands.
Fado is a traditional Portuguese musical style that is characterized by its haunting melodies and melancholic lyrics, and is often performed in small restaurants or bars. During a fado dinner, visitors can enjoy a delicious meal of local specialties while listening to live fado performances by talented musicians. Whether you are a music lover or simply interested in experiencing the authentic culture of Portugal, a fado dinner is an unforgettable way to spend an evening.
After our hotel breakfast we again boarded our bus for an excursion to the castle at Sintra, which is one of the most iconic and beautiful castles in Europe. Located just outside of Lisbon, the castle sits atop a hill and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The castle itself is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture, with its intricate stonework, delicate tile patterns, and beautiful gardens. We explored the castle’s many rooms and halls, including the impressive Royal Palace, which features beautiful tapestries and furnishings from the 16th and 17th centuries. We then had lunch in the town of Sintra, and enjoyed a local delicacy, Ginja, a cherry liquor, in a chocolate cup.
From there we spent the day simply exploring the beautiful city of Lisbon, shopping, and enjoying the waterfront before heading to our final group dinner. I even bought myself an outfit that reminds me of the sidewalks of Portugal!
If we had more time I would have added the extension in Lisbon that included a tour of Tomar and Fatima, but alas, we headed home after our final night.
- Two breakfasts
- Two night stay in Lisbon
- Sightseeing tour of Lisbon
- Optional Fado Show & Dinner
- Optional excursion to Sintra and the Portuguese Riviera
- Group farewell dinner
EF Go Ahead Portugal Tour Overview – If You Go
Lodging: Excellent! Our hotels were all modern, clean and comfortable.
Food: Breakfasts were magnificent! Our Fado and group dinners were also very good and typically included a welcome or farewell glass or wine or champagne and bottles of wine with dinner.
Excursions and Itinerary: They manage to pack in a lot for a short time. We had enough time to explore on our own as well, but admittedly we left the last excursion to spend more time in Lisbon and we don’t regret that decision.
This EF Go Ahead tour is a fantastic overview of Portugal. The pace is fast and furious, covering multiple cities and World Heritage sites with several hotel stops. Be prepared to do lots of walking, uphill, and spend time on the bus getting from one site to another. Be prepared to be punctual at each meeting point as well as you don’t want to keep the group waiting and there is so much to see and do! All in all I’d recommend this trip if you are interested in seeing as much of Portugal as you can in a short time. This is not going to be a relaxing trip to the coast, and that suits me just fine.
If you’d like to see all the photos check out my album on Google Photos. I’ll see you on the next trip!
One thought on “EF Go Ahead Tour Review of Portugal: Porto, The Algarve and Lisbon”
Another great tour review! Excellent pictures and descriptions! I’m jealous!