Culture

The Magical Minho

8 to 15 October
Portugal

Join us for a seven-night holiday based in the attractive Portuguese city of Viana do Castelo. This part of Portugal, the Minho Region, is most well-known for its Vinho Verde (green wine), but it also has a lot of history. It was one of the ports from where the Portuguese explorers set out, and the evidence of the wealth they brought back is clear. We will stay in the same hotel for all seven nights, the Casa Melo Alvim. This former 16th century manor house is one of the oldest buildings in the city and a few years ago was tastefully converted to a hotel. And located next to the railway station, it is the perfect PTG hotel!

The tour includes rail travel on the lines from Porto to Viana do Castelo and onwards as far as Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We also include the branch lines to Guimarães and Braga, on a day when we visit the lovely metre-gauge railway museum at Lousado. We also hope to be able to visit the normally closed museums in Nine and Valença.

For culture fans, we take in the fortified town of Valença, right on the border with Spain, and the UNESCO listed historic centre in Guimarães. Wine tasting is also included, of course, and some lunches/dinners are included, but on the days they aren’t, you may want to try some of Viana’s excellent sea-food restaurants.

This itinerary has something for everyone, but the hotel is not a big hotel, so places are limited!

Highlights

  • All seven nights at the same hotel
  • Great food
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • Wine tasting
  • Railway museums
  • Off the normal tourist routes
  • No fly option

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.

From Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham (via Barcelona), Edinburgh, London St Pancras

Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 8 October Your flight leaves Gatwick at 12:20. Direct flights also available from Luton, Stansted or from Birmingham (via Barcelona) and Manchester* and overland travel from St Pancras via the Eurostar and Sud-Express sleeper. You will be met at Porto airport by David, your tour manager, and we will transfer to the Viana do Castelo by road and rail. * from Manchester you fly out on the evening of Wednesday 1 July (at 19:35) for a pre-tour night at Porto Airport hotel.

Day 2 Friday 9 October (B,D) Today we will have a relaxing day to explore our home for the next seven days, Viana do Castelo. In the morning David will show you around this fascinating town which lies on the estuary of the River Lima. The many lavish mansions, in Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque styles, were built from the wealth brought by trade with Europe and Brazil. High above the town, reached by a funicular railway, is Monte de Santa Luzia, offering a marvellous view of the surrounding area, and in your free time in the afternoon, a trip up to the top is a must. You will also find a basilica modelled on the Sacré Coeur in Paris which has a tower you can climb (lift available) for an even more stunning view over the town and the sea. Also worth visiting is the Gil Eannes Naval Museum, a floating naval hospital constructed in 1952 and which operated until 1973. It is now open to the public as a museum, housing the original equipment. The ship has operation theatres, communications equipment, refrigeration chambers and a reinforced hull. It was restored by a group of locals and then adapted to become a youth hostel and is one of the city’s biggest attractions.

Tonight we will have our Welcome Dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

Basilica Santa Luzia and spectacular view to the coast and beaches of Viana do Castelo

Day 3 Saturday 10 October (B,D) We explore Portugal’s second city, Porto. Joining the international train from Vigo, we arrive in Porto in in just over an hour. From the main Campanhã railway station, the modern metro will take us across the top of the iconic Dom Luis I two-level bridge. After time to enjoy the view over the Ribeira district of Porto on the north bank of the River Douro and the historic port wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank, we travel down to river level on the cable car. A short walk brings us to a wine cellar where we will find out more about the history and production of port wine, with a tasting at the end. After free time for lunch and your own exploration, we meet up and catch a historic tram to São Bento station from where our rail journey back to Viana begins. Dinner tonight will be at an excellent local restaurant.

Portugal, Porto, Praca Da Batalha, A Sightseeing Tram Outside Santo Ildefonso Church. 

Day 4 Sunday 11 October (B,L) A train free day today, but we still manage to take in some railway history! A line from Viana do Castelo to Ponte de Lima was planned and some of the bridges were built. However, the idea was abandoned and the track bed turned into a road (Rua da Linha do Vale de Lima – The Lima Valley Line Road) and we shall drive along part of it. One of the oldest towns in Portugal (founded on 4 March 1125), it was historically significant as a Roman settlement on the road from Braga to Santiago de Compostela and Lugo, and the first place in Portugal to receive a municipal charter. It is named after the part Roman, part Medieval bridge that spans the river. The Minho in general is famous for its vinho verde (green wine), but Ponte de Lima is especially known for its red vinho verde. An acquired taste, but definitely worth trying! This is a bustling town on a Sunday and in the morning you will have time to look around before we meet up for lunch and wine tasting at a local winery. Return to Viana later in the afternoon.

Ponte de Lima – Portugal. It is named after the long medieval bridge that passes over the Lima river

Day 5 Monday 12 October (B) Santiago de Compostela is our destination today, as we head north by rail through the Minho region and into Galicia in Spain along some scenic railway lines and crossing the bi-level international bridge (rail on top, road underneath) between Valença and Tui. Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town. Return to Viana by rail with an early evening arrival.

Day 6 Tuesday 13 October (B) Staying in the Minho region today, we first catch a train south to Lousado where we visit the railway museum dedicated to the metre gauge lines that once served northern Portugal. As well as steam locomotives, including the oldest surviving metre gauge loco, the collection includes carriages, railcars and other railway equipment. We then continue by train to the UNESCO listed historic centre in Guimarães. After time for lunch and to explore the centre, we travel to the Bom Jesus funicular in Braga. We ride up the hill on this water-powered funicular and enjoy the views from the top of the hill. At the end of the afternoon our coach takes us to Braga station for our journey back to Viana. We hope to be able arrange a visit to the museum collection at Nine station, normally closed to the public.

Outdoor staircase of sanctuary Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga

Day 7 Wednesday 14 October (B,D) Our last day in the Minho region takes us to the fortified border town of Valença. Valença’s fortress is a piece of gothic and baroque military architecture. The first walls were built in the 13th century. It was upgraded during the 17th and 18th century forming the present bulwarked system. It is located on the tops of two small hills and is formed of two polygons. It is one of the biggest and best-preserved military structures in Europe, a piece of gothic and baroque military architecture. The first walls were built in the 13th century and it was upgraded during the 17th and 18th centuries, forming the present bulwarked system. Valença itself dates back to Roman times, and indeed there is a Roman milestone inside the walled village, on the former road from Braga to Tui. On arrival in Valença, we hope to arrange a visit to Valença railway museum, another museum that is not normally open to the public. This evening we have our farewell dinner in a local restaurant.

External view Fortress of Valenca do Minho

Day 8 Thursday 15 October (B) This morning we return to Porto Airport for our flights home.

This tour does have a lot of walking, including hills and steps. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • From Gatwick: £1,169
  • From Luton: £1,169
  • From Stansted: £1,169
  • From Birmingham: £1,169
  • From Manchester (9 nights): £1,275
  • From Edinburgh: £1,225
  • From London St Pancras: £1,525
  • From Porto/Oporto: £969

Options

  • Single Room Supplement: £230
  • From St Pancras price is a twin berth sleeper cabin on the Sud-Express
  • Flight inclusive bookings made less that 3-months before departure might mean an increase in price.

Deposit

  • £500 with flights or £300 if joining in Porto

Hotel

Hotel Casa Melo Alvim, Viana do Castelo (all 7 nights)

 

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
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