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An action packed eight day family holiday to Portugal, incorporating the popular city of Porto on the banks of the River Douro, three days in the far north, showcasing rural Portugal at its very best and time on the Atlantic coast in the seaside town of Praia de Ancora.
Explore Tour Leader
4 nights comfortable hotel
3 nights premium hotel
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our trip begins in Porto, Portugal's second largest city situated on banks of the Douto River in northern Portugal. The city itself is compact which makes it ideal for exploring, it is also one of the oldest European centres of population having been an outpost of the Roman Empire. Porto's rich history is evident throughout the city, but none more so than in the Ribeira district, the picturesque riverside area which is like stepping back in time wondering through its labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets. Modern day Porto effortlessly blends its rich history with a modern twist, it has many outstanding restaurants as well as thriving street art and cutting edge architecture, all reasons why Porto has become one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe. It is an ideal base to start our week long adventure in northern Portugal.
Our trip leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on a short walk to get our measure of the centre of Porto. Our hotel has a fantastic location on the pedestrian Rua de Santa Catarina, a short walk to the historic waterfront, there is also an excellent ice cream parlour just opposite the hotels entrance, ideal for a holiday treat.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Porto's Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO), which is a 25 minute drive from the city centre. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
There are no activities included on this first day, you are free to arrive at any time. It is well worth heading to the Ribeira district to eat out, it's a 15 minute walk from our hotel. There are several restaurants on the waterfront as well as on the streets leading down to the Douro River. The riverside comes alive at night with street artists and musicians playing on the waterfront.
Grand Hotel de Porto (or similar)
After a leisurely breakfast we'll stroll down the cobbled streets to Ribeira - undoubtedly the most picturesque spot in Porto. As we make our way down to the waterfront we'll pass many of Porto's historic buildings along the way.
Northern Portugal is rightly known for its food, one of the stops we make this morning is at the outstanding Pastel de Nata Atelier bakery to try freshly baked Pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry dusted with cinnamon. We will get to see these delicious treats being prepared right in front of us and taste them as they come out the oven, they are hard to resist!
Continuing to the quayside, the outline of the vast two tiered Dom Luis I Bridge, built in 1886 by an assistant of Gustave Eiffel comes into view. Here, ancient houses with laundry-draped balconies stand high above the waterfront looking out over the river, where several old boats lie moored at the water's edge. Despite the commercial decline in the use of this harbour, it continues to have character and bustle reminiscent of its lively past. We break for three course lunch and a glass of wine or soft drink (included) at a waterfront restaurant.
After lunch, cross the Douro River to the Sandeman port lodge on the banks of the river. During our tour of the cellars we will learn the history and processes involved in making the famous white, ruby and tawny port wine and witness first-hand the vast collection of wines dating back over a hundred years stored in the atmospheric cellars. At the end of our guided visit adults get to enjoy a port tasting whilst children are served a non-alcoholic alternatives. There is the chance to purchase a bottle of vintage port should you wish.
The rest of the day is then free to further explore the city that has a surprise around every corner. One option is to get the cable car from the Sandeman port lodge up to the top level of the Dom Luis I Bridge. Some of the best views of the city can be seen from crossing the bridge on foot. Taking the historic tram line number 1 from the Ribeira waterfront to the end of the line at Passeio Alegre is another great option, the line follows the Douro River and its a short ten minute walk from the final tram stop to Ingleses Beach, which is a great spot of an ice cream and a stroll along the promenade.
Bidding farewell to Porto, drive inland through gentle rolling hills to the Pena Adventure park for a day of adrenalin fuelled activities.
Highlights include a 1.5km zip line between two hills, 150 meters above the ground (minimum age 10 or over 30kg), a thrilling alpine coaster descending 700 meters, a tree top walking course in the forest and Via Ferrata, an safe introduction to rock climbing using fixed steel cables and steps to allow participants to ascend a rock face. A picnic lunch is included today. For those that want to opt out of any of the activities, the park is located in a pristine nature park with a choice of tranquil walks available in the park and for younger children the option of crazy cart rides and a scaled down shorter version of the alpine coaster. All activities are fully supervised, with a safety briefing provided before each activity is undertaken.
Late afternoon we head north to Arcos de Valdevez, our base of the next three nights. Our spa hotel overlooks the Vez river and there are several fine restaurants in town showcasing Northern Portugal's fine culinary traditions including the Restaurant a Floresta offering regional specialities with terrace dining in the town centre and the excellent Churrascaria O Braseiro, a simple but very high quality steakhouse, great for families.
Ribeira Collection Hotel (or similar)
After a hearty breakfast at our hotel, head towards the National Park to explore the rugged beauty of Portugal. Far from the mass tourism and crowded beaches of the Algarve, this undiscovered part of Portugal is a hidden treasure. We start by driving to a viewpoint over Sistelo for fine views looking back down the valley, a view that has hardly changed at all over the past two hundred years, this is rural Portugal at its very best; the terraced plots wouldn't look out of place in the Himalaya. Look out for the distinguished looking prized Cachena breed of cow that originate from the region, easily recognized by their elegant lyre-shaped long horns.
Heading back down the valley, there is time to take a look round the village of Sistelo, get a coffee and use the facilities before we set off on our 8km hike. The hike itself follows the river down the valley. Most of the path is on newly constructed board walk with a short steep section at the start on a cobbled path. The scenery is beautiful and as we descend further into the valley below the tree lined river banks provide welcomed shade, indeed the area has been recognized as one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
At the end of our hike, enjoy a picnic lunch by the river with ample time for wild swimming in the natural rock pools; a welcome refreshing dip in the hot summer months, before we return to our hotel mid afternoon.
Today is a free day. Our hotel offers complementary use of kayaks to explore the river which runs through the town and is flanked by wooded gardens and has a small summer beach. Alternatively spend time in the hotel spa and indoor pool or relax on the sun terrace.
The small town of Arcos de Valdevez is well worth exploring, alternatively Ponte de Lima, the oldest village of Portugal, is just twenty minutes drive away. With its medieval heritage, narrow streets and lovely squares, enjoy sitting down for refreshments in one of the many outdoor cafés facing the river and the bridge. There is a traditional craft market held every Thursday in Barcelos, the town is an hours bus ride away.
For lunch or dinner there are plenty of restaurants and cafés. Take advantage of your visit to discover the celebrated local cuisine, especially the famous rojoes and arroz de sarrabulho, a pork and savoury rice dish.
Heading further north, our destination is the small town of Melgaco situated on the border between Portugal and Spain. We will meet our rafting guides just outside of town and get changed into wet suits. Changing rooms and showers are available, a towel and swimming costume is recommended as are wet shoes or an old pair of trainers which will get wet. There are secure facilities to leave personal effects on site.
Transferring into a four wheel drive vehicle, take a short drive with our raft to the launch point. After a safety briefing we climb into our raft and float downstream. The waters and currents of the rivers in Minho are perfect for water sports, especially rafting in an inflatable raft. Paddle around natural obstacles alongside the green banks in the heart of the Minho province. This activity is ideal for newcomers to rafting, covering between 10 to 14 kilometres depending on the river conditions, this part of the river features both rapids and stretches of calmer waters providing ample opportunity to appreciate the setting and nature all around us.
While out on the river, watch out for the local fishing traps lying in wait for eels and other freshwater species in a tradition dating back centuries. The level of difficulty of this descent is rated 'low' and is graded two to three.
We are met at the end of the rafting expedition with a light snack of a sandwich and a bottle of water before we are driven back to base in our 4 wheel drive off terrain vehicle.
After lunch (not included on this day) we continue to Vila Praia de Ancora on the Atlantic coast and check-in to the family run Meira Hotel, set just one road back from the beach front. The hotel features a swimming pool and sun terrace and the beach is a very short walk away.
Meira Hotel (or similar)
This morning head to the beach after breakfast for a two hour surfing lesson. Praia de Ancora is an ideal location to learn to surf; this stretch of Portugal's Atlantic coast is well known amongst the surfing community as offering some of the best surfing conditions in Europe, Praia de Ancora offers a sheltered section of beach protected by its harbour walls allowing a safe environment to learn the basics. For those who feel more confident and have more experience the conditions further along the beach offer more challenging waves. A wetsuit is provided, please bring a towel, swimming suit and sunscreen.
Our instructors know the conditions extremely well, Fabio who runs the surf school has lived in Praia de Ancora all his life and is a beach lifeguard in his spare time.
After our surfing lesson the rest of the day is free to enjoy the beach or head back to the hotel for a dip in the pool. There are several dining options in town for lunch dinner. For those looking to be more active there is an excellent coastal walk to the nearby village of Afife with a famous tavern-style restaurant Mariana. Continuing to the next village of Carreco with its ancient lighthouse of Montedor and the old windmills and fortress in Paco are well worth a visit.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Praia de Ancora.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Praia de Ancora at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Porto Airport (OPO), which is about an hours' drive.
Overall, spring, early summer and autumn are ideal times for a trip to Portugal - though the weather varies enormously from region to region. The northern high plains has both extremes, stiflingly hot in summer, bitterly cold and swept by freezing winds in winter. The Atlantic coast, in contrast, has a tendency to damp and mist, and a relatively brief, humid summer. The Mediterranean south is warm virtually all year round. The islands have very different weather patterns due to their positioning and can have sudden rain falls throughout the year so waterproofs are recommended even in the summer.
2 Pin Round
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. These prices all include transport costs and are based on a minimum of 4 participants per activity. If there are less than 4 people a small group supplement may apply. Child rates, where applicable apply to children 11 and under. Day 3: Half day whitewater rafting - included If you wish to upgrade to a full day's rafting €62 adult, €36 child, arranged locally. Day 5: Hydrospeed €62 per person, €36 child Day 5: Hells Canyon - €60 per person, no child discount Day 5 or 7: Mountain bike €65 per person, no child discount
July and August are the hottest months, but early and late in the season go prepared with clothing to suit drops in temperature and the showers. You'll need your swimming gear, light rainwear may be needed at any time of year, and a warm fleece/jacket is recommended for cooler evenings and nights.
Comfortable walking boots, trainers and sandals. We also recommend wet shoes or an old pair of trainers for the rafting day.
One main piece and a daysack.
A water bottle, sunhat and high factor sunscreen are all essential. You will need a towel for the rafting day and surfing day.
Porto: The Grande Hotel do Porto is located downtown, right in the heart of the city centre within easy walking distance of Porto's outstanding monuments, churches, museums and theatres. Charming and evocative of a long-gone age, with a unique interior decoration in Renaissance and Art Deco styles. The hotel was originally built in 1880 in a five store "Grand Hotel" format, which is still visible in its late Victorian facade and the elaborate exterior details. The hotel offers 97 rooms equipped with individual air-conditioning, flat tv, amenities and internet wireless. The hotel has a cosy bar and the Renascença restaurant is located in a ballroom, with a strong presence of the "Grand Hotel" heritage from late 19th century. Arcos de Valdevez: The Ribeira Collection Hotel offers 37 rooms equipped with a private bathroom with shower, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, safe, minibar, wardrobe and free WiFi. Located in the heart of Arcos, the hotel is situated on the river front with great views of the Vez River and the old bridge. The property features water sports facilities, a terrace, a bar, an indoor pull, a spa and wellness center where guests are welcome to take advantage of a hot tub, sauna and steam bath. Just 15 km away is the Peneda-Geres National Park, classified by UNESCO as World Biosphere Reserve. Vila Praia de Ancora: Built in 1935, Hotel Meira is a family business, remaining in the Meira family to this day, currently in the 4th generation. It is located in the town centre of Vila Praia de Ancora, one of the most popular beaches in Northern Portugal. Its typical fishing port, next to the elegant fortress, provides the village's various restaurants with fresh fish and seafood, making Vila Praia de Ancora a gastronomic destination in its own right. The hotel has 52 fully refurbished rooms with air conditioning, direct telephone line, individual safe, LCD TV, minibar, free wi-fi internet access, safe, complete bathroom with hairdryer. Hotel services include an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a restaurant.
There are no swimming opportunities in Porto. The Ribeira Collection Hotel (Arcos de Valdevez) features an indoor swimming pool with sliding doors leading out to an extensive sun terrace. The health suite also has a steam room, sauna and hot tub. It is advisable to book at reception to use the health cub facilities. There is the opportunity for wild river swimming on day 4 in a large natural rock pool where we break for lunch for a couple of hours and swimming on day 6 after the rafting. The Hotel Meira in Praia de Ancora has an outdoor swimming pool with sun lounges and a terrace. The hotel is situated less than ten minutes walk from the beach.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Portugal: Visas are not required by UK, E.U Nationals, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim. Buoyancy aids are provided for the rafting day. Please note that the hotel swimming pools do not have life guards on duty.
Nothing compulsory but Tetanus is usually recommended as a precaution. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.