Portugal is a pint-sized destination that packs plenty of punch. This small Iberian neighbor of Spain is actually a jewel in the coastline offering visitors a glimpse of European life with a laid-back atmosphere. From quiet fishing villages to magnificent medieval architecture, delicious wines to religious havens and stunning beaches -- Portugal offers a temperate climate and a welcoming oasis away from some of the tourist traps of Western Europe.
Petrabax (tel. 800/634-1188; www.petrabax.com/main/index.asp) offers a wide selection of land-only tours across the Iberian Peninsula and beyond into Morocco. Its Portugal trips include a ten-day "Best of Portugal" tour that features round-trip airport transfers, eight nights' accommodations in first class hotels, buffet breakfast daily, two dinners, deluxe air-conditioned motorcoach transportation, professional English speaking tour escort throughout, evening tour of Lisbon, a boat trip to Almourol castle, winery tour in Porto, Bon Jesus Sanctuary, Mateus Palace gardens and a train trip to Pinha-Peso Regua. Visit Lisbon, Albufeira, Lagos, Faro, Tavira, Mertola, Evora, Vila Vicosa, Marvao, Tomar, Fatima, Porto, Braga, Guimaraes, Mateus, Lamego, Coimbra, Batalha, Nazare and Obidos. Departure dates are August 27; September 3, 10, 17 and 24; October 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, 2006 and the tour is priced at $839 per person based on dual occupancy, $799 in a triple share room and $1,139 for a single traveler.
For a quick trip, its "Fiesta Brava Central Portugal" tour is a three-day adventure visiting Lisbon, Obidos, Nazare, Batalha, Fatima, Abrantes, Castelo de Vide, Estremoz and Evora. It includes two nights' accommodations (one at The Best Western Hotel de Turismo in Abrantes and the other at the Hotel da Cartuxa in the historical centre of Evora), two breakfasts, two dinners and sightseeing in a deluxe air-conditioned motorcoach or minibus with multilingual tour director. Prices start at $479 per person based on double or triple occupancy for departures from November 2006 to the end of March 2007 or $499 for departures throughout September and October, 2006. International airfare is additional.
Portugal Online (tel. 800/652-9151; www.portugal.com) has an 11-day "Portugal in Depth" tour priced from $1,249 per person land only or $1,906Â per person with airfare from New York. The full circle tour from Lisbon to Lisbon includes the interior and almost the entire coastline of Portugal. Local guided sightseeing in Lisbon, Porto and Evora includes Jeronimos Monastery, the Stock Exchange, the Arabian Hall and the Ossuary Chapel. Visit Obidos, Tomar, Fatima, a Port wine cellar, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, Villa Real, Viseu, Belmonte, the Alentejo, Algarve and its beaches. The tour includes ten nights' accommodations (Mundial Hotel in Lisbon, Dos Templarios Hotel in Tomar, Dom Henrique Hotel in Porto, Gao Vasco Hotel in Viseu, Albergaria Vitoria in Evora, Atlantis Hotel in Vilamoura), breakfast daily, six dinners, sightseeing and transportation. The $1,249 land and $1,906 price is for the October 15, 2006 departure and $20 more for land-only departures in September and early October, 2006. Single room supplement is $320 and a triple room reduction is $48 per person.
Their seven-day "Northern Portugal Tour"Â departs Saturdays and Tuesdays from Lisbon until the end of October or just Saturdays from November, 2006 to March, 2007. Visit the medieval city of Obidos, Alcobaça, the fishing port of Nazare, Batalha, Fatima, Leiria, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, Coimbra, the Forest of Bucaco, the canal city of Aveiro, Porto, the Minho region, Guimaraes (Portugal's first capital), Braga, Barcelos, Amarante, the Gardens of the Casa de Mateus, the Douro Valley, Viseu, the Dao wine growing region, Urgeirica, Serra da Estrela, Castelo Branco, the spa town of Castelo de Vide, Estremoz, Evora, and Lisbon. The tour includes breakfast and dinner daily and six nights' accommodations and is priced at $1,189 per person sharing a double room or $1,455 for single occupancy.
Skyline Travel (tel. 800/645-6198; www.skylinetravel.com) has been in the business of arranging customized trips to Portugal (as well as other Latin destinations) for 20 years. Although they have not released their 2006-2007 fall and winter season rates, you should definitely consider checking out their website next month for rates on long term vacation accommodations and specialized Portugal package deals with stays in apartments on Portugal's Algarve coast. Last year's rates included staying in an apartment on the Algarve coast for four weeks from $1,399, including round-trip airfare from Newark. Although rates will have increased slightly for the 2006/2007 season, Skyline is an excellent choice for independent travelers who want personalized service on a budget.
Blue Danube Holidays (tel. 800/268-4155; www.bluedanubeholidays.com) has an independent driving tour that lets you explore more of the country at your own pace staying in traditional posadas and convent hotels. The package includes two nights' accommodations in Pousada do Castelo in Obidos, three nights at Pousada D. Maria in Lisbon-Queluz, two nights at Hotel Convento de S. Paulo in Redondo, hotel taxes, breakfast daily and airport pick-up car rental (group A car -- Opel Corsa or similar) for one week. Prices are valid for travel until October 31, 2006. This package is priced at $918 for travel in October, 2006 or $984 for September, 2006 trips.
Its ten-day "Touch of Portugal" package includes four nights' accommodations at the Hotel Executive or Miraparque in Lisbon, five nights at Hotel California or Hotel Residencial Polana in the Algarve, airport transfer, daily breakfast, taxes and service charges, city tour of Lisbon and half-day tour to Sintra, Cabo da Roca and the Estoril Coast, one-way hotel to railway station transfer, one-way 2nd Class rail ticket to Faro, transfer from railway station in Faro to the hotel in the Algarve, a full day historical Algarve tour and transfer from the hotel to Faro airport. This land-only package is priced at $875 per person based on double occupancy or $50 less for triple occupancy. Valid for travel until October 31, 2006. An optional full day tour from Lisbon to Obidos, Nazare and Fatima with lunch is $100 per person.
Airfares to Lisbon from New York during fall months (September, October and early November, 2006) range between $650 and $800 on airlines like Continental, Air TAP Portugal, United and Delta, but there are also some bargains available. 1800 Fly Europe has round-trip fall fares to Lisbon from New York from early September to mid December for as low as $432, and its fare from Los Angeles for a similar period starts from $529. British Airways has a one-stop flight (via London) for a super low $430 in November, 2006 or $470 in September, 2006 (or from $770 from Los Angeles).
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