Sand Dunes, Sunny Strolls & City Sights: A Romantic Escape in Southern Portugal
Begin by exploring the unspoilt, stunning beaches of Comporta before heading inland to the endless cork oak forests, rolling farmlands and elegant wine estates of the Alentejo. Travel onwards to Lisbon, one of Europe's most attractive and accessible capitals, rich in architectural wonders. Conclude your journey by exploring the golden sands and majestic clifftops from one of our favourite boutique hotels.
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Day 1: Leave for Lisbon
This itinerary makes an excellent addition to a longer road trip from the UK to Europe, or you can fly direct from London. If you want to fly, your flight to Lisbon will in the early morning, landing three hours later.
After you have cleared customs and collected your luggage, you will pick up the keys to your hire car. It's then a 90-minute drive to your hotel, so you'll arrive just in time for lunch. We recommend dropping your bags off at the hotel and then driving 15 minutes into town to have a long lunch in a local restaurant. The afternoon is yours to enjoy; we recommend taking full advantage of the salubrious spa, wafting (technical term) between the sauna, steam bath and indoor and outdoor adults-only pool for the remainder of the day.
Day 2: Riding on the Beach
This morning you will hop back into your hire car and drive a few miles down the road to the beach.
Here you will meet your mounts for a deeply romantic morning spent galloping (or trotting) through the surf on wide open and deserted beaches. In the eminently capable hands of your riding instructor you will spend an hour and a half exploring the dunes of the protected Sado Estuary Nature Reserve. After your ride, you will head back to your car and drive back to the hotel, where we've arranged a couple's massage to soothe any aching, post-horse riding muscles.
Day 3: Bike Ride & Picnic
This morning you will pick up your bikes and spend the day on a romantic ride a deux, exploring the wild, untouched natural environment of the Troia Peninsula.
Exploring the region by bike allows you to discover all the secret little corners unreachable by car. If you reach a cove and find it already occupied, simply cycle 50 yards in either direction and you'll stumble across a deserted one - perfect for your sumptuous sunset picnic.
Day 4: Sao Lourenco do Barrocal
After breakfast you will take to the road for the two-hour drive to Sao Lourenco do Barrocal. You're heading deep into the Alentejo, almost to the Spanish border, to a luxurious hotel set in the middle of a 2000 acre working farm, the Soho Farm House of Portugal, if you will.
Sao Lorenco do Barrocal has been in the same family for over 200 years, and their principal aim is to preserve the traditions which have been passed down over the past eight generations, including winemaking. This afternoon, we've arranged a private Pilates class outside in the fresh air, followed by a soak in the hydrotherapy room's cedar bath.
Day 5: Sao Lourenco do Barrocal
Depending on the time of year, it can get very hot in the Alentejo - especially in the middle of the day - so early this morning we have arranged for you to have a private horseback tour of the estate, riding the farm's Lusitano thoroughbreds.
After a gallop (or trot, we won't tell) through the vineyards and fields, you will have a late picnic breakfast by the estate's ancient standing stone. After breakfast, we recommend spending the day by the pool, or revisiting the spa.
This afternoon, you will escape the heat and head down to the cool cellars, for a private wine tasting and pairing class with Sao Lourenco do Barrocal's award-winning vintner. If you come across a bottle or two that takes your fancy you can order a few more to be delivered to home.
Day 6: Stargazing
This morning you will hop back into you hire car, turn up the air conditioning, and make the ten-minute drive to the nearby hilltop village of Monsaraz, which has been occupied since prehistoric times.
As you duck between shady, white-washed streets and the cool interiors of churches, you will be able to trace the history of the place, from the Romans and Visigoths, to Arab and Jewish settlements and the present day. After a long lunch in the main square, and a few tacas de vinho (glasses of wine), we recommend heading back to Sao Lourenco do Barrocal to spend a lazy afternoon cooling off by the pool.
This evening, you will drive out to the Lago Alqueva Observatory for a stargazing session with an astrophotographer, who will help you find constellations and show you the best tricks and tips for committing them to celluloid.
Day 7: Areias do Seixo
After breakfast this morning you will make the three-hour drive to your next hotel, the wonderful Areias do Seixo, an hour north of Lisbon.
You will arrive just in time for a late lunch at the hotel's wonderful restaurant before borrowing a couple of bikes from reception and setting out to explore your new surroundings. Areias do Seixo is surrounded by sand dunes and the sea on one side and pine forests on the other, so there is plenty to see.
This evening, we have arranged a seven-course tasting menu for the two of you. Areias do Seixo is committed to sustainability, and it follows that the food at its restaurant is locally grown - much of it in the kitchen gardens - and represents the best of Portuguese cuisine.
Day 8: Areias do Seixo
Today is all about relaxation. We've booked you in at the spa for a full day of relaxation, starting with a session a deux in the Turkish bath.
After a morning spent wandering between the outdoor pool and the (indoor) sauna, it'll be about time to take a break for lunch. This afternoon, you will meet with your therapists (of the massage variety) to discuss which spa treatments you would like, before a couple's treatment - we highly recommend the Abhyanga massage, which is based on ancient Hindi tecniques. Suitably relaxed, the rest of the afternoon is for snoozing by the pool until it's time for dinner.
Day 9: Areias do Seixo
As today is your last day in the Portuguese countryside, we've arranged a very The Good Life-esque day in the grounds of the hotel.
You will visit the people who work with the land, learning how they produce such bountiful crops of vegetables - and perhaps picking up some tips for your kitchen windowsill herbs - before picking what looks most delicious for a private cookery class. In the kitchen you will learn how to prepare traditional Portuguese dishes, using fresh ingredients from the gardens and the sea around the hotel.
Suitably stuffed from your cooking class, it's time to enjoy your last evening at Areias do Seixo, perhaps with a few laps in the pool, a walk around the gardens, or just watching the stars while cradling a glass of wine.
Day 10: Lisbon
After breakfast this morning you will get back into your hire car and make the hour drive south to Lisbon.
After dropping your car and bags at your hotel for the night, it'll be time to head into the city in search of lunch - consult your handy Dossier for our favourite spots - before meeting your expert guide for a private tour of the city. Together you will trace the city's long and fascinating history - from the aristocratic palaces of the Principe Real district to the Renaissance, the Inquisition and the Great Earthquake of 1755. Your guide will also, perhaps most importantly, let you in on their favourite places to buy a (few) pasteis de natas, the cream pastries for which the city is famous. Tonight is your last night in Portugal, so pick somewhere romantic from our Dossier for one last dinner and drinks in one of the city's many hip bars.
Day 11: Leaving Lovely Lisbon
If you're flying, your flight home will leave Lisbon mid-morning and arrive in London two-and-a-half hours later. If you're on a longer road trip, however, today you can leave Lisbon and head south torwards Faro and then into southern Spain, or make your may north to Porto and then into the Spanish Basque Country.
Harriet and Kate L are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.