The Portugal Experience

New in 2025!

Colorful city on a river

Colorful Porto on the Douro River

2025 Trips: September 19 – 26; September 26 – October 3

We’re headed to Portugal!! We’re very excited to introduce this destination to European Experiences travelers for the first time in 2025. This seven-night Experience will focus on Northern Portugal, the oldest part of the Portuguese nation, offering us a wide diversity of cultural, historical, and religious sites; areas of natural beauty; and culinary traditions.

After meeting in colorful Porto (above), we’ll base for our week in the charming small city of Braga, the gateway to the inland areas of Northern Portugal. September is an ideal time of year for our Experience trips, a month with cooler but pleasant temperatures. It’s the time of the grape harvest too. With the help of our local partner, we’ll share less-discovered and less-touristed spots with you during this special week.

Northern Portugal

Human occupation of Braga and the surrounding area began thousands of years ago. The area was conquered by the Romans around 136 BC, and the Roman city of “Bracara Augusta” (now Braga) dates back to 16 BC. The third largest city in Portugal and known for its architecture and cultural and religious sites, Braga has a population less than 200,000. It’s also an important stop on the Portuguese Way path, one of the many pilgrimage routes connecting to the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostella.

Cathedral on a hill at the top of steps

The Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary in Braga

The North is considered the purest, most beautiful, and most traditional region of Portugal, with a landscape dominated by mountains, rivers, and canals. Rivers, canals, boats, and navigation are very important to history, commerce and culture of Northern Portugal. We’ll enjoy three boat trips during our week, allowing us to see off-the-beaten path places, nature, and a way of life not visible from roads. The Douro River valley —a UNESCO World Heritage site—is especially spectacular, with steep, terraced vineyards rising up the hillsides from the meandering river.

Winding river surrounded by hills and vineyards

The Duoro River valley

The unique food and wine of Northern Portugal will be a highlight of our week. Northern Portugal is famous worldwide for its fortified, sweet port wines, but the region also produces exceptional red and white wines. The wines complement the rich and flavorful Portuguese cuisine: breads, cheeses, sausages, cured meats, soups, stews, fresh fish and seafood, and luscious desserts. Olive, almond, and fruit trees border the wine terraces in the Douro Valley, so these ingredients also feature prominently in the cuisine. We’ll definitely enjoy memorable meals here!

We’ll stay in a small, authentic, locally-owned hotel in the historic center of Braga, typical of our other European Experiences accommodations. We’ll be close to eating places and shopping that you can enjoy during your free time in Braga.

Historic house in Braga with tiled facade

Experiences in Northern Portugal

The Portugal Experience follows the same approach as our other Experience trips, including a variety of immersive experiences that are authentic and away from crowds.  Our Experiences during this week will include:

  • A guided tour of Braga’s historic center, exploring the city’s rich cultural, historic and architectural heritage.
  • A visit to the nearby city of Guimarães and a tour of its historic center; this city played a crucial role in the history of Portugal. We’ll visit the Guimarães Castle and the Paço dos Duques de Bragança, a medieval palace housing a rich collection of historical treasures.
  • A day in the famous Douro Valley. We’ll have a private visit to a family-owned estate of vineyards and olive groves, sampling some of the finest local wines and olive oils, each conveying tradition and flavor unique to the Douro Valley. We’ll learn the story of the origin of Port, the fortified wine produced only in the Douro Valley. Later we’ll have a private boat cruise on a remote and less-traveled stretch of the Douro River, offering views of breathtaking landscapes.
  • A day in the Peneda-Gerês National Park. We’ll travel a panoramic route along winding mountain roads, where every turn presents a new vista of the region’s stunning natural beauty including cascading waterfalls and diverse flora and fauna. We’ll visit the picturesque village of Gerês, where we’ll participate in a traditional bread workshop and enjoy a lunch of local gastronomy in a rustic and tranquil setting.
  • Visits to the nearby towns of Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, and Viana do Castelo. In addition to a focus on architecture and culture, on this special day we’ll explore artisan traditions of pottery and jewelry making as well as local gastronomy.
  • Explorations of the historic centers of Coimbra and Aveiro, including a trip along Averio’s canals in a private, traditional Moliceiro Boat.
  • A day back in Porto, where we’ll complete our understanding of the history and production of Port wine, including a visit to a traditional cellar. We’ll enjoy lunch in the typical fisherman’s neighborhood and enjoy a boat trip, a walking tour, and free time.
  • Memorable meals of local specialties in a variety of settings, including a food walking tour, a gastronomic meal, simpler family-style meals in rustic restaurants, a picnic, dinner in a local home, and an ethnic meal featuring the cuisine of one of the immigrant populations. Our farewell dinner will feature live Fado music, very important to the Portuguese culture.
  • Time for relaxing and exploring on your own.
Colorful boats and houses on a canal

Traditional Moliceiro boats on the canal in Aveiro

Arrival and Departure

Our meeting place is the city of Porto, about 40 minutes from Braga and the second largest city in Portugal. After meeting in the mid-afternoon and an initial get-acquainted session, we’ll enjoy a food walking tour of Porto with a local guide, learning more about Porto during our walk. This is a fun way to enjoy our first meal together, and the food will bring Porto to life! Then we’ll drive to our home base in Braga, where we’ll check into our hotel for the week.

We’ll return the group to Porto late on the last morning of our week.

We’ll confirm our meeting/drop-off point in Porto and the specific timing for our meeting and departure soon.

We highly recommend that you spend time before or after our week in Lisbon, the charming and lively capital city of Portugal. There are direct flights between Lisbon and North America as well as flights to other major European cities. You can reach Porto from Lisbon by plane or train. (There are many trains every day, a journey of about three hours.) You’ll spend some time in Porto during our week, and you might also want to spend another night or two in Porto at the end of our week.

Leader:  Jennifer Dugdale

Prices: $4,300 USD per person double occupancy; $4,650 USD single occupancy of a double room.