Our Relaxing Portuguese Vacation
July 22, 2013 10:17 AM   Subscribe

My SO and I are in the pre-preliminary stages of vacation planning for a relaxing fall trip to Portugal. Recommendations wanted! :)

Our last few trips together have been whirlwind visits to highly populated areas where we had very busy itineraries. While we had a blast, it was at times overwhelming. This time around, we're looking to disconnect, ideally in a quiet-ish town or village. Ideal scenarios would be: reading a good book on a balcony or patio overlooking a fantastic view (ocean, nature, or charming village), enjoying local cuisine, going for scenic walks or hikes (simple hikes, mind you, as neither of us are hikers), lots of relaxing and enjoying each other's company, secluded beaches, rustic atmosphere and above all, no pressure.

What we don't want: all-inclusive resort style vacations, situations where there is a lot of pressure to socialize and meet other people, shared lodging (no bed and breakfasts, hostels, places with shared patios dominated by loud tourists), see-and-be-seen beaches, intense nightlife (although we're open to a lively and delicious restaurant scene), camping, hopping between multiple towns.

We would love suggestions for specific areas in Portugal where we might be able to find the experience we're looking for. Also welcome are recommendations for specific places to stay, like houses for rent, cottages, villas, apartments, etc. Thanks!
posted by ohmy to Travel & Transportation around Portugal (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and I honeymooned in Portugal and stayed most of the time in pousadas in the north. They are mostly old estates, castles and monasteries that have been turned into hotels. IIRC, we stayed in these two, both of which were great:Guimaraes and Condeixa a Nova.

We were there in the summer and most of the other guests were Portuguese on holiday.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2013

Feel free to MeMail me questions - I have been to Portugal three times for vacation. I have loved it every time! I have stayed in the Algarve (southern coast) during non-peak times (this is crucial, but fall should be fine). Praia des Rochas, Silves, Pera all sound like what you are looking for. The coast is short (200kish - the last time I was there I biked from the Spanish border to the soouthwestern most tip of Portugal and it was amazing!)

This NYT article might be of interest to you. Basically, the Algarve is beautiful, used to tourists, has amazing beaches, and great great great food. Seriously, the pastries are amazing. Get a natas tart and I will be forever jealous.
posted by hepta at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, during the off-season, whenever I have stayed in hotels it has been around 30-50 Euros per night. Which is nice.
posted by hepta at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2013

Sintra is a small town near Lisbon that looks like something out of a fairytale. Slightly touristy, but relaxing and laid-back, and plenty of nice woodsy areas for long walks (nature park nearby). Moorish castle and assorted palaces can be visited if you're historically inclined.

The area around Evora is also nice. Evora is a UNESCO heritage site; the old town is lively but relaxing, with a big town square with outdoor dining and occasional itinerant musicians. Lots of little villages nearby to explore.
posted by phoenix_rising at 12:20 PM on July 22, 2013

Places I liked:

Luso & the Bussaco Forest national park. There's a very swish 5* hotel in the middle of the forest but some cheaper ones in Luso, a short drive away. This 4* is under €80/night and has a proper OLD European style spa (ie pummelling and 'the waters' rather than nail shop). Not sure the town would fill a week though. I would recommend some time in Aviero but note you don't fancy hopping around. We had loads of good food, the emphasis, as in much of Portugal is on meat. Try the roast suckling if you go for northern Portugal. On the topic of diet, my experience with veggie friends in Portugal is that your options suck. Omelette or salad or cook for yourself if you aren't a meat eater.

We also liked Evora, if you stay in the old town then it is pleasant and olde worlde and quite charming. We stayed here and I wholeheartedly recommend it, ask for a balcony room when you book if you decide to go there. There are vineyards and fantastic towns and villages to visit. My favourite was Monsaraz, which is a bit of a drive but worth it, its a walled town on the border and was remarkable. The images on google do not it justice. Its on a spiked hill which looms up out of an arid plain, full of twisted streets, little cafes and shops, an old bull ring and more. Fantastic.
posted by biffa at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2013

We went to Lisbon and Porto on our honeymoon. I highly recommend Guest House Douro in Porto, it's kind of a posh B&B. it was great!
posted by echo0720 at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: My wife is from Portugal and we go there often - maybe 3-6 times a year. I know Lisbon better than the rest of the country but I can offer some suggestions.

The Algarve can be very beautiful but is also the most touristy part of Portugal. It seems to me that that may not be what you're looking for. My favorite place for rural beauty is the Alentejo region.

For splendid isolation, I really loved staying in the Convento Sao Paulo. It should be a pousada but isn't. It is an impressive disused convent in the middle of nowhere. They have bike and walking trails nearby. For walking around and eating, it is close to a couple of my favorite portuguese villages - Borba, with its sleepy village feel, antique stores, and nice local wine, and Redondo, another great place to walk and eat.

If you want to stay in Borba itself, I highly recommend the Casa do Terreiro do Poco. I will note however that you want to stay in one of the apartments rather than a room. And it is a B&B so there might be forced socializing, I suppose. We stayed in the Royal Suite, though, and either ate out or brought/cooked food in, so we didn't see anybody...

The larger, fascinating towns of Evora and Vila Vicosa are also not too far. I could write an entire post on Evora. It is one of my favorite places.

I second the recommendation of Monsaraz as well. It is tiny but dramatic. A great place to stay nearby would be the Horta de Moura which rents out individual cottages on a larger estate.
posted by vacapinta at 1:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, great responses!
I forgot to mention that we're looking to travel in October, so it might not be beach weather. Extra emphasis should be on wonderful views, secluded (or slightly off the beaten path), great scenery and great food.
posted by ohmy at 10:31 AM on July 23, 2013

Don't forget to take a look at airbnb options in Portugal. There are a lot of hidden gems.

posted by chavenet at 1:57 PM on July 23, 2013

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