Portugal – Gardens of Lisbon, Sintra and the Douro Valley

27 September – 04 October 2021

Portugal – Gardens of Lisbon, Sintra and the Douro Valley

NEWS UPDATE: Portugal is on the British Government’s “Green List” for passengers travelling from England with effect from 17 May 2021, with the rest of Great Britain expected to follow soon after*

Our tour of formal gardens around Lisbon and Sintra, which has its own microclimate, offers contrasting landscapes, styles and vegetation. Historically, the arrival of the Moors brought remarkable garden architecture and species to Portugal, with properties enclosed by high walls and the introduction of colourful tiles, pools and citrus trees. In Lisbon the major development of gardens came later, in the eighteenth century, although the city suffered significant damage in the great earthquake of 1755. The gardens around Sintra were laid out in the following century, when natural landscape design was fashionable. Our tour culminates in the Douro Valley with its rolling hills covered with rows of vines.

For the first few days we stay just outside Sintra in the delightful Hotel Palácio de Seteais, surrounded by superb gardens. We then travel north to stay on a beautiful wine farm overlooking the Douro Valley, the centre of port wine production, where we discover gardens and history of this important region.   

Gerald Luckhurst, a notable garden designer who has worked in Portugal and Madeira for many years, will accompany us on visits to a number of gardens he knows well.




Morning arrival at Lisbon airport where you are met by Susan for the transfer to the hotel near Sintra. Afternoon visit to the chalet and garden of Pena Park, built in the 1860s for King Ferdinand II’s future wife, the Countess of Edla. Resembling an alpine chalet in the woodland, it is surrounded by indigenous vegetation alongside meandering paths leading to a fernery and lake. Return to the hotel.
Welcome drink with Gerald Luckhurst who will give a talk on gardens in the region before dinner together in the hotel restaurant.


Accompanied by Gerald, we spend the morning at a delightful estate outside Sintra, Quinta de Monserrate, created in the mid-nineteenth century by an inspired English owner, Francis Cook. The gardens were previously restored by Gerald, and he continues to oversee them. Refreshments in the garden café before continuing to the former royal Palácio de Queluz featuring extensive formal gardens with parterres, statues, vistas and glazed tiles. Gerald is assisting with the restoration programme and he will accompany us on our visit. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.


Leave on foot to visit a nearby privately owned garden recreated recently with great flair. The owner herself shows us around and then invites us to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch in the garden. Our afternoon visit is to the extensive hillside garden of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, conceived by a theatre stage designer from Milan in the 19th century. We discover its surprise elements as we climb the hill. The architecture is Manueline and very typically Portuguese of the time. Some free time to visit Sintra before leaving for dinner in a typical local restaurant near the coast.


On the outskirts of Lisbon the estate of Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira features a striking house overlooking a formal garden. We have a guided visit of the splendid interior of the house, which is still privately owned. The superb garden is notable for its parterres and walls lined with beautiful seventeenth-century azulejos tiles, their blue and white designs reflected in the pool. Pasteis da Nata, a local speciality can be tasted in the nearby bakery café at lunchtime. Visit to the cloisters of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém, overlooking the River Tagus, where Vasco da Gama stayed before his voyage of discovery to India. Built in 1496 and donated by King Manuel I to the Order of St Jerome, it is a beautiful building in the late Manueline style. We leave Belém and travel along the River Tagus to Cascais and the coastal road back to Sintra. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.


Depart with luggage to head north to Coimbra. Before lunch we enjoy a guided visit of the University of Coimbra’s fabulous library constructed in the early 1700s to display the wealth of Portugal. The book collections date back to 1750. Continue to the nearby church and the examination halls, all within the university complex. Lunch at a local restaurant, set in a garden with an important collection of trees. Our journey towards the Douro valley passes through extensive forests covering the mountainous terrain. We arrive at Quinta da Pacheca, a wine farm on the hilly slopes of the Douro River. The hotel, which is part of the estate, offers delightful views and a warm welcome. As it is the season of the grape harvest we have a chance to observe the atmospheric traditional pressing of the grapes. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.


Morning visit to the 18th century Palácio de Mateus designed by Nasoni and situated in the hills beyond the Douro. The wonderful gardens are contemporary with the palace, with subsequent additions of cedar trees and further parterres. Especially eye-catching is the sculpture ‘sleeping on the lake’ designed in 1981 by João Cutileiro. We continue to the Douro riverside for lunch in Pinhão, and in the afternoon we enjoy a river cruise in a traditional Rabelo boat upstream, returning along the riverside road to Peso da Régua and to our hotel. On our return to the hotel, we enjoy a wine tasting session, with a visit to the cellars, before dinner.


The garden of Casa da Serralves was created in the Art Deco style in the late 1920s and surrounds the impressive house on the edge of the town of Porto. An extensive garden with water rills and lakes is planted with a superb collection of trees. We continue to the centre of Porto with free time for lunch. Afternoon guided visit to the vaulted cellars at Grahams’ Port Lodge overlooking the river valley and a chance to taste and discover their range of port wine.
Return to the hotel for dinner together on the final evening.


After breakfast we depart southwards for Lisbon and our return flights.

Map of Portugal

Tour Costs

£3,600 per person sharing
Single occupation of double room supplement £950


All flights and transport in modern comfortable minibus. Accommodation with en-suite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, all garden visits and guides. Hotel & restaurant tips.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitif), items of a personal nature, comprehensive travel insurance with full cover to be taken out on payment of the deposit.
Driver’s tip.


Hotel Palácio de Seteais, Sintra

Quinta de Casaldronho, Lamego


The climate in September will be warm and mellow. Lightweight clothing is recommended, with a waterproof jacket in case of a shower, and good shoes. Smart casual for the evening.

Meals included are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner). Guests often meet for drinks before dinner (optional).

Wifi is available in all hotels.

Activity Level:

Good walking ability for a minimum of two hours visiting gardens.