Trip idea / Portugal, Spain

Undiscovered Iberia

Secret Spain & Portugal

We love figuring out new and exciting itineraries for our road trips where you feel like you’re exploring new ground, and crucially – going where other tourists are not.

Here we shine a light on two of the lesser known regions of the Iberian Peninsula – remote Extremadura in Spain and the Alentejo in Portugal, plus a glimpse at a secret, Algarve-less-travelled. This is a 14-day road trip, and you’ll cover a variety of ground including hiking in national parks, , visiting the birthplaces of los conquistadores like Pizarro and Cortés, atmospheric medieval villages and towns, stellar Roman ruins, and the bucolic farmland of rural Portugal.

 

  1. Extraordinary Extremadura: Day 1-3

    Fly to Madrid to start your road trip. Drive west into the region of Extremadura, where first stop is Plasencia, with its unique 2-in-1 Romanesque-Gothic cathedral and an impressive array of medieval architecture.. You’ll also explore the surrounding villages and national parks. Visit Parque Nacional de Monfrague – home to a wide range of  birds, with the highest concentration of black vultures in Europe as well as the Spanish imperial eagle and the black stork. There are well-marked walking trails that crisscross the ancient Mediterranean forests of the park, taking in the deep gorges of the Tagus and Tiétar rivers and a ruined 9th century Islamic fort.

    Consider a day’s guided touring to unearth some of the region’s hidden gems: Valle del Jerte is renowned for its cherry blossom, a veritable white carpet that flowers in mid-March, and in the Sierra da Gata – one of Spain’s most remote regions – you will be unlikely to come across other tourists as you walk through its slate and stone-built villages and stunning rural landscapes.

     

  2. Medieval towns and Michelin-starred dining: Day 3-6

    Drive south to spend three days exploring the ancient towns of Caceres and Merida. Caceres has a traffic-free old town of cobblestone streets, churches and old palaces. Its defensive walls have survived almost intact since its heyday in the 16th century. The Plaza Mayor is a fine example of Spain’s imposing town squares and as daylight defuses into a golden glow and day trippers retreat, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into Medieval times. Stay at Atrio – a simple, modernist Relais & Chateaux property, where you can dine in its two-starred-Michelin restaurant. Cáceres province also yields some great hiking, with a favourite hike being that of the Molino de la Negra, a circular route that features an abandoned mill, riverside scenery and megalithic era dolmens. Take a day trip to Trujillo – another fine example of a medieval town with its mansions that date back to 16th century when conquistadors returned home with the wealth they had plundered from the Americas. Our top tip: visit the hill top Alcazabar for sweeping 360-degree views from its Moorish era battlements.

    Last stop in Extremadura is Merida, once the region’s capital and the centre of Roman Lusitania. Here you will find the some of the most impressive example of Roman civilisation in all of Spain – the Teatro Romano is still used today for performances of classical theatre ; next door is the superb collection of the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, and in the modern city is the Templo de Diana and the Puente Romano that crosses the Rio Guadiana.

     

  3. Astounding Alentejo: Day 7 – 11

    From Merida, drive into Portugal to the Alentejo region, a rather less heralded corner of Portugal that’s stepping into the spotlight. Extending the width of the country, the area is becoming known as an unspoilt destination where centuries-old traditions in wine and food produce authentic and delicious cuisine. Drive through the rural landscapes of the eastern Alentejo, characterised by wild, rugged countryside, where huge rocks and megalithic dolmen litter the wide-open land and agricultural fields border lush green meadows.

    Spend three or four nights at São Lourenco do Borrocal. After a few days on the road, now is the perfect time to enjoy the all-natural pleasures at this laid back working farm, family-run for eight generations. The white-washed farm buildings have been renovated and interiors are cool, airy spaces. You can hike and horse ride in the extensive grounds, and a sleek pool provides respite from the summer heat. Make time for a visit to the lavender-scented spa, which is housed in a high-vaulted farm outbuilding and is the epitome of tranquillity.

    If you feel inclined, drive to nearby town Evora, to discover city walls dating back to 14th century. Within the narrow winding streets, you’ll find a fortress-like cathedral and the Temple of Diana, which was once part of the Roman Forum. Return to São Lourenco for wine tasting or get a glimpse of the olive oil production that takes place here. Or simply enjoy the yields of Sao Lourenco’s land with a delicious meal of homegrown produce.

Far from Faro’s crowds: Day 11 – 14

On your last leg, you’ll head towards chic new hotel Grand House Algarve, located on the lesser-visited eastern tip of Portugal. On the way, drive through Mertola and stop to admire the spectacular setting overlooking the Rio Guadiana. The old town has many traces of its Islamic occupation, and with its churches, mosques, castles and archaeological remains on every corner you could be in an open-air museum.

Your final stop is in Vile Real de Santo Antonio, proclaimed as Europe’s last unexplored corner, and a tranquil, laid back Portuguese town located on the Rio Guadiana. Grand House Algarve is a classic yet chic hotel on the waterfront that exudes glamorous old-world charm with original Art Deco features, but its light and spacious rooms are the height of contemporary style. The stylish place-to-be rooftop bar is perfect for cocktails and the cool beach club has an infinity pool, live jazz sets and freshly grilled fish specials.

Take time to explore the unspoilt nearby Moorish fishing village of Cacela Velha, and discover the pretty church and the remains of an 18th century fort, enjoy panoramic clifftop views, or take the ferry to the sweeping beach. Back at Grand House Algarve, relax at the rooftop bar where you see across the water to Spanish territory. It’s easy to skip across to Spain by boat for a tapas lunch.

  1. Head home or venture on?

    From here, the choice is yours. Either zip back to Faro for your flight home or let the adventures continue. The Moorish pleasures of Seville are less than two hours away, and from there you could traverse the route of the white washed villages through Andalucía ending up in Malaga.

    Just some ideas for you – why not call us to discuss your personalised road trip?

     

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