Planning A Return Trip To Spain And Portugal
We are excited to be planning a return trip to Spain and Portugal. We start our adventure with 8 days in Barcelona. Our Mediterranean cruise with Oceania Cruises takes us from Barcelona to Lisbon. And we then have 4 weeks in Portugal. In Portugal we will enjoy Lisbon, visit Sintra, relax in the Algarve and explore the Alentejo region for the first time.
On our busy travel year in 2021, our Ambassador Elite status was renewed with Marriott Bonvoy. So on this trip, we planned most of the stops in hotels that let us enjoy the status we earned. But when we had no Marriott option, we were booked into a lovely boutique Pousada hotel in Portugal.
For our 4 weeks in Portugal, we rented a car for much of the time. This provides us the flexibility to wander and to move on our own schedule.
We are looking forward to an amazing return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Flying To Europe
It was some time since we last priced airline tickets to Europe. Our last flight to Europe was for our great exploration of Nordic countries in 2019. Since then a lot has happened to travel.
With the Covid-19 pandemic still not over, we first looked for direct flights from Toronto to the start of our cruise from Barcelona. With airline routes and schedules not yet back to normal, there were no options with Air Canada to fly direct to Barcelona. And with limited flights, the prices were much higher than expected. So we assessed the options for connecting flights.
We began the very time consuming process of pricing flights on different dates that both met our schedule needs and provided the cheapest option. Pricing on the different connector routes varied hugely and for some routes the difference in price more than quadrupled the cost! The fact that we were flexible on our dates meant we could search for the best prices.
We originally planned a connection through Vienna with a few days stopover in Vienna. But ultimately we changed this flight and removed the stopover.
Finally we found that the connector through Frankfurt was the cheapest by far on a date that worked for us. And when we priced the flight using our Air Canada points, it was a ridiculously great deal. Luckily we accumulated points over the pandemic and we hit “buy” before the points pricing changed.
We were happy to simplify our trip to Barcelona to start our return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Barcelona Starts Our Return Trip To Spain And Portugal
We arrived in Barcelona more than a week before our cruise started. It was the perfect way to begin our return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Our stay for 8 days in Barcelona will be at Le Meridien Barcelona right on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas. We will definitely be returning to the colourful La Boquería local market.
When we first started planning our trip, we considered splitting the time between Barcelona and the Balearic Islands. When we learned that the ferry was a long day trip, we ultimately decided not to add the flights to the Balearic Islands. We knew there was lots in Barcelona to see and do.
The top of our list was to visit inside the Sagrada Familia. On our last visit, this beautiful church was much less finished and we only saw this Gaudi architectural gem from the outside. For this visit, we booked a tour inside and we were excited to see what progress has been made.
We are planning to enjoy days wandering in the city. And maybe even plan a day trip or two. We are sure the 8 days in Barcelona will go quickly.
The cruise port in Barcelona is close to the downtown area. So it will be an easy move to Oceania Cruises Nautica for the start of our cruise.
Starting Our Cruise In Spain For A Return Trip From Barcelona To Lisbon
With our last Caribbean cruise, we finally hit the Platinum level with Oceania Cruises. The big benefit from reaching this loyalty level was a “free” cruise of up to 14 days. Cruises in the Mediterranean were a great option for our free cruise.
As we entered the early cruising season in the Mediterranean, there were a lot of choices for itineraries. We ultimately chose a great trip that started in Barcelona and finished in Lisbon. This cruise took us back to the Canary Islands. And the itinerary included a first visit to Tangier in Morocco.
There were two ports in Spain at Motril and Alicante. Motril was the port for a visit to the awesome Alhambra Palace in Granada. We visited Alhambra before. So will plan a local trip to see the hillside towns.
In Alicante we are planning an excursion to see the local sights. This day trip includes stops at the Plaza Canalejas, Plaza Puerta del Mar, Santa Barbara Castle perched atop Benacantil Mountain and Canalejas Park. Another option would take us to the seaside resort city of Benidorm and could include the valley of Guadalest and San Jose castle.
We are still planning our excursions. But look forward to some easy days in Spain to start our cruise for our return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Returning To The Canary Islands
Our cruise returned us to 3 Canary Islands that we visited before – Lanzarote, La Palma and Tenerife. In each of these ports, on our first visit we did full day tours of the island and saw such a great variety in the sights.
On this return visit to Lanzarote and Tenerife, we plan to enjoy the port towns. And may consider a car or taxi rental to visit some of the local sites.
For Santa Cruz de Las Palmas we joined another group of cruisers for a day trip. This will take us to La Concepcion viewpoint, the flamenco art at Santuario de las Nieves, a viewpoint over the recently active Cumbre Vieja volcano and finish with lunch at Tazacorte.
We will visit the island of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the first time on this trip. We plan to do an excursion along the dramatic north coast of the island. Our tour will take us to black-sand beaches, the seaside village of Agaete, the Valle de Agaete and 1,300-year-old tombs at Maipés de Agaete. We will finish our day with samples of wine and coffee crafted at the country estate at Finca La Laja.
We loved our first visits to the Canary Islands and were quite excited that this cruise took us back. A great addition to our return trip to Spain and Portugal.
We Almost Made It To Tangier In Morocco
We were delighted when we discovered this Mediterranean cruise provided our first taste test of Tangier. The cruise excursions covered a broad set of activities. But in the end, we wanted some flexibility for our day. We contacted Tours By Locals, a Canadian based company and booked a private car and driver for the day.
We had a great day planned. It started with a walking tour to see the Medina, Kasbah and some of the souks. A driving tour would take us to Corniche, Cape Sparkle, Hercules Cave and the Camel Ride. And a stop at the seaside town of Asilah would give us a chance to see Kirk, Al Kasbah Gate, Tower Kasba, El Hamra Tower, church of San Bartoleme and wander in town.
But when we got an updated email from Oceania Cruises before we left home, we learned that the stop in Tangier was cancelled due to local conditions.
As with much of this trip, we even booked our day trips as fully refundable with “Cancel for any Reason” insurance at an additional cost. It was easy to get a refund and a credit for the costs of the insurance for our tour from Tours By Locals. And we then browsed their site for a new tour in the new port stop in Cadiz, Spain.
Cadiz was a spot we wanted to visit. So while we were disappointed about Tangier, we were excited to get a first taste test of Cadiz on this return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Cruising Into Portugal
The next port we land at is Portimao in the Algarve area in Southern Portugal. On our last great 4 week trip to Portugal we loved our long 10 day stay in the Algarve. And on this trip we have another 14 days booked for the Algarve.
We plan to get off the ship and explore Portimao to see what there was in the local area. And then return when we stay back in the Algarve area.
From Portimao we cruise into Lisbon for an overnight stay. On our last 4 weeks in Portugal, we enjoyed a long stay in Lisbon. And on this trip we have another week planned. So our first day in port we plan to wander and lazily enjoy our return to Lisbon.
Lisbon is a great spot to start our return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Starting Our Stay in Portugal In Sintra
We have a busy agenda planned for more the more than 4 weeks we have in Portugal for this trip. We start outside of Lisbon to provide us with the chance to spend some time in Sintra. From there we head for 2 weeks in the Algarve. We then head north for stay in the Alentejo region. A short stop back in the heart of Lisbon will finish this visit to Portugal.
When we last spent 4 weeks in Portugal, we never visited Sintra. So it was top of our list for a return visit. To allow us to visit on more than one day, we booked the lovely Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort that is close to Sintra.
Sintra is small town outside of Lisbon, high in the hills of Serra de Sintra. The town is a great spot to wander. But the big draw is the colourful palaces and a 10th century Moorish Castle.
We fully intend to enjoy our time on the Penha Longa Resort. It will be a relaxing and pampering spot to unwind after a busy day visiting the castles.
A pampering stay is the perfect break on our return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Heading Back To The Algarve
From Sintra we will pick up a rental car and head south to the Algarve region for two weeks. On our last 4 weeks in Portugal we enjoyed 10 days in the Algarve but planned a busy stay with 3 different accommodations. On this trip we are settling into the Pine Cliffs Hotel right on the coast for a more lazy visit.
We fully intend to relax at the resort and enjoy being at the water. The hotel offers a lot of activities that will keep us busy.
But from our last visit, we know there are so many great small towns along the Algarve coast. And we will head out to explore. It will be a great way to feed our seafood needs!
A relaxing 2 week stop in the Algarve will be a great break on a busy return trip to Spain and Portugal.
A First Stay To The Alentejo Region
On our last visit to Portugal, we travelled through the seaside region of Alentejo. We visited the beaches and seaside towns of Sesimbra, Portinho Arrabida and Setubal.
On this visit, we will explore the interior part of the charming Alentejo region for the first time. We start our visit in Beja with a stay in the Pousada Convento Beja. On our last visit to Portugal, we stayed in a luxurious palace Pousada. So we were excited to book another of the unique Pousada hotels in Portugal.
Our second stay in the Alentejo will be a little further north at the Torre de Palma Wine Hotel in Montfort. This is another unique hotel in the area and it was even part of the Marriott group. We knew wine tasting was on the plan!
We have not yet firmed up our plans for the two stays in Alentejo but we know we will wander in the small towns of Beja and Evora. Exploring the castles and fortified cities in the area will definitely be on the plan. And having visited Stonehenge, we want to see the largest stone formation in Portugal at the Almendres Cromlech.
We have 9 days in the Alentejo region. We know we will just get a taste test. But are excited to visit this new region on a return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Finishing In Lisbon For A Return Trip To Spain And Portugal
Before we head back home we have a short stay planned for Lisbon at The Ivens Hotel. We decided this central hotel would be a great spot to allow us to wander for a few days.
We won’t leave Lisbon without one more visit to Belem for Portuguese tarts. And a search for more beautiful Portuguese tile work. We will head high to the viewpoints and take in the views. Because we know we will be missing Lisbon as soon as we leave.
On our time in Lisbon, we are planning to connect with fellow bloggers Sue and Diana who moved to Portugal recently. We have so many questions about life in Portugal. And as food experts, we know they will guide us to great local delicacies.
Finishing up in Lisbon seemed like the perfect end to a return trip to Spain and Portugal.
Planning For Travel In 2022
Our return trip to Spain and Portugal was our first visit to Europe after many years. We were so very excited. But it came with some planning challenges.
The rapidly changing Covid-19 pandemic requirements was an issue even as the situation rapidly improved around the world. But the requirements were different at home in Canada and in each spot we visited in Europe. We checked requirements when we booked our trip. But we knew the requirements would not be final until days before our travel.
The fact that we were a bit older and more at risk from Covid still meant we had to consider our health risk as restrictions were taken off. We packed a good supply of masks. And we made choices that limited some of our hotel and transportation choices.
We booked our plan with as much flexibility as we could. Airfare, hotels and even tours were booked as fully refundable, even at a higher cost. Our Oceania Cruises trip was booked on a cruise ship not yet back in service. So we even had a backup cruise planned in case that ship did not sail. But even with this flexibility, we knew we would stay nimble as we travelled and adapt to changing requirements.
When we finally got our head around the pandemic planning challenges, Russia invaded the Ukraine. Many people questioned European travel. We even changed our connecting flight and removed one of our stops before we arrived in Barcelona. But we knew that war might cause other changes as we travelled.
With such uncertainty, we purchased “Cancel For Any Reason” insurance for the ability to back out of our plans. At least until we got too close to departure. And we still considered Covid insurance to cover the unlikely need for quarantine or a repatriation flight home to Canada.
Excited For A Return Trip To Spain And Portugal
We are quite excited to be planning for a return trip to Spain and Portugal. Both countries are ones we spent a lot of time visiting before. But we knew there was so much more to discover.
Follow along on our trip on social media as we go. There will be many new blogs from this trip.
Have you planned a return trip to Spain and Portugal? What did you look for on a return visit?
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