Spain & Portugal cross-border holiday destinations
Our cross-border touring region straddles the frontier between Spain and Portugal and offers the chance to explore two countries in one visit, an exciting opportunity to compare and contrast two cultures and witness the fruits of centuries of conflict and co-operation – a mighty heritage!
Combine a visit to Madrid, Salamanca, León and Santiago de Compostela with Lisboa, Coimbra and Porto and you know you’re in for a treat. The lands in between – Extremadura, Castilla y León and Galicia on the Spanish side and the Alentejo, Estremadura, Centro de Portugal and the north on the Portuguese – are immensely rich in both historical sites and natural beauty.
Those looking for a theme can explore Roman Lusitania which predated the border and left fine remains in Mérida and Évora or follow the pilgrim route to Santiago, ‘El Camino Portugues’, which follows the Atlantic coastline without stopping to think about national boundaries.
A cross-border tour also allows you to visit the more remote areas of inland Spain and Portugal without foregoing some time at the coast!
Places to visit in the Spanish-Portuguese borders
Main highlights & cities in the Spanish-Portuguese borders
- Madrid & Lisboa –combine the two capitals
- Roman remains in Mérida and Evora
- Fortress towns Elvás, Ciudad Rodrigo, Almeida and many more…
- Salamanca and Coimbra – historic seats of learning
- Camino Portugues to Santiago de Compostela
- Magnificent monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaça
- Wonderful birdwatching, Monfraguebeing the star
- The wild, surfy Atlantic coast
- Gastronomical delights from Spanish jamón to Portuguese Bacalhao
- Wonderful wines from Porto, Douro, Alentejo, El Bierzo …
- Cáceres, Trujillo – the land of the Conquistadores
- Douro or Duero, Tajo or Tejo – two mighty rivers to explore
Things to do in the Spanish-Portuguese borders
At or near the border there are several nature parks so plenty to do for trekkers and nature lovers alike. Right on the northern border with Galicia the Peneda-Geres is Portugal’s only National Park then heading south-east the Arribes del Duero nature park actually crosses the border in north east Portugal. Further south the Serra de Estrela and Serra de San Mamede in Portugal and Monfrague and the Sierras de Francia and Gredos in Spain all provide outstanding birdwatching.
For wine lovers this area is full of interesting opportunities to visit wineries and try the produce. The other star product from this area is the cured ham, most famously Jabugo in Andalucia and Guijuelo near Salamanca but you can witness the Iberian pigs in the unique ‘dehesa’ environment and witness the curing process (and maybe even have a wee try) throughout Extremadura and the Alentejo regions as well.
When to go
About the weather in the Spanish-Portuguese borders
For Atlantic coastal tours such as the Camino del Portugues which combine the Portuguese coast with Galicia the mild climate means the best time to visit between April and October.
For tours which head into the Alentejo and Spanish Extremadura the season is longer, from March through to November but the high summer (July and August) may be best avoided.
As the tours often traverse different climatic zones Spring and Autumn can be the safest bet – avoiding the extremes of either region.
Getting to the Spanish-Portuguese Borderlands
Our Spanish-Portuguese border holiday destinations are well served by air from the UK
The main ports of entry are:
- Madrid, Lisboa and Porto from Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh (and many more UK and International airports).
- Santiago de Compostela from Stansted and Gatwick
For our Porto Run itinerary Brittany Ferries offer seven sailings a week from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander or Bilbao. Crossings are over-night and take between 21 and 24 hours (with the exception of the Sunday night crossing which takes two nights). The Spanish ports are just one hour apart and so can be easily combined giving greater flexibility.
*More info – check the ‘Travel’ tab from within any particular tour for the best options for that trip.
A car is essential for getting around and to make the most out of the visit as many of the hotels and attractions are not easily accessed by public transport.
Please note that while it’s OK to cross international borders during your trip with a rental car the car must normally be returned to its country of origin at the end of the tour (our tours are designed with this in mind).
If travelling by air we usually include a hire car whilst those coming on the ferry will use their own vehicle. In either case we will provide full driving instructions, GPS co-ords for the accommodation and essential information on driving in Spain and Portugal as well as a touring map of the area.
Eating and drinking in the borderlands
The opportunity to sample, compare and contrast the food and wine of these two mighty gastronomic cultures is surely one of the main attractions of a cross-border tour in Spain and Portugal.
Whether you compare the fish and seafood dishes as you progress along the coastal Camino del Portugues, the way they breed and serve the Iberian pig in the inland areas, the quality of the olive oil or the delicious local cheeses, you’re sure to find much to savour.
The borderlands are exceptionally rich in wine producing regions. In the north you’ll find delicious Albarinho on both sides of the border and as you head south you’ll have the opportunity to contrast Douro with Duero and Alentejo with the up and coming wines from Extremadura – it’s hard work but someone’s got to do it!