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Spring in Southern Portugal

Tour Code: PRT04

An 8-day holiday of botanical and birdwatching walks and excursions in the hills, steppes, woodlands and coastal wetlands of southern Portugal.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1345 SRS: £160


This popular spring wildlife holiday in Portugal is timed to get the best from this beautiful region's rich flora and diverse range of migratory birds. From the cliffs, dunes, saltpans and heaths of the Algarve to the Cork Oak forests of the Monchique Hills and the wide open grass plains of the Alentejo, we will encounter much of interest and wonder. Our tour starts in the beautiful hilltop town of Mertola, with its Roman ruins and spectacular Moorish castle. From here we enjoy stunning flower-filled plains and some of Europe's most exciting birding, before finishing our holiday with four nights in Sagres, exploring the varied habitats of the south-western tip of the continent.

  • Two-centre holiday combining the sunny Algarve with the magnificent steppes of the Alentejo
  • Explore the region's Cork Oak forests, steppe grasslands & abundant coastal habitats
  • Great and Little Bustards, Azure-winged Magpies & Black-shouldered Kite
  • Bee-eaters, Rollers, shrikes, larks & more
  • Peonies, cistuses & numerous orchid species
  • A wealth of reptiles, butterflies & other insects

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A two-centre holiday. Three nights in a traditional Pensao in the delightful, cobbled hilltop town of Mertola; four nights in a very comfortable hotel overlooking the harbour in Sagres. All rooms with private facilities.

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly to Faro and transfer to Mertola

Day 2/3 Birdwatching and botanising excursions from Mertola

Day 4/7 Birdwatching and botanising excursions from Sagres

Day 8 Transfer to Faro, and fly London

The far south-western corner of Europe offers much for the naturalist, yet Portugal is a country so often overlooked in favour of the larger landmass of neighbouring Spain. This holiday is timed to get the best from this beautiful region’s rich flora and diverse range of breeding and migratory birds at, what is coincidentally, one of the most pleasant times of the year weatherwise. From the windswept cliffs, dunes and heaths of the west coast to the marshes and saltpans of the south, and from the Cork Oak forests of the Monchique Hills to the wide open grass plains and parkland of the Alentejo, we will encounter much of interest and wonder. All the time we will be immersed in the rich culture and history of southern Portugal, which is reflected in the fine Moorish architecture, excellent cuisine and wines, and rich contrasts from the 20th century bustle of the Algarve coast to the near medieval subsistence agriculture of the Alentejo valleys, where ploughing with mules is the norm.

Our tour starts in the beautiful hilltop town of Mertola, with its Roman ruins and spectacular Moorish castle. Perched high above the Guadiana River, Mertola offers fine opportunities to explore both the stunning flower-studded plains around Casto Verde — where we hope to see both Great and Little Bustards, Stone Curlew and numerous Montagu’s Harriers — and the rugged, seldom explored savannah country towards the Spanish border, where we might encounter Black-shouldered Kite, Black Vulture, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Oscillated Lizards, the largest European lizard, are common in this area, and the rivers are full of terrapins and water snakes.

One of the highlights during our 3-night stay at Mertola might be a journey north to the spectacular gorge and waterfall in the Guadiana valley at Pulo do Lobo, where Black Stork and Bonelli’s Eagle have bred. Mertola itself has a large colony of Lesser Kestrels and the sight of several dozen of these beautiful birds wheeling around in the evening sky above the castle and 14th century Franciscan convent is something to be remembered.

During the second part of our holiday we will be based for four nights at the wonderful Memmo Baleeira Hotel, situated just a stone's throw from a fort which served as Henry the Navigator's 15th century School of Navigation. Comfortable, clean rooms are enhanced by a breathtaking modern design and, with outstanding views over the Sagres coastline, this hotel provides a relaxing and charming retreat.

Driving east along the Algarve coast from Sagres, dunes, heathland, pine woodland and valley farmland will provide excellent botanising in delightful surroundings. Birds will include Bee-eaters, Short-toed Eagles, Nightingales, Red-rumped Swallows, Woodchat Shrikes, Cirl Buntings and many more. We will visit various sites along the west coast, including the dramatic Cape St. Vincent, the south-western extremity of Europe, with its towering cliffs complete with Choughs and Peregrines, and the nearby Sagres Point which offers us the chance to enjoy an extraordinary limestone flora, resident Blue Rock Thrushes and Thekla Larks, and the aforementioned Henry the Navigator’s 15th century school of navigation.

The Algarve coast has suffered much from development for the tourism industry over recent decades, but a few outstanding coastal marshes still remain. One such is the Quinta da Rocha near Portimao. Here there is a bird observatory and field centre poised on a picturesque peninsula covered in almond and olive groves, scrubland and pine woodland, and sandwiched between two small river estuaries. The range of plants and animals to be encountered here is huge. Mirror and Tongue Orchids, asphodels and broomrapes abound. Bee-eaters, Hoopoes and Woodchat Shrikes are everywhere. Black-winged Stilts and Kentish Plovers breed on the marshes which ring to their calls and to the songs of Short-toed Larks, Fan-tailed Warblers and Yellow Wagtails. We will spend a rewarding day here, rounded off with an evening visit to the spectacular cliffs and stacks of Ponta da Piedade that house a large colony of Cattle and Little Egrets.

Such are some of the delights of southern Portugal in spring that, by the end of this holiday, we are sure, like many of our tour leaders, you will be truly under the spell of this charming country.

White Stork on nest (Ken Williams)White Storks in flight (Ken Williams)Naturetrek clients on a walk (Ken Williams)Carpobrotus aciniaciformis, Red Hottentot Fig (Ken Williams)Tolpis barbata, European Umbrella Milkwort (Ken Williams)Gynandriris sisyrinchium, Barbary Nut  (Ken Williams)Narcissus jonquilla, Tapeinanthus (Ken Williams)Castle (Ken Williams)View from hotel (Ken Williams)Thistle sp. (Ken Williams)Wild Gladiolus (Ken Williams)Portuguese coastline (Ken Williams)Ornithogalum arabicum (Ken Williams)Marsh Frog (Ken Williams)Woodchat Shrike (Ken Williams)White Stork on nest (Ken Williams)
I.J.
Surrey
I am sure you already know that these two leaders are really top notch: very knowledgeable but approachable and not patronising, efficient in all the practicalities like driving, site-finding, provision of picnic etc. These were the best arrangements for picnics I have ever come across in this type of holiday- good, simple, fresh food which they took pains to present in an attractive manner, with the result there was little or no waste.
D.J.
Surrey
This was my first Naturetrek holiday and it exceeded my expectations. The leaders were outstanding; they are both impressive experts but always willing to give friendly advice to a beginner like me.
R.B.
Leicestershire
I have a balanced interest in plants and birds so the trip suited me fine. Phil's plant knowledge generally, and of this part of Portugal, which has so many endemics is really very deep and I learned a great deal. So many good things to remember. I don't think I would change anything. The meadows were at their best and I particularly enjoyed Henry's fort on the coast and the cork oaks and meadows.
S.W.
Ayrshire
Another excellent Naturetrek holiday. Very smooth arrangements from start to finish. Both leaders worked hard to ensure that the whole group were catered for (literally with great lunchtime picnics!). They ensured a friendly, happy atmosphere which helped the group to gel quickly.
M.K.
Northumberland
I enjoyed the content of the holiday very much - and saw an amazing variety of birds and flowers in a large variety of habitats.
N.A.
Surrey
Not a moment was wasted - from the time we arrived at Faro until the day of our departure we were fully occupied and interested.
K.B.
Co. Kerry, Ireland
Once again, a wonderful and memorable holiday with Naturetrek – timing perfect, glorious sunshine every day, excellent leaders, great birding and botanising in Southern Portugal!
R.J.
Essex
I had a great holiday with a really good group of interesting people. The leaders were fantastic - their knowledge encyclopaedic and the organisation was very good.
P. & H.B.
East Yorkshire
We had a lovely holiday with the leaders who looked after us brilliantly. They were wonderful guides and passed their knowledge on to us all. My favourites were the flowers and butterflies; the fields were full of colour.
S.H.
Cheshire
We were lucky with sunny weather every day; and good accommodation in lovely locations. The leaders, experts in their field, of course, were brilliant. I don't know how they found such wonderful picnic spots - each one was like being in paradise! Thank you for another super holiday!
E.R.
Norfolk
This was another excellent Naturetrek holiday in a peaceful and beautiful country. The leaders worked tirelessly to keep everyone happy and every day fruitful. Superb views of many birds and amazing flowers.
S.R.
Norfolk
The trip was excellent and both guides were helpful and knowledgeable. The accommodation was more than adequate and comfortable. A really good bird/plant list with good views of both achieved.
M. & B.D.
Hampshire
Our trip has been a very friendly and enjoyable one and both leaders have been good in making our stay enjoyable.
R.S.
Warwickshire
I really enjoyed my holiday in southern Portugal. The best holiday I have ever had. The tour leaders were superb in their own field. It was lovely to be with leaders who were so enthusiastic about the environment. The accommodation was also very good, especially at Mertola.
E.B.
Guernsey
I would like to commend both leaders on this trip. They were very patient with any of my question on birds or botany. They were very helpful and caring for my welfare as an older client. Their expertise in their speciality was excellent. I thank them both very much.
J.C.
Vale of Glamorgan
The tour leaders were excellent. They were great adverts for Naturetrek and we would definitely travel with you again. They both went beyond the call of duty and deserve praise for the professional and caring way that they looked after us.
M.C.
Cambridgeshire
Thank you to all at Naturetrek for organising an excellent wildlife/birdwatching/flower-watching trip to Southern Portugal with John Carruthers and Phil Thompson. It was most enjoyable from the moment my daughter and I boarded the flight. The two hotels were both excellent and well chosen for their locations, the first set in a spectacular mountain setting and the second delightfully situated in a little town right near the castle. The food in the restaurants was very good indeed and once again the local people were very friendly and helpful. Special thanks from me to John and Phil who organised a lovely birthday cake celebration. It really was very kind of everyone and I was touched by such a thoughtful gesture. So, a wonderful holiday at a marvellous time of the year for the wild flowers and the beautiful birdlife. Many, many thanks to John and Phil for being such entertaining tour leaders and for showing us those sights which will remain with us for a long time to come.
D.K.
Suffolk
I cannot speak too highly about our leaders, John and Philip. Both had an outstanding knowledge and understanding of the wildlife in the area and shared this willingly. They both showed great patience in helping us understand what we saw. Nothing appeared too much trouble for them to do and they took great care of the party. I particularly appreciated the extra time they took to arrange our vegetarian diets. Their good humour and generous manner was a key feature in making this a very successful tour. Overall, we had a lovely trip in good company with excellent leaders. We take home many spectacular memories of wildlife that it has been a privilege to share. Many thanks for an excellent trip.
J.P.
Isle of Wight
John and Philip were both excellent, always making sure we were always well looked after and informed of where we were going etc. They are both very knowledgeable and informative and know their subjects extensively. I would very much like to go on another tour with them.
D.P.
Isle of Wight
I much enjoyed the opportunity to see this part of Portugal. The trip was organised extremely well and the leaders did their stuff very well.
J.G.
Bristol
Both our trip leaders were excellent and uniting in their efforts to give everyone the maximum chance of seeing wildlife.
D.B.
Dorset
Fantastic holiday and a big thanks to John and Phil who worked constantly from dawn to dusk. Phil’s knowledge on plants proved limitless…a fantastic holiday and a big thanks to everyone involved.
D.K.
Suffolk
I cannot speak too highly about our leaders, John and Philip. Both had an outstanding knowledge and understanding of the wildlife in the area and shared this willingly. They both showed great patience in helping us understand what we saw. Nothing appeared too much trouble for them to do and they took great care of the party. I particularly appreciated the extra time they took to arrange our vegetarian diets. Their good humour and generous manner was a key feature in making this a very successful tour. Overall, we had a lovely trip in good company with excellent leaders. We take home many spectacular memories of wildlife that it has been a privilege to share. Many thanks for an excellent trip.
M.S.
Devon
A highly enjoyable trip, great birds and flowers, good company and wonderful scenery. My thanks to both John Carruthers and Phil Thompson for their superb leadership and consistent good humour. Overall a very good holiday and I look forward to travelling with Naturetrek again!
J.S.
Devon
I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday and both John and Phil were excellent company and extremely knowledgeable guides.
D.S.
Devon
This was my fourth holiday with Naturetrek and more than lived up to expectations! The two leaders were excellent guides, pointing out birds and flowers, and ensuring everyone in the group was included. They were courteous, enthusiastic and eager to share their knowledge, and have fun too! Please convey my thanks to John and Phil for providing me with a memorable holiday.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 19th April 2017 - Wed 26th April 2017

FULL

£1495

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1345 More info

Room sharing options: Female sharing is available More info

Visiting: Portugal

Detailed tour map

Can I help You?

Andy Tucker
Operations Manager

Email Andy

01962 733051

Tour Focus

Wild flowers

Tour Reviews

I am sure you already know that these two leaders are really top notch: very knowledgeable but approachable and not patronising, efficient in all the practicalities like driving, site-finding, provision of picnic etc. These were the best arrangements for picnics I have ever come across in this type of holiday- good, simple, fresh food which they took pains to present in an attractive manner, with the result there was little or no waste.
I.J., Surrey