Spain & Portugal | Roman Lusitania
Mérida, the capital of Roman Lusitania was founded in 25BC by the victorious army of Emperor Augustus. During its imperial glory days, a large number of grand Roman monuments were erected; many, including the Forum, triumphal arch and amphitheatre, dominate the town to this day.
The superb evidence of the impact of Rome here is the main focus of our programme, but it is enhanced by some spectacular prehistoric and Medieval sites along the way. Our journey takes us from the coast at Lisbon through beautiful countryside; we see prehistoric tombs, Roman towns, and the sites of the 19th century Peninsular War.
- Discover glorious Roman monuments and amazing feats of engineering in Spain and Portugal
- Enjoy a unique programme, taking in prehistoric and medieval sites from the coast at Lisbon into Spanish Extremadura
- Historic Churches
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Lisbon and drive to our Pousada hotel in Palmela.
We travel by ferry to the site of Tróia, the largest fish-sauce production center known from the Roman world. There are some 52 factories here in which the layers of salt and fish rotted to produce the ubiquitous sauces of the ancient world. We spend the afternoon exploring Évora, a former Roman town, and now a World Heritage Site. It still has Roman remains, notably, and in the late Medieval period was a favorite haunt of Portuguese monarchs.
We have a specially arranged visit of the palatial remains at the major Roman Villa of Pisões, which is usually closed to the public.
We also see São Cucufate, a Roman villa that was rebuilt on a grand scale with gardens and a small temple. We glimpse the pre-Roman past at the major prehistoric site of Os Almendres, the largest group of megaliths in Portugal. In addition, we visit Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, the largest prehistoric burial chamber in the Iberian peninsula.
Today, we travel to the border town of Badajoz, a town with a Moorish past, famously besieged by the British in 1812 during the Peninsular War. We visit the Alcazaba Museum, with its major collection of warrior stelae. We then continue to Mérida, named after the veterans who were settled here by Augustus.
We spend a full day exploring Roman Mérida, a simple Spanish provincial town still dominated by the remains of its Roman past. It was important throughout the Roman period and beyond. The Roman remains are outstanding, including the bridge over the River Guadiana, a large amphitheater, a splendid theater, a fine circus and the ‘Temple of Diana’. At the Archaeological Museum we view fine displays of objects, including mosaics.
We briefly leave the Romans behind to visit the castle at Medellín, the birthplace of conquistador and conqueror of the Aztecs, Hernán Cortés. This afternoon we return to Mérida for further exploration: including the Visigothic basilica of Sta Eulalia. Our Roman exploration continues when we visit the well-preserved Roman circus nearby. Up to 30,000 spectators once gathered here to watch the chariots race. We also marvel at the Roman dam of La Proserpina, which stored water for Roman Mérida to be transported by aqueduct.
We visit the old town of Cáceres today, a perfectly preserved example of a Medieval town. Here we will visit the Archaeological Museum and tour the town itself.
This morning, we visit the huge arches of the aqueduct known as Los Milagros, standing over 30m high, which brought water from the dam to the city. We drive to Lisbon via the fortress town of Elvas. We transfer to the airport for flights to the US or onward travel.
We fly to Lisbon and drive to our hotel.
Our day begins at the Cripta Arqueologica do Castelo de Alcacer do Sal and after a visit here, we drive on to Troia. The site here was formerly the largest fish-salting production centre in the Roman World, boasting some 52 factories. Afterwards, we take a ferry to Setubal and after lunch, we head to Evora. En route, we'll make a stop at the Stone Age Escoural Cave site, which is rich in prehistoric paintings. Later, we will be treated to an early evening tour of Evora.
The first visit today will be to the atmospheric Chapel of Bones in Evora. This macabre monument is a sight to behold and is a sobering reminder of the transience of human life. Next, we visit the largest prehistoric burial chamber in the Iberian peninsula, Anta Grande do Zambujeiro. A late-morning visit to the megalithic complex of Os Almendres will follow and this enigmatic site, which dates from 5000 to 4000 BC, consists of 96 standing stoness. After a well-deserved break for lunch, we move on and visit the museum at Vila de Frades. Before we head back to our hotel for the night, we take a tour of the Sao Cucufate Roman Villa remains.
Travelling via Alandroal and Juromenha, we arrive in the town of Badajoz, situated near to the Portuguese border, and visit the Provincial Archaeological Museum here. In the afternoon, we drive to Merida, where we marvel at the ruins of the Aqueduct de Los Milagros. There will be an optional walk to the Roman bridge before returning to our hotel.
We start our day on foot by walking to the 9th century Muslim forification, the Alcazaba. Next, we drive to Casa del Mitreo to view its intricate mosaics and well-preserved frescoes, and then it's on to visit the Roman amphitheatre, Roman theatre and houses. There will be a break for lunch where we will enjoy a meal at a local restaurant, before we make our way to the National Museum of Roman Art, which is home to sculptures, artefacts and mosaics that were excavated from the nearby theatre and amphitheatre.
This morning we start at the Cornalvo Dam, where we explore its Roman foundations, dating to the 1st or 2nd century AD. Afterwards, we drive to Medellin and explore both the church and Roman theatre, before visiting Medellin Castle. From here, we discover Prosperina Dam and head to the Roman Circus back in Merida. After a visit here, we spend time at the Basilica of St. Eulalia.
Our tour takes us to Ceceres Museum to pore over its artefacts and then we'll enjoy a guided walk around the town. Shortly after lunch, we have secured a very special private tour of the Basilica of Santa Lucia del Trampal.
Before departing from this marvellous tour, we will visit the Temple de Diana and the Amoreira Aqueduct in Elvas.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
1 night in a polished, modern hotel based in a converted castle in Palmela
2 nights in an upscale hotel, surrounded by gardens, in Évora’s historic centre
4 nights in a former 18th century convent in lively Merida
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