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As much as I love city breaks, I will never say no to a road trip. One of my favorites was in Portugal, a perfect destination to explore by car. It was spontaneous, fun, and packed with great memories, and since then, I’m in an endless search of the best road trips in Portugal that I can add to my bucket list.
With the help of a few fellow bloggers, I finally have an epic roundup of road trip ideas, which I’m super excited to share with you.
Do you love European road trips? You should also read:
- 12 of the best road trips in Spain
- The ultimate Andalusia road trip itinerary
- Places to add to your northern Spain road trip itinerary
- The best northern Italy road trip itinerary
9 OF THE BEST ROAD TRIPS IN PORTUGAL
LISBON TO PORTO
Route: Lisbon to Porto.
Starting off with a classic, a road trip from Lisbon to Porto is a must-have experience in Portugal. From palaces and monasteries to ocean views and enchanting villages, this is a fantastic route that combines a little bit of everything. Excluding 2 days in Lisbon and 2 days in Porto, you can complete it in 5-7 days.
Begin your journey in Cabo da Roca, Europe’s westernmost point (and one of the most Instagrammable spots in Portugal), which provides some jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic coast. Continue to Sintra, where you’ll find the iconic Pena Palace and other visit-worthy landmarks like the old town, the Palace of Quinta da Regaleira, and the Sintra National Palace.
From there, you must spend at least half a day strolling through the alleys of the picture-perfect village of Obidos, lose yourself in the beauty of the Bussaco Forest, unwind in the coastal town of Espinho, and enjoy some Port wine-tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia.
This route covers some of the country’s greatest highlights and is suitable for every type of traveler, which is exactly what makes it one of the best drives in Portugal.
Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
Route: Faro to Lagos.
The south coast of Portugal is incredibly beautiful and offers so much to see and do. Going on an Algarve road trip is a great way to explore as much as possible.
For a one-week road trip, I suggest you start in Faro and end it in Lagos. You can easily drive back to Faro in 1 hour and 45 minutes to return your rental car and get on your flight back.
But on this seemingly short stretch, there is so much fun, and you should at least spend a couple of days in Albufeira, Carvoeiro, and Lagos. Not all places are easily accessed by public transport, so a car is a must if you want to experience the best of the coastline.
Get ready to see some of the most spectacular beaches along the way, take the astounding Seven Hanging Valleys coastal hike (aka one of the best hikes in Portugal), or paddleboard to the most mesmerizing cave in Portugal, Benagil Cave. Walk the boardwalk from Carvoeiro to the Algar Seco’s natural pool and caves.
Want to learn how to surf or scuba dive? Lagos is the place. This quaint town is just a short driving distance from the spectacular Sagres cliffs and the Ponta da Piedade cliffs, which I personally think are the most beautiful cliffs in the Algarve.
SÃO MIGUEL ISLAND, THE AZORES
Contributed by Megan from Megan Starr
Route: Circular from Ponta Delgada.
One of the most scenic drives in Portugal is on the main island in the Azores, Sao Miguel. The best way to conduct this road trip is to start in the capital city called Ponta Delgada and circumnavigate the island. I recommend taking a minimum of four days to complete the road trip as you will have many amazing stops on your Sao Miguel itinerary.
From Ponta Delgada, you’ll want to head to the west of Sao Miguel toward Sete Cidades. This area is known for its gorgeous views, volcanic crater lakes, and more. If you’re keen to stay on this side of the island, there are plenty of accommodations around Sete Cidades.
From there, you can start making your way to the north on the second day. The north coast is rugged and actually has the best weather, so enjoy the thermal pools, views over the high cliffs, and a kind of hidden waterfall called Salto do Cabrito. The best place to stay on the north shore of Sao Miguel is at Sao Vicente Lodge or Santa Barbara Eco-Resort. Both are fantastic places with epic views.
From there, head to the east of Sao Miguel, a geothermal wonderland. Furnas is the highlight of the east, where you’ll find many natural parks, botanical gardens, and the chance to enjoy cozido das furnas, a local stew made underground with geothermal heat.
On your last day, head toward Ponta Delgada and stop at a few places along the way. If you’re feeling adventurous, try snorkeling or taking a tour to Vila Franco do Campo, a small islet in the sea. End your road trip with some delicious food in the capital, Ponta Delgada, where you can enjoy the city life at an Azorean pace.
Contributed by Faye from Delve Into Europe
Route: Ėvora to Mertola, then onto the Algarve.
We had planned an Alentejo road trip for years because we thought it would be a great deal to see this rural province in south-east Portugal. It’s packed with whitewashed towns and medieval castles, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and some of the best Portugal scenery. The only downside was that we didn’t have more time – we could easily have spent two weeks or more exploring the region.
It’s full of amazing places to stay, and we settled on three – the capital, Évora, and the fortified villages of Marvão and Monsaraz, both overlooking the Spanish border. We also stopped at various places along the way, including the famous Saturday market of Estremoz, the stunning historic border city of Elvas, and the picturesque unexplored town of Castelo de Vide.
Évora makes a great starting point, and it warrants a couple of days or more. The tight cobbled streets of the Old Town are incredible and lead to a superb 2nd century AD Roman temple and a fine concoction of a cathedral overlooking the whole scene.
Marvão is a magnificent mountaintop fortified village with one of the most spectacular castles in Europe, located high in the Serra de São Mamede range.
Monsaraz has a less dramatic setting but wins out on sheer beauty. We visited early in the season and had the whole village to ourselves at night, including the two main streets lined with stunning whitewashed buildings. The view over the Basrragem do Alqueva lakes on the Spanish border at sunrise was unforgettable too.
Contributed by Darek from Darek and Gosia
Route: Circular from Funchal.
If you love driving and looking for something unique, you have to go for a road trip around Madeira Island. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, this Portuguese island is known as the island of eternal spring – meaning it’s perfect to visit at any time of the year!
You will start your trip in the capital of the island – Funchal. You should stay in Funchal for the night too and explore the main attractions of the city. Those will include the old town, the CR7 museum, and Monte Palace tropical garden.
Start your second day on a high note – the Cabo Girao skywalk, which is one of the tallest viewing platforms in the world. Ponta do Pargo lighthouse and Porto Moniz and its natural pools will be the highlights of 3rd day on the road.
On the next day, explore the northern part of the island with its amazing viewpoints and São Vicente caves. You will be excited to see Casas Típicas de Santana on your 5th day, followed by an amazing hike – Ponta de São Lourenço.
For the best experience, it is recommended to dedicate at least 5-6 days to complete the road trip around Madeira, but nothing will stop you from spending a bit more time on the island – there are many incredible places to explore!
Planning an off-season trip? Here’s a great Portugal winter itinerary!
Contributed by Cath from Passports and Adventures
Route: Circular from Faro/Lisbon/Porto.
Beginning and ending in Faro, one of the best road trips in Portugal is one in which you explore the Central Region of the country. This road trip can also start and end in Lisbon or Porto, covering the three airports in the country.
From Faro, this trip will take 7 days, covering towns and cities from Lousã to Nazaré, Obidos to Sintra, and finally Lisbon before returning to Faro. The journey from Faro towards Lousã will take approximately 4-5 hours along the main A2 motorway.
Once in Lousã, you can explore the surrounding area, with a visit to the Praia Fluvial da Bogueira recommended. This river beach is great on a hot summer day. You should also visit the small ruined castle. After two nights, visit the historic city of Coimbra, which is only 30 minutes by car on your way to Nazaré.
Nazaré is famous for its surfing thanks to the huge waves that roll in from the Atlantic Ocean. However, it is also a great base for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites nearby. Three sites are easily accessible, being the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha, and the convent in Tomar. You could visit them over one or two days.
After two nights, head south towards Sintra, stopping at the historic walled town of Obidos and the Buddha Eden Garden in Bacalhôa, before reaching Sintra. Stay overnight and spend a day exploring the Pena Palace and Moorish castle before heading to your destination of Lisbon, where there is a wealth of things to explore during the two to three nights we recommend for your stay before returning to Faro.
This 7-day road trip exploring Central Portugal is ideal for couples, families, and solo travelers.
THE MONASTERIES OF CENTRAL PORTUGAL
Contributed by Cate from Sacred Wanderings
Route: Coimbra to the monasteries.
For an amazing road trip through three UNESCO World Heritage Listed Monasteries in Central Portugal, begin in Coimbra. To see all three monasteries, and have some leisure time to explore the countryside of Central Portugal, allot 3 days and 2 nights to this itinerary. Coimbra is easily accessed via train from Porto or Lisbon and is a wonderful city to explore in itself.
From Coimbra, head to Batalha. Batalha Monastery is a stunning place, with abandoned cloisters and once-in-a-lifetime architecture. From Batalha, you can easily reach Alcobaça for the night and stay in one of many incredible hotels.
Walking around by the monastery at night is a magical experience. There are also plenty of wonderful, intimate seafood restaurants to try. Grab dinner in Alcobaça and then explore its UNESCO World Heritage monastery, very different from Batalha. Enjoy a leisurely drive through the countryside to get from Alcobaça to the city of Tomar.
Explore the city before heading to Tomar’s famous Convento de Cristo. A monastery and castle in one, the Convento is a wonderful place to explore with children or as adults. Stay in adorable Tomar for the night for a leisurely pace, or turn in the rental car and take the train to Lisbon.
Contributed by Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Route: Lisbon to Costa Vicentina.
One of the best road trips to undertake in Portugal is from Lisbon to Costa Vicentina in the south of the country. You can complete this road trip in a couple of days, stopping at various places in between.
When you happen to reach your destination, then one of the best things to do in Costa Vicentina is hiking the Rota Vicentina and admiring the beach and water views you get in the network of hiking trails spanning hundreds of kilometers.
One of the best hiking trails in the area is Almograve – Zambujeira do Mar, which provides 22.5 km (a little under 14 miles) of scenic landscapes. Another great hike is the Fisherman’s Trail. When exploring the place, you should also visit tourist places like Zambujeira do Mar, Odemira, and Odeceixe.
On this road trip, you get to see a range of sceneries, from rolling hills and splendid wooded river valleys to olive groves and cultivated fields that back the exciting Atlantic coast.
When it comes to accommodation, you can book private rooms called ‘quartos,’ where the price ranges between 30-40 Euros.
PORTO TO THE DOURO VALLEY
Contributed by Stephanie from History Fangirl
Route: Porto to the Douro Valley.
One of the best Portugal road trip ideas is the drive from Porto to the Douro Valley, one of the top wine regions in Portugal. Starting in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Porto, you can pick up your rental car at the airport, but don’t skip visiting the city itself. Sprawled over both sides of the Douro River, the city has one of the most beautiful (and colorful) skylines in the world. Set aside at least two days in Porto before moving on.
If you love seeing UNESCO sites, you will enjoy spending a day or two in the town of Guimaraes. From here, you can move on to the Douro, where you should give yourself at least two days to enjoy Port tasting at the Quintas (wineries) located alongside the river. The Duoro Valley is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and tasting wine has never been such an educational experience!
While the Duoro Valley is a joy to drive around, if you want to enjoy wine tasting once you get here, prepare to spend a bit extra on taxis or even hire a private driver to take you safely around the area. If you have extra time, you can drive south and add a day in Fatima, Tomar, or even Coimbra before heading back to Porto to drop off your car.
WHICH ONE OF THESE PORTUGAL ROAD TRIPS IS YOUR FAVORITE?
Tell me in the comments and pin this post for later!