The Ultimate Road Trip Through Portugal
Summer 2018 - Porto – Algarve – Lisbon
Experience the best of Portugal by car and visit these must-see destinations along the way. Read on to explore an ultimate itinerary beginning in Porto, down through Algarve, up around to Lisbon, and everything in between. Find the perfect balance between city and nature with classic stops at historic sites and breathtaking viewpoints.
Known for delicious seafood, tasty coffee, mild climate, rich history, and warm hospitality, Portugal is one of Europe’s leading destinations amongst travelers looking for roads less traveled. Seeing a country by car ensures that you experience all that is beautiful about it, both inside and outside of the main cities that travelers typically visit. Continue reading for an itinerary that is best spent over the course of at least 10 days. Begin your journey in Porto, Portugal, with its city center only 20 minutes away from our Porto pick-up location at Francisco Sá Carneiro OPO Airport.
Porto (20 minutes from OPO Airport)
Porto’s streets are colorful and historic, and our favorite views are along the Cais da Ribeira, the scenic boardwalk along the Douro River. Nearby is the São Bento Railway station, adorned with azulejos, blue tinted tiles detailed with paintings of important events in Portugal’s history. For more tiled architecture, visit Capela de Santa Catarina, also known as the Chapel of Souls.
Douro Valley Wine Region, Samodaes (1 hour 30 minutes from Porto)
The Douro Valley is a tranquil inland oasis just east of Porto. Take a wine tour to see the best the this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. Learn to make wine, sample the flavors of the region, take a cruise down the river, and take in the views of its rolling hills lined with vineyards.
Aveiro (1 hour 30 minutes from Douro Valley)
The coastal town of Aveiro is lined with canals, making much of it accessible by water. In typical Portuguese fashion the town is quite colorful, including the striped houses at Praia da Costa Nova.
Coimbra (50 minutes from Aveiro)
Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, making it a rich cultural center. Here you can climb the university’s tower for a view of the town, which is full of hidden viewpoints of seemingly stacked houses across its hilly geography.
Nazaré (1 hour 10 minutes from Coimbra)
This picturesque village is generally a peaceful resort town, but during winter is home to the biggest waves in the world, making it a destination for thrill-seeking surfers from all over the world. The record for the biggest wave ever surfed is held by Rodrigo Koxa, who rode an 80 foot (24 meter) wave in Nazaré in November of 2017. For the best views of the mega-waves, spectators can watch from Nazaré’s famous lighthouse.
Peniche (50 minutes from Nazare)
A drive down Portugal’s coast wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Fort of São João Baptista in Peniche. The 17th century fortress is built on a small island just off the tip of the peninsula, and is connected to land by a winding roadway complete with arches over the ocean below.
Sintra (1 hour 10 minutes from Peniche)
Sintra is home to Pena Palace, a castle atop a hill in the Sintra mountains, overlooking Lisbon on a clear day. Prior to being destroyed in an earthquake during the 1700’s, the property was once a monastery and was then reconstructed as a summer palace for the royal family in the 1800’s. With its bright yellow and red walls, the Palace is a unique national monument worth visiting.
Cascais (20 minutes from Sintra)
As the most popular beach getaway for residents of Lisbon, this town features Portugal’s typical patterned cobblestone sidewalks, a climate perfect for enjoying the beach, and family-run restaurants and hotels.
Algarve (3 hours from Cascais)
The Algarve region in southern coastal Portugal is home to picturesque cliffsides, crystal blue water, and hidden sandy beaches. Spend a few days driving along the coast from east to west and make your down discoveries along the way, but don’t miss out on the following must-visit destinations:
-Tavira Island (3 hours from Cascais)
-Praia da Marinha (1 hour from Tavira Island)
-Benagil Caves (10 minutes from Praia da Marinha)
-Praia do Carvoeiro (20 minutes from Benagil Caves)
-Ponta da Piedade (40 minutes from Carvoeiro)
Southwest Alentejo & Vicente Coast Nature Park (1 hour from Ponta da Piedade)
Continue north and see Alentejo, a natural park that has preserved Portugal’s rugged and wild coastline. Driving through the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina is a unique opportunity to experience Portugal before the developments of cities, supermarkets, and large attractions.
Setubal (2 hours 20 minutes inland route, or 3 hours minutes with ferry)
Setubal is a port city that is surrounded by natural perserves on each side. It is a great place for boating, hiking, or spending time at a beach like Portinho da Arrabida.
Lisbon (50 minutes from Portinho da Arrabida)
End your journey with a few days in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal which has a rich cultural atmosphere, historic landmarks, delicious food and wine bars, and a network of colorful trams that transport commuters and travelers alike.
Among the must-see landmarks and experiences in Lisbon, be sure not to miss Torre de Belém, Tram 28, and the Feira da Ladra for unique shopping.
Lisbon Airport (20 minutes from city center)
When you are ready to depart Portugal, simply drive to our drop-off location at Lisbon’s Portela LIS Airport. With Auto France, there are never any additional fees for picking-up and dropping-off at different locations, but rather we recommend it to get the most out of your trip and spend your time efficiently.
To learn more about your options and to choose a 2018 model for your road trip, click here .
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