The best way to truly experience the beauty and culture of Portugal is by car. Driving in Portugal will give you a closer look and appreciation for life in this beautiful western European country with plenty of history, wine tasting, and excellent food.
Porto - Vila Nova de Foz Côa - Lamego
For wine lovers or scenery enthusiasts, driving in Portugal from Porto on the northern coast is a great starting point. The itinerary is a 367-mile (587 km) loop ending back in Porto.
Head east to Penafial and Amarante to view the eighteenth-century bridge that spans the Tamega River. Travel to Peso de Regua to visit the Museo do Duro for local history. Visit the famous Casa de Mateus, home of the famed rosé of the same name, where concerts and tours are held each summer.
Proceed through the beautiful Douro Valley to the heart of port production in Pinhao. The tiled train station depicting winemaking and the local museum are the main attractions of this picturesque town. Your last stop before heading back is Vila Nove de Foz Côa, where the Côa Valley Archeological Park presents 22,000-year-old Paleolithic rock artworks.
Reverse your direction, drive toward Lamego to climb the 600 steps to the Church of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios. A bit of the local sparkling wine is must here. The final 81 miles (135 km) back to Porto should take less than two hours.
Atlantic Coastal Route
Allow several days for an enjoyable immersion into the Portuguese Atlantic experience driving the scenic west coast from top to bottom. Experiencing much of the breathtaking beauty and diversity that Portugal offers. The one-way distance is 550 miles (880 km), so considerable time and planning are warranted. Beach lovers, surfers and seafood cravers will particularly enjoy this route. Just about any dirt road running west from the N109 will lead to beach and gorgeous panoramic views of the Atlantic.
Halfway from Porto to Lisbon, you should stop at Figuiera de Foz, a beachfront community loaded with handicrafts, bars and some inexpensive lodging. Further south in Peniche, you’ll enjoy world-class surfing. Two other world class beaches along the way are Ericiera and Cascais. Camping is available at these sites.
Arrive in Lisbon and spend enough time to learn about this top-notch city. Tours are available and a wide range of options for dining, drinking, shopping, and museums are offered.
After Lisbon, head to the quieter, but still beautiful southwest coast. More beaches can be found along the way to Sagres. The Algarve region is becoming more popular with tourists and is a must for travelers wishing to experience the culture of south Portugal. Complete the journey at Faro in the very southern sector of Portugal.
A side trip is the 150-mile route that begins at Portugal’s northern border with Spain and proceeds south. The border city, Valença do Minho, is famous for its markets specializing in household linens. Valença is rich in history, mainly because for its viewpoint over the River Minho and the Spanish border. Head west to Braga and visit the nearby Bom Jesus do Monte Shrine (Good Jesus of the Mountain) and its zigzag stairway.
From Braga drive another 60 miles to Guimaraes in Monho Province, a city steeped in history. After Guimaraes, drive back to the coast to Villa do Conde to see the oceanfront fortress and picturesque village. The drive back to Porto is delightful and picturesque. Take your time and enjoy.
Between Emerita Augusta in Spain and the Atlantic Coast at Lisbon flows the Tagus River (Rio Tajo), the longest river in southwest Europe. The Romans once built a road here connecting western Spain to the Atalantic. That road has become the N246 and N118 and a leisurely auto journey along the entire Portuguese section will present castles, the Pegoes aqueduct, a World Heritage site and the some breathtaking scenery. Also, the Paul Do Boquilobo Nature Preserve is a fantastic stopping point.
Lisbon - Castelo Branco – Gois
Escape for a day or two from the hectic, well-traveled paths and drive 2.5 hours northeast from Lisbon to Castelo Branco (140 miles), and then on to Gois, another 65 miles. You’ll see few crowds and lots of scenery. Wind through Portugal’s central mountains dotted with villages and lakes This short round trip is a terrific break from the beach and other sightseeing delights of Portugal.
When planning your trip, make sure you allow time to stop and taste the grapes and enjoy the culture. Driving in Portugal is safe, easy, and well-marked, allowing you to stop when and where you like. As the most flexible way to travel, auto rental for driving in Portugal is an easy and economical choice. Check out two of our long term car rental locations in Portugal (Lisbon and Porto), or you can even go to our Vigo location near the Spanish/Portuguese border.
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