If you’re thinking of a Portugal road trip, you’re in for a wild adventure! The country’s smooth roads and beautiful coastal scenery make it a great place to explore on a multi-destination tour and you’ll encounter some of the top sights along the way. Our Portugal road trip itinerary is two weeks long, taking you from the sunny southern Algarve area, up the western coast and onwards to the capital, Lisbon. We’ve also included a second itinerary option that takes you on a cultural adventure tip in the north, from Lisbon to Porto. Plan your 2 weeks in Portugal holiday with us and get ready for your road trip. We’ve tried, tested and perfected the routes ourselves.
Why do a road trip in Portugal?
Not only is Portugal a melting pot of cultures and history from past invasions, medieval castles and migration of other cultures, the Atlantic Ocean has carved out a dramatic coastline along its south and west coasts. It’s great for beaches, nature parks and dramatic mountain ranges; all cool things to see from the comfort of your car. It’s also very affordable to visit compared to other countries in Western Europe and English is widely spoken.
When’s the best time of the year for your Portugal road trip?
As our itineraries include a lot of coastal regions and beaches, the best time to embark on your road trip is during months where temperatures are nice and warm or at least comfortable enough to relax by the beach. We recommend travelling between April and October.
Portugal Road Trip Itinerary #2: The Algarve, West Coast and Lisbon
Our first Portugal road trip itinerary idea starts in the popular resort town of Faro on the Algarve and takes you on a scenic drive along the holiday coastline of the Algarve, with plenty of beaches and relaxation. You then get to see the iconic edge of Portugal and an impressive coastline of cliffs, beaches, coves and national parks, before ending your trip in the vibrant capital of Lisbon.
We recommend flying into Faro Airport, hiring your car and then dropping it off in Lisbon at the end of your trip and flying back from there. Car hire companies usually charge an inexpensive one-way fee for doing this.
- Portugal’s best beaches and coastline
- Scenic driving route
- A good mix of relaxation with adventure, history and culture
- A mix of small and large towns
Note: You may wish to do this road trip itinerary in the reverse order, starting from Lisbon. It’s completely possible to do so, simply reverse all of our destination suggestions.
Faro – Ria Formosa National Park – 1 night
Faro Airport is the main airport for the Algarve and you can get cheap direct flights there from most of Europe, making it a great place to start your Portugal road trip itinerary. The town itself is fairly small and quaint and doesn’t have a great deal to do, however the main attraction here is Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. This beautiful island paradise can only be reached by boat, which you can catch from the harbour in the centre of town.
Spend your 2 days and an evening here exploring the national park beaches during the day, returning to town late afternoon for a stroll around the marina, shopping at the market or enjoying a traditional Portuguese dinner in a back-street restaurant. Faro has a much more local and traditional feel than the rest of the Algarve and is worth visiting solely for Ria Formosa lagoon.
Albufeira/Vilamoura – 2 nights
A stay on the Algarve wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its many holiday resorts, and there are quite a few options! The quaint old town of Albufeira is touristic, but it has plenty to see and do and the old town has a traditional feel to it. The golden-sand beaches are very nice, you have the shops of the old town square to wander around and the main square comes alive at night with bustling restaurants, bar crawls and live entertainment. It’s not the most cultural place in Portugal, however you’ll have a great time enjoying a mini-holiday break before moving on to somewhere quieter.
If Albufeira’s vibrant nightlife and tourist activities don’t excite you, the marina town of Vilamoura is an excellent alternative. Stay in a luxurious hotel, go for a long walk by the marina and indulge in a light seafood lunch, or head to the nearby beach. It’s also great for sports enthusiasts, with many golf courses and tennis courts nearby. Vilamoura has a smaller and more upmarket atmosphere compared to Albufeira.
Whatever Algarve resort you choose to spend your 3 days, they’re all within close proximity of each other and each has something unique to offer! Other options include Praia de Olho, Quarteira and Portimao.
Lagos – 2 nights
Lagos is one of our favourite places in Portugal for breath-taking scenery, amazing beaches and seaside adventures. In our opinion, it has the best beaches in the whole country! It has a chilled out atmosphere, where surfers come to catch challenging waves and travellers come for an adventure!
Stay in a low-cost boutique hotel, apartment or hostel in the old town as a base and spend your days here surfing, relaxing on the beach or joining a boat trip to explore the rugged coastline of coves, lagoons and caves. Lagos has some of the best coastal land formations and scenery you’ll see on your road trip and there are plenty of boat excursions on offer. Set back from the glorious beaches, Lagos town has cobbled streets, picturesque squares and some nice local bars and restaurants to check out on an evening.
Sagres – 1 night
Just along the road from Lagos sits the ‘end of Europe’ town of Sagres. It’s located on the southwestern most tip of Portugal and has fortresses lining the cliffside, giving you a glimpse into the country’s seafaring past. The main reason to stop in Sagres is the stunning cliffside views, however there’s also a marina and old town to check out and you can relax or surf on the secluded beaches.
Having a car in Sagres is what it’s all about, driving along the coastal road during the day, stopping off at the viewpoints and vast beach stretches. We recommend staying here only one day and night as it’s enough to see what’s on offer, before continuing your Portugal road trip itinerary up the west coast.
Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina – 2 nights
Next on your road trip is Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano and the Vicentina coast, a cliffside national park with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean from the cliffside of Portugal. This entire region is beautiful to look at and you’ll be glad you rented a car as you drive 1 hour scenic route from Sagres.
This entire stretch of coastline is the least developed in Portugal and protected as a nature park. There are very few tourists, lots of wildlife and vast landscapes to enjoy with a camera. Get lost in nature for a full day, chill-out on the beach or go for a long hike along the cliffside. Once you’re done adventuring, indulge in freshly caught seafood at a local restaurant whilst watching the sun go down. It’ll be a highlight of your road trip!
Whilst visiting the nature park, we recommend staying in the neighbouring town of Odeceixe. You’ll be right next to the park, with great views of the beaches below.
Vila Nova de Milfontes – 1 night
Vila Nova de Milfontes is a short drive north of Sudoeste Nature Park and is another great place to stay whilst continuing to explore the area. The sleepy seaside town has a local charm, very few tourists and some nice traditional restaurants. Stay here overnight on your drive north and be sure to check out the beaches and cliffside viewpoints the next day.
Portinho da Arrabida– 2 nights
Continue your drive north to Lisbon whilst catching a glimpse of some nice rivers and countryside on the journey. Before arriving in the Lisbon, we recommend stopping off at Portinho da Arrabida, another stunning nature park with beautiful beaches, turquoise lagoons and a leafy green hillside of apartments. This charming town is an idyllic place to wind down after your long drive and before venturing into the bustling sightseeing city of Lisbon.
The area is naturally pretty and is fairly untouched by the tourism industry, giving you a feeling of tranquillity in nature.
Lisbon – 3 nights
End your trip in the vibrant capital of Lisbon. This colourful city is unlike anywhere else you would have seen on your trip so far. The narrow streets are occupied with traditional trams, ornate mosaic tiles and grand buildings on every corner. You can tour most of the districts and key attractions on foot, taking in the views, learning about the city’s history and tasting the food wonders of Lisbon.
Top things to do here include museums and monuments, the taste-bud tantalising Timeout Food Market, museums, castles and a vibrant nightlife scene. Even though it’s a city, Lisbon has a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the sites and the café scene is perfect for re-energising with an afternoon coffee and Portuguese custard tart. 3 days here isn’t enough to see everything on offer, however it’s the ideal amount of time for an adventurous city break.
Check out our guide here for the top things to do in Lisbon.
Faro car hire advice
If you’re starting your road trip at Faro Airport as per our itinerary, check out our Algarve car hire guide here, which provides advice on the most affordable and reputable car hire compare to use.
Portugal Road Trip Itinerary #2: Colourful towns and culture – Lisbon to Porto
Our alternate Portugal Road Trip itinerary avoids the Algarve coastline altogether in favour of seeing Portugal’s big towns and cities. It provides rich culture, plenty of sightseeing opportunities and a less touristic feel, however the driving scenery might not be as impressive as ‘itinerary one’. Your trip starts in the beautiful city of Lisbon, onwards to the nearby towns and beaches and then north to Coimbra and Porto – two iconic Portuguese cities with bold personalities.
As with itinerary one, you can choose to fly into Porto and do the road trip in the reverse direction if Porto flights suit you better.
- Portugal’s best cities – Lisbon and Porto, in one trip
- Less touristic towns and attractions
- Stay in Portugal’s most breath-taking small historic towns
- Little driving, meaning plenty of time in each destination
Lisbon – 3 nights
As highlighted in our first Portugal Road Trip itinerary, there’s a lot to see and do in Lisbon and it’s one of our favourite cities in Europe. Marbled mosaic tiles line the city streets, white-washed buildings, alleyways and viewpoints are best explored on foot and the local tram system is a great way to get around.
Spend your 3 full days in Lisbon seeing all of the main sites (plus any cool events, festivals or galleries that catch your eye), sample the delicious and homely Portuguese food and go for a drink on an evening in a variety of bars, from local taverns to lively outdoor clubs. Lisbon has bundles of personality and it’ll be a favourite stop on your trip. It’s the perfect place to begin your adventure around Portugal! Check out our ‘What to do in Lisbon’ guide here for inspiration.
Sintra – 1 night
Sintra is quite possibly our favourite place in the whole country. Set back in the mountains outside of Lisbon on the way to the west coast, this enchanting village is filled with 19th Century Romanticist architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the form of fairy-tale style castles, vast mountain ranges and an adorable town centre.
Learn about Sintra’s exciting past with the many tourists that flock here and explore the castles and walking paths. Pena Palace is the must-see attraction and many people visit Sintra on a day-trip just for that, however we recommend staying overnight and spending a full two days sightseeing in this awesome Lisbon district. It has a luxury travel and foodie scene that many tourists miss out on by not staying overnight!
Óbidos – 1 night
Obidos is a charming medieval town that’s surrounded by tall castle walls. Delve deep into the heart of town and you’ll encounter cobbled streets, local cafes, shops, and remnants of its medieval history. Spend a full day seeing the sights and capturing pictures of this unique town before retiring to a traditional pousada (guesthouse). You’ll love the bright colours of Obidos – many of the buildings are painted blue and yellow.
Nazaré – 2 nights
Nazare is your prime chance to see the ocean and relax on the beach in this itinerary and it couldn’t be a better place to do it! Known for its giant waves (the world record for the highest wave ever surfed was set here), Nazare is a surfer’s paradise and coastal retreat for both tourists and locals. The coastline is an impressive site to behold, where you can take up beginner surfing lessons, hit the waves with the pro’s or just sit back and enjoy watching surfers fall over.
When you’re not chilling at the beach, you’ll pass time in the pretty local town, enjoying a coffee in a corner café, marvelling at the quaint churches and architecture or catching the funicular transport to the top of the hill for some spectacular views.
Caves Mira de Aire (visit)
Stop by the cave system known as Mire de Aire on your drive to the next destination. These sprawling underground caverns are some of the largest and most prominent in the whole country and are a cool site to see, off the beaten path. Don your Indiana Jones hat and go on a cave adventure! Be sure to book a tour in advance.
Coimbra – 2 nights
Coimbra was once the Medieval capital of the country for many years and has retained a rich history throughout the ages. Today, it’s a historic but lively university town, where summer nights see live music in the streets, busy bars and outdoor restaurants. It also has a local feel, with very few tourists.
Your days here will consist of sightseeing walking tours along the old streets, learning about the old buildings, catching the scenic view of the town from a park bench or having a picnic in the Botanical gardens. By day, Coimbra is quiet and sombre, whilst evenings feel a lot more alive, treating you a mix of atmosphere during your visit. You can easily see all of the top attractions and get a good feel for Coimbra in 2 days.
Aveiro – 2 nights
Your Portugal road trip itinerary wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Portugal’s very own ‘Venice’ just before you arrive in Porto. This small, wealthy and lively town sits on top of a coastal lagoon, forming many canals that you can tour by gondola. Get lost in the picturesque canal network, marvel at the colourful buildings and sample fresh seafood, which is brought into the port every morning.
Porto – 3 nights
Arrive in the beautiful seaside city of Porto on the mouth of the river Douro, with plenty of time to spare at the end of your trip. You’ll want to spend as much time as possible here! Porto is an aptly named ‘port’ town that is best known known for its captivating river views, with colourful buildings lining the docks and an huge bridge dominating the skyline. The city is rich in both history and culture and the food and drink on offer is not to be missed!
Start your visit to Porto with a cruise down the Duoro River before venturing inside and exploring the cobbled streets of the centre on foot. Stop by the city’s most important historic sites and churches, check out a museum or just enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of the bustling squares. A favourite activity of ours and a top thing to try is ‘Port tasting’ by the docks. Sample Porto’s finest variations of port wine with some tasty Portuguese tapas. In addition to the architecture, history and sights, Porto has an edgy side, filled with modern exhibits and attractions, and an active nightlife scene.
Top tips for a Portugal road trip
That brings us to the end of our Portugal road trip itinerary ideas. Each option is completely different, giving you great a taste of what Portugal has to offer. Car hire is cheap, the roads are a dream to drive on and you’ll be completely comfortable exploring on your own or with a friend/partner. There really isn’t much traffic at all outside of major city centres.
Follow our itineraries to the letter or take them as inspiration and create your own based on your interests and what you want to see. The main thing to consider when planning your route is flight availability from your nearby airport. It’ll influence where you can start and end your trip!
Here are some final top tips to help make your Portugal road trip one to remember!
- Compare car hire options using Skyscanner’s comparison tool to find the best prices. Remember to select ‘one-way’ if you plan on returning the car to a different location, as suggested in our itineraries.
- Book all of your accommodation in advance. The prices will be cheaper and the schedule is quite tight, so preparation is a must!
- If you’re looking to save money, consider staying in an AirBnB/private apartment.
- Use Google Maps for navigation. It’ll find you the quickest routes between our destinations and has plenty of ideas for restaurants and attractions.
- Stock up on snacks, drinks and emergency supplies before hitting the road.
- Pack smart. As you’ll be staying in each destination for a short time, organised suitcases (and packing cubes) will allow you to un-pack and re-pack easily.
- Research parking options in advance before arrival in your destination so you don’t waste time driving around looking for a spot.
- Make sure that the hotels and apartments that you book includes free parking.
- Sign up for an International Driving Licence code at least a few days before you arrive in Portugal. You’ll need one to rent a car.
For tips on driving on the Portuguese roads, check out this handy guide by Zig Zag on Earth.