When you rent a car, you not only bypass crowded travel hubs, it also makes moving around the countryside a lot easier and allows you to discover hidden gems. Portugal is a great country for a good old fashioned road trip. Start your journey in a city of choice or pick up your vehicle at the airport and drive off into the sunset.
Portugal road trip from Lisbon to Porto
If you would drive from Lisbon to Porto in one straight trip, it wouldn’t take you more than four hours total. But why skip over all the beautiful beaches, towns, and breathtaking views? Here are a few highlights you can stop at, during your trip.
Take a day or two to discover the city of Lisbon. From the iconic Vasco Da Gama bridge to the beautiful mozaique tiles that grace the city, there’s a photo opportunity around each corner. As this beautiful city is built on seven hills, getting around can take a toll on your legs, so to be able to drive through the city and is a luxury you will thank yourself for later.
The famous Amalfa district is a must-see. Here you can get your dose of culture, architecture, and, of course, food. When you are ready to leave the city, hop in your rental car, and start exploring. There are quite a few must-sees along the way.
Cabo da Roca
A must-see on your road trip is Cabo Da Roca, the most western part of Europe, and formerly known as the end of the world. It’s not the easiest place to reach, but that’s where the advantage of taking a rental car comes in. Visit this gorgeous cape overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on a sunny afternoon, you won’t regret it.
Cascais is originally an adorable Portuguese fisherman’s village, with plenty of modern and luxury aspects, making it a cool town to explore on your journey. Ever since royal families from all over Europe made it their weekend getaway back in the 1800’s, Cascais has been where the aristocracy comes out to play. With beautiful beaches (some for surfing, some for swimming), it’s no wonder that the city was once the backdrop for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
A perfect place to end your Cascais stopover is Boca Do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth). It’s a unique rock formation, about 2 kilometers from the center of Cascais. Grab a bite to go at one of the restaurants on the shore and enjoy the view and the breathtaking sounds of the water splashing against the cliffs.
On the foot of the green hills, only 30 km’s out of Lisbon you will find the photogenic town of Sintra. The old town is Unesco World Heritage, with beautiful gardens, palaces, and castles that will leave you speechless. The Valley of the Lakes is a green oasis in between the ancient buildings, and a perfect place for an end-of-day hike. When traveling through Portugal with young children, the Vagos Toy Museum is one stop that will earn you points with your offspring.
Right in between the cities Porto and Lisbon you will find the town of Coimbra, which was Portugal’s capital in the middle ages. It’s a fun town with a lot of great food, from high-end to Portuguese traditional, but a must-see is the ancient Coimbra Library, that houses a group of bats who protect the ancient books against insects.
Portugal road trip from Faro to Evora
Faro is another important hub smack-bang in the middle of the Algarve with plenty of Rentcars.com’s partners for you to choose from. From here you can easily drive up to Albufeira or Portimao for the quintessential touristy experience, but you can also enjoy the beaches for a few days, and then drive up north. The trip from Faro to Evora and back is not that long, so it’s perfect if you only have a few days to celebrate the holiday. You can opt to take a different route on your way back to the Faro, so you will have plenty of opportunities to see the countryside of Portugal. On your way to and from Evora, there are a few landmarks you don’t want to miss.
The rural area of Beja is the perfect place to enjoy the agriturismo in Portugal. From a simple camp-site with all basic amenities you may need, to a little more comfort in the form of a nice B&B, or even a private home with a swimming pool, so you won’t have to worry about being in a crowded space with other tourists. The town itself is a ‘best of’ parade of Portuguese culture, and any photographers dream. The Castle of Beja is the most important landmark, and its high tower is the highest in all of Portugal. Climb the 197 steps if you’re able to, and enjoy a panoramic view of the town. After that, get yourself a glass of vinho verde, and just relax.
Also known as the cultural heart of Alentejo, Évora is the perfect road trip destination. UNESCO calls it the best-preserved example of a city from the Portuguese Golden Age. The most remarkable highlight may be Capela Dos Ossos, also known as the Bone Chapel, decorated with thousands of bones collected from overcrowded gravesites. The food in Évora is a landmark in itself. Enjoy local delicacies like pumpkin marmalade, squid, and oxtail. Évora is also a great home base to explore the rugged beaches and cliffs in the area. Biggest bonus: you won’t find any mass tourism here, just steer clear of this area in the first three weeks of August, when both Portuguese and Spaniards flood the area for their summer holiday.
Portugal road trip from Porto to Douro and Trás-os-Montes
From the International Airport in Porto, you can easily venture out to enjoy your holiday at one of the many ecotourism-farms and vineyard hotels in the area. The perfect resting places during your Portugal road trip. They can be found everywhere along the route towards Douro and Trás-os-Montes.
Only a few hours from Porto is the beautiful Douro wine region, where you can wander around the different vineyards, and complimentary wine or port tasting is always on the menu. Between September and October, you can even participate in the harvesting of the grapes. If that’s too much activity for your liking, opt for a boat tour on the Douro River and let the beautiful area pass you by without much effort from your side.
From the Douro you can drive to Tras-Os-Montes, one of the most secluded areas in Portugal, with its main city Bragança. If you are looking for a Portugal road trip through rugged mountain landscapes, you will get your fix in Parque Nacional de Montesinho, the national park also known as terra fria (cold land). It’s popular amongst nature-lovers, cyclists and hikers.
When you’re in this area, don’t skip over Vila Real, a city on top of a cliff carved out by two rivers. Highlights in this laidback university town are Casa de Mateus, a mansion you may recognize from the bottles of the Mateus-rose. Nearby is the city of Chaves, known for its hot springs if you need some relaxing.
If you visit Vila Real in June, you are in luck and come across one of the three big annual festivals. If you are a fish-lover you want to plan to be here on the 23rd of June for Sao Joao, celebrated with a sardinhada, where sardines are grilled on every street.