If you’re searching for the perfect road trips in Portugal, then look no further than this Portugal road trips guide where we outline 5 of the best for you to choose from!
Many first time visitors to Portugal are often shocked by the country’s incredible diversity. Even though Portugal is fairly small in comparison to many other European countries, it still packs a mighty punch! From mountainous terrains to the flat countryside, to incredible coastlines that include the dramatic golden cliffs of the Algarve, there is so much to see and explore in this stunning part of the world.
That’s why planning a road trip in Portugal is an absolute must! In this guide, we outline 5 of our favourite road trips in Portugal that you should consider exploring on your next visit!
- Best Portugal Road Trips
- Tips to Remember When Driving in Portugal
- Best Time to Road Trip Through Portugal
- Discovering the Perfect Road Trip Portugal Itinerary
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Portugal Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Don’t forget to read our Portugal packing list post to ensure you’ve got all your travel essentials packed and ready for your holiday to Portugal!
Best Portugal Road Trips
If you are ready to check out some of the absolute gems that Portugal is known for, keep reading. Whether you are on the hunt for a longer trip or prefer something shorter so you can make the most of your time at the destination, you’ll find it below.
While the list below is a general guide of different road trips you can take in Portugal, it’s always best to have a GPS with you on the journey.
Atlantic Portugal West Coast Road Trip
Calling all surfers and beach lovers – this route is for you. You’ll start in Praia do Guincho, the stunning sandy beach found on the coast of Lisbon near Sintra. From here you’ll have 362 km of beach towns and surf camps to cover before arriving in the exquisite city of Porto, your final destination.
As you drive North, you’ll have loads of small towns and beaches to explore along this stretch that covers part of Portugal’s Silver Coast. Peniche is the surfer hotspot and great for long days on the beach, and just 45 minutes from here are the big waves of Nazaré.
Continue on your journey and you’ll pass the seaside towns of Figueira da Foz and Aveiro (also a great day trip opinion from Porto), as well as loads of other quaint spots along the way. Take your time along the journey – spending as much time as you want in your favourite spots before arriving in Porto.
Douro Valley Winelands
This road trip is a must-do on your Portugal trip itinerary and one of the most picturesque routes that you’ll experience. The breathtaking Douro wine region is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its world-renowned Portuguese Port Wine, which started production in the 18th Century. Also making it one of the world’s oldest demarcated wine regions.
Start your journey in Porto and the approximate 130 kilometres it takes you to reach Pinhao in the Douro Valley will be characterized by the sweeping vineyards and mesmerizing natural beauty that Portugal has to offer. Take a slow trip and take it all in, stop at one of the terraced vineyards that catch your eye and sample some Port Wine at one of the top wine regions in Portugal, or buy a bottle or two, a stunning souvenir or gift idea from Portugal.
Once you have arrived in the Douro Valley there are loads of places to explore. From family-run restaurants serving up delicious food to the postcard-worthy villages and 18th Century wine cellars, as well as sweeping views of the rolling green hills, you won’t run out of things to do.
Southern Portugal Coastline: Algarve Road Trip & Alentejo Beaches
The South Coast of Portugal is populated with beaches just as stunning as the Atlantic Coast. You can drive from Porto to Algarve or Lisbon to Algarve, but wherever you come from, be sure to start this coastal road trip at Vila Nova de Milfontes.
From here you’ll journey along the coastline ending in Cacela Velha, a small cobbled town just 45 minutes from the capital of the Algarve region, Faro. The 230 km journey will take you through crystal-clear beaches and seaside towns, what more could you ask for on a coastal road trip?
The highlights along the way and must-see spots are endless. You have to stop at the sandy paradise in Aljezur – Praia da Amoreira beach for a dip in the ocean. The Fortaleza de Sagres fortress found in Sagres is worth a visit – you’ll learn all about the Moorish history as well as be treated to exquisite views of the sheer cliffs along the coastline.
Part of this Costa Vicentina region is known for its Rota Vicenina hiking and biking trails offering a myriad of awesome biking and walking trails, some of the best in Portugal, through beautiful countryside, lush green forests, and along dramatic cliff edges. Definitely worth visiting for all outdoor enthusiasts!
You’ll also love the vibrant town of Lagos where you should stop for a bite to eat and relax on one of the many pristine beaches in Lagos. Also, check out the best Airbnbs in Algarve or this Portugal glamping guide for great accommodation options on your trip to Portugal.
The Dão – Road trips in Portugal
Calling those keen to take the path less travelled, this route will take you through somewhat untouched areas of Portugal’s countryside. Passing through family-run vineyards, small villages and the enchanting peaks of the Serra da Estrela, the country’s highest mountain range, offering hikes with breathtaking scenery and views at the top.
This journey through nature will start in the town of Santa Comba Dão in Viseu District and ends 150 km later in the mountainous region of Seia. The route is dotted with quaint towns that will treat you to wines just as delicious as the ones found in the Douro Valley.
When you pass through Santar be sure to visit the Paço dos Cunhas de Santar, a grand 17th Century manor house and wine estate. Take a tour of the vineyards before indulging in a fine dining experience in their world-class restaurant.
Sintra – Portugal Road Trip
Sintra is a magical town on the slopes of Portugal. You’ll be instantly mesmerized as you wind up the forest land towards the enchanting Portuguese castles, palaces and manor estates that characterize the area. You really don’t want to miss this fairytale experience.
For a day trip, the best place to drive to Sintra is from Lisbon as it is only a 30-minute drive. If you are coming from Porto or the Algarve area it’ll take about 3 hours.
There is parking available however it’s best to get there as early as possible as this is a popular spot and the limited parking spots fills up quickly. You are also going to want to spend as much time as possible here so arriving early and getting a full day in makes for the perfect enchanted day out.
For those deciding to spend a night, why not book into a charming Portuguese palace hotel and make the most of your stay in royal Sintra!
Tips to Remember When Driving in Portugal
Whether you drive to Portugal from one of the neighbouring European countries, or you hire a car on arrival there are a few things to remember when driving in Portugal. The legal driving age in Portugal is 18, however, if you are renting a car, you need to be at least 23 to 25 (depending on the car hire company) to hire a car.
Always have your valid drivers license on you, and depending on which country you are travelling from you will need to check if you have to obtain an international driving permit. However, most visitors from foreign countries are allowed to drive for six months without obtaining this, but it’s always best to double-check before arrival.
You drive on the right-hand side of the road in Portugal and overtake on the left. This is an important one to remember as you can score a fine for overtaking on the right.
Portuguese drivers are also known to be somewhat reckless, driving closely behind you and turning off at the last minute, so always be vigilant and remain calm and steady while driving in Portugal.
It is also worth noting that many of the major highways/motorways in Portugal are tolled. You’ll need to account for this, especially if working on a budget. Use the handy ViaMichelin route planner as this will give estimates of toll fees as well as estimated fuel costs, great for budgeting your route.
Top Tip: When renting a car, you have the option to opt for an electronic toll tag. The car rental company will link your credit card used for the rental and toll fees will be deducted automatically as you travel through each toll gate. This is super handy to have and an option we always opt for, simply for the convenience factor. There is a charge for this service, so check with the car rental company. But in my opinion, go for it, it will save you loads of time and hassle.
Best Time to Road Trip Through Portugal
The best time to road trip, especially if you are keen to do the coastal routes would be around the summer months (which last pretty long). Anytime between April and October should give you great weather, with the warmest months being June to September.
With that being said, August is Portugal’s busiest time with loads of visitors and it can get pretty cramped. Prices are often also hiked up for everything from accommodation to food so it’s best to avoid this month completely if you can.
You can also visit Portugal during the winter months of November to March, but the best road trip routes would be to wine country and the mountains for hiking. With its being a little cold and windy for swimming on the beach. The rainy season is November and December so if you don’t want to drive on wet roads, avoid this time completely.
Discovering the Perfect Road Trip Portugal Itinerary
Finding the ideal road trip in Portugal will depend largely on your personal preference and the type of holiday you prefer. Whether its discovering glorious beaches and breathtaking coastlines, or whether you’re a wine aficionado, or prefer the more laid back and rustic countryside, there is a road trip to suit almost any preference!
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to uncover Portugal by road and explore the beauty and diversity of this incredible country!