The Perfect Portugal Itinerary: Two Road Trips You Can’t Miss
By Camila Perez on Apr 22, 2021
With its stunning architecture, mouth watering pastries, and buzzing coastal atmosphere, Portugal has become a top destination for travelers far and wide. It really doesn’t take much to find the magic of this incredible country wherever you go.
Getting to know a country, its people, its culture, and its traditions, is a lot easier when done slowly. Thankfully, it’s especially easy to explore Portugal by car – given you have enough time. With that in mind, I’ve put together an itinerary that will take you on the ultimate Portugal road trip so you can experience the best of each region and live as the locals do.
The following blog has two different Portugal road trip options you can enjoy depending on your starting point and the time you have to explore this incredible country. The first route goes from Porto to Lisbon and is a 10-day itinerary, while the second route goes from Lisbon to Faro and is a 9-day itinerary with a few stops in between.
In this guide, we'll take a look at:
Porto To Lisbon 10 Day Itinerary
Starting Point: Porto
First Stop: Peniche
Final Destination: Lisbon
Lisbon To Faro 9 Day Itinerary
Arrábida Natural Park
Vila Nova De Milfontes
Zambujeira Do Mar
Driving in Portugal
PORTO TO LISBON 10 DAY ITINERARY
The trip from Porto to Lisbon by car is about 313 kilometers, and driving there directly should take from 2.5-3 hours. However, there’s plenty to see along the way if you choose to drive down the country’s beautiful Atlantic coast!
A stop by Peniche, for example, is a must-do on any Portugal itinerary for travelers looking to catch some of the best waves in Portugal and experience seaside living at its best. Choosing to stop by Peniche will make the distance from Porto to Lisbon about 365 kilometers, but it’s definitely worth it!
The second-largest city in Portugal, Porto is known for its incredible tiled buildings and, best of all, its deliciously sweet port wine. Not just that, but the city is brimming with museums, galleries, parks, and viewpoints that make it the perfect starting point for your Portugal road trip.
How many days should I spend in Porto? One of the best places to visit in Portugal, I recommend spending 4 days in Porto in order to get the full experience and enjoy the city’s nightlife as well as its cultural scene.
What to do in Porto With 4 incredible days to take in the best of what to do in Porto, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear plan of everything there is to see in the city and an organized Portugal itinerary with things to cross off your list.
My first recommendation is signing up for a walking tour. These are readily available at hostels and other accommodations, and they’re usually donation-based at the end of the walk which means you won’t necessarily have to splurge or go way above your budget. Walking tours are a fantastic way to get to know the city since they’re usually led by knowledgeable local guides who will take to the best spots in town.
Other notable things to do in Porto are: crossing over to the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia and joining a wine tour, checking out the tiled buildings dotted across the historic center, visiting the Crystal Palace Gardens, and walking the Ribiera.
Where to eat in Porto Porto has great food options for travelers who love fresh seafood, and you won’t struggle to find affordable options and high-end dining experiences. Some of the best, budget-friendly restaurant options for delicious seafood meals include Ostras & Coisas ($), A Marisqueira de Matosinhos ($), and Tasquinha D’ouro ($).
If you’re looking for even more traditional flavors, I recommend you try the francesinha at Bufete Fase ($) – it’s the only option on the menu – which locals say is the best in the city.
And, because it wouldn’t be a visit to Porto without trying your first pastéis de nata, head over to Nata Lisboa or Manteigaria Bakery for this delicious treat!
Accommodation in Porto It’s easy to find accommodation in Porto, and you definitely won’t struggle when it comes to choosing something that fits in your budget. Options like Selina Porto, for example, are a great way to meet your travel needs all in one place: with different types of rooms available, as well as a private courtyard, community events, and a bar on-site, you’ll have plenty more time to explore the magic of Porto.
FIRST STOP: PENICHE
Back behind the wheel on your Portugal road trip, you can easily head south from Porto on the A17 (keep in mind this road has tolls). The distance between Porto and Peniche is about 263 kilometers, and the drive should take roughly 2.5 hours.
A surfing mecca for local and international travelers, Peniche has made a name for itself as the best place in the country to ride consistent, world-class waves. It’s, without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Portugal if what you’re looking for is laid-back beach vibes, and an authentic Portuguese coastal atmosphere.
How many days should I spend in Peniche? This really depends on what you want to do while you’re in Peniche. If you’re hoping to perfect your surf skills, I recommend you stick around for 3 days or more in order to make the most of your lessons and still have time to explore the town. If you’re just swinging by to make the drive a little shorter, 2 days in Peniche is enough to explore the town center, shop around the markets, and visit the beach to watch the surfers in action.
What to do in Peniche This one quiet fishing village has become extremely popular with travelers because of its stunning beaches and perfect surfing conditions. If grabbing a surfboard and heading outside is on your Portugal itinerary, you can be sure that Peniche won’t disappoint. Some of the best surf spots in Peniche include Cantinho Da Bahia, Foz do Arelho, Supertubos, and Almagreira. Plus, you’ll also find plenty of surf schools that offer private and group lessons for beginners as well as surfboard rentals if you’re comfortable enough to head out on your own.
On the other hand, if surfing isn’t necessarily your thing, there’s still plenty to do so you can enjoy your stay away from the surf. Some of these activities include a visit to the fortress, a boat ride to the Berlengas Islands, and a day of exploring the town’s museum and churches.
Where to eat in Peniche It’s no surprise that Peniche would be a haven for seafood lovers. Much like the rest of the country, fresh seafood is very popular and easy to find, and you can enjoy traditional dishes straight from the source.
Some of the best spots in town to enjoy flavorsome seafood platters are Marisqueira Mirandum ($$-$$$) and Marisqueira Dos Corticais ($$-$$$). Both are relatively budget-friendly, which means you won’t have to break the bank to enjoy the feast!
Accommodation in Peniche Since most travelers who come to Peniche are looking for surf, there are plenty of accommodation options that meet both short and long-stay visitors. One great option is Selina Peniche. With an on-site movie room, pergola garden, library, and Mediterranean restaurant, you’ll have everything you need right outside your bedroom door. Plus, you’ll also find easy access to surf lessons and surfboards at the reception, as well as different accommodation options that range from community rooms to private suites.
FINAL DESTINATION: LISBON
Shake off your sandy feet and jump back in the car for your final leg of the drive on this Portugal road trip. If you’re exploring Portugal by car, the drive from Peniche to Lisbon is about 88 kilometers and should take just over an hour.
Considered one of the friendliest and most exciting cities in Europe, Lisbon’s reputation is of a cultural hotspot. Known for its colonial architecture and incredible history, and gaining more recognition for its authentic fado music, this beautiful city continues to surprise visitors with every turn. Whether you’re looking to get a feel of its cosmopolitan vibes, settle in for a long-term change of scenery, network with an ever-growing community of digital nomads, or simply enjoy a taste of Portugal living at its finest, Lisbon is the city for you.
How many days should I spend in Lisbon? Being the capital, Lisbon has a lot to offer visitors and I recommend you take your time getting to know the city, its people, and its surroundings. As such, I recommend you dedicate 5-6 days to Lisbon. Keep in mind that there are day trips you can take from Lisbon, so your Portugal itinerary might continue to grow even if you’re based in one city for a while.
What to do in Lisbon If you’re hoping to get most of your exploring done in one afternoon, I recommend you jump on a free walking tour of Lisbon’s center. This tour will likely take you to the best spots in town, and you won’t have to worry about wandering around on your own or looking too lost. Another great way to spend an afternoon is to head over to Alfama – the old town – and make your way around the winding streets and cobblestone pathways. With incredible street art and beautiful historic buildings, this will keep you busy for a few hours. Once nighttime hits, head over to Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho) for a proper night out at bars and nightclubs like Pensao Amor, The Music Box, and Tokyo Lisboa.
The great thing about traveling Portugal by car is that you’re free to go wherever you want, whenever you want. You won’t have to depend on trains or buses, and the costs can be cut down if there are more people in the car with you. It also makes it especially easy to venture out of the bigger cities to explore nearby locations. So, if we’re talking day trips, one of the best adventures to take from Lisbon is a one-day visit to the magical town of Sintra. Like something out of a fairytale, Sintra’s narrow streets and hilltop castles will keep you in awe from the moment you arrive and until you drive away. If you do decide to drive to Sintra from Lisbon, make sure you visit the Palácio da Pena, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Palácio de Monserrate. Other day trips include a visit to Belem or Cascais, as well as trips out of the city to enjoy nearby beaches and surf spots.
Where to eat in Lisbon Lisbon’s international culinary scene has boomed over the years, which means there aren’t only delicious local restaurants to try, but also dining spots that serve other styles of food like tacos, Asian fusion, and more. If you’re hoping to stick to the authentic experience, a visit to Taberna Rua das Flores is a must-do on any Portugal itinerary. Other notable mentions include Xapuri ($), Café de São Bento ($$), Time Out Market, Padaria da Esquina ($), and Esplanada ($).
Again, since Lisbon might be your last stop on your Portugal itinerary, I recommend you try another pastéis de nata. You can either head back to Mantegairia for a city-to-city comparison from Porto, or hop over to Pastéis de Belém for a truly authentic recipe (that’s where the pastries are originally from!).
Accommodation in Lisbon As it’s a much bigger city, Lisbon’s accommodation options are endless. From big chains to smaller boutique hotels and rentals, you’ll find a place that fits your needs and your budget very easily. Options like Selina Secret Garden Lisbon give you the change to stay in community rooms or private apartments, and also offer many on-site amenities like a shared kitchen, coworking space, private pool, and rooftop terrace.
Now, it’s possible that your trip might end in Lisbon, and that’s totally fine! However, if you have time to spare, and you’re desperate to soak up more sun, a drive from Lisbon to Algarve should definitely be added to your Portugal itinerary.
LISBON TO FARO 9 DAY ITINERARY
Once in Lisbon, you can either make the decision to stay there for the remainder of your trip or continue driving along the Southwest coast until you reach Faro in the Algarve.
The distance between Lisbon and Faro is about 278 kilometers, and driving straight down with no stops can take about 2.5-3 hours. Much like the first leg of the trip, there are plenty of things to see along the way that might make the trip a little longer, but totally worth it.
ARRÁBIDA NATURAL PARK
Just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon (49 kilometers), a visit to Arrabida National Park can work as a quick day trip before your trip or as your first stop-over on your way down to Faro and the Algarve.
While taking on one of the many nature walks is totally possible, you can also enjoy a scenic drive and spend a few hours on the beach before continuing your journey. The views are impressive, and one of the best stops along the road is Miradouro do Norte. On a good day – if the weather permits – you can see across the valley and over to Lisbon.
How many days should I spend in Arrábida Natural Park? Personally, I only recommend a drive through the park and maybe a couple of hours at the beach to shake off the city vibes and get back into road trip mode. Don’t worry: you’ll have many more beaches to enjoy once you hit the South!
There are two ways to drive from Setúbas (where Arrábida Natural Park is located) and Comporta. The first option includes a ferry and takes about 1.5 hours, and the second option is to drive around the water for about 86 kilometers, which takes just over an hour. Whatever you pick, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views. It’s a must-stop on any Portugal road trip, and you won’t regret stopping by.
Often described as the Hamptons of Portugal, Comporta is a high-end beach town that’s been kept away from the crowds until now. If you’re hoping to kick back and enjoy some more of the Portuguese sun, this is the place for you!
How many days should I spend in Comporta? Given that it’s not exactly the cheapest option, I recommend spending one night in Comporta to break up the trip and enjoy the town’s beautiful scenery and white-sand beaches. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to head South again!
What to do in Comporta Beach bums, rejoice! One of the best places to visit in Portugal, Comporta is packed with gorgeous beaches for you to get your tan on. Some of the best spots include Praia da Comporta, Praia do Pego, and Praia do Carvalhal. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a little more activity, Comporta is also known for high-end adventures that include horseback riding tours from the beach to the rice paddies, private surf lessons for all levels, cycling tours, and yoga classes.
Where to eat in Comporta If you think the beaches of Comporta are dreamy…just wait until you try the food. With upscale dining experiences and local restaurants to pick from, Comporta’s restaurant scene is small but mighty. Some of the most recommended restaurants in town include Comporta Café ($$-$$$), Sal’s ($$-$$$), and Restaurante O Dinis ($$).
Accommodation in Comporta Depending on your budget, you have two options when you stay in Comporta: go for the luxurious experience, or find a cheap rental. Make sure staying for one night isn’t an issue, and check out the different booking engines before your arrival for an idea of the price.
Wave goodbye to Comporta as you sit behind the wheel again and continue South on the A26. About 79 kilometers away, which will take roughly 1.5 hours to cover, you’ll arrive in Porto Covo.
A must-do on any Portugal road trip itinerary, Porto Covo is a great place to stop for a bite to eat and to stretch your legs after a drive. Completely off the beaten path, you won’t run into many tourists wandering around, and most people who do come to Porto Covo are just stopping by on a quick whim.
How many days should I spend in Porto Covo? Take a couple of hours to explore the town by foot, and head over to one of the gorgeous beaches nearby for a little sun and sand. I recommend Praia dos Buizinhos, located just a hop away from the Porto Covo market square. As for lunch, locals recommend you stop by Ze Inacio and try the fresh seafood. If you’re feeling brave, order the sea urchins too!
VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES
The distance between Porto Covo and Milfontes is just about 20 kilometers, and should take roughly half an hour to complete. If you’re looking for an added reason to celebrate, you’ll be happy to know that this is the halfway point on your drive from Lisbon to Faro!
Located in Portugal’s famous Alentejo region, Vila Nova de Milfontes is a quiet beach town with tons of activities to offer visitors from far and wide. Bathed by the Atlantic, Vila Nova de Milfontes is the perfect to take in some of the region’s most stunning beaches, coastal views, and outdoor adventures.
How many days should I spend in Vila Nova de Milfontes? If you’re hoping to explore Vila Nova de Milfontes on your Portugal road trip itinerary, I recommend you spend at least 3-4 days in town to get a feel for the authentic culture and make the most of your time by the water. From surf lessons to SUP rentals and wine tours, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy on your stop.
What to do in Vila Nova de Milfontes Although small, Vila Nova de Milfontes has experiences for every sort of traveler. If you’re a beach lover, head over to the region’s most famous beaches and lay back in the sunshine with a good book in hand. Some of the most visited beaches in Vila Nova de Milfontes include Praia da Franquia, Praia do Malhäo, Praia de Almograve, and Praia do Farol. If you’ve had your fill of beach days just laying on the sand, there are other outdoor activities you can try such as kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and even surfing!
Once that’s been crossed off your list, venture out into town and explore Vila Nova de Milfonte’s winding, cobblestone streets as you make your way towards the St. Clement Fort and catch a peek of the Mira River from one of the town’s viewpoints.
Where to eat in Vila Nova de Milfontes Let’s face it, no Portugal road trip would be complete without an equally exciting food tour of each stop. Thankfully, Vila Nova de Milfontes has plenty of options to taste the town – and they’re all as delicious as the first!
Located in the town center, Tasca de Celso ($$-$$$) is a no-brainer option for travelers looking to dive deep into authentic Portuguese cuisine. Well-known with locals and travelers, the restaurant has an incredible selection of fresh seafood dishes, and an impressive wine menu. Another great option is A Choupana ($$-$$$), with mouth watering seafood dishes and a stunning view of the Atlantic that makes it the perfect place for an early sunset dinner.
Accommodation in Vila Nova de Milfontes There are plenty of budget-friendly accommodation options available in Vila Nova de Milfontes. Selina Milfontes, for example, has various options for solo travelers, couples, or families who are making a stop on their Portugal road trip. With community rooms, lofts, and glamorous suites, you won’t have to worry about finding a space to call home on the road.
What comes after Vila Nova de Milfontes are stunning towns tucked away from the typical tourism path, but they’re definitely worth a stop: Zambujeira do Mar, Odeceixe, and Arrifana. Being so close together, it’s up to you to decide if you want to stop by each town, or pick your favorite for a quick stretch of the legs!
ZAMBUJEIRA DO MAR
Head out of Vila Nova de Milfontes and continue your journey south for roughly 27 kilometers until you reach the sleepy seaside town of Zambujeira do Mar. With its stunning whitewash buildings and terracotta rooftops, this little coastal village seems like something out of a movie. Take some time to explore the town’s streets, and head down to the beach for a quick dip that will cool you down!
How many days should I spend in Zambujeira do Mar? I’d dedicate a few hours to walking around town, stretching your legs, and possibly grabbing a delicious bite to eat before heading out and continuing your Portugal road trip.
Once you’ve left Zambujeira do Mar behind, another great stop is the stunning town of Odeceixe. Located just 25 kilometers south of your previous stop – which is roughly 30 minutes by car – Odeceixe lies on the border between the Alentejo region and the Algarve. With beautiful beaches perfect for practicing your surf skills, Odeceixe is the perfect pitstop for adventurous travelers who want to take another quick break and take in the scenery on this unique Portugal road trip.
How many days should I spend in Odeceixe? Much like Zambujeira do Mar, Odeceixe is quite sleepy and calm. I’d try and stay for a few hours to enjoy a bit of sunshine and a splash of surf, but your final destination awaits!
The final stop on your Portugal road trip is so close you can basically see it! However, no trip would be complete without a stop in Arrifana. Just 26 kilometers south of Odeceixe, Arrifana is known for its beautiful beaches and nature hotspots.
How many days should I spend in Arrifana? No days needed, just a quick stop and we’re off! Take in the sights as you drive past, or stop for a quick selfie by the coast as you stretch your legs.
Hopefully, if the timing is right, you’ll be hitting some great sunset views as you make your way south to Faro from Arrifana. Located 114 kilometers away, Faro is the Algarve’s crown jewel and one of the best places to visit in Portugal. This beautiful city is known for its azure waters, white-sand beaches, and authentic cultural feel.
How many days should I spend in Faro? With plenty to see and even more beaches to lounge around, I recommend ending your Portugal road trip here so you can enjoy it at ease. Ideally, 4-5 days should be enough to take the goods and to get a tan all your friends will be envious of.
What to do in Faro If there’s one thing the Algarve is famous for, it’s the beaches. If you need help narrowing down your options, this is the best way to: Ilha Deserta is an unspoiled and quiet paradise, but there are no easily-accessible tourist facilities; Ilha de Faro can get very crowded, but – given that it is the main beach – it’s also the closest one to the city and there are plenty of buses that can take you there and back; and Ilha da Culatra, located a long ferry ride away, but with some breathtaking scenery that you won’t find elsewhere!
Take a break from all the sunshine and make the most of Faro’s many cultural and historical sights. If you’re looking for a place to start, the main cathedral is a great place to visit. Once you’re done, your next step should be eerie Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel), which holds the remains of over 1,000 monks. Other notable spots include the Palacio de Estoi, the Muralhas de Faro, and the Igreja do Carmo.
Where to eat in Faro If delicious seafood is what you’re after, you’ve hit the jackpot in Faro. With plenty of restaurants offering delicious meals at very reasonable prices, you won’t have to worry about finding the perfect spot to sample some of the best Portuguese cuisine in the region. With a long history as one of Faro’s most visited restaurants, Restaurante 2 Irmãos ($$-$$$) was first established in 1925 and is still running strong. The restaurant serves traditional cuisine with a modern twist, plus a few meat options, and is located just north of the commercial center.
Other options include Tasca do Ricky ($$$), known for its comfort-sized dishes, and Restaurante Ria Formosa ($$-$$$), located on the rooftop of Hotel Faro and with picture-perfect views of the town at night.
Accommodation in Faro The great thing is that, being so popular with tourists, accommodation in Faro is very easy to find. With prices that accommodate various types of travelers, there won’t be a need to sacrifice your budget for a comfortable stay. If you’re in town to learn more about the history, I recommend you find accommodation within the Old Town – that way it’ll be easier to explore the sights you’re the most excited about seeing. If, on the other hand, you’re hoping for more of a beach trip, you can find accommodation that’s further away from the town center, but just a hop away from some seaside living!
DRIVING IN PORTUGAL
If you’re dreaming of a proper Portugal road trip, you’re going to have to do some driving. Most local transport companies aren’t reliable enough that they’ll drop you off where you need to go, and depending on bus schedules you might have to cut down on your stops because there isn’t enough time. All this to say: if you’re going to plan a Portugal road trip, you might as well go all out and rent a car!
How are the roads in Portugal? Driving in Portugal shouldn’t be much different to driving elsewhere in the world, and most roads are in perfect conditions which makes the trip even more smooth. The first thing you need to know is that Portugal drives on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left. Make sure you watch out for drivers who tend to do this aggressively!
Although there is a direct highway that will let you drive from Lisbon to Algarve, it’s recommended you ditch the fast track for a more scenic route through Portugal’s regional and national roads. These are all toll-free and get close enough to the seaside so that the drive is a lot more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Renting a car in Portugal While scooters are a viable option for getting around, your best option is to rent a car for the duration of your journey to make sure you’ll be able to complete your Portugal road trip with no major inconveniences. Keep in mind this option might be more expensive than elsewhere in Europe, so make sure you have enough to cover the whole trip, and always – ALWAYS! – read the fine print before signing over a rent agreement.
Parking in Portugal There are a few things you need to keep in mind while driving in Portugal in regards to parking. If you see a round white or blue sign with a red circle that has a diagonal cross: don’t park there. Also, if there are yellow and/or red lines painted on the curb, that also means that no parking is allowed. Make sure you’re parked away from bus stops, junctions, and tram stops to avoid any unnecessary fines – and, whatever you do, don’t “do as the locals do” and park in the middle of the road with your emergency flashers on…
The Perfect Portugal Itinerary FAQs
How long does it take to drive the coast of Portugal?
Portugal’s coast is roughly 700 kilometers long, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for a long drive – broken up by sections, of course – if you have the time and budget to do so. Driving from Porto to Lisbon (313 kilometers) should take about 3 hours. Once there, the drive from Lisbon to Faro (278 kilometers) should take around 2.5 hours. Depending on how you break up your trip and where you stop, it shouldn’t be an impossible feat to complete the tour.
Is it safe to drive in Portugal?
It is generally safe to drive in Portugal, although you should always stay aware of your surroundings and other drivers. People in Portugal tend to be a little aggressive when it comes to overtaking, even if it’s a curve, and they tend to follow extremely close.
Also, while most roads are in good condition, there are smaller roads that are poorly maintained and can be difficult to maneuver if you’re not an experienced driver. However, this shouldn’t deter you from planning a road trip! Just remember that you need to be careful, avoid any distractions, and keep your eyes peeled for unexpected events.
Is Portugal expensive for tourists?
Portugal is one of the cheaper countries in Europe and can be extremely affordable for tourists who are good at budgeting. Most accommodation is reasonably priced, it’s easy to find delicious cheap eats, and the sights are priceless. Choosing shared accommodation and going to small, local restaurants for your food is one of the ways you can save money and stick to a shoestring budget if necessary!
What is the best time to visit Portugal?
The best time to visit Portugal is probably around March-May, in spring, when the weather isn’t too hot, but the sun is still shining and the local nature is blooming. If you’re hoping for a chillier time, September-November, or early fall, is also a great time to visit Portugal. Fall is especially good for surfing, so if you’re hoping to learn a thing or two, or practice your moves, this is your best bet!