Road Trip Portugal: Three Epic Portugal Road Trips

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Road Trip Portugal - Porto-Santa Cruz-Lisbon

The wild Atlantic coast, sounds of fado and elegant tiled architecture are just a few of the ways that Portugal enchants and beckons travellers. It’s a place you can appreciate by just being there, soaking in its rich and varied history, from the Celts to the Visigoths, the Christians and the explorers, which means if often feels like a living museum. Combine that with a creative arts scene, bountiful wine region, surfing culture and a laid-back, meandering ease, and you have a unique and fascinating country.

There are many regions to explore and different approaches to exploring Portugal, so with some help from fellow bloggers, we’ve compiled five of the best Portugal road trip itineraries.

 

Our road trip Portugal 

We personally opted for a 10-day road trip from Porto to Lisbon with a stop on the coast along the way. The road trip planning section of this article relates to that trip specifically, but those tips could also be used for the other Portugal road trip itineraries.  

How to plan your Portugal road trip

Our travel style

As with all the itineraries on Bridges and Balloons, we have a special focus on creating handpicked itineraries that are filled with special places to stay and a local, creatively-minded travel approach. Think street art, independent bookshops, hipster coffee shops, farmers markets and parks. 

Road Trip Portugal - Santa Cruz beach

Family travel in Portugal

We travelled with our son Otis who was 14 months at the time. Although this means the trip is suitable for families of young children, it isn’t a specifically family-focused trip and would suit anyone who has a similar style to us – it’s the same stuff we’d have done even before Otis was born. That said, I have included some family-focussed tips in each section below.

Noah Surf House - Road Trip Portugal

Portugal road trip budget

To replicate our trip exactly would cost €2,750, but you could save a lot of money by opting for cheaper accommodation, eating out less and not having a car in Lisbon. By doing this, it would cost around €1,250.

Please also note all our accommodation was gifted by the hotels so we could review it. As always, all opinions are our own. Read more about how we work with brands here

Accommodation: €1,930, but do bear in mind that we tried a range of different budgets and styles. The cheapest option we tried was €130 per night, so if we’d stayed at that budget for the duration, it would have cost €1,430. You could save even more money by going for a cheaper AirBnB option, starting at around €70 per night. 

Car hire: €98 for 11 days, but Steve did drive the car back to Porto at the end as he was going to stag do there. It would have cost an extra €70 to drop it off in Lisbon. Our parking in Porto was free with the AirBnB; and it was free in Santa Cruz; but in Lisbon, it cost €25 euro per day at Martinhal, and €30 per day at Visionaire. I would highly recommend not having a car in Lisbon.

Food and drinks: We spent around €500. A meal out for the three of us averaged about €23. and we did a mixture of eating out and self-catering. A coffee costs around €2. 

Tours and entrance prices: €78. We didn’t spend much on entrance prices, aside from Serralves (€11 each); Livaria Lello (€5 each); the Secret City Trails in Lisbon (€20 for each trail); and the Lisbon botanical gardens (€3 each) .

Portugal for vegetarians

Portugal has a fantastic culinary reputation, but this is all but useless if, like us, you’re vegetarian. Unfortunately, practically all the local cuisine is very meat or fish heavy. Even a side salad will often come with ham, so do always specify that you don’t eat any form of meat, including ham and chicken (these are often classed as separate!). You can get vegetarian/vegan versions of local dishes in some vegetarian restaurants, but we struggled to find high quality examples. That said, we ate pretty well in Portugal because both Porto and Lisbon are cosmopolitan cities with cuisine from around the world that caters to a vegetarian diet. There are also tons of specifically vegetarian and vegan restaurants in both cities, which is a vast improvement from when I was last there nine years ago.

And on the very bright side, you the local sweet cuisine is veg-friendly and delicious, most specifically the iconic pastel de nata (custard tart). 

Santa Cruz

How to get around Portugal

Although I’ve described this as a road trip, we didn’t do a huge amount of driving. While in the cities, we walked practically everywhere and only used the car to get to some of the further afield places like Sintra and Serralves. If following our itinerary, I would recommend dropping the car off as soon as you get to Lisbon and have visited Sintra as the parking is expensive in the city and the public transport is good. I have added more destination-specific transport details in the sections below.

We hired our car through rentalcars.com as that’s where we’ve always found the best deals. This time they sponsored our car hire, but you can trust my recommendation is genuine as I’ve been talking about them for years. Rentalcars.com is a booking agent for many car hire companies, and the best deal they found for us was with Centauro. We got a Fiat 500x, which had plenty of room for all our stuff, including Otis’ stroller and car seat.

Road Trip Portugal- Lisbon

Weather/what to pack for Portugal

We went to Portugal in April, which is a month known for unpredictable weather and that’s exactly what we experienced. In the space of 15 minutes, it could go from bright sunny skies to an overcast thunderstorm. We also had some purely sunny days and some entirely overcast ones. And it rained at least a little almost every day. For that reason, I recommend packing layers, so you can adjust for the turbulent weather. And a light rain coat would be useful.

The summer gets very hot and very busy (August is the busiest month) and the winters can be cold and wet, so the ideal time to go is late Spring (May/June) or Autumn (September/October). Of course, the further south you go, the warmer it gets, so the Algarve is a good option if you’re looking for winter sun. 

Here’s a guide to what to pack for Portugal throughout the year.

Porto to Lisbon Road Trip

Our Portugal itinerary at a glance

Days 1-5: Porto

Days 5-6: Santa Cruz

Days 6-11: Lisbon

Road Trip Portugal - Igreja dos Carmelitos

Portugal Travel Itinerary

Porto

Days 1-5

Portugal Road Trip - Porto

Porto can be summed up by the dazzling view from the iconic Dom Luis I bridge – a cascade of warm, orange-hued buildings elegantly cling to one side while port wineries line the other. Tourists and locals relax and put the world to rights at riverside cafes . And azulejo tiles, baroque architecture and crumbling buildings create an atmosphere of glory alongside decay. The city’s history is palpable as you wander its streets, and Porto has become one of Europe’s most favoured city breaks. Many choose it over Lisbon for it’s more manageable, compact size.

Things to do in Porto

I’ve written a full guide to things to do in Porto, but some of the highlights include: the Crystal Palace Gardens; choosing your favourite tiled wall (Igreja dos Carmelitas is mine); visiting the Porto wine cellars; buying a book in the beautiful Livaria Lello; walking the Ribeira area; spending a beach day in Foz; and going to the art deco masterpiece at Serralves. There’s also some great shopping to be done in the arts district.  

Get your Guide has a huge range of tours in Porto. Here are a few that look good, and you can find loads more on their site.

 

Portugal Road Trip - Family in Porto

Family travel in Porto

Most of the activities above would be suitable for children, especially visiting the parks and beach and Marés swimming pool. There are also two zoos (Lourosa and Santo Inácio), the Sea Life aquarium, a museum of transport and communication, and the World of Discoveries, an interactive museum that celebrates Portugal’s history of international explorations.

Below are some recommended family-friendly tours and activities by Get Your Guide.

 

Where to eat in Porto

Where to eat in Porto

Porto is an amazing foodie destination for meat and fish eaters, but less so for a vegetarian. That said, we did find some good options.

In the evenings, because Otis goes to bed early, we couldn’t eat out, but instead used Uber Eats to order meals from some of the restaurants we wanted to try.  Our favourite places were: Epoca, Árvore do Mundo, Maus HabitosApuro, Santa Francesinha,

Accommodation in Porto

We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb apartment in the arts district, just round the corner from the Crystal Palace Park. It was part of the Airbnb Plus range, which curates some of the site’s most stylish and luxurious apartments. Our apartment in Porto was owned by an architect and had the flair of someone who works in the creative arts. The location was ideal, within walking distance of the city centre and close to some cute cafes and restaurants.

Where to stay in Porto - AirBnB Plus

Where to stay in Porto - AirBnB Plus

The apartment provided a cot for Otis, and it was super useful having a separate bedroom, so Steve and I could hang out in the living room at night once Otis was asleep.

Our Airbnb apartment cost €125 per night. Book with this link to get £25 off your first stay.

Getting to and around Porto

Walking around Porto

Porto is an easily walkable city, so long as you don’t mind all the hills. If the hills are an issue, there’s also a good public transport system that includes old wooden trams, a metro and buses. You can also use the Guindais funicular, Ribeira lift and Gaia teleferico to help you out with some of the hills. You can buy an Andante card that covers the metro, buses and trains. I talk about the Lisbon to Porto drive in the Santa Cruz section below.

Santa Cruz

Days 5-6

Road trip Portugal - Santa Cruz, Portugal

Santa Cruz is a beach town just north of Lisbon, famous for its surf and huge sandy beach. We stayed there for a night en route from Porto down to Lisbon, but could easily have stayed much longer. For us it was all about the place we stayed – Noah Surf House – which is one of those hotels that’s a destination in itself. I’ve written more in the accommodation section below.

Things to do in Santa Cruz

Road trip Portugal - Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a tiny little town with little to do besides embrace the ocean and either all-out relax or try your hand at some of the water sports on offer. Noah Surf House has a whole host of different activities and lessons, including surfing, SUP, long boarding and yoga.

It’s also a beautiful place to go for a walk along the oceanfront. The coastal path takes you up to some of the cliffs, which have sweeping panoramic views that reminded us of California.

Family in Santa Cruz, Portugal

Family travel in Santa Cruz

Noah Surf House is ideal for families with many of the activities catering to children and families. We saw lots of families while we were there and the staff were wonderful with Otis.

Accommodation in Santa Cruz

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

Noah Surf House is up there with our favourite places we’ve ever stayed. It has a wonderfully relaxed vibe and would be a magical place to spend a week or so, immersing yourself in all that surfing and beach culture has to offer. The focus is on connecting with nature and the ocean and they have a full programme of activities, including surfing, SUP, skating and yoga. There’s also a pool on the terrace and a hot tub on the roof, and the large common areas are perfect for encouraging the guests to socialise. I fell in love with the design aesthetic, which is eco-minded and complements the ocean, making use of lots of reclaimed objects like fishing nets and ropes.

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

The rooms range from doubles to 8-bed dorms, and some have self-catering facilities. We stayed in a Mar Bungalow, which had an amazing view of the ocean and was perfect for getting cosy by the light of the log-burning heater.

There are two restaurants, one in the main house and another down by the beach. The one by the beach – the Noah Beach House – is right on the san with floor-to-ceiling windows maximising the view and a seafood-heavy menu. With the fire lit, it’s a wonderfully cosy place to be.

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

We ate at the other restaurant in the main part of the hotel, which is in a huge high-ceilinged open-plan space that looks out onto the pool terrace and is also home to the reception area and the activity booking station. It’s the hub of the hotel and has a great buzz to it, feeling very family-friendly. The seasonal menu makes use of produce from the on-site garden and they have lots of healthy options to complement the surf culture (as well as lots of treats too). This is also where the breakfast buffet is served, which again offers a combination of health and comfort food (think smoothies plus pastel de natas).

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

There’s also a beautiful boutique on the ground floor, selling designer surf and beachwear.

Dorm beds start at €50 , and rooms start at €160. Book your stay now.

Getting to and around Santa Cruz

Noah Surf House, Santa Cruz

The drive from Porto to Santa Cruz is 2.5 hours, and it’s another hour to Lisbon. If we had had more time, we would have also stopped in Coimbra, which is 1.5 hours from Porto and two hours from Santa Cruz. We went there on our last trip to Portugal. Once in Santa Cruz, it’s easy to walk everywhere.

Lisbon

Days 6-11

Road trip Portugal - Lisbon

Known as the San Francisco of Europe, Lisbon is set on seven hills and has a golden light that adds romance to an already enchanting city. Much of the city was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, and the pombaline buildings that were erected in its wake are what now define the city – think pretty balconies and ornate tile-clad facades. Like Porto, it’s a city that delights just by the experience of being there, but there is also plenty more to keep you busy. 

Things to do in Lisbon

Rua de Bica funicular

I’ve written a full guide to things to do in Lisbon. Some of the  highlights include: wandering Alfama; choosing your favourite miradouro for fabulous views across the city; taking a day trip to Sintra; enjoying the street art, boutiques and restaurants of the hipster LX Factory; posing with Pessoa; listening to some fado music; and taking a ride on the iconic Tram 28 and funicular at Rua Bica.

Get your Guide has a huge range of tours in Porto. Here are a few that look good, and you can find loads more on their site.

 

 

Do a tour

As with Porto, Get your Guide has a huge range of tours in Lisbon. Here are a few that look good, and you can find loads more on their site.

 

Baby tram at LX Factory

Family travel in Lisbon

Many of the options above would be suitable for families (we did them all with Otis), but for some extra family-friendly activities, a good day out would be to the Parque das Nações where you could visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, which has a reputation as one of Europe’s best aquariums; the cable car next to the Oceanarium; and the Pavillion of Knowledge, an interactive science and technology museum.

Below are a few family-friendly tours and tickets you can do from Get your Guide.

 

Where to eat in Lisbon

Time Out Market Lisbon

Lisbon showcases food from all around the world. I’ve included lots of details in my Lisbon guide, but a few of our favourites were: the Time Out Market, Mantegairia, Tartine, Padaria da Esquina, A Janela da Voz, Esplanada, Gelateria Nannarella, Nicolau, Park, Mez Cais in LX Factory and Brigadeirando.

Accommodation in Lisbon

The Visionaire Apartments

The Visionaire Apartments

The Visionaire Apartments offer a stylish and unique place to stay right in the heart of Lisbon. The whole place is a contemporary take on a merchant’s house of the XVI century, filled with tapestries, textiles, pottery and artefacts. It’s beautifully done and we were smitten with our room, which had high vaulted ceilings, a four-poster bed, and intriguing ornaments, like a spinning wooden globe and an ornate cloak on the wall.

The Visionaire Apartments, Lisbon

The common area is also beautiful – a library room filled with antiques and offering a quiet place to relax and read while overlooking the busy Figueira square. Coffee, tea and biscuits are available for guests and they operate an honesty system for a shared mini bar and selection of food. A free-of-charge self-service laundry room is also a bonus, especially if travelling with children or as part of a longer trip.

The Visionaire Apartments, Lisbon

We stayed in the Visionaire Suite, which is the most beautiful of all the rooms, largely because of its incredible ceiling, but the other apartments are equally as stylish. You can choose from one and two-bedroom apartments and attic studios. The apartments would arguably be better for travelling with young children as then you’d have somewhere separate to put the children to bed while you stayed up later. We got around this by putting Otis’ cot in the huge bathroom at the start of the evening and then moving it into our room once we were ready to sleep too.

The Visionaire Apartments, Lisbon

The Visionaire Apartments, Lisbon

It’s well kitted out for families, and you can request a baby bundle, which includes a cot, push chair, high chair, baby bath, changing mat, and a toy box, full of lovely wooden toys.

Rooms start at €130 per night. Book your stay now.

Martinhal Chiado

Martinhal Chiado Lisbon

Martinhal Chiado is a dedicated family hotel right in the centre of Lisbon. They have big resorts on the Algarve and in Cascais, but this is their only apartments-only hotel. It’s a dream for families who want the convenience of a family-focused hotel, but who don’t want to compromise on style or luxury. I’ve been somewhat wary of family hotels thus far as I imagined something somewhat garish and loud, but this place was beautiful, and the convenience couldn’t be beaten. It’s like having a stylish city-centre apartment, but with room service and childcare on hand.

Martinhal Chiado Lisbon

The apartments range from studios to large two-bedroom apartments that sleep up to six. It’s an old building, so they’ve made clever use of space and each room is unique, some offering bunk beds in the lounge while others have twin beds in a separate section of the open-plan living space. And they all have kitchens, including a washer/dryer, which we found super useful. 

Martinhal Chiado Lisbon

Ahead of your stay, you can order from a whole menu of baby items, including strollers, high chairs, a baby monitor, baby bath, potty etc. And there’s a shared playroom with a ball pit and lots of toys.

Martinhal Chiado Lisbon

Martinhal Chiado Lisbon

In addition to all that, there’s a free kids club that runs all day from 9:30am-6pm, so you can explore the city child-free if you like. You can also pay a charge for the evening baby club, from 6-10pm (€8.50 per hour). Or you can opt for babysitting in your own room for €20 per hour. 

Martinhal Chiado Lisbon

There’s also an on-site casual restaurant, which serves kid meals, but there are so many other great places in the area, we only went there for breakfast, which was included with our stay.

Rooms start at €275 per night. Book your stay now.

Getting to and around Lisbon

We drove to Lisbon from Santa Cruz via Sintra as we decided that was the most convenient way to see Sintra during our stay (check-in wasn’t until 3pm, so it helped us use the day without having to wait around in Lisbon). The drive from Santa Cruz to Sintra took one hour and we were lucky to find a parking space really close to Sintra train station. Driving around Sintra isn’t ideal as there are lots of coaches and traffic/competition for parking at the main sites. For that reason we didn’t go to the Pena Palace this time round as it would have taken at least 20 minutes from the centre and we weren’t sure we’d get a parking space once there, which didn’t sound appealing with Otis. We went last time we were in Sintra, so it wasn’t a priority. If you do want to go to the palace, I’d recommend taking a taxi or tuk tuk, or hopping on the 434 bus, which makes a loop from the train station to the National Palace, Castelo dos Mouros and the Pena Palace. That way you don’t have to worry about parking. Also, if you’re heading to Sintra from Lisbon it’d probably be easier to take the train than drive. This post is useful for details about how to get to Sintra from Lisbon.

Once in Lisbon, it isn’t worth having a car (if doing it again, I’d have dropped our car off as soon as we got to Lisbon). Parking is really expensive (from €20-35 per day) and it’s no fun driving around the city. Plus the public transport is excellent. You can use the historic trams, or jump on a train, bus or metro. This article is useful for explaining how to use the Viva Viagem card, which you can use on most of Lisbon’s public transport network.

We personally didn’t use any of the public transport as we were happy walking everywhere. However, one thing to bear in mind when waking is that the city is full of hills and steps, which aren’t reflected on Google maps, so you often unexpectedly find yourself at the bottom of a steep incline or a set of 100+ steps. If you want to avoid steps, you can look at the car route on Google maps, which will show you an alternative route. We sometimes did this, but also often ended up carrying Otis up the stairs in his pushchair, which was quite intense!

How to extend our Porto to Lisbon itinerary

We decided to focus on Porto and Lisbon for our trip as we didn’t want to be on the move too much, plus we wanted to have a good amount of time in each city. We’ve also been to Portugal before, so didn’t have the pressure of trying to see everything. For an ultimate Portugal road trip, taking in much more of the country, you could take this longer route, doing a round-trip from Porto. You could also use this route for inspiration on how to extend or adapt our road trip, for example, adding Coimbra as a stop, or taking a few days to visit the Douro Valley while in Porto. You could also continue all the way down to the Algarve if you fancied some extra beach time.

Porto – Douro Valley – Serra da Estrela – Evora – Algarve – Sagres – Arrabida National Park – Sintra/Cascais – Lisbon – Santa Cruz – Coimbra – Porto.

In brief, here are some details of each place not included in our main Portugal itinerary :

The Douro Valley is a gorgeous wine region where vineyards tumble down the mountains; Serra da Estrela is home to Portugal’s highest mountains and a beautiful place to relax in nature;  Evora is one of the country’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns; the Algarve is Portugal’s most popular beach destination and particularly popular with British package holidaymakers; Sagres is part of the northern Algarve, but much quieter than some of the big resort towns; Arrabida National Park is a beautiful coastal park, perfect for hiking; and Coimbra is a buzzing university city with a picturesque old town (it was Portugal’s medieval capital).

 


Other Portugal Road Trip Itineraries

Porto And North Wine Country

Porto – The Douro – Alto Minho

Discover the best Portuguese wines and stunning scenery on this Porto and wine country road trip.

By Amber at Food And Drink Destinations

Highlights

  • Two of Portugal’s most well known wine regions
  • Adorable villages and scenery
  • The beautiful city of Porto

Distance

530km

Duration

7-10 days

When to go

Spring/Autumn

The north of Portugal is known for some of the best Portuguese wines. The Douro River winds through the centre of Porto and to the east. There are plenty of old wine hotels to stay at with views over the river, each of which seems to be perched higher than the last. Start by spending some time in Porto itself and then head into the Douro valley.

During a visit to the Douro, be sure to visit a few wineries. These are the wineries that produce Portuguese red and white wines, and also the wines that eventually become Port wine. Definitely check out Quinta da Pacheca during a visit for a tasting and tour. Also be sure to stop at the Pinhão railway station, which is small but filled with classic blue and white tiled artwork depicting the history of wine in the region. For a luxury dining experience, check out Chef Rui Paula’s Restaurant DOC, which is set right on the river bank.

From the Douro, head north into Alto Minho. Although the Douro might be more familiar to wine drinkers, Alto Minho is where Portugal’s other famous wine is from – Vinho Verde. This is Portugal’s crisp, “green” white wine. The town of Guimarãe in Minho is a great stopping point during a visit. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even better is to stay at one of the country houses or hotels to be surrounded by nature. This is a remote part of Portugal and many of the wineries have views of Spain in the distance. That’s how far north it is.

Visit Hotel Monte Prado or some of the other stops on the Rota das Tapas e Alvarinho, a collection of hotels and restaurants that offer Portuguese tapas and Vinho Verde. For wine tasting, visit Quinta de Pedra, one of the largest wineries in the area or Valle de Ares, a boutique winery specializing in Vinho Verde. Dine at the Convento dos Capuchos, in a restored convent, which specializes in contemporary versions of classic northern Portuguese dishes.

Where to stay


Vicentina Coast Road Trip

Lisbon – Porto Covo – Zambujeira do Mar – Arrifana – Cabo de S.Vicente – Sagres – Lagos – Faro

Board on a journey to discover the beauty of the Portuguese coast with its hidden beaches, cozy fishermen’s villages, secret caves, and delicious cuisine.

By Alya & Campbell at Stingy Nomads

Best Portugal Road Trips

Highlights

  • Explore on foot the hidden beaches, rugged cliffs and flower fields of the Costa Vicentina National Park.
  • Stop at Cabo Sardão and Cabo de S.Vicente (the south-western-most point of Portugal and mainland Europe), two symbolic cliffs that offer breathtaking views.
  • Spot hundreds of storks’ nests along the coast.
  • Rent a board or learn to surf in Praia do Odeceixe or Arrifana.
  • Visit magnificent sandy beaches of Sagres, Lagos, and Faro.

Distance

460km

Duration

5-7 days

When to go

Spring/Autumn

The road trip starts in Lisbon the colourful and vibrant Portuguese capital city, with its narrow cobblestone streets, elaborated azulejos, endless cafés, and street markets.

The first stop is Porto Covo a small beach town with a very relaxed vibe and great restaurants. A short walk to one of the nearby beaches is a great way to stretch your legs after a couple of hours of driving.

The next stop is Zambujeria do Mar, another cozy beach town surrounded by dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches.

In Arrifana everything is about surfing, it’s a perfect place for those who want to learn how to surf.

After Cabo da Roca, Cabo de S.Vicente is the second most popular cape in Portugal. It’s a beautiful spot with a lighthouse, several lookouts and a couple of hidden beaches.

Sagres, Lagos, and Faro are ideal sunny beach holiday places with many outdoor and water activities, from surfing and kayaking to hiking and paragliding.

The Vicentina Coast is a great area to explore by car where one can combine a road trip, a beach holiday and outdoor activities.

Where to stay

  • Lisbon – Vila Berta Chez Andreia
  • Porto Covo – Apartamento Rosa 1
  • Zambujeira – Alojamento Local Mira Mar
  • Arrifana – HI Arrifana Destination Hostel
  • Sagres – Casa do Cabo de Santa Maria
  • Lagos – Sensations Guesthouse
  • Faro – Stay Hotel Faro Centro.

Madeira Road Trip

Funchal – Cabo Girão – Calheta Beach – Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse – Porto Moniz – Viewpoint of Bridal Veil Falls – Santana – Ponta de São Lourenço – Funchal

Encounter impressive cliffs, epic waterfalls, beautiful coastlines, unique volcanic formations, and interesting fauna and flora on this road trip in Madeira.

By Eniko Krix at Travel Hacker Girl

Madeira

Highlights

  • The fun ride down from Monte in a wicker basket guaranteed to put a smile on any visitor.
  • The skewers of traditional Espetada is a must-try food on the island, that are perfect for dinner after a long day exploring.
  • Taking a dip in the Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools is a really unique experience on a hot day
  • The architecture of the roads are really impressive. You will drive through astonishing natural scenery on narrow, steep roads, tunnels and bridges.

Distance

200km

Duration

3 days

When to go

Spring/Autumn

Start your journey from Funchal, where you can see unique street art at the Old Town. Then take the cable car up to Monte for some scenic views. You can enjoy the toboggan ride down in a traditional wicker basket sledge, which is steered by two carreiros.

Next up drive to Cabo Girão, where you can test your bravery on the glass floor skywalk. This viewing platform offers lovely views of Funchal and the coastline.

You can spend the night in Calheta, where you can go for a swim at the beach if the weather is nice or just simply enjoy the sunset at a sea-side restaurant.

Next up head to Porto Moniz, but take a photo stop at the Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse. In Porto Moniz, you can go for a swim in the volcanic pools.

Continue your way to Santana to view the iconic triangular thatched houses. On your way have a quick stop to see the Bridal Veil Falls.

After spending the night in Santana start your morning with some hiking in Madeira. Ponta de São Lourenço is on a peninsula that guarantees to offer some jaw-dropping views. The 7 km hike will take 3-4 hours, leaving plenty of time to make your way back to Funchal after.


Sao Miguel Azores Adventure

Ponta Delgada – Furnas – Ribeira Grande – Sete Cidades – Nordeste

Spend four days exploring the beautiful landscapes of Sao Miguel, one of Portugal’s Azores Islands.

By Inma at A World to Travel

Highlights

  • Stunning landscapes
  • Slow island pace
  • Food to die for!

Distance

300km

Duration

4-7 days

When to go

Year round

Departing from the capital, Ponta Delgada, where the PDL airport is located (served by a multitude of cheap flights from many points of the old continent) and establishing our base there, every day we toured a corner of the island.

The first day we drove west. Sete Cidades and its many lagoons had us busy before watching the sunset over the favorite spot of surfers on the island: Mosteiros.

The second day we visited the north and northeast, Ribeira Grande and the cliffs that surround it, in addition to the tea plantations and other wonders of the area.

Finally, the third day we drove east. Near Nordeste, we saw more lagoons, waterfalls, and cliffs. Our favorite was Punta do Sossego, where we decided to end our adventure before returning to Ponta Delgada to spend the night and, the next day, take the plane back home.

As we had little time, we had to limit our Azores road trip to the island of Sao Miguel, the island that receives the most tourism. Still, as we traveled there in winter, we were lucky to have the island for ourselves because there were hardly any other tourists. For our next trip, there are the other Azores islands to explore like the beautiful Terceira and Flores. Oh Portugal, what an inexhaustible source of dream landscapes you are!

Where to stay


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The Best Road Trips in Portugal

Useful travel resources for a Portugal road trip

For car rentals, we recommend booking with Rentalcars.com. We’ve always found them to have the cheapest deals for mainstream retailers.

If you decide to book any AirBnB apartments, use this link, as it’ll give you £25 off your first trip.

We often find great deals on Booking.com, getting a discount of up to 60%. Use this discount code to get £20 off your booking.

Don’t forget your travel insurance! We recommend World Nomads or True Traveller who both offer reliable, comprehensive cover, including medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. You can buy both True Traveller and World Nomads insurance even when you’ve left home, which is unusual for travel insurance companies.

If you’re planning a trip to Portugal or anywhere in the world, be sure to check out our travel planning pages  for all our best travel tips, including how to save money with the best cards, what to bring, and all our favourite tools and tricks.

We also have full, detailed itineraries for many other destinations, including a California road trip; 5 days in Iceland10 days in Japan; a road trip from Florence to the Amalfi Coast; a South Africa honeymoon guide; and the ultimate road trip in New Zealand. See all our travel itineraries.

Disclosure: Please also note all our accommodation was gifted by the hotels, so that we could review it. All opinions are our own. 

9 thoughts on “Road Trip Portugal: Three Epic Portugal Road Trips”

  1. Thanks for this guide ! We are planning to go to Portugal, maybe by the end of the year. We want to avoid summer there :/
    Thanks for all those informations 🙂

  2. I’ve been to Lisbon once, and it was almost 10 years ago and pouring the entire time. I still loved it though! This post really made me want to go back and explore more of Portugal!

  3. What a beaut read. Easy to understand. I almost felt I was there. Working towards this next year. But you said April rainy so wondering best time to go? Hoping to house sit there long term as well. Cheers from bleak cold Tasmania. Just back from Japan. Loved it. Cheers Liz n Laz

    • Thank you for your lovely comments. I’m not sure on the bets time to go as Europe is pretty unpredictable when it comes to weather. But I imagine Spring/Autumn is best, so you get sunny days, but avoid the scorching hot summer, so maybe May, June or September.

  4. I love the way you put all the things in one together. and like the point about vegetarian. These two porto and lisbon are major cities of portugal and tourist attraction. Thanks mate for describing all the things so simply written text. I really appreciate.

  5. Hey nice guide! Brings back lovely memories of my road trip there too. We had a similar schedule and included Nazare and Aveiro. And Portuguese food is simply to die for. Excellent!

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