Portugal may be a small country, but it’s packed with beautiful scenery, vibrant culture, and historical wonders. From the rolling vineyards of the Douro Valley to the dramatic cliffs of the Algarve, each location offers unique and awe-inspiring landscapes.
We spent weeks driving around Portugal and had the pleasure of road tripping from top to bottom. No matter where we stopped, the people were friendly, the desserts were delicious, and the port wine flowed freely.
Best Road Trips in Portugal
From scenic coastal drives to inland trips, we’ve seen a lot firsthand and know there’s always more to explore. Whether you’re traveling as a couple, family, group of friends, or solo, we’ve found that Portugal has something for everyone.
From Lisbon to Porto: Coastal bliss
Are you excited to see what kind of road trip you can take in Portugal? Here’s our guide to the best road trips in Portugal for a trip you’ll never forget.
This classic Portuguese road trip route is the perfect blend of city, sea and history. Depart from the vibrant capital of Lisbon and cruise north along the coast, exploring beautiful beaches, medieval towns, and bustling cities before arriving in Porto, famous for its Port wine and historic charm.
Lisbon – Cascais – Sintra – Nazaré – Coimbra – Aveiro – Porto
Approximately 433km Travel time 5.5 hours – google map
Road trip duration:
- Lisbon: Portugal’s capital is full of gorgeous architecture, cool street tiles, and unusual activities like the Jerónimos Monastery. It’s also home to our favorite Portuguese dessert, the delicious Pastis de Belém.
- Cascais: Boca do Inferno, a dramatic cliff crevice, is worth a stop.
- Sintra: Explore the colorful Pena Palace and the beautiful Quinta da Regaira Palace (plus both of their stunning gardens).
- Nazareth: Be in awe of Nazaré’s giant waves, visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré, and check out Suberco Observatory, an observation deck with stunning panoramic ocean views.
- Coimbra: It is home to the Joanina Library, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, and the popular University of Coimbra.
- Aveiro: Also known as the Venice of Portugal, this Portuguese city is lined with canals decorated with brightly colored boats called moliceiros.
- Porto: Try different ports, take a Douro River cruise, and check out Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
Nazaré is a popular day trip, but consider staying overnight here. At night, when the tourists leave, you can experience the quiet charm of this fishing village, where tradition and local flavor are alive.
Douro Valley: Wine Circuit
For lovers of ports and wine, this route is a paradise. Depart from Porto and head into the heart of Portugal’s wine country, following the Douro River through beautiful towns and valleys, stopping for vineyard tours and tastings along the way.
Porto – Amarante – Peso da Regua – Piñon – Vila Real
Approximately 188km Travel time 3 hours – google map
- Porto: The iconic Ribeira district along the Douro River and Porto Cathedral, a 900-year-old building with stunning tile art.
- Amarante: Pont de Sao Goncalo, an arched bridge with historical significance.
- Peso da Regua: The Douro Museum explores the history and culture of the Douro region.
- Piñon: The station is decorated with blue and white azulejo tiles.
- Vila Real: The 18th-century Mateus Palace and its gorgeous gardens.
- Peso da Regua: Douro River Cruise and Douro Museum.
- Piñon: A station decorated with wine farms and azulejos.
- Vila Real: Mateus Palace.
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The Douro Valley is the birthplace of port wine, and no visit is complete without sampling this local specialty. Many vineyards offer tastings and tours where you can learn about the winemaking process from grape to bottle. But it’s not just a port issue. The region also produces excellent red and white wines. To fully understand the region’s rich viticultural history, be sure to take a guided tour of at least one wine estate.
Algarve: sunny splendor
This southern loop offers the quintessential Algarve experience, with golden beaches to lounge on hot summer days, rocky coves to explore, and bustling towns filled with nightlife. This route runs from the historic city of Faro to the westernmost tip of the Algarve, offering a comprehensive tour of this sunny region.
Tavira – Faro – Albufeira – Lagos – Sagres
Approximately 168km Travel time 3 hours – google map
- Tavira: Roman Bridge, a picturesque seven-arch bridge.
- Faro: Arco da Villa, an arched gate dating back to Moorish times.
- Albufeira: The center of nightlife in the Algarve. Be sure to check out the Old Town, a lively area filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
- Lagos: Ponta da Piedade is known for its spectacular rock formations and Praia Dona Ana.
- Sagres: Fort Sagres is a cliff-top fortress with panoramic views of the sea and Cape San Vincent. Very popular with kite surfers.
Tavira offers a less crowded and more authentic Algarve experience. With a relative lack of large-scale tourism, it is an ideal place to vacation on secluded beaches and explore traditional Portuguese culture. If you want to be somewhere with some action, Albufeira is the place to be.
Madeira Island: Garden Isle
Madeira, Portugal’s South Island, offers a unique road trip experience filled with natural beauty and old-world charm. Starting in Funchal, this island route offers lush gardens, volcanic pools, and unparalleled coastal views.
Funchal – Camara de Lobos – Ribeira Brava – Porto Moniz – Santana
Approximately 117km Travel time 2.5 hours – google map
- Funchal: From the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, with views over the Bay of Funchal, take a crazy toboggan ride through the city roads in traditional wicker baskets and visit the beautiful Labradores market.
- Camara de Lobos: A picturesque fishing village immortalized in a painting by Winston Churchill.
- Ribeira Brava: Fort Sao Bento, a historic fortress with beautiful sea views.
- Porto Moniz: Natural lava pools and Madeira Aquarium perfect for a unique swimming experience.
- Santana: A-frame houses with thatched roofs featuring traditional Madeira architecture. Queimadas Forest Park.
The Laurisilva Forest is a must-see on Madeira. This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers approximately 20% of the island. A walk here offers a rare glimpse into Europe’s prehistoric landscape. The flora and fauna are unique and the tranquility is unparalleled.
Azores: Volcano Adventure
Portugal’s Azores is a hidden treasure in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Starting in Ponta Delgada, this route takes you through volcanic landscapes, clifftop lookouts, and lush greenery that epitomizes the unspoiled beauty of the islands.
Ponta Delgada – Sete Cidades – Furnas – Nordeste
Approximately 126km Travel time 2.5 hours – google map
- Ponta Delgada: Be sure to visit the 16th-century Fort San Blas, as well as the Twin Lakes and Vista do Rei.
- Sete Sidades: Visit the beautiful crater lake, Lagoa do Fogo.
- Furnace: Terra Nostra Garden, a beautiful botanical garden with thermal pools.
- Nordeste: The Ponta do Sosego observation deck offers panoramic views of the cliffs and the sea.
The Azores are one of the world’s best spots for whale watching. Most tourists visit between April and October, but different species can be observed in each season. To increase your chances of sightings and ensure ethical practices, book your tour with a trusted tour company.
Travel tips for any route:
- toll road: Portugal has many toll roads. Renting an electronic device from Via Verde (Green Lane) allows you to pay some tolls automatically, while others require a pass, both of which save you time and effort.
- gas station: Refuel in larger cities, as services may be limited in rural areas. Gas stations often close early in remote areas.
- Local law: Always carry your ID and driver’s license. Portugal’s traffic police are known for their unannounced checks, which can result in hefty fines if you don’t have proper identification or proper passes.
Best road trips in Portugal
Each road trip has its own charm and nuances, and Portugal promises a satisfying adventure for every type of traveler. We loved our time here and the whole family always enjoyed jumping into the car knowing the next stop was going to be just as great as the last. Safe travels!