For most tourists, a trip to Portugal means the Algarve, and beautiful though this part of Portugal is, you’ll find its coastline a pretty busy place, especially during the summer months.
So, if you are looking to do something a little different, head north and experience some of the 500 kilometres of Portugal’s incredible Atlantic coastline. Taking a road trip is absolutely the best way to experience a country.
The journey is no longer something you endure just to get to your destination; the journey is the experience. Sure, you’ve got an endpoint to the trip, but in the meantime, where you go and how long you stay, is up to you.
A suggested itinerary
The most convenient way to manage a road trip is fly into an international airport, hire a car and fly out from a different international airport. You will pay a one-way fee for dropping the car at a different destination, but the payoff is that you don’t have to return over territory you’ve already covered.
The obvious arrival and departure locations in Portugal are Lisbon and Porto, or the other way around if you prefer. Lisbon is, of course, a vacation in itself so plan to spend at least a couple of days there before you pick up your hire car and head north. Depending on how much time you have to play with, there are several great day trips you can do from Lisbon before you set off on your road trip.
Sintra is just a short hop away and though it may be full of tourists it’s no less beautiful for that. If castles are your thing, there’s a great one at Obidos which is just an hour or so from Lisbon or you can visit the ruins of the temple of Diana at Evora on a day trip. As you head north be sure to stop at Nazare, famous for its immense waves, although you’ll need to be there in winter to catch the best ones.
A little further north is Aveiro, with its canals, art nouveau buildings and knockout seafood, or you can venture inland to Coimbra, a lovely riverfront city that was once Portugal’s capital. Eventually, you’ll arrive at Porto, famous for its port wines and beautiful bridges and like Lisbon, somewhere that merits a vacation all to itself.
Travelling on a budget
The weather is great so cut down on the meals out and enjoy picnicking on the great local produce. Also, you don’t need to pay to see stuff, there really is plenty to do for free.
For locations where you intend to spend several days or more, you should check into self-catering accommodation which could well work out much cheaper than hotels. Be aware that in peak seasons, hotels in popular resorts will tend to be full so book in advance.
All regions of Portugal have their local specialities so make a point of seeking them out and trying them. The seafood on the coast is fresh, local and as good as you will get anywhere. If you are not a meat eater you may have to search a little but there are great vegetarian meals to be found. If you are a vegan, you will probably have to cater for yourself but the local produce is of great quality so you will eat well.
So there you have it, a quick itinerary for Portugal. Do you have plans to visit? What exciting things have you been researching?