Portugal Road Trip from North to South in 15 days
We’ve finally been able to take 15 days to visit Portugal. We already knew it, but we just had visited Porto and Lisbon, but we had never been able to take a couple of weeks to get to know Portugal properly.
In this post I will tell you our planning and itinerary of the 15-day road trip through Portugal.
Índice de contenidos
Portugal is a great destination to visit
This is the first idea that comes to mind. Portugal is our most immediate neighbor, and it’s shares with Spain its entire border. However, on many occasions, we don’t even take this into account in our travel or vacation plans. And I have to say, it’s a great destination to travel around.
Best things to do in Portugal. Itinerary 15 days road trip
Portugal has beautiful places to visit: beach and mountain, forests, cities with history, eats wonderfully and on top, it’s cheap. It also has some drawbacks such as its highway and highway management or the price of fuel, among others. But from my point of view, the pros win by far to the cons. The best thing, judge for yourself!
How can organize 15-day Portugal road trip?
When you start to think about how you are going to organize the road trip you can considerer two alternatives: the first, a road trip where every day you sleep in a different place, or on the contrary, take different bases of operations and visit Portugal by zones. In the end we decided to make a combination of both. What options suit you best? But basically what we did was divide Portugal into three zones.
- North area with base of operations in Porto. 5 days.
- Central area with base of operations in Coimbra (1 day) and Lisbon. 5 days.
- South zone / Algarve: base of operations in Sagres. 4 days.
Now I’ll break down these tours a little bit more so you can get an idea of what you can do each day. And then I’ll tell you day by day what you’re worth seeing and where to go, etc.
Travel to Portugal from Madrid by car
This is the first part of the road trip to Portugal. You can visit some cities and cross natural places or take the highway to Porto. It’s a journey to go enjoying the route, the villages and small towns. If you want to get to Porto in 5 hours, then you skip this step and take the highway.
Bragança, our first stop in Portugal
We will enter Portugal from Zamora by the N-122,we enter just through the north of Portugal and our first destination will be Bragança.
Bragança is a very beautiful city that preserves a medieval historic center that deserves a quiet walk. Must-Visit Places in Bragança
- Medieval Castle,
- The Tower of Homage that is one of the highest in Portugal and which, in addition, is an army museum,
- Domus Municipalis
- and numerous churches.
Come to the main square of the city called Largo Principal where you can see the Episcopal Pazo, the Main Building and the old cathedral. It is a beautiful city, I loved it, especially because it is simple, but with a lot of history.
What to see in Chaves?
The next stop on the route through Portugal is Chaves. Chaves is 100 km from Braganca if you go on the N-103, it will take you two hours, but you don’t pay a toll. You can go by highway that are 110 km and it will take you 1 hour and a half at most, but paying tolls.
We chose the first option, for two reasons, the first is that by the N-103 you travel on its south side the Montesinho Natural Park and the second is that you do not pay tolls, in that order of importance. You enjoy the road and you get to Chaves.
This is where we learn that the north of Portugal is a very rich area in hot springs. And the hot springs of Chaves are especially well known, even in Roman times.
In Chaves is the Tamega River and the Romans had to build a bridge to cross it as it was an important trade route. The bridge is very nice.
In Chaves you can visit the Roman baths and its historic center with its colorful houses and balconies, the Pelourinho or Picota, the church of St Mary, the church of Mercy, the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança and the Tower of Homage with the Medieval Castle and finally the Hot Springs.
Except for the bridge and the thermal baths, the rest is all together in the historic center. It’s a beautiful city, don’t miss it.
Porto: 5-day base of operations
And you get to Porto at night. This city serves you very well as a base to get to know the north of Portugal.
Spend at least two days visiting Porto. It’s a very very beautiful city with a lot of personality. The truth was that I was surprised when we visited it the first time. In the link you have all the information to visit the city.
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Porto has a lot of places to see and things to do. You have to visit its bridges, the cathedral, the castle, the wineries, the Church and the Clergy Tower, the Mercado do Bolhao, the Lello and Irmao bookstore, the Stock Exchange Palace, the church of San Francisco and much more.
Where to sleep in Porto?
In Porto you will find a wide variety of hotels for all tastes and budgets. Check out the Booking link, it’s our favorite place to book hotels and choose the one that best suits your needs. For the dates you are going to travel, add some filter and you are done, make your reservation and you already have your hotel.
If you are traveling by camper van or with a tent, there are well-equipped campsites with very good prices.
Side Trips near Porto
In this post we tell you everything you can see and visit from Porto with your rental car. If you only go a few days and want to hire excursions check out the activities offered by Civitatis,among them you will find dinners with shows, guided tours of the city, among others.
Porto best car rental
If you are arriving in Portugal by plane, it’s best to pick up the rental car at the airport. The best deals on car rental are on Rentalcars.com, I invite you to take a look and check for yourself.
Barcelos, Braga, Bom Jesus do monte and Guimaraes
For the third day I propose a short side trip or a 1 day road trip. You leave Porto from the north and visit Viana do Castelo, Barcelos, Braga, Bom Jesus do monte and Guimaraes.
Barcelos because it has an archaeological museum outdoors and because it is where the legend of the pilgrim and the rooster originates, which makes that famous black and red rooster the symbol of Portugal.
Braga became one of the three capitals of Lusitania and its center and old town are a fantastic and enjoyed promenade. It’s a city with history and that’s present in its streets. I’ll tell you in detail, too.
Bom Jesus do Monte is one of the most visited places of pilgrimage in all of Portugal and is also beautiful. It’s a must!
Guimaraes has a center that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a real marvel. You have to visit Guimaraes quietly and enjoy its streets and every corner.
Aveiro, Figueira da Foz and return to Porto
And for the Fourth Day I propose a side trip to Aveiro, Figueira da Foz and return to Oporto. It’s about 300 km and I recommend you to start early in the morning. Aveiro is a charming city, very beautiful, they call it the Venice of Portugal. It’s a pleasure to walk through it. Figueira da Foz is to enjoy the beach and its dunes.
Viseu, Luso, Bucaco, Mealhada and Coimbra
The fifth day of the road trip through Portugal you start traveling south. But to the inland area instead of the coast.
On our itinerary we made the first stop in Viseu. From there to Luso, where you have to visit the Forest or Mata do Bucaco and from here to Mealhada to eat leitao (pig) as it is said in Portuguese. And the last stretch is from Mealhada to Coimbra.
Coimbra is an ideal city to dedicate at least one day and spend a night. You have to visit its famous university which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the oldest in Portugal.
- Read: What to see in Coimbra
Mata do Bucaco is an awesome place to visit. It’s a forest that was protected and fenced by Benedictine monks. In it they founded a convent and later built a palace that became a 5-star Palace Hotel. It was one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
It’s still working today, and it looks like you’ve gone back 50 or 60 years when you get into it. The Forest has species of trees and plants of the most varied and curious. From Sequoias to gigantic eucalyptus trees or fern forests. It has several trails to walk it and really worth it.
Mealhada is a good place to go to restaurants. We ate a suckling pig with a wine and 1 appetizer for € 30 both of us. As you enter the city you will see on each side of the road places to eat leitao. Pick the one you like the most and enjoy the food.
Coimbra is a city to walk it in no hurry. The university is in the old part of the city and it’s pretty. You can see the interior and the library, it’s worth it to pay the fee. . It also has an aqueduct and two cathedrals, the old and the new one You have to pay to come in and see them.
To sleep in Coimbra I leave this Booking link so you can make the reservation and take a look at the prices on the date of your trip to Portugal.
Central Portugal and Lisbon
Coimbra, Tomar, San Pedro de Moel and Nazare
On the afternoon of yesterday you visited Coimbra, you can also do it with the morning of today. In the afternoon you can go to Tomar where is the most important Monastery and Templar castle in Portugal. That’s where the Templars established their base when they were expelled from Europe.
You can spend the night in Tomar or close. We took advantage and went to Marinha Grande and San Pedro de Moel to watch the sunset and dine in Nazaré.
You can sleep in Nazaré, (check the hotels) or on the way to Lisbon, it’s an hour and a half.
Batalha, Alcobaca, Abidos, Peniche, Ericeira and CasCais
We start the next day visiting Batalha and its monastery that is a World Heritage Site, from Batalha we head to Alcobaça which also has a monastery that is a World Heritage Site.
From Alcobaça and passing through Caldas da Rainha we visited Abidos which is a beautiful medieval village, super touristic and expensive, but very beautiful.
From Abidos we go to Peniche which has a picturesque fort on the coast and its beaches with the waves they call “supertubes” where one of the world surf contests is done.
We continue south on Cascais, we stayed here, although you can also stay in Lisbon, and stop in Ericeira which has spectacular beaches for surfing or learn to surfing 😉
And we got to CasCais. It’s late for sure, so you have to rest, that tomorrow it’s time to go on.
You are already road tripping the center of Portugal in a southerly direction. Enjoy every town and every city.
Cabo da Roca, Sintra, Palacio da Pena and CasCais, Boca do Inferno
For today, there are three places to visit:
- The first Cape da Roca which is the western point of Western Europe.
- The second and longest-to-take, is the Pena Park and Palace in Sintra.
- And the third is CasCais and Boca do Inferno.
Visit Cabo da Roca soon in the morning and arrive at the palacio da Pena at about 09:00 or 09:30, otherwise, it is a hell of people and cars.
No one told us about this, but luckily we got early to Sintra, and by lunchtime we were already leaving. And we saw people doing line about an hour and an hour half to buy the ticket!! It took us, at 09:30, five minutes and there were still a lot of people.
In CasCais is essentially worth seeing the Boca do Inferno which is a grotto timed by the sea.
What to see in Lisbon in two days
The next two days are to visit Lisbon, an essential place on your road trip through Portugal. We visit Lisbon two and a half days because we loved this city, it is beautiful, picturesque and full of corners that deserve a very good visit (and that we had already spent a weekend before).
The only downside is that it’s uncomfortable to drive and you have to move by public transport or walking. The slopes are hard, keep that in mind when you choose your footwear.
Day 1. Alfama, Barrio Alto, La Baixa and Chiado
Lisbon has a lot to do and visit, so it’s good that you take it a little plan and organize your journey. You have to dedicate a full morning to the Alfama district, take breakfast in front of the Museu do Fado while the Guents dy Rincon group sings you live ethnic music, in the square “Largo do Chafariz de Dentro”. It was a very good time.
Then you can visit the Panteon, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the viewpoint of Santa Luzia, the Cathedral (La Sé) and the house dos Bicos.
And in the afternoon you have to visit the neighborhoods of Barrio Alto, La Baixa and Chiado with Praca do Comercao, Praca de Rossio, the Elevador de Santa Justa and the Mirador de San Pedro de Alcántara or Catalina.
Day 2. Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, Parque de las Naciones and Vasco da Gama
On the second day in the morning you can dedicate it to the neighborhood of Belem,where you have to visit the Tower of Belem and the Monastery of the Jeronimos. You can also visit the Padrao dos Descobrimentos and in the afternoon to the Park of Nations and the Vasco da Gama bridge.
*Tip: Take half a day to visit something you’ve left behind or especially liked.
And from Lisbon you have to go to the Natural Park of the Southwest Alentejo and the Algarve.
Where to sleep in Lisbon
As always we recommend make the hotels reservations on Booking, you’ll find a great selection and the best prices. Here you have the link to choose your ideal hotel in Lisbon.
Southern Portugal, Alentejo and Algarve
These last five days in Portugal are quieter. Although you will visit and get to know beautiful places, you will also be able to do a more relaxed tourism, enjoy the sun and the beaches, do water activities such as snorkeling or kayaking, among others.
To go to the Algarve you can go by the toll highway or by the national road. We prefer to go by the national, because we will stop by the towns and beaches that we want to see.
Beaches between Lisbon and Sagres
On the way, you are interested in stop in Zambujeira do Mar which has one of the best urban beaches in Portugal.
Then you can stop in Ocedeixe which has a super special beach surrounded by a river, when we went the river flowed upside down, from the sea to the inland. In the photo you can see the river behind the beach.
In Aljezur you can see the beach Monte de Clérigo which also has some paths on the cliffs that are awesome.
You keep coming down and be sure to visit The beach of Arrifana and the beach of Bordeira – Carrapateira. And you arrive in Sagres and Cabo de San Vicente.
If you arrive before the sunset don’t hesitate to go to Cabo de San Vicente to see the sunset, it is spectacular!
The next day you can get to know Sagres, with its fortress and the beaches of Sagres, especially the beach do Tonel. As you go east, towards Portimao, Albufeira, etc., the beaches and cities become more crowded. Keep that in mind.
Lagos Praia do Camilo and Alvos
You can dedicate the next day to Lagos. In Lagos you can take a Kayak tour of the caves of lakes, although they also do it in motorized boats. Depending on what you want during this tour you see the lighthouse of Ponta da Piedade that has an environment that is beautiful.
You can go to visit Praia do Camilo which is a beautiful and small beach, although crowded. Snorkeling is done quite well in this area. And of the way, you can go eat grilled sardines. In Lagos I recommend two places, or the “Tasca da Lota” or “Barrigada”. They were the two places that the people from there recommended to us. We went to Tasca da Lota and it was spectacular, price, quality and quantity. We ate some sardines and a bream with cooked potatoes, salad and wine for €25.
In the afternoon, from Lagos you can go to Alvos which is near Portimao and spend the afternoon in the beach of “tres irmaos”. It’s a beautiful beach.
Portimao and Albufeira
The next day you can dedicate it to Portimao and Albufeira. Portimao reminded me a lot of Benidorm, crowded and very beach town. I wasn’t comfortable, so we left fast. In albufeira you can visit the historic center and the beach of San Rafael that is beautiful and where you have places of shade or sun, as you like. The water was well in temperature and you could do snorkeling.
Faro and return to Madrid
The fifth day you can dedicate it to Faro and visit the natural park of the Ria Formosa which has beaches that are only accessible by boat. You can also visit the historic center of Faro which is very beautiful. Also, you can stop in Santa Luzia or Cabanhas, it depends on how quickly you want to return to home.
. There is much to tell you! Here we have given you nothing but a few brush-strokes of each destination. On different posts we are going to detail what you can see, do and visit in Portugal. .
You know, if you have any questions, queries or comments, leave it to us!! And of course, you can share this post with your friends on social media!
Where to sleep in the Algarve?
Check out Booking and choose the accommodation that interests you. Pay attention to having parking. If you are doing a road trip is almost fundamental!
Traveling with travel insurance
Traveling to another country by car, with its different rules and ways of driving can make you feel more insecure on the road, and if anything happens, it’s always better to have travel insurance taken out.
Our travel insurance recommendations are two and we have discount for our readers 🙂
- Mondo Travel Insurance,with a 5 % discount for our readers
- Chapka Travel Insurance,with a 7% discount for our readers
They are the best travel insurance we have used, and we are very happy with them so we recommend them.
Prepare your trip to Portugal
- What to see in Porto
- Aveiro, Figueira da Foz and Nazaré
- What to see in Lisbon
- The Legend of the Rooster of Portugal
- What to see in Guimaraes?
Book Your Trip
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel, hotel or apartments on Booking.com.
Best companies for activities
Check out Civitatis.com and find the best tours in English (French, Spanish and Italian)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too! (Is in Spanish yet)
We are not native English speakers but we have decided to translate our post to English so we can share it with the whole world. If you see any spelling mistake or something, please let us know, it is so important to us. If you do so, we can improve our post and also our English knowledge! Thanks in advance!!!
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