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 we were coming back to visit Portugal because we had just 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.
Portugal is a great destination to visit
This is the first idea that comes to mind when I think of Portugal. Portugal is our most immediate neighbor, and it shares its entire border with Spain. 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: beaches and mountains, forests, cities with history, wonderful food, 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 far outweigh the cons. The best thing, judge for yourself!
How can you organize a 15-day Portugal road trip?
When you start to think about how you are going to organize the road trip you can consider 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. We asked ourselves what options suited us best? And basically, what we did was divide Portugal into three zones.
- North area with the base of operations in Porto. 5 days.
- Central area with the 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’s 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 the small towns. If you want to get to Porto in 5 hours, then you can skip this step and take the highway instead.
Bragança, our first stop in Portugal
We will enter Portugal from Zamora by the N-122, where 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 a simple city with an abundance 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, which is 110 km long, and it will take you 1 hour and a half at most, but you will be paying tolls.
We chose the first option, for two reasons, the first is that by the N-103 you travel on its south side through 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 learned that the north of Portugal is very rich in hot springs. And the hot springs of Chaves have been especially well known, even in Roman times.
Running through 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, 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
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 personalities. The truth was that I was surprised when we visited it the first time. In the link, you have all the information needed to visit the city.
*Some of the links below are affilaite links. That means I may make a commission if you click and buy.
Please see my full disclosure policy for more information.
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 Bolhão, 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 filters 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 reasonable prices.
Side Trips near Porto
In this post, we’ll 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 Guimarães
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 Guimarães.
Visit 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 the red rooster the symbol of Portugal.
Visit Braga because it became one of the three capitals of Lusitania and its center and old town are fantastic for an enjoyable promenade. It’s a city with a history 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 start early in the morning. Aveiro is a charming city, very beautiful, and it is considered 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, Buçaco, Mealhada and Coimbra
On 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 Bussaco (Buçaco) 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 Bussaco 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 ranging from Sequoias to gigantic eucalyptus trees to fern forests. It has several trails to hike and is really worth it.
Mealhada is a good place to go to restaurants. We ate a suckling pig with wine and 1 appetizer for € 30 for both of us. As you enter the city you will see on each side of the road places to eat Leitao. Pick the place you like the most and enjoy the food.
Coimbra is a city to walk 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
Yesterday afternoon, you visited Coimbra, but you can also do it this morning. In the afternoon, you can go to Tomar where there 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 nearby. 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, Alcobaça, Abidos, Peniche, Ericeira and CasCais
We start the next day visiting Batalha and its monastery, which 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 touristy, and expensive, but very beautiful.
From Abidos, we go to Peniche, which has a picturesque fort on the coast and its beaches with waves they call “supertubes” where one of the world’s surf contests is held.
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 surf 😉
And we went to Cascais. It’s late for sure, so you have to rest, then tomorrow it’s time to go on.
Since you are already traveling the center of Portugal in a southerly direction, enjoy every town and every city you stumble upon as much as possible.
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: Cascais and Boca do Inferno.
Visit Cabo da Roca soon in the morning and arrive at Palace da Pena at about 09:00 or 09:30, otherwise, it is hell with all of the people and cars.
No one told us about this, but luckily we arrived early to Sintra, and by lunchtime, we were already leaving. We saw people waiting in line for about an hour and an hour half to buy the ticket!! It took us, at 09:30, five minutes, and even then, there were still a lot of people.
In Cascais, it is essential and 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 visited Lisbon for 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 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 Guests by 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 Pantheon, the Castelo de São Jorge, the viewpoint of Santa Luzia, the Cathedral (La Sé), and the house dos Bicos.
In the afternoon, you have to visit the neighborhoods of Barrio Alto, La Baixa, and Chiado with Praca do Commercio, 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.
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 making the hotel reservations on Booking, you’ll find a great selection along with some of 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 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 the second one because we will stop by the towns and beaches that we want to see.
Beaches between Lisbon and Sagres
On the way, you might be interested in stopping in Zambujeira do Mar, which has one of the best urban beaches in Portugal.
Then you can stop in Odeceixe, which has a super special beach surrounded by a river. When we went, the river flowed in the opposite direction, 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.
If you keep coming down, be sure to visit the beach of Arrifana and the beach of Bordeira – Carrapateira. Then, 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 can see the lighthouse of Ponta da Piedade that has a beautiful environment.
You can go to visit Praia do Camilo, which is a beautiful and small beach, even though it’s crowded. Snorkeling is done quite well in this area.
And on the way, you can go eat grilled sardines. In Lagos, I recommend two places, either the “Tasca da Lota” or “Barrigada”. They were the two places that the local people recommended. We went to Tasca da Lota and it was spectacular, especially with the 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 on 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 of Benidorm, a crowded and very beach focused 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 has places of shade or sun, as you like. The water was relatively warm in temperature and you could do snorkeling.
Faro and return to Madrid
On 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 home.
There is much to tell you! Here we have given you nothing but a few brush-strokes of each destination. In different posts, we are going to go further in detail on 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, it 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 3 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
- World Nomads
They are the best travel insurance we have used, and we have had very happy experiences with both of 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!!!
In this post you may find affiliate links. This means that if you make any purchases by clicking on one of them, I will take a small commission, but you are not increased by the price. Why are we doing this? Because it helps us to keep this project running and to continue creating useful content for your travels. Thank you so much for the support!