Looking for an open road adventure filled with beaches, beautiful coastline, historic cities, amazing food and culture rich? Then look no further. Portugal is the perfect place to plan your next road trip.
After road tripping in Australia, it’s safe to say it’s my favourite way to travel. So when the opportunity to complete a 10 day road trip in Portugal came up, I couldn’t resist!
Booking a spontaneous road trip in Portugal
It was a Friday afternoon when word on my job offer came through and I was ecstatic as it felt like it was taking ages to find a role. Knowing I had wanted to take a holiday in Europe before starting work, the minute the news came through I was googling cheap flights.
A return ticket from London to Porto was the first to catch my eye. A few cheeky glasses of wine and feeling spontaneous, the flights were booked to leave 4 days later. Craving a REAL adventure, I also booked a rental car for my 10 days in Portugal. And just like that I was about to embark on a 10 day solo female Portugal road trip.
If you prefer slower travel compared to getting in as much as you can then I wouldn’t suggest covering as much ground as I did on this trip and opt to stay a few more days in places along the way. I would say if I could do this trip again, I would definitely stay longer in certain towns.
Although Portugal may not be a large country, there is so much to explore. Exactly why a road trip is one of the best ways to see Portugal!
Given my timeline and as I rented a car, the goal was to venture to places that were more difficult to get to without one. In that regard I opted to skip Lisbon this time around. I definitely plan to visit the city for a proper exploration another time though!
There are so many places to stop when doing a road trip in Portugal and you can custom plan your drive to best suit your adventure.
Watch the Youtube video on my 10 day Road Trip in Portugal
Renting A Car in Portugal
Renting a car is a great option for travelling Portugal as it allows more freedom. Manual cars are much more popular in Europe than automatics and they tend to be cheaper to rent. I have absolutely no idea how to drive a manual car and was not about to learn in a foreign country so automatic was the obvious choice. Although automatics tend to be a bit pricier to rent, I still managed to get a really good deal on a FIAT 500 through a rental company that I found online.
Most rental companies will charge you a fee to drop off the car at another location. Although it would have been more ideal to begin in Porto and drop off the rental in Faro to fly back to London, flights were much cheaper returning from Porto and being on a budget, it was the best option. Do some research to see what option will be best for your trip.
Driving in Portugal
If you’re anything like me then you might be nervous about driving in another country. Luckily in Portugal driving for the most part is pretty straight forward except driving in Porto proved to be more challenging that I thought.
I’ll admit, there were a few freak out moments. The roads in the the cities of Portugal tend to be very narrow, drivers can be impatient and when you aren’t sure where you’re going while trying to navigate through unknown side streets, let’s just say it can be very overwhelming.
Driving on the highways in Portugal however is much more relaxing and enjoyable to drive once you are outside of the city areas. The roads are really well maintained and you can just cruise along with the windows down and the music on.
I really enjoyed solo driving along the highways in Portugal. May have been singing at the top of my lungs jamming out hard 🙂
Keep in mind that people tend to drive VERY fast on the highways and they will come up right behind you and ride your car’s back end. Make sure to move over to allow for passing.
The speed limit on the highways is usually about 120km an hour but I’d say most are driving much faster than that. At some points I was cruising at 140km per hour and was the slowest one.
Google maps saved my life! With Vodafone UK, you can use your date in many other European countries which is a huge bonus. If you don’t have data, you can download Google maps offline.
When road tripping in Portugal, you’ll go through quite a few tolls and trust me they can seem rather confusing as there are multiple lanes. If you are renting a car you’ll likely have a transponder the rental company will supply. They will charge you a fee so they will get billed for the tolls you go through and then later charge your credit card. This is the best options to keep things simple. Otherwise things can get quite complicated and you may have to pay tolls at a local post office. Difficult to do if you aren’t in Portugal any longer.
If you are using a transponder from a rental company go through the Via Verde lanes.
Let the Road Trip Begin!
Only about an hour drive outside of Porto, Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal. The vibrantly colourful town is filled with canals and gondola boats where you can take a romantic tour of the city for about 10 euros per person.
Take in the sites
Stroll around the city and visit the the beautiful Parque Dom Pedro Infante
Aveiro also attracts many tourists for its local beaches which are about a five minute drive from the town including Costa Nova Beach and Praia da Barra which were recommended by a local to visit
One of the main reasons I wanted to go visit Peniche was for the beautiful coastal cliffs views and lighthouse of Cabo Carvoiero.
Brush up on some history and visit the Fortaleza de Peniche which is actually built on the site of a former castle. It has had many uses over the years including military purposes and also acting as a political prison. Now the fortress has a museum inside you can visit for free and learn about the history within the walls of Fortaleza de Peniche.
Home to some of the world’s largest waves, Nazare has become widely known especially after Youtube videos of the gigantic waves had gone viral.
Nazare should be added to your Portugal road trip itinerary. The perfect place to spend a day or few, its only a short drive from Lisbon. Visit the lookouts for amazing views of the beach and town. and also check out the lighthouse surf museum. Pay 1 euro to enter and from the museum you can go up to the top of the lighthouse for the famous views of where the biggest waves hit.
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Who else is dreaming of views like this as winter gets closer ? 🙋🏽♀️ I remember seeing Nazaré on Youtube while people surfed some of the highest waves in the world and thought I have to visit that place someday. And I’m so happy I did. Look how beautiful this view is from high up on the cliff. Portugal truly blew me away! Make you sure to stop at Nazaré if you’re venturing Portugal. The sunsets are also pretty magical. . . . . . . . #nazare #portugal #toadtripportugal #travelportugal #shetravels #femalesolotraveler #myexpatcommunity #expatabroad #mytravelphoto #exploreeurope #destinationtravel #europebound #traveljunkie #travelust #travelbucketlist #travelfever #expatblogger #womenwhotravel #roadtripadventure #wheretonext #backpackeurope #lifeabroad #wandergram #wanderlost #adventureaddict
Make sure to catch a sunset on the beach, it does not disappoint!
Situated in the hills of the Serra de Sintra, this stunning, historic town is filled with gorgeous old buildings and picturesque palaces. Popular among tourists and only a short drive from Lisbon, Sintra should be added to your Portugal road trip itinerary. Make sure to get there early in the morning because parking fills up fast!
This World Heritage Surf town was my favourite place I visited throughout the whole 10 days I spent road tripping in Portugal. The charm alone will win you over. I only spent one night in Ericeira and it was not enough. I definitely recommend at least two to three days or longer if you plan to surf. There are many places that also offer surf and yoga camp deals.
There is a QuickSilver store and skate park in Ericeira that plays live music at sunset. Grab a beer and jam out as the sun sets over the ocean
Ericeira has some great food options for all your food cravings. There are tons of restaurants including some delicious cafes offering acai bowls.
One place I really loved in Ericeira that I suggest checking out is Sunset Bamboo Bar. Delicious grilled sandwiches, açai bowls and something for everyone.
Of course there is no shortage of Portuguese cafes to grab some delicious breakfast pastries, pastel de natas and coffee.
Situated in the beautiful Algarve Coast, Portugal’s most southern region, Lagos is a popular tourist destination that should be added to your Portugal road trip itinerary. Spend a few days relaxing and unwinding while enjoying the sunshine. Even in October, it was 25-30 C during the day. Pure heaven after being in rainy London.
Filled with gorgeous coast line, more beaches than you can ask for and warm temperate climate, Lagos was one of my favourite places I stopped throughout my road trip and the one that actually sparked my desire to visit Portugal in the first place.
There are no shortage of hostels in Lagos and after staying in many hostels I can safely say Portuguese are among the nicest I’ve stayed in.
If açai bowls are your thing make sure to grab one at the cafe Coffee and Waves. You will not be disappointed. I stopped in for a bowl on my last day in Lagos and it was the perfect delicious ending to my 3 days on the coast.
Walk the Coast
Spend a few hours hiking the coastal cliffs in Lagos for amazing views of the ocean, rock formations and beaches below. You may even come across the nudist beach on your journey. If you get tired, make your way down to one of the many beaches you’ll pass on your walk and stop for a relaxing dip and sunbathe.
Take a Boat Tour
At first I couldn’t decide what activity to do in Lagos as there are so many options. I ended up deciding on a half day catamaran boat tour that ventured along the coast to the most western tip of mainland Europe. The views were incredibly stunning and the tour included lunch, great music, stand up paddle board use and we stopped for a swim as well. Given it was October the water was chilly but refreshing to say the least. Drinks can also be purchased aboard.
Visit the Caves
There are so many tours and activities to do in Lagos and one of the most popular and famous things to do is visiting the caves along the Algarve coast including the Benagil Caves. This was also high on my list and one I definitely intend to go back to Portugal to do.
Take a Surf Lesson
Are you a surfer or looking to take a lesson? Lagos is known for its amazing surf attracting those from all over the cruise the Algarve waves.
Tip: Lagos is a bit more on the steep side for surf lessons costing about 60 euros. Other less touristy spots will most likely be more budget friendly. When I was in Ericeira, I took a lesson for 30 euros. Do your research and decide what the best option is for you.
Kayak the Coast
Kayak tours are such a fantastic way to get active and catch the breathtaking views of the cliffs and beaches of Lagos. Tours run multiple times a day through various rental companies and you can even take a sunset tour. Can you think of a better way to watch the sunset? I think not!
Stand up Paddle Board Rental
Looking for a more leisurely afternoon on the water? Rent a stand up paddle board and take in the golden beaches and white rocky cliffs while cruising along the blue waters of the Atlantic.
Porto is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. Its a place you could lose yourself for hours soaking in It’s picturesque charm. Set aside at least one full day (more if possible) to explore Porto. I only had one day to see the city and felt like two would have been much better.
Cruise along the Cais de Ribeira
You will be spoiled with options to eat and drink. Take in the views of the Duoro River and the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge.
Taste the Port
Take a stroll along the bridge to the other side of the river where you can find a plethora of places to taste some port. You are in Porto after all.
Make sure to visit the historic and beautifully unique São Bento Train Station
Catch a sunset
Being a hilly city, Porto has many great spots witness the sky catch fire. I watched the sunset at Passeio das Virtudes which has gorgeous views of the river where lots of people, locals and tourists alike, can sit on the grass and sip on cheap beer or wine from one the local cafes that line the streets. I actually met a few girls from Brazil after helping them open a wine bottle and we ended up sitting together chatting and laughing while watching the sun set sipping on 2 euro wine. You never know who you will meet! It was the perfect ending to my last night in Portugal after completing a 10 day road trip.
Portugal was an absolute adventure and is fantastic place to road trip in Europe. As a female solo traveller myself, I never felt unsafe. The locals were incredibly kind and always willing to provide tips on where to go and eat. The historic buildings and architecture are stunning especially those with traditional Portuguese tiling. The food is delicious and there’s no shortage of options for every palate and diet. The beaches are pristine and for those surfers, Portugal is one of the surfing capitals of the world. Regardless of what you are seeking on your road trip, Portugal has it all.
Looking for more road trip inspiration? You may also like Road tripping in Australia from Broome to Perth
Have you been to Portugal or are you planning to go? I hope this post proves to be helpful and inspires you to pack your bags, explore the beautiful country and all it has to offer. Leave a comment below!