Portugal is a beautiful country with a lot to offer, but many tourists only visit the popular destinations like Lisbon, Porto, and Lagos. This 2-week road trip itinerary takes you off the beaten path and explores some of the hidden gems of Portugal.
Because Lisbon and Porto are home to Portugal’s major international airports, I admit it would be difficult to plan a road trip through Portugal without having to start or finish in one of these cities.
Cities Visited on our Portugal Road Trip
When planning our two week road trip in Portugal, we wanted to visit places off the beaten path. We decided to fly into Lisbon and fly out of Porto. Naturally, this meant visiting off-the-beaten path destinations between the two cities.
We wanted to explore Portugal’s coast and mountainous inland. After extensive research, we mapped out our 2-week road trip through Portugal and decided to visit:
- Castelo de Vide
- Douro Valley
Depending on where you’re going after your Portugal trip, you could finish your road trip in Porto like we did. Otherwise, you’d have to drive, take a train, or fly back to Lisbon to catch your flight out of the country.
3 Nights in Lisbon
If this is your first time in Lisbon, I recommend spending at least 3 nights here to give yourself time to explore the city. This city has lots to offer: panoramic views, a bustling restaurant and bar scene, culture centers and museums. Lisbon also offers easy access to picturesque towns for day trips such as Sintra and Cascais.
Things to do in Lisbon
I recommend visiting the National Pantheon in Lisbon. It’s currently a mausoleum and holds the tombs for some of Portugal’s most prominent figures in politics, arts, and sports. The National Pantheon’s architecture is simply stunning. I also recommend going up to its rooftop to get a panoramic view of the city.
If you love or want to learn about traditional Portuguese tiles (known as azulejo), you’ll want to visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. It explains how azulejo came about in Portugal including the cultures that inspired it.
Other museums worth checking out are Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (ancient art), Museu do Oriente (Oriental), and Museu das Comunicações (communication).
No trip to Lisbon would be complete without a visit to Belém Tower and Castelo de São Jorge.
For incredible viewpoints around the city, especially at sunset, check out many of the miradouros around the city. Two of my favorite viewpoints are Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and Miradouro da Graça.
Day trip from Lisbon to Sintra
During one of your full days in Lisbon, go to Sintra to visit one, two, or even three palaces. We managed to visit 3 palaces on our day trip to Sintra: Peña, Monserrate, and Regaleira. We did this by focusing our efforts on saving time and not cost; we used Uber to get from Lisbon to Sintra and then to travel between palaces.
If you’re not interested in renting a car or taking an Uber or taxi, you can take a train from Lisbon to Sintra, then take bus 434 and/or 435 to the palaces you want to visit. Buy the multi-use ticket which lets you hop on/hop off the bus throughout the day. The buses are operated by Scotturb. You can view the bus timetables online so you can plan your day trip to Sintra in advance.
If you want to visit Sintra but you’re not interested in planning the trip, check out these tours that will take you from Lisbon to Peña and other palaces in Sintra.
2 Nights in Peniche / Baleal Island
Distance from Lisbon to Peniche: 100km
To begin your Portugal road trip, go to Lisbon’s international airport to pick up your rental car, then start your drive to Peniche. I recommend making a stop at the Eden Garden, Europe’s largest outdoor garden commemorating Asian and African art. You can spend an hour here walking through the beautiful gardens and admiring the statues and various artworks.
I really enjoyed the landscape around Peniche and Baleal. In Peniche, you have dramatic cliffs and insane rock formations jetting out of the water. Baleal, on the other hand, is a surfer’s paradise thanks to its sandy shores and constant flow of waves.
For your first day in Peniche, explore the coastline either by foot or car. Key points of interest I recommend you visit are Limbo do Leste, Varanda de Pilatos, and Cabo Carvoeiro Lighthouse. We accessed all those points by foot by following an easy-to-follow, mainly flat trail around the coast.
For dinner, make a reservation at Os Americano’s. This place was so good, we went twice. Don’t let the name deter you though. Os Americano’s is owned by a local couple who lived in the U.S. The food was fresh and tasted absolutely delicious, we couldn’t help but thank the chef herself!
Other restaurant recommendations for Peniche include Jazzie, also run by the locals who own Os Americano’s, and O Pedro where you can get tasty, affordable, and big portions of local seafood.
Day trip from Peniche to Berlenga Island
On day 2, take a round trip boat ride to Berlenga Island. The excursion allows you to spend a few hours on the island, giving you a chance to swim, walk the island, and visit the fort. We booked our trip with Feeling Berlenga. We took the fast boat and I was not a fan; the sea’s waves were too massive and violent. If you’re not much of a sea person, you can book the slow boat.
2 Nights in Castelo de Vide / Marvão
Distance from Peniche to Castelo de Vide: 215km
Distance from Peniche to Castelo de Vide via Nazaré: 265km
On the drive to Castelo, I recommend making a short detour to Nazaré, home to the largest waves in the world. It’s worth mentioning that the massive waves in Nazaré do not exist year round, so there’s a possibility you won’t see them on your visit.
After Lisbon and Peniche, Castelo de Vide feels like another country. This leg of your Portugal road trip takes you away from Portugal’s rocky coast to its hills and mountains.
Castelo de Vide is located in a mountainous regional park so as you walk around the town, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the surrounding green landscape.
This town sits on Portugal’s border with Spain. If you’ve ever been to the inland regions of Spain, Castelo de Vide might feel familiar to you.
On the day you arrive, take it easy and explore Castelo de Vide on foot. Bring comfortable shoes because the streets are made of stone and very hilly.
Castelo de Vide is truly off the beaten path. The town is untouched by international tourism, so it’s worth learning a few basic Portuguese words before coming here. You should also carry cash (Euros) as many establishments do not take cards.
Day trip from Castelo de Vide to Marvão
On day 2, drive to Marvão to enjoy an amazing lunch at Fago. You’re treated to Portuguese flavors and dishes with a contemporary touch. The ingredients are locally sourced and the food is prepared so well!
After lunch, walk through Marvão and visit the town’s well preserved castle. You’ll be able to walk through and atop the castle, which sits high on a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys.
2 Nights in Aveiro
Distance from Castelo de Vide to Aveiro: 230km
Aveiro is considered the Venice of Portugal and it’s no wonder! Its canals run through the town, much like Venice, against a backdrop of colorful buildings synonymous with Portugal.
While Aveiro is a large town, the area that has the canal running through it is quite small. I’d recommend spending a half day here to wander and grab a bite to eat.
After your first night, drive to the seaside town, Costa Nova do Prado. Costa Nova do Prado was a fishing village where the fishermen painted their houses in stripes. The colorful homes still exist today and in fact, I think they still get constant paint jobs because the colors are so vibrant!
For the best photos of these houses, go earlier in the day so that the sun shines a natural light on the houses. By going later in the day, you risk the sun being in your photos and potentially distorting the lighting in the photos.
If you’re up for a swim then head over to Costa Nova’s sandy beaches. Pay attention to the waves because they can get rough!
2 nights in Douro Valley
Distance from Aveiro to Douro Valley: 160km
Douro Valley is globally recognized for their wine making, so it’s fair to want to spend some of your time tasting wines and relaxing with vineyards in view. If you plan it right, the Douro Valley might be the most relaxing part of your road trip.
If you’re visiting in the summer, I recommend booking a stay at a place with a pool so you can cool off from the heat. We stayed at the MW Douro Wine & Spa, but there are a ton of hotel options in the region.
Visiting Douro Valley means there are vineyards you can visit to taste wine, if you’d like. While getting around by car is the best mode of transportation in Douro Valley, I do not recommend driving yourself around during a wine tasting tour. Instead, be responsible by booking a wine tour instead. If drinking is not your thing, there are other Douro Valley tours you can take such as going on a river cruise.
3 nights in Porto
Distance from Douro Valley to Porto: 100km
Porto is such a charming city and should not be missed if you have the chance to visit.
Like Lisbon, Porto sits near the ocean and has the iconic Douro River running through it. Along the riverbanks, Porto lies flat but the landscape immediately shoots up many meters. It is a hilly city, at times more than Lisbon. I thought I had stamina but there were times Porto’s hills took me out!
Porto’s restaurant scene is pretty damn good. There are many restaurants offering local specialties with a modern twist. Some of the best restaurants I ate at and would highly recommend are Mistu, Raiz, and Tapa Bento.
Pro tip when planning to eat in Porto’s restaurants: book in advance! Restaurants fill up quickly during lunch and dinner. When we went in May, it was difficult to find somewhere to eat without a reservation. If you’re planning to visit Porto in the summer, definitely reserve a table in advance.
Porto has some incredible options for things to do in the city: Sé Cathedral, Igreja de Santa Clara, Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, and Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.
For photography spots in Porto, I recommend visiting the Jardim do Morro for sunset, the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar which can be found at the entrance of the monastery, the riverbank on the winery side so you can have a view of Porto’s architecture, and the Luis Bridge.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate link(s). An affiliate link means I may receive a commission or referral fees if you click through and make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you.