Dramatic coastlines, golden beaches, Medieval castles, charming rustic villages, and vibrant cities make Portugal one of Europe’s most exciting places to visit.
And with an expansive road network that covers over 70,000km, it is also the perfect place to explore by car — plus, when you are traveling under your own steam, you can create a customized itinerary that allows you to stay as long as you please at each stop.
So, if you fancy hitting the road in this inspirational part of the Iberian peninsula, we have collated three picturesque Portuguese road trips to get your engine running — let us roll!
- Braga to Guimarães
If you are staying in Braga you have made a brilliant choice. Portugal’s third-largest city is full of charming cobbled streets, picture-postcard squares, elegant churches, and eclectic nightlife.
It is also a good base for drivers and the run out to UNESCO World Heritage Site Guimarães is a 100km journey that takes only 25 minutes, depending on traffic. First off, the Castle of Guimarães was constructed in the 11th Century to defend the area against invasion by the Arabs to the south and the Normans to the north, it has been beautifully restored and entrance is free. Meanwhile, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is another highlight — this majestic 15th Century manor house was built by Dom Alfonso I, the first Duke of Braganza and eighth Count of Barcelos, head of one of Portugal’s most powerful dynasties.
Tip: dine at Formigas restaurant before your journey home. The contemporary cuisine is delicious.
- Albufeira to Serra da Estrela
Albufeira is another awesome Portuguese city and it is blessed with 20 Blue Flag beaches, a buzzing pub and club scene, and an outstanding archaeological museum.
One of the best drives here is out to the Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountains. This panoramic route will take you around 5 hours via the A2, but it is worth the effort. The tallest peak here is a plateau almost 2,000 metres high, the views are absolutely amazing, and you can actually access the summit via a paved road.
Tip: hire a car in Portugal from Enjoy and explore the entire nation.
- Madeira’s North Coast from Funchal
Madeira is a stunning subtropical Portuguese island which lies out into the Atlantic and it is actually closer to north Africa than the Portuguese mainland. The climate is superb, the cuisine is delectable, and it is an idyllic spot to relax and unwind.
If you are staying in the capital city Funchal, it is a great base for exploring the dramatic and rugged north coast. Take the VR1 road through eastern areas Santa Cruz and Machico, then veer west onto the scenic coast road from Porto da Cruz to Porto Moniz, taking the VE1, R101 and R211. You will coast past sheer cliffs that plunge from the mountains straight into the ocean and see plenty of sandy beaches and crashing waves.
Tip: stop at Seixal along the way. It is a sublime spot where black sand beaches contrast vividly with verdant mountains.
This trio of terrific Portuguese road trips should stir your senses and stimulate your imagination. Try them out for size sometime soon!