Portugal is famous for its wonderful wines, succulent seafood, brilliant beaches and charming cities.
Whilst Portugal isn’t a large country, its landscapes are diverse. The north of the country is more wild and rugged and is separated from the low-lying coasts and plains of the south by the Tagus River. With plenty of sun, sea and sand Portugal is a great family destination too. There are plenty of safe beaches ideal for those travelling with children.
With so much to see and do crammed into a small area, Portugal is an ideal destination for a road trip. Distances are manageable and the roads are in good condition. Renting a car in Portugal will allow you to see more of this beautiful country. You will have greater freedom to get off the beaten track and visit the more remote villages and beaches.
With many so many cool places to see and plenty to do, you’ll never be bored. Do you want to drive winding roads through lush valleys or follow the sandy coastline of the Algarve? Do you want to tackle stunning mountainous roads or smooth ribbons of tarmac through national parks? Just in case you need some help deciding, we’ve got some destination inspiration for you. Here are some of the best road trips and driving routes in Portugal. Get your motor running.
While renting a car in Portugal is pretty straightforward, there are definitely a few things you can do to ensure your rental process runs smoothly:
1. When comparing rental cars, look for ones with good fuel economy. The better the fuel economy the less money you will spend on filling up.
2. The streets in some Portuguese cities and towns are super narrow. Rent the smallest car to suit your needs if you plan lots of urban driving.
3. Portugal can get stifling hot in summer, so rent a car with air-con.
4. The number of emergency services in Portugal is 112.
This route is great if you are staying on the Algarve and want to explore a bit more of the region. Starting in Monchique, spend some time here enjoying the peace and quiet as you ramble the pretty streets. Then, take the back roads and make your way to Silves, the ancient capital of the Algarve. Admire the Porta de Loule which dates back to the time of Moorish occupation and visit one of the best-preserved castles in the Algarve. From here drive to Loulé, a quaint market town where you can tuck into traditional local food in the wonderful restaurants.
If you are a driving enthusiast, on two or four wheels, then no doubt you have heard of this route. Petrolheads tout it as the best driving road in Portugal.
The road takes you from Castelo Branco in the Central Region to Gois situated in the deep, lush valley of the Ceira. This 90km (56 miles) road is usually devoid of traffic and has a nice and smooth road surface. The best part? There are around 400 bends to tackle. As you negotiate this road which clings to the mountainside, you are rewarded with splendid views of this wonderful region.
Venture off the tourist trail and into the Alentejo region located in south-central and southern Portugal. This is an area of expansive plains, olive groves, cork forests and wheat fields. It is also one of the premier wine regions in Portugal.
Start in Evora and visit the historic centre with its ancient roman temple. Next, drive to Vila Vicosa and ramble around the ruins of the lovely medieval castle. Finally, it is on to Estremoz, one of Portugal’s famous ‘white towns’. Spend some time strolling the Lower and Upper Towns visiting the many sites of historical significance.
The drive from Porto to Pinhao, which cuts through the heart of the Douro Valley, is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful roads in Europe. The Douro Valley is Portugal’s famed wine region and this scenic route follows the Douro River. As you leave Porto, make your way onto the N108 road and head towards Regua. The road winds its way high up in the hills where you’ll be treated to panoramic views. Landscaped into the steep and rugged terrain are traditional stone-walled terraces and vines are far as the eye can see.
The whole region is vibrant and verdant and there are plenty of wonderful places to stop along the way for photos and a plate of local cuisine.
This epic drive covers Portugal’s entire continental coastline. As you follow this route you can enjoy sheltered dunes and rocky coves. Sunbath on tiny bays and sweeping sandy beaches. All the while your road trip will be accompanied by the soundtrack of the crashing surf of the wild Atlantic. The route stretches all the way from Vila Real de Santo António in the Algarve to the pretty town of Caminha in northern Portugal on the border with Spain.
This route follows the Tagus River (Rio Tajo), which flows all the way from Spain to Lisbon. Follow the N118 road from Gavião to Lisbon (or vice-versa) and enjoy a leisurely road trip through lesser-visited parts of the country. Along the way, you can stop off and visit old castles and the marvellous Aqueduct of Pegoes with its 180 arches as well as the Paul Do Boquilobo Nature Preserve, which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Looking for a super scenic road trip? Then consider this loop route that takes in some of the sights of northern Portugal. Starting in Porto, make your way north towards Barcelos where the story of the Rooster of Barcelos originates. Make sure you stock up on rooster souvenirs.
Enjoy the scenery as you drive to Braga and visit the sacred mountain and religious complex of Bom Jesus do Monte. The zig-zagging staircase with 577 steps is a sight to behold. From Braga, it’s on to Guimaraes where you can admire its historic town centre which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Onwards to Aveiro, known as Venice of Portugal before making your way back to Porto.