Traveling by Car in Portugal – the Douro Valley and Coastal Road Trips

A road trip in Portugal, coast

No matter who you are, Portugal has something to offer you as a traveler. You can explore historic architecture, appreciate the region’s wine-making heritage or simply relax on some of Europe’s finest beaches. The choice of destination is yours, but here are a couple of example road trips to Portugal that will introduce you to many of the country’s charms.

The Douro Valley Road Trip

Northern Portugal has it all, from coast and heritage to national parks and Palaeolithic rock art. It’s also the historic wine-making region of the country, so you can visit vineyards and try out some of the region’s top tipples. This road trip best suits people who are seeking heritage and nature. One or two weeks are ample time to explore the valley.

Porto is one of Portugal’s most beautiful cities, and its historic Ribeira district is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spend the day exploring the Baroque churches, medieval streets and plazas. After a hard day’s wandering, you can wind down with a wine in the evening at the riverside wine cellars.

Once you’ve explored the city it’s easy to get out onto the open road where you can make for the east along the Douro Valley. Historic wine terraces hug the sloping banks of the river, with tiny farmhouses and villages nestled into terraced pockets along the way. Amarante is one of the region’s classic towns and a quaint little place to park up and have a look around, maybe even spend the night.

Then you can visit the Museu de Douro in Peso de Régua to learn about the region’s history. Eastwards, some of Portugal’s most beautiful natural landscape awaits, including Parque Natural do Alvão. From there, call in at tiny villages and sample the port. Don’t miss the Côa Valley Archaeological Park before you return to the west. Palaeolithic rock art depicts native flora and fauna and provides insight into prehistoric culture and belief.

The Coastal Road Trip

Whether you have one or two weeks to spend, there are enough coastal treasures along the southern and eastern coasts of Portugal to make a road trip well worth it. You could kick off the adventure in Porto and head south to explore the world-famous surf towns that line the coast, including Peniche, Ericeira, and Cascais.

If you’re more interested in sun bathing than surfing, a road trip along the southern Algarve coast might be more up your street. You can hire a set of wheels in Lisbon and take the drive to Sagres in the west to begin. Rocky coves and beaches line the coast to the east, with the bigger resorts to be found around the town of Albufeira. The next stop can be the ancient town of Faro and time spent sunning yourself on the nearby beaches. If you’re lucky, you can have Ilha de Barreta — one of the Algarve’s most extensive beaches — all to yourself!

It’s easy to hire a car in both Porto and Lisbon, and a week or longer will be enough to enjoy either of these Portuguese road trips. Which of the two most appeals to you?

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