** This is a collaborative post **
Portugal has been one of my favourite countries since I first visited with my parents and brother in 2004. Since then, I’ve been 3 more times – with my friend Charlotte, my cousin Amy, and Phil, and each time I’ve absolutely loved getting out and about to explore this vibrant country. Driving in Portugal can seem daunting, but if you take it steady and plan your trips, then the rewards are some fascinating and beautiful road trips.
When people think of visiting Portugal, they will generally head for an Algarve holiday resort, and maybe a trip to the capital Lisbon. I have some wonderful memories made in those places, but there is also so much more to see and do in the country!
Hiring a Car
Don’t be put off of the idea of driving abroad – yes it can take a bit of getting used to, but if you take things steady and don’t stress about getting lost, you’ll be fine! I’ve found before that doing a few little drives around maybe the hotel car park, or just up and down a quiet street, can help no end in building up some confidence.
Renting a car in Portugal is fairly straightforward, and there are loads of collection points so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the right car, at the right price, in the right location. Don’t forget to take your driving licence with you, and make sure that you carefully check the conditions of your rental (age, experience, how much fuel you need to return the car with, etc).
This is Portugal’s most popular region, and it is absolutely delightful. Whether you stick on the main tourist trail or venture more off the beaten track, some drives around the area will definitely offer lovely holiday experiences.
Picking up a rental car when you land at either Faro or Lisbon airport, means not waiting around for your holiday company coach and its hundreds of stop offs (why is the hotel you’re at always the last one on the route…?), or negates the need to locate a reliable and legal taxi, or indeed figure out which train you need to catch to get where you’re going.
I adore the Old Town of Albufeira, although there are some very typical touristy places nearby which don’t float my boat. My in-laws used to live in a lovely town called Tavira, which I was fond of when we visited and would happily buy a holiday home in. There are so many beautiful seaside resorts, and even the really popular and touristy ones will have something special to offer.
Other highlights in the Algarve include the amazing scenery as you drive along the coastline, the vibrant and fashionable Lagos, and the dramatic Monchique Mountains. Make sure you have a full tank of fuel when you visit the mountains though, because while the flora, fauna, and food are abundant, service stations aren’t!
Portugal’s famous wine region is Douro Valley, so if you’re planning on sampling the local beverages then also plan where to stay overnight so that you don’t drink and drive!
Wine aside, the region is also home to a vast array of wildlife, historical monuments, and even Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa, where you can find carvings in the rocks dating back up to 25,000 years.
If mesmerising vistas, fairytale castles, and hidden gems such as the local favourite Sanctuary of Peninha, then you need to spend a day in Sintra. Accessible by road from Lisbon airport, it’s worthy of at least one full day, with a short drive on day two or three over to its neighbouring fishing town of Cascais.
Whatever you want from your holiday – beaches, history, amazing food, nightlife, culture – Portugal can offer it! It’s always been one of my favourite destinations, one of the very few I would visit again and again; I’d love to hear about anywhere you’ve been that you simply adore.
** All words and opinions are my own **