A Portugal road trip is high on many travelers’ bucket list. For those with 7 days in Portugal, this is the ultimate Portugal itinerary recommended by expat Nick Wharton.
Portugal has long conjured up images of sandy beaches and dramatic coastlines, but few people know just how diverse the country is. From the luscious vineyards of the Douro Valley to the historical architecture of Lisbon and the rocky cliffs of Algarve, Portugal is much more than just a beach destination.
My partner and I had the opportunity to live and travel around Portugal for more than 8 months and we have gotten to know it rather well. I’m an avid fly fisherman, and enjoy traveling Portugal with my fishing fly rod; while my partner loves hiking and camping, as well as good wine. We’ve found Portugal to be a fantastic all-round destination whether you like the outdoors, history or food.
The Ultimate 7-Day Portugal Itinerary
How to Get to Portugal
This Portugal itinerary starts and ends in Faro in the Algarve region. If you’re in Europe, there are plenty of cheap flights from various cities around Europe. Eg you can get budget flights from London to Faro for $50 return. From the US, you can find flights from New York to Lisbon for as cheap as $500 return.
Getting Around Portugal
Car rental in Portugal is extremely affordable and driving is the easiest way to visit Portugal. These days you can find a 7-day Faro car rental deal for just 50 euros! Their roads are excellent since a vast network of toll roads was built a few years ago. Unfortunately, the toll fees do add up. They can cost as much as €35 per day depending on where you’re traveling.
Search for Car Rental in Portugal
This is the best way to explore Portugal in my opinion. My wife and I rented a campervan for a 2-week trip around Portugal and we absolutely loved it. The campervan came with everything we needed for around $90/day including basic insurance, outdoor table and chairs, bedding, cooking gear and even a wifi router.
Wild camping is one of the best things about campervan travel, but unfortunately, it’s not always possible in Portugal. Technically wild camping is allowed in Portugal, but you can find some beautiful, remote wild camping spots on Park4Night App.
Train travel in Portugal is comfortable, fast, reliable, and affordable. But if you want to explore the backroads, trains might not get you where you want to go.
The main train line in Portugal runs from the north all the way down to the Algarve in the south with the main stops being Porto, Lisbon, and Faro. The national rail company is Comboios de Portugal. You can find all the schedule and train fares on their website.
Best Time To Visit Portugal
We have lived in Portugal in every season. The best time to visit Portugal depends on what you want to do and where you’re visiting. Summer (July – August) is the best time to visit northern Portugal as the weather is cooler in the mountains and there are never as many people in the north as in Lisbon or in the Algarve.
If you want to be on the beach without the crowds, the best time to visit is in late spring (May – June) and early autumn (September). Avoid winter (November – February) as it will be too cold for swimming. For surfing, you should come in September and April when the surf is considerably more powerful.
7 Days in Portugal
For this Portugal itinerary, I recommend flying into and out of Faro in the Algarve. Alternatively, you can do this route in the opposite direction and fly to Porto instead. From there, head to Peneda-Gerês and through Lisbon to the Algarve, and back to Porto.
- Day 1-2: Faro to Olhão
- Day 3: Olhão to Lagos
- Day 4-5: Lisbon
- Day 6: Porto
- Day 7: Peneda-Gerês National Park
Map of My Portugal Itinerary
Portugal Itinerary Day 1: Faro to Olhão
After arriving in Faro, drive straight to the town of Olhão about 20 minutes to the east. Faro itself isn’t the nicest town in the Algarve (in my opinion). Olhão, on the other hand, is a beautiful fishing village that is an up-and-coming tourism destination. It’s growing quickly, but as of now it’s still delightfully quiet.
In Olhão, check into your accommodation and then wander down to the seafront to see its many restaurants and artisan shops. You won’t miss the red-brick municipal market that’s chocked full of stalls selling fresh seafood and local produce. For dinner, head to Chá Chá Chá Restaurant for some authentic Portuguese food in an atmospheric setting on a quiet back street.
Portugal Itinerary Day 2: Explore Islands around Olhão
Next day, hop on one of the frequent ferry boats to one of the nearby islands, such as Ilha da Culatra and Ilha da Armona. These islands are part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, and both boast pristine beaches with crystal clear waters.
You’ll also find restaurants that specialize in the famous razor clam rice or the caldeirada fish stew, one of Portugal’s best dishes.
We booked this island boat tour — it was fantastic and informative. Check out more island tours here.
Explore the Quinta de Marim
Situated 2.5km east of Olhão is the beautiful 60-hectare Centro Educação Ambiental de Marim (commonly known as Quinta de Marim). A 3km trail takes you through various ecosystems – dunes, salt marshes, pine woodlands – as well as to a wildlife rescue centre and a historic water mill.
The hike is stunning and well worth the €2.80 entrance fee. To get there, you need to drive there following this Google Maps link.
Portugal Itinerary Day 3: Olhão to Lagos
It’s time to hit the road! Heading west along the coast towards Lagos. The drive only takes 1 hour, so you have time to stop in a few of the towns along the way: stroll on the boardwalk and waterfront in Alvor, and have lunch in busy Portimão before arriving in breathtaking Lagos.
Lagos is a clifftop beach town that is a fully developed tourism destination. Don’t expect a small quaint village like Olhão. You’ll find British pubs, night clubs, and packed beaches. But there is still charm in the city.
Explore Old Town Lagos
Lagos is an important city that is steeped in history, and the variety of historical monuments and buildings reflect this varied past. The old town is the nicest one in the Algarve in my opinion. Visit the beautiful Santo Antonio church, the Mercado dos Escravos (Europe’s first slave market) and the charming 17th century Bandeira Fort.
Consider joining a walking tour with our friend Maria who runs her food tour on Airbnb. It’ll take you to some truly local spots and give you a sample of regional cuisine and tasty wines.
See the Cliffs of Ponta de Piedade
This is what the Algarve is most famous for: the Ponta da Piedade are a series of beautiful sandstone cliffs, considered the finest natural feature of Algarve. This headland to the south of Lagos has been eroded over the millennia by powerful winter storms to form unique cliff formations, which include sea arches, grottos and smugglers caves.
Explore the cliffs via the pathways that cross and climb the cliffs and go surfing if the weather permits. Alternatively, join one of the boat tours that depart from Lagos marina. Another boat tour worth checking out is the trip to famous Benagil Caves.
Portugal Itinerary Day 4-5: Lisbon
From Lagos, it’s a 3-hour drive north to Lisbon. The capital city is a highlight of any Portugal road trip, so it definitely deserves 2 nights of your time in Portugal!
This city is one of the funkiest cities I’ve been, with amazing food, impressive architecture, and excellent museums.
Get Lost in the Historical Centre
On day 1, either wander on your own in the old town areas of Alfama, Principe Real and Chiado or join a walking tour. We recommend this walking tour on Airbnb. Alternatively, catch one of the vintage cable cars to get from one neighborhood to another.
In the evening, head up to the Park Rooftop Bar, for stunning sunset views of the city from above. After sunset drinks, have dinner at Taberna Portuguesa, one of the best restaurants in Lisbon, for some authentic Portuguese fare. If you’re craving for some international food in a cool setting, try the Timeout Market, an open-air market with trendy culinary flair.
Stroll along the Waterfront
The next day, wake up and head down to the waterfront. Enjoy a nice stroll or a Seyway tour along the boardwalk and check out Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery. Get your tickets here to skip the line.
Then hop on the ferry and cross the Tagus River to the other side where you can have fantastic views back towards Lisbon. The Belem ferry runs every few minutes and costs less than 3 euros each way. Spend the evening on this side of the water, head to one of the many restaurants with fantastic views.
Portugal Itinerary Day 6: Porto
Next, this Portugal road trip will take you further north to Porto (also known as Oporto). Portugal’s second biggest city is around a 3-hour frmo Lisbon.
Located on the Douro River, Porto is a colorful, stunning city famous for its Port wine and charming old town.
Wander around Porto
Get here as early as possible and start with a walk along the riverside area of Cais da Ribeira. Enjoy a coffee and a pastel de nata (egg tart) at one of the many restaurants here and then head to the iconic Luís I Bridge for some photos.
Stroll to the Church of São Francisco, the Palácio da Bolsa, Clérigos Church, Praça da Liberdade, Casa da Música, and the Porto Cathedral before ending the day off at the windy Foz do Douro (the point where the famous Douro River meets the Atlantic). If you’re here in time for a late lunch, head to Bacchus Vini for some wine and tapas when it opens at 3pm.
Watch a Fado Show
For dinner, I recommend going for dinner with a traditional Fado show. Fado is a Portuguese music style that’s been placed on UNESCO list of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. The best place to see a fado show is here in Porto, so don’t miss it! Alternatively, Artesão Bistrô is great for a finer dining experience.
Itinerary Day 7: Peneda-Gerês National Park
From Porto, it’s only about an hour’s drive to reach the pristine Peneda-Gerês National Park. If you’re a fly fisherman like me, then this is the best place to experience fly fishing in Portugal. I hired a guide named Antonio with Minho Fly Fishing and itt was great to have an experienced angler to show me the ropes.
There are some fantastic hiking trails in Peneda-Gerês National Park like the Hiking Loop from Rua do Calvário or the trails around Vidoeiro Gerês Camping. I highly recommend staying at the campsite for the night if you have a car/campervan for this Portugal road trip.
Itinerary Day 8: Peneda-Gerês National Park to Faro
This is the last day of your Portugal road trip! It’s going to be a long day, so wake up early. On a straight shot, the drive back to Faro takes about 6 hours.
If you have time, try to do a quick side trip into the Douro Valley. This is Portugal’s most scenic wine country and is a fantastic place for a scenic drive and gastronomic experience. There are plenty of wineries here that offer incredible tastings and delicious lunches. Quinta da Roêda is the oldest Port wine producer and Quinta das Carvalhas is considered the icon of Douro with unique views of the landscape.
Cost of this Portugal Itinerary
Portugal is relatively cheaper than other parts of Western Europe like Germany and UK. If you’re traveling Portugal on a tight budget, taking public transport everywhere, and cooking your meals and staying in a cheap Airbnb, then you can get by on as little as €75 per person per day.
If you step it up a bit and rent your own car or campervan and eat at restaurants from time to time, then you’re looking at closer to €150 per person per day.
What To Pack for Your Portugal Road Trip
What you pack for your Portugal road trip will depend on when you go and the activities you want to do. If you’re surfing, be sure to bring your board, or plan to rent one on the way. Bring a good pair of hiking boots if you’re heading to the northern part of the country.
If you’re like me and you love fly fishing, then you should definitely bring a fly rod with you. If you’re spending most of your Portugal trip on the beach, then a couple of beach chairs and an umbrella are essential, but you can pick those up at Pingo Doce for as little as €40 for a full set.
Enjoy Your Portugal Road Trip!
Phew that’s a wrap! We’ve definitely packed a lot in this 7-day Portugal itinerary. This is just about as much as you can cram into a Portugal road trip without feeling burned out.
In fact, this Portugal itinerary would work even better if you have 2 weeks in Portugal. You’ll then get to spend a few nights in Lisbon and Porto, and take side trips to the charming towns of Sintra and Cascais. But for those with just 7 days in Portugal, this Portugal itinerary is a good middle-ground and gives you enough time to see the best of the country.
About the Author: Nick Wharton
Nick is an avid angler and traveler who has been on the road since 2008, seeking the outdoors and great fishing spots everywhere he goes. He started his own blog about fly fishing where he shares his knowledge of the sport and favorite destinations for anglers around the world.
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