Heartful Traditions, Genuine Cuisine and Secret Coasts Our Suggested 15-Day Portugal Itinerary
Interactive Portugal Itinerary (Click on stop to know more)
We were lucky enough to spend four consecutive months in Portugal. It gave us an incredible idea of what it is to experience this country through the eyes and hands of locals without following a strict Portugal itinerary. The Portuguese were welcoming us as if we had always been a part of them. The country offers an amazing variety, from beaches to mountains and large cities to remote picturesque hamlets. Taking part in this travel experience was one unique event that made us feel culturally richer and happier.
We know that (unfortunately) most people don’t have such an amount of time for their Portugal adventure. Therefore, we came up with a suggested 2-week itinerary. It is based on our experience of routes and places we visited and recommend. The tour brings you to Portugal’s two biggest cities Lisbon as well as Porto and leads through some of the most picturesque villages. The adventure finishes with a full week of relaxing outdoor activities in the sunny south of Portugal.
Even though distances are short, Portugal offers a broad range of places and activities. Hence, “condensing” the highlights in such a small period of time can be tricky. The itinerary can be traveled on a budget when using the country’s transport network. However, we included optional places when using a rental car. In this case you will also be able to explore the most hidden gems. We found some incredible bargains for rental cars in Portugal. Therefore, this option might not be much more expensive than using public transport – especially when travelling in a group.
Arriving in Porto Portugal Itinerary: Days 1-3 (3 Nights)
Arriving at the international airport of Porto, the journey starts in the north of the country. Considering that it is not the capital’s airport, it has an amazing range of low cost European and intercontinental flight connections. There is also options to arrive by train or the maritime port that we describe in our planning article.
On our trip to Porto, we spent 3 nights and 2 full days. The city is probably the most typical Portuguese place with it’s beautiful tile houses and cute tiny streets. Even though it is quite compact and easy to explore, be prepared for steep hills. Seeing the main sights, meaning going up Avenida dos Aliados, visiting the traditional Mercado do Bolhão, having a stroll in Ribeira and crossing the S. Luiz bridge can be done in a long but exciting day of sightseeing. Read more on our travel report about Porto, the city with a horizontal Eiffel Tower.
You may use the extra day to either get more chilled and breathe the city’s atmosphere. You may take advantage of the amazing variety of food, visit local museums or walks along the river banks. Ourselves, we took advantage of this day to take part in a combined train/ boat tour along the Douro river. It takes all day and leads through the stunning landscapes of Portugal’s most famous vineyards. For more check our experience here.
Aveiro and Coimbra Portugal Itinerary: Days 3-4 (1 Night)
Leaving Porto early in the morning, the urban train journey to Aveiro lasts 1 hour and 5 minutes and costs just €3.50. By car you may be lightly. The town is considered the Venice of Portugal. It features large water canals and traditional Moliceiros (the Portuguese gondola). You may fall in love with the typical stripped colored houses by the beach, enjoy exploring the streets and have a decent lunch. It takes another hour to get to Coimbra with train tickets starting at €5.35.
Considered the Portuguese Oxford or Cambridge, the country’s best students come here to get their university credits. We visited Coimbra on our 3 days flash tour. The main attractions are its streets including Sé Velha, the river banks, the cafes and restaurants. We loved to see local students wearing long black capes and singing the typical student Fado from Coimbra. We also did not miss to cross the bridge to discover the beautiful gardens and palace of Quinta das Lágrimas (Tears Farmyard). The latter is home to the most touching and heartfelt love story the country has witnessed. In case you may want to become a child again and discover miniature Portugal, you may be excited to visit Portugal dos Pequenitos. Our suggestion is to stay the night in Coimbra. You may adventure and roam through the streets during the evening and next morning.
Fátima, Nazaré and Óbidos Portugal Itinerary: Days 4-5 (1 Night)
Spending the morning in Coimbra to discover its old town during the day, we would leave southwards during afternoon. Obidós is a picturesque village located in a hilly landscape and protected by its medieval walls.
Even though the area between Coimbra and Lisbon is densely populated, public transport can be cumbersome so that the need of a car might be more obvious. The travel time by car from Coimbra to Óbidos is less than 1.5 hours. On a train or bus it takes between 2.5 and 3.5 hours depending on time of the year and day:
- By train: Get the IR or IC train from Coimbra B and change in Caldas da Rainha (2:04 hours) to a regional R train taking you to Óbidos (4 minutes). Find more info here.
- By bus: You will usually make 2 changes in Leiria and Caldas da Rainha. Check here!
- By rental car/ BlaBlaCar: You will take about 1:20 hours. If renting is out of question BlaBlaCar is a safe alternative. Very often people travel from Coimbra to Caldas da Rainha or even Óbidos.
As spending a night in Óbidos feels like a princess’ fairy tale adventure, staying in a local guesthouse is definitely great. However, it can be fairly expensive so that staying in Caldas da Rainha (only 5 minutes away) is a good alternative. We have visited both places during our 3 days flash tour.
When traveling by car, you may take advantage of the gained time and make short intermediate stops: Great places for a few hours are Fátima (the Portuguese Vatican), Nazaré (famous for its fisheries, surfers and the world’s biggest waves), Leiria or Tomar. Read our travel experience of these places that we visited during a great road trip.
Discovering Lisbon and Its Quirky Neighbors Portugal Itinerary: Days 5-8 (3 Nights)
After spending the night and morning Óbidos, it’s time to head to Portugal’s capital. Train connections are complicated and therefore not recommended. Car and bus take pretty much the same time. RodoTejo operates direct services between Óbidos and Lisbon taking just about one hour. However, having car will allow you to go off-road and visit other places on the way such as Peniche, Mafra or Ericeira.
The Portuguese capital of Lisbon is incredibly vibrant and rich in culture. Therefore, you will need a minimum of 3 days to explore sights and embrace the atmosphere. Once there, it’s great to go with the flow! You may just focus on Lisbon, its main sites, streets and monuments. Furthermore, you we loved to bring it down to the old neighborhoods, staying in cute cafés or restaurants to discover the local cuisine. We especially recommend a a hop in Sintra featuring some of Europe’s most beautiful palaces. You can check for more in our posts Lisbon…The beginning of a new world and Lisbon…40 things to do and places to go.
Arrábida, Evora and Beaches of Algarve Portugal Itinerary: Days 8-15 (7 Nights)
After spending 3 full days in the city, full of sightseeing and mesmerizing impressions, it’s time for the lush part! Heading south means going to a little paradise on earth well hidden and tucked in this remote corner of Europe. It’s time for Algarve!
Commuting from Lisbon to Algarve is extremely easy. Railway networks and buses brought us to pretty much every spot (see planning section). Even if having a car is not strictly necessary, you still might have the freedom to stop at the beautiful Serra da Arrábida in Setubal’s peninsula or maybe stroll through the old town of Évora. For more information about these places you can check on our travel report.
Once in Algarve, we loved the relaxing environment. Whether it is by laying on a golden beach, pool site or hidden waterfall. If you love to keep it simple like these all these 8 days, you are on the right place: However, it is also the right spot if you fancy a mix of relaxing and activities. We found everything from jeep safaris to know the people and their culture, catamaran trips, dolphin watching, aquatic parks to nightlife. Check for more in our Travel Report Algarve – Europe’s Secret Australia.
If you want to hop through several (hidden) beaches, visit local villages and even go to the see the mountains, renting a car is a must. In case you did the rest of the journey using public transport, consider renting a car for the last week. As you might hire and return the car at the same place (e.g. Faro airport) rates are usually cheaper.
Otherwise the best thing to do is sticking with one town that provides mini shuttles to several beaches of the respective municipality. You will find these in Lagos, Portimão or Albufeira. From there it is also easy to go where we let our Portugal adventure end: Faro International Airport.
What is there more to visit? Wrap-up Portugal Itinerary
The itinerary we suggest is dedicated to Portugal beginners. If you are going for the first time it gives you a really comprehensive impression. In case you have already seen some of the country, skipping some places is reasonable. Also, when traveling outside of beach season, shortening the stay in Algarve is a possible idea.
With more time than two weeks you can always also this itinerary. First of all, you may dedicate a night in one of the places that we suggested to just quickly visit by car. Nazaré, Fatima or Aveiro may be possible candidates. Visiting the interior of the country with its beautiful mountain villages is another option. Places such as Serra da Estrela, Piodao, Sortelha or Monsanto were truly magical to us. Have a look at the travel report of our road trip. We recommend to have a more detailed look and checking out all the places on our Portugal sight map to plan your journey.
The two Altlantic islands Madeira and Azores belong to Portugal, too. They are famous for their unique landscapes and preserved nature. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to visit but we keep on dreaming of going there. If you have ever been to Madeira or Azores, feel free to share your travel experience. For the meantime, get some impressions in the videos below.