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Portugal is a small country that can be driven straight from North to South in 8 hours and West to East in less than 4 hours. Still given its history and nature’s geology, there are plenty of places worth doing a stop when en route from the capital Lisbon to the biggest city in the North of Portugal – Porto, the Invincible city.

Either if you are into more beach vibes, medieval castles or outdoors, there is a special place for everyone to fall in love in the road up North. Of course the interior and upper North also has many amazing locxations to discover, usually off the beaten path and more pristine, but driving close to the Atlantic Ocean is the focus of most visitors to Portugal. Therefore this is my recommended route divided in 7 days, that you can do shorter or longer depending on the time you have available. I will also post one route going to the Algarve in the South also in 7 days, but it will be a completely different experience.

Lisbon to Porto it’s around 300km, circa 3h on the motorway with tolls, but this route is almost fully done via the national roads, that despite being well maintained will be quite slower. Stage 1 starts in LISBON, for which you can see a separate itinerary on this travel blog.

Day 1: After breakfast, depart Lisbon heading North via the A1 and then A8 motorway (both with tolls), before taking the national road to Bombarral, where a unique garden with Buddhism motives awaits you, among many other Asian sculptures. It’s like a mini-Asia

Follow then the signs to Peniche, a beach location as well as a fishing village that has many stories to tell. Some people stay here for surf or windsurf lessons, due to the great ocean conditions. Just a few miles away there is the nature sanctuary of the Berlengas islands with an old Fortress that you can visit via one of the many boat tours available, it’s just an amazing experience in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Have lunch at one of the great seafood restaurants in Peniche, before going for a nice walk along the most beautiful walled town in Portugal called Óbidos. Here you can lose yourself in the narrow cobbled streets, visit beautiful churches, a medieval castle and go along the walls for amazing views. Don’t forget to have “ginjinha” (cherry liquor) in one chocolate cup! From here you should overnight ideally near Praia d’El REy where you can go for a swim in the ocean or the pool, or then head back to Peniche for the night.

DAY 2: Head to Sao Martinho do Porto Bay at around 9.30am to admire the most spectacular half moon bay beach in Portugal, have a swim if it’s warm enough. Then it’s time for Nazaré, known mostly by its giant world record waves in Winter season, but usually much more quiet the rest of the year with its long thin golden sand stretch. The city of Nazaré is also one of the most picturesque with its fishing industry, so do have lunch here before moving on to Alcobaca, to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site – Monastery of Alcobaca. It’s one of the biggest in Portugal with the most stunning gothic architecture. And after some kilometers the Batalha Monastery will also impress you with beautiful details and the crypt of one of Portugal most famous heroes : Nuno Álvares Pereira, that helped defeat a Spanish force 5x bigger in the 1300s. If you are into religion or have interest, Fátima’s sanctuary is just a few kilometers away.

Then comes the most stunning city of Tomar, the heart of the Templars Order in Portugal. Here you will have plenty to visit with the Templar Castle, Monastery and historical sites of the Order of the Temple Knights. If you have the interest, there is a special castle in an island called Almourol, also from the Knights Templar well worth the trip just a few miles near Tomar. After it do visit lovely medieval castle of Leiria, located on a high hill above the namesake city, before heading to the lovely Figueira da Foz, a beachtown. Dine in one of the lovely promenade restaurants near the beach and wind down from the busy trip.

DAY 3: Spend some time visiting Figueira da Foz city centre, enjoy the beach side also if you can, before going to Serra da Boa Viagem to check the waterfalls and the Quiaios lagoon for a nature escape. Then its time for some other significant medieval castle of Montemor-o-Velho overlooking the vast rice fields that produce mos of the rice consumed in Portugal as the River Mondego inundates often the lower valley parts. You can then drive to Coimbra, the cultural heart of Portugal, stopping at the traditional restaurants of Fornos de Vilela where you can try the famous tasty piglet on a spite or delight yourself with a tasteful salad accompanied with homemade chips – Albatroz or Rui dos Leitoes are excellent choices here.

Then set out to visit the city with the oldest University in Portugal and home of many artists – Coimbra. Do cross the main bridge after you have been to the old town to see the Quinta das Lágrimas, a site home to the most romantic tragedy of Portugal, a kind of Romeo and Juliet, but where the Portuguese Romeo , called Prince Pedro, survived to avenge the death of his lover Ines and became known as King Pedro, the Cruel. Not far you have the lovely Convent of Santa Clara and if you are into a bit of fun the “Portugal dos Pequeninos” (tiny Portugal) is a great park to unwind and enjoy miniatures from Portugal. Stay overnight in Coimbra before the next stage.

DAY 4: Following breakfast, it’s now time to visit the Portuguese Venice called Aveiro, due to its multiple waterways, take a ride in a typical boat called “moliceiro” and taste the famous “ovos moles” , a fine egg pastry typical of this region. After lunch you should enjoy the beach area named as Vagos and take pictures of the colourful wooden beach houses. You can go over for a swim as there is also a lagoon nearby. If its Winter time, then just contemplate the vastness of the beach and the waves crashing.

From here you can decide to either decide to spend overnight in Aveiro or then just drive to the famous coastal town of Espinho with a beautiful promenade by the sea and then all the way to Porto/ Oporto.

Day 5: Independenly where you stayed overnight, do spend here most of the day in Porto/Oporto, seeing the old town, riverside and take a sunset cruise over Douro. There are many interesting places in Porto to visit but I have 3 that I always like to see: #1 Ribeira – near the river you will have the most picturesque houses, the lovely view from the bridges over the Douro River, #2 Torre dos Clérigos and Porto’s Cathedral, the most impressive buildings from Porto’s downtown, #3 Bookstore Lello, considered one of the most beautiful in the World due to its staircase and lush interiors. And then there is the Sao Bento train station, only rivaled in Beauty by Rossio’s station in Lisbon. The Porto Stock Exchange building is also interesting to visit

Day 6: You can decide to explore more of Porto, take a day cruise in the Douro Valley up North, do wine tasting or just enjoy a day relaxing!

Day 7: Time to visit one lovely town north of Porto called Braga, with beautiful old city centre, the long staircase to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus and the nice Braga castle. Then after lunch here, you should visit the “birthplace” city of Portugal, from where Portugal’s first King, called D.Afonso Henriques, started the conquest of Portugal against the Moorish armies. The castle is still impressive but the old Town is also worth a visit.

Then it’s up to you to decide to go more up north if you have some extra days, take the train or drive straight via the motorway back to Lisbon or of course catch the plane in Porto. You can also do this trip the other way around from Porto to Lisbon of course.

If you have any questions, please send me a message! Enjoy this road trip!

theinsidetraveller View All

My name is Renato Azambujo. I live currently in Hamburg, but was born and raised in sunny capital of Portugal, Lisbon. I also lived in Switzerland for some years, before settling in Germany for the last years.

I am huge passionate about travel, photographer and a global explorer, always looking to the next destination.

I have so far visited over 70 countries across the 5 continents, because I really love knowing about new places, interact with different cultures and get to know myself better after each journey.

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