Trip to Portugal from history to beaches

August 2016

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Suggested itinerary in Portugal
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Sample itinerary for a trip in Portugal

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Portugal is a country of a thousand surprises, where medieval castles, fascinating ancient towns, museums and beautiful beaches, create endless opportunities for either who would like a cultural holiday and who would like to relax on a beach. The itinerary suggested in this travelogue covers either the places interesting for their history, mainly located on the hills in the interior, either the main beach destinations along the beautiful Algarve coast in the southern part of the country.


Most of the tourist attractions in Portugal imply a rather active holiday with many hours spent outside, therefore, the best time to visit Portugal during late spring or early autumn, when temperatures are more pleasant and the flow of tourists is less. The months of July and August are ideal for a beach holiday in the Algarve or in the rest of Portugal, but in the cities the temperatures often exceed 35 degrees centigrades, making long walks among historical monuments less pleasant, moreover in this period of the year the country is assaulted by mass tourism, meaning that most of the main attractions will be very crowded. The months between November and February are the most peaceful, but the temperatures could sometimes be too cool or even cold, with possible frosts or snowfalls at higher altitudes. The rainfall in Portugal is never excessive and the country has the highest number of sunshine hours per year in Europe, however, the driest season is still summer, while between late autumn and winter, the chances of getting some rain increase.


Since the country directly faces the Atlantic Ocean, without significant protection or natural barriers, you may be wondering if Portugal is the ideal destination for a beach holiday, where tourists can find calm and not too cold water. First of all, you should be aware that the average temperature of the sea is significantly lower than other southern-Europe countries facing the closed Mediterranean sea, and also regarding the waves, they can be sometimes quite powerful. However, although these conditions are common along the west coast of Portugal, it should be noted that in the Algarve region, located in the south, the situation is far better, with much calmer sea and water temperature that in late summer can often exceed 25 degrees centigrades. Along most of southern Portugal (Algarve), picturesque bays enclose golden sandy beaches, framed by high cliffs of colored and oddly-shaped rocks, making it one of the most spectacular seascapes of all Europe. Of course there are also spectacular beaches in the rest of Portugal and in the immediate vicinity of Lisbon, but the water temperature is generally around 18 degrees centigrades, while the waves along the less protected bays are so powerful, that they are often ridden by surf enthusiasts.


As anticipated, Portugal has a mix of lot of things, from landscape to history, from beaches to culture. But wishing to see everything in a single trip can be very challenging, unless you have lot of time, even if the country is not very big. In this sample itinerary, you will find most of the attractions that should not be missed during an holiday in Portugal, but the schedule is quite tight and it is suitable only for the most active travelers (anyway, by adding just a week, there will be much more free time to relax and to visit the various location in full peace of mind).

  • Day 1: Arrival in Lisbon airport, pick up the car and drive to Estoril or Cascais

  • Day 2: Visit Cascais in the morning, drive along the coastline to Sintra and visit Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra

  • Day 3: Visit Sintra Castle as early as possible in the morning (to avoid the crowd) then drive to Obidos. After a stroll in the beautiful Obidos, drive to Coimbra and visit the city.

  • Day 4: Drive to Guimaraes with an afternoon excursion to Braga (we suggest to spend the night in Guimaraes)

  • Day 5: A few hours more to enjoy Guimaraes, before driving to Viseu and visit the city

  • Day 6: Drive to Monsanto with afternoon visit to this fantastic town and excursion to the ruins of a castle on the top of an hill

  • Day 7: Drive to Portalegre with a short stop in Castelo Branco to visit the gardens and another stop in Castelo de Vide

  • Day 8: Drive to Lisbon with a long day tour of beautiful Evora along the way

  • Day 9: Full day tour of Lisbon

  • Day 10: Drive to Portimao in Algarve region: it's now time to relax on a beautiful beach!

  • Day 11: Hike of 8 kilometers between Portimao and Alvor admiring the beautiful cliffs along the coastline and relaxing on secluded beaches

  • Day 12: Excursion to Benagil with a short boat trip to the caves. Relax on the beach of Carvoeiro and Marinha. Return to Portimao to spend the night.

  • Day 13: Relax on the beach or drive somewhere along Algarve coastline, there are lot of places to discover!

  • Day 14: Drive to Faro airport to return the car and take the flight back home

As anticipated, this travel plan is suitable only for particularly active travelers and can only be done by renting a car (using public transport, it would take much longer). The layover time in some of the places is a little bit short if you want to visit all the museums or have a rest for a few more hours: if you have more days available, you might consider adding an overnight stay in Sintra, one in Coimbra, one in Castelo de Vide, one in Evora, one or two in Lisbon, according to your interests. Other interesting places not included in this sample itinerary may be Setubal, Fatima and its Sanctuary, Porto (Oporto) and more small towns scattered all over the country.


For maximum flexibility and freedom of movement, especially on very complex itineraries (like the one proposed here), we recommend to rent a car. The style of driving in Portugal is better and more correct than other European countries (like Italy), while the highways arrive just everywhere and are not full of trucks or other heavy vehicles as it happens instead almost everywhere in the continent. The most important suggestion we can give, is to avoid driving inside the historical centers, because the parking lots are very small and the roads very narrow, sometimes with steep slopes (it's therefore better to park outside the walls of the town and then continue on foot). In Lisbon, on the other hand, there is an efficient network of subway, tram and bus, which makes the car quite useless and inconvenient (you can just leave it parked at the hotel). When hiring the car, make sure that the car rental company takes care of paying every highway tolls on your behalf (by charging the credit card you provided), as the toll cannot be paid cash at the gate, but the vehicle is photographed and then the driver should later pay through a website. It is also advisable to bring a navigator software which works without an Internet connection, unless you don't pay the roaming for Internet traffic.


  • How to get to Portugal by air? The gateways to Portugal are Lisbon airport (main), Faro airport (southern Portugal and Algarve region) and Porto airport (northern Portugal). Most direct flights are available only to Lisbon, but an increasing number of airlines are offering non-stop flights from major European hubs also to Faro and Porto, especially during high season. Depending on your itinerary in Portugal, you may consider to arrive in Lisbon and depart from Faro or Porto, so you will not have any useless and long "return" drive. If you need an airport transfer for your first or last day in Portugal, you may book a Lisbon airport transfer from Taxi Airport Pickup (a driver will wait for you at Lisbon airport, checking the status of your flight, before a direct drive to your first hotel). The same service is offered also in Faro for the entire Algarve region (any hotel in any city or town) by Personal Transport. These airport transfer services are very convenient because they are usually much less expensive than a taxi and, if for the first days in Portugal you are not driving around, you may avoid to rent a car from the first day. Also Airports Shuttle Express offers a similar service, but in Porto (Oporto) airport. If you are instead arriving in Faro airport and need to get to some hotel along the Algarve Coast, there is another company offering direct transfers and taxi to the main cities, like Portiamo, Benagil, Lagos and the other tourist destinations. You can find Best Airport Transfers company here.

  • What are the entry requirements in Portugal? Portugal is in European Union and is inside Schengen agreement, so it has the same requirements of (for example) Italy, France or Spain. In any case, please check updated information on the Foreign Affairs website of your country of birth and residence.

  • How are the power plugs in Portugal? The power plugs in Portugal are of type C or F, with two round plugs (for example, same of Italy). The voltage is 220V and the frequency is 50Hz.

  • Is Wifi available in Portugal? In all the hotels and guest-houses where we stayed (ranging from 2* to 4*) we always found the Wifi free of charge and with a good speed.

  • Where to sleep in Portugal? For overnight stays in Portugal we recommend to try at least for a few nights, a typical pousada. The pousadas are historic buildings restored and converted into hotels, which offer a welcoming character different from what you would have in a normal hotel belonging to some worldwide chain.

  • How is the food in Portugal? The cuisine in Portugal is very varied and the products from both sea and land, are always particularly fresh and of good quality. Fish, fruit, vegetables, meat and bread are usually excellent and well prepared in an infinite different ways. You will also find excellent wines, including the famous sweet Porto, and the Sangria, a drink made with wine, spices and fresh fruit.

  • Is Portugal a safe country? Petty crime in Portugal is within the average of European countries, therefore it is recommended not to leave valuables in the car and to exercise the rules of common sense. The most frequent episodes are theft with dexterity, while the aggressions to tourists are extremely rare (it is anyway advisable to always bring photocopies of identity documents and passport, to be kept separated from the originals just in case).

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Cascais - Portugal Excursion to Cascais <<-- GO
In the immediate vicinity of Lisbon, Cascais offers a well-preserved historic center and is the ideal destination for a day tour from the capital of Portugal or as a stopover for a journey that covers wider areas of the country.
Sintra - Portugal Day tour to Sintra: the Castle and the Quinta de Regaleira <<-- GO
Sintra is a city with lot of attractions included in the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO and, although in high season it may be very crowded, you shouldn't miss the Palacio da Pena (friendly called "Sintra Castle") and the Quinta da Regaleira palace.
Obidos - Portugal The medieval town of Obidos and the university city of Coimbra <<-- GO
The incredible village of Obidos is a tiny aggregate of old white-painted houses, enclosed between imposing walls dating back to the eleventh century. Instead, Coimbra is home to prestigious university built in a huge district overlooking the new town.
Guimaraes - Portugal Guimaraes and Braga <<-- GO
The town of Guimaraes has one of the most beautiful historical centers among all the villages of Portugal, with old medieval houses deformed by the centuries. In the immediate vicinity, Braga offers an interesting day trip.
Viseu - Portugal Excursion to Viseu <<-- GO
In the heart of Portugal, Viseu is an interesting town that offers numerous museums and a cathedral with a fascinating history, while ancient walls enclose a picturesque old town.
Monsanto - Portugal Monsanto: the most suggestive town in Portugal <<-- GO
Monsanto is one of the most picturesque villages of Portugal, and perhaps of the whole of Europe, where bizarre granitic boulders not only dominate the landscape, but are also used as integral parts of houses and other buildings.
Castelo de Vide - Portugal Day tour to Castelo Branco, Castelo de Vide and Portalegre <<-- GO
Along the road that connects the coast to the mountain villages of Portugal, there are various towns rich in history such as Castelo Branco, Portalegre, and the interesting Castelo de Vide.
Evora - Portugal Evora among churches and history <<-- GO
Evora is one of the richest cities of the whole Portugal in terms of history and monuments, where there are also ruins dating back to the Roman era. There are numerous museums, as well as churches, where to spend a at least a full day.
Lisbon - Portugal Day tour in Lisbon: what to see <<-- GO
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and the starting or ending point of most tours to the country, certainly deserves a visit of at least a couple of days, but if your time is more limited, we have chosen the best attractions that you shouldn't miss.
Southern Portugal Algarve: sea and beach holiday in Portugal <<-- GO
If after having spent days among ancient villages, museums and churches, you finally want to relax by the sea, the southern coast of Portugal (Algarve) offers golden beaches and crystal clear water, in an extraordinary seascape of caves and cliffs.

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