Comporta, Portugal
Comporta, Portugal

A 12-day road trip around Portugal—an itinerary of untouched coastline and urban exploring

You’ll need to travel with a large suitcase for this trip, ready to pack plenty of port and wine from the Douro valley for your return. This 12-day road trip itinerary around Portugal starts in the south in Lagos, before winding its way north along rugged coastline and wide open beaches, via Lisbon and wine country, and on to the city of Porto.

Days 1-2: Lagos

Lagos, Portugal

Fly into Faro, pick up your car hire and drive an hour west to the water-front city of Lagos, to check in to friendly Casa Mae—made up of three buildings each with a unique atmosphere. There’s an excellent restaurant serving food that celebrates the Portuguese seasons.

Casa Mae, Lagos, Portugal

Take a stroll through the city’s historic old town and get your first fix of a Pastel de Nata before heading to one of the stunning stretches of nearby beach—try the iconic Praia do Camilo or Ponta da Piedade, where stacks of cliffs rise from the shimmering water below. Spend your second day exploring more secluded coves and picturesque beaches, or take a 40-minute drive out to Cabo Sao Vincente, the south-westerly tip of mainland Europe, taking in the view as huge waves crash against the mainland.

Lagos, PortugalDays 3-5: Comporta

Your next stop is Comporta, just two hours north of Lagos. Hailed as host to Portugal’s best beach, here you’ll find 12km of uninterrupted sand, though the area has plenty more to it than that. With a beach-shack vibe and an a-list crowd of artists and surfers, the region around the village of Comporta is worth exploring too. Look out for flamingos in the river and stop for lunch at Ilha do Arroz.

Sublime Comporta

Check in to Sublime Comporta—nestled in 17 hectares, it’s surrounded by umbrella pines, cork trees, sand dunes, vineyards and rice fields. Contemporary in design, this hotel has been built to be in harmony with its natural surroundings. Stay in a Bio-Pool suite—designed by architect José Alberto Charrua, each cabana is built on stilts over a biological pool, where the water is treated solely by aquatic plants. Each suite has a private terrace that’s perfect for an early morning dip. Stay between June and October and don’t miss the hotel’s beach restaurant just a 10-minute stroll away, at Carvalhal beach.

Days 5-7: Lisbon

Lisbon, PortugalDragging yourself from the coast may prove difficult, but know that you’ve got a city-sized treat in store, just over two hours' drive away. Lisbon sits on seven hills, where light seems to dance around every yellow and pink-painted corner—it’s packed with an unending supply of quirk, charm and independent family run places.

Lisbon, Portugal

Walk through the Alfama and Mouraria districts, stop by the castle, and spend your evening listening to some soulful fado at Casa do Fados. Head to the stunning rooftop of the Rossio Gastrobar or have dinner at Basque. Arrive on a Tuesday or Saturday and browse the flea market, Feira da Ladra for an array of craft, design and vintage collectibles. Stay at The Vintage Hotel for its mid-century design and rooftop bar.

The Vintage Hotel, Lisbon, PortugalDays 8-10: Douro Valley

Drive an hour inland to wine country for a stay at the five-star Douro 41 Hotel & Spa famed for its beautiful views of the Douro river. The hotel has its own menu of experiences, from yoga and massages to picnic baskets in the gardens, olive oil workshops, boat trips or fishing, so there’s no shortage of things to do. There’s even a trip to a traditional smokehouse on offer, for a lunch of local smoked sausages.

Douro 41 Hotel, Douro Valley, Portugal

If you can, take a drive along the Estrada National 222 between Peso da Régua and Pinhão. With the river running alongside you, the views are world-class. Don’t miss Churchill’s—one of the most prestigious brands of Douro and Port wines in the world for a wine tasting.

Douro Valley, PortugalDays 11-12: Porto

Porto, PortugalFrom the Douro valley, it’s just a 45 minute drive to charming Porto. A former port city, the Douro river flows through the heart of the city, making a beautiful backdrop for riverside lunches or a sunset stroll. Make pit stops at Bishop’s Palace, Porto Cathedral, and Dom Luis Bridge and head to Miradourra da Vitória—one of the best viewing points in the city and stroll round the neighbourhoods of Ribeira, Baixa and Bolhão.

Early coffee house, Porto, Portugal

Wander around the Mercado de Bolhao an iconic, 2-story market packed with fresh fruit, vegetables, chesses and local delicacies—Porto is the birthplace of the Pastel de Nata, so don’t hold back. With a history of Port production since the 17th century, the region is the only true Port-wine producer in the world.

Check out the Espaco Porto Cruz, a 5-story space celebrating the city’s wine culture and history and stop off at Early, a speciality coffee shop in a former bookstore that serves locally sourced produce for an early breakfast through to lunch and afternoon snacks. You’ll find it at Ruados Bragas, 374 in Cedofeita, one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Porto.

Rosa Et Al Townhouse, Porto, Portugal

Stay at Rosa et Al Townhouse in Rua do Rosário, 233. In an artsy neighbourhood, the hotel is surrounded by art galleries, artist studios and concept stores. Founded by siblings Patricia Sousa and Emanuel de Sousa, there are only seven spacious suites, each with original features. A stay here will feel like a home from home—it’s the perfect spot to recharge at the end of your trip.

Rosa Et Al Townhouse hotel, Porto, Portugal

Don't leave it until the last minute to dust down those suitcases and realise it's time for an upgrade — shop a set of new luggage ahead of time.

Read the next in our series of European itineraries with this 10-day island hopping itinerary around Croatia.