This is the plan for a Portugal road trip, more specifically eight days on the road in Lisbon and the northern half of Portugal. It worked out fine so it may be of interest to others planning the same. The story from the trip is published in the following chapters.
The lady and I planned for and went through a most fabulous trip to Portugal. It comprised the historic parts ranging from Lisbon (Lisboa) in the centre of the country to Porto in the north, and a row of World Heritage Sites in between. This is the plan for a Portugal road trip, illustrated by photos from the actual trip in 2013.
Practical stuff for our plan for a Portugal Road Trip
When: Tuesday 2 July to Wednesday 10 July 2013.
Distances: Between Lisbon and Porto there’s only 315 km by car on the main road, or 2:45 hours as Google Maps describes it. From Lisbon to the World Heritage city of Évora to the east is 132 km (1:17 hours).
Car hire is booked with Expedia. We will pick up the car at the airport when we live Lisbon and deliver at the airport, in order to avoid driving inside the capital.
Accommodation: We have booked Lisbon (3 nights), Coimbra (1) and Porto (2). The last two nights, the last should be near Lisbon, is not yet booked.
The map shows our plan for a Portugal Road Trip and also how we (roughly) ended up travelling. The return from the Douro to Lisbon is not included here.
Here is a guide book from 1828 with a short introduction to Lisbon and Porto! Portugal Travel Blogs lists all blog posts on Travellerspoint about and from Portugal. This miniseries is combined with albums from Lisbon, Porto and the Douro and more. Finally a decent official tourism video (4:33). See more below.
World Heritage sites
These are many on mainland Portugal and quite a few are included in this plan for a Portugal road trip. We look forward to visiting the nine with an X.
- Alto Douro Wine Region (x)
- Convent of Christ in Tomar (x)
- Cultural Landscape of Sintra (x)
- University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (x)
- Historic Centre of Évora (x)
- Historic Centre of Oporto (x)
- The monastery of Alcobaça (x)
- The monastery of Batalha (x)
- Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (x)
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde
- Historic Centre of Guimarães
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications
The World Heritage Sites in Portugal are neatly laid out on our road journey northwards. It is actually possible to visit almost all of them. In Lisbon we find Belém and Hieronymites and the capital is close to Sintra and Évora. On the way north we pass three monasteries and the university town of Coimbra.
In the north we are going to Alto Douro and Oporto (Porto). Giumarães north of Porto and Elvas and Côa on the Spanish border may be dropped. Thus we end at nine locations.
Tentative Heritage Sites
There is also the UNESCO tentative list, sites which participating countries have recorded for possible future inclusion. The following in Portugal are possible for us to visit. It depends on time and interests.
- Arrabida National Park on the south end of the Setubal peninsula just south of Lisbon. Can be visited on the way to Evora. Map
- Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco Small (1450x950m) park just north of Coimbra. Easy to reach in the morning on the way to Porto. Review. Map
- Historic Centre of Santarem 70 km north of Lisbon. Actually on our route north to the monastery towns. A review reveals skepticism as to the value of the place, and describes also how easy it is to get there from the motorway. Map
- Mafra Palace, Convent and Royal Hunting Park 20-30 km from Lisbon and Sintra. Possible, but we’ll have plenty to do among the hills and palaces in Sintra to be travelling north up here as well. Maps.
- Pombaline “Baixa” or Downtown of Lisbon are we going to anyway. It is the lower part of Lisbon’s old town.
Our planned daily itinerary
Tuesday 2 July – Thursday 4 July, Lisbon and Sintra
Our plan for a Portugal road trip starts in Lisbon. We have the afternoon and evening in Lisbon on our arrival day and have set aside two full days. We will stay three nights at the Hotel Lutecia, Av Frei Miguel Contreiras, N.52, (+351 21 841 13 00) up on the hill from the sea. Map. The hotel is only 3.5 km from the airport.
Lisbon is a city built on a slope. Old trams and funiculars connects the areas above and below (Alto and Baixo), and so does a characteristic lift. Tram 28 is a must. Lisbon has a number of old buildings to see, of course some modern, but offers above all a special mood. Aftenbladet newspaper had this article about the nightlife in Lisbon. Here are two videos: Lisbon. Lisbon2. An article describes 48 hours in Lisbon, and another a second-time visit. A photo blogger writes about what is worth to see in Lisbon, and has several articles to browse.
There are two World Heritage Sites located close to each other on Lisbon’s river bank, namely the tower of Belém and the convent of Hieronymites (Jerónimos). The latter now houses the Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum. In particular the Maritime Museum is worth a visit with regard to Portugal’s proud history on the world’s oceans.
We’d like to visit the flea market “Thieves’ Market” (Feira da Ladra) held Tuesdays and Saturdays 7-18. It is located on the Campo de Santa Clara in the Alfama district. This can be combined with strolling in the Alfama district which is a must to see in Lisbon. Here we can eat great food, feel the atmosphere and admire the old streets and architecture. And listen to fado. Our guide book recommends the Clube de Fado (located in Alfama). If one only has a few days to spend in Lisbon, and wants to be sure to hear fado music, this is evidently the place to go.
We should visit the market on Tuesday, when we arrive. We can go straight from the hotel to the flea market. 4.1 km to walk, but we can also take two buses and a subway part of the way. It is worth noting that the tram 28 runs in Alfama …
One of the days (Thursday) we will get by train from Rossio station in Lisbon to Sintra, a world heritage site with a rolling landscape dotted with numerous palaces. A Norwegian travel article provides an introduction to the what we should see and how to get there. Sintra is presented in this blog, in this travel article from Norwegian newspaper VG, and in this video. See picture 61 here. Two buses make round trips to the sights from the train station, 434 and 435.
We should at least go to the old town, where the National Palace and Regaleira Palace is within walking distance of each other. Furthermore, we can grab a bus to Pena Palace, perhaps the Castle of the Moors as well. From TripAdvisor: “Bus 434 runs a circular route from the railway station through the historic centre, via the Moors Castle and Pena Palace back to the town every 15 minutes. Bus 435 The Villa Express runs every 30 minutes from the station to the centre, Regaleira Palace, Palace Bliss, Montserrat Palace then back to the station the same way.”
We may consider purchasing the Lisboa Card which gives unlimited public transport and access to umpteen museums. It is sold in the tourist agency at the airport etc., and costs 39 Euros for 72 hours. It covers even Sintra and the monasteries of Batalha and Tomar which we visit on Friday.
Friday 5 July, Évora, Alcobaça, Batalha, Tomar and Coimbra
We will start early on Friday and drive east (135 km, 1:22 hrs) to the World Heritage Site of Évora, in a rented car. Here we find an historical old town, partly behind medieval walls and with buildings from different eras, including a Roman temple. Besides the temple, there is an aqueduct, a cathedral and several churches, a series of palaces and the central square (Praça do Geraldo). Here’s a really funny video from Évora filmed by a micro-helicopter drone. Here is another video of a slightly different character.
At this time we will probably be having some lunch here before continuing north. We drop by Óbidos (nice little medieval town) (203 km, 1:55 hours) and then four World Heritage sites. They are nicely laid out, with a half-hour journey between them: First, we arrive at the three monasteries of Alcobaça, Batalha and Tomar. The pilgrimage town of Fátima is on the road to Tomar. Here are two films from Batalha: ( 1 ) and (2 ). A slideshow (broken link) of Obidos, Alcobaca and Tomar.
Then we drive today’s final stretch (about an hour) and finish off a long Friday in the university town of Coimbra, the most recent World Heritage Site in Portugal. Here we have booked into the Hotel Astoria, Av. Emidio Navarro n º 21, (+351 239 853 020) in the city centre. Maps.
Saturday 6 July – Monday 8 July, Porto
After breakfast at our Coimbra hotel we feel the call of the north of Portugal and the World Heritage city ofPorto later today and tomorrow. We start with a photo temptation. It is an hour drive up to Porto from Coimbra. Maybe we can stop by the little park called Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco (1450x950m) half an hour north of Coimbra. Large trees and a wonderful castle right in middle. Info. Map.
In Porto we will sleep two luxurious nights at the Pousada Do Porto – Palacio Do Freixo overlooking the pool and river. Estrada Nacional 108, Porto (351,218,442,003). Map. We should bring our swimwear for an afternoon or two in the pool before dinner.
Saturday and Sunday we relax and wander around in an exciting city. Watch this informative video. The BBC has an inspired article about the city.
Perhaps it is possible to visit the historical centre of Guimaraes a little further north (one hour drive), also a World Heritage Site (in 2012 even a European capital of culture). Monday we head inland to the Douro Valley, and we should use our days in Porto to plan our method of transportation: Boat, train or car?
Monday 8th July – Tuesday 9th July, From Porto, into the Douro and to Lisbon
We have to get out of Porto Monday morning and need to book two more nights before returning home. As we have morning flight home Wednesday, the last night ought to be near Lisbon airport. Why not the same hotel as the first three nights, the Lutecia? The answer may depend on whether it is good enough for us and we can wait booking it until we are in Portugal. Otherwise, Monday and Tuesday are completely open, but will at least partly be spent in the Douro Valley.
Several river cruises seem to last for several days right up to the Spanish border. Some stop or start halfway at Régua. From there, they go downstream to Porto or upstream. Régua is in the westernmost part of the World Heritage Site, and the trip down the river is in principle outside.
Rota do Douro offers one day cruises with a train from Porto into the valley to Régua and the return to Porto in the afternoon on the boat. 59 EUR with lunch. They have several other cruises too. Here is another from the same company that runs from Régua upstream in the right direction. The sailing schedule may not be suitable for us.
Another company also offers day trips from Porto to Régua, probably by bus for 95 EUR. They do not write anything about a boat. Cruzeirosnodouro.net offers river cruises as well, but has only a webpage in Portuguese. Their round trip by train and boat from Porto and Régua costs € 72.50. Both train / boat trips include port wine and lunch. Perhaps we can postpone the decision until we are in Porto?
Websites: NY Times. Wikipedia. Official tourist info. Another similar. BBC. National Geographic. Here is a description of a train ride that should be affordable and interesting as the train follows the river up. Blog articles on the Douro: ( 1 ), ( 2 ).
Videos: First, a tourist video from the three towns of Vila Real, Peso da Régua and Lamego in the Douro Valley. A bit boring, yet informative image sequence from a boat ride downstream from Barca D’Alva to Porto. A film from the Douro train. Commercial from a river cruise. Timelapse from the Alto Douro.
Wednesday 10 July, Home from Lisbon
We fly at half past six in the morning and must be up very early!
That was the plan. The next entries in this series show what really happened. The short story is that the plan worked really well and is recommended for anyone seeking a week or preferably more in historical parts of Portugal.
We managed to visit most of the places mentioned above. In Lisbon we did not make it to the market or the maritime museum. In Sintra we visited the city castle, took bus 434 to the Castle of the Moors and Pena. Further north we dropped Tomar and Fatima. The Douro Valley was visited by car, no boat, and we stayed the night at a lovely vineyard near Peso da Régua in middle of the valley. We stayed the last night in Lisbon at the same hotel.
This series consists of these chapters.