This year I did my first roadtrip through Portugal and got to know a lot of awesome places. With this post I want to give you a lot of information about a possible roadtrip itinerary for Portugal from the capital Lisbon to Faro in the Algarve. This is a three-day roadtrip. I recommend you to stay longer in Lagos or Faro if possible, to get to know these cities better or also explore the part east of Faro.
Roadtrip Day 1: Lisbon to Aljezur
The first day will be the longest drive of all three days. After leaving Lisbon over the 17.2 km long Vasco da Gama Bridge, you head south to Setúbal. Setúbal is a small port city with cute little lanes and churches. The main cathedral on a quite hidden spot is called Santa Maria da Graça. Ask locals to find your way to the cathedral, they will probably do not understand English but are very keen on helping you.
If you want to spend some more time at a beach, there are two nice ones on the way to Aljezur: Praia Santo André and Zambureira del Mar. We did not have much luck with the weather as a weird cloud blocked our view. That is why I cannot give a real recommendation. Just go to Praia Santo André and see if you like it. It seemed to be a very family-friendly beach with a few food and drink stalls.
As I said we had this weird cloud and didn’t see anything of Zambureira do Mar, you only had a view of 5 metres max. And the city had really bad timing. They celebrated a Holi festival that day which made everything really foggy. That’s why we left immediately (and cause we didn’t find a parking space due to the festival). But this beach was recommended by my friend’s collegue as a really beautiful one. So check it out, if the weather is on your side :).
The last main stop of the day is Aljezur. Aljezur is a surfer’s paradise with a beach a bit outside the city. If you’re interested in surfing lessons, that’s definitely a good starting point. Aljezur itself is very hilly with a Moorish castle on the top of one hill.
Where to stay: Amazigh Design Hostel
Roadtrip Day 2: Aljezur to Lagos
Start your day with a short drive to Bordeira Beach in Carrapateira. It is another huge surfing beach only accessible after passing a long stripe of sand dunes. It seemed like a small desert. That is why the beach itself is quite calm and without many people. An absolute recommendable beach. We loved it there. It was only a bit windy and the water was frozen cold unfortunately. Nonetheless we spent quite some time there enjoying the view, laying in the sun and observing the surf classes.
The next stop is the Cabo da São Vicente – the most south western point of Europe. Do not only stop at the lighthouse but also at some places before, you’ll see some cars parking there. These spots are more beautiful than the Cabo itself as you see more of the cliffs, some desert beaches and you can even walk a bit down and see everything from below. These places where my favorite spots of the whole trip through Portugal.
The lighthouse at Cabo da São Vicente is really touristy. A queue of cars let you imagine how many people will wander around the lighthouse. The best business idea ever had a German who opened a bratwurst stall where everyone is passing to get to the lighthouse, promoting it with words “the last bratwurst before America”. The stall was busy all the time. You can buy a bratwurst for 3.50 EUR and get a certificate that you ate the last bratwurst before America as well. Very funny and that’s definitely an example that you only need to have a very good idea. And this one definitely works!
After that, you go on to Lagos. Your place to sleep that night. If you have enough time, I’d recommend you to not only spend the afternoon in Lagos but as well the next day. You can also spend some beach time there as it will be more difficult to do so in Faro. Lagos has two beaches (at least we found two) which are accessible on foot from the city centre. You can park your car in a parking garage. It is situated right at the esplanade (Avenida Dos Decobrimentos) close to the church Igreja de Santa Maria, you can’t miss it. The parking spot costs 12 EUR max and is a secure place and cheaper than other places around the esplanade as you have to go there every few hours to get a new parking ticket.
Where to stay: Old Town Lagos Hostel
Roadtrip Day 3: Lagos to Faro
A bit out of Lagos you find the Ponta da Piedade – a beautiful cliff and must see spot on your way to Faro. It reminded me a bit of the London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road in Australia.
The city Portimão is supposed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve with its Praia da Rocha. We have to say it’s a very touristy beach full of people but family-friendly with entertainment for kids. If you visit Portimão during the summer months, plan some time to find a parking space. It might be hard to find one. We found a cheap and big car park next to the roundabout Rotunda do Río Arade.
The next stop will be Albufeira: the starting point for dolphin watch and cave tours. If you’re interested in spotting dolphins, go there and book your tour with Dreamwave Counter (a review on this tour will be published soon). We really saw heaps of dolphins and they came really close, the tour with the speed boat was also great fun, I was just a bit disappointed about the cave part of the tour. The boat slowly drove into one cave and then we only drove along a few others. But if you’re main focus is on dolphin watch, the tour is definitely worth it. The tours start at the port of the city. There is a parking garage right next to it.
Albufeira also has a beach. You have to go there by car from the port as it is quite far away. I wish you good luck to find a place to park your car as everything is very narrow and opportunities are very limited.
Last stop of the roadtrip is Faro. Faro is a really nice and quiet city. I enjoyed it a lot walking through the lanes taking photos. The old town is surrounded by a city wall of the Roman age. It is worth to stay at least a day in Faro as you can either explore the natural park Rio Formosa which accomodates a lot of wildlife or head to one of the offshore islands by ferry, for example Ilha Deserta.
Where to stay: We stayed at Bla Bla Bla Hostel but it was quite chaotic and the owner and employees seemed to be a bit overstrained with the room arrangement
More time? Discover some cities East of Faro
If you still have more time in Portugal, consider to go in the Eastern direction until the Spanish border. Olhão is the biggest seaport in the Algarve with a busy atmosphere and stunning nature. Tavira is probably one of the better known cities in the Algarve with its attractive architecture within the centre. It is also a good starting point to check out the Rio Formosa park.
Cacelha Vela is a small town in blue and white. If you look for a huge beach which isn’t overcrowded, go to Praia Verde which is situated only a few kilometres before the Spanish border.
Enjoy your roadtrip through Portugal’s south! If you have any places to add to this itinerary, please let me know in the comments!
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