Plan your Lisbon to Porto road trip with our eight-day itinerary. This itinerary is highly flexible and you can start at either Lisbon or Porto, but we do recommend a minimum duration of eight days. There is so much to see once you get out of Lisbon, and the west coast is full of places to visit and explore.
From the bustling city vibe of Lisbon, through to the beaches and surf of towns like Cascais, Nazare and Ericeira and the green rolling hills of the Douro Valley, you’ll cross into areas over and over that have a changing landscape and feel to them. There are university and fishing towns, wineries and a never-ending supply of castles, palaces, churches and historical monuments to explore.
Itinerary – main destinations
- Day 1 Cascais – transit day from Lisbon to Cascais
- Day 2 Nazaré – a day spent in Sintra and along the west coast of Portugal
- Day 3 Coimbra – a day spent in Coimbra
- Day 4 Lamego – a day spent in Aveiro and Lamego
- Day 5 Douro Valley – a day spent in Douro Valley
- Day 6-7 Porto – two days spent in Porto
- Day 8 – final time in Porto and departure
Why you should do a Lisbon to Porto road trip
Why would you do a road trip from Lisbon to Porto? The transport system is good enough in this country for anyone to easily jump on a bus or take a train. This is a great idea if time is not on your side, but if it is, there’s nothing better than taking the trip along the west coast and into some of the centre of Portugal in a leisurely manner.
Portugal is a very easy country in which to do a road trip. There is approximately 830 km of coastline that borders the Atlantic Ocean and 1,200 kilometres of a land border shared with Spain. As the crow flies, it’s a very rough 800 km from north to south and only about 200 km wide. It’s small and therefore any road trip doesn’t require onerous distances to be travelled.
For a really cool visual representation of how the size of Portugal compares to your own country, check out this country comparison website.
The driving is also relatively easy, with only a few locations that have hills, mountains and winding roads. This allows you to cover a lot of distance, if you wish, or to take it much more slowly. The only winding roads exist mainly in Sintra and the Douro Valley.
Having your own vehicle also gives you complete freedom, flexibility and independence. It means you can stay as little or as long as you like, or you can avoid the times of day when you know that certain areas will be heaving with people. Use it to your advantage and get to the popular sites early before the buses of day-trippers arrive, or leave it until later, once they’ve all gone home.
The beauty of this eight-day itinerary is that you can swap it around by starting in Porto instead, or you can simply use it as a base for a more extended journey.
Road trips in Portugal are easily done by car, but we chose to do ours in a campervan. The duration of the road trip and the small distances that we were going to be travelling meant that we only needed a smaller campervan this time. It was of a similar size to the campervan we used on our road trip in Iceland.
More reading >> Our detailed review of our campervan hire in Portugal
Driving from Lisbon to Porto
We made the most of three days in Lisbon, before starting our road trip. Driving from Lisbon to Porto in a campervan makes for a perfect eight-day road trip. We didn’t want to lose any of those days by having to return the campervan back to Lisbon. Indie Campers made this easy by providing the opportunity to pick up and drop off in two locations, for a very reasonable hiring fee.
Across the eight-day itinerary, we drove only 730 km. Only one day was above 200 km and several were well under 100 km. When you look at the country map further down, you’ll see just how much coverage we made across Portugal, despite only driving such short distances.
Pro tip: If you are starting your trip with a few days in Lisbon, there is no need to have a car with you. Save yourself the energy and cost of hiring a vehicle and just pick one up when you are ready to leave. It’s difficult to find parks in Lisbon and they are heavily policed, with hefty fines, if you overstay your welcome.
We made very few plans for the Lisbon to Porto road trip. In fact, we had our pickup and drop off date and that was about it. We knew we wanted to spend two days in Porto and venture into the Douro Valley, but that was all. The rest was “as it comes”. The friendliness of the Portuguese people and the way in which they welcome visitors doing road trips make it all the easier. We travelled in peak season and still, we found it very easy to pull up in some incredible locations along the way. We never stayed at a campsite for the entire duration.
Pro tip: If you are starting or leaving from Portugal to/from another European destination, we recommend Anywhere Campers, who have excellent one-way hire options.
Day 1 Lisbon to Cascais
Wooden boats bob on the water, resplendent in their bright colours. They are a floating throwback to the days when Cascais was an important fishing village, west of Lisbon. Then along came King Luis, back in the 1830s and life in this tiny town got a lot more privileged.
His contribution whilst he made the town his summer seaside retreat was to inspire a generation of opulent architecture, much of which is still here today. A quick drive through the small streets surrounding the centre of town showcases many large mansions. The historical feel continues throughout with nary a highrise or modern building to be seen.
The old fort sits high on the rocky cliffs at the entrance to town and many other grand 19th century stone buildings line the waterfront. Cascais also has the best of both worlds when it comes to beaches. The calm beach of Carcavalos is on the protected eastern side of the bay. Guincho caters to the surfing crowd and their love of big waves.
The streets and cobbled laneways behind the beach are filled with boutique shops, wine bars and way too many English pubs. This is, after all, a tourist town and it’s very easy to see who their primary market is. Still, it’s quaint, very well maintained and shows off the old buildings in deserving style.
This is Lisbon’s playground. It gets extremely busy here in summer. It’s also the home of some of the rich and famous. If you are planning on booking a hotel, book well in advance.
- The city centre – Stop at one of the many cafes, restaurants and bars for a bite to eat, a glass of wine or simply to people watch. There’s also plenty of boutique shopping. Visiting the centre is worth it just to see the incredible tiled laneways.
- Citadel of Cascais – 15-17th century fortress built right on the mouth of the Tagus River as part of the military’s defence strategy.
- Beaches – you won’t be able to see them all but there are enough of them close by to spend some time on a beach. Praia da Ribeira de Cascais and Prais da Rainha are the closest to the central part of town and there is always plenty of action here in summer.
- Boca do Inferno – this impressive coastal area was once a cave but years of ocean degradation have worn most of it away. Still, an archway still exists here and it’s a great place to see the ocean side of Cascais.
Normally we might find that a town this small, and this popular would be less than appreciative of the value that motorhome travellers might bring to their community. Not so in Cascais, where excellent daytime and overnight parking facilities are provided, just a few kilometres out of the city centre. At Parque Praca de Touros, (which translates to Old Bullring) there are 153 generously sized, hardstand parking spaces.
There’s a smattering of trees around to give it a nice feel, and it’s not on a busy main road. Best of all, it’s free. There are no amenities. Cycles can be hired at the front of the park and a local bus also stops by here. We walked into the city, but I would only recommend this for those without any mobility issues as it is a reasonable walk. The walk takes about 15 minutes at an average pace.
Location: Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, 2750-184 Cascais, Portugal
Pro tip: It’s easy to visit Lisbon from here. The train from Cascais to Lisbon takes about 40 minutes. If you have a campervan or motorhome, it would be easier to come to Cascais first, park here and do day trips via train into Lisbon and Belem.
Day 2 Cascais to Nazaré
We drove the 20 kilometres or so to Sintra, a town with a huge reputation and on the must-visit list for Portugal. Sintra is home to the famous and very colourful Pena Palace and many other impressive palaces and castles. There are also a number of other things to do here, but Pena Palace is the drawcard.
I’d set us a challenge this day. All of my pre-reading about access to Pena Palace didn’t hold out any great hope for those who drove here. We’ve come across a few places like this as we’ve travelled around Europe in a motorhome, and honestly, it’s a pain if you aren’t prepared, or can’t handle the pressure of finding a park.
However, I also don’t like to take these comments always at face value, as sometimes people who write this kind of thing, aren’t always honest, or just don’t like driving. Therefore, I wanted to check it out for myself, so that I could write an honest appraisal of the situation.
So, we set off early, to allow us enough time to get there, survey the town and surrounding areas for parking options and then get ready to spend some time at Pena Palace.
If you are planning on driving to Sintra, please note that the rules have changed in 2021 with regard to where you can drive and park. Our detailed article below not only gives you a comprehensive guide to what to see and do in Sintra but also tips for driving and parking in Sintra. It can be done, you just need to know how to do it as easily as possible.
- The historic city centre – Do it early or late, not in the middle of the day, unless you are hungry! It’s a beautiful old town full of historic buildings and some awesome pastries too.
- National Palace of Pena – Located right in the historic city centre
- Pena Palace/Sintra Castle – this is what everyone visits Sintra to see and for good reason
- Moorish Castle – military fort from the eighth century and close by Pena Palace.
- Monserrate Palace – Built in the mid-1860s, this architectural delight is now a national monument.
- Cabo da Roca – more spectacular coastline. Visit either before or after Sintra.
- Seteais Palace – one built for politicians and royalty, it is now a luxury 5-star hotel, but you can still visit the gardens
- Regaleira Palace – 20th-century residence with beautiful gardens
Buy skip the line tickets for Sintra Castle and all other monuments here.
From Sintra, we drove on along the west coast of Portugal, passing through many of the small beach towns along the way. Before making Nazaré our final destination for the day, we checked out Ericeira.
Like many of the towns along this part of the coast, they are all about the beaches and the waves. The blue Atlantic ocean and white beaches provide an inviting backdrop, as do the buildings that line the high cliffs. These areas of Portugal are known for producing some huge waves, some of them have, at times, been the largest in the world.
At Ericeira, the city hangs on the edge of sandstone cliffs, fortified by bricks and blocks. Down below, striped umbrellas signal it’s summertime, as do all of the families frolicking about in the water and on the sand.
- Surfing – Ericeira and Nazare are known for their surf beaches and are part of the World Surf Reserve. If you are not a surfer, find yourself a location high up on the cliffs, or down at the beaches and watch the surfers in action. Either way, it’s just something that has to be done in Ericeira.
- Beaches – like surfing, it’s a must. With five beaches all near the city, there’s no excuse. If you are looking for where the photographers hang out, head to Praia de São Julião.
- Praca da Republica – the shops and cafes of this oceanfront town.
- Views – Ericeira is built along spectacular coastline and you can get a view from almost any of the cliff tops.
We couldn’t come to Nazaré and not hang out for a while. Like Cascais, it’s an old fishing village, and for the most part, still has the old-world charm covering it like a cloak. Similar to Ericeira, there’s a high cliff that overlooks the city and the entrance to one of the best surfing beaches in Portugal is here also. Much closer to the water, there’s a promenade, perfect for those who want to take a leisurely stroll along the oceanfront.
Here, you’ll see fisherman drying their daily catch and the wooden boats that are used by them. The boats, with their eyes painted on the front to ward off superstitious events, remind me of those used in Malta. The promenade is lined with shops and cafes and parking for vehicles and campervans is easy enough here.
- Surfing -Like Ericeira, Nazaré is THE place to surf on the west coast of Portugal. Nazaré was the location of the world’s largest waves ever ridden
- Alcobaca Monastery – UNESCO World Heritage site and the first Gothic-style monastery in Portugal
- Ermida da Memoria– a small chapel that stands above a grotto
Day 3 Nazaré to Coimbra
Coimbra was one of my favourite cities in Portugal. An old medieval city, with a university to match, there’s plenty to keep you occupied here. On one side, a modern city blends with the river, offering water sports and a green space that is filled with people playing, drinking and eating.
On the other, the city is full of small laneways, centuries-old buildings and plenty of history. It’s also a very hilly city, with the university located right at the top. It’s a worthwhile trip just for the views, but the university is something special.
- The city centre – like many of the towns along the west coast, the historic city centres are a must-visit. Coimbra’s is particularly special, and you can spend hours just wandering the laneways.
- Coimbra University – it’s a university town with a stunning university built high on a hill. Visit for the views, climb the tower, explore the incredible chapels and libraries and so much more. Not to be missed. We did this Coimbra University walking tour.
Overnight we stayed at a dedicated motorhome and campervan park by the river, called Parque Verde do Mondego. It was a hardstand location with some water and waste facilities. Access to the city is via the bridge and will take approximately 15 minutes or a quick bike ride.
Location: Av Ines de Castro 40, 3000 Coimbra
Day 4 Coimbra to Lamego
After leaving Coimbra, we wanted to position ourselves to be close to the Douro Valley so that we could explore the next day. One of the great aspects of doing a road trip in Europe in summer is the usability of the days. With long hours of sunlight and a lengthy twilight, you can drive much later at night, not that we really did too much of that.
Before we got to Lamego, we stopped by Aveiro and I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Every country, every region seems to have their own version of a mini Venice. For the Portuguese, Aveiro is theirs. Bright wooden boats called moliceiros ferry large numbers of visitors around channels. Tour guides provide some general commentary as they pass by the key features of this town.
Aveiro is also well known for a seafood restaurant linked to the fish market, which we were more than happy to test out.
- Ride a moliceiro – the colourful traditional boats that resemble Venetian gondolas
- Eat seafood – Buy fresh seafood from the market or eat at a seafood restaurant
- Tour the city – Explore the art nouveau buildings
Lamego sits within the Douro Valley, nestled amongst its slopes. It’s a town known for a cured meat called presunto and sparkling wine. Both must be tasted! Lamego, known for the church that sits aloft around 600 steps is the feature of the town.
The steps are decorated with traditional Portuguese tiles. We climbed every step, in the heat, but it’s a climb that must be done if you can. The church at the top is beautiful as are the various fountains along the way.
- Climb the steps – of the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios
- Eat local food – the speciality of Lamego is presunto and sparkling wine
We parked at a large carpark overnight near the Centro Multiusos de Lamego (sports and cultural centre). It’s a large carpark in the centre of town, and adjacent to the church steps. Parking is free and there are hundreds of spaces. It’s safe and well lit.
Day 5 Lamego to Douro Valley
The Douro River runs for almost 900 kilometres, from the middle of northern Spain to the Atlantic via Porto in Portugal. Despite its length, only a small amount of the river is actually navigable. Through these parts, the riverboats take guests on a scenic cruise among the vineyard-covered rolling hills. We couldn’t drive the west coast of Portugal and not take a peek at the Douro Valley and sample the wine and port.
Taking a road trip through the Douro Valley is highly recommended. Take it slowly, the roads won’t let you go fast anyway. Wind your way along the river as it snakes and turns. Stop in at the little villages you see along the way or pop into one of the many vineyards you’ll find along the way. Our favourite town in the Douro Valley was Pinhão, located right on a bend in the river, where some of the riverboats dock.
The town is very small but it makes for a perfect spot to have a coffee or lunch as you overlook the water. We came also to see the railway station which has some beautiful hand-painted tiles. Unfortunately, we were not able to access the room upstairs which (so we are told) has an incredible display of Portuguese tiles.
Douro Valley hotspots
- Wine tasting – do a wine tasting at one of the many Quintas in the Douro Valley
- Riverboat – take a tour along the Douro River
- Pinhao train stations – admire the traditional tiles at the station in the centre of town
Day 6 and Day 7 Douro Valley to Porto
Porto has come to the attention of millions of visitors over the past few years and rightly so. Known for its colourful images of buildings that line the water and a magnificent bridge, it draws people to it like moths to a flame. Porto is so much more than this, and you need a few days at least to be able to really do it justice. Porto is definitely somewhere you don’t want to miss if you are heading to Portugal.
More reading >> How to spend two days in Porto Portugal
- Wander the city – get lost in the myriad laneways you’ll find all over Porto
- Wander the waterfront – the Ribeira is the place to be on the Porto waterfront or head across the river to Nova de Gaia
- San Luis Bridge – walk across the river via this magnificent bridge
- Go church hopping – from the Monastery of Serra do Pilar to many smaller ones dotted all over the city, you’ll find it hard to get to them all
- Livraria Bookstore – rumour has it that JK Rowling got her inspiration from Harry Potter here. It’s a magnificent looking store in its own right.
- Climb the tower – the Clerigos Bell Tower offers a great view over Porto
- Catch the #1 tram
- Visit Foz – head out to the ocean for a slower pace
- Sao Bento Railway – the architecture and the tiles at the station are worth the stop
Since Porto was our final destination and we had planned to stay several days, we found a great location just outside Porto that was both our daytime parking and our overnight location. Incidentally, parking in Porto is not something that can be done easily in a large vehicle.
This area called Parking Venda Nova is provided by the local council and while it is mixed-use, contains areas large enough for large motorhomes to park. There are also motorhome waste facilities here. Across the road is a tram stop. We used this to get into Porto every day, taking around 30 minutes to get into the city.
Location: Prof. Dr. Anibal Cavaco Silva, 4435 Rio Tinto, Porto, Portugal
More reading >> Day trips from Porto (you can visit all the towns mentioned above)
Day 8 Porto and drop off
This was the final day of our eight-day road trip through Portugal. It was a relaxed trip, with no driving issues or vehicle issues to speak of. Portugal is a very motorhome/campervan friendly county. They provide good services in so many locations to allow those who are on a road trip to park easily, stay overnight or have access to facilities.
No-one looks at you strangely, even in such a bright looking vehicle, when you park next to a car in the main street of a town. They actually welcome you. Of course, all of this will only continue if those who choose the road as their way of travelling, continue to look after the locations they stop in. Litter and rubbish in some parts of Portugal is a problem in general, but we didn’t see anyone in camping locations who looked as though they were contributing to the problem.
Driving from Lisbon to Porto can be done easily in a day in a traditional vehicle. If you’ve got more time to spare, seriously consider hiring a campervan and live as we did. It’s great fun.
We saw so much of this country during this time but still only drove 720 kilometres, allowing us to spend quality time in the locations we chose. The average kilometres was 90 per day but some days we didn’t drive at all or did very little. The largest driving day was only 199 kilometres, and that was split over several stops.
Pros and cons of motorhome travel in Portugal
- Allows for flexible, independent travel
- Cost-effective – while the cost of hiring a motorhome or campervan in Portugal is more than a standard vehicle, this type of vehicle means you don’t pay more for your accommodation
- Your accommodation is always with you
- Portugal is a motorhome-friendly country
- You can buy your own food supplies to save on eating out, making it an even more cost-efficient way to travel
- One way motorhome hire companies like Anywhere Camper make planning an itinerary from Lisbon to Porto even easier
- A broad range of places you can stay overnight
- Motorhomes are of course larger vehicles so they are more difficult to drive into some cities where small cars are more suited. this can be easily overcome however by finding parking facilities on the outskirts of the cities.
Where to stay overnight in a motorhome
In July 2021, Portugal outlawed ‘wild camping’. Wild camping means different things to different people, but here in Portugal, it means you can’t pull off the road and park up overnight beside a beautiful lake that isn’t part of a regulated overnight stopover area. You can’t drive for miles into a national park, hoping to find yourself a piece of solo paradise either. What you can do is stay in official caravan parks and campgrounds, dedicated parking areas that allow for overnight stays, at areas deliberately set aside by local councils called ASAs, or on private property (similar to the France Passion network that operates in France).
- Official camping sites – Camping.info
- Private property locations – Portugal Easy Camp | Camperland | Home Camper
- Municipal service areas for motorhomes – Called ASAs
We are always respectful of the land that we travel of. We leave no trace, ever. We have fully self-contained vehicles and all wastewater and waste are dealt with in accordance with regulated methods for disposal.
Best time for road trips in Portugal
There’s another reason why everyone loves Portugal – the weather. With the better part of the year bathed in sunshine, you can road trip virtually all year round. From the middle of October until April or May, you will find fewer people on the roads and the prices for rentals will also be cheaper. September is also wine harvesting time, which is fun if you make a trip into the Douro Valley. Booking vehicles and campervans in the peak months of June through to September will attract much higher rates and more demand, so remember to book early.
Looking to keep roadtripping from Portugal into other areas of Europe? We recommend Anywhere Campers for one way hire in Europe.
Driving tips to help you in Portugal
- Like anywhere, the drivers here can be a little crazy at times, and really slow at others. Be especially mindful of cars merging onto the highway. In the regional areas, there are fewer cars and traffic issues so most of the time you’ll have a comfortable drive. As mentioned above, don’t bother hiring a car in Lisbon itself. You won’t need one in Porto either.
- Book your car, campervan or motorhome as early as possible, especially if your trip will be in peak season.
- Make sure you have comprehensive vehicle insurance for whatever vehicle you are hiring.
- Be aware that there are toll roads in Portugal. Our journey didn’t include a single toll road, but it really depends on how much time you have. Sometimes if you need to get from A to B quickly, you might need to use a toll road. Electronic toll booths are becoming more popular now in Portugal, replacing the older toll system. To make things complex, the two systems are still being run in tandem, and both operate slightly differently. The traditional toll booths are manned and you can still pay by cash here. They will also have dedicated ‘green’ lanes for the automatic payment via the Via Verde transponder installed in the vehicle. don’t go through these lanes unless you have one. the other system is the fully electronic tollway. These can only be paid automatically. For options on prepaid toll cards click here.
- The roads can be a bit hit and miss in Portugal. While the highways are quite good, many of the regional roads are average. There’s no need to drive fast here and besides, there’s so much to see, so slow down and take it all in.
- Parking can be problematic in the cities, so do your homework in advance to find car parks. There are usually always options just out of the main cities, provided you are able to walk in. If you have a larger campervan or motorhome, it’s best to keep them out of the city centres if you can.
- Hiring a vehicle is easy in Portugal. We recommend Anywhere Campers for motorhome hire and Rentalcars.com for regular vehicles.
More reading to help you plan a trip to Portugal
- Pasteis de Nata : Finding the best Portuguese custard tarts in Portugal
- How to make the most of 3 days in Lisbon Portugal
- One way motorhome rental in Europe
- Rent a motorhome one way in Europe with Anywhere Campers
- One day in Sintra Portugal (and why it’s still ok to drive there)
- 2 days in Porto – a comprehensive itinerary
- Day trips from Porto Portugal
- 5 of the best things to do in Belem in one day