This was solidified when we reflected on our 2018-2019 travels and discovered that most of our favorite moments and scenes came from road trips. We simply love the freedom that comes with driving and choosing your own itinerary, both in advance and on the go. So, when we planned our impromptu trip to Portugal, Nate immediately started researching road trip routes. And THIS, this is what we came up with.
First things first…rent a convertible if at all possible. It truly enhances the experience and the weather in Portugal is phenomenal. We were there in May and it was absolutely perfect for meandering through the country with the top down.
I hope you enjoy this photo diary + gain some inspiration and info for planning your own Portugal adventure. See trip details at the bottom.
The road trip begins in Lisbon and ends in Porto, but includes two towns for one night stay in each. Both towns we stayed in were absolutely darling. I never use that word, but it is THE BEST word to describe both locations. You’ll see.
Leave Lisbon, cross over the “Golden Gate-Like” bridge and head into the mountains. But first stop in Evora, a town with primarily white buildings overlooking vineyards. The streets are VERY tight here and all cobble stone. Finding parking was quite the task but once we found a spot, the little town was very walkable. We got a latte and snack at the only cafe open during siesta, snapped photos of the city, church, and ruin like structures, then went on our way.
After our coffee and walking pit stop, it was right back on the road to more tiny towns, churches and castles. We stopped off via a street sign to get drone footage of this castle and the surrounding town + landscape. And we did. But then failed to get the photos off the memory card before the drone was confiscated in Morocco a week later.
We got our birds-eye-view photos with the drone (and luckily I snapped a few with the our camera) and then it was off to Covilha.
This was a small university town in the mountains. Our hotel was up a ways, out of town at the Luna Hotel Dos Carqueijais. I wish we had more time at this establishment. The view and amenities deserved more time from us. We stayed in a loft, which had a lovely living space downstairs, and a spacious bedroom, plus full bath upstairs. Both downstairs and upstairs had windows with views. Again, I wish we had a day to simply relax at the hotel. There is plenty to do in this area as well. We saw people hiking and a massive hauler for dirt bikes at the hotel. You could adventure all day and come back to the views in comfort or just hangout at the pool in a cabana and read a book. Either way, it’s worth a trip into the mountains to stay here.
After one night’s sleep we hit the road at 7am and headed to Braga – a town we fell in love with. Within five to ten minutes of driving we found ourselves on the top of the rocky plateau. We had views for days, in all directions. What an amazing experience in the convertible with not another car in sight. Who knew Portugal had terrain like this?! Not us, that’s for sure.
Once we cleared the mountains, we started the descent and the terrain went from rocky, to timber, to vineyards. It was a truly spectacular road trip and this was by far our favorite day. The temperature was also 80 degrees with clear skies. You really can’t ask for a better top-down situation.
This valley (Douro Valley) in Portugal is well known. There are vineyards for days. They just kept going, going and going. We didn’t stop for any tastings, but would love to come back to this region again. If we had extra time we would have had lunch in Pinhao. This is the town at the bottom of the lake that you can see in the first photo below.
Note – before arriving in Braga, we drove through another mountain region that was absolutely stunning in the afternoon light. The Sierra Nevada like mountain range was the backdrop for tiny villages perched on top of green hills. It was straight out of a movie. But we wanted to get to Braga, so we opted not to stop for photos…a decision I regret to this very day. Stop for the freaking photo fam.
We pulled into Braga around 5pm, just in time for an early dinner and stroll around town. Again, our accommodation here was lovely and I wish we had more time in this quaint little town. We stayed at the Burgus Tribute & Design Hotel which had windows that opened up to a picturesque European street top (see third photo down). Our room was spacious, light and airy, had a beautiful refinished bathroom and a seating nook under the window. I would highly recommend staying here. The location was great as well – within walking distance of everything you need.
Over the mountains and the through the woods to Porto we go. We headed out of Braga the same way we came in. So we saw these mountains, lakes and picturesque orange-topped towns the day before. But we were so exhausted from the drive that we just wanted to get to our hotel. That was a shame because the lighting the day before was superb compared to this…either way, photos wouldn’t do this area justice. You must come and see for yourself.
Cascata Da Portela Do Homem (waterfall). This waterfall was literally right off the side of the road. You could miss it if you weren’t looking though, as it is tucked away as you turn the corner. The water was a beautiful green color. I don’t know if this changes with seasons, but it was a nice little pit stop along the way.
Stop at Santuario de Nossa Senhora da Peneda. We saw tons of signs for this in Braga. It was a tight squeeze getting here with a car, but it was doable nonetheless. I think you can go inside or do tours of some kind (seeing as there was a lot of tourist info in Braga for it). It was like a ghost town when we stopped by. We were only there for five minutes, but didn’t see another soul – not in shops, or around the church. Maybe do some research before you go if you’re wanting to do a tour or enter the church. It’s tucked into the mountain side, and you must pass through a tiny town with laughable streets in and out of this location. There is the chance that our GPS took us the least logical way as well. But I am certainly glad we made it!
Just before dropping back down into Porto, we drove up to Santuário de Santa Luzia. It’s a small, but beautiful church on a hill, with a view of a river on one side and the ocean on the other.
Porto marked the end of our short, but magnificent road trip through Portugal. It was an adventure I’d be happy to go on again. The town of Porto is great. We thought it lived up to the hype, but you can read more about that here, Porto Portugal Photo Diary + Travel Guide. Once you arrive in Porto, you’ll need to return your car wherever you planned to, and then get an Uber to your hotel or airbnb. We stayed at the S.Bento Luxury Building smack dab in the middle of the city and it could not have been a better experience.
Portugal is a colorful, welcoming, diversified, culinary heaven of a country and culture. We happen to think a road trip is a great way to take it all in. But if you hate driving, then just come and see the main sites. They won’t disappoint.
The roads for the most part were great throughout Portugal. Once you get into the smaller cities, things get tighter and bumpier (cobble stone), but still very drivable. It was easy to navigate and the people there we kind. We felt safe, and highly suggest this trip to anyone who loves a good road trip. Take it as slow or fast as you like; you can even add or change up some of the locations. Just make sure YOU GO!
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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