There’s never enough time to do Portugal justice, as it’s a diverse destination. We found 5 days in Portugal is just about perfect! Especially if you book a car and go at your own pace. It’s easy to immerse in the culture and eat any many egg custards as you can! There’s loads to love about Portugal, and here is some of our favorites.
Day 1 and 2: Lisbon, A chic city
After having a short time in the city of Lisbon, I look forward to returning in a couple of months to see even more of its beauty. A weekend is never enough to truly immerse in the capital of Portugal. Its strategic location on the water makes for scenic strolling areas, surrounded by dense neighborhood emblazoned with colorful street art.
To stay with the theme of contemporary trends and chic atmosphere in Lisbon makes plans for a reservation at Hotel Altis Belem. It’s won awards for its innovative layout and design, overlooking the scenic harborfront with huge, sunny glass walls in every room. While the theme is a little unusual, as each space is a nod to various Portuguese conquests through history, it does make for memorable wall décor. The highlight is the underground spa space open to all guests, with various hot and cold soaking pools encased in chic concrete and tile.
If you would like to venture a little bit north, Sintra can give you a taste of Portugal’s mountains and history. It’s a short drive to this coastal city from Lisbon and also boasts some pretty greenery and fairly-tale-like castles.
Day 3: Inland in the Algarve
Most people will go to Portugal for the city sightseeing or heading straight for the beach. But this fascinating country has much more to offer off the shore and away from the crowds. One of our favorite trips to Portugal was exploring the Algarve and the smaller towns/villages in the hills.
Loulé is one of those special places to see up close and personal. People who live in and around town pride themselves in keeping Portuguese traditions alive and well. Head straight for the open-air market to pick up some wonderful wallet-friendly produce and pantry items in town, then watch local dancers twirl through the square for a live demonstration of traditional movement. From Loulé, enjoy a few hiking paths up in the hills with rolling views flanked by cork trees.
Interested in more about the Algarve? Listen to my guest spot on Amateur Traveler where we talk all things about the region!
Day 4 and 5: Portugal’s Best Beaches
Coastline is plentiful all up and down Portugal. The prettiest can be found in the south, boasting a few secluded gems and sprawling, sandy hotspots. Those who want a chilled out experience can visit the area of Altura, only a few minutes from the Spain border. Our favorite discovery is Praia do Carvalho, close to Lagos. It’s perfectly pristine and offers a 15-minute walk to reach its shores. Take a dip or sunbathe with the other locals (clothing optional!) Or, be brave and jump from the cliffside paths into the ocean below.
If looking for something more structured, here’s a cycling tour of the Algarve!
Luckily there are some gorgeous places to stay as well while you hop from beach to beach. There are a few resort-like towns that are lovely, but it’s worth renting a car instead and relaxing at a more tranquil resort. We chose Vale d’Oliveiras as a base and were thrilled with its location near many top spots for sunbathing, including the Praia do Carvalho. But we didn’t have to leave the property for some prime pool time and lounging in the sun either.
Here are a few more beautiful beaches in the Algarve to add to your list too!
Although we’ve mostly been drawn south, I’d love to explore north of Lisbon someday soon. Perhaps in the form of a road trip too! When I do, I plan to use this handy map from Inntravel to help see some of the best highlights.
The trip was so fantastic we went back this November for a work conference and spent more time in Lisbon! Have you done Portugal before? What was the best part of it for you?