A not so big country on Europe’s map, but with a lot of things to do and see, when you start to research a little bit. Portugal packs anything from golden beaches to a buzzy capital, maritime history, medieval castles, huge surfing waves and hiking paths. It is pretty hard to choose when you have limited time. After spending almost a month in Portugal, we’ve created a step-by-step 15 days itinerary with our top picks to help you get started. Portugal is a wonderful country and definitely worth at least two weeks for exploring the continental part. Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to return for more of its unique culture and atmosphere.
Throughout this guide, we’ll share our favorite stops, things to do and experience in Portugal. Of course, from an ultimate itinerary, Lisbon, Porto and Algarve can’t miss, but terraced vineyards, cork plantations and less known cute towns might also come in as a pleasant surprise. Spice everything up with good wine and tasty food. If you have less or more time, we’ll also include options for shorter and longer trips.
Planning a trip to Portugal?
Before we get stated, here’s a list of our other Portugal travel guides you might want to check out:
- What is Portugal famous for?
- Port wine – everything you need to know about it
- 30 things to do in Porto in 3 days, Portugal
- 35 things to do in Lisbon in three days
- Top 7 day trips from Lisbon, Portugal
- Sintra: the ultimate guide for planning a day trip from Lisbon
- Evora: 15 best things to do on a day trip from Lisbon, Portugal
- Obidos: 10 things to do on a day trip from Lisbon, Portugal
- Best things to do in Algarve, Portugal
- Top 10 Day Trips from Porto for cities, wine, nature and more
- Douro Valley: best things to do in Portugal’s famous wine region
- Aveiro: 15 cool things to do on a day trip from Porto, Portugal
- Coimbra – the best things to do and see with map (Portugal)
- Guimaraes – best things to do and see on a day trip from Porto
- 17 Best things to do and see in Faro, Portugal
- Day trip from Porto to Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways
- 25 Stunning Places to Visit in Portugal (+ map)
How to plan an amazing Portugal itinerary?
What is the best time to visit Portugal?
The weather in Portugal is much milder than in the rest of Europe. This means it’s an almost year-round destination, as long as you go there with the right expectations. I’m pretty sure Algarve is not great in winter for beach lovers, just as Lisbon is better visited outside July and August. This being said, the best seasons for a visit are spring and autumn, when the crowds are fewer and the temperatures are decent. We were in Portugal in September and October and had mostly sunny days and only one day of rain. The evenings started to be a little chilly at the end of our trip, but there was no need of more than a sweater.
How many days do you need in Portugal?
This is a tough question. We recommend at least two weeks in order to be able to see the three major destinations, Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, with a few less known places in between. Three weeks would allow for more time to really enjoy the places and relax. If you only have one week or less, I’d focus on one of the three, south, center or south, depending on the airport you fly to. There are plenty of things to do in any of them. 10 days would probably allow you enough time to see two of them, without feeling rushed, but not all three, if you don’t just want to speed through the country.
How to get to Portugal?
Portugal has three main airports, in Lisbon, Porto and Faro, the capital of Algarve. If you plan to either start or end your trip in the Algarve, it might be cheaper to use Seville in Spain as a hub and transfer from there. Check flights on Skyscanner.
The option we chose before tailoring our itinerary was to fly in and out of Lisbon. However, even if chosen by many, looking back, this was not the best option. If you plan to travel the country from north to south, it would be much better to fly in to Porto or Faro and out from the other one.
The difference in cost for the tickets will probably be more or less the same as the train from Lisbon to Porto added with the one from Faro to Lisbon. In terms of comfort and time, this would make a major difference.
As we created this Portugal itinerary as an almost perfect recommendation, fixing the errors we did, we’ll start from Porto and continue to the south to Lisbon and the Algarve, ending with Faro.
How to travel around Portugal?
Many people choose to rent a car and travel through the country on a road trip. However, given the fact that you’ll probably spend at least 6 days in the big cities, where driving and parking are a nightmare, I’d say think twice. Public transport is very good in Portugal. They have regular trains that reach up to 200km/h. If you buy tickets few days in advance, discounted rates apply. Buses are also largely available. Omio shows you all the options for getting from one city to another in one place. Besides, wine is great in Portugal and you’d probably have to give up on it if you hire a car for the entire period.
Some great day trips from Lisbon and Porto and fairly easy to go on by public transport. It is fast, reliable and you don’t have to look for a parking spot, especially during the high season. Also some places are better seen on a guided tour, like Douro valley (because of tasting, information and so much more) or the Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways (where you’d have to walk 8km more otherwise).
Should you rent a car in Portugal?
We’ve stayed for one month in Portugal. During this time the only place where I really felt the need of a car was Algarve. The trains there are infrequent, buses once a day. Doing a tour that includes several stops is almost impossible there, by public transport. There’s still the option of organized tours, but if you’re staying longer in the area and don’t want to lie on a beach all day long, renting a car is a great option.
The best 15 days Portugal itinerary at a glance
As a guide for a first two weeks trip itinerary in Portugal, we’ve structured it around Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. By following it, you’d spend around five days in each of the regions and have enough time to enjoy them and see the differences. We also decided alternating the day trips with days in which you stay put in one of the major cities. This way you won’t be exhausted by too much commuting.
We also added a few suggestions as 5 bonus days, in case you have more time to dedicate to Portugal. Feel free to tailor it according to your preferences and time, but we trust this is a good starting point.
- Day 1: Arrive in Porto and explore the city
- Day 2: Full day in Porto
- Day 3: Day trip to Douro Valley
- Day 4: Day trip to Arouca Bridge and Aveiro
- Day 5: Full day in Porto
- Day 6: Travel to Coimbra and visit the city
- Day 7: Travel to Lisbon in the morning and explore the city
- Day 8: Day trip to Sintra
- Day 9: Full day in Lisbon
- Day 10: Day trip to Evora
- Day 11: Lisbon + travel to Faro (around 4 hours in the evening)
- Day 12: pick up rental car in the morning and tour the Algarve to Lagos
- Day 13: Algarve – Carvoeiro, Ferragudo, Albufeira
- Day 14: visit a cork plantation, reach Faro in the afternoon and take a catamaran tour of Ria Formosa
- Day 15: Faro
- Bonus day: Day trip from Porto to Guimaraes and Braga
- Bonus day: Day trip from Porto to Serra da Estrela and the Schist Villages
- Bonus day: Day trip from Lisbon to Nazare, Fatima, Batalha, Obidos
- Bonus day: Day trip from Lisbon to Peniche and the Berlanga islands
- Bonus day: Algarve – Tavira and the east
The Complete 15 Days Portugal Itinerary for First Timers
Portugal Itinerary – Days 1, 2, 5: Porto
Spread on the hills that overlook the Douro River, Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and an increasingly popular destination in Portugal. With its 14th century walls, medieval winding streets, colorful houses and medieval winding alleys, it’s easy to see why. The historic center is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. A few years ago Porto was on nobody’s radar. As our guide to Paiva said, you couldn’t see the tourists among the locals. Now, you can barely see the locals among the tourists, especially around the city center. But Porto has indeed a personality of its own and it would be a huge mistake to skip it.
Climb up the Clerigos Tower for the best views over the city. Find out where the author of Harry Potter took her inspiration from. Walk around the Ribeira riverfront, listen to some live music and watch the boats float past. Then, cross Luis bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia and enjoy a glass or more of port wine at the best centuries-old cellars. Finally, watch the most wonderful sunset in Porto from Jardim do Morro.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Porto?
Pro Tip: You can’t go in Porto and not taste port wine. Here’s a tour that takes tourists to three cellars in Vila Nova da Gaia.
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