One of the best ways to explore a foreign land is with scenic drives that soak in the best of a destination – and these coastal road trips in Portugal do just that. A small country bordered by the wild Atlantic ocean, the rhythm of life in Portugal revolves arounds the changing tides. Pass through white-washed fishing villages, along golden sandy beaches, watch the sunset over the ocean and feel the wind in your hair in Portugal as you travel by car, bus or van around the Iberian nation. With approximately 943 kilometres (586 mi) of coastline to explore on the mainland, here are the best scenic coastal drives to cover on your Portugal roadtrip.
From Lisbon to Cascais and Sintra
One of Portugal’s shortest but most scenic coastal roadtrips starts just outside the capital. Weaving from Lisbon to the classy coastal village of Cascais, skip the highways and follow the seaside Marginal to see where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way you’ll pass a dozen small beaches with golden sand, sunbathers and surfers before reaching the upmarket town of Cascais. Stop for lunch or coffee here before continuing, following the coastline around to the wild (and usually windy) Guincho Beach. Surrounded by untouched sand dunes, you’ll likely spot surfers catch waves or wind surfers catch the breeze. Make Cabo do Roca your final stop and tick standing on continental Europe’s westernmost point off your bucket list. For the return trip, weave through the Sintra mountains looking out for the many enchanting palaces, historic manor homes and ancient castle along the way.
Algarve Coast: Albufeira to Sagres
There’s nothing like seeing the dramatic orange cliffs and stunning golden beaches of the Algarve up close. One of the best scenic coastal drives in Portugal takes your wheels from the heart of the Algarve to the western edge at clifftop Sagres, a laid-back surf town with a lot of history. From the top, soak in spectacular views down to Baleeira Beach and the soaring surrounding cliffs. Stand at the edge of Cape St. Vincent, Europe’s most south-westerly point and the place where many sea battles happened centuries ago. On the return trip, drop by Lagos, a hip coastal town that was once the home of Henry the Navigator, the man behind Portugal’s Age of Discoveries. You can experience this Portugal roadtrip on Trafalgar’s Best of Portugal trip.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Portugal
Portugal’s southern Costa Vicentina
Golden sand dunes, vibrant wildflowers, tiny white-washed villages and gorgeous blue ocean define Portugal’s unreal Costa Vicentina. As Europe’s best-preserved coastline, this destination draws those looking to slow down and appreciate nature on a scenic coastal drives – ideally – without time restraints. Located on the west coast of Portugal between Lisbon and Sagres, travel between 31 of Europe’s most spectacular beaches, including the crowd favourite Monte Clérigo Beach.
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Portugal’s northern Silver Coast
Have you heard of the big waves at Nazaré? For keen surfers and curious beach lovers, stopping by this town famous for its mega waves is a bucket list must. Route one of your scenic drives in Portugal through the historic coastal town and cross your fingers that the conditions are right for towering waves more than 10 metres high. It’s not the only drawcard along Portugal’s Silver Coast. Between Lisbon and Porto there are 362 kilometres (225 mi) of beaches, surf camps and villages to explore including hip Ericeira, quiet Peniche and striped Costa Nova.
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Driving Madeira Island is not for the faint-hearted. If you dare to hire a car, make sure it has plenty of power to get you up and around the remote rock island’s steep, narrow roads. While visiting the Portuguese archipelago you’ll definitely want the chance to explore highways that curve around mountains, via tunnels and along the gorgeous rocky coastline on one of the best scenic drives in Portugal. It’s the skinny countryside roads that you need to be wary of!
RELATED BLOG: Where to Drink Port Wine in Portugal
Loop around São Miguel Island in the Azores
If you land on the biggest island of the beautiful Azores archipelago it would be a great shame not to explore the unreal volcanic landscapes and scenery that are like a cross between Hawaii, New Zealand and Iceland. Easier to drive than Madeira Island, there are scenic coastal drives on all corners of this island that will take you between rolling farmland, black sand beaches and cute stone villages with ocean views the whole time.
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Have you been on any scenic drives in Portugal? Tell us which Portugal roadtrip you want to tick off your bucket list first in the comments below…