Anna resided in Lisbon, Portugal for two years, married a Lisbonite, and calls the picturesque city her second home (after NYC).
South of Lisbon: Road Trip
A road trip can be a great way to experience the best of Portugal. Driving along the southern part of Portugal, you will get to experience the country's gorgeous beaches along the rugged coastline, ancient towns with Roman influences, as well as those towns that played a significant role during the Age of Discovery—all on your own timetable. I've come up with an itinerary to guide you on a road trip from Lisbon, as you make your way south to the Algarve.
Cheapest Car Rental in Portugal
Having done road trips in Portugal and searched for the cheapest car hire, I found Interrent to be the cheapest. You can rent a car from them either in Lisbon or in Faro for just 6.99 € (roughly $9.30 USD using today's exchange rate) per day.
Best Cities to Visit in South Portugal: Itinerary
I've come up with the following itinerary, suggesting the major towns that you should stop by on your trip from Lisbon to Algarve, as well as possible side trips you can take from each town. You can also check out my suggestions of cities to visit north of Lisbon, which includes the lovely walled town of Obidos, the "Venice of Portugal"— Aveiro, and Porto. Towns to visit south of Lisbon are:
- Lisbon: Most visits to Portugal start with Lisbon, Portugal's capital (although you can do the trip in reverse and start with Faro in the south). You will need a couple of days to explore Lisbon and nearby towns. You can rent a car from Lisbon to make your way south.
- Sesimbra: This small fishing village just 27 miles (43 km) south of Lisbon should be one of your stops as you begin your drive south.
- Evora: Next, drive west through the Alentejo region about 82 miles (133 km) to Evora, which is a city that's like a museum with its Roman temple and Moorish buildings.
- Beja: Following Evora, drive about 40 miles (64 km) south to Beja where you'll find whitewashed houses and a 13th century castle.
- Faro: Finish off your trip in Faro, the capital of Algarve from where you'll be able to take lots of lovely day trips. On the other hand, you can do this trip in reverse by arriving in Faro's international airport and making your way north.
Sesimbra is a wonderful fishing village that should not be missed. It's a great place to relax, enjoy the long and calm beaches, eat fresh seafood, explore the castle and fort, and find accommodations for the night so that you can enjoy nearby towns.
Attractions nearby include: Cabo Espichel just a short drive away, which is an amazing cape with unforgettable views of the coast that has cliffs dropping hundreds of feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Arrábida Natural Park, a protected area that's great for nature lovers. And there's one of my personal favorites, Azeitão, which is a sleepy village with beautiful villas where you drive past vineyards and can do fabulous wine tasting. I've done a wine tasting at JMF (Jose Maria de Fonseca) and absolutely loved it!
Read More from WanderWisdom
As you head east from Lisbon or Sesimbra, you'll be driving through what is known as the agricultural heart of Portugal—Alentejo. As you approach Evora, the walled city will appear like it's rising from the plains. The entire city of Evora has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and when you're there, you'll see first-hand the reason for that. The entire city is like a museum! The city has prehistoric monuments, Roman ruins, as well as whitewashed houses decorated with Portuguese tiles dating back to the Renaissance era when Portuguese kings lived here.
Right outside of Evora's city walls, there's a magnificent aqueduct. Further out, there's a Megalithic site called Cromlech of Almendres, which is known as the Stonehenge of Portugal and includes large granite monoliths and other stone buildings with markings that date back between 4000 and 2000 B.C. Additionally, just a couple of miles east is the Cave of Escoural, which has drawings of animals from over 15,000 years ago!
Other places of interest nearby include Marvao, which is a medieval village overlooking the Portuguese and Spanish border; and Vila Viçosa, a town which seems to be made entirely of marble.
As you drive south of Evora, stop by Beja, a town that was founded by Julius Caesar as Pax Julia. Beja is a cute town with lots of religious sites and a 13th century castle. You can spend the night in a pousada (historic hotel), which is in a former monastery and make Beja your gateway to other places of interest nearby.
Places of interest nearby include Monsaraz, which is a small medieval walled village that was fortified by the Knights Templar with all-white houses; nearby is Mértola, a little riverside town with a strong Islamic influence.
Faro is the capital of Algarve and has a lot to explore with lots of fascinating coastal villages nearby and luxury beach resorts. Faro has an international airport so a road trip can begin from here. I'd recommend securing accommodations in this city for at least a week, dedicating one day to exploring Faro and renting a car to take day trips to fabulous towns nearby.
Places of interest nearby include: Albufeira, Carvoeiro, Estoi, Monchique, Quinta do Lago, Sagres, Silves, Vale do Lobo, and Vilamoura. Albufeira is one of the most popular destinations in Algarve because of its amazing beaches and happening nightlife in what is actually a clifftop fishing village.
If you're looking to escape huge beach crowds, then head to Carvoeiro. Estoi is a great day trip just 7 miles (11 km) away from Faro and has some fascinating Roman ruins. Monchique is an area with unspoiled natural beauty and has a famous spa complex that's believed to have curative powers and has been used since Roman times.The spa is called Caldas de Monchique.
If you're looking to do some golfing, then Quinta do Lago is the place to go, since it's the biggest golf area in all of Europe! Sagres is just a few miles away from Europe's most southern point, Cape St. Vincent. There are some amazing views from Ponta de Sagres.
Silves was the capital of Moorish Algarve and you can explore the town by checking out the castle, cathedral, and archaeological museum. Vale do Lobo is a prestigious resort area that has been named "Best Resort of the Millennium". And Vilamoura is the largest resort complex in Europe.
Itinerary for Places to Visit in Portugal
© 2012 Anna