Exploring Portugal by campervan has been a popular choice for travellers for many years and with good reason. Tourists from all over the world flock to this gorgeous country but the majority head to Lisbon, Porto and the resorts around The Algarve. This leaves the rest of Portugal for the more intrepid motorhome holidaymakers among us.
Portugal is relatively modest in size compared to France or Spain, and the roads are generally good. There are more attractions and distractions than you can shake a stick at, the food is delicious, the wine - and port - are delightful and Portuguese people are so welcoming and friendly you may never want to leave.
As Europe’s oldest nation, there is a wealth of history to uncover here, including 25 World Heritage sites. Did we mention the beaches? Portugal is famous for its surf beaches, attracting wave riders from around the world and regularly hosting international competitions. But for those seeking some peace and tranquillity, there are plenty of beautiful sandy coves just waiting to be basked in. Check out Lonely Planet’s guide to the 11 best beaches in Portugal for some inspiration.
On top of all these great selling points, Portugal is considered one of the cheapest countries to visit in Western Europe. It really does tick some very important boxes for the adventurous campervan traveller. Let’s discover some of the best campervan road trips in Portugal.
Best road trip for soaking up Portugal’s finest cities
Porto to Lisbon
Drive time: 3 hours
The drive time between these two wonderful cities is just a few hours so this Portugal road trip could easily be done as part of a longer adventure or, indeed, the other way around. For this trip outline, we’ll just focus on spending a good amount of time in each city and pick out some great spots to check out along the way.
A few days in Porto is a must. Simply strolling around this gorgeous city is a pleasure. The Baixa district is home to many of Porto’s tourist attractions such as the Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) which connects the old town with the modern parts of the city. For breathtaking views over the old town and Douro River climb the 240 steps to the top of the Torre dos Clérigos, the tallest campanile in Portugal. When hunger or thirst strikes head down to the Praça da Ribeira, the riverfront square, where you’ll have your pick of gorgeous tapas complete with glorious views.
If you want to try some port - and we recommend you do - take a look at the Authentic Food Quest’s recommendations for the best tastings.
There are a number of great stops between Porto and Lisbon. Just over halfway there’s the beautiful historic town and castle at Tomar or the mediaeval town of Óbidos which has the added bonus of being close to several lovely beaches.
Naturally, we’d also recommend a few days in Lisbon. Here you can stroll the atmospheric streets of the capital, take a trip out to Sintra, relax on the beach, gorge yourself on Tapas or take in a museum of two.
Best Portugal road trip for surfers
Praia do Guincho to Aveiro
As with the Porto to Lisbon road trip, this surf-driven adventure only takes a few hours or so from A to B. But we think you’ll want to factor in a generous handful of additional days to soak up the surroundings, sample the local seafood, and, of course, factor in waiting for good surf conditions.
In recognition of the unreliable nature of as ondas (the waves in Portuguese), we’ll focus on potential stops for this road trip rather than how long to spend in each, or which order to do them. The local forecast can dictate your itinerary!
Praia do Guincho offers waves that will blow your mind and headwinds to match. There are good amenities here and if the waves aren’t cooperating you can take a hike on the coast path or cycle the Ciclovia de Guincho. From Praia do Guincho head up to the popular beach and surf town of Peniche or on to Nazaré which is home to some of the world’s biggest surfable waves.
To end this road trip head up the coast to Aveiro with the option of checking out the waves and beaches of Costa Nova or doing something a bit different and taking in the tranquil canals of Aveiro itself.
A coastal road trip in Portugal wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the local ocean critters. Check out Taste Atlas's guide to the best seafood dishes in Portugal.
Best north Portugal road trip for lovers of history
Guimarães to Viana do Castelo
Want to find out more about the rich history and culture of this fascinating country? This Portugal campervan road trip is for you.
Here we journey to the cooler, greener northwest of Portugal to the Minho region. Home to the world-famous Vinho Verde and one of Portugal’s most intriguing areas, the Minho has much to offer travellers.
We begin at Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage site which is known locally as The Cradle of the Nation and the birthplace of the country's first king, Afonso Henriques. As you can imagine there are historical sites a-plenty including the castle where legend has it that King Alfonso drew his first breath, Paço dos Duques de Bragança (Palace of the Dukes of Braganza), and the exquisite Largo da Oliveira.
Head north 15kms or so to the ruins of Citânia de Briteiros the largest of the northern Celtic hill settlements, dating back at least 2500 years and thought to be the Celtiberians’ last stronghold against the invading Romans.
Next we travel to Braga, often referred to as the Rome of Portugal. Walking the delightful cobbled streets and perusing the wide variety of historical architecture (including Neolithic, Roman, Mediaeval and Modernist) it’s easy to see why. Make sure you visit the Sé de Braga while you are here. This is Portugal’s oldest cathedral and features a beguiling mix of architectural styles.
By now, you’ll probably be missing the coast so take the 45-minute drive to Viana do Castelo on the Costa Verde where you’ll be treated to a beautiful mediaeval town centre, the neo-Byzantine Santa Luzia church and tantalising beaches. Our penultimate destination on this historical road trip takes in the arches of the Ponte Romana before moving on to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês, Portugal’s most impressive and important wilderness reserves.
Driving to Portugal from the UK
Now you have plenty of ideas for which Portugal road trip to enjoy, you’ll need to work out how to get there. Take a look at this handy guide from the RAC to plan your route and get important advice on ensuring your trip is safe and hassle-free. Also, make sure to prepare for the toll roads in Portugal.
And you’re set! With your perfect itinerary sorted and all the logistics mastered you just need to decide on the right time of year to go. The best season for a road trip to Portugal depends on what you want from your holiday but broadly speaking spring is a great time to go. The flowers are in bloom, the tourist floods are yet to start and it gives you something to keep you going during the British winter! Autumn is great too, with cooler evenings, warm sea temperatures and the grape harvests and celebrations starting around September.
There is no typical weather in Portugal. Every region varies and some areas get a lot more rain than you might imagine. The centre can get searingly hot so is best avoided in summer. You also need to watch out for visiting during public holidays, especially Semana Santa in March/April when the north particularly will be extremely busy. You can check out the best campsites in Portugal for accommodation during your trip.
Think carefully about your holiday goals and aspirations, your budget and how far you want to travel and you won’t go far wrong. Remember, if you don’t have your own motorhome but want to enjoy the extra freedom that this travel method offers, you can take a look at the available motorhomes on Goboony. Happy holidays!