At just a little over 450 miles long, the Estrada Nacional 2 stretches out from North to South Portugal. It’s the longest road trip route in the country, and many campervan travellers call the EN2 the Route 66 of Portugal. The EN2 passes through 11 cities, 20 villages, 11 rivers, 4 mountain ranges and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Do you want to find out what makes Portugal such a beloved European road trip destination? Then this is the itinerary for you!
Driving the EN2 in a motorhome can be done in 7 days, but although it’s possible, we don’t recommend sprinting across the country for this one. Consider taking at least 10 days to 2 weeks to actually have time to soak up all of Portugal’s splendour. You won’t be disappointed! Be aware that this is a city-hopping itinerary, but that you’ll pass through plenty of rural parts of the country to explore and enjoy in between.
Practical information round-up:
- Days: 7 to 10
- Useful apps to download: Campercontact and Park4Night
- Best time to travel: April to June and September to November
- Maximum speed on Portuguese EN roads: 55 miles per hour
Stop 1 — Chaves and Vidago
The village of Chaves is only a stone's throw away from the Spanish border and is one of the most beautiful villages in Northern Portugal. Its name translates to ‘keys’, which refers to the town's location being of some strategic importance in earlier times. Chaves has a very charming historic centre. Quaint squares, balconied townhouses, riverside gardens and a showstopping Roman bridge all add to the allure, and all are spruced up even further by colourful flowerbeds. Don’t miss out on Chaves’ main attraction, a beautiful thermal spa whose natural spring waters with a temperature of 73 degrees Celcius are the hottest in Europe.
Exploring all Chaves has to offer can be done in a day. We advise those who’d like to calm their mind, body and soul even further to continue on to Vidago, where the thermal baths on top of the palatial Art Nouveau Vidago Hotel are of an even higher profile.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Don’t miss out on specialities such as folar and the pastel the Chaves when in this region.
Stop 2 — Vila Real
Driving distance: 1 hour
Only a short drive to the South, your next stop when driving the Portuguese Route 66 in a motorhome is the city of Vila Real. Beautiful churches and archaeological sites will pass by your campervan window when driving towards the city, let alone when exploring the actual town. A must-see and do is a picnic in the gardens of Casa de Mateus, a magnificent summer house that was designed by Italian architect Nicolas Nasoni. The garden overlooks the Douro Valley, the region where Portugal’s most well-known wines originate, so be sure to clink those glasses.
What if we said you could spend the day tasting the Douro’s best vintages, without having the dreaded debate on who’s going to drive home? Music to the ears? Then head towards Quinta do Monte Travesso if you’re looking to spend the day and the night amidst the vines. This winery offers motorhome travellers a pitch including electricity, toilets and hot water showers, all for the friendly price of a bottle of wine or olive oil.
Stop 3 — Porto
Driving distance: 1 hour
Another short drive, this time to the east, and the beautiful city of Porto will appear in your campervan windscreen. Although exploring Porto in a motorhome is not something we recommend (its very charming but very narrow streets are simply best discovered on foot) it would be a shame to miss out on the charisma of the second biggest city in Portugal whilst in the area. So simply pitch up on one of many motorhome campsites on the outskirts of the city, and hop on public transport to the city centre from there.
We recommend the Orbitur campsite on the beach of Candidelo, which is only 10 minutes away from the historic centre of Porto. Ideal, especially in summer, as you can easily get to the city and enjoy a refreshing swim or surf in the Atlantic Ocean once you get home.
Porto really has it all. From characteristic fisherman's houses to majestic palaces and impressive architecture, you won’t get bored easily. And whilst you stroll from one to another, you’ll notice that thanks to the abundant use of the famous Portuguese tile, even the simplest of streets are a treat to the eye.
What better way to digest all you’ve seen during the day, than by sipping on a glass of port? Because let’s be honest, one simply can’t leave this city before a little trip to the port houses. Simply cross the beautiful Ponte Luis I bridge across the river (also known as the upside-down Eiffel Tower) and enjoy a nip at sunset.
Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash
Stop 4 — Coimbra
Driving distance: 1,5 hours
Next on the list of Portugal’s alluring cities: Coimbra! Coimbra is mostly known for being the home of the oldest university in Portugal, which is perched proudly upon the city’s hilltop. For a relatively small town, the city has an impressive number of historical monuments including two cathedrals and ancient monasteries. We highly recommend visiting the university’s library of Joanine. This jaw-dropping masterpiece is one of the most bountiful Baroque buildings in Europe.
Although the aesthetic of Coimbra is a selling point on its own, most come here to submerge themselves in the dynamic atmosphere. Thanks to the presence of around twenty thousand students, the city is not short on lively bars, cafés, and restaurants — in most of which a playful version of Portugal’s famous fado music only adds to the energetic atmosphere. If you really want to experience what makes this city special, be sure to visit in May. This is when students celebrate the end of term before leaving for summer.
Stop 5 — Évora
Driving distance: 3 hours
The town of Évora is one of the most preserved and unspoilt cities in the country of Portugal and has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The centre is compact, easy to explore on foot and absolutely gorgeous. A Roman temple, medieval city walls, Moorish alleys and 16th-century mansions will make you revell in Évora’s charm around every corner.
Something to definitely see — or definitely miss, depending on your stomach — in this historic city is the Chapel of Bones. The walls of this interesting, but gruesome to say the least, chapel are made up completely of human remains, displayed for all to see. The chapel was constructed in the 16th century when as many as 43 cemeteries were taking up valuable land. The monks who cleared them out didn’t want to condemn the souls of the people once buried, so they relocated their bones to the chapel. But why put the bones so clearly on display? Well, the monks thought it would make a good place for the living to meditate on the undeniability of death. Modern-day visitors still experience exactly that when entering the eery space.
Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash
Stop 6 — Loulé
Driving distance: 2,5 hours
One town to definitely not miss out on if you’re a foody travelling on four wheels is Loulé. Just like previous stops on this EN2 itinerary, Loulé bursts with Portuguese charm. However, a must-stop to go forth and try all of Portugal’s mouthwatering delicacies is Loulé’s indoor food market, which is open from Monday to Saturday. On Saturday Loulé also hosts an additional outdoor weekly market, where local traders sell their week's harvest. Ideal if you enjoy a campervan cook-up, need to restock the fridge and are craving fresh fruits and veggies.
Stop 7 — Algarve
Driving distance: about an hour, depending on which part you go to
Technically the EN2 comes to an end in Faro, which means you’ve made it all the way across the country from North to South! However, you’d be missing out if you wrap up your adventure without doing some exploring in eastern or western direction once you make it here. The Algarve’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, most of which aren’t in Faro. We recommend the coves and beaches of Lagos and Sagres instead. Luckily the driving distances between these beautiful stretches of coastline aren’t big, so why not hug the coast for a while and see where the sea breeze takes you.
Last but not least!
You may have noticed the driving distances on this Portugal road trip itinerary are short and sweet in general. Driving won't make up most of your time, which is a win for most people. However, some campervan travellers may enjoy a little extra time on the open road every now and then. It’s part of the road trip experience, after all!
Our final tip for this EN2 itinerary is therefore: actually drive on the EN2! This may seem obvious, but make sure to switch on the ‘avoid motorways’ option in your navigation app to avoid being led to the bigger, boring roads you’re trying to avoid. Or buy an actual paper map and make the act of scoping out and following the EN2 part of the fun. The driving distances will become a little longer, but the views so much better. Need more convincing? Here are 8 reasons to avoid motorways on your next road trip.
Driving a campervan all the way to Portugal is definitely a fun way to combine multiple road trip itineraries in France and Spain, but it may be a little overwhelming if you’re not big on driving long distances. So if you’d rather pick up a campervan locally, here are our motorhomes available for hire in Portugal.