Compete Central and South Portugal tour
12-Day self-drive road trip through Central and Southern Portugal. A great combination of various UNESCO World heritage sites in combination with gastronomy, nature, and beach.
Portugal´s capital Lisbon is where we begin this 12-day self-drive itinerary. It leads you on a worthy, winding path southbound to the most southern and final point in Tavira. You´ll discover the interior of the Alentejo region dotted with beautifully conserved medieval towns. You’ll stay in the Nature Reserve of Costa Vicentina known for its superb cliffs and hiking opportunities, and you’ll cruise around the Southern coast and discover hidden beaches, and the interior local farmer’s life. All in all, this tour is an amazing combination of visiting, exploring, and sampling historical towns, nature reserves, and a sunset or two at the Atlantic Ocean.
Spend the first 3 days getting to know the bustling city of Lisbon, the city of 7 hills. With its historic buildings, spectacular viewing points and the centre for Portuguese best restaurants, it is the perfect start.
Visit the historic city of Évora with its Roman, Arab and Christian influences. Go deeper into the country’s interior where life is quite different from what you’ve experienced Lisbon.
Walk atop the 300 meter high cliffs of Costa Vicentina and hunt for isolated beaches.
Hike in the green-covered Monchique mountains and relax at a spa resort.
Boat to the Caribbean style island of Ria Formosa and have lunch on its white sandy beaches.
Day 1 - Lisbon - Arrival to Lisbon
On the day of arrival, a private taxi waits for you at the airport to take you to your hotel and begin your adventure. Once there, depending on the time you may have the option to walk around the city and gather first impressions.
Day 2 - Lisbon - Going to the area of navigations of the seas
Rise and shine this morning with thoughts of “Pasteis de Nata”, the most delectable and scrumptious sweet of all sweets. Head 2,5km out of the city to visit The Tower of Belém which served as an embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers.
Here, you’ll find a sweet little spot famous for its “Pasteis de Nata”, the recipe is still a guarded secret and you should try one now before continuing on to the adjacent Monastery of Jerónimos. Warning, you’ll need a couple of minutes to catch your breath after entering, because of its beauty. Portugal was an empire at this time in the 16th century and was more than happy to show off its immaculate skills and wealth in the form of structures.
This monastery is the grandest example of late Gothic and Manueline architecture in all of Portugal and has been a Unesco site along with the Tower of Belém since 1983. It is as imposing as it is unique, as it is stunning.
As you make your way up the shore, stop to admire the statue demanding your attention. It’s a wonderful tribute to Portugal’s glorious past nautical excellence and the region’s navigators from the 16th century, boasting such names of explorers as Magallanes, Henry the Navigator, and the great Vasco de Gama.
Day 3 - Lisbon - Day Excursion to UNESCO World Heritage site Sintra
It’s your final day to revel in Lisbon. Visit some of its museums, the city’s football stadium, or elect a day trip and explore more about the region of Lisbon. Visiting the colourful palace of Sintra, less than an hour away, has our recommendation.
You’ll roam the steep cliffs and towns of Cascais and Estoril. The highlights of today’s tour are the UNESCO world heritage sites of Sintra Palace, Pena Palace, and Pena Park. This colorful, fairy-tale palace has popped out of a storybook and we guarantee it’s something you’ve never seen – just ask Hans Christian Anderson, it was a favorite of his too.
You´ll then continue south to Estoril. A town with a different mindset than other coastal towns, Estoril is stylish and sophisticated. It prestigiously displays its complex, opalescent past and refined, perky present. It has a sly history of spies and double agents during the Second World War. You may have heard of Hotel Palácio, a famous landmark where Ian Flemming was a guest, and perhaps is where his James Bond novel, Casino Royal, is based. Film buffs will recognize it as Bond’s hotel in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Why not pay the hotel a visit and order a “Martini, shaken not stirred” for yourself. See what Portuguese luxury entertainment is all about and try your luck in the town’s casino. There’s no shortcoming of charm here, and even the boardwalk and beach have an air of prominence to them.
Day 4 - Evora - Historic centre, Roman Temple and the Skull decorated church
In the morning you’ll pick-up your rental car and drive off to the UNESCO site and historic town of Évora. Put on your walking shoes for this visit! You’ll start off at the main square visiting the cathedral, pass the Roman Diana Temple, and visit the historic university, established in 1559. Moving onto lunch, you’ll notice the many restaurants offering more meat than fish on the menu. Remember that we are now inland and the cuisine has changed. Here you’ll enjoy a wide selection of meats, soups, and cheeses. In the afternoon, visit a church whose insides are extraordinarily and meticulously and decorated with skulls and bones – definitely a worthy sight especially if you’ve not been to one like this before.
Day 5 - Evora- Full day Alentejo's unique offerings
The Alentejo region has a lot to boast about and today’s program is a tranquil, full–day round–trip tour through its sterling sights. Beginning and ending in Evora, you’ll pass through an ancient Roman quarry, a lake, an observatory, and unbothered towns.
First up, give a special nod to the beautifully ancient entrance as you enter the town of Estremoz. It proudly displays a centuries-old, recently restored Manueline-style tower constructed from solid marble. Marble in fact is its claim to fame, with a uniquely pink marble quarry that has been in operation since its initiation by the Romans millennia ago. If one specialty isn’t enough, Estremoz’s red and white wines are among the country’s best.
Next is the village Monsaraz, which sits atop a hill complete with its small castle and ruins. Not much has changed over the centuries and a small jaunt around the town will be pleasing. While still in daylight, take in spectacular views of the Alqueva lake, and then to the Observatory where you’ll browse through the inter-galactic expertise at the info center inside.
This region has the UNESCO certificate for displaying one of the brightest skies of Europe, star gazing ability is certifiably the best in Europe! As the sun begins to set, you’ll want to situate yourself well, recall your observatory learnings, get your sky map app ready, and spend an evening of magnificent star-gazing from the Observatory of Monsaraz. Give a special salute to the Milky-Way – easily seen from here!
Day 6 - Evora - Costa Vicentina | Driving towards the Natural Park Costa Vicentina
After breakfast you slowly make your way three hours south towards the Natural Park Costa Vicentina, you’re now at the southwest coast of Portugal and touching the Atlantic Ocean. This part of the coast is well-loved, especially for its high cliffs with spectacular sights from above. Follow an unplanned path heading down to a secret beach with blue waters, crashing waves, and misty cliffs; it’s a perfect place to relax and take a nature walk.
Day 7 | Costa Vicentina | Off to the mountain and spa resort Monchique
The area of Costa Vicentina has more than 750 kilometers of hiking trails suitable for every age and energy level. The mountain of Monchique rests at a little over 900 meters high and today has the potential to be actively full and adventurous if you choose to explore this spanning and rocky coastline. If you do have a specific hike in mind, just ask us!
But wait! Monchique has a hidden bonus…the spa resort. On the contrary, if you’re hoping for a quiet day in the mountains to repose among pools, decks and sun, then this is the choice for you today.
Day 8 | Costa Vicentina | The rock formations in the sea near the coastal town of Lagos
The Costa Vicentina is a continuous pleasure and this morning we’ll enjoy a scenic walking route along Carrapateira’s lengthy strip of Atlantic blue beaches. Break halfway to lay on the beach’s sands and salty stones and stop for coffee at a seaside restaurant to recoup your energy.
Then continue down the road towards Lagos, making a quick pit stop at Cabo de Sao Vicente, Portugal’s most southern point. The edge of the earth here is flanked with jagged cliffs rising 60 meters high, the waves are battering, and the brightest lighthouse in Europe watches from the rocks.
30 minutes later you’ll drive into calmer territory at the tropical-esque, yacht-filled harbor of Lagos. Trek through the historic center and pop into the small museum dedicated to the naval battles fought long ago.
A few kilometers farther and you’ll reach the amazing Ponta da Piedad. These rock formations spiking up from the water are a natural wonder and a must-see when near the town. The chiseled sea cliffs, headland sights, breaking waves and its lighthouse compose the sweeping views the Algarve presents so well.
A pleasant 30-minute walk later, the wooden steps to the sandy cove of Praia do Camilo eagerly invite you to follow their winding bends and steps to reach the turquoise serenity below. The scenic views you saw in the travel ads are all right in front of you now!
Day 9 | Costa Vicentina - Algarve coast | Cross the Algarvian region to find a new paradise
Today we say goodbye to the sensational sands, beaches, and cliffs of the Algarve and trade them for the scintillating ones of the southeast.
You have all day to reach Tavira at only 1,5 hours away and the drive is an excellent exploration through the Barrancal. You’ll want to avoid the motorway and stick to the country roads to get the whole picture. This well-known yet unofficial area of the Algarve is uniquely abundant farmland. Watch closely and you’ll see the multitude of 50 plus products thriving here, including oranges, lemons, carob ( a chocolate substitute), onions, cherries, potatoes, figs, and almonds to name only a few. It’s colorful for the camera and tantalizing for the taste buds. Pulling over to purchase some on the side of the road is a real treat.
The first real stop is in the small town of Silves. It supports one of the only remaining Arab castles still standing since their invasion more than a millennia ago.
Next, give half an hour of attention to Alte. To some, it is Portugal’s most picturesque village – extremely small and seems as if it were painted yesterday. Pass through its moss-covered, stone-walled canals, small waterfalls, and white buildings; it’s an unspoiled haven of leisure.
Try something quirky and educational this afternoon by visiting a museum and factory of Cork. Portugal is responsible for 75% of all cork cultivation in the world so there’s no better place to see how it’s made, and what one can make from it, besides the cork for the wine bottle.
Day 10 – Algarve coast | The fishing town of Olhoa and cruising around the European Caribbean
Over and above the southern Portuguese sun, the Algarvian coast offers rich cultural spots that merit the time spent there.
Today we suggest visiting the fishing town of Olhao. Some say the Fishmarket here, dating from 1866, is the best they’ve ever been to. We definitely suggest going, and we definitely suggest going earlier in the morning. Built for practicality not beauty, you’ll find a surprisingly diverse selection of fish; it’s an excellent choice to have lunch here today. Choose your pleasure, and they’ll happily prepare your meal for you right on the spot. It doesn’t get fresher than this! Step out for a break and have a bite by the docks.
Now that you’re relaxed, we’ll shift gears to Island style! You’ll feel you’ve transported to the Caribbean here at the Ria Formosa where just offshore you’ll encounter turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and wooden cabins.
Day 11 | Algarve coast | Lazy day on the beach or a visit to the Nature Park of Vale do Guadiana
Go out with a bang and plan your last day on either land or sea.
If the sea beckons again then take a leisurely day and partake in the national seaside activity -that of no activity! Entertain the coast‘s crystal waters of the beach, hit the boardwalk for nibbles and souvenirs, or walk the picturesque town waiting above.
For land adventures, the Vale do Guadiana Nature Park presents a serene drive or hike through it. Translated in English as the “wolf’s leap”, it is said that only when chased, could either a brave man or a wild animal leap over the grand gorge created through time by this powerful waterfall; it’s the highest in Portugal at 35m.
In the delightfully bright white town of Mertola lies a castle from the 7th century, that even in its state of ruin, still watches over the small town from its hilltop; you’re welcome to visit it and its views.
Did you know that the Spanish border is only half an hour away? If you fancy a day trip, head to the Spanish city of Huelva at the mouth of the Odiel and Tinto rivers. Huelva is guardian to a chapel, dating from the 15th century, and the Huelva Museum hosts an extensive archaeological collection.
To tune up your culinary skills, take your taste buds for a treat in a Portuguese “Cataplana” cooking workshop in Faro.
Day 12 | Faro | Home | Home or extension?
Today you fly back home from Faro airport and depending on your flight you may have some time remaining to hit the center and do some last-minute souvenir shopping. A Cataplana? Something from the sea? Portuguese Azulejo?
We’ll arrange a hotel pick-up for you by private taxi to make sure that you arrive at the airport on time. Do you wish to extend your trip or add a few extra stops, let us know and we will tailor make this trip for you as you wish.
Total Price: From € 995,- / $ 1275,-
- 11 Nights in two or three star hotels including breakfast. Please note that there is the option to upgrade to four or five star hotels for just € 395,- per person for all 11 nights.
- Three train tickets and one bus ticket per person. Please note that there is the option to upgrade to a private driver should you wish.
- Private pick-up transfer to airport upon arrival.
- Access to insider tips about what to see and where to eat. Let us know if you have any special diets like vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher or any other and we will give you free advice.
- 24/7 help line for the duration of your trip.
- Air tickets. Please note that we can arrange these should you wish.
- Travel insurance.
- All other food and drinks not mentioned in the above description.
- City tourism taxes.
- Personal expenses such as extra hotel services or gratuities.
- Entrance fees unless otherwise state3