Road Tripping Through Portugal
Not long ago, Portugal was stereotyped in the North of Spain as the place to go to buy cheap towels. Random, right? Now I think this was a ploy by the Portuguese to keep the hoards away, because the truth is, Portugal is an extraordinary country – which now I can call home.
Recently, I took to the road with my sister and a friend, with a low budget but a lot of excitement. We left Galiza, Spain early in the morning and drove 70km to the Portugal border. As I usually panic while crossing bridges and highways, my beloved sister drove almost the entire way. Driving through Portugal seemed like it might be the adventure itself–and possibly even our last one with the crazy Portuguese drive style.
Road tripping through Portugal is the best way to discover this country. You can stop whenever you feel. You can even sign up for transport sharing, such as with blablacar. Just don’t expect to camp for free in Portugal: it’s illegal. To select our main stops, we used the site Visit Portugal, which was full of fresh information, as well as Viralagenda, an events site that should be your bible if you come here. A tank full of gas, marvelous company, and the ultimate roadtripping playlist was all we needed to get going.
Our first stop was the small town of Viana Do Castelo, which we drove into with our epic soundtrack blaring at full blast out the windows. After that, we parked our car and behaved, heading off to discover this lovely town.
In Viana, I recommend wandering through the streets of the historic center, and stopping at the Museu do Traje (Costume Museum), which takes you on a journey through Portuguese history. After that, we picked up some local ingredients from the supermarket and moved on to the Templo do Sagrado Coração de Jesus, or Santa Luzia Temple, at the top of the hill. As it’s located at a high point, it’s the perfect place to check out the stunning landscape.
You can visit many wineries that produce Porto Wine. This is a sweet wine from the Douro Region, with about 22% alcohol (the memories of our two nights in Porto are hence a little blurry!)
Later, we headed to Porto (77 km from Viana do Castelo). This is the second largest city in Portugal. Restored, fancy buildings are situated right next to dilapidated old ones. This charming place is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there is a special aura here.
One of my favorite spots in the center of Porto is the Mercado do Bolhao, a traditional market. It has come quite touristy, but it’s a pretty place full of flowers, colors and fruit. My second favorite place is the Cais da Ribeira. The view here is outstanding, and you can enjoy the iconic colorful houses facing the river.
Crossing the Douro by any of its many bridges, you will end up at Vila Nova de Gaia, known as the place in the world with the highest alcohol concentration per square meter! There, you can visit many wineries that produce Porto Wine. This is a sweet wine from the Douro Region, with about 22% alcohol (the memories of our two nights in Porto are hence a little blurry!)
After a couple of party days in Porto we drove to Aveiro (79 km from Porto). I must confess that I was kind of disappointed with this town, as I had too many expectations about it. This place is well-known as the “Portuguese Venice” (the lines of tourists contributed to the feeling). Yet, it’s still a delightful place that is totally worth visiting. One of its attractions is the art-nouveau architecture, which creates a bourgeois vibe.
Close to Aveiro we found Costa Nova, a peninsula between Aveiro and the sea that is interesting for its colorful striped houses and amazing windy beach.
That was pretty much our delightful long weekend roadtrip through Portugal that made me look forward to more roadtrips through this beautiful country.
Finally, our last night was in Coimbra (61 km from Aveiro). Here, I loved the huge Jardim Botânico (Botanic Garden) that is in the center. The surrounding area is home to the Universidade de Coimbra, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest universities in Europe. We had lunch at Café Académico, a charming place with a great design and vegan options.
That was pretty much our delightful long weekend roadtrip through Portugal that made me look forward to more roadtrips through this beautiful country. I am especially tempted to visit the Portuguese interior, the Douro Valley, the amazing beaches, the groovy villages, the secret spots, fantastic people… The list will just keep growing!
Have you traveled through Portugal? We want hear about your adventure. Email [email protected] for details