West Portugal Road Trip: A 7-day trip up the Coast

Difficulty

350+ km

Distance

7

Recom. Days

Culture

Trip type

Cora Harrison

Freelance writer for Indie Campers, currently trying to find herself in Indonesia but without much luck. Enjoys exploring weird and wonderful world cuisine — the less identifiable, the better.

West Portugal Road Trip Itinerary: Lisbon to Porto

Planning a week’s holiday and decided to head on a West Portugal road trip? From Lisbon to Porto, this campervan itinerary ticks all the boxes for an unbeatable vacation.

Firstly, Lisbon, for art, architecture, and edgy vibes. Then a bit of beach time in the laid back surf town of Peniche. After that, amazing UNESCO monasteries on your way to Coimbra, where Portugal’s smartest go to school.

And finally Porto, the country’s up-and-coming second city, which could teach all of us a thing or two about how to up our cool-game. Plus plenty of time for foodie discoveries along the way. So there you have it. A week-long road trip with a little something for everyone.

Pick-up in
Lisbon depot
1

Let’s get started in oh-so-lovely Lisbon

First up on this West Portugal road trip, Lisbon has caught everyone’s attention in recent years. Its reputation as a hub of all that is cool and creative has become common knowledge. Which is why it’s the perfect start for a holiday.

Get ready for incredible scenery, amazing food, great prices — oh, and lots of walking uphill. The city is set out over seven hills which makes for both a serious thigh workout but also spectacular views.

Ascensor da Bica, a yellow elevator going up, to your Lisbon Road Trip

Begin with a stroll of the Moorish Alfama, one of the most characterful neighbourhoods in the city. Then take Tram 28E up to visit the Castelo de São Jorge to wander along the ramparts. In Belém, visit the beautiful Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Or head to the site of Lisbon’s Epox 98 and explore the aquarium.

Enjoy exquisite seafood, from octopus to snails, as well as those famous custard tarts. Plus a shot of ginjinha, or cherry liqueur, to finish off. Then head out to explore Lisbon’s late-night scene in the Bairro Alto.

Visiting

Lisbon

2

Recom. Days

Main route

20km

from Lisbon depot

30min

drive

Visit

Museu Gulbenkian

Large collection including works by Rubens and Turner.

Cabo de Roca

Rugged headland believed to be edge of the world until 14th century.

Sintra

Beautiful town famous for its royal palaces and villas.

Eat at

Antiga Confeitaria de Belém

€€

Popular spot for custard tarts.

Cervejaria da Trindade

€€€

Savour a cold beer alongside bacalhau com natas.

Eleven

€€€€

Aophisticated Michelin-starred dining.

Parking

Parking de Belem

Free

A metro stop from the centre, free (overnight) stay.

Stay at

Lisboa Camping & Bungalows

€€€

Green campsite next to the city.

2

Beach-bum vibes in Peniche

Surfers already know about Peniche, whose beaches are rated some of the best for waves in the country. But for those on a West Portugal road trip, Peniche is the perfect follow up to a few days of late nights and indulgence in the Portuguese capital. It has an authentic, slightly gritty feel, and you’ll still come across fishermen mending their nets by the harbour.

In August, the town has its Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem festival. So head on to your next destination to enjoy the fresh sea breeze and even fresher sardines.

To find out what makes these waves so great, head to Praia dos Supertubos, which, in October, is the location for the Rip Curl Pro competition. Another must is the Ilha da Berlenga, a granite island and nature reserve 7 miles off the coast.

Check out the local artisan speciality, Renda de Bilros, or bobbin lace. And, for sunset, head to Cabo Carvoeiro, right on the tip of the peninsula.

Visiting

Peniche

2

Recom. Days

Main route

90km

from Lisbon

1h20min

drive

Visit

Praia da Consolação

Rocky coves for bathing and watersports further north.

Óbidos

Gorgeous walled town 15 minutes from Peniche.

Baleal

Beautiful island and village connected to the mainland by a causeway.

Eat at

Taberna do Ganhão

€€

Traditional Portuguese tavern.

Taberna do Os Americanos

€€

American-style classics.

Tasca do Joel

€€

Popular local restaurant with shop for buying presents.

Stay at

ASA Peniche Motorhome Park

€€

Walking distance from everything.

3

Portugal’s monastery heritage route

Running between Peniche and Coimbra (next on this West Portugal road trip) lies a route of three towns famous for their incredible, UNESCO-listed monasteries. Famous being relative here because the towns of Alcobaça, Batalha, and Tomar are very far off the general tourist track.

Situated in the Leiria region of central Portugal, the monasteries of Alcobaça, Batalha, and Tomar (situated in the Santarém region) are all within a 65-km stretch from one another. All are exceedingly old and pretty, yet have very different histories—both culturally and architecturally. A road trip between said sites is easily done and very rewarding.

Gothic architecture inside of Batalha Monastery, a waypoint on a West Portugal road trip

First up is Alcobaça, an old town straddled between the Alcoa and Baça rivers. Its monastery, the Royal Abbey of Santa Maria, was founded in 1153 by Cisterian monks who had the land donated by Dom Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s very first king. Talking about legendary.

Second, Batalha literally means battle. The Monastery of the Battle commemorates the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians in 1385. A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, it was the country’s principal religious building for two centuries thereafter.

Lastly, Tomar’s monastery is called the Convent of Christ. It’s arguably the most interesting out of the three, as it’s originally a Templar stronghold from the 12th century. Not sure why that makes it so interesting? Well, the Templars might be European Christianity’s most controversial order and they remained active in Portugal long after they were outlawed by the pope.

Visiting

Monastery Heritage Route

1 - 2

Recom. Days

Main route

65km

from Peniche

50min

drive

Visit

Royal Abbey of Saint Mary

Built at command of Portugal’s first king.

Monastery of Batalha

Commemorating the victory without which Portugal wouldn’t exist.

Convent of Christ

An ancient Templar stronghold surrounded with myth and mystery.

Eat at

Pastelaria Oliveira (Batalha)

€€

The best pastries around.

Cantina 32 (Batalha)

€€€

Culinary Portuguese menu to share.

Taverna Antiqua (Tomar)

€€€

Gastronomic medieval tavern.

Stay at

Motorhome parking, Rua Fonte do Choupo (Tomar)

Former municipal campsite with some amenities.

4

A dazzling display of history and culture in Coimbra

Next up, back to more urban pleasures as you arrive at your next West Portugal road trip destination.

Beautiful Coimbra is famous for being the hilltop home of Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished university. But aside from buzzing with its super-smart student population, the city has heaps of gorgeous architecture for you to admire and is basically a history lesson in the form of a city. A history lesson with a fun side, though, thanks to its many affordable bars.

Visit the university’s Baroque library with its elaborate frescoes. Also check out St Michael's Chapel with its 3,000-pipe organ. Then there’s the Sé Velha, the city’s 12th-century cathedral. On your way, look out for students dressed in traditional black capes, carrying briefcases with coloured ribbons.

Also make sure to catch one of the hourly performances at the Fado Centre on the Escada do Quebra-Costas — a street whose name roughly translates as ‘Backbreaker.’ Because, yep, Coimbra, like Lisbon, is painfully hilly.

Visiting

Coimbra

1

Recom. Days

Main route

80km

from Tomar

1h

drive

Visit

Museu da Ciência

Kid-friendly interactive science museum.

Figueira da Foz

Nearby city with vast sandy beaches.

Mata Nacional do Buçaco

Beautiful forest with chapels, ponds, and fountains.

Eat at

Adega Paço do Conde

€€

Typical casa de pasto with large platters of food.

Sete Restaurante

€€

Casual but highly popular wine bar and restaurant.

àCapella

€€€

Cultural centre and restaurant in a former church.

Stay at

Parque Verde do Mondego

€€€

Short walk from centre.

5

And, finally, Porto: the perfect goodbye

Last up on your Portuguese coastal adventure is Porto. Like Lisbon, Porto is making a name for itself as a hip and happening city.

A thriving centre for art, fashion, and nightlife, with a gritty grandeur and arty edge, it’s also home to a rather famous fortified wine, which is another plus. So no better place to spend your last few nights in Portugal than in Porto, your final West Portugal road trip destination.

Colorful buildings and a bridge in Ribeira do Douro, Porto, destination of a North Portugal road trip itinerary

Art lovers must visit the famous Serralves art centre, home to a major collection of works by Joan Miró. But there’s also cool street art to be seen everywhere, as well as the stunning azulejos, or blue ceramic tiles, in places like São Bento railway station. For views, head up to Jardim do Morro.

When it comes to dining, there are Michelin-starred restaurants or equally good local petiscarias. Plus, across the water in Vila Nova de Gaia, barrels of maturing port can be heard calling your name.

Visiting

Porto

2

Recom. Days

Main route

120km

from Coimbra

1h20min

drive

Visit

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Landscaped gardens with views of the River Douro.

Torre dos Clérigos

Iconic tower with incredible views.

Lamego

Baroque town (1h30 from Porto) famous for its church reached by a 600 step staircase.

Eat at

Euskalduna Studio

€€€€

Exclusive experimental dining.

Wine Quay Bar

€€

Wine and petiscos by the river.

ODE Porto Winehouse

€€€€

Great wine list and delicious local food.

Parking

Alameda Auto Parque

€€€

Uncovered parking 30 minutes from centre.

Stay at

Area di sosta camper Porto

€€€

Campervan parking 20 minutes from Porto.

Drop-off in
Porto depot

15km

from Porto

15min

drive