Planning 10 days in Portugal and looking for the best Portugal itinerary out there?! Welcome, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for everything you need to know – how to get around, where to stay, my favorite spots to eat, and of course a crazy comprehensive 10 day Portugal itinerary!
I first visited this incredible country a few years ago and knew (after only 4 days) it was going to be one of my favorites. Well, after spending over 10 days in Portugal on my latest trip (actually two weeks if we’re counting…), I can now 100% say this little country officially has my heart. I’ve been to plenty of places in Europe, but Portugal is easily one of my favorites (along with Greece and Italy).
If intricate azulejo tiles, delectable seafood dishes, soothing fado music, stunning turquoise beaches, and towering sandstone cliffs are your thing, I can guarantee that you’ll love Portugal just as much as I did. Oh – you can’t forget about those Portuguese custard egg tarts (Pasteis de Nata) and that sweet, sweet Port wine. Delish!
So let’s get to it – the best 10 days in Portugal itinerary you’ll ever read! Find me a better blog post, I dare you!
But first, a pre-travel guide to everything you need to know about when traveling to Portugal for 10 days or more!
10 Days in Portugal Logistics
Main Regions Visited on this Portugal Itinerary
- Lisbon (plus Sintra and Cascais)
- Porto (plus either the Douro Valley or Costa Nova/Aveiro)
- Algarve (Lagos and Albufeira)
This Portugal itinerary starts in Lisbon (since it’s where most international flights arrive), hops up to Porto for a few days, then makes its way down south to the beachy Algarve. With 10 days in Portugal, you can add in a day trip to Sintra and maybe even the Douro Valley or Costa Nova/Aveiro.
Have a little more time? If you’ve got 2 weeks in Portugal (lucky duck), you can add in an extra town in the Algarve (like Sagres, Albufeira, or Sines), and an additional day trip in both Lisbon or Porto (like Obidos, Cascais, or Nazare).
Where is Portugal?
For starters, Portugal is in Southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula sitting right next to Spain. To the west and south of Portugal is the Atlantic Ocean (and lemme tell ya – it’s WAY more scenic than the Atlantic Ocean I grew up swimming in over in New York).
Since Portugal sits right next to Spain and is not far (at all) from Morocco, many people combine the three countries into one big trip! And that’s actually what I did a few years back – see my recommended Spain, Portugal, and Morocco itinerary here! If you’ve got limited time you really gotta think about if you wanna explore Portugal in depth, or if you wanna break up your time and spend a few days in each country.
On my last visit to the area I only visited Lisbon (plus a few day trips), and was able to see Barcelona, Seville, and Valencia in Spain, plus Fez and Chefchaoen in Morocco. It all depends what kinda trip you want! This trip I solely explored Portugal and was so glad I did – there’s SO much to see and do here!
How to Get to Portugal
Flights: Most international flights arrive in Portugal in Lisbon at Lisbon International Airport, also known as Humberto Delgado Airport or Portela Airport (airport code LIS). If this is your first time in Portugal, you’ll definitely wanna explore Lisbon for a few days, so this works out quite perfectly!
There’s many nonstop flights to Lisbon, Porto, and even Faro (in the Algarve) from Europe. Coming from the USA, you’ll only find a handful of nonstop flights to Portugal, mostly to Lisbon and mainly from the East Coast (from larger cities like New York, Boston, and Washington DC).
This means you’ll likely need to connect elsewhere in Europe (London’s a big hub, as is Amsterdam). If you need to connect and have the time, why not make two trips outta one – we recently spent just one day in Amsterdam and it was SO fun! Ohhh… the stroopwafels and frites (yum).
Coming from San Francisco, my flight stopped in Munich, Germany first, then I hopped on a smaller plane to get to Lisbon. Longer flying times, but the flight was less expensive so I took it! Do note there are some nonstops directly from the West Coast on TAP Air Portugal (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses). I don’t think they operate every day, so just be mindful when looking for flights if you prefer a nonstop flight.
For reference, I chose to fly basic economy (the cheapest ticket you can possibly buy), and paid around $1,000 per person on Lufthansa/United round trip from the West Coast USA during Portugal’s prime season of July/August. If I had booked a few months earlier, that same ticket would have cost me around $700. So, my friends, book as early as possible (I waited until late April and flew to Lisbon in July).
If your dates are more flexible you can surely find cheaper airfare. For reference, I commonly see roundtrip economy flights from San Francisco to Lisbon for around $800, with flights as cheap as $450 occasionally during the fall and off-season months.
And once you make it to Lisbon Airport, you can either take the metro (the ‘Aeroporto – Saldanha’ line takes you to downtown Lisbon in 20 minutes or so), or simply use a rideshare app. I did the latter and it only cost me about 12 euros or so to get to my hotel.
Trains and Buses: Lisbon is well connected to other parts of Portugal and even a few other major European cities. BUT it’ll probably take quite a while to get there – about 10 hours from Madrid, and a whopping 24 hours from London. Just take the quick flight if you’re already in Europe.
How to Get Around Portugal
Many people recommend doing a road trip in Portugal, but if you’re not keen on renting a car, don’tchu worry! Since I was traveling solo, a rental car was definitely not in the cards – I’m not the most confident driver, especially in a different country! Thankfully, there’s other ways to get around!
Trains: To get from city to city within Portugal, I relied on the national railway company – CP (Comboios de Portugal). I used the train to get from Lisbon to Porto (roundtrip) and Lisbon to Lagos (roundtrip), which you’ll be doing if you follow my Portugal itinerary!
While you can buy your train tickets at the train station itself, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing your tickets in advance on the official website (psst – you’ll need your passport #). Especially in the high season, because, yes, the trains do sell out! When I was ready to buy my train ticket from Lisbon to Lagos, there were only a few options left!
You’ll also save a decent amount if you book at least 5 days in advance – something I should have done, whoops!
Psst – you’ll always wanna book a high speed ALFA Pendular (AP) Train or InterCity (IC) Train between major cities instead of the slower trains (which make more stops and take significantly longer).
I also used the regional/suburban trains to get around within the cities themselves. The train system is super easy to use, and you can always ask the staff at the station if you need help. Everyone I encountered was super friendly and spoke a decent amount of English. Don’t be intimidated by the trains – I promise they’re simple and straightforward. And the ticket prices couldn’t be better!
Ride Sharing Apps: Within cities, I relied on Uber and Bolt (Portugal’s cheaper version of Uber). There’s also FREENOW, another ride sharing app but I got by with just Uber and Bolt.
Tip: I recommend having all three ride sharing apps on your phone, and expect to use them all. There were times when drivers were not available on Bolt, and I had to pay a bit more on Uber. Other times, Uber was almost double the price, so I used Bolt! If you have somewhere to be, say a train to catch or a tour starting at a specific time, give yourself extra time to get there.
At times, I had to wait almost 20 minutes for a car, and other times I had numerous drivers cancel on me (ultimately making the wait extra long). I was worried I would miss my train at one point! Luckily someone finally didn’t cancel and I made it in time, but boy would that have sucked!
Public Transport: In Lisbon and Porto, there’s metro systems. Easy, cheap, fast, and efficient. I honestly only used these a handful of times as I found myself walking between neighborhoods A LOT. And taking Uber/Bolt when I got tired since most rides were only between 3-5 euros.
Walking: Yes, walking! The downtown areas of Lisbon, Porto, Lagos, and many of the day trips from each are compact and you can really see a lot just by using your own two feet! On most days of my 10 day Portugal trip, I clocked in around 20k steps! So remember to bring comfy shoes – it’s very important.
I’ll explain in more detail as I go day by day in my exact Portugal itinerary below.
Portugal Itinerary FAQS
Currency and Exchange Rates in Portugal
Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe, although it’s definitely increasing in price — so go now! Coming from an expensive city like San Francisco, hardly anything felt overpriced.
Portugal uses the Euro like much else of the European Union. When I visited, the euro was at an all-time low, making it practically equal to the US dollar. Lets just say it was a super-economical time to head to Portugal and Europe in general. And, yup, converting euros to dollars was ridiculously easy – there wasn’t much to change!
Do note this fluctuates all the time, but the US dollar has been exceptionally strong when compared to the euro for the last few years.
I recommend using a currency converter (such as XE Currency on your cell phone or a currency converter on the web) to get the most up to date currency exchanges for all forms of currency.
Cards vs. Cash in Portugal: I was able to use my credit card at almost all places in Portugal. You’ll definitely wanna carry some Euro at all times though – I found that some bakeries, train station machines, and small shops only took cash.
How to Get the Best Exchange Rate: I always take out cash at an ATM at the airport upon arrival in the new country I’m visiting, and never ever through an exchange desk or beforehand in my home country. ATMs provide the best exchange rate, always. If you want to avoid those pesky ATM fees every time you take out cash, simply look into a no-fee debit card, such as through Charles Schwab (which I have and love).
Language in Portugal
The official language in Portugal is Portuguese, which is similar-ish to Spanish but also very different. With that being said, I was surprised at just how many locals knew an impressive amount of English. Because of that, I was able to communicate quite easily during my 10 days in Portugal.
Hotel and restaurant staff would always begin communicating in Portuguese, and then switch to English once I stated “Eu não falo português, inglês, por favor”. I found that in general, no one was upset that I didn’t understand/speak Portuguese, and they were more than happy to switch to English. They’re very friendly people!
A few locals I ran into didn’t speak much if any English at all – mainly drivers, old-school restaurants, and the older generation.
Of course, I recommend learning a few key words/phrases before visiting Portugal. Locals always appreciate it! Here’s a good place to start:
- hello/hi: Olá/oi
- bye: Tchau
- thank you: Obrigada
- you’re welcome: De Nada
- good morning: Bom dia
- good afternoon: Boa tarde
- good evening: Boa noite
- bathroom: banheiro
- Yes: sim
- no: não
- eu não falo português: I don’t speak Portugese.
There’s no shame in using Google Translate if you have to! I also attempted to learn a bit of Portuguese on Duolingo before visiting, and I definitely mastered some new words pretty quickly!
When to Visit Portugal
Being a southern Mediterranean country, Portugal is blessed with an overall mild climate. While there’s not really a terrible time to visit, if there’s specific activities you wanna do (hint hint, sunbathe at the beach!), you’ll wanna pay attention to the month you choose.
Summer (High Season – June to September)
Like most of Europe, Portugal is pretty dang hot in the summer. Especially between July and August. I did find that Porto was more mild than Lisbon, and I actually needed a light jacket at night! The Algarve overall was pretty hot, but there was a nice breeze in town and by the beaches. Plus, whenever I was dripping in sweat I just put my feet in the water and that instantly cooled me down.
Just book a hotel with AC and you’ll be fine… oh, and go to the Algarve. That’s where the best beaches are.
Hotels and flights are also more expensive during this time, so keep that in mind when budgeting. Also, some establishments close entirely or for a few weeks in August to travel with their families themselves, so be flexible if those spots close.
For reference, I visited in late July/early August, and had picture-perfect weather for my entire 2-week Portugal trip. Yes, it was crowded, but no more so than any other popular European country, and I honestly wasn’t too annoyed by it. We’re used to traveling to Europe in summer and know what to expect in terms of crowds, so maybe that’s why.
Spring and Fall (Shoulder Seasons – October to November, and March to May)
If I had to pick the best time to spend 10 days in Portugal (or two weeks if you’re lucky), I’d say either May to early June, or late September to early October. It’s still kinda chilly in March and April, and by November, there’s definitely a chill in the air. Crowds have died down, accommodations are cheaper, and the weather is super comfortable. You won’t be melting like you would in summer!
You’ll find colorful wildflowers and lush, green foliage in the spring, although there’s bound to be some heavy rain. Spring is the most popular time to visit the Douro Valley, walk the Portuguese Camino, and for the pilgrimages to Fátima. Book ahead if you’ll be partaking in any of these!
Winter (Low Season – December to February):
Portugal in winter is mild, but definitely quite unpredictable. I honestly wouldn’t wanna chance it – imagine having cold and gray weather the entire time… with lots of rain. How sad would that be?! Plus, nighttime temperatures can get down to 2 degrees C (36 degrees F) – doesn’t sound like my idea of a fun getaway!
While there is a possibility of disgusting weather, Portugal does have more than 300 sunny days each year. The country’s actually one of the most popular sunny winter destinations in Europe (although remember, you won’t find any skiing here).
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and don’t mind a bit of cold and rain, you may wanna plan your Portugal itinerary during the winter months. This is when those mega-waves of Nazare are – so, surfers, take note!
If you’re planning to visit the Algarve (which you totally should), I wouldn’t even consider a visit to Portugal during winter. The water will be way too chilly to enjoy, and you may not even get to visit the beaches due to lots of rain.
Safety in Portugal
Portugal is known to be one of the safest places not only in general, but for solo female travelers as well! I honestly never felt unsafe (not even once) while I was walking around on foot in the downtown area.
With that being said, you wanna be cautious and careful no matter where you go, especially in crowded areas.
Is 10 Days in Portugal Enough?
Yes…. but no?! The country isn’t very large (California is actually more than triple its size), so you can really see a whole lot within just 10 days in Portugal. It’s way smaller than other nearby countries in Western Europe (looking at you France, Spain, and Italy), but there’s a lot to see! 4 or 5 days won’t cut it, unless you’re only visiting one region.
This Portugal itinerary includes big city life in Lisbon, sunsets over the river in Porto, turquoise beaches in the Algarve, and even fairytale castles in Sintra. But with that being said, there’s SO much to see in Portugal, you’ll 1000% wanna go back. I already have a list of spots I missed on this trip that I wanna see next time! Including both the Azores and Madeira Islands.
On a 10 day Portugal itinerary, you can see a bunch of highlights, but you’ll unfortunately miss out on a bunch of hidden gems that make the country so special. But hey, if all you’ve got is 10 days in Portugal (or even 2 weeks), you can’t see it all! Pick and choose your favorites! I did my best to include all my favorite spots in this Portugal itinerary, but there’s bound to be more.
And now, what you’ve been waiting for, a complete 10 days in Portugal itinerary!
10 Days in Portugal Itinerary
A few notes about this 10 Day Portugal Itinerary:
- This 10 day Portugal itinerary assumes you have a full 10 days in Portugal. Meaning, you’ll start Day 1 in the AM, having already gotten to Portugal the day/night before. If you have less time, you’ll need to adjust and tweak this Portugal itinerary a tad. You can simply leave off a day trip.
- It’s very GO GO GO and busy. I tend to travel quite fast. If you’d prefer a more relaxed type of trip, I recommend leaving off an entire region entirely. While the country isn’t huge, it does take time to get from place to place, which can sometimes mean waking up early to get to the next destination with enough time to explore a bit afterwards.
- It’s super structured. By that I mean you’ll need to take trains at a certain time to really make the most of this Portugal itinerary – and fit in as much as you can. You’ll need to purchase train tickets in advance to ensure the trains you need are available.
- I traveled throughout Portugal for 10 days via public transit. If you have a car, you’ll be able to have a bit more flexibility and may be able to make some stops along the way.
Part 1: Lisbon!
Lisbon is a great introduction to any Portugal itinerary. This hilly, coastal capital city is known for its pastel-colored buildings, tiled facades, spectacular miradouros (viewpoints), and most importantly, pasteis de nata (those delicious Portuguese egg tarts you’ve been hearing so much about).
Where to Stay in Lisbon: Most visitors to Lisbon stay in one of three main areas – Baixa, Chiado, or Alfama. You’ll wanna be close to all the major tourist attractions since you’re limited on time.
I’ve stayed in both Baixa-Chiado and Alfama multiple times, and would highly recommend The 7 Hotel (a few blocks from Praca do Comercio), The Lift Boutique Hotel (right next to the Santa Justa lift), Alfama Lisbon Lounge Suites (perfect spot in Alfama), and Alfama Patio Apartments (a chic hostel with a great view).
How to Get Around Lisbon: While the city is super walkable, you may wanna use some public transit so you don’t tire yourself out right away.
Make sure to pick up a “Viva Viagem” card – the reusable public transport ticket for all of Lisbon. It costs only €0.50, and you’ll be able to reload the card whenever you need (making it super easy, a simple tap and go system).
Day 1: Full day exploring Lisbon
Start your Portugal itinerary with a full day in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital city! There’s a lot to do in this inspiring and bohemian city, but you can really knock off the main highlights in just a day or two if you plan it right.
Visiting in summer?! The days are really long (the sun doesn’t set until around 9 or so) so you’ve got a full 14 hours or so to explore. Use this to your advantage, or choose to make your first day of your Portugal itinerary more relaxing – it’s all up to you!
While there’s TONS to do in Lisbon, here’s what I feel are the main highlights. These are the neighborhoods and activities I would prioritize on your visit:
Morning in Baixa-Chiado
These two neighborhoods are vibrant and literally right next to each other, with bustling shopping streets, grand plazas, and neoclassical ‘Pombaline’ style buildings. They’re essentially Lisbon’s downtown areas. Don’t spend too long here because there’s tons more to see during your one full day in Lisbon.
- Rossio Square: easily the liveliest square in the city, and where you’ll see tons of people hanging out in the nearby cafes. Make sure to look down – the tile is so cool!
- Santa Justa Lift and views: a beautiful wrought iron elevator with mock-Gothic arches and the most beautiful view of the terracotta roofs at the top. Wanna learn how to bypass the line and get up for free (but still see the same exact view)? Check out my super in-depth post on Lisbon here!
- Rua Augusta Street: There’s lots going on here, from bustling restaurants, tourist shops, and cute little cafes. Stop for a quick coffee if you need a little pick me up.
- Praco do Comercio: A gorgeous plaza right on the River Tejo; don’t miss the majestic Arco da Rua Augusta (you can even buy tickets to the viewing platform at the top).
Late morning/early afternoon in Cais do Sodré
After a busy morning in downtown Lisbon, it’s time to head south. This neighborhood used to be known as Lisbon’s Red Light District (kinda like the one in Amsterdam), but it’s since been revitalized into quite a trendy spot! Gentrification at its finest, am I right?
- Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho): You’ve probably seen this popular street all over instagram, and for good reason – the street is painted hot pink! If you wanna take a photo, you’ll wanna come late morning – once the street is partially cleaned and before all the tables are put out. Thirsty? Grab a glass of wine or a refreshing mojito/spritz — there’s tons of outdoor bars here.
- Elevador da Bica: One of the most iconic tram trips in Lisbon! I suggest just taking a quick look (and some photos!) as it’s super touristy and crowded. It’s really picturesque and cute though, so don’t miss it. Just note you’ll need to walk up a bunch of steps!
- Time Out Market for lunch: You’re probably pretty hungry by now, and I recommend heading to Lisbon’s very own Time Out Market for lunch! It’s kinda like one big food hall/market, with dozens of options to choose from. So if you’re with a big group of people, everyone can order from a different stall and get exactly what they want! I recommend a hearty octopus and potato dish from Marlene Vieira, then a famous custard egg tart (called pasteis de nata) from Manteigaria. Absolutely delicious and oh so sinful.
Afternoon/Early Evening – Wander the Alfama neighborhood
Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon, where you’ll find an overabundance of those pretty Portuguese tiles you came all the way for. Cobblestoned streets, pastel-colored buildings, beautiful tiled facades, many with laundry hanging above, and tons of miradouros (viewpoints) are what make this authentic neighborhood so appealing. And I couldn’t get enough!
It’s actually one of the only parts of Lisbon that wasn’t completely destroyed by the horrific earthquake in 1755. If you wanna learn more about the neighborhood, I suggest taking a walking tour of the Alfama District. I took one on my first visit to Lisbon and loved it – learned way more than I thought I would.
While I recommend just wandering throughout the narrow and winding streets of Alfama, there’s a few main highlights:
- Sé Cathedral: Being Lisbon’s main cathedral, you’ll probably pass it on your way to Alfama from Cais do Sodré! And the architecture is wild – an eclectic mixture of Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic elements!
- Castelo de São Jorge: The historic Castle of São Jorge is over here in the Alfama neighborhood, but if you’re not super into medieval castles and fortresses, I’d honestly skip it. The views in other parts of town are just as good if not better (for free!), and it’s kinda expensive and definitely will take up a decent portion of your day. I recommend heading to Miradouro da Graca instead. But if you’re dying to go (I get it – it’s a major attraction in Lisbon), be sure to purchase a skip-the-line ticket ahead of time!
- Pastelaria Santo Antonio: You’ve probably already had a few pasteis de nata, but make a pit stop at Santo Antonio for what is probably the best pastel de nata in the entire city of Lisbon. There’s a reason the line’s usually out the door – the crust is perfectly flaky and the custard is super smooth and lush. Try a few and thank me later.
- Miradouro de Santa Luzia: One of my favorite viewpoints in all of Lisbon, probably because there’s tons of bougainvillea in the summer months.The terrace is completely covered in swoonworthy decorative tiles too. Don’t miss a photo by the red door! You get sweeping views of Alfama’s houses, churches, and even the Tagus River. I came here multiple times and never got tired of it.
- Miradouro das Portas do Sol for sunset: Everyone comes here for sunset, and it’s easy to see why. With stunning panoramic views of the terracotta roofs, domes, and the Tagus River, it’s one of the most popular miradouros in Lisbon. There’s even a bar up here so go on and get a drink!
Night in Bairro Alto for dinner and Fado music
Bairro Alto really comes alive at night – there’s a reason it’s known as Lisbon’s nightlife district. There’s tiny bars everywhere, with people spilling onto the sidewalks with glass in hand. You’ll find colorful and graffiti-ridden façades, packed Fado restaurants (which are well-worth a listen to), and alternative shops.
My recommendation? Stand in line for Tasca do Chico, a dark and cozy bar with traditional Portuguese dishes and live fado music – Anthony Bourdain raved about this spot!
Day 2: Lisbon or Belem/LX factory, then head to Cascais for ½ day
For the morning of our 10 day Portugal itinerary, you can either choose to spend more time exploring the heart of Lisbon, or head nearby to popular Belem. The choice is yours! I’ll give suggestions for both!
Option 1: Extra time in Downtown Lisbon
- Take a food and wine tour: Consider yourself a foodie? I took this food and wine tour in Lisbon and had the best time. We tried a whole bunch of Portuguese tapas (known as petiscos), like codfish cakes, a bifana sandwich, piri piri, and more.
- Learn how to make pasteis de nata: You’re in Lisbon – heart of the Pasteis de Nata! Spend some time in the kitchen learning how to make this delicious treat yourself. I took this exact cooking class and made a whole bunch of Portuguese egg custard tarts, which I promptly shoved into my mouth the second they cooled off. Here’s another pastel de nata cooking class in case the other one gets booked up (there’s only a few openings per time slot).
- Head to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo: If you’re a true sucker for those beautiful Portuguese ceramic tiles, you need to go to The National Tile Museum. It’s an art museum specializing in just that – azulejos: the traditional tilework of Portugal.
- Seek out a few more miradouros: Miradouro da Graça (with views of the castle), Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (don’t miss the Gloria Funicular nearby), and Miradouro da Senhora do Monte are a few more I just love! You can also visit the Church of Sao Vicente de Fora – the view from the roof is spectacular (and it’s hardly ever crowded!).
Option 2: LX Factory and Belem
Belem is a great ½ day trip from downtown Lisbon, lying west of Central Lisbon right on the Tagus River. Portugal used to be known for its explorers, and you can learn all about the fascinating history in nearby Belem. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re into famous historical sites, you won’t wanna miss Belem. Plus – the egg tarts!
How to Get to the LX Factory and Belem: Ride 3 stops on the Cascais Line (from Cais do Sodre) right to Belem. You can get off one stop beforehand at Alcantara-Mar for the LX Factory if you’d like! I chose to ride an Uber/Bolt to the LX Factory since it was only 4euro, haha.
- LX Factory: Have some breakfast here and/or have some chocolate cake at Landeau Chocolate, wander around the famous Ler Devagar bookstore (the one with the flying bike!), and check out a few boutiques (there’s a lot!). Don’t spend too long here because you gotta save time for the rest of the day’s activities!
- Belem Tower: You can either admire the Manuelino style-exterior of the tower from the outside, or buy a ticket and explore inside via the narrow, steep staircase, plus the open terrace at the top. The tower served two main purposes in the 1500s: to protect Lisbon from raids, and it’s where sailors back in the day began their voyages. Beware, it’ll probably be crazy packed in the prime summer months. Another reason to get here on the earlier side.
- Monument of the Discoveries: While in Belem, you gotta check out this giant structure. It represents part of a small Portuguese sailing ship, and the details are super ornate. Stand next to it – you’ll really notice just how huge it is!
- Jeronimos Monastery: It’s intricate and beautiful, with a 16th-century Manueline/Late Gothic architectural style, full of crazy ornate spires and other grand elements. Come early and/or buy your skip-the-line ticket online ahead of time. When I got there around 11am, the line was crazy long so I opted not to wait. In hindsight, I kinda wish I did because the monastery looks so unique – it’s a UNESCO world heritage site for a reason! Kinda looks like a scene from Bridgerton.
- Pasteis de Belem: Everyone raves about this pastelaria (pastry shop), and there’s always a HUGE long line out the door. Thankfully, it moves super quick. Personally, I found the egg tarts to be average. Yes, they’re delicious, but not more so than other ones I had in Lisbon. Still worth it for the experience though (and I’d never say no to a pastel de nata)!
Head over to Cascais, Lisbon’s very own beach town. The area is only 40 minutes away from Lisbon (from the Cais do Sodre station) or 30 minutes from Belem (on the Cais do Sodre line as well), so there’s no reason not to go and check it out! It’s one of my all-time favorite day trips from Lisbon, so I can’t not recommend it!
It’s ultimate seaside perfection – you’ll never be more than a few minutes away from the beach no matter where you are in town. My kinda place!
How to Get to Cascais: Getting to Cascais from Lisbon is super easy. Since this mornings kinda up to you, I’ll give you all the options depending on exactly where you’re coming from. Although there’s not really much to it since it’s all on the same metro line, haha.
- From Downtown Lisbon: Depending where you are, you’ll wanna walk on over to the Cais do Sodre Station (right near The Time Out Market — ohh definitely grab some food first here). Take the train all the way until the Cascais Station – the last station on the line (taking roughly 40 minutes or so). You pay by the number of Zones you’re riding, so from Lisbon to Cascais expect the ticket to cost €2.30 for a single ticket.
- From Belem: Belem’s a stop on the Cascais line, making it super easy to just hop on and head to Cascais. It’ll cost around the same (€2 or so).
While you can easily spend all day in Cascais, especially if you wanna take advantage of the beaches, I spent around 5-6 hours here and that was sufficient for me! Here’s my favorite things to do in Cascais:
- Check out the beaches: Praia da Rainha, Praia da Ribeira de Cascais, and Praia da Duquesa are the most popular beaches in Cascais. The water will be pretty chilly no matter the month, but it’ll feel great on a scorching hot day! Instead of going for a swim, I did a bit of sunbathing and people watching – two favorites of mine!
- Take a long walk along the coastline to check out some views: If you walk the opposite way from the beaches, you’ll come across Avenue Rei Humberto II de Itália – a road that literally hugs the coast. There’s tons of scenic, wild spots over here – my two favorites were Pedra da Nau and Boca do Inferno.
- Watch the cliff jumpers from Mirador Casa de Santa María: Not only is this spot utterly gorgeous, it’s got my favorite view of the Santa Maria lighthouse. And the brave cliff jumpers are super fun to cheer on!
- Walk around the marina and town: Besides the beaches, the tiny town of Cascais is my favorite for a long wander. There’s perfectly positioned palm trees, ornate gardens, colorful mansions, fishing boats, and zig zag tile on the ground.
- Indulge in gelato at Santini’s: You haven’t been to Cascais if you haven’t tried the famous gelato at Santinis. If the line is out the door, try the second location in Cascais (yes, there’s two!). I tried the raspberry and chocolate and it was the perfect combo on a hot day.
- Try a traditional Nozes de Cascais (walnut pastry): The place to go is A Bijou de Cascais, a lovely patisserie with every pastry/cake you can think of. While the walnut pastry is made entirely of eggs and sugar (plus a walnut on top), it had so much unexpected flavor! I loved it and could have eaten a handful, haha. Everyone seems to rave about their lemon pastels as well (I was too full after the gelato for even more dessert).
I’ll be putting up an in-depth guide to Cascais soon, so be sure to head back and check that out!
Day 3: Sintra
Next up on this 10 Portugal itinerary – the magical fairytale land of Sintra! It’s majestic and ethereal, and easily one of the most unique places on this 10 day Portugal itinerary. If you have a thing for stunning natural scenery and royal palaces, don’t miss it!
Sintra is where all my fairytale dreams came true – there’s a whole bunch of whimsical castles to explore and extravagant villas to see, plus all those enchanting gardens! You really need an entire day here, so make sure to devote plenty of time to Sintra on your Portugal itinerary. One day will suffice, but understand you won’t be able to see and do everything in this charming little area.
One way to really maximize your time: buying your tickets to the castles ahead of time. Most people just buy them at the gate, meaning yes, you’ll bypass the long line for tickets! Buying online is super easy, just know you need to choose a designated time to enter Pena Palace.
→ Buy your ticket to Pena Palace here (the most popular one with all the colors), and I guarantee you’ll save time! Most tour groups make sure you buy them in advance to keep the group from waiting!
How to Get to Sintra
While you can drive yourself to Sintra, most people opt for the train or go on a guided day tour. Both awesome options, but if you want the history behind all the glam, I found a guided tour to be super informative!
Public Transport: Getting to Sintra via train is super easy, and super cheap! Trains leave from Rossio Station in Lisbon’s historic city center every 30 minutes or so, and only cost about 5 euro round trip. It doesn’t get cheaper or more convenient than that!
Once you get to the train station in Sintra, you’ll be about a 15 minute walk to town. However, I recommend you use the bus to go directly to Pena Palace as it’s the most popular and therefore most crowded. If you already bought your ticket, you’re ahead of the game. You’ll need to use the 434 and 435 buses to get to the castles themselves (Sintra is way bigger than you think).
Guided Day Tour: The first time I went to Sintra, I went myself via the train. I was with a bunch of people and let’s just say we weren’t very time efficient. We saw one palace, and by the time we got to the second, we only had ½ hour until they were closing. Whoops!
The second time I went, I chose a guided day tour and I saw SO much! We saw 4 castles (Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Monserrate Palace and its exotic gardens, and Sintra National Palace), plus Sintra Town. That’s practically unheard of! Here’s the EXACT tour I took. Know it was fast-paced and you won’t get to see each one in detail, but it’s a great introduction to the area.
→ Book your Lisbon to Sintra Highlights Tour here! We saw SO much!
If you’d rather combine a visit to Sintra with Cascais and Cabo da Roca (the westernmost point of Europe), there’s plenty of tours that do just that! Choose this tour to Sintra and Cascais if you wanna spend Day 3 of your 10 days in Portugal exploring other areas of Portugal as well.
Find more info in my crazy detailed day trip to Sintra post!
Here’s my favorites in Sintra:
Pena Palace: DO NOT MISS PENA PALACE! I repeat, don’t miss it!!! This is everyone’s favorite castle, and it’s easy to see why. Just look at all those bright colors – there’s blinding yellow walls, blue tiles, and a red painted exterior. And that stunning architecture against all the greenery – whoa! Don’t miss out on this Romanticist castle standing on top of the hill, it’s truly a sight to be seen.
This is the palace you’ll 100% want to purchase tickets in advance for. At first I thought going inside was a waste, but I actually enjoyed it way more than I initially thought I would! Every single room was oh so different than the last, and all so lavishly decorated! The cloisters were completely covered in azulejos! It just sucked that it was SO crowded, which made it difficult to truly enjoy. Another reason to get there ASAP in the morning!
Make sure to walk around the castle walls, especially the Arches Yard and Terrace Walk– this was my favorite thing to do at Pena Palace. There were SO many beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and even the Moorish Castle (which I sadly missed out on visiting).
Quinta da Regaleira: Hidden tunnels, breathtaking gardens, princess-like towers, and even an initiation well. Tons of mystery and magic over here, and completely different from Pena Palace. The grand house is five floors, surrounded by lush, green gardens. Don’t miss the secret passageway that takes you below a waterfall – one of my favorite parts of the estate!
Pro Tip: If you wanna see the mysterious initiation well, head there first, and then see the rest of the castle. It’s the most popular spot in Quinta da Regaleira, so it gets busy!
Monserrate Palace: Before heading off on my guided tour of Sintra, I didn’t give much thought to Monserrate Palace. What a mistake that was – it ended up being one of my favorites! Probably because it was hardly crowded and oh so peaceful. The building is striking, and I loved all the Islamic architectural influences and symmetry (helps so much with photography!).
Castelo dos Mouros: I didn’t make it to The Castle of the Moors, but I’ve heard such good things. For starters, it’s got some of the best views over Sintra. It’s also the oldest monument in Sintra – yes, the castle is crumbling, but this makes it feel as authentic as ever! Most guided tours don’t stop here, so it’ll be far less crowded than the others!
Part 2: Porto!
Ohhhh my favorite! Porto is a coastal city in northwestern Portugal, known for its bridges over the Douro River, sweet port wine (tawny’s my fave), and narrow, cobblestoned streets. I think I may have loved it even more than Lisbon, shh!
Porto felt way more authentic to me, and while it’s still pretty touristy, the city had more of a local vibe to it. And ohh, the sunsets were just oh so glorious!
There’s less tourist attractions and museums here, but that just gives you more time to stroll the streets, take in the spectacular views, and taste all the Port wine! The historical city center of Porto has even been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1996! It’s that impressive (so yes, well worth your time during your 10 days in Portugal).
Get way more detailed information in my (crazy) comprehensive 3 day Porto itinerary guide!
Where to Stay in Porto:
Most tourists prefer to stay in Ribeira (the riverside district), São Bento and Avenida dos Aliados (super central and near lots of public transit), Batalha/Santo Ildefonso (along the shopping street of Rua de Santa Catarina), and Clérigos/the Arts District.
I chose to stay in Batalha at this cute apartment, and while it’s not directly in the center, I had no problems walking everywhere. Although I did Uber/Bolt back to my room after the sun went down since I hung out by the river every night.
Thankfully, Porto is pretty small and you can walk from neighborhood to neighborhood easily. When doing my research on Porto accommodations, I found way more apartments than typical hotels in the city center. Because of this, I opted for a managed apartment that felt like a hotel – someone at check-in, daily cleaning service (if I wanted it), and a swanky common space.
I don’t recommend staying in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is on the opposite side of the Douro River and is actually considered a different city!
Day 4: Early morning train to Porto, then explore
Next up – Porto! I recommend taking an early morning train so you arrive in Porto around lunchtime and have the rest of the day to explore! Use this day to get your bearings, indulge in a few egg tarts, and relax a little at a viewpoint above the city. It’s been a hectic few days!
How to Get to Porto from Lisbon:
- Drive: Driving from Lisbon to Porto takes about 3 hours, and is super easy. The roads are all great quality, and there’s lots of signs!
- Train: CP – Comboios de Portugal Trains from Lisbon (the Lisboa – Santa Apolonia station) arrive into Porto’s Campanha station. Tickets include a transfer to Sao Bento Station, which is most likely much closer to where your accommodation is. Trains take about 3 – 3 ½ hours.
On my first afternoon in Porto, I found myself at the Miradouro das Fontainhas. And OMG whoa. I was not expecting these views! You can walk all the way until the famous Luis I Bridge if you’re feeling adventurous, or just wait until tomorrow.
If you’ve got a lot of time and wanna start exploring, I recommend checking out the Bolhao neighborhood. You can then start Day 5 of this 10 day Portugal itinerary in the Baixa Neighborhood, and have a much more leisurely day!
Day 5: Full Day Exploring Porto
Rise and shine, you’ve got a full day to explore this stunning little city. Expect tons of tile work, plenty of impressive viewpoints, scrumptious eats, and of course lots of wine!
MORNING: Bolhao/Santo Ildefonso Neighborhood
Fabrica de Nata and/or Manteigaria: Start your morning off with some pasteis de nata. Both Fabrica de Nata and Manteigaria are super popular with some of the best custard egg tarts in town.
You’ve probably already had a few in Lisbon, but you’ll see – no amount of pasteis de nata is ever enough. I typically get fresh squeezed orange juice as well – so sweet and only a few euros (way cheaper than any fresh juice in the states).
Rua de Santa Catarina: Take a walk down Rua de Santa Catarina – Porto’s main shopping street! There’s lots to see here, from local boutiques and international shops (like Zara!), to the Chapel of Souls and Majestic Cafe. It’s super stylish and romantic.
Chapel of Souls: You’re in Porto – you’re gonna see lots and lots of tilework! But the Chapel of Souls is by far superior – there’s a reason it’s famous for its magnificent exterior of blue & white tiles. It’s just so, so pretty!
Majestic Cafe: This is where J.K. Rowling supposedly worked on her Harry Potter books, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and a gorgeous Belle Epoque atmosphere. Easily one of the most beautiful cafes in the world – meaning, yes, prices will be inflated.
BUT it’s where J.K. Rowling hung out!!! The Harry Potter premiums are more than worth it (in my opinion). Grab a coffee and hang out for a bit.
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso: If you’re on the hunt for classic blue and white azulejos (like I was!), don’t miss this 18th century church – there’s over 11,000 of them! I mean, just look at the front of that church – those tiles are absolutely striking! You can take a peek inside but you’ll need to pay a few euros to properly explore the interior.
Have a snack at Gazela: Time for a snack! Try a cachorrinhos, a famous Portuguese hot dog, covered with cheese and spices. Nope, not your typical hot dog! Get the fries, too – they were delicious. If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for me!
Plus, there’s always tons of locals here. I had such a fun time with the staff, sitting on the bar stools sipping some vinho verde and munching on my sausage.
AFTERNOON: Baixa Neighborhood
Igreja do Carmo: More blue and white tiles! This 18th century baroque-rococo church is one of the oldest buildings in the historic part of Porto, and I just loved it – the exterior at least. I was short on time so didn’t make it inside, but I heard it’s got an amazing Portuguese “stairway to heaven” altar.
Livraria Lello: Harry Potter fans rejoice – this is THE place and major inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. And what a beautiful bookstore it is – with its Gothic style interior, impressive red staircase, and large stained glass windows.
You decide if you wanna spend a few hours waiting… or not. I chose to skip it, because I heard it was just crazy crowded inside and the line was literally down the block.
Eat a Francesinha: Hope you’re hungry, because this Portuguese sandwich is on the menu for lunch! Imagine thick bread with ham, sausage, steak, and cheese – all smothered in a creamy tomato beer sauce.
Yes, it very well may induce a heart attack, but that’s why you’re walking everywhere in Porto (right…?). I highly recommend Brasao Restaurant, but try to make a reservation in advance as they get pretty busy!
Igreja dos Clérigos: Another Baroque church (yes I understand it’s the third one of the day…, haha). But this one has panoramic views of Porto at the top of Clerigos Tower (prepare to climb about 200 steps or so – a good way to work off that Francesinha!).
Definitely book your ticket to the tower ahead of time (only $6), as I walked past tons of people waiting in line! And with only one full day in Porto, you don’t wanna waste precious time!
Sao Bento Railway Station: You may have already been here (it’s where most trains into Porto arrive), but if you haven’t, don’t miss Sao Bento!
The station is decorated with traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles – easily the most beautiful train station in the world! Because of this, it’s typically pretty crowded (especially when large tour groups arrive).
LATE AFTERNOON/NIGHT: Ribeira and Vila Nova de Gaia
Explore Ribeira: The Ribeira is an old picturesque neighborhood in the heart of the old town, even designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. It’s one of the most authentic and liveliest areas of Porto, with cobblestoned streets lined with colorful 18th-century townhouses, tons of waterfront restaurants serving grilled sardines, and tiny wine bars with great views of the bridge and river.
Cross Luis I Bridge: A true icon of the city! If there’s a reason you’re thinking it resembles the Eiffel Tower you’re not wrong – the same architect designed the two structures! The Luis I Bridge connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, the next area we’ll be exploring! Walk on over (it only takes about 10 minutes or so), on either the lower or upper level.
Port tasting and cave tour at Sandemans: All the popular Port wine cellars are located across the river in Gaia, which is why you just crossed the bridge! There’s a whole bunch, including Graham’s Port Lodge, Sandemans, Calem, and Taylor’s Port.
If you’re following this one day Porto itinerary to a T, you’ll wanna make reservations for the latest possible time slot. I got on a 4:30pm cave and winery tour at Sandemans, and it was perfect because I then stayed in Vila Nova de Gaia for the rest of the evening.
Dinner/drinks on the water: There’s a whole bunch of restaurants over here, each with views of the Douro River and famous Luis I Bridge. A few that got super high reviews are: DeCastro Gaia (ask for a table near the window), Taberninha do Manel (authentic Portuguese food), and Tempero d’Maria (get the grilled octopus dish!).
Watch the sunset: You don’t wanna miss a Porto sunset. Golden hour over the city is legendary, especially from Vila Nova de Gaia (you get to see the Douro River and Riberia’s colorful waterfront). Nothing more spectacular in my book! Here’s two spots I recommend:
- Jardim do Morro (Super touristy, but for a reason! Take the cable car up to this garden and you’ll find live performers and a really good time!)
- Rooftop bar of DeCastro Gaia – Porto Cruz (Such a fun atmosphere and the drinks/wine are so good)
From either, you can watch vintage rabelo boats cruise under the giant Dom Luis I bridge, sip a few cocktails (highly recommend trying a porto tonico – a cocktail mixed with tonic water and port wine!), and just bathe in that beautiful evening light.
Day 6: Day trip to Costa Nova/Aveiro or Douro Valley
On your third day up north, consider taking a day trip from Porto! There’s quite a few trips you can take, but these are the two most popular:
Option 1: Aveiro and Costa Nova
Striped fishermen houses, art nouveau buildings, ovos moles egg pastries, colorful moliceiro boats on the Ria de Aveiro, and long sandy shorelines. That’s what a day trip to Costa Nova and Aveiro will be!
Ever since I saw photos of the colorful wooden houses in Costa Nova I instantly wanted to go, so I was thrilled when I finally made it there this summer. And you bet I took way too many of my own photos of the colorful striped fisherman homes – how could I not, just look at them!
Aveiro is such a pretty Portuguese city and I wish I had longer to explore! Don’t miss a wander around town, admiring the art nouveau architecture, taking a ride on a painted traditional moliceiro boat, and stopping for a famous ovos moles at M1882 – Ovos Moles de Aveiro (easily the best spot in town).
How to Get to Aveiro and Costa Nova from Porto:
- Train: There’s a direct train straight from Porto Campanha to Aveiro, taking roughly an hour or so. If you wanna get from Aveiro to Costa Nova, I’d call an Uber/Bolt as the ride is only about 15 minutes and it’ll be pretty cheap! You can also take the Transdev bus (L5951) which will take you to Costa Nova in about 40 minutes.
- Guided Day Tour: Don’t wanna worry about the train and then an extra Uber ride? Consider joining a group tour! This half-day tour (the one that I took!) spent the first part of the morning in Costa Nova, then drove us over to Aveiro for a boat ride and some free time. While I wish the tour was longer and we had more time to explore, I appreciated getting back to Porto on the earlier side (so I could stuff my face with another Francesinha, haha).
Option 2: Douro Valley
A trip to the Douro Wine Valley is one of the most popular day trips from Porto! While I’m kicking myself I didn’t make it here myself, it’s already on my list for next time!
Imagine sipping some of the finest port wine from family-run vineyards, admiring views of the sweeping valleys and cliffside roads below, and soaking in the sunshine. The Douro Valley is one of the world’s best known wine regions (kinda like Napa Valley near me in San Francisco!). It’s actually a protected UNESCO site and is even known as the birthplace of port wine!
How to Get to the Douro Valley:
- Drive: If you’re planning to do a bit of wine tasting (which you totally should – that’s the main draw of the region), I don’t recommend driving. Or assign someone to be DD (please be safe!).
- Train: You can catch a train to one of the main towns of the region, then take a taxi/ride share to a few vineyards. Take the Douro Line train to Pinhao, Tua, or Pocinho (all in the Douro Valley). Most people visit Pinhao, the most popular Douro Valley stop and one of the most scenic.
- Guided Group Tour: If this is your first time to the region, I HIGHLY recommend jumping on a guided tour. This is the most convenient option, and with only one day to explore the Douro Valley, you wanna make sure you do it right! Most guided day tours include transport from Porto, lunch, tasting some of Douro’s finest Porto wine, and even floating along the Douro River in a traditional Portuguese Rabelo boat. There’s lots (and lots) of tours to choose from, but I recommend this tour (you also get to taste olive oil!) and this tour (with over 900 positive reviews)!
Part 3: Algarve!
Get ready, it’s BEACH time!
Golden sandy beaches dotted with colorful parasols. Whitewashed fishing villages filled with fresh grilled octopus. Turquoise waters surrounded by cliffs and epic rock formations. Just a few things that describe the Algarve. I was in love the moment I laid eyes on my first sunset at Ponta de Piedade. You’ll see what I mean. 🙂
I had heard such good things about the Algarve, and looked at tons of pretty photos ahead of time, but nothing could prepare me for the true beauty of the region. This is a place where photos really don’t do it justice – you’ve gotta see it with your own eyes.
Where to Stay in the Algarve: There’s a few main towns in the Algarve, with most tourists staying in Lagos, Albufeira, or Faro. I chose to base myself in Lagos as it was closest to the beaches I wanted to see oh so badly.
Since I was traveling solo I chose a budget hotel (Hotel Lagosmar, which was clean and safe and in a great location), but if I was traveling with my husband, I would have LOVED to stay at either Casa Mae (super chic and right in town) or Belmar Spa & Beach Resort (right on the beach).
Day 7: Early Morning Train/Flight to Lagos or Faro
Wake up early, we’re off to Lagos! The beaches and turquoise water await!!! If you’ve only got 10 days in Portugal, you don’t wanna lose any time by sleeping in. There’s the super long way to get from Porto to the Algarve, and the much shorter way – I’ll give you info on both.
How to Get from Porto to the Algarve:
TRAIN: If you choose to take the train, day 7 of your 10 days in Portugal is gonna be a long travel day from Porto to Lagos! But, I promise the long train ride is well worth it! It takes a total of between 7 and 9 hours depending on which train you take and how long your transfers/connections are, ack!
If you have an extra day to spare, I recommend possibly stopping in Lisbon for a day/night to break up the long travel time if sitting 8 hours on a train doesn’t sound too appealing (I get it).
From the Porto – Campanha Station, you’ll take the high-speed train to Lisbon (3 hours), transfer at Lisboa – Oriente, then make your way to Tunes (3 hours). From there, you’ll take the regional train to Lagos (about 1 hour). It sounds super complicated but it’s really not once you understand the trains. Prices should run you about 50-60 euro if you book in advance.
It’s basically: Porto – Campanhã Station → Lisboa – Oriente Station → Tunes → Lagos.
While you’ll spend most of your day on the train (and transferring between trains), you should make it in time for dinner and sunset. If you’ve got an extra day to add onto your Portugal itinerary, this is where I’d add it.
FLY: Flying between Porto and the Algarve is the MUCH quicker option. And thankfully, since airlines are competing with the train, flights are relatively cheap (20 euro to 60 euro or so).
Make sure to book a direct flight to Faro (the Algarve’s main airport) as it’ll be super annoying to connect in Lisbon! And if you’ve got a connection, well, you might as well just take the train all the way, haha.
There aren’t tons of direct flights from Porto to Faro per day (I see two a day on RyanAir when I do a quick search), so I’d 100% book early. The flight only takes an hour, so if you leave on an early flight, you’ll have most of the day in Lagos! Score!
What to do once you arrive:
Hit up the beach: Depending on how you make your way to the Algarve (preferably via plane…), you might have some extra time today! You’re at some of the finest beaches in Portugal – take advantage!
You can easily walk to Praia da Batata (Potato Beach) and Praia Estudantes (Student Beach) from Lagos Town, which is exactly what I recommend doing! The beaches are connected by small tunnels on the sand, and you’ll eventually come to the Roman Bridge on the far end of Student Beach.
I loved it and spent all afternoon searching for seashells and taking dips in that super refreshing water.
Sunset at Ponta de Piedade: If you started your train journey early, you’ll likely make it to Lagos for sunset. And Ponta de Piedade is the place to watch! Grab a few drinks to-go and make your way there – the sunset over the cliffs is truly breathtaking! And oh so romantic, whether you’re with your significant other, a group of friends, or even solo like I was!
Dinner and shopping in Lagos Town: Lagos Town really comes alive at night, with everyone back from the beaches and such. There’s plenty of restaurants to choose from, and I loved tapas at Casa do Prego and the rooftop bar at Mar d’Estorias! Afterwards, grab a sweet crepe and do some souvenir shopping!
Day 8: Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Wanna see some of the most impressive scenery of your life? You gotta spend a day on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. If you can’t fathom just hanging on the beach all day and need something a bit more adventurous, I highly recommend this hike!
Imagine a full day exploring the rugged coast, limestone cliffs, picturesque sandy beaches (with turquoise water!), and natural underground caves. The scenery is absolutely mind-blowing, each view more impressive than the last. It’s the quintessential Algarvian seascape – and I couldn’t get enough!
Quick facts about the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail:
- Trailhead: You’ll start either at Marinha Beach or Praia do Vale de Centianes in Carvoeiro.
- Length: 6km/3.7 miles one way (12km/7.4 miles roundtrip)
- Difficulty: moderate
- Bring: a hat and sunscreen, sneakers/hiking boots, and about 2L of water per person (you’ll need it!)
Since the route is one way you’ll need to decide if you’re gonna do the return hike as well or make your way back some other way.
How to get to the start:
- Join a group: I signed up for an AirBnb experience tour which took the group right to the start of the trail from Lagos, guided us the entire way up and down the cliffs, and made a few extra secret pit stops along the route. We finished up the day by having a fully prepared sunset meal of Portuguese tapas and some vinho verde – looking right at the crazy rock formations of Praia da Marinha. While the hike was pretty difficult for me (my guide took us the hard way…), it was one of my best days in Portugal!
- Uber/Bolt: From Lagos, a taxi or rideshare will cost a pretty penny (when I looked it was around 40euro each way). Unless you’re splitting the cost, I don’t recommend this option.
- Public Transport: You can make your way to Marinha Beach via trains and buses from Lagos, but there’s no direct route. You’ll need to take a combo of 2-3 trains and buses, and it’ll take a long time! Think an hour and 45 minutes to almost 3 hours! Not recommended unless you really have NO other way.
- Drive: If you have a car, make the 40 minute drive over to Marinha Beach. The parking lot is pretty big, but I recommend heading over on the earlier side to ensure you get a spot!
A few highlights of the hike:
Praia da Marinha: EASILY one of the most picturesque beaches in Portugal, if not in all of Europe! And yes, I’ve been to Greece and these sun-kissed cliffs really blow everything I’ve ever seen outta the water.
From the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, you’ll get a sweeping panoramic view of natural brides, sea stacks, huge sinkholes, hidden grottoes, and stony arches.
Benagil Beach/Cave: Definitely make a pit stop here for some ice cream and beer! You earned it! Spend some time on the beach, relax, and soak in all the Portuguese vibes.
You can even swim to Benagil Cave if you’d like (it takes about 10 minutes each way), but if it’s midday there’ll be tons of boats out so be extra careful. Or rent a kayak from Benagil Beach and make the 10 minute paddle. If you don’t wanna head into the water, you can see the cave from above which I thought was pretty cool!
Praia do Carvalho: One of the most unique beaches in the Algarve, in that you need to climb through a narrow tunnel in the rock. You then pop out onto the beach on the other side! And of course it’s gorgeous – this is the Algarve we’re talking about!
Farol de Alfanzina: A lighthouse with a particularly beautiful view! There’s actually a small museum housed within but the opening hours are super infrequent anyways.
Carvoeiro Boardwalk and Boneca Cave: Not officially part of the hike, but if you have extra energy, add this on! Since we parked around here in Algar Seco, we were able to pop into Boneca Cave, buy a few extra waters (which were very needed!), and walk the boardwalks! Well worth the extra km or so!
Read Next: Everything you Need to Know about the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (one of my most scenic days in Portugal!)
Day 9: Benagil Cave and Albufeira
MORNING: Benagil Cave Tour
If you didn’t already make it to Benagil the day before while hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, check the cave off your Algarve bucket list today!
What makes Benagil Cave so special (and why’s it one of the most famous sea caves in the world?!) There’s a huge hole in the ceiling of the cave! It actually slightly reminded me of Playa del Amor, a hidden beach in a big cave in the Marieta Islands near Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
There are several ways to get into Benagil Cave, including kayaking, on a high-speed rib boat, on a family-friendly catamaran, and of course, swimming! You cannot walk to Benagil Cave from Benagil Beach, just an FYI.
Planning to stay in Lagos like I did? I recommend booking a boat or kayak tour! Most are only a few hours so you’ll have time for our afternoon activity as well! Here’s a few options (all starting in Lagos):
- High-Speed Rib Boat Tour: Looking for a thrilling ride to Benagil Cave?! You’ve gotta book a speedboat tour! After visiting Benagil, our guide did literal donuts in the water – and OMG I cannot begin to explain how fun that was. This is the exact tour I booked (and loved!). While Benagil Cave was definitely a highlight, we visited a whole bunch of other caves as well! Read reviews and book here.
- Family-Friendly Catamaran: If you’re traveling with young kids or aren’t up for all the twisting and turning of the speed boat, you can take a catamaran to Benagil Cave! You’ll still make all the highlights: deserted beaches, rugged cliffs, and breathtaking sea caves – including a peek inside Benagil of course. The boat is wheelchair and stroller friendly. Read reviews and book here!
- Kayak Tour: Dying to explore Benagil Cave on foot!? Want that instagram photo? You’ll need to paddle yourself into the cave! When booking, MAKE SURE the kayak tour goes to Benagil, as a lot go to Ponta de Piedade and around there.
NOTE: Boat providers are not allowed to let people off their boats to walk around the caves. You’ll need to either swim (strong swimmers only) or kayak (not much experience necessary).
Once you’re done on the boat/kayak, hop on the train heading for Albufeira (towards Faro)! Albufeira has such a different vibe than Lagos, and you’ll be glad you explored both.
Expect 18th century churches, a super picturesque white-washed old town, viewpoints above the bright teal and blue Atlantic, golden sand underneath rugged cliffs, chill beach bars, and a crazy colorful marina. My kinda town!
Plus a wild nightlife, if you wanna party all night (which I did not do, haha).
A few things to do in Albufeira:
- Hit up the beaches: Praia dos Pescadores (Fisherman’s Beach) and Praia do Peneco are the two main beaches around here, with water sports (windsurfing or jet biking anyone?!), sparkly turquoise waters, and colorful beach umbrellas. Ohh – that sand was beyond heavenly… so super soft and smooth! I could’ve walked on the beach looking for seashells for hours!
- Indulge in some seafood: There’s plenty of restaurants along the beaches, in Old Town, along the Strip, and overlooking the beaches. I had a delicious meal of fried calamari with the most beautiful beach views. It wasn’t fancy by any means at all, but was a great mid-day snack. Casa del Mar, The Beach Basket, and The Ruin are all great choices.
- Wander the Old Town: This was my favorite part of Albufeira, with its traditional whitewashed houses and pretty tiled cobblestoned streets (sometimes known as “Portuguese pavement”!). I loved just wandering around, finding colorful doors and alfresco restaurants. Plus the shopping – “Cork and Leather” shop had so many pretty things like these straw basket bags.
- Check out “The Strip”: A world’s away from Old Town (although right next door), the strip is full of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs – and it’s super modern! And it never sleeps! This is where to head if you’re interested in checking out the nightlife scene here in Albufeira.
- Check out the colorful marina: The marina kinda looks like a low-key amusement park, and it’s so much fun! There’s candy-colored apartment blocks, small rides for kids, a green space, and of course all the boats taking visitors out to sea. I walked around for about an hour or so and got a drink before heading back to the train station for Lagos.
This area is actually the largest and liveliest of all the resort towns that dot the Algarve coastline. If you’re into partying and nightlife, you may wanna stay in Albufeira as that’s where all the action is! It’s sometimes even known as the party capital of the Algarve!
Day 10: Ponta de Piedade and Around
Today’s the last day of this 10 day Portugal itinerary, and probably the last day of your trip! Make it count! Ponta da Piedade and the surrounding areas were quite possibly my favorite day in the Algarve, and like on the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, the views kept getting better and better and better. Something about that Portuguese air, I tell ya! It’s intoxifying!
Morning: Boat trip around Ponta de Piedade
Yes, another boat trip! But oh so different from yesterday – I promise. While I already recommended Ponta de Piedade at sunset on this Portugal itinerary (Day 7), it looks drastically different from the water itself.
Get ready to cruise through amazing grottoes, tiny caves, sandstone cliffs, and see the secluded beaches at Ponta Da Piedade. At one point, the water was so blue I could hardly contain my excitement! 75 minutes of absolute bliss…ahhh….the life.
The boat trip reminded me in the slightest bit of the caves at Kleftiko Beach in Milos, Greece – but a golden sandy color instead of white volcanic rock!
Whatever you do, you’ll wanna make sure the boat you book is small enough to go into the caves and through the grottos. If not, well, you won’t really get to see all too much! This is the exact grotto boat trip I booked (and we all had the best time).
We breezed through tiny crevices, cruised next to crazy looking rocks (many shaped like animals!), and learned a bit about the historic and cultural magic of the Algarve. Ohhh so magical I might add!
This is another boat tour that got exceptional reviews, on a reputable company and with small-enough boats to get into even the tiniest grotto.
I highly recommend booking your boat tour with a large, well-known (reputable) company. I saw plenty of boats that looked super janky, and I don’t think I would’ve felt comfortable cruising on the water in them.
If you’d rather get some exercise, opt for a kayaking tour of Ponta de Piedade instead! You’ll definitely earn your gelato!
Afternoon: Explore the Beaches of Lagos
If you take an early boat, you’ll still have most of the day! Perfect for exploring more of the coastline and getting in some extra beach time! Here’s how I recommend you plan out the rest of the morning/afternoon.
1. Hit up Student Beach and Potato Beach if you haven’t already on Day 7 of this 10 day Portugal itinerary – or, ya know, go back! You’re on vacation – you make the rules!
2. Take an Uber/Bolt/FREENOW to Ponta de Piedade (5 euro or so). The golden sandstone cliffs and sparkly turquoise waters look entirely different in the daytime sunshine! Explore both sides of the coast over here!
3. Walk along the bluffs above the beaches and rocks: From Ponta de Piedade, you can make a long walk for more views of the coast. I swear each view got more mesmerizing than the last. You know when you’re traveling and you just cannot believe your life is real? That was one of those moments. So many times I (accidentally) said out loud “whoaaaaa f*ck!” out of disbelief, haha.
There are some boardwalks on the coast, and some trails. Just follow them and you’ll find all the views! I walked and walked and walked and walked… until I saw all the beaches between Ponta de Piedade and Student Beach. While you can head down to the beaches if you’d like, I simply admired them from above (I swear the water looks even more drool worthy from up here).
When all was said and done, I spent about 3 ½ hours wandering the coast, taking (way too many) photos, and soaking it all in. I especially loved Praia da Balança, Praia dos Pinheiros, Praia do Camilo, and Praia de Dona Ana. Pure magic!
4. Dinner on the coast: Once you see how tantalizing the views are, you won’t wanna leave! So make a reservation for dinner so you don’t have to!
I had a spectacular meal of grilled octopus at O Camilo (definitely make a reservation in advance), and I heard Luca’s Rooftop Restaurant is beyond spectacular as well. You even get to pick out your own catch of the day from O Camilo!
Night: Explore Downtown Lagos
End the day with some shopping and entertainment in town. There’s always some live music going on, and you may catch something more unique like a fire dancer (which is so cool to watch).
Go for an evening stroll, try some tasty gelato (my favorite shop being Gelicia Italian Gelato), and check out all the cork souvenirs – they’re big around here!
Other Things to Add If You’ve Got More Than 10 Days in Portugal
Day trip to Obidos: This medieval little city is only an hour or so from Lisbon – I highly recommend adding it to your Portugal itinerary if you’ve got more time.
You can walk on the outer stone walls, wander through the tiny town, and explore the castle on the hill. I’ve been and it makes for a perfect ½ day trip from Lisbon. Definitely try the cherry liqueur called Ginjinha de Obidos – it’s famous in town!
On this full day group tour, you’ll visit Obidos, Batalha, Nazare, and Fatima! I did this tour a few years ago and saw oh so much in just one day! Perfect if you wanna check out a few spots and only have a limited amount of time!
An extra day in Sintra: Sintra is HUGE – there’s no way you can see everything in just one day. If you wanna properly explore the area and see all the magnificent palaces, ornate castles, and lush gardens, spend an extra day here. You won’t regret it.
An extra day in Lisbon: In my opinion, you can never have too much time in Lisbon. Use an extra day to eat more chocolate cake, famous egg tarts, and all the things from the Time Out Market.
You can also discover some of the more unexplored areas and restaurants, like Casa do Alentejo, Torel Garden (Jardim do Torel), and Mercado de Campo de Ourique.
Coimbra: A preserved medieval old town and the historic University of Coimbra – two things Coimbra is known for. Don’t miss the baroque library, the Biblioteca Joanina, and its 18th-century bell tower at the University, and the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral Sé Velha in Old Town. This full day tour leaves from Porto and heads to Coimbra and Fatima!
Nazare: Any surfers in the house? You’ll wanna add on a day (at least a half day) to Nazare – the waves are taller than most houses (in winter)! And if there’s no colossal waves here, don’t fret. Nazare is one of the finest beach towns on the Silver Coast of Portugal, Costa de Prata. With tons of fishing history! This tour takes you there and a bunch of other nearby spots!
So there ya have it – the best 10 days in Portugal itinerary! What are you most looking forward to?! Have you been to Portugal before?