Family road trip in Portugal: our practical guide
23 December 2019
Driving on the road as the scenery changes, letting yourself be carried along by the stages without thinking about tomorrow… for everyone, the road trip is synonymous with freedom and adventure. Far from being reserved for solo adventurers, this kind of road trip is perfectly feasible in the company of a happy tribe, as long as it is done according to the rules of the art! Little Guest gives you all the keys to an amazing road trip with your children in Portugal, what’s more!
Portugal, a charming country nestling on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula, lends itself perfectly to a family road trip. For its rich heritage, its mild and sunny climate and the beauty of its landscapes in the first place. Small in size (one-sixth of France!) it is also the ideal place for a pleasant family tour. Forget for a moment the mythical Route 66 and its 2280 miles… in Portugal, no need to swallow the kilometres, a few stages are enough to fully enjoy it without losing the taste of adventure! Ideal for beginners of itinerant travel or families with young children, Carnation country is perfect for discovery and relaxation.
A few tips before leaving
- Work your route in advance. You don’t organise a family itinerant holiday like you would organise a romantic one. With your little tribe, you leave nothing to chance and you book your hotels in advance, otherwise, you’ll end up on the roadside. Determining the time spent between each stage also seems to us unavoidable. Little Guest advises a maximum of 3 hours drive between each one, especially with a small child. If you plan to ride longer, a break every 2 hours is always welcome.
- Make your car a comfortable cocoon: water bottles within reach, small snacks, cushions to take a nap, blinds to protect you from the bright sun of the Portuguese summers…Not forgetting the holiday playlist to sing at the top of your lungs and little games to pass the time. Are your children bored again and again? A surprise packet should keep them on their toes.
- Have a mini first aid kit on hand with bandages, paracetamol, motion sickness medication…
- In the same vein, so you don’t forget anything, think of the holiday lists! Little Guest offers you three checklists: for children from 0 to 3 years old; from 3 to 6 years old and from 6 to 12 years old.
- Take stock of your toddlers’ identity documents and check that their vaccination book is up to date. Our article on vaccination will give you some pointers. Travelling alone with your children? Think about the necessary authorizations to leave the country and take a look at our article on the subject.
Portugal from north to south: a road trip in 4 stages
Everyone is ready? Let’s go for a 900-kilometre circuit to discover Portugal. From Porto to Vilamoura (Algarve), go from the mountains to the city to finish by the ocean, all in a little more than two weeks!
Day 1 to 4: From Porto to Oliveira do Hospital via Coïmbra, country spa
As a starting point for this atypical holiday, we have chosen the very family friendly “World of Discoveries” in the heart of the charming city of Porto. This museum evokes the great maritime discoveries and Portuguese epics with models, sailing ships and interactive audio-visual aids. Needless to say, this is the ideal place to instil the spirit of travel and adventure in your tribe before you set out on the road while giving them a little history lesson. Travelling is youthful! Itinerary
Site, form an ocean of greenery that contrasts sharply with the arid landscape of the sun-tanned mountains. Drive along the A1 through the centre of the country to Coimbra, a student city with cobbled streets lined with elegant art-nouveau facades. After discovering the city, continue inland towards La Serra da Estrela, a first country stop.
In this green and mountainous region, time seems to have stood still. Between the charm of the schist villages, the medieval ruins and the preserved landscapes of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, you will discover an authentic and traditional Portugal. Away from the beaten track, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Branco, city of the Templars, as well as the citadel of Guarda (the highest city in Portugal located at 1000 metres above sea level) are worth the detour. Little knights, on guard!
Another unmissable part of this stopover in the centre of Carnation Country is the Toy Museum. Just a short distance from Oliveira do Hospital, this extraordinary place gathers 8000 toys, vintage or contemporary, from all over the world. Between the four walls of this Ali Baba’s cave, we fall back to childhood! To prolong the experience, toys are provided for the little ones and their parents. Itinerary
After culture, make way for nature! The Serra da Estrela nature reserve is full of secret corners, moors and cork oak forests just waiting to be discovered. A sporty hike will take you to the Lagoa Comprida dam (between the rocks, the panoramic view of the plain is breathtaking), to the Poço do inferno (a suspension bridge overlooking a rocky spur and a waterfall, splendid if you hold your children by hand) or to the Fraga da Pena waterfalls which ricochet off the rocks before forming a small freshwater basin. On the high plateau of the reserve in the hollow of its innumerable lagoons inherited from the ice age, you can even come across carnivorous plants! Itinerary
At the Aqua Village Health Resort & Spa *****, treat yourself to a 4-night green break surrounded by the waterfalls, olive groves, pine forests and wild rivers of the region. This spa destination welcomes families in comfortable suites of high standing. Between two walks in the heart of nature, the hydrodynamic swimming pool of the hotel’s Spa Sensations relaxes Mum and Dad while children from 3 to 12 years old enjoy a free swim in the Kids-club! Under no circumstances should you miss the tents suspended in the trees, where treatments and massages based on local honey are given. The ultimate relaxation!
Day 5 to 10: From Oliveira do Hospital to Lisbon, cultural city trip
After these few days in the middle of nature, our second stage returns to the charms of the city. A city break of a few days in Lisbon allows the tribes to immerse themselves in the heart of the hectic cultural capital of Portugal. Its narrow streets, lined with pretty houses with Mediterranean accents, are an open-air museum. To see the city as a whole, Little Guest recommends a boat trip on the Tagus River aboard the amazing Hippotrip. This incredible bus turns into an amphibious vehicle as the tour progresses. It is sure to be an unforgettable experience!
Always to please your children, Little Guest proposes you to devote a moment of your stay to the fantastic and poetic world of puppets in the museum dedicated to them. Located in a popular district without artifice, where the soul of the real Lisbon still floats, this atypical museum presents puppets, bunnies and other dolls from the Iberian tradition. Children can learn about Chinese shadow theatre and small shows are sometimes performed for the young public. To continue on this arty wave, a visit to the Fado museum is a must. More than a type of music, it is an art of living that you can discover on a Portuguese guitar background. From one room to another, let the music charm your tribe before ending the day in one of these small cafés where live music concerts are in full swing. Itineraries to the puppet museum and the Fado museum.
Lisbon has a very special way of life, with gastronomy and azulejos as its spearheads. To combine these two specialities, go to the Bélem district not far from its famous tower. Rich in historical monuments, this part of the city is also a paradise for sweet-toothed. You can taste creamy pastéis de nata just out of the oven in the very famous Antigua confeitaria. In this traditional decor all in blue and white and covered with azulejos (traditional tiles decorated with blue patterns) they are even better. On the way back, don’t forget to go and greet the tower of Bélem, even with your mouth full! Itinerary
For a dive in the heart of Lisbon, it is at the Martinhal Lisbonne Chiado Family Suites ***** that Little Guest advises you to stay. Ideally located in the historical centre, it is easy to discover Lisbon, Queen of the Tagus for the close ones. In a contemporary decor enhanced with touches of bright colours, the family suites and the hotel’s restaurant bend over backwards to welcome you and your children. The Martinhal Lisbonne Chiado Family Suites guarantee perfect alchemy between the freedom of a suite, the comfort of a high-quality hotel and the service of a children’s club (from 6 months). For more inspiration, check out our article on Lisbon with your family!
Day 11 to 14: From Lisbon to Sagres, a face to face with the Atlantic Ocean
For the third part of our Iberian journey, head south! The whole family is delighted to be back on the holiday route towards the Algarve, a sunny destination par excellence. Did you know that the Algarve’s sun shines about 300 days a year? It only takes 3 short hours by car through the Alentejo region to reach Sagres. As you travel through the rural heart of Portugal, make sure you stop to taste the region’s gastronomic delights: excellent wines, smoked sausages, country soups and other cheeses are excellent excuses to stretch your legs.
When the ocean-beaten creeks and the raw beauty of the beaches of the western Algarve jump out at you, it’s because the Vincentian coast is not far away. Lulled by the Atlantic currents and turned towards nature, this part of the region abounds in surfing spots. The whole family can enjoy a good dose of sea spray on the Praia de Cordoama. Surrounded by high black cliffs, this wild beach is more than ideal for a walk with your feet in the water, facing the immensity.
This part of the coast, classified as a protected natural site, is a paradise for hikers and lovers of grandiose landscapes. More information and hiking ideas on the site of the nature park. Itinerary
Clinging to Cape St Vincent, the impregnable Forteresse de Sagres bears witness to the region’s medieval past. To visit its vestiges is to immerse yourself a little more in the singular history of the Algarve at the crossroads between East and West. It was here that Henry the Navigator, a key figure in the great Portuguese conquests of the 15th century, died in 1460. Itinerary
After visiting this naval stronghold, a cruise off the coast is a must. Albufeira and its astonishing ochre-coloured rocks are highly recommended for budding sailors. Don’t miss under any circumstances the marine cave of Benagil, a true natural wonder. Do you want to go back in time? The San Bernada, a sailing boat worthy of the greatest expeditions around the world, takes you in its wake to discover the coastline. All aboard!
Surrounded by the preserved and wild landscapes of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejan, the Martinhal Sagres Beach Family ***** is a seaside resort close to nature. Whether in the villas or suites of this exceptional establishment, one never loses sight of the ocean. From 6 months to 17 years old, babies, children and teenagers are pampered with creative, fun and sports activities to suit their needs. The resort also organises discovery days to meet the dolphins that inhabit the coasts of the property. Accompanied by a specialist in marine biology, discover the aquatic life of these fascinating animals and their congeners (blue sharks, hammerheads or sea turtles…).
Day 15 to 19: From Sagres to Vilamoura, farniente and jet set
To close this remarkable epic, Little Guest suggests a seaside stop within the golden Lusitano triangle. After the countryside, the city and an invigorating face-to-face with the ocean, why not let yourself be tempted by the very Mediterranean atmosphere and a bit of jet-set from Vilamoura? Here there are no creeks, but very family oriented wide white sandy beaches. The magic formula of the place: sun, luxury and…REST!
While you’re at it, why not take advantage of this favourable environment to perfect your swing smoothly? The greens of Vale do Lobo and Quinta, two award-winning golf resorts, have an excellent reputation! After walking on the mythical greens of the seaside resort, spending the rest of the day on the beach at Quinta do Lago seems to be a good option. A wide range of water sports will delight the adventurous (kite-surfing, jet-skiing…) while the gourmets flock to the terrace of the famous grilled fish restaurant “Gigi”. This small wooden hut lost in the dunes is adored by children for its Robinson atmosphere and by parents for its gastronomy. A destination that has become mythical on the coast! Itinerary
This is a stage that should give inspiration to your small builders for their future sandcastles. Imagine an open-air park by the sea, inhabited by incredible sand sculptures… in Fiesa Sand city, more than 35,000 tons of sand are shaped, giving life to monuments up to 12 metres high. Each year, a different theme is exploited and immerses its visitors into a fantastic universe full of surprises. Itinerary
Move away for a moment from the seaside, to join the rural landscapes of Barrocal, this fertile strip of land between sea and mountains. After visiting the fortress of Silves, don’t miss under any circumstances the charming little town of Loulé and its white houses. Its market, set up in a splendid neo-Moorish hall, abounds in local products: filled figs, marzipan, carob tarts, local crafts…gourmands, don’t refrain!
Like Vilamoura and its Marina, the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort ***** is an elegant and cosmopolitan destination. Close to the superchic bars, golf courses and casinos, the surroundings of the hotel are nevertheless a real oasis of tranquillity. Spacious and modern, the rooms and suites open onto the gardens that stretch as far as the eye can see, as well as the hotel’s central swimming pool with its elegant palm trees. There is a Florida scent in the air! For those who love the joys of the beach, the VIP beach club offers, as soon as night falls, a cocktail tasting to the rhythm of its DJ’s turntables. Children are not to be outdone: Kids-club, teen club and even… a football academy are especially dedicated to them! Whatever the age, it is simply impossible to get bored. Be inspired and discover our practical guide to discover every corner of the Algarve with your family.
Mylène, 28 years old, art and travel lover, from Strasbourg, France