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, a road trip is synonymous with freedom and adventure. Far from being reserved for solo adventurers, this kind of 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 center to south: a road trip in 5 stages
Everyone is ready? Let’s go for a 900-kilometre circuit to discover Portugal. From Lisbon to Sao Lourenco, through the city and the ocean to end up in the Portuguese countryside, all in about twenty days!
Day 1 to 4: FROM LISBON TO SANTA CRUZ, HISTORICAL DISCOVERIES AND IDLENESS
As a starting point for these superb and atypical holidays, we chose the capital of the country: Lisbon. But wait! If Lisbon is the ideal starting point when arriving in Portugal by plane, our itinerary plans to leave it directly to reach a first real stop of choice. Don’t worry, you’ll have the opportunity to discover Lisbon in a few days! If you arrive by car from France or Spain, drive directly to Torres Vedras.
Once in Torres Vedras, discover the exciting history of this city, which played a key role in the attempted invasion of Napoleon’s French troops. Visit the Torres Vedras Castle, located in the heart of the city. To discover the weapons and uniforms of the period, visit the Torres Vedras Municipal Museum. After all these visits, wander through the typical little streets of the city to soak up the Portuguese air.
Fans of the Mesozoic era will not hesitate to visit Dino Parque, a theme park which, as its name suggests, is dedicated to the discovery of the great dinosaurs. It is the largest outdoor museum in Portugal and is considered one of the best activities around Lisbon! Here you will have the chance to discover more than 180 life-size models of dinosaurs, as you wander along the 4 paths representing the 4 great periods in the history of the evolution of life on Earth. Numerous exhibitions are organised throughout the year, fun guaranteed for the whole family!
Finally, don’t miss Santa Cruz, this adorable and traditional port city that guarantees both small and large families an exceptional experience combining beaches, nature, discovery and outdoor sports.
The Noah Surf House is, in our opinion, the ideal place to start your dream holiday. Located in the heart of Santa Cruz, which we mentioned earlier, the hotel blends perfectly into the surrounding seascape. Two architects have taken on the mission of transforming this former summer camp into a top-of-the-range hotel complex dedicated to relaxation but also (and above all) to surfing and other sport activities. Young and old alike can enjoy surfing or skateboarding lessons (the hotel has its own skatepark!), cooking or creative workshops, and even yoga or pilates classes. Finally, it is impossible to miss the exceptional infinity pool and the fantastic view of the sea.
Day 5 to 10: From santa cruz 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 porches, 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? 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 you can, take the road along the west coast, you won’t regret it. 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
After these impressive but tiring long walks, 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!
A 40-minute drive from Porches is the city of Lagos, which has a beautiful historic centre and a great beach with plenty to do. Cruises, beaches, majestic cliffs, water sports or diving, there is something for all tastes.
The Villa Vita Parc Resort & Spa ***** welcomes you in an exceptional setting, between rocky coast, sandy beach and romantic bay. The hotel offers a multitude of rooms, suites and villas in a chic and timeless atmosphere as well as incredible facilities. The infinity swimming pool and the paddling pool surrounded by swings are a must in the typical warmth of the Algarve region. The hotel even offers direct access to a pretty little cove that is protected from the wind. As for the children, they don’t know where to start, as the activities organised by the various kids-clubs are so numerous and varied!
Day 15 to 17: From porches 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.
Day 18 to 20: From Vilamoura to SAO LOURENCO DO BARROCAL, BUCOLIC SETTING AND VINEYARDS
To close this remarkable epic and after visiting towns and seaside resorts, let us now turn to the charming Portuguese countryside.
Why not mark the occasion by boarding a hot-air balloon and flying over the magnificent landscapes of Monsaraz? You will be able to see beautiful flowered paths and a multitude of birds. From 6 years old, children (from 1m20 minimum) are welcome aboard for this unforgettable experience!
Speaking of birds, if you are particularly interested in ornithology, you can embark on a 3-hour mini safari with an expert guide from Portugal Birds&Trails, and discover the species of the Alentejo region such as the crane, the bustard, the black-crowned magpie, the elegant goldfinch and the hoopoe.
Treat yourself to an ethnobotanical walk to discover medicinal, aromatic or edible plants. Take out your botanist’s notebooks to record the species you come across during your walk along a 7-kilometre-long trail.
For all these activities, please ask the staff of the Sao Lourenço do Barrocal for more information, they will be more than happy to help you organise these unforgettable outings.
Welcome to the Sao Lourenço do Barrocal *****, a small paradise of natural heritage located between the medieval hill of Monsaraz and Lake Alqueva. This large family estate offers rooms, suites and cottages in a warm and bucolic atmosphere. Dozens of original activities are offered to the children, such as painting workshops using natural products or pottery workshops and treasure hunts, while parents do not hesitate to visit the surrounding vineyards. The swimming pool and its deckchairs are there for those who need a last moment of relaxation before going back home.
Have a wonderful trip!
Mylène, 28 years old, art and travel lover, from Strasbourg, France