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Where to drive in Portugal | Penguin Car Hire

This sunny Mediterranean country has been a favourite holiday destination since the advent of affordable air travel in the 1960s. Many visitors’ first introduction to Portugal is via the golden beaches of the Algarve, in the south, while cities such as western capital Lisbon and Porto, in the north, regularly top lists of the best European holiday destinations.  Then there are the vineyards of the Douro Valley – the world’s oldest wine region - and the wild beauty of the Azores islands. With so much to see, it’s no wonder many travellers opt to hire a car to get around. Driving in Portugal is straightforward, with good roads and a comprehensive highway network.



Faro is the most popular airport for holidaymakers headed for the resorts of the Algarve. A short hop from Faro city centre, it’s served by most of the major car rental companies. Make a bolt for the beach or hit the road to see the sights. It’s possible to see much of this stunning region in a few days by travelling its southern coastline. The EN25 runs all the way to Europe’s most southwesterly point, the village of Sagres – known by the Romans as the end of the world. You’ll travel past the resort towns of Quartiera, Albufeira and Lagos, as well as some pretty coastal villages.


If you’re flying in for a city break you’ll likely land in capital Lisbon, with its old trams and hillside views. It’s a charming city packed with weighty modern art galleries, buzzy restaurants, historic sights and busy street markets. Many visitors never feel the need to go further than the city walls. But if you’ve got the time, Lisbon also makes a good base from which to explore Portugal further.


The journey to second city Porto, which sits on the Douro River in the north, takes under three hours. And Porto, currently enjoying a revival of popularity thanks to its impressive cultural offering, is well worth a visit. Here you’ll find Michelin-starred restaurants alongside traditional seafood and tapas eateries, modern art galleries and backstreet tile shops, plus enough wine bars to keep your thirst quenched for days.


If you want to learn a little more about what you’re drinking, it’s a short drive to the vineyards and wineries of the Douro Valley. Portugal is most famous for port, of course, but a trip to top destinations including Quinta do Panascal and Quinta do Seixo will act as introduction to the true range of wine made here.


Driving in the Azores islands may not be for everyone – roads are narrow and not always in the best condition – but those up for the challenge will be rewarded by some of Portugal’s most spectacular scenery. Ferry operator Atlanticoline runs all of the ferries from the mainland to the nine islands in the archipelago – the fastest runs from Porto – but cars are only allowed on certain routes so check in advance. Sao Miguel is the largest and most popular of the islands while Terceira is probably the most picturesque. The best beaches are to be found in Santa Maria, the most southerly of the islands, and the Formigas Islets offer great surfing.


Fantasising about your trip to Portugal? Get your car hire sorted in advance for the best deals.