Lisbon

10 days in Portugal – how to plan your dream Portugal vacation

The beaches of the Algarve may be well known – and still must-visit places to see in Portugal – but beyond their sands, you’ll also find picturesque villages, scintillating cities, and a rich cultural life that’s also shockingly good value for money. So how does 10 days in Portugal sound?

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Photo: Patrick Robert Doyle

Being gay in Portugal

The Portuguese are vociferously proud of their country’s positive attitudes towards sexuality and gender, with marriage and adoption open to all, and legal changes in gender also relatively simple, making them some of the most progressive laws in the world. LGBT+ travellers heading out on a 10 day Portugal itinerary should, therefore, find no issue with being flag-waving out and proud while visiting.

Best time of year to visit Portugal

Portugal’s weather is perfect for stripping off on the beach, with long hours of sunshine and mild temperatures, from late April right through to the end of October. July and August see the highest temperatures, and biggest crowds, particularly in the Algarve, although even then it’s not a massively complicated endeavour to find a quiet village away from the hubbub.

Palace of Estoi | Photo: David Mark

How to get to Portugal

The vast majority of visitors heading on trips to Portugal will arrive by air, with the international airports at Lisbon, Porto, and Faro all well served by European airlines with connections further afield. There are no direct international trains to Portugal, though it’s very simple to drive across from Spain thanks to the European Union’s principle of freedom of movement – there aren’t even any routine immigration checks.

How to get around Portugal

Portugal is a small country, and travel distances are never great. Having said that, driving remains the best way of getting around in a limited amount of time, and excluding Porto, parking tends to be either free or an insignificant sum of money, which counters the need to pay tolls on most of the major road network.

If you don’t drive, trains connect all the major cities in Portugal and buses pretty much everywhere in between, though you’ll have to do some careful scanning of timetables to minimise your time spent waiting.

Photo: Elio Santos

Photo: Maxine Ficheux

Food and drink in Portugal

Given the country’s expansive Atlantic coast, the seafood in Portugal is unbeatable, with local pork dishes coming in a close second. Most restaurants will bring some tapas-style light bites to your table while you scan their menus. It’s standard practice for these to be added to your bill, so if you don’t fancy them, leave them untouched, or simply wave them away. Unlike elsewhere in the world, the house wine is generally of a standard that means you don’t need to opt for a named bottle instead, while local beers and spirits are understandably cheaper than international imports and of equal quality.

Taking care while in Portugal

Portugal is incredibly safe, however, there are a couple of natural phenomena you should be aware of. Firstly, the waves that roll ashore can be surprisingly forceful, having little to stop the momentum between the US east coast and Portugal. It makes the country popular with surfers, but means you should take extra care, especially when travelling with children.

Secondly, Portugal is not immune from the threat of wildfires. In big cities you’ll be absolutely fine, but should you be planning to get out into the countryside, be sure to known local conditions, avoid using naked flames, and stub out cigarettes carefully.

Palácio da Pena, Sintra | Photo: Katia De Juan

Portugal 10 days itinerary

Our recommended Portugal travel itinerary has been carefully curated to include the best of Portugal, combining coastal living, city highlights, and strolls in the countryside. Possible in either direction, we’ve started in the Algarve, before heading to Lisbon, and then Porto, with day trips from both ensuring an unforgettable time.

Days 1 to 4 - The Algarve

More than just the Portugal of the package holiday brochures, Portugal’s far south is awash with excellent sandy coves backed by attractive sheer cliffs, championship-quality golf courses, and less developed inland regions for those seeking out an off the beaten track adventure of southern Mediterranean scrub and traditional villages unchanged by time. Spend your days in the Algarve beach hopping towards the quieter sands of Cape St Vincent to check out all the things to do on the Costa Vicentina, and the nights in and around the huge choice of restaurants and nightspots of Faro.

Algarve | Photo: Humphrey Muleba

Days 5 to 7 - Lisbon, Sintra, and Cascais

Drive around three hours north along the coast and you’ll reach Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. The general air of faded grandeur and the melancholic sounds of the region’s Fado music mask a confident and youthful city which can be explored to the max with the help of Mr Hudson’s Lisbon Travel Guide. Above all else, be sure to check out the capital’s extraordinarily authentic food scene, a hidden gem that’s ripe for exploration, by discovering spice route flavours in Lisbon.

No Portugal itinerary should exclude the day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, a fairy-tale town of colourful turreted castle walls thanks to the Palacio da Pena, Michelin-starred restaurants, and peaceful parkland once a favourite escape for the Portuguese royal family.

Slightly further south, your Portugal vacation continues the next day at Cascais, a once quiet fishermen’s village of small alleyways lying on the coast close to mainland Europe’s westernmost point, Cabo da Roca. Be sure not to miss a stroll or cycle along the seafront promenade before heading into the wonderful old town.

Lisbon | Photo: Sander Lenaerts

Cascais | Photo: Carlos Correia

Days 8 to 10 - Porto, Aveiro, Nazaré, Peniche, Baleal and the Douro Valley

Portugal’s beguiling second city completes your journey north. With a heart enclosed within centuries-old walls, it’s a walkable city which hides its vast array of attractions in plain sight – be that a quaint church or family-run winery – all the better given the sometimes-steep inclines you’ll have to do battle with for the best views. Our Porto Travel Guide has all you need to know.

It would be easy to spend a full three days amid the delights of Porto and its people, however, should you want to get out of the city there are a number of nearby places to visit in Portugal. Sometimes called the ‘Venice of Portugal’, Aveiro has its very own form of gondola, the barcos moliceiros, from which to explore its network of canals, while Nazaré is the best known of several surfing hotspots that include Peniche and Baleal. Finally, there’s no hiding the fact that Porto is famed for its wines, which can be sampled in exquisite surrounds in the nearby Douro Valley.

Porto | Photo: Nick Karvounis

Planning your Portugal itinerary 10 days trip the easy way

If you hate the idea of having to plan where to go in Portugal yourself, juggling flights, hotels, and everything in between, why not let someone else do that for you? Mr Hudson’s Trip Design service can create an itinerary to your personalised specifications of holiday type and budget in just a few days and a lot less hassle!

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