Portugal is a destination that lends itself to all types of travel: road trips, solo, as a couple, with family or friends!
Portugal: the best places to see
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, the gateway to the Douro Valley and the capital of… Port, a dessert wine. The city has plenty of choices for tasting ports wine or visiting factories.
Then, for those who love hiking, it is also possible to start the pilgrimage to Compostela from Porto.
Finally, the sunset views over the Douro River are a great panorama of the city.
Most of Portugal‘s Port and wine are produced in this mountainous region. The vineyards are located at the top of the valley, allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views while sipping your drink.
Ideally, it is best to rent a car to travel through this region of Portugal to discover as many vineyards as you want and at the pace that suits you.
On the other hand, multiple organized tours are available on Viator to explore the Douro Valley; most include visits to 2 or 3 wineries. You won’t have to limit your alcohol consumption since you have a driver!
This small village near Porto has great importance in the foundation of Portugal. It was here that the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, was born.
The historical sites are well preserved, including the Palace of Guimarães, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and the old town.
Located south of Porto, the tourist city of Aveiro is an ideal location for a getaway from Porto or on the itinerary of a road trip in Portugal.
Aveiro is best known for its canals, colourful boats, and architecture.
The Praia da Nazaré extends for several kilometres and is one of the best beaches on the coast; this beach is sheltered from the currents and winds coming from the Atlantic Ocean. So it’s a great place to relax and for a family vacation.
On the other hand, in winter, the waves of Nazaré will satisfy the surfers. You can see waves as high as 30 meters forming in this small corner of Portugal!
The small town of Sintra is located in the hills, not too far from Lisbon. You can discover splendid castles through its pine forest and transport yourself into a fairy tale.
Sintra’s abundance of historical sites and beautiful scenery make it one of the most popular attractions in Portugal. In addition, a trip to Sintra is easily accomplished from Lisbon’s Rossio train station.
it is best to stay for a few days to get a feel for the place as there are so many palaces and mansions to visit that
- Palacio Nacional da Pena
- Palacio Nacional de Sintra
- Quinta da Regaleira
- Castelo dos Mouros
- Palace of Monserrate
Lisbon has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years as the cost of living is very affordable, and it is a great place to live!
The capital of Portugal is a beautiful place with many museums, historical buildings, restaurants and cafes where you can taste pastéis de Nata. Moreover, the views are magnificent.
In addition to the city of Lisbon itself, a short trip to Belém is a must! For food lovers, Portugal’s pastéis de Nata originally come from Belém.
To know what to do and what to visit in Lisbon on your first visit, read this detailed guide:
In Portugal’s south, you’ll find the city of Évora, which is part of UNESCO Heritage. Évora is a destination for history lovers; unlike Lisbon, Évora was spared the great earthquake of 1755, and has a more authentic appearance.
Within its walls, we can observe a picturesque landscape with numerous public squares, Gothic art, Renaissance palaces and… a macabre chapel covered with human skeletons!
Although the beach of Nazaré is lovely, it is not comparable to what you can find in the Algarve. The choice of beaches is enormous for beach hopping.
This region of Portugal is beautiful! The weather is perfect, the landscapes are unrealistic, and the villages are charming.
Faro and Lagos are important historical and cultural centers of the region. These are excellent bases to discover the Algarve.
Organize your trip to Portugal
How to prepare for your trip to Portugal?
Before leaving, nothing is better than being equipped with addresses, recommendations from friends, books, sites, and forums. As always, excellent books to read on the Ulysses Guides to Portugal website, available in PDF version too:
When to visit?
Portugal is a beautiful destination to discover at any time. The best time to visit Portugal, taking advantage of the pleasant climate and the low tourist traffic, is in spring and autumn, i.e:
- mid-March to early June
- from September to November
The summer can be so hot in Portugal, and the number of visitors soars as it is a trendy country for budget travel compared to other European destinations.
How much time is required to visit?
I did a one-week itinerary between Porto and Faro. However, it is a long road (about 2,000 kilometres through the Douro Valley).
If, like me, you only have a week: focus on one or two regions when visiting Portugal. Like:
- Major Cities: Porto + Lisbon
- Wine Route: Porto + Douro Valley
- Southern landscapes: Lisbon + Algarve
How to get to Portugal?
There are several options with Aeroplan to get to Portugal from Canada, including Air Canada and TAP.
If you are flying from Montreal, the advantage is that a flight with an airline partner such as TAP to Lisbon or Porto is included in the first Aeroplan fare band:
- 35,000 one-way economy points
- 60,000 one-way points in business class
You could even stop in one city and leave in another (adding 5,000 Aeroplan points).
A Montreal-Lisbon-Porto-Montreal flight would cost 75,000 Aeroplan points in Economy Class.
- Segment #1: Montreal – Lisbon (stop) – Porto (destination)
- Segment #2: Porto – Montreal
With Air Canada, the fare varies according to the market. On the other hand, choosing a flight operated by Air Canada can be a significant advantage for families: you can benefit from a free checked bag for you and eight people on the same reservation! Under the Condition, of course, to be an Aeroplan credit card holder.
If you plan to use your Aeroplan points to travel on TAP, calculate your points’ value.
TAP often offers excellent prices between Montreal and Lisbon. It is not uncommon to see a round-trip ticket for $500-600. Therefore, it is preferable to apply travel points on your reservation (see next section) rather than using Aeroplan points.
With airfares to Portugal often attractive, it is very convenient to have a bank of points that can be applied to travel purchases, such as the NBC Reward Travel Points from National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard®.
When booking airfare on the NBC Rewards à la carte portal, you can use your NBC Rewards points directly on the flight purchase at 10,000 points per $100. This is the best redemption rate for these points.
How to get around in Portugal?
A trip to Portugal is very well done with public transport, to get from one city to another with the train and bus network.
You can pay for bus and train tickets with a credit card. So, if you use a no-conversion-fee credit card like the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® you can save the 2.5% foreign currency fee. Then, unlike cash payments, collecting points on these purchases will be possible!
Within the cities, it is usually possible to explore all the sights on foot, with public transportation or by streetcar!
The major cities of Lisbon and Porto can be seen easily without renting a car.
However, I recommend renting a car to explore certain parts of Portugal, especially if you are travelling with your family.
To pay off the bill for a car rental in Portugal, you can collect a lot of TD Rewards points with the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card without much effort and make your reservation on Expedia for TD.
You’ll have many choices; the prices are pretty competitive. Finally, you can use your TD Rewards points optimally on this platform.
Where to stay in Portugal?
There are plenty of reasonably priced hotels on sites like Agoda or Booking.com in Portugal. As this is a trendy country, demand will dictate accommodation rates. So, expect to pay a little more during the peak of the summer; check out the youth hostels; there are sometimes excellent prices for private rooms!
However, it is not uncommon to find bargains for hotel rooms throughout Portugal in the spring and fall.
If you want to spend your summer in Portugal, looking at VRBO’s house rentals would be interesting.
Indeed, life in Portugal is lovely for its temperature and gastronomy! You won’t get tired of pastéis de Nata and seafood!
The prices of apartments on Airbnb in Portugal are affordable.
Families will also be pleased to know that there are plenty of Airbnb accommodation options in Portugal. Indeed, this country is an excellent destination for young children and having a kitchen and the opportunity to do your laundry is very convenient.
Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
Finally, many hotels cost less than 35,000 points, while the cash rate can be more expensive. Thus, you can use free night certificates. These are the annual benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card or the American Express® Marriott BonvoyTM Corporate Card.
So, if you play your cards right, you can stay at expensive hotels for less money with certificates.