Two Weeks in Portugal: Our 5 Highlights Itinerary
Two weeks in Portugal is the perfect amount of time to see the best of what Portugal has to offer. If you’re in the process of compiling your own Portugal two week itinerary then you’ve come to the right place!
Aside from retired British expats and sun-seeking families visiting the Algarve, Portugal has been overlooked as a worthy vacation destination by many, we included, for too long. It really shouldn’t be as there are some fantastic highlights that can all be seen during a Portugal two week itinerary. Thankfully the world is starting to take notice!
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Spending two weeks in Portugal will allow for long golden beaches, chilled cobblestoned villages, buzzing cities and mountainous national parks. Portugal borders the Atlantic so you can enjoy national dishes such as salt cod and grilled sardines along the way. We had our fill of sardines on this trip. Not only are they perfectly tasty, they’re also very cheap, and so is the accompanying beer and wine!
We spent two weeks in Portugal last year to explore as much of the country as we could in that time. We flew into the south and worked our way to the north via public transport.
Here are the highlights we recommend for two weeks in Portugal.
1 – Lagos (Algarve)
Our two weeks in Portugal started in Lagos which lies on the southern coast Algarve region. The Algarve has a number of beach towns to choose from but Lagos stood out as being the most appealing. It was also conveniently situated for our onward Portugal two week itinerary route.
Like the rest of the Algarve, the summer months can get very touristy with overcrowded beaches and streets. However, go just outside of peak season, as we did, and you can get the best of both worlds with nice warm days and fewer crowds.
So let’s start with the beaches. Everyone needs a bit of beach time right? Well if it’s beaches you’re after then Lagos will not disappoint. Beaches in Lagos are some of the best in the Algarve and they deserve a good chunk of your two weeks in Portugal.
The largest beach in town is Batata Beach, an impressive 4 kilometre stretch of golden sands along Meia Praia. It’s impressive and pleasingly undeveloped but we didn’t spend much time there as we preferred the smaller cove beaches to the west of the town’s charming historic centre.
As you head west, the beach landscape is in complete contrast to the flat stretch of Batata. Instead, it consists of sandstone cliffs which dramatically jut in and out along the eroding coastline. At the base of these cliffs are numerous secluded beaches of various shapes and sizes. The biggest and most popular of these is Dona Ana Beach with its spectacular rock formations.
You can reach any of these beaches nestled beneath the cliffs along the narrow cliff top footpath. The footpath runs all the way from just outside of town to another of Lagos’ highlights, Ponta Da Piedade. The Ponta Da Piedade consists of naturally weathered cliffs in the forms of unique rock pillars, tunnels, caves and grottos.
Another way of getting to Ponta Da Piedade is via a boat trip or kayak hire. Though if you’re able enough we’d recommend the footpath as it isn’t a particularly challenging walk and the panoramic coastal views are well worth the minimal effort. In fact, the views were some of the best in our two weeks in Portugal. For more cave exploration in the Algarve, check out this post.
Not sure is Lagos is for you? Check out the other best Algarve towns here.
Lagos isn’t just about the gorgeous beaches. It has some impressive historical clout too. The main part of town is enclosed by a 16th-century wall and inside are pretty cobbled streets, narrow lanes, old churches and picturesque plazas. It’s a lovely little town to wander around day or night. Plus located amongst all this history is a great selection of restaurants, cafes, shops and late-night bars.
2 – Vila Nova de Milfontes
From Lagos, we caught a local bus to our next chosen destination of Vila Nova de Milfontes. Just a couple of hours north, it’s one of the most pleasant towns along this stretch of Alentejo region coastline. Vila Nova de Milfontes is low key compared to the Algarve beach towns and is almost undiscovered by foreign tourists. When combined with laid back locals, golden beaches and a charming whitewashed centre, it makes for a very pleasant place to stop for a few days and should be added to everyone’s Portugal two week itinerary.
Vila Nova de Milfontes Beaches
Vila Nova de Milfontes is based at the tail end of a sparkling sand edged estuary. At the mouth, you’ll find glorious beaches on both sides which are popular with both local surfers and families in summer.
If rugged and isolated is your type of beach then head to Praia Do Malhao. You can reach it on foot by following the boardwalk over the sweeping sand dunes from the main road. This beach is particularly popular with surfers due to the high-rolling Atlantic waves so is not a beach for safe swimming but it’s worth the small walk to see its natural windswept beauty.
There’s also plenty of family-friendly waters on the town’s remaining 3 or 4 beaches. You can walk to any of these apart from one particular beach. The journey involves a short ride aboard a sweet little fishing boat across the estuary. It’s worth the extra effort and minimal boat cost as this beach has a huge expanse of soft white sand bookended by dramatic cliffs.
Vila Nova de Milfontes Town Centre
The town center is extremely chilled and not spoilt by mass tourism or development. It almost has a Portuguese village feel to it. There’s a pretty good selection of restaurants to satisfy most appetites and a small handful of bars/cafes for laid back drinks with other tourists and locals.
However, be warned, the restaurants can get full pretty quickly in the evenings due to limited supply. Even post high season in September we one night found ourselves walking from restaurant to restaurant trying to find an available table. It took almost an hour! Book ahead if you can.
Our favourite place to eat was Restaurant a Choupana. Situated right on the beach, it’s the perfect spot for pre-dinner sunset drinks followed by a BBQ feast of fresh Atlantic fish. It’s a bit more expensive than restaurants in the town center but it’s worth it for the view and atmosphere. Definitely in our top three restaurants during our two weeks in Portugal.
We also enjoyed the restaurants in town who mostly provide more BBQ fish and meat grilling action. It doesn’t cost much to fill your stomach in these places so plenty of cash left over for a Super Bok or Sagres beer. At about £1 a bottle it’s pretty easy to get carried away!
The countryside surrounding Vila Nova de Milfontes is also beautiful. Well, it would be since it’s in the middle of Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. The national park is perfect for nature lovers and can be explored by bicycle, car or on foot using the many walking trails including a section of the new Rota Vicentina.
3 – Lisbon
Lisbon was the part of our two weeks in Portugal that we were most looking forward to. Friends and family members had recently visited the city and feedback about the hilly capital were all positive. Our hopes were high!
As soon as we arrived, we loved Lisbon. With its white-domed cathedrals, old castles, grand plazas, gorgeous waterfronts, Romain ruins and cobblestoned lanes, Lisbon is historical eye candy.
Lisbon is a city that combines the new and old perfectly and the ancient streets are frozen in time. Worn paintwork, well-used laundry lines and ancient trams clatter through the streets but inside you’ll find new stylish restaurants, hipster cafes, boutique shops and art galleries.
We stayed in an Air BnB apartment in Lisbon’s historic district of Alfama. We strongly recommend everyone adding a stay in Alfama to their Portugal two week itinerary. It’s a wonderful medieval maze, a village within a city, the historical soul of Lisbon.
Walking through the old residential neighbourhood feels as though you’ve stepped back in time. It’s a photographers paradise with mini-plazas, narrow cobblestoned streets, steep staircases, churches and wrought-iron balconies graced with elderly women hanging washing to dry.
It’s even more atmospheric at night with dimly lit lanterns, cosy low ceiling bars, authentic old restaurants and the welcome sound of live Fado music echoing through the streets and squares. Definitely one of the most romantic neighbourhoods we’ve ever stayed in!
Check out our article on the things to do in Alfama District.
If cool cafes, bohemian bars and cutting edge clubs are more your thing then Barrio Alto is an area of the city you should check out. The grid-like narrow streets are full of them so you’ll be entertained well into the night with Lisbon’s trendy young crowd. Just watch those cocktails! Most of the bars we visited were free pouring spirits so after just a few we were both very drunk. A very cheap night for us!
There are stunning viewpoints all across Lisbon with views of terracotta rooftops and bright blue waters beyond. Our favourite was Largo das Portas do Sol, an undisturbed vista of Alfama from above. While you’re there have a drink at nearby Portas do Sol. A restaurant/bar with a huge terrace that offers an equally stunning outlook.
Lisbon also offers heaps of interesting museums, art galleries, parks and great shopping. Anything any other major city provides but accompanied with a preferred warm climate and historical punch.
For a great guide on things to do in Lisbon, check out this post by The Crazy Tourist.
4 – Porto
Running alongside the River Douro, picturesque Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, is finally getting the tourist attention is deserves. With an international airport, the city is showing up on many people’s Portugal two week itinerary.
Standing on the south bank looking across the river to Porto’s historic Ribeira district, the city looks like the perfect inspiration for an ornate pop-up Christmas card. It’s a painting of ageing terraces full of colour, baroque churches, magnificent beaux-arts structures and soaring bell towers. All cluttered on top of one another. It’s an awesome sight when illuminated by the intense Portuguese sun.
Check out our collection of 30 Porto photos for inspiration on what to do in the city.
A Unesco World Heritage Site
While wandering the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Ribeira district you’ll find confetti-coated newlyweds in front of medieval churches, sun-drenched cafe terraces in village looking squares, locals chatting outside old shop fronts and grand train stations decorated in storytelling blue tiles.
In-between all this historic charm was an amazing number of ruined and decaying 20th-century townhouses. We learned that this is because of the younger population moving to the seaside suburbs for the beach lifestyle. Though things are starting to change for Porto. The locals are moving back in, more tourists are starting to take notice and in turn, many of these decaying buildings are being renovated.
With Porto gaining popularity the city is seeing a new breed of quirky cafes, boutique shops, modern galleries and excellent restaurants.
Let’s not forget that Porto is the birthplace of Port. If you’re spending two weeks is Portugal then sampling Port is a must!
Cross the impressive ironwork showpiece of Dom Luis Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia. The area populated with many wine and port cellars, most of which are open for tasting Porto’s finest tipples. All the big names are there alongside smaller boutique wineries. You can easily spend a day on a Port winery crawl.
5 – The Douro Valley
So where is all that port wine in Porto being produced? Follow the River Douro east and you’ll reach the magnificent Douro Valley. Wine has been made here for 2000 years, making it one of the oldest wine regions in the world!
We’ve not been to many wine regions. The Hunter Valley in Australia and the Andes backdropped Mendoza region in Argentina are a couple. In our opinion, the Douro Valley beats all in terms of natural beauty.
The mountainous region’s vineyards are planted on terraces which creates a beautiful scenery. It brought back memories of terraced rice paddies in South East Asia and the rolling tea plantations of Munnar in India.
Our two weeks in Portugal were in September which is the Douro Valley’s harvest season. The colours aren’t as impressive as earlier in the year but the vineyards hang heavy with juicy ripe grapes ready for picking and the hills were full of grape production activity.
Getting to the Douro Valley
Getting to and from the Douro Valley is half the fun as can be done by train, road or boat. All of which follow the river to offer some fantastic views along the way. You can visit the area as a day trip from Porto but we recommend staying a few nights as we did. There’s plenty of time to fit it in your Portugal two week itinerary.
Check out our guide to the Douro Valley here!
Staying in Pinhao
We chose to stay in Pinhao, a lovely little town to base yourself. From Pinhao you can explore the vineyards and everything else the Douro Valley has to offer. The town is quiet, relaxed and not too touristy. Well not in September anyway. Though the town does take the siesta tradition pretty seriously, leaving clueless travellers like us roaming the streets in search of somewhere open to eat.
We don’t always recommend where we choose to rest our heads at night. However, we cannot write this post without mentioning Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros. The romantic stately manor house perched on the mountainside is one of the best accommodations we have ever stayed at. 100% the best during our two weeks in Portugal. The place offers some of the best views in the area so it’s worth paying extra for a balcony room.
If you’re looking for relaxation then there is no need to leave this guesthouse. Enjoy the sauna, pool and jacuzzi, all of which overlook the rolling mountains. Eat amazing home cooked food and help yourself to the unlimited supply of wine. Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros isn’t for the budget traveller but if you wish to treat yourself during your two weeks in Portugal then book this place now!