12 days in portugal

Experience the Charm: Your Ultimate 12 Days in Portugal Guide

Experience the captivating charm of Portugal with our ultimate 12-day travel itinerary. From exploring historic cities to discovering top attractions and indulging in local cuisine, this guide will help you make the most of your time in Portugal.

Portugal, with its rich history and diverse landscapes, offers a plethora of experiences that will leave you enchanted. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a nature lover, this beautiful country has something for everyone.

During your 12-day trip, you’ll have the opportunity to visit iconic destinations such as Porto, Lisbon, and the breathtaking Algarve region. With our carefully curated itinerary, you’ll explore the must-see sights and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Portugal.

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover top attractions and must-see sights in Portugal
  • Explore historic cities like Porto and Lisbon
  • Indulge in the delicious cuisine and local specialties
  • Relax on the stunning beaches of the Algarve
  • Experience the charm and diversity of Portugal in just 12 days

Is 12 Days Enough to Explore Portugal?

Portugal offers a wealth of charm and beauty, making it an enticing destination for a 12-day adventure. But is 12 days enough to truly explore this captivating country? While it may seem like a short timeframe, it is indeed possible to experience the highlights and get a taste of what Portugal has to offer in 12 days.

During your 12-day trip to Portugal, you can explore the major cities and regions, immersing yourself in the rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. While you won’t be able to see everything, you can still create a well-rounded itinerary that covers the top attractions and must-see sights.

Whether you’re visiting Porto’s charming streets, indulging in the culinary delights of Lisbon, or basking in the sun on the beaches of the Algarve, each region offers a unique experience. By carefully planning your itinerary and prioritizing the destinations and activities that appeal to you most, you can make the most of your 12 days in Portugal.

exploring Portugal in 12 days

Region Main Highlights
Porto and the Douro Valley Historic city of Porto, port wine tasting, scenic Douro Valley vineyards
Lisbon and Sintra Vibrant capital city of Lisbon, historic neighborhoods, fairy-tale town of Sintra
The Algarve Beautiful beaches, coastal towns, fresh seafood, picturesque fishing villages

With careful planning and a well-designed itinerary, 12 days can be enough to explore the best of Portugal. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the charm, and embark on an unforgettable adventure in this captivating country.

Getting Around Portugal

When it comes to getting around Portugal, you have several transportation options at your disposal. Portugal has a reliable and extensive transportation network that makes it easy to travel between cities and explore different regions. Whether you prefer public transportation or renting a car, there are plenty of ways to navigate the country and make the most of your 12-day adventure.

If you’re looking for convenience and ease, public transportation is a great choice. Portugal has an efficient train system that connects major cities like Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, and Faro. Trains are comfortable and offer scenic views as you travel through the countryside. Buses are another option for getting around, with frequent routes and affordable fares. Both trains and buses have regular schedules and can take you to popular tourist destinations and off-the-beaten-path gems.

If you prefer the freedom to explore at your own pace, renting a car can be a great option. Having a car allows you to venture into rural areas and discover hidden gems that are not easily accessible by public transportation. It also gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary and explore lesser-known towns and villages. Just keep in mind that parking can be challenging in cities, so it’s advisable to park outside the city center and use public transportation to get around.

Getting around Portugal

Public Transportation Options:

Transportation Type Advantages Disadvantages
Trains Comfortable, scenic views, frequent schedules May be crowded during peak hours, limited access to remote areas
Buses Affordable, regular routes, wide coverage Longer travel times, crowded during peak hours

Tips for Renting a Car:

  • Book in advance to secure the best rates
  • Check the rental company’s policies on fuel, mileage, and insurance
  • Familiarize yourself with Portuguese traffic laws and road signs
  • Consider renting a GPS or using a navigation app for easier navigation

Exploring Portugal is a breeze with its reliable transportation options. Whether you choose to travel by train, bus, or rental car, you’ll have the freedom to immerse yourself in the country’s rich culture and breathtaking landscapes. So pack your bags, plan your itinerary, and get ready for an unforgettable 12-day journey through Portugal.

Starting and Ending Your Trip

When planning your 12-day adventure in Portugal, it’s essential to consider where to start and end your trip. Starting in Porto and ending in Lisbon or Faro is a popular choice that allows for a seamless and efficient travel route. By following this route, you can minimize backtracking and make the most of your time in each destination.

Porto, located in the north of Portugal, is known for its historic charm and famous port wine. As the starting point of your journey, you can explore the colorful buildings, stroll along the Douro River, and savor traditional Portuguese cuisine. From Porto, you can embark on a scenic road trip through the Douro Valley, where vineyards and stunning landscapes await.

Ending your trip in Lisbon or Faro provides a captivating finale to your Portuguese adventure. Lisbon, the capital city, offers a vibrant atmosphere with its charming neighborhoods, historic landmarks, and trendy eateries. Take a day trip from Lisbon to the enchanting town of Sintra, known for its fairytale-like castles and lush gardens.

If you prefer a beachside ending, Faro in the Algarve region is an excellent choice. The Algarve is famous for its picturesque coastal towns, golden beaches, and inviting turquoise waters. Spend your final days relaxing on the sand, exploring hidden coves, and savoring the freshest seafood before bidding farewell to Portugal.

starting and ending your trip in Portugal

Recommended Starting and Ending Points

Starting Point Ending Point
Porto Lisbon
Porto Faro

The Ultimate 12 Days in Portugal Itinerary

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Portugal with this comprehensive 12-day itinerary. Discover the charm, beauty, and rich history of this captivating country as you explore three distinct regions: Porto and the Douro Valley, Lisbon and Sintra, and the Algarve.

Days 1-3: Porto and the Douro Valley

Start your adventure in the vibrant city of Porto, where you’ll be greeted by colorful buildings and a lively atmosphere. Wander through the historic Ribeira district, visit the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, and sample the world-famous port wine at one of the many cellars along the riverfront.

From Porto, venture into the breathtaking Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its terraced vineyards and picturesque landscapes. Explore the wine estates, take a scenic boat ride along the Douro River, and indulge in delicious local cuisine.

Days 4-6: Lisbon and Sintra

Head south to Lisbon, the enchanting capital city of Portugal. Immerse yourself in its rich history by visiting the São Jorge Castle, the historic Alfama district, and the ornate Belém Tower. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a day trip to the fairytale town of Sintra, where you can explore the stunning Pena Palace and the mystical Quinta da Regaleira.

In Lisbon, be sure to wander through the charming neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Alfama, where you can experience the vibrant nightlife and savor traditional Portuguese cuisine in cozy taverns and restaurants.

Days 7-10: The Algarve

Finish your journey in the sun-soaked region of the Algarve, known for its pristine beaches and picturesque coastal towns. Relax on the golden sands of Lagos, explore the stunning cliffs and hidden coves of Ponta da Piedade, and visit the bustling town of Albufeira, renowned for its vibrant nightlife.

Indulge in fresh seafood delicacies at seaside restaurants, try your hand at water sports such as surfing or kayaking, and soak in the tranquility of the Algarve’s natural beauty before returning to either Lisbon or Faro for your departure.

Day Region Highlights
1-3 Porto and the Douro Valley Exploring Porto’s historic city center, wine tasting in the Douro Valley, enjoying panoramic views of the region
4-6 Lisbon and Sintra Visiting iconic landmarks in Lisbon, day trip to Sintra’s palaces and gardens, experiencing the vibrant nightlife
7-10 The Algarve Relaxing on picturesque beaches, exploring coastal towns, indulging in fresh seafood delicacies

Days 1-3: Porto and the Douro Valley

Your 12-day adventure in Portugal begins in the charming city of Porto, renowned for its historic architecture and delicious port wine. Spend the first three days immersing yourself in the rich culture and heritage of this vibrant city.

Start your exploration by taking a vintage car tour of Porto’s picturesque streets, where you’ll discover hidden gems and iconic landmarks. Marvel at the colorful houses along the Ribeira district, stroll across the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, and visit the imposing Porto Cathedral.

No visit to Porto is complete without indulging in the city’s famous port wine. Take a tour of the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, where you’ll learn about the wine-making process and sample different varieties. Don’t forget to raise a glass to your unforgettable journey through Portugal.

For a change of scenery, venture into the stunning Douro Valley. Known for its terraced vineyards and breathtaking landscapes, this wine region offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. Visit local wineries, take a river cruise along the Douro River, and soak in the beauty of the rolling hills covered in vineyards.

Immerse yourself in the captivating charm of Porto and the Douro Valley, and let the beauty and flavors of this region leave a lasting impression on your 12-day adventure in Portugal.

Porto and the Douro Valley

Highlights of Porto and the Douro Valley:

  • Explore the colorful streets of Porto’s Ribeira district
  • Cross the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge for stunning views of the city
  • Visit the historic Porto Cathedral
  • Tour the port wine cellars and sample different varieties
  • Discover the beauty of the Douro Valley’s terraced vineyards
  • Take a river cruise along the Douro River

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Porto and the Douro Valley, and experience the magic of Portugal’s history, culture, and wine.

Days 4-6: Lisbon and Sintra

As you continue your 12-day adventure in Portugal, days 4 to 6 are dedicated to exploring the vibrant city of Lisbon and the enchanting town of Sintra. Start your journey south from Porto and immerse yourself in the rich history, captivating architecture, and charming atmosphere that Lisbon has to offer.

Begin your exploration of Lisbon by visiting the iconic Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Take a stroll through the narrow streets of Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, and discover its hidden corners, colorful tiles, and traditional Fado music.

For a day trip filled with fairytale-like landscapes, venture to the picturesque town of Sintra, located just a short distance from Lisbon. Explore the whimsical Pena Palace, a colorful masterpiece perched on a hilltop, and stroll through the lush gardens of Quinta da Regaleira. Don’t forget to indulge in the local pastries, such as the famous pastéis de Belém, before returning to Lisbon.

“Lisbon is a vibrant city that seamlessly blends history and modernity. From its stunning architecture to its lively street markets, there is something for everyone to enjoy. And just a short trip away, Sintra offers a fairytale escape that will transport you to another world.”

Recommended Activities in Lisbon and Sintra:

  • Visit the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery
  • Explore the narrow streets of Alfama
  • Take a day trip to Sintra and visit the Pena Palace
  • Indulge in local pastries, such as pastéis de Belém
  • Enjoy a traditional Fado music performance

With its historical charm and fairytale allure, Lisbon and Sintra are sure to leave a lasting impression on your 12-day journey through Portugal.

Days 7-10: The Algarve

Continue your 12-day adventure in Portugal with a visit to the stunning region of the Algarve. Known for its picturesque coastline, golden beaches, and charming coastal towns, the Algarve offers a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration.

Start your Algarve experience by heading to the vibrant city of Faro, the gateway to the region. Explore the historic Old Town, wander through its narrow streets, and visit the stunning Faro Cathedral. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants.

From Faro, make your way along the coastline and discover the Algarve’s breathtaking beaches. Whether you’re looking for secluded coves or lively beach resorts, the Algarve has something to offer for everyone. Spend your days lounging on the golden sands, taking refreshing dips in the crystal-clear waters, or trying out exciting water sports.

As you explore the Algarve, make sure to visit the charming towns of Lagos, Albufeira, and Tavira. Each town has its own unique charm and attractions, from historic sites and colorful old quarters to vibrant nightlife and bustling marinas.

Highlights of the Algarve Recommended Duration Notes
Lagos 1-2 days Take a boat tour to see the stunning rock formations of Ponta da Piedade.
Albufeira 1-2 days Enjoy the nightlife in the lively Strip area or relax on the beautiful Praia dos Pescadores.
Tavira 1 day Explore the historic center and visit the picturesque Tavira Island.

Before returning to Lisbon or Faro for your departure, take some time to savor the culinary delights of the Algarve. From fresh seafood to traditional dishes like cataplana and pastel de nata, the local cuisine is sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Exploring the Algarve

The Algarve is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Hike along the scenic cliffs of Cape St. Vincent, explore the Ria Formosa Natural Park, or embark on a boat trip to spot dolphins and explore the hidden caves along the coast.

As you soak in the breathtaking landscapes of the Algarve, take a moment to appreciate the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. Visit the historic castles of Silves and Sagres, wander through the charming streets of Olhão, or delve into the region’s maritime history at the Lagos Maritime Museum.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a mix of both, the Algarve offers a perfect ending to your 12 days in Portugal itinerary. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this coastal paradise and create unforgettable memories as you explore all that the Algarve has to offer.

Additional Time in Portugal

If you have the luxury of additional time during your trip to Portugal, consider extending your stay in one of the captivating regions you’ve already visited or venture out to explore new destinations. Spend a few extra days in Porto, Lisbon, or the Algarve to delve deeper into their unique charms and discover hidden gems that may have been missed during your initial itinerary.

For those who want to continue their exploration of northern Portugal, extending your time in Porto is a great option. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the Ribeira district, wander through the narrow streets of the charming Baixa neighborhood, or take a relaxing boat ride along the Douro River. You can also use this time to explore nearby towns like Guimarães or Braga, known for their rich history and stunning architecture.

If you’re drawn to the vibrant energy of Lisbon, consider staying longer to fully experience everything the city has to offer. Explore the trendy neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Alfama, wander through the historic district of Belém, or take a day trip to the beautiful coastal town of Cascais. Additionally, you can venture to nearby regions such as the Arrábida Natural Park or the historic town of Évora to further enrich your Portuguese adventure.

Alternatively, if you’ve fallen in love with the sun-soaked beaches of the Algarve, why not extend your stay and soak up more of the region’s natural beauty? Spend a few extra days exploring the hidden coves and picturesque fishing villages along the coast. Head to the western Algarve to discover the stunning cliffs of Ponta da Piedade or venture inland to visit charming towns like Silves and Lagos. With additional time, you can truly relax and embrace the laid-back ambiance of this coastal paradise.

Table: Recommended Extensions

Region Suggested Extension
Porto and the Douro Valley Additional days in Guimarães and Braga
Lisbon and Sintra Extra time in nearby regions like Arrábida Natural Park and Évora
The Algarve Extended stay to explore the western Algarve and nearby towns

Less Time in Portugal

If you have limited time to explore Portugal, don’t worry. You can still have a memorable trip in just a few days. Whether you have 5 or 7 days, you can focus on one or two specific regions and make the most of your time.

If you have 5 days, consider spending your time in either Porto and the Douro Valley or Lisbon and the Algarve. Both options offer unique experiences that showcase Portugal’s charm and beauty. In Porto and the Douro Valley, you can visit historic sites, taste delicious port wine, and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of the Douro River. Alternatively, you can explore the vibrant city of Lisbon, take a day trip to the picturesque town of Sintra, and relax on the beautiful beaches of the Algarve.

If you have 7 days, you can combine both Porto and the Douro Valley, as well as Lisbon and the Algarve. This will give you a more comprehensive experience of Portugal, allowing you to explore its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. It’s a perfect balance between sightseeing and relaxation.

Detailed Itinerary for a 5-day Trip:

Day Region Activities
Day 1 Porto and the Douro Valley Explore the historic city of Porto and take a river cruise in the Douro Valley.
Day 2 Porto and the Douro Valley Visit wineries in the Douro Valley and enjoy wine tastings.
Day 3 Lisbon Travel to Lisbon and explore the historic neighborhoods.
Day 4 Lisbon Take a day trip to Sintra and visit the stunning Pena Palace.
Day 5 The Algarve Relax on the beautiful beaches of the Algarve and explore its coastal towns.

With a well-planned itinerary, you can make the most of your shorter trip to Portugal and create unforgettable memories. Be sure to prioritize the attractions and activities that interest you the most, and don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Portugal.

Tips for Traveling in Portugal

When traveling to Portugal, it’s important to keep a few tips in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some valuable travel tips for your journey:

1. Pack for the Weather and Activities

Portugal has a varied climate, so it’s essential to pack accordingly. In the summer months, especially in the Algarve region, you can expect hot temperatures, so pack lightweight and breathable clothing. However, it’s always a good idea to have a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings or visits to the coastal areas.

Additionally, if you plan on exploring the historic sites, comfortable walking shoes are essential, as many areas in Portugal have cobblestone streets or uneven terrain.

2. Use a Mix of Public Transportation and Rent a Car

Portugal has a well-connected transportation network, making it easy to explore the country. Consider using trains or buses for longer distances between cities like Porto, Lisbon, and Faro. Public transportation is affordable and reliable.

However, for more flexibility and to explore areas outside major cities, such as the Douro Valley or remote beaches in the Algarve, renting a car can be a great option. Ensure you have an international driving permit if your license is not in English or Portuguese.

3. Embrace the Local Currency and Payment Methods

In Portugal, the local currency is the Euro (€). It’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller establishments and markets, as some places may not accept cards, especially in rural areas. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in most establishments, so make sure to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage.

When paying with a card, you may be asked to enter a PIN, so ensure you memorize it or have it written down. Contactless payments are also common in Portugal.

4. Respect Portuguese Culture and Etiquette

As a visitor, it’s important to respect the local culture and etiquette in Portugal. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Learn a few basic Portuguese phrases or greetings to show respect and make connections with the locals.
  • Dress modestly when visiting churches or religious sites.
  • Always greet with a handshake or a kiss on both cheeks when meeting someone.
  • Try the local cuisine and enjoy long, leisurely meals as the Portuguese do. Don’t rush through meals or ask for the check immediately after finishing your meal.

By following these cultural norms, you’ll not only show respect but also enhance your overall experience in Portugal.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to embark on your adventure to Portugal. Whether you choose to explore the historic cities, relax on the stunning beaches, or indulge in the local cuisine, Portugal promises a memorable experience.


With 12 days in Portugal, you have the perfect opportunity to explore this enchanting country and create lasting memories. This diverse itinerary takes you from the vibrant city of Porto and the picturesque Douro Valley to the historic charm of Lisbon and the magical town of Sintra. Finally, you’ll get to relax and unwind on the stunning beaches of the Algarve.

Throughout your journey, you’ll experience the rich culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and breathtaking landscapes that Portugal has to offer. Whether you’re sipping port wine in Porto, wandering the narrow streets of Lisbon, or basking in the sun on a golden beach, each day will be filled with adventure and discovery.

So pack your bags, embark on this 12-day itinerary, and embark on an unforgettable journey through Portugal. From the iconic landmarks to the hidden gems, this travel itinerary allows you to make the most of your time and truly immerse yourself in the charm and beauty of this captivating country.


Is 12 days enough to explore Portugal?

While you won’t be able to see everything, 12 days is a good amount of time to explore the major cities and regions of Portugal and experience the highlights of the country.

What is the best way to get around Portugal?

Portugal has a reliable transportation network, including trains, buses, and domestic flights. It is recommended to use a mix of public transportation and renting a car for specific parts of the trip to maximize efficiency.

Where should I start and end my trip in Portugal?

It is recommended to start your trip in Porto and end it in Lisbon or Faro, as this allows for a logical travel route and minimizes backtracking.

What regions does the 12-day itinerary cover?

The itinerary includes three main regions: Porto and the Douro Valley, Lisbon and Sintra, and the Algarve. Each region offers a unique experience and showcases the diversity of Portugal’s landscapes, culture, and cuisine.

What should I do during the first three days in Porto and the Douro Valley?

Spend the first three days exploring the historic city of Porto, taking a vintage car tour, visiting wineries in the Douro Valley, and soaking in the stunning views of the vineyards and river.

What can I do in Lisbon and Sintra?

In Lisbon, you can explore the historic neighborhoods, take a day trip to the fairy-tale town of Sintra, and enjoy the local cuisine and nightlife.

What can I expect during the days spent in the Algarve?

In the Algarve, you can relax on beautiful beaches, explore charming fishing villages, and indulge in fresh seafood before returning to Lisbon or Faro for your departure.

What if I have extra time in Portugal?

If you have additional time, consider adding extra days in Porto, Lisbon, or the Algarve to further explore these regions. You can also venture to other cities like Coimbra, Nazare, or Évora to experience more of Portugal’s rich history and culture.

What if I have less than 12 days in Portugal?

If you have less than 12 days, consider focusing on one or two regions to make the most of your time. You can choose to explore either Porto and the Douro Valley, or Lisbon and the Algarve for a shorter but still memorable trip.

What are some tips for traveling in Portugal?

Some valuable tips for traveling in Portugal include packing essentials, navigating public transportation, understanding currency and payment methods, and familiarizing yourself with cultural etiquette to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Is Portugal a diverse destination?

Yes, Portugal offers a diverse range of experiences, from historic cities to stunning coastlines. With this 12-day itinerary as a guide, you can make the most of your time in Portugal and create unforgettable memories.

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