Spend 16 days discovering Portugal's rich culture and natural landscapes, starting in the capital, Lisbon. Watch a fado performance, explore the city by tuk-tuk, and cruise the Tagus River before picking up your rental car and driving south to the Algarve. Here, you'll relax on the beach, snorkel in the turquoise waters, and discover coastal villages, then fly to São Miguel Island in the Azores for whale watching, kayaking in a volcanic crater, and relaxing in hot springs.


  • Learn how to cook a traditional Portuguese meal in Lisbon
  • Take a day trip to see Sintra's UNESCO-listed landmarks
  • Discover hidden caves and rock formations on a cruise in the Algarve 
  • Enjoy plenty of free time exploring coastal beaches and villages like Faro
  • Savor an Azorean stew slow-cooked by geothermal heat underground 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lisbon, Tour the Capital on Your Own Lisbon
Day 2 Half-Day Walking Tour, Enjoy Dinner & a Fado Performance Lisbon
Day 3 Tuk-Tuk Tour of Belém, Boat Cruise, Cooking Class  Lisbon
Day 4 Day Trip to Sintra, Explore the Area's Landmarks & Natural Landscapes Lisbon
Day 5 Pick Up Your Rental Car, Drive to the Algarve Algarve
Day 6 Relax on One of the Algarve's Pristine Beaches Algarve
Day 7 Boat Cruise to Ponta da Piedade Algarve
Day 8 Drive to Albufeira, Discover the City's Beaches Algarve
Day 9 Snorkel Tour at Ponta da Piedade, Explore Faro on Your Own Algarve
Day 10 Drive to Tavira, Take a Ferry to Ilha de Tavira Algarve
Day 11 Drive to Portimao, Discover Fortaleza de Santa Catarina Algarve
Day 12 Fly to Ponta Delgada, Explore the Capital of the Azores on Your Own Ponta Delgada
Day 13 Whale Watching Cruise, Ponta Delgada Walking Tour Ponta Delgada
Day 14 Kayak across Lagoa das Sete Cidades Ponta Delgada
Day 15 Drive to Furnas, Relax in the Thermal Waters of Parque Terra Nostra Ponta Delgada
Day 16 Depart Ponta Delgada  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon, Tour the Capital on Your Own

Take the century-old Elevador de Santa Justa up to the Bairro Alto district

Welcome to Portugal's vibrant capital, Lisbon! Meet your driver at the airport for a transfer to your hotel, where you can refresh before venturing out to explore the area on your own. A good place to start is one of the city's miradouros (viewpoints), like Miradouro da Senhora do Monte or Miradouro da Graça, to enjoy panoramic views of the red-tiled rooftops and majestic Tagus River. Continue to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, a museum housed in a former convent, to browse the vast collection of azulejos, intricately decorated ceramic tiles seen on the exterior of many buildings.

Learn about the history of these tiles, depicting historical events, religious scenes, and detailed geometric patterns, and see how they've evolved over the centuries. Then, head to the Elevador de Santa Justa to take the wrought-iron elevator up to the bohemian district of Bairro Alto. On the way up, enjoy views of the cityscape and distant river, then wander along the cobblestone streets lined with eclectic bars and intimate restaurants offering a diverse range of entertainment and culinary experiences to find somewhere for dinner. 

Day 2: Half-Day Walking Tour, Enjoy Dinner & a Fado Performance

Wander down Lisbon's colorful streets on a walking tour

Join your guide for a half-day city tour this morning, starting in Baixa, the bustling downtown district. Stroll along streets lined with quaint shops, cafés, and elegant architecture. Then, continue to Alfama, one of Lisbon's oldest districts, to explore the winding alleys, medieval buildings, and the glittering Tagus River. Transition to the Chiado district, known for its bohemian atmosphere and vibrant cultural scene, to delve into the city's artistic and literary heritage. Enjoy the eclectic mix of boutiques, bookstores, and theaters before ending the tour at the Lisbon Winery.

Rest your feet and unwind as you sip on three boutique Portuguese wines paired with artisanal cheeses in the cozy wine bar. In the evening, immerse yourself in the emotional journey of fado, a traditional music style. Start with an authentic Portuguese meal of dishes like caldo verde, a hearty soup made with kale, potatoes, and chorizo, or amêijoas à bulhão pato, clams cooked in olive oil, garlic, and fresh coriander. After your meal, watch the fadista (singer) take the stage with emotionally charged melodies and heartfelt lyrics to close the night.

Day 3: Tuk-Tuk Tour of Belém, Boat Cruise, Cooking Class 

Set off on a tuk-tuk tour of Belém, Lisbon's historic district

Explore the city in style today as you jump in a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled vehicle, to discover the historic maritime district of Belém. Start in Comércio Square and wind through the charming streets, marveling at iconic landmarks like the UNESCO-listed Jerónimos Monastery. Ask your driver to stop at the renowned Pastéis de Belém to try Portugal's famous dessert, pastel de nata, a layered tart filled with egg custard. Take the treat with you as you drive along the waterfront to your final stop, Torre de Belém, a medieval fortress perched on the banks of the Tagus River.

You'll board a boat from here to gain a new perspective on the city's landmarks, like Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Castelo de São Jorge, and the Sanctuary of Christ the King as you cruise down the river. After exploring the city by land and water, join a hands-on cooking class to learn how to prepare a Portuguese meal like bacalhau à brás, shredded codfish with onions and potatoes, or cataplana de marisco, a fish and seafood stew. When the meal is ready, sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor with a delicious glass of local wine.

Day 4: Day Trip to Sintra, Explore the Area's Landmarks & Natural Landscapes

Explore the colorful, UNESCO-listed National Palace of Pena in Sintra

Leave the city behind for the day as you head 30 minutes northwest to the picturesque town of Sintra with your private driver. When you arrive in town, head straight to the UNESCO-listed National Palace of Pena, a vibrant palace that seamlessly combines Moorish, Gothic, and Manueline architectural styles. Wander through the palace and take in its colorful facade, featuring shades of red, yellow, and blue. Enter to discover the opulent interiors adorned with ornate furnishings, intricate tilework, and impressive artwork, then continue to the surrounding Parque de Pena for a stroll through this botanical wonder.

Admire the towering trees, serene lakes, bubbling fountains, and panoramic views of the palace and the surrounding landscape. Once you've worked up an appetite, head to the Old Town for lunch, where you can try local pastries like travesseiro, a puff pastry filled with sweet almond cream, or queijada, a cupcake-like pastry with a custard filling. Afterward, drive through Sintra Natural Park to stop at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. Look out at the Atlantic Ocean, windswept cliffs, and towering lighthouse before continuing to Guincho Beach, a haven for surfers.

Relax on the golden sand or try surfing or windsurfing if you're adventurous. Then, drive along the scenic Atlantic coast to Cascais, a fishing village turned resort town, to discover the quaint boutiques, colorful buildings, and pristine beaches. As your day comes to a close, your driver will take you back to Lisbon along the coastal route, passing by the town of Estoril and its famous Casino Estoril, one of the largest casinos in Europe. If you're feeling lucky, try your hand at the slots, then take your winnings back to your hotel and relax after an action-packed day.

Day 5: Pick Up Your Rental Car, Drive to the Algarve

Watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean from the village of Sagres

Say goodbye to Lisbon this morning as you pick up your rental car and drive three hours south to the Algarve region, renowned for its pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and turquoise waters. Refresh at the hotel, then venture out to explore the area on your own. Soak up the sun on one of the many beaches along the coast, such as Praia da Falésia, known for its striking red cliffs and golden sands, or Praia do Camilo, a hidden gem near Lagos.

Then, make your way to a seafood restaurant in the village of Sagres in time for dinner. Choose from fish like sardine, Atlantic mackerel, tuna, and the European hake caught that day straight from the Atlantic Ocean, then snapped up at dawn for the best prices by restaurant owners waiting at the docks. While the chef prepares your fish, sit back, relax, and watch the sky transform as the sun sets over the ocean.

Day 6: Relax on One of the Algarve's Pristine Beaches

Soak up the sun on the golden sands of Praia Dona Ana 

Grab your bathing suit as you set off to discover some of the best beaches in the Algarve at your own pace today. With plenty of beaches to choose from, you can relax on one all day or beach hop to a few with your rental car. Perhaps head to Praia Dona Ana in Lagos first, one of the most photographed beaches in the region for its towering rock formations. Follow the wooden staircase down to the beach and take in the dramatic cliffs before lying on the golden sand. When you get hot, go for a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear water or rent snorkel gear to look for colorful fish in the coral.

Next, continue to the nearby Praia do Camilo, nestled in a secluded cove. Dramatic limestone formations surround this less-visited beach, so you can enjoy a relaxing swim or nap in the tranquil environment. End your day at the largest beach in Lagos, Meia Praia. Grab a front-row seat on the soft sand or go for dinner at one of the beachfront restaurants to watch as the sky turns into warm hues of orange and pink over the Atlantic. When darkness falls, return to your hotel or chill out at a trendy lounge bar in the Old Town of Lagos.

Day 7: Boat Cruise to Ponta da Piedade 

Cruise to Ponta da Piedade's towering rock formations and caves

Drive to Marina de Lagos this morning, where you'll jump on a 75-minute boat cruise to Ponta da Piedade, a group of towering rock formations just off the coast. Discover hidden caves, sea-carved arches, and cathedral-like chambers sculpted over centuries as your captain skillfully navigates through the golden cliffs. Stop at one of the most famous sea caves in the area, Benagil Cave, known for its open ceiling that creates a natural skylight, then cruise back while your guide highlights the local secrets, culture, and history of this spectacular coast.

Plan your trip to Portugal
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Back on land, the rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish. You could revisit one of the beaches from yesterday or explore more of the coastline on foot on an 8-mile (12 km) hike down the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, named after the pristine valleys you'll see on the way. Start at Praia da Marinha, following the path up the cliffside, where you'll enjoy far-reaching views of the turquoise waters, limestone cliffs, and dramatic scenery. Take breaks along the way to appreciate the view until you reach the trail's end at Praia do Vale de Centeanes.

Day 8: Drive to Albufeira, Discover the City's Beaches

Relax, swim, and play on Albufeira's golden-sand beaches

Spend another day exploring the beaches of the Algarve, this time around the city of Albufeira. Start at Praia da Oura, a golden-sand beach on the eastern side of town, known for its crystal-clear water and popular with swimmers and water sports enthusiasts. Relax in the sun or rent a Jet Ski if you're feeling adventurous, then visit one of the beachfront restaurants for lunch overlooking the water. Continue to Praia dos Pescadores near the center of the Old Town, which makes it one of the busiest beaches in the city.

Relax on the sand while looking at colorful fishing boats lined up against the backdrop of whitewashed buildings. When the sun begins to set, drive to Praia de São Rafael to see the sky transform from the surrounding limestone cliffs. After watching this natural spectacle, return to the Old Town to wander streets lined with restaurants, bars, and pubs until you find a spot for dinner before returning to your hotel. 

Day 9: Snorkel Tour at Ponta da Piedade, Explore Faro on Your Own

Snorkel around Ponta da Piedade to spot colorful fish and turtles

Get ready for an early wake-up call, as your start time today is 7 am for a two-hour snorkeling tour in the underwater world of Ponta da Piedade. Don your wetsuit, gloves, boots, fins, and mask, then follow your guide down to a secluded bay and dive into the turquoise water. Look out for colorful fish, squid, octopus, and even sea turtles if you're lucky while swimming in and out of caves and between towering rock formations. Take a break on a small, secluded beach, then return to land to dry off. The rest of the day is free to spend as you wish, so you can relax on a nearby beach or drive to the capital of the Algarve, Faro.

If you decide to visit Faro, wander the cobblestone streets of the Old Town to see the historic buildings, charming squares, and local shops. Sit down for lunch in one of the squares or visit Sé de Faro, a 13th-century cathedral that blends Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. Admire the ornate altars, religious artifacts, and intricate azulejos inside, then stroll along the marina for views of the Ria Formosa, a coastal lagoon with brightly colored boats. Enjoy a meal at one of the many cafés and restaurants lining the lagoon waterfront before returning to your hotel for the night.

Day 10: Drive to Tavira, Take a Ferry to Ilha de Tavira

Stroll along the Gilão River waterfront and explore Tavira at your own pace

Today, you'll drive to Tavira, a charming historic town on the gently flowing Gilão River east of Faro. Wander through the Old Town, filled with historic Moorish influences, traditional tiled houses, and picturesque squares, then walk up to the medieval Tavira Castle ruins perched on the hill. Discover the 11th-century castle's well-preserved defensive walls, cisterns, and courtyards, then climb to the top of one of the towers for a clear vantage point of Tavira's red-roofed houses and the river below.

Next, head to the port for a short ferry ride to Ilha de Tavira, an island in the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve. Look out for the flock of pink flamingoes and golden dunes from the ferry. On the island, grab some fresh fish from one of the outdoor restaurants, then rent a lounge chair and relax on the island's main white-sand beach. Afterward, swim in the calm waters or take a long walk along the beach. Then, in the evening, return to the mainland for dinner at one of the riverfront restaurants with outdoor seating overlooking the water.

Day 11: Drive to Portimao, Discover Fortaleza de Santa Catarina

Explore the historic Fortaleza de Santa Catarina in Portimão

Take advantage of your last day in the Algarve today by discovering Portimão, a coastal city on the mouth of the Arade River. Head to Praia da Rocha first to relax on the sands or explore the hidden coves and towering rock formations. When hunger sets in, walk along the promenade and choose one of the many restaurants to enjoy a meal overlooking the ocean. In the afternoon, climb up to the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina, a 17th-century fortress with superb views of the beach you just left.

Admire the bird's-eye view of the golden sand and turquoise waters, then explore the fortress and its well-preserved cannons, stone walls, and military architecture. To learn more about the city's history, visit the Museu de Portimão in a former sardine-canning factory. Browse the artifacts, machinery, and multimedia presentations highlighting this bustling coastal town's maritime and industrial history. End the day with a walk along the Portimão Marina, lined with cafés, shops, and restaurants, to enjoy a delicious dinner.

Day 12: Fly to Ponta Delgada, Explore the Capital of the Azores on Your Own

Spend your first day in the Azores relaxing in the natural hot springs of Caldeira Velha

Bid farewell to the Algarve today as you drive to the airport for your flight to Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores archipelago, on São Miguel Island. Drop off your rental car and head inside to catch the 2.5-hour flight. Upon arrival, pick up your new rental car and drive to your hotel in the city. After refreshing, spend the rest of the day at your leisure. You might like to leave the city behind for a few hours by driving 20 minutes to Caldeira Velha, a natural hot spring nestled in the forest.

When you arrive, wander the tree-lined paths until you find the rejuvenating thermally heated springs, where you can relax and soak for the rest of the day. If you want to explore more, follow the wooden walkways through the subtropical forest to a nearby waterfall you can swim beneath. In the evening, return to your hotel to refresh, then venture out to Praça Gonçalo Velho, the city's central square, for dinner al fresco. Try Azorean dishes like cozido das furnas, a hearty stew made with a mix of meats and vegetables, or lapas, limpets served with garlic butter and lemon. 

Day 13: Whale Watching Cruise, Ponta Delgada Walking Tour

If you visit at the right time of year, you may spot a humpback whale on today's boat cruise

Today's adventure is one you won't soon forget—a half-day boat cruise to spot whales in their natural habitat. Head to the marina, hop aboard, and cruise down the coast, keeping your eyes peeled for the resident sperm whales who frequent the area. Depending on the season, you may also see blue whales, humpback whales, or playful dolphins. Learn about the whales, their behaviors, and the island's conservation efforts from your knowledgeable guide. Then, when your captain finds these majestic creatures, prepare to slow down so everyone can take in the awe-inspiring sight.

After a memorable morning, grab some lunch back on land before a three-hour walking tour of the city. Follow your guide down cobblestone streets, passing colonial-style buildings, historic squares, and ornate churches. Stop at landmarks like the Portas da Cidade, 18th-century archways that mark the entrance to the historic center, and Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, an impressive Baroque church with twin bell towers. When the sun begins to set, head to the waterfront area for a stroll along the boardwalk as you watch the sky transform the ocean into vibrant reds and oranges.

Day 14: Kayak across Lagoa das Sete Cidades

Kayak across Lagoa das Sete Cidades, nestled in a volcanic crater

Get ready for an active adventure today as you drive 30 minutes west to kayak across Lagoa das Sete Cidades, twin lakes—one green and one blue—within the crater of a dormant volcano. Start with a safety briefing and an introduction to kayaking (if you're a beginner), then jump in your vessel and start paddling. Watch for bird species, such as Eurasian coots, common moorhens, and herons, as you glide across the lake's smooth surface past the lush vegetation and high crater rim. 

After spending four hours exploring the lake, continue driving to discover the island's west side. Check out a few viewpoints around the area, like Vista do Rei or Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, for expansive views of the lake and the surrounding landscape. Then, drive to another iconic lake in the area, Lagoa Empadadas. Hike along one of the surrounding trails to immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of this lesser-known gem. In the evening, drive 20 minutes back to Ponta Delgada and find a cozy local tasca (casual bar restaurant) for dinner.

Day 15: Drive to Furnas, Relax in the Thermal Waters of Parque Terra Nostra

Try cozido das furnas, a stew prepared in one of these geothermal steam holes 

Spend your penultimate day in Portugal exploring Furnas, a civil parish nestled in a dormant volcanic crater on the island's southeast side. After the 40-minute drive, unwind in the thermal waters of Parque Terra Nostra, a lush park dating back to the 18th century. Stroll through the verdant pathways, passing ancient trees, colorful azaleas, and curious rabbits. When you reach the center of the park, you'll be greeted by the naturally heated pond surrounded by towering ferns and palm trees. Step into the warm mineral-rich water, which is said to have therapeutic benefits, and relax.

For lunch, sit down at one of the many restaurants in the village that offer cozido das furnas, a slow-cooked stew prepared by burying pots in the geothermal ground for six hours. Afterward, wander the village to visit local shops, cafés, and landmarks, like Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Alegria, a whitewashed church adorned with traditional Azorean tiles and a distinctive bell tower. Step inside to see the ecclesiastical art and decor and learn about the area's rich religious history. In the evening, drive 40 minutes back to your hotel in Ponta Delgada.

Day 16: Depart Ponta Delgada

Spend your last few hours in Ponta Delgada wandering through the Old Town

After spending 16 days exploring Portugal's capital and driving across the Algarve and the Azores, your adventure ends today. If you have time before your flight, visit the Mercado da Graça, a historic market full of fresh produce, cheese, flowers, and traditional Azorean handicrafts, to find some last-minute souvenirs. Then, enjoy one last stroll through the Old Town to see some landmarks you may have missed, like Ponta Delgada City Hall, built in the 17th century. Keep an eye on the clock to return your rental car to the airport in time for your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Portugal Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Portugal? Check out these other Portugal itineraries, explore different ways to spend 16 days in Portugal, or discover the best time to visit Portugal.


Map of Self-Drive Portugal & the Azores: Lisbon, the Algarve & Ponta Delgada - 16 Days
Map of Self-Drive Portugal & the Azores: Lisbon, the Algarve & Ponta Delgada - 16 Days