Exploring Portugal by Car

Playa  Carvoeiro , Algarve - Portugal
Playa Carvoeiro , Algarve - Portugal

Driving around Portugal is undeniably one of the best ways in which to appreciate the country. But visiting motorists should come prepared for the occasional terrifying moment behind the wheel as the driving of local Portuguese can sometimes be downright dangerous.

High accident rates from speeding and reckless driving have prompted the authorities to come down hard on those who break the rules. This means that it is essential for those who are planning to see the country by car to brush up on the local regulations before setting off.

Lisbon is the usual starting point for most motoring tours of Portugal, but the driving seat is not the best place from which to experience everything the capital has to offer. This is one place where you should put your keys in your pocket and a stroll around the magnificent architecture, enjoy a seafood lunch in a pavement-side restaurant, and sample the drinks and live music in the establishments of the Bairro Alto or a night in one of the capital’s many marvellous hotels.

Once you’ve had your fill of Portugal’s star attraction, consider concentrating on the Algarve, in the south of the country. This is the place for those looking for beaches, or who only have a short time to explore this magnificent country. Less than an hour from the bustle of the capital by car is the town of Sintra, which is surrounded by tree-covered hills, and not far from here is the ancient village of Evora. Visit Portugal in August and you might catch the Sudoeste festival which takes place between Lisbon and the Algarve in early August.

On the south coast are the cities of Lagos and Sagres, which face out onto the Atlantic Ocean. There are some stunning coastal views to take in here as well as a great many secluded, and not so secluded, beaches. It is worth taking a break from driving as often as possible to sample the local, ever so fresh seafood.

If beaches and golf courses aren’t really your thing, then away from the resorts of the coast is the peaceful town of Monchique, where the air is fresh and the hills are wooded. A drive under the canopy of the Foia Forest really is a joy.

The Douro Valley is another area not to be missed while exploring the country by car. Located in the north of the country, the valley has been designated a national park and has some stunning, barely inhabited landscape to travel through. It also has some extremely good vineyards, and it might be worth ditching the car for a day to go sampling the local wine and port.

Because Portugal is a relatively small country, travelling around by car is not the daunting task it appears to be in some of its European neighbours. It also only has a population of 11 million, meaning that it does not take long to escape the crowds of the cities and get out into the relatively deserted countryside.

However, there are still places where visitors congregate in order to let their hair down and have a good time, and there are plenty of historical and cultural sights to explore. The weather can be fabulous and the beaches can be a distraction. Just remember to be aware of other less attentive motorists on the roads.

John wrote this guest post on behalf of Alamo who provide car hire Faro and across Portugal.

5 Amazing Spots for Rural Tourism in Europe

Do you ever feel as though you could use an escapade? A chance to get away from your busy routine… and spend time in a relaxed environment? Then rural tourism is an option you should consider. You can easily find vacation houses for rental in quiet villages where time stands still.

And it can be rather inexpensive, comparatively to conventional urban tourism. If you don’t know quite where to get started, this article highlights five of the coziest spots for rural tourism in Europe.

1 – Campo do Geres, Portugal: You might have heard of the Portuguese natural reserve called the Geres, and there’s good reason why. With luxurious vegetation, unique wildlife and pristine water fountains, it’s one of the best natural spots in the country to get in touch with nature. Campo do Geres is one of the least touristic villages in the area, and it’s where you should go if you’re serious about staying away from the crowd.

2 – Orgiva, Spain: If you’re looking to spend some time in a pretty house nestled in idyllic settings which aren’t entirely reclusive or detached from civilization, Orgiva may be the thing for you. This charming municipality is located in a depression between two mountain ranges (Sierra Nevada and Sierra de Lujar), and it’s usually regarded as a gateway for travelers looking to spend some time exploring those high grounds.

3 – Midi-Pyrénées, France: Roughly translated as the “middle of the Pyrenees”, this area provides a good showcase of all the charms available from rural tourism. You can find inexpensive holiday houses with breathtaking mountain views, or you can look for accommodation in picturesque villages next to the region’s main walking trails. One thing is for sure, you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with this mythic mountain range.

4 – Tuscany, Italy:
Not only is this widely known as one of the most exquisite and beautiful natural regions of Italy, but its strategic location also lends quite well to rural tourism. By looking for farmhouse accommodation or cottage in this area, you will be immersed upon extensive vineyards and olive groves, and at half-hour’s drive from urban hubs such as Florence, Siena and Pienza.

5 – Smolyan, Bulgary: For anyone who’s determined to walk away from the touristic hubs, this is probably one of the most beautiful and romantic options. Bulgaria is not one of the most popular destinations for rural tourism, but it’s certainly one of the prettiest and most untamed. You can easily rent a house in Bulgarian villages where it feels as though the XXI never came by. If that’s something you find intriguing, you should look into this secluded European country.

Do some of these locations sound intriguing to you? Rural tourism is a great opportunity to explore natural settings across different countries, and besides relaxing it can be very inexpensive, since it’s all about looking for the road less traveled.

This guest post was written by Nextor, a group of travel specialists who focus on UK holiday destinations and beyond. Come visit our website, when planning ahead your vacations!