The 5 Best Fatima Tours from Lisbon, Portugal – [2021 Reviews]

If you’re a devout Catholic, or you’re simply curious, a pilgrimage to Fatima from Lisbon is a must when you visit Portugal. This holy site marks the location where Our Lady of Fatima appeared to 3 young children who were working as shepherds.

During these holy apparitions, the children learned 3 important secrets and the date of a miracle to come. These apparitions occurred on multiple occasions from the spring of 1916 onward culminating in an internationally famous miracle witnessed by approximately 70,000 people in October 1917.

Fortunately, there are many organized Fatima tours from Lisbon that will take you to visit the key locations around this holy site and provide an expert local guide to answer all your questions about the Miracle of the Sun, the Three Secrets, and the 3 children blessed by these miraculous events.

However, each of these tours offers different features. If you are not sure which Lisbon Fatima pilgrimage is best for you and your family, check out our reviews of the 5 top-rated Lisbon Fatima trips in Portugal.

Best Fatima Tours from Lisbon, Portugal

 From Fátima: Private Tour with a Local GuideFrom Lisbon: Fátima, Batalha, Nazaré, and Óbidos TourFrom Lisbon: Best of Fátima Half-Day Tour
editors-choice
Departure PointHotel pick-upHotel pick-upHotel pick-up
Departure Time9:00 AM, 2:30 PM9:00 AM8:00 AM
Duration4 hours4 hours5 hours
IncludesExpert local tour guide, guided tours around Fatima, air-conditioned transportation, insurance, and bottled waterLocal tour guide, Fatima tour, Batalha Monastery, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare, Obidos walled city, air-conditioned transportation, sample local liquor, and optional lunchLocal tour guide, small group guided tours around Fatima, air-conditioned transportation, and insurance

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Fatima Tours from Lisbon, Portugal

  1. From Fátima: Private Tour with a Local Guide
  2. From Lisbon: Fátima, Batalha, Nazaré, and Óbidos Tour
  3. From Lisbon: Best of Fátima Half-Day Tour
  4. From Lisbon: Fátima and Sintra Private Tour
  5. From Lisbon: Half-Day Fátima Tour

We have reviewed the top rated Fatima Tours, providing overviews and highlighting the details of each. We also make recommendations on staying in Lisbon, Portugal in our guide section.


Best Fatima Tours from Lisbon, Portugal Reviews

 

#1. From Fátima: Private Tour with a Local Guide


Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick-up
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM, 2:30 PM
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Includes: Expert local tour guide, guided tours around Fatima, air-conditioned transportation, insurance, and bottled water
This is the best Fatima tour for pilgrims who wish to focus on the miraculous events that occurred around Fatima during 1916 and 1917. You will hear an expert speak about all the facts related to the 3 blessed children, the holy apparitions they experienced, and the miracles that occurred. The guide even knows surviving family members of the children. Previous tour participants report meeting with Lucia’s 98-year-old niece during their Fatima pilgrimage.

During this Fatima trip, you will learn the full story of the apparitions experienced between 1916 and 1917 and enjoy a private guided tour of the Sanctuary of Fatima. You will visit locations where Our Lady of Fatima appeared and hear the full details about what happened during these visitations.

To aid you in understanding the complete story from beginning to end, you will tour around Aljustrel, a hamlet on the outskirts of Fatima. There you will find the church where the children were baptized and their childhood homes. You will enjoy the privilege of walking across the ground in Valinhos (a sacred site just outside of Fatima) where the 1st and 3rd Angel of Peace apparitions and the 4th apparition occurred.

In the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, you can pay your respects at Lucia’s, Francisco’s, and Jacinta’s tombs. You can also admire the recently consecrated Basilica of the Holy Trinity, completed in 2007 in celebration of the miracle’s 90th anniversary.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#2. From Lisbon: Fátima, Batalha, Nazaré, and Óbidos Tour

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick-up
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Includes: Local tour guide, Fatima tour, Batalha Monastery, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare, Obidos walled city, air-conditioned transportation, sample local liquor, and optional lunch
This is the best Fatima excursion from Lisbon for visitors who are interested in learning about the broader religious and secular history of this region of Portugal. As well as visiting the sacred sites of several Marian apparitions, you also visit a monastery church where members of the Aviz royal dynasty were laid to rest and a historic fortified hilltop town.

The main highlight of this tour is the pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Fatima. Here you will learn all about the miraculous events when Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were blessed by visits from Our Lady of Fatima between 1916 and 1917. Since then, many impressive monuments have been built to mark the holy sites, such as the Chapel of the Apparitions.

After this, you will visit one of the most architecturally unique churches in Europe. The Mosterio de Santa Maria da Vitoria (the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory) was erected between 1386 and 1517 to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory at the Battle of the Aljubarrota in 1385.

Because this monastery church took over a century to build, 15 different architects took charge of the construction project, each injecting their own tastes and influences into the emerging structure. The resulting building was so grand that the Portuguese Aviz royal dynasty chose to be buried there.

Today, this monastery church is regarded as one of the world’s best examples of Late Flamboyant Gothic architecture.

Another sacred Marian site is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare built to commemorate a miracle that occurred nearby. A knight templar almost lost his life during a hunting incident in 1182 but was saved after praying for Marian intervention. The current grand structure is the result of many embellishments over the centuries as the shrine grew in importance.

Finally, you will visit the walled, hilltop town of Obidos. This historic settlement contains several UNESCO World Heritage monuments. After touring the unique medieval streets and viewing the breathtaking architectural sights, you will have the opportunity to sample traditional ginjinha liquor, often simply called ginja, made by infusing Morello cherries in alcohol and adding sugar and spices. This is Portugal’s most popular liquor.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#3. From Lisbon: Best of Fátima Half-Day Tour

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick-up
  • Departure Time: 8:00 AM
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: Local tour guide, small group guided tours around Fatima, air-conditioned transportation, and insurance
This is an ideal Fatima half-day tour from Lisbon for visitors who prefer a more intimate experience. With a small group of 8 or fewer people, you will feel more comfortable speaking with the expert guide and satisfying your curiosity with all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask about the Miracle of the Sun event and the Three Secrets.

During this comprehensive tour, you will explore the hamlet of Aljustrel where Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were born. There you can see the houses where these young shepherds were born. Their childhood homes are well-preserved, and you can witness their humble origins inside a house museum. You may also look around inside the church where the blessed children were baptized.

In the nearby city of Fatima, you can visit the sacred pilgrimage site of the Sanctuary of Our Lady. This is the location of multiple apparitions of the Virgin Mary between 1916 and 1917. Today, there are many structures and monuments in Fatima dedicated to celebrating the lives of these children and their miraculous experiences.

This half-day Fatima trip from Lisbon offers great value for money along with a friendly and knowledgeable guide. If you want to fully comprehend what happened in Fatima a century ago, this is a wonderful Fatima guided tour.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#4. From Lisbon: Fátima and Sintra Private Tour

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick-up
  • Departure Time: 8:30 AM
  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Includes: Expert local tour guide, private tours of Fatima, Sintra, Pena Palace, air-conditioned transportation, and bottled water
If you enjoy beautiful architecture, this is the best Fatima tour from Lisbon. As well as experiencing the peaceful ambiance of the most holy pilgrimage destination in Portugal, you will explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Lisbon. This is also the most flexible Fatima excursion because it is a private tour, and the itinerary may be adjusted to suit your specific interests and requirements.

In Fatima, your expert local guide will explain about the Marian apparitions of 1916 and 1917 and lead you around the most important shrines. These include Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica, the Apparition Chapel, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, and the recently dedicated Holy Trinity Basilica. You will also visit the hamlet of Valinhos to see the childhood homes of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta and the church where they were baptized.

After completing this pilgrimage to Fatima, you will be transported back toward Lisbon and visit the town of Sintra on the Portuguese Riviera. Sintra is renowned for its Romanticist, 19th-century buildings, castles, palaces, and parkland, which is why the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This historic town is packed with stunning architecture, including famous landmarks such as the Portuguese Renaissance Sintra National Palace and the 8th-century Castle of the Moors. If you know nothing about the Reconquista, this is a great place to brush up on your history.

To complete this full-day Fatima tour from Lisbon, you will be guided around the beautiful Pena Palace. This royal palace began life as a monastery but was converted into a palace during the 19th century. Its distinctive outline atop a hill in the Sintra Mountains is visible from Lisbon on clear days. From the palace, you can enjoy wonderful panoramic views of the town of Sintra below.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#5. From Lisbon: Half-Day Fátima Tour

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick-up
  • Departure Time: 8:00 AM
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: Local tour guide, guided tours around Fatima, attend mass in a basilica, and air-conditioned transportation with Wi-Fi
This is the best half-day Fatima tour from Lisbon for pilgrims who wish to attend a mass while visiting this sacred destination. If you have decided to travel to the most holy site in Portugal, there is no better way to mark your visit.

During this guided tour of Fatima, you will visit the most important holy sites, such as the saints’ childhood homes, the Chapel of the Apparitions, the Most Holy Trinity Basilica, and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. But the schedule is arranged around the opportunity for you to attend a mass in one of the basilicas while you are visiting this sacred location.

The children’s homes are inspirational. Inside the rooms, experts have carefully recreated scenes from the saints’ lives using relics such as their clothes, furniture, and family photographs. This gives you a unique insight into the humble lifestyle of a group of people selected for a very special blessing.

Following your pilgrimage to Fatima from Lisbon, you will benefit from a deeper understanding of what it means to be a saint and the suffering entailed. You will also learn all about one of the best recorded miracles in history — the Miracle of the Sun.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


Pilgrimages To Fatima

On 13th October 1917, a vast crowd of approximately 70,000 people witnessed a series of miracles in the city of Fatima referred to as the Miracle of the Sun event. These witnesses included sceptics, scientists, atheists, believers, and impartial curious folks. Many later documented that they witnessed awesome sights they could not explain using conventional logic or science. The sun appeared to spin in the sky and then drop toward the ground in a blaze of color.

This mixed group from myriad backgrounds had gathered in that place because Our Lady of Fatima visited 3 young children — Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta — on multiple occasions and provided them with a prophesy that a miracle would occur on this exact date. These 3 children also received 3 further prophesies, referred to as the Three Secrets.

The prophesied events mentioned in the Three Secrets later came to pass. In response, Pope Francis canonised Francisco and Jacinta in 2017 who are now recognized as saints by the Roman Catholic Church. Lucia has yet to receive such recognition. She lived until 2005 and so was still alive when her contemporaries began their path toward sainthood. It is likely she will join their ranks in due course.

Despite government opposition and a lack of support from the Church, local believers began to erect illegal monuments to the miracles surrounding those three children as early as 1919, beginning with a small chapel and a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Although the government destroyed the first chapel in 1922 and the Catholic Church dithered over granting its blessing, over the years this holy site grew in prominence. Eventually, it was accepted by the Church and then became home to a selection of impressive monuments, including two basilicas, a selection of iconic statues, and a breathtaking Calvary monument.

This impressive site is now a major pilgrimage destination. Alongside several monuments and shrines, you can visit Lucia’s, Francisco’s, and Jacinta’s childhood homes, which are incredibly well preserved. Inside, the children’s rooms are arranged as they would have looked when the three shepherds received their visitations.

If you are Catholic, or you are curious about the famous Miracle of the Sun, then you must include a pilgrimage to Fatima on your vacation itinerary while visiting Portugal.


Portugal Travel Guide

Portugal’s importance in world history is often overlooked in favor of surrounding countries more prominent in modern history, such as the United Kingdom or Spain. However, Portugal formed the first global empire in history.

The 5 Best Sailing and River Cruises in Lisbon, Portugal

During the Age of Exploration, when European maritime nations raced to create colonies worldwide, Portugal was the first off the starting blocks and soon became the most powerful and influential country in the world.

Although its colonial ambitions began in north Africa, Brazil was by far its most successful colony. Today, Brazil is the largest Portuguese speaking nation in the world, and the largest country in Latin America.

Evidence of Portugal’s past wealth and power can be seen in the many monuments and structures surviving from its heyday. In Porto to the north and Lisbon to the south, impressive fortresses, grand palaces, and lofty cathedrals stand proudly and steal away their visitors’ breath.

But a fascinating history and culture are not the only features Portugal has to offer. Its unique position as the most westerly nation in Europe provide it with many unique natural landmarks, such as Peneda-Gerês National Park to the northeast of Porto, Arrábida Natural Park just south of Lisbon, and the Tagus River.

The Tagus River

The Tagus River is not only the largest river in Portugal but also the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. It flows westward through Spain before entering Portugal and is blocked by multiple dams creating reservoirs to supply drinking water to millions and hydroelectric power stations to generate electricity.

At its mouth is a large estuary and the capital of Portugal — Lisbon. The Tagus River has played an important part in Portuguese history and culture. It is celebrated in poetry and songs and is lined with historic harbors from which Portuguese sailors set sail to explore the world and form colonies worldwide.

Where the river passes through Lisbon, there are many important monuments celebrating Portuguese achievements and history. These include the Padrăo dos Descobrimentos monument, Belém Tower, Cristo-Rei statue, and Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge.

All these landmarks and more are best viewed from the river. A Tagus River cruise is an essential part of any vacation in Portugal. It is the easiest and most enjoyable way to experience the sights around Lisbon and learn about Portuguese history and culture.

Traveling in the time of COVID

Like many destinations, some tours and visitor attractions in Portugal have adopted special precautionary measures during the pandemic.

Face masks are mandatory in some locations, notably in enclosed public areas such as travel hubs and shopping malls. You are expected to supply your own mask and wear it when you enter buildings.

It is in your own interest to keep your distance from other visitors who are not in your family group or bubble. You are expected to keep your distance inside boats, coaches, train compartments, and other vehicles and when seated in restaurants.

At the time of writing, Portugal welcomes visitors and visas are not required for US citizens. However, with the exception of children aged 12 and under, every person arriving in Portugal must provide a negative SARSCoV-2 test certificate of nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or rapid antigen test (TRAg). This certificate must be time stamped within 72 hours for NAAT or 48 hours for TRAg before boarding.

You can obtain the most up-to-date information directly from the Portuguese government immigration department website. During these relatively uncertain times, it is wise to also consult the US Department of State website for current travel advisories.

Airports & Entry

You can enter Portugal by ferry, road, railway, or air. Except for air, all the methods of travel involve traveling through or from Spain. By far the easiest and quickest way to travel to Portugal is by airplane.

Most visitors fly to Porto Airport in the north, Lisbon Airport in the middle, or Faro Airport in the south. To compare, in 2017 Porto saw 10.8 million passengers, Faro 8.7 million, and Lisbon 26.7 million, making the capital by far the most popular entry point into Portugal.

If you are interested in beautiful scenery and wildlife, you’ll likely want to be in the north. For history and culture, Lisbon. And for “Mediterranean” beach vacations, Faro.

Lisbon International Airport (LIS, or Humberto Delgado Airport) is located inside the city and only 4.3 miles northeast of the historic center. Before the pandemic, the airport saw annual increases in passenger traffic, handling 31.2 million visitors in 2019. Because it is a travel hub for Ryanair, TAP Air Portugal, and TAP Express, it is the 20th busiest European airport.

The airport’s 2 terminal buildings are dated and busy, but they do contain all the amenities you would expect from a major international airport. All arrivals and most international departures are handled by Terminal 1.

Note that passport control on departure is after the duty-free shops, and the queues for immigration control can be long. So, don’t get so excited in the stores hunting out last minute bargains that you miss your flight.

Just because you arrived in Terminal 1, it does not mean that you will depart from there. To avoid unnecessary complications on departure, check your ticket carefully and ensure you know which terminal you are flying from before heading for the airport.

By far the easiest way to transfer from the airport to any location around Lisbon is on the metro. The metro is affordable, safe, and efficient, with stations all around the city. To use the metro, you will need to purchase a reusable Viva Viagem card for €0.5 and then pay a €1.50 fare for your journey around Lisbon.

If you are in more of a hurry, or you have children to watch and luggage to carry, consider taking a taxi. The typical taxi fare for a 4-seat taxi to the historic center is between €10 and €15 during the day. In a larger vehicle or at night, fares increase by 20%.

Alternatively, you can hire a car at the airport. All the major international car rental companies are represented in the Terminal 1 arrivals hall. But be warned that the car rental car park exits immediately into a busy urban area, and accidents do happen.

Planning Tips

Portugal is a beautiful country that boasts a rich history and culture, which is why it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe. Here are a few specific tips to help you get the most out of your vacation in Portugal.

If you have tips of your own about this beautiful country, please share them with other readers in the comments below.

Tip #1: Travel Off Season

In high summer (July and August) the streets of Lisbon and beaches in the Algarve are crowded. Not only is this when many local schools break for summer, but it is also the  time when the Portuguese think the weather is best for sea swimming.

If you delay a little and travel to Portugal in the fall, you will benefit from fewer crowds while there is still plenty of sunshine and the average seawater temperature in the Algarve in October is 700F. You may also benefit from lower, off-season prices and tours are less likely to be fully booked.

Tip #2: Explore Beyond the Typical Tourist Traps

Most tourists head to Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve. However, there is much more to see in Portugal that’s off the beaten trail.

In the border regions between Portugal and Spain, historical tensions led to the construction of many picturesque fortified hill towns and castles, such as Estremoz and Marvão. And the north of Portugal around Porto is famous for its bountiful vineyards.

If you’re visiting off-season in the fall, the grape harvest typically occurs around September and October. At some vineyards, you can arrange to take part in the grape harvest and traditional foot stomping. Crush the grapes beneath your feet to assist the locals in their traditional wine manufacturing process.

Tip #3: Plan Ahead

Whenever you visit Portugal, the day trips are popular. Sometimes they become fully booked weeks in advance. To avoid disappointment, book before you travel.

If your main interest is history and culture, note many museums and art galleries that usually charge for admission typically have one free admission day each month, or sometimes each week. Do your research and decide which museums you wish to visit. You may then be able to organize your vacation around the free days and save a lot of money in entrance tickets.

Tip #4: Consider Surfing While you’re in Portugal

When you think about taking a surfing vacation, Portugal isn’t a country that immediately springs to mind. It should be.

You don’t have to be a genius to recognize that it offers an identical situation to southern California. It is the westernmost country in Europe, and its entire shoreline is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean.

Portuguese beaches boast rolling Atlantic waves perfect for surfing. Experienced surfers looking for a challenge should head to Nazaré on the central Portuguese coast. Beginners and intermediate surfers will be more comfortable surfing in the Algarve where the beaches are slightly more sheltered.

Tip #5: Buy Local Crafts

In Portugal, you’re spoiled for choice when selecting suitable souvenirs as gifts for your family and friends back home or as a memento of your vacation. Portugal is noted for its fine ceramics. For the finest traditional glazed pottery, visit the historic town of Caldas da Rainha on the central Portuguese coast north of Lisbon.

The town of Arraiolos in south-eastern Portugal is famous for both its picturesque castle and its fine hand-stitched rugs. However, you don’t need to take a special trip to buy Portuguese textiles. Throughout the country, you will discover unique textile products that make a wonderful keepsake to remind you of Portugal when you return home.

Restaurants & Eating Out

Given Portugal’s extensive coastline, it is no surprise to discover that seafood is an important food source. However, red meat and poultry are also important in many traditional dishes. In common with nearby Mediterranean countries, olive oil is typically used to fry and to flavor dishes.

Like France to the north, bread is important in Portuguese meals, and there are several traditional varieties found across the country.

Where Portuguese cuisine differs from neighboring countries is in its extensive use of exotic herbs and spices. Due to Portugal’s long-lasting colonial empire, cooking techniques and flavorings from its former colonies have become an important element of many popular dishes.

Dried and salted cold known as bacalhau is a staple part of many Portuguese diets. Historically, the drying procedure was a means of preserving the fish for consumption over the winter months. However, now it is done to create a revered taste and texture. This can be grilled, fried, boiled, or baked. You’ll see it served as a snack in paper pouches.

A thick seafood stew called cataplana is popular in the Algarve. It is cooked in a special, clam-shaped cooking pot and traditionally features the fish of the day.

A francesinha is a popular variety of sandwich. Multiple kinds of meat are piled between two slabs of bread. This provides a hearty meal that is often flavored with surprisingly spicy sauces using ingredients such as paprika, saffron, piri-piri, and black pepper.

Watch out for alheiras on menus across Portugal. These traditional sausages were originally made by members of secret Jewish communities using only kosher meats. Instead of pork fat, bread was used as a main ingredient. These bready sausages can be served grilled or baked and with a fried egg and a side of rice.

In bygone days, not everyone could afford large quantities of meat. Hence a cabbage and potato-based soup called caldo verde is popular in rural communities. However, vegetarians should beware. These soups are flavored using a small amount of chorizo spicy sausage. It is rare to find caldo verde without at least a little spicy sausage flavoring.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be happy to hear that sweet and flaky pastries are important in Portuguese cuisine. Popular varieties include bolos de São Gonçalo and pastel de Nata, both involve generous amounts of custard as a filling or topping.

Nightlife & Entertainment

In northern and central Portugal, the nightlight is focused around the main cities of Porto and Lisbon. However, in the south, the Algarve region is noted for its lively nightclub scene, live music venues, and popular beach bars.

Porto

As with any city with a large student population, Porto is a wonderful destination for nightclubbing and music venues year-round. Portugal’s second largest city is also host to some wonderful cultural festivals that amaze visitors.

The university students traditionally celebrate the end of their exams in style during the first half of May. During this time, expect to find 50,000 students flooding the bars and nightclubs in search of fun. And in the Queimódromo square adjacent to City Park, you can attend live concerts every evening.

During the midsummer solstice, the São João Festival involves some quirky local traditions, such as displaying a vase decorated with a poem and eating sardines and potatoes alongside locally produced red wine.

Lisbon

As the cultural capital of the nation, you’ll find a broader range of options in Lisbon. It is twice the size of Porto and houses a more diverse, international population. The nightclubs are less aimed at students and more toward younger tourists.

You’ll find that the nightlife starts late but goes on until after dawn. The narrow labyrinth of streets in the Old Town contains many popular bars that fill with the younger crowd nightly, especially around the Avenida da Liberdade and Rossio.

The Bairro Alto is the heart of the Lisbon night scene. You’ll find traditional Portuguese folk music played in tiny tavernas neighboring live rock and jazz music venues. The bars don’t close until 2 am and the clubs remain open until around 7 am. The night spots in this area are always crowded and typically reach capacity soon after 11 pm.

The Algarve

In the Algarve, the city of Albufeira is renowned for its nightlife. In fact, although it is a small city when compared with Porto or Lisbon, it is reputed to contain the best nightclubs and bars in Portugal.

Young tourists from around Europe and the rest of the world flock to Albufeira to spend their days playing on the beaches and nights playing in the clubs. During the summer months, The Strip is a prime destination for hen and stag parties and students looking to get drunk and maybe get lucky, too.

The big name clubs that attract the famous DJs and crowds are Kadoc outside of town, Kiss on Rua Vasco da Gama, and Club Heaven, Club Vida, and Liberto’s Lounge Club on The Strip.

If you seek something quieter and more sophisticated, head for the pedestrianized old town center where the restaurants and cocktail bars cater for an older crowd with more refined tastes.

Getting Around

The strange thing about Portugal when compared to many other countries is that it’s often quicker to travel by bus than by train. My wife recently needed to travel from Lisbon to Porto, which is 195 miles. The time quoted for both long-distance coach and high-speed train was 3 hours 15 minutes, but the coach cost €5.00 and the train €23.31.

Hiring a car is a great option if you want to visit those remote fortified hilltop towns or vineyards around Porto. However, you must be a confident driver. The number of car accidents in Portugal is higher than average in Europe, though, to be fair, there are fewer road fatalities in Portugal than in the US. Note that driving while intoxicated is a problem in the evenings, so take special care if driving after dark.

Trains

Despite their lack of speed, Portuguese trains are modern. Some rail services pass through scenic areas and provide excellent views, such as the service from Porto to Pochinho. However, you should be aware that train stations are often a long distance from the town center or village they serve.

The services are divided into Intercidades (IC), Interregionais (IR), Regionais (R), and Urbanos. IC services are the fastest linking Lisbon to the major cities, but they are also more expensive. Urbanos services are aimed at commuters around Lisbon and Porto, which also both have underground metro systems.

Tickets are purchased from the station on the day of travel, but be aware that long queues form so you must arrive early to ensure you don’t miss your train. The tickets are affordable compared with other nations and you can choose between primeira classe (first class) and conforto (economy).

Coach

The bus services across Portugal reach more places than the railway, deliver you to the center of the towns, are cheaper than the train, and often faster. If you want to travel from one large city to another, you need a Rede Expressos coach.

Unlike with the trains, it’s a good idea to book bus tickets online in advance. You can also buy them at ticket desks in cafés near the bus stop or at central bus stations. You can get travel information from bus stations. However, note that many assistants outside of the Algarve speak poor English or none.

Car hire

Portugal has surprisingly good main roads that have been improved and extended in recent years. That’s why the buses are as quick as the trains. These major routes are called Estrada Nacional (EN or N).

However, when visiting remote rural areas, you can expect poorly maintained and narrow roads. And you may need to share them with loose animals, so drive carefully.

There is a freeway network between major cities — Auto-Estrada (A). These are 4 or 6 lane roads, but they have toll gates, and you must pay to use them. DO NOT use the lane labelled Via Verde because this is for prearranged automatic payment.

Unlike most countries, the Portuguese police will accept foreign driving licenses, so you won’t require an international license to drive here. The Portuguese police are empowered to enforce on-the-spot fines for poor parking, speeding, and other misdemeanors.

Parking at cities is at a premium, so you may struggle to park near popular attractions. Consider using park-and-ride schemes where they are available.

Taxi

Within cities, the taxis are relatively affordable. This is a good thing since railway stations are often a long way from the town center, so you may need a taxi.

Accommodations

If you plan to explore the Portuguese countryside, you’re in luck. Outside of Porto, Lisbon, and the Algarve, accommodation is very affordable. In towns and villages, you can find twin rooms in small hotels and guesthouses for around €40 per night. And if money is no object, there are many upscale hotels, historic manor houses, and even castles, such as the Pousada Castelo de Óbidos just 53 miles north of Lisbon.

Pousadas, such as the one in the castle above, are a class of comfortable hotels typically either located in beautiful historic buildings or situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty. No matter where you want to stay in Portugal, locating affordable and comfortable accommodation is not a problem.

However, if you plan to stay in Porto, Lisbon, or the Algarve, you need to plan ahead. All the best and most affordable accommodations in these areas are typically booked up days, if not weeks in advance. Reservations are essential to ensure you don’t end up staying in a crumbling dump and paying through the nose.

For travelers on a budget, Portugal has a great range of youth hostels and campgrounds to choose from. RVers are especially welcome. There are also many one-star hotels that offer the minimum of facilities but at a low, low price. Be aware that youth hostels and one-star hotels may not have air conditioning, which may become a problem in high summer.

Self-catering villas are an option for larger groups of family and friends. When the bill is shared between many, a large villa can prove more comfortable than a hotel but for a lower price. Note that for villas and hotels alike, it is a good idea to book ahead in high season to avoid disappointment.

Weather

Portugal’s weather is dependent upon two factors — its latitude and its position at the south-westernmost point of Europe sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean moderates Portugal’s temperatures, resulting in relatively mild winters and warm summers.

There is a significant variance between the north and the south of the nation. Around Porto in the north, the annual average temperature is 550F. In the Algarve in the far south, this rises to 640F. While the mountains in northern Portugal do see snow, with a ski resort at Serra da Estrela, the rest of the country misses out completely.

The mild winters provide average temperatures of 490F in Porto, 52.50F in Lisbon, and 53.50F in the Algarve. There are spells of poor weather with high winds and heavy rainfall. Occasionally, the winds grow to gale force. But overall, the weather is mild from December to February.

The warm summers are sunny with average temperatures of 700F in Porto and 74.50F in Lisbon and the Algarve. Some coastal areas in the west experience relatively cool weather because of the ocean breezes. Due to its more sheltered location, the Algarve avoids those breezes and maintains high summer temperatures.

Attractions

Though Portugal is a small country, it is packed with many wonderful natural and historic attractions. These are separated into three distinctive regions: the north, the central region, and the Algarve in the far south.

The North

The most famous natural attraction in Portugal is found in the far north, and it is Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês. The rocky landscape of this beautiful mountainous area is noted for its lush vegetation, picturesque waterfalls, clear blue lakes, and breathtaking valleys.

This national park is popular with hikers and other outdoor pursuits enthusiasts. Watch out for golden eagles soaring over the tree tops while wild boar and wolves wander through the foliage. There are marked trails, designated campsites, and quaint villages with unique guesthouses.

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and the main tourist destination in the north. Some tourists come to view the unique architecture featuring fine Neoclassical and Baroque churches. Look out for the granite walls and pretty blue and white ceramic tiles used to decorate buildings such as the beautiful main railway station.

Other visitors come to visit the surrounding vineyards and take part in the harvests or sample the wines. River cruises are also popular and provide access to the beautiful Douro Valley where you can see traditional terraced hillsides and pretty hamlets.

Midway between Porto and Lisbon you can find Coimbra and its famous hilltop university. Founded in 1290, Velha Universidade is one of the world’s oldest educational establishments. The Baroque library is a particularly popular attraction containing over 250,000 books, some dating to the 12th century. The whole university campus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lisbon

Lisbon is the cultural capital of Portugal. The best way to explore the old city is by jumping on the historic tram #28 that takes you up the steep streets. This vibrant city is home to many world-class museums and fascinating historic buildings.

The most iconic building in the city is the ancient Torre de Belém fortress guarding the entrance to the city from an island close to the northern bank of the Tagus River. But if you are especially interested in history and architecture, it is worth taking a day trip to nearby Sintra.

Sintra is a renowned hilltop retreat containing palaces and other historic buildings. Its most popular attractions are the Palácio da Pena, the Castelo dos Mouros, and Palácio Nacional. Sintra is especially popular for walking tours because of its hills and the many breathtaking vistas they offer.

The Algarve

Most people who head down south are more interested in sunbathing on the beaches and partying at night than any historic or cultural attractions. But they are missing out on some amazing sights.

Faro’s old town is built on Roman foundations and is filled with a selection of medieval buildings gathered inside a 16th-century city wall. The 13th-century cathedral is noted for its tall tower providing panoramic views across the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.

You may also enjoy the Museu Municipal de Faro, a fascinating museum inside a medieval convent. Those who love the macabre will be drawn to the infamous Igreja do Carmo, noted for its Bone Chapel decorated with the bones of over 1,000 monks who prayed here over the years.

If you want to explore beyond Faro, Tavira is a popular destination. This picturesque town in the Algarve contains a well-preserved castle, a grand medieval church filled with knights’ tombs, and a captivating riverside walk featuring a surviving Roman footbridge.

Robert Baker

Robert is a content writer and editor at World Guides to Travel where he shares his love for the great outdoors. He also writes in-depth travel blogs for other websites around the world. Robert is passionate about the environment and uses his writing to educate people about the advantages and importance of sustainable living. Robert enjoys creative writing. In 2009, his children’s novel Sally Hemings & the Good Associates won the Children’s Fiction section of the You Write On Book of the Year Award.

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