My husband and I will be flying into Lisbon on November 8. We have 2 weeks to explore Portugal and plan to spend time in Lisbon, Porto and sights in between. We would be happy to rent a car for part of this time (not in the cities). At the end of this 2 weeks we plan to fly to Barcelona to meet up with friends and tour Spain for 2 weeks ending in Seville. At this point our friends go home and we have 4 more days to make our way back to Lisbon and fly home. We were thinking this might be nice time to explore the south coast. Does this sound reasonable? Any suggestions appreciated. We know it won't be beach weather but we enjoy scenery and visiting small towns. As former Peace Corps volunteers in Brazil we are curious to see how we will do with our Brazilian Portuguese:)
Sounds fine to me. Note that you will cross the southern border by bus. Buses run directly from Seville to Lagos and a few other stops in Portugal; see www.damas-sa.es. I don't think you'll find direct buses from other Spanish cities like Cadiz or Jerez; you probably still connect at Sevilla. Portugal does have trains from its Algarve towns back to Lisbon.
Are you willing to hire a car for these 4 days?
The Algarve coast is the most overdeveloped area of Portugal and not the best for scenery and small towns unless you like modern resorts. Many of the smaller places will be shut up for the winter. As you say, it won't be beach weather, most likely. The winter bus timetable is far more restricted compared to the summer months.
To avoid a one way drop fee from Spain to Portugal, take the bus to Faro from Seville. Hire a car and take the inland route back to Lisbon, taking in Mertola, Castro Verde, Monsaraz a hilltop town on the Spanish border and Evora.
This will give you a chance to see real Portugal, rather than beach resorts and test your language skills!
Yes we are willing to rent a car and I like the idea of visiting the small towns. Thanks for the suggestion! We have a lot of planning to do...just booking airline tickets today then trying to figure out places to stay.