We are traveling in April 2020 to Portugal and I am exploring the option of staying in Nazare for 3 nights upon arrival in Lisbon. If we rent a car at the airport and drive, is it safe and easy to find our way? Our original goal was to see Fátima and Nazare so I was wondering if this would be a good option for acclimating and also adding in the other towns in the area that I have discovered in Rick’s book. Our other option would be to stay in Lisbon and take a tour. We have never been to Portugal so I’m really looking for advice on how to best use our time. We are flexible with days and how much time we should stay.
suzp, I think Portugal is wonderful, everyone seems to enjoy visiting there. But I don’t find Nazare to be a highlight, and not generally meriting a 3-night visit. If you want to start someplace other than Lisboa, you might look into Sintra, I started there when I visited Portugal for 3 weeks in 2017. Sintra is a great town, with lots to see, and merits more than a day trip from Lisbon, I think.
You mention a tour. I don’t know if you mean a general tour of Portugal, or just a day tour to Fátima, Nazare, etc. I also have no idea of your budget. in any case, you should look at the itinerary followed by the Rick Steves Best of Portugal tour. At least it gives an idea of one itinerary for visiting the highlights of Portugal, although an extra day or two in Lisbon and Porto would be even better. At most, it might offer the kind of tour you would like. RS tours are really terrific in many ways, and very reasonably priced too.
While I love Nazare for a days visit I think you are best to stay in Lisbon upon arrival. See the highlights of Lisboa. there are many that you can easily do without a tour. They are all well described in RS guidebooks. When u are ready to leave Lisbon then rent a car for Nazare, Obidos, Fatima etc. Portugal doe not disappoint. It is beautiful, traditional, easy on the budget etc.
I do not know how much time you have scheduled but Porto and the Douro Valley are a wonderful visit as well.
Thank you both for the great advice! We are planning on staying several days in both Lisbon and Porto and a day in Sintra (maybe more now). I will rethink my idea of staying in Nazare to see that area. I am using RS book and tour as a guide and really find that helpful. I do hope someone has advice on renting a car and driving. I’ve read tire slashing stories and have friends that had a bad experience so hoping on some info there too. If basing ourselves in Lisbon is the best idea we can look for other ways to see Fátima and Nazare, probably in a one day tour. Thanks again!
I have hired a car more than 20 times in Portugal over the years and have never heard of tyre slashing. Many years ago, in the Algarve, we did have someone try to jemmy the lock on one door when we had been parked at a remote beach.
Driving is easy in Portugal, although the roads will be busy in Lisbon.
April may or may not be beach weather. Easter falls in the middle of the month, so places will be busier and more expensive around this time. Nazare wouldn’t be my choice of destination, particularly in April. You certainly shouldn’t hire a car immediately upon arrival with jet lag then drive miles.
There are many interesting towns between Lisbon and Porto such as Tomar, Alcobaca and Batalha that would be easier by car. Fatima has been taken over by the plastic tat souvenir brigade, so I didn’t find it to be as interesting. Any of these would make a good base for a few nights or Caldas da Rainha, which has a good market.
I will add my vote to not staying in Nazaré. I will also add that RS likes both Nazaré and Salema, and I have no idea why! So, I encourage you to explore other options rather than just following his itinerary.
I also don’t think driving right after a long flight is a good idea, and staying in Lisbon for a few days at the beginning of your trip would be my advice. If you want to explore the towns in the Silver Coast area, take the train to Coimbra and rent your car there. Coimbra itself is very nice. You might want to research Conimbriga, Alcobaca, Tomar, and Batalha. São Martinho do Porto is a central town that is quite pleasant, from which you can visit a good portion of the area - including Obidos.
Driving in Portugal is easy, as long as you stay out of Lisbon and Porto. I’ve never had problems and have never heard of tire slashing.
And, if you haven’t purchased flights yet, you might want to avoid the time around Easter, as many Spanish people come to Portugal for the school break. And, flying into Lisbon and out of Porto saves you time back tracking.