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Perfect mix of cultural and toes in the sand

Hello all. We are planning a trip to Portugal to celebrate our twin daughters graduating college. We are blocking time in late May and early June for 10-12 days to avoid the summer rush but hoping that's good enough for warmer tempuratures to enjoy the beach and sites. We are definetly beach people but want to get lots of local enjoyment in the trip so we'd love the opportunity to split the opportunities. I think I've narrowed down my list to Porto (we love wine and plan on visiting Duorro Valley), Lisbon, Algarve (what area is best to enjoy the beach) and then a trip to Madiera (probably by plane) to finish it off. We plan on flying in and out of Porto. That's really as far as I've gotten before I get lost in a sea of confusion. Any tips on a timeline? Definite sites or places to stay? We'd prefer beaches that are sandy and being that I have limitations due to bvcp; not too hilly. We will have a car rental in all areas except Madiera. I'd love and appreciate any input or recommendations you can provide. Thank you.

Posted by
600 posts

Madeira doesn't have sandy beaches. There are flat areas to walk along in Funchal, but we had the most fun driving around the island. The views are amazing.

Will not need or want a car in Porto or Lisbon and can take a fast train between the two areas. Porto and Lisbon are very hilly, so may be a challenge for you.

Posted by
1318 posts

You have way too many destinations for 10-12 days! In that length of time, you can barely do justice to Porto and Lisbon with some days at the beach close to Lisbon or Porto. There are great beaches in the Silver Coast área.

And, look for areas in Lisbon that are flat such as the Baixa area. The Rua das Flores area in Porto is fairly flat and you can take Uber or Bolt to the river, Gaia, etc. if the hills are too much for you.

And, as the other posters indicated, you don’t want a car in either Lisbon or Porto.

Posted by
6113 posts

As usual, Kathryn and I concur. Three weeks is a good timescale for Porto, Lisbon and the Algarve plus surrounding areas. Those areas plus Madeira in 10-12 days? I wouldn’t recommend. Far too rushed. Many resorts in the western Algarve are very hilly. The sea is cold, even in August in the Algarve.

Find your beaches around Sao Martinho do Porto or Foz do Arelho. I am not a fan of Nazare.

Drop Madeira.

For 12 nights. Have 4 nights (3 full days) for Porto and the Douro, then hire a car for 3 nights in Sao Martinho then drive to Lisbon and return the car. Spend the remainder of your time in Lisbon with a day trip to Evora and/or Cascais.

For 10 nights - have one night less in Porto and Sao Martinho.

Posted by
3 posts

I am very much appreciative of your replies and taking them into consideration. We've decided to drop doing the Algarve visit and instead focusing on Porto, Lisbon with more days in Madiera. We will do a day trip or 2 to the Silver coast to get a beach fix while taking in some city opportunities. We do plan on driving ourselves to the coast visits and wineries so we will keep the car rental and this way we can drive ourselves to Lisbon from Porto. Now to focus on finding our flights and hotels. Thanks so much!

Posted by
107 posts

The beaches south of Lisbon are very popular too. The area around Sesimbra or Comporta. The weather may not be that hot at the time of year you are visiting. The coast is Atlantic so you get cool winds. Obviously it will be sunny and pleasant but depending on what you are used to you may not consider it sunbathing weather. The Algarve is warmer.

Posted by
22593 posts

I love Madeira, but going there means two days of dealing with airports, which is going to cut sharply into your vacation time. Think about how many nights you'll be able to spend in Portugal, not including the night you spend on the plane. If X is the number of nights you have, X-1 is the number of reasonably non-jetlagged days you'll have available.

I wouldn't go to Madeira for less than five nights. It's beautiful. However, the terrain is quite varied, so that may be something of an issue for you. You might take a look at some online photos to get an idea of conditions.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks again for all the input. I wish I had the last 2 replies a bit earlier but things are mainly on the books now. I am pretty sure we are staying the first 2 nights in Porto, then 3 nights in Lisbon before heading to Madiera for a early flight and staying 4 nights there before again, catching an early flight back to Porto for a last night there before heading home to NJ. I hope we are doing the right thing. We will fight through the jet lag as best we can. lol We are getting a car in both Porto and Lisbon, even though many say not to, but this will allow me to rest my airway and it will be easier to get back and forth to Duorro Valley for a winery day in Porto as well as getting to the coast while in Lisbon for day trips. We are not sure if a car will be needed in Madiera and hope there are transportation options. We are staying at Hotel Riu in Madiera and I think there might be a shuttle back and forth to Funchal plus we plan on doing a Jeep tour and they apparently pick up and drop off from the hotel. I'm excited and I think it is what it is at this point. Hopefully this is a good plan. :)

Posted by
4832 posts

Regarding the respiratory issues you mention (if I understood correctly what you mean by resting airways), cabs/Uber are plentiful and cheap in Lisbon and Porto - especially cost efficient for your party of four. They'll get you precisely where you need, without the often lengthy walks from parking lots!

There's absolutely no way I'd want a car in Lisbon, navigation is horrible there, and the coast at Cascais is easy to access by train, and even by taxi/Uber it's not crazy - maybe €30 one way to, say, Praia do Guincho.

In Porto, your car will just stay parked, there is nowhere to drive to really (the city center is small) - and if you do drive, then there's nowhere to park. The beach is a quick cab ride away, and if you do find time for the Douro, you can take a tour - wine tasting and driving don't mix well!

The one place I'd want a car is actually Madeira: the island is very scenic and it's nice to be able to stop at viewpoints as you wish.

Posted by
22593 posts

There is some bus service on Madeira, but I'd agree that having a car would allow you to cover more ground in the time you have.

Posted by
216 posts

You need a car in Madeira! At least, I did! It's an island, not very well served by bus (of course there are no trains there).

Porto and Lisbon: a car is an headache. Avoid it.