Faro is a charming, quirky city, but hopefully you have time to explore the region around Faro. If you’re seeking a shorter jaunt, Praia do Ancao (12mi / 20km), Praia do Loulé Velho (15mi / 25km), Praia da Falesia (18mi / 30km) or Praia de Marinha (37mi / 60km) are great alternatives to the more remote places but still, not easily accessible if you do not decide for a car rental in Faro.
If you want it all (meaning beaches, buzzing nightlife and lazy city walks) but you’re still not willing to drive too far from Faro, head to the city of Albufeira (28mi / 45km). A car rental in Faro makes your trip free of public transport schedules.
Travelling east of Faro, you’ll discover the peaceful city of Tavira (25mi / 40km), where you can have your beachy days and your city nights, along with plenty of exploring in between. Close by is the picturesque fishing village of Santa Luzia.
If you are prepared for some real driving, from Faro, you can visit Spain and you’ll arrive there within 45 minutes. Or - you can decide for a road trip around Portugal – don’t miss it, Portugal is a country of great food and a bit of gloominess that you can feel in the Fado, a traditional Portuguese music. If Fado is your interest, you should visit the Fado street in Lisbon or at least check the tour of the world-famous singer Mariza (she is originally from Portuguese Mozambique) that will bring you a piece of Portugal to your home town.
Back to the Portuguese road trip idea – if you have a fortnight vacation or more - we definitely recommend you engaging yourself in a car rental in Faro and driving slowly towards Lisbon. Portugal has more than 500 km of coastline and to limit your stay only to Algarve would be a pity. Understandably, every once in a while, you need to relax in a resort hotel, but not exploring the vast Portuguese beaches and rich cities (Lisbon, Porto, Evora, …) would leave Portugal uncovered.
So, let’s start the engine and …If you love beaches, cliffs and untouched nature, head west of Faro to Odeceixe (approximately 75mi / 120km) in the municipality of Aljezur, a part of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast. This part of the Algarve will mesmerize you with the vastness of the beaches, and the wildness of the Atlantic Ocean. The weather is a bit windier and you’ll find a lot of wave surfers here. And above all – this part of the coast is in general overlooked by the tourists and is still left in the shadow of Algarve.
From the Costa Alentejana and Vicentina you can head to the north and visit Comporta (approximately 125mi / 200km) where you’ll find much nature and an active day out. From Comporta, you’re just a step away from Setúbal, where you can visit the Arrabida natural Park or if food and gastronomy is what screams your name, visit the pretty indoor market Mercado do Livramento, where you’ll see all the fresh produce of Portuguese cuisine. From Setúbal, drive past the Santuário de Cristo Rei, a statue of Jesus which construction was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. The statue is overlooking the city of Lisbon and was supposed to protect the city in the WWII.
To enter the city of Lisbon you can cross the Tagus river by crossing either the Vasco da Gamma Bridge or the 25 de Abril Bridge. The second bridge is a suspension bridge, older and astonishingly similar to the San Francisco Golden Gate bridge. If you cross the river at the Vasco da Gamma bridge, you’re close to the EXPO area, full of modern architecture. Once in Lisbon you’ll be a busy bee; the city centre takes its time to be explored and you really should not miss a visit to the walled Moorish city of Sintra and a resort town Cascais, the pride of the Portuguese Royal Family in the late 19th century. Don’t you leave Cascais without setting foot into the Pastelaria de Belem – a place where heavenly delicious pasteis de nata are originally from. We suggest you should stay at least 3 days to get to know better Lisbon.
From Lisbon, you can take your car rental in Faro to Evora, a walled town with exceptionally beautiful cobbled streets, ancient churches and city gates. You can explore the green countryside of Portugal, where you might stumble upon a gipsy caravan.
If wave surfing, wind surfing or kiting is what you would like to experience in Portugal, driving to Peniche is something you should do. Broad beaches, international vibe and splendid weather conditions for all outdoor activities. From Peniche head to Porto, roughly 2-and-a-half-hour drive. Porto, is again like Lisbon, a world of its own. To explore all that Porto offers, you’d need weeks. However, in a three day stay in Porto, you can visit the Douro valley, where some of the finest Port wine is produced, walk the city streets and enter the old wine cellars. In Porto, you’ll notice the different geology of the country – Porto is darker in comparison to Lisbon (where white limestone is found) and the south of Portugal due to the granite below the surface. Porto churches, Cathedrals and cobbled streets are all made of the granite excavated nearby. You’ll also notice it on the beaches, where the fine gold sand is replaced by small granules of quartz. Head to Miramar and admire the Capela do Senhor da Pedra, a tiny chapel set on the rocks surrounded by the sea and take a walk down the coast. If you decide for a road trip in Portugal, you can start your car rental in Faro and drop-off the car in Porto, to conclude your trip in the North of the Portugal. But making the trip round and finishing your car rental in Faro where you started is also an option. It all depends on how much time you have (you can save time by dropping off in Porto) and money (it will cost you a bit more if the drop-off is not in the same place as your pick-up). It’s up to you!
Best Scenic Routes Near Faro
Faro is the southernmost part of the Algarve region, known historically for its turbulent history and stunning nature. This small Portuguese gem offers idyllic vacation opportunities for a wide variety of travellers, including young and old couples, groups of friends, solo travellers and entire families! Its versatility and spirit are there to lure you in and offer a holistic vacation that doesn’t fail to entertain. Below is an outline of some of the most scenic routes in and around Faro to guarantee your Portuguese road trip becomes the trip of your lifetime! You will be able to enjoy not just incredible unspoiled nature, but diverse events, busy nightlife and last but not least – show-stopping cuisine.
Getting to know Portugal by car is one of the best ways to discover this part of the Iberian Peninsula. Faro and the Portuguese south-west coast are a quiet region compared to their more tourist-heavy counterparts such as Lisbon and Porto. This tranquil area still offers incredible diversity, bringing you rock formations, serene beaches, emerald sea, quirky colourful towns and above all – incredible weather throughout the year (even the coldest month of January doesn’t reach below 12°C!). The Atlantic breeze even ensures that the summer months are perfectly pleasant for those who are normally not used to higher temperatures!
Exploring the Algarve region by car – top places to visit
Some of the sights you simply cannot afford to miss:
Start in Faro itself – a town once badly damaged by a great earthquake, but now blooming in colour, iconic cobblestone streets, and landmark historic buildings, such as a cathedral and several museums. During a drive along Faro’s coastline you will be able to rejoice in sights that are hard to find elsewhere - not only beaches but a large natural park, rocky formations, dramatic cliffs and quaint villages.
Those ready for something more adventurous will be pleased to hear Faro is also known for its vibrant nightlife. While on your way in and around Algarve region, make sure to make a stop at one of the traditional restaurants to try out the local fish stew (cataplana) – a comforting, delicious and affordable meal to remember! Look out for ‘azulejos’ colourful and symmetric tiles on walls, markets or historical buildings that are just a perfect Instagram photo opportunity!
Enjoy the heavenly beaches of nearby Albufeira – with more than 20 different beaches to choose from, this Portuguese town is a real gem worth to discover! Whether you’re looking for something completely off-the-beaten-track or crowded beaches – there’s a perfect vacation spot for absolutely everyone!
Head on towards Portimão – another popular destination known not only for its stunning beaches but incredible hotels and numerous shopping opportunities. Do not miss the Autodromo Algarve, an international race track, and a popular local event. Furthermore, you will be able to enjoy more local events throughout the year, including powerboat racing, numerous sports events, exhibitions, and celebrations.
Continue to Lagos - another terrific place that shouldn’t be missed during your Portuguese road trip. Lagos is often featured on ultimate road trip bucket lists, thanks to its terrific diversity – featuring a historical shipyard, gastronomical specialities, and unparalleled charm. The city has recently been investing in sustainable tourism and thus became a top destination for an even wider audience.
Following the business of Faro and Lagos, take a tranquil retreat in nearby Aljezur. This incredibly small municipality and market town along the western coast of the Algarve is known for its cobbled hills and castle ruins. It’s a town that stands out for its peaceful and tourist-free environment, but what makes it additionally attractive to everyone looking for the best scenic routes near Faro are the spectacular beach views.
Travel further north to explore more of the Alentejo and Vicentine natural park – this is one of the 30 natural parks that are officially protected. This absolutely wild western coast is Portugal’s least developed region, which makes it all the more attractive in the eyes of a traveller wanting to see an unknown part of the country. Freshly caught seafood and a number of opportunities for outdoor sporting activities are not the only things making this a terrific destination. You’ll be able to see more of wild greenery, cliffy coastline, and untouched nature.
Offering much more than just heavenly beaches
Putting it all together, it’s obvious to see that even a short road trip along the Algarve coastal region offers much more than just incredible beaches. It’s a place full of historical monuments and culturally-rich sights, as well as terrific cuisine, known for its top-grade, fresh ingredients. Moreover, it allows the visitor to enjoy the local culture on their own terms – whether that’s in busy international nightclubs or peaceful and charming forgotten beaches.