Driving to Portugal – It’s all about the journey…

Have you ever thought about driving to Portugal? If you have the time and can make the journey part of your holiday it is a wonderful trip to take.

If you prefer a shorter drive through Europe, you can take the ferry from Plymouth or Portsmouth to Santander in northern Spain. The crossing is around 23 hours but there are cabins available so you arrive fully rested.

If you want to embrace the journey then there are, of course, all manner of different options available. As we are based in Brighton, we took the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and allowed a leisurely three days, with two overnight stops. We avoided the major roads and did a prettier, coastal trip but it can be done much more quickly if you don’t mind the motorways. We found some really ‘off the beaten track’ places, ate some unusual food, met some interesting people and made some amazing memories.  I was surprised by just how much schoolgirl French I remembered when it became absolutely necessary! The drive down through Spain was fantastic although we did have a bit more of a language problem in some of the out of the way places we stopped at and one or two of the dishes that turned up at our table weren’t quite what we thought we had ordered!


If your eventual destination is the Algarve, then I really recommend taking a detour through the north of Portugal. It is quite different from the south and there is some spectacular scenery along with fabulous cuisine. We drove via Braganza, historically home to the Portuguese royal family and made time to visit the impressive palace before doing a leisurely drive through Serra da Estrela Natural Park and across to the Alentejo before finally arriving in the Algarve.

We were lucky enough to be staying at the beautiful Terras Altas and had friends flying in to join us. They were so impressed by the villa and even more impressed when they realised we had picked up some lovely French, Spanish and Portuguese wines on our way.

Terras Altas

All too soon, our European adventure drew to an end and, sadly, we didn’t have the same luxury of time on our way back so stuck to the fast roads and arrived back in Dieppe 20 hours after leaving the villa.  This was possible by taking turns at driving but, admittedly, it wasn’t as pretty as the drive down.

I really would recommend this as an alternative to air travel as, not only does it reduce your carbon footprint, it also avoids the airport queues and luggage limitations and the cost of car hire of course!   If you have two weeks to spare, it is without doubt a more memorable experience from start to finish and a delightful trip to take.

Founder, Karen Lippitt