Let’s be perfectly honest with you: we all simply love the awesome cities of Spain and Portugal. Whether large or small, the experience of travelling through urban Spain and Portugal is terrific. Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona, Porto and so many others… they are the source of unforgettable travel experiences.
But cities in Europe were not made for private vehicles. In the cities the basic rule is, if you can’t walk, use public transportation. And forget your vehicle. Using a private car to tour cities in Spain or Portugal is probably one of the biggest mistakes a traveller can make.
IN SEARCH FOR INSPIRATION?
The 20 best road trips in Spain and the 5 best road trips in Portugal.
Having said that, let’s hit the road at once! Here you have 10 reasons why we think a road trip in Spain or Portugal is such a superb idea.
1 | Road trips rock!
We are probably preaching to the converted but… do you also feel that road trips are one of the best ways to explore a country? Suddenly, your trip is all about you and the journey, rather than the destination.
We are massive fans of road trips and nothing could make us happier than hitting the road in Spain or Portugal. The list of rewards is endless. Not to mention the fact that road trips offer, in the world of post-pandemic travel, a much needed escape from mass travel. You are in your car, you are on your own. Keeping distances becomes much easier.
2 | Mindblowing and diverse scenery
We will never be able to stress this point enough: the landscapes of Spain and Portugal will blow your mind. From turquoise water beaches to snow-capped mountains, from vast expanses of land planted with olive trees to stunning volcanic landscapes, and anything you can think of in the middle!
Spain in particular has a reputation for having some of the most extraordinary beaches in Europe. But you would be hugely mistaken if you think Spain and Portugal are all about beaches. Far from it!
3 | Easy to get off the beaten track
Over-tourism has raised its ugly head in Spain and Portugal in recent years. Talk to anyone living in Barcelona or Lisbon and they will share a bittersweet tale. Tourism in Spain and Portugal has been booming, bringing much needed receipts to the two countries. But a hefty price has been paid.
Interestingly enough, not all of Spain and Portugal have suffered in an equal measure. While the large cities and most beach destinations have had to accommodate ever increasing hordes of tourists, once you get away from the cities and head to the interior of both countries, you will find a territory waiting to be explored.
4 | Road trip friendly
For most of Spain, and to a reasonable extent in Portugal, road infrastructure is of an excellent quality. And it’s not just the roads. As two countries heavily dependant on tourism, you will find that even the smallest of towns provide information and services catering for all types of tourists.
Car parks and viewpoints along the roads are built wherever necessary. As for the accommodation and food industry, it goes without saying that they rank among the most professional in the world.
5 | Affordable destinations
Spain and Portugal are two of the most affordable destinations in Europe. In terms of travel costs, accommodation and food are plentiful and often very competitive price-wise when compared to other European countries.
On top of that, the price of petrol in Spain ranks among the cheapest in Europe. Petrol in Portugal is more expensive than in Spain but the country makes up for cheaper food and cheaper accommodation.
6 | The way to go on the islands
If you are planning to explore any of the beautiful islands off the coast of Spain or Portugal, a vehicle is the way to go. Public transportation is limited and very often will not take you to all the extraordinary places you will want to go.
Whether you head to the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, the archipelago of Azores or Madeira, a memorable road trip is certain!
7 | Open all year round
Spain and Portugal can be visited all year round (we have given plenty of details at What is the best time for a road trip in Spain and What is the best time for a road trip in Portugal).
Every period of the year has its benefits and its drawbacks, but one thing is for sure: there are 12 months to choose from for you next road trip.
8 | Manageable distances
Europeans have quite a good grasp of the size of the Iberian Peninsula. But for Americans planning a road trip in Spain or Portugal, it might surprise to find out distances are not really that huge. It is a three-hour drive from Porto to Lisbon, the largest Portuguese cities. And the distance between Madrid and Barcelona, the largest Spanish cities, can be covered in under six hours.
Most of the destinations that make for a perfect road trip are remarkably compact. Take the island of Lanzarote on the Canary Islands, for instance: there are 73 km (45 miles) between its two furthermost points. Or take San Miguel on the Azores archipelago: under 80 km (50 miles) between its two furthermost points.
If driving for endless hours along vast expanses of land is your thing, Spain or Portugal might not be your ideal destinations. If you are looking for manageable road trips, with a perfect balance between driving and visiting destinations, Spain and Portugal make for a perfect choice.
9 | Wine country
Spain ranks among the top three largest wine producers in the world, while the industry is also very important in Portugal. Wine-making regions are scattered throughout the two countries and make for delicious road trips.
We could mention the most famous regions, such as La Rioja in Spain or the Douro Valley in Portugal. But it would be unfair. If wine tourism is your cup of tea (pun intended), you are in for a treat, for Spain and Portugal offer some outstanding wine tourism destinations where road trips are a must.
10 | Embracing sustainable tourism
Sustainable travel has been on the agenda for quite some time, but the pandemic has given us an opportunity to restart tourism along new lines. If you take a road trip in Spain or Portugal you will likely get away from the most visited destinations in both countries.
The wealth generated by tourism needs to reach the entire countries, and not just a few major destinations. By taking your road trip away from the tourist centers, you will be contributing to the survival of many towns and villages in remote locations of the two countries.
HEADING TO SPAIN?
Have a look at the do’s and don’ts of driving in Spain.
6 thoughts on “10 reasons for a road trip in Spain or Portugal”
Looking for a trip plan as we fly into Barcelona in October we have a week, would love to see more of Spain in that time. Love wine, old churches, beautiful country and scenery, would like to experience tapas, paella, or other cultural foods. Would be interested in train travel, or car rental, (but not through major cities) Thinking 2 days in Barcelona and 4-5 days in either the Basque area or Valencia area. might be doable in such a short time frame? Would be very interested in any suggestions
Lorraine, you could try our road trip number 2 through the vineyards of La Rioja.
I’m planing to go to Portugal with my car for the summer 2022. I would like tips where to go and all what i need to know, if You can do me a plan will be great, off course I can pay for Your work.
Tnx in advance, looking forward to hear from You soon
Hello Luka, we plan on launching a consultancy service like the one you require, but due to other work commitments at the present time, we are not able yet to provide the service. All the best!
¿Cuál es su agencia de alquiler de coches preferida en España?
Para hacer una visita a Belchite y Fuendetodos, Aragón, ¿es aconsejable aquiler un coche en Zaragoza? ¿O es que hay transporte público desde Zaragoza?
Hola Paul, hemos reservado con casi todas las grandes, siempre bien: Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Sixt. Para ir a Belchite y Fuendetodos te hará falta un coche o muchísimo tiempo, ya que las frecuencias del transporte público son muy limitadas. Un saludo.