A huge number of travelers choose to experience Portugal on a solo trip – largely because its hotels, restaurants and bars are oh-so affordable, roads are easy to navigate, English is widely spoken – and an atmospheric air of friendly hospitality underpins it all. So, with all of that, who could resist?
A lot of love goes towards Porto and Lisbon, but traveling between these two popular city break destinations also offers up plenty of new experiences. First, take in the fanciful hilltop castle town of Sintra and its surrounding forests in rugged style on a 4×4 adventure. Next, there’s surfing and yoga on the beaches of the Atlantic coast. Finally, as you head up towards the Douro Valley, the food and wine will make you glad you decided to stray beyond the well-trodden path.
If you don’t want to go it totally alone, group solo trips to Portugal blend the freedom of exploring the country independently with the perks of like-minded company, especially when you want someone to share all that wine with. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive into everything you need to know before experiencing solo travel in Portugal…
Portugal travel facts
Portugal has become one of the most-visited countries in Europe – not least because of its 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites. The Alto Douro Wine Region is on the list, holding a tradition of winemaking for some 2,000 years. Furthermore, the country is split up into seven major regions, including the islands of the Azores and Madeira, both with subtropical climates, wild untouched landscapes, and a culture that’s distinct from mainland Portugal.
Is Portugal good for solo travel?
In short, Portugal is great for solo travel. It’s considered to be one of the safest destinations (including for solo women and LGBTQ+ travelers) and English is widely spoken, breaking down any potential language barriers. Activities and destinations are geared up for solo trips, from surf camps and yoga retreats along the Atlantic coast to winery visits in the Douro Valley and affordable cities, like Lisbon and Porto, to explore. Booking a group solo trip to Portugal can simplify the experience and take the hassle out of booking, leaving you to kick back and simply tap into local life.
Best places to visit in Portugal
For the beaches, head to the Atlantic coast and the Algarve; for wine, the Douro Valley; and for hiking, Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela. That said, all the regions in Portugal have something they excel at. Beyond the more established routes and coastal paths, there’s the wilder parts of the country, too. Sintra’s dewy forests and flower-filled gardens are well worth a visit for those seeking the outdoors. The capital Lisbon is definitely high on the list of best places to go in Portugal, with its thriving sustainable food scene and creative communities. So, what should you do on a solo trip to Portugal? Well, Flash Pack takes care of all of that, tying in wine tasting in the Douro Valley, surfing on the coast, 4×4 forest adventures in Sintra and more.
Where to stay as a solo traveler in Portugal
In the cities, affordable design-forward apartments are popular. In beach destinations, it’s villas. Portugal’s pousadas (inns) and converted palácios (palaces) are the traditional choice all over, often packed with centuries-old character and original features. These are unique to Portugal and Spain, set up as a means of preserving historic buildings and providing luxury stays at the same time. Of course, single supplements do exist here, bumping up the price for solo travelers. But going on a group solo trip to Portugal with Flash Pack can help, splitting the cost by setting you up in a shared room with another like-minded adventurer. Still want your own room? No problem.
How to get to Portugal
Flying is the easiest option for solo travel to Portugal. The main airports are in Lisbon in the west, Faro in the south for the Algarve coastline, Porto in the north, and the island of Madeira. Being part of mainland Europe, Portugal is also accessible by train and there are day and sleeper options for getting here, too. You can also drive to Portugal through Spain; or get a ferry to France or Spain, then drive or take public transport the rest of the way.
How to get around Portugal
Portugal isn’t a large country and distances between places are short, meaning it’s easy to get around by train or bus. Some of the train routes can be especially scenic – like the coastal route between Cascais and Lisbon. Within the larger cities, metro and bus rapid transit (BRP) are the most popular type of transport used by solo travelers. But Portugal is also great for hiring a car, too. Roads are navigable with plentiful parking. Around mountainous regions, such as Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, the roads can get a little windy and narrow. Traveling on a group solo trip to Portugal can cover the cost of getting around, without the pressure of getting yourself from A to B.
Best time to visit Portugal
Portugal has a Mediterranean climate, so summers tend to be hot and dry, while winters are usually fairly mild. There’s not really a bad time for a solo trip to Portugal – a lot of it will depend on what kind of temperature you favour. If you enjoy hot weather, between June and August is best, though like many places in Europe, July and August is peak tourist season and slightly sweltering in the cities. August is particularly busy being Portugal’s holiday month, drawing a lot of locals towards the coast. There’s also a number of big music festivals that take place in Portugal, usually in spring or early autumn.
Portugal travel itineraries
Portugal is more than a whirlwind city break or place to flop on the beaches in the Algarve. Flash Pack has a great This is Portugal adventure that ticks off time spent being active, immersing yourself in the food and wine scene, and one-of-a-kind experiences that would be hard to organise by yourself as a solo traveler (like a private sunset cruise in Lisbon, for example). Start in Porto by making pastéis de nata, before heading to the Douro Valley to try some of the famed vineyards. Stretch out with sunset yoga in Ericeira and try your hand at surfing. Then, travel on to Sintra for a 4×4 forest-driving experience, before finishing in Lisbon – a great city for solo travelers.
What to pack for solo travel in Portugal
Pack what you might for a typical Mediterranean break for solo travel in Portugal. You’ll want to come prepared for the coast (sunscreen, a towel and swimwear), as well as for the city (think comfortable shoes if you’re going to take on the hills of Lisbon). There’s also a great amount of wilderness around Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and beaches such as Praia da Adraga are definitely worth a visit – it takes some scrambling to get there, so pack some sturdy hiking shoes, too.
Layers are a great option for winter and the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn in Portugal. Having a pack of playing cards can see you through long lunches and beach trips, as well as being a great tool for meeting new people in bars and hotels.
Solo travel advice for Portugal
Pousadas (historic hotels) are a great place to stay for solo travelers – they’re unique to Portugal and each one is different. If you’re going to Lisbon, check out Bairro Alto in the evenings, when hole-in-the-wall bars open up and the neighbourhood turns into a mini street party. Rather than sitting down and observing, grab a drink and wander around the streets to join in. The Portuguese are known for their hospitality, so don’t be afraid to sit down solo for a meal, coffee or drink, and take your time soaking it up.
Is it safe to travel solo in Portugal?
Thousands of visitors travel to Portugal every year and most trips are trouble-free. However, do check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), the Department of State Travel Advisories (US) or your country’s local government guidelines for the latest advice before traveling. Once there, follow local advice and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Crime rates in Portugal are typically low and it’s often considered one of the safest countries in Europe for travelers. Petty theft can happen, so keep your belongings close. Traveling solo in Portugal as part of a group can give you extra peace of mind to ensure there’s support from others if needed.
Ready for your next adventure? Try group solo travel to Portugal with Flash Pack – designed exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s, seeking the independence of solo travel within the safety of a group.
A cool 98% of Flashpackers arrive solo to join our group adventures. So, you’ll be in good company – whether a first time solo traveler or a seasoned pro looking for like-minded new friends.
Images: Flash Pack, Adobe & Unsplash