Fun Ways of traveling in Portugal: Ferries & More

A large white ferry sailing from Olhao, Portugal with people onboard enjoying themselves
A large white ferry sailing from Olhao, Portugal with people onboard enjoying themselves

Portugal has a well developed transportation system. I have covered it extensively in my guide on all the ways of getting around Portugal fast and on the cheap. But Portugal stands out as a country that have a few means of transportation that are particularly fun to use, which I want to highlight here.

In fact, these ways of traveling in Portugal are so exciting that you should take them just for the fun of it, even if you don’t need to go anywhere.

Enjoy cruising on ferry through a maze of sailboats to get to the ocean beaches in the Algarve. Climb up steep hills on funiculars, zip through narrow streets on trams, ride a cable car, or get a private tour of narrow alleys on tuk-tuk. You can even float on a rafting boat for even more exciting way of traveling.

This guide covers some of the most enjoyable and fun ways for hopping between locations in Portugal, while soaking the ambience along the way. And all these ways are flight free, with no airplanes involved, as a bonus!

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Enjoy a ferry ride 

Ferries are a fun and scenic way to travel between many destinations in Portugal. You can ride ferry to the Madeira, or island hop in the Azores, cross the Tagus River between major cities, or take ferry to different beaches along the southern Algarve coast.

Ferry is a fun way to discover some of Portugal's most picturesque regions, and it double up as a scenic tour.

One thing is guaranteed: your experience will be a highlight of your trip.

Cross the Atlantic by Ferry to Madeira

Book one of the ferries that sail weekly from Porto to Madeira across the Atlantic ocean. Your trip will be around 800 kilometers and it will last between half a day to over a full day on the ocean waters. The time will fly fast, as you will watch whales and dolphins in their natural habitat from the deck, or you can rest in cabins, lounge areas, or eat bifana, bacalhau pies or fresh seafood in a cafeteria.

Cruise the Tagus River between Lisbon and Porto de Santost

For gorgeous river views of Portugal’s longest waterway, take a ferry from the capital of Lisbon south to the port city of Porto de Santo. You’ll sail past chalk cliffs, fishing villages and colorful farmland along the Tagus. It’s a scenic half-day trip between the two historic cities.

Sitting outside on a deck on a warm day is very enjoyable, even if you didn't get to see the beautiful panoramas of the Tagus River Valley, but you'll get the double pleasure!

A person abord a ferry in Algarve enjoys herself &watches Ria Formoso glistering
A person abord a ferry in Algarve enjoys herself &watches Ria Formoso glistering

Explore Algarve by Ferry

Algarve region, a popular Portuguese destination, is known for its beaches, architecture and natural beauty. There are many ways to travel in Algarve.

The Algarve has many local ferries connecting coastal towns like Ferragudo to Portimão as well as islands like Ilha de Tavira that can only be reached by boat.

Taking small ferries or boats in the Algarve offers a fun way to see Portugal and visit some of the more off-the-beaten path locations along the coast and pretty unspoiled towns. You will also see birds sanctuaries. 

Ferries are quite cheap: the fair for a ferry ticket is around $4 round trip (but boats rides are not cheap)! Ferries in Algarve are the most fun thing you can do there: don’t miss getting a ferry ride!

People from a ferry enjoy a peaceful views with sailboats parked by a beach in Algarve 🇵🇹
People from a ferry enjoy a peaceful views with sailboats parked by a beach in Algarve 🇵🇹

Take a ferry ride on a narrow river to go see the ocean beaches in Algarve, Portugal. It's a very fun thing to do.

Ride Historic Funiculars

All funiculars in Portugal are fun to ride. 

Take an exiting ride on The Guindais Funicular in Porto

The Funicular dos Guindais, or The Guindais Funicular, is a steep cable railway between Ribeira neighbourhood, located along the Douro river and Batalha, the upper part of Porto. It runs right next to the famous Luís I Bridge (see on the pictures above). 

This funicular is the best example of fun public transport that serves a great purpose. Not only it's very exciting to ride it, with the view of the arched Luis I Bridge & the Douro river valley, but it's a tremendous help getting from the rive banks level up the hill. Otherwise, you have to walk up the steep stairs, which is also fun, but hard on your legs.

Look how steep the hill it runs on is! Why not save yourself time and energy and go on this exciting ride instead!

In fact, go twice: go down the hills once during the day, and go up the hill at night after you done hanging out in the best area of Porto to be at night - Ribiera. 

Colorful houses under an arched steel bridge where Guindais funicular starts in Porto
Colorful houses under an arched steel bridge where Guindais funicular starts in Porto

The upper level of Luis I Bridge in Porto, Portugal is a very high. Look on the right side of the picture: these houses at the river bank's level you can see under the bridge is where the Guindais funicular starts. It goes steep up and ends at the top of the hill. Your choice is either riding the funicular or walking the stairs up the hill.

This view of Douro River in Porto from Luis I Bridge shows how tall the hill is.

Ride famous Bica Funicular in Lisbon

Visit Pink street in Lisbon and then take Bica Funicular up the street to get to Bario Alto. Not only will you have a fun ride, but after you're done, hang out at the bars along the ride lane. There are many bars where local like to hang out, join them!

Guimarães' Shortest Funicular Ride

The Guimarães' Funicular is a fun (and cheap) way to experience a unique mini ride through old Guimarães. It is only 120 meters long, making it the smallest funicular in Europe. But it still climbs 65 meters up through the historic center.

The small rail car glides through narrow medieval tunnels as it slowly moves up. When you reach the top, you can enjoy nice views of the city.

Although it is a short 2 minutes ride ride, it is a unique way to reach the old town on a hill and makes for an unusual experience! Don't miss this small but fun transportation connection in Guimarães.

Ticket price for Guimarães' funicular:

Expect to pay €1.20 for a one-way adult ticket, with discounts available for students, seniors, children and families . Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) is €3.

An all-inclusive day pass for the funicular and attractions like the Palace is also available for €5.

Yellow Bica Funicular wagon is ready to depart & people partying on the street watch it
Yellow Bica Funicular wagon is ready to depart & people partying on the street watch it

Bica de Daurte Belo street on which Bica funicular runs has many bars where people hang out.

Use fun Local Transit

Local transit in Portugal comes in many shapes and forms. Exploring hilly historic towns and districts though old cobblestoned streets in tuk-tuk is a fun way to get around in Portugal. You can finish your trip with riding iconic Lisbon trams or a cable car.

Tour Historic Évora by Tuk-Tuk

These auto rickshaws are perfect for exploring Évora's 15th-century walls and plazas within the UNESCO World Heritage site. Evora, Portugal, is an incredibly beautiful town with unique old architecture and medieval houses that will make your heart flatter, if you enjoy architecture.

But believe me, there will be many times you will be thankful to get a ride on Tuk-tuk.  Because, while old cobblestone pavement is in part what makes visiting Evora exciting, it also makes it  difficult to walk on for long. 

This is the cobblestone pavement in the center of Evora I was talking about

Zip through mediaeval Alfama in Lisbon on Tuk-tuk

Alfama, a medieval district in Lisbon, while very picturesque is also quite hilly. It might be hard on your legs, exploring there. Instead, get a tour ride on tuk-tuk. They zip by very fast, stopping at deferent places of interest.

I see a lot of them while walking, and I envy people in them on same particularly steep alleys: they looks like they are having fun, while I'm trying to catch my breath.:)

Tourist getting a ride in tuk-tuk on a cobbleston street in Alfama, Lisbon
Tourist getting a ride in tuk-tuk on a cobbleston street in Alfama, Lisbon
A yellow tram 28 on a street is one of the fun tams to ride in Lisbon, 🇵🇹
A yellow tram 28 on a street is one of the fun tams to ride in Lisbon, 🇵🇹

Ride Lisbon's Iconic Trams

Riding a tram in Lisbon (or Porto), one of many vintage streetcars clattering through many districts of Lisbon, is undeniable fun! However, it also a great way to get around in Lisbon. Don't miss my custom interactive map of tram 28 ride in Lisbon with points of interest marked around each stop of the route. It will help you to plan your day of exploring Lisbon's attractions better and save you time.

Ride Portugal's Only Cable Car

Glide 300 meters above sea level on the 50-passenger cable car connecting the seaside resort of Santa Cruz to Monte on Madeira.

Starting from the coastal town of Santa Cruz, you can hop on one of the open-air cable cars that depart every 15 minutes. As you ascend, you'll be treated to a spectacular views of the crashing waves of the Atlantic ocean below. The coastal cliffs drop dramatically into the water, while waterfalls flow down the forested slopes.

You'll approach the picturesque village of Monte, almost surrounded by water. Once you step off, you'll see fragrant gardens filled with exotic flowers. You can take a walk along charming streets lined with whitewashed houses.

Afterward, you can relax and enjoy a delicious lunch at a scenic cafe with ocean views before beginning your descent.

This cable car ride offers an unforgettable way to experience the beautiful coastal scenery of Madeira.

Tour the Douro Valley by Rack Train

Enjoy the terraced vineyards views of Doura Valley from open-air carriages pulled by retro steam engines.

You will travel from Porto to Régua, Pinhão, and Pocinho along this scenic route. The train has retro-style carriages, some of them open-air, so you can admire the beautiful terraced vineyards and river valley. There are many fun picture opportunities, and the retro-styled carriages are very cute.

You can finish your trip with a wine-testing stop. You are guaranteed to have an enjoyable and fun traveling around Douro Valley.

Getting around Portugal Enjoying Scenery.

So, we have looked at many fun ways of using Portuguese transportation system for enjoyment and unique memories. Now lets' looks at less conventional ways of getting around.

Float the Guadiana River on a Raft

Floating a river on a raft is a unique and fun way of traveling. You can enjoy a relaxed afternoon drifting down the Guardia River - the second longest river in Portugal, surrounded by olive groves and medieval villages.

You will start your trip in the picturesque town of Mértola, where daily rafting trips are available from spring to fall.

Your will glide past sandbars with herons and picturesque landscapes with terraced hills, ancient farms, and pretty towns and medieval villages, while enjoying snacks and drinks. Admit, it sounds fun, isn't it?:)

But is rafting even a transportation system? While rafting is often associated with recreational activities today, it does have roots and some current usage as a transportation system. Well, regardless, you will enjoy yourself traveling this way!

Practical information about rafting on the Guadiana River

Mértola is a small village located in the Beja district of Portugal, around 200km southeast of Lisbon. Many rafting operators arrange floats and kayaks starting from the public quay/dock area along the riverbank in Mértola.

Operators, providing rafting tours:

- Pedro's Outdoor Tours. Their address is Rua da Figueira in Mértola. They offer daily rafting trips from March-October.

- Alentejo Raft Tours, located at Rua Dr. Afonso Costa 21 in Mértola.

- You can also typically find independent rafting guides waiting near the main pedestrian bridge in Mértola to book a float right away.

List of some popular villages located along that stretch of the river that rafts drift by

- Vila Nova de Milfontes , a well-preserved walled village famous for its beaches, approximately 25km north of Mértola.

- Castro Verde is located high on a hilltop with panoramic views of the river valley below. About 15km north of Mértola.

- Odivelas, an ancient medieval town surrounded by megalithic remains, some 7km north of Mértola.

- Pias, a tiny village nestled into terraced hillsides, about 12km upstream from Mértola.

- Terena, a picturesque village with a 13th century castle overlooking the river, roughly 9km north of the starting point.

The exact route would depend on flows and stops, but these are some of the main picturesque medieval villages and towns sprinkled along the Guadiana.

Some other unusual exciting way of exploring Portugal's places

Tour the Alentejo by Vintage Sidecar

Tour the Alentejo ( the region of Portugal) in an open-air sidecar.

What is a vintage sidecar? The vintage side car is a vintage three-wheeler motorcycle from the 1930s. It's a private tour and it comes with a certified driver who will narrate your trip.

You will ride on quiet country roads past centuries-old stone farms and pretty olive groves. You will have periodic stops in historic villages like Reguengos de Monsaraz, where you will find some Manueline archways and Moorish details.

This ride is just so much fun and you will have a great time.

Or, you can take a similar Sidecar Tours by Bike My Side on TripAdvisor on the vintage Ural style motorcycle around the Algarve area

Sidecar Lisbon

Or, instead you can tour Lisbon on a similar motorbike sidecar to visit the Tower of Belem and the Jerónimos Monastery, and explore charming neighborhoods like Alfama, Bairro Alto, and Chiado.

You can find this tour on Viator.

Explore Algarve on an off-roading adventure

Spend a half a day in an off-road truck exploring countryside of the Algarve. You won't drive the car yourself, you will have an expert driver and guide. You'll explore Paderne and Alte from Albufeira. Besides amazing views you'll be treated to some local treats.

You can find this tour on Viator.com

Explore caves on catamaran in Algarve

Take a catamaran tour to explore the famous Benagil caves in the Algarve and the coastline from Albufeira.

Catamaran Cruise: Caves and Coastline to Benagil 2024 - Albufeira (viator.com)

Now, what if you prefer more active ways to explore Portugal?

Active fun Ways to Travel around Portugal

If you prefer to travel around Portugal in a more active way, you can cycle between on quiet roads between wineries in the Douro Valleys or you can hike along some outstandingly picturesque routes.

Bike Between Wineries in the Douro Valley

Cycle between Douro Valley’s quintas (estates) with breathtaking scenery.

To read a more detailed post about biking in Portugal, read my other post.

Hike on Iconic Trails

Hike the Levada das 50 Caixas in Madeira for stunning views. This 5km trail starts in São Vicente, following a centuries-old irrigation canal carved into cliffsides. Enjoy panoramic vistas of the ocean, waterfalls, and rare Madeiran wildlife. Take a dip in clear eater pools along the way.

You will make some long lasting memories on this fun hike!

There are so many different fun ways of traveling aground Portugal, that you are guaranteed to have some lasting experiences having fun!

Do you know of another fun way to travel in Portugal? Let me know: let's connect on social media! Or, check out my other European destinations on my blog.