Portugal’s N2 (also known as the EN2 or Estrada Nacional 2) stretches from Chaves in the country’s north to Faro in the south. Its total length is 739 kilometers (453 miles), and it’s one of only three global roadways that spans an entire country from top to bottom.
There are, perhaps, faster ways for tourists to visit Portugal’s must-see destinations, but nothing compares to the meandering charm of the N2. This is a dream experience for the curious traveler who loves visiting unusual sites and attractions that the guidebooks leave out.
Thinking of the N2 conjures images of Greyhound buses and the sweeping, endless highways of the United States or Australia. Although uniquely Portuguese, riding the N2 falls into the category of those epic road trips – ever-changing landscapes, time spent listening to favorite music in the car with friends or family, a carousel of new faces, and chance encounters.
Choosing to travel the N2 guarantees you a splendid diversity of experiences. From historic architecture to first-class cuisine, traditional rural villages, and vibrant modern cities, the N2 showcases Portugal’s best.
So, get comfortable as we offer our highlights for the N2 – these are the places we recommend stopping on your adventure. However, it’s important to remember that an array of alternative stopping points could be selected. That’s the greatest attribute of the N2, it offers choice.
We hope the below guide inspires you when planning your next trip to Portugal. If you don’t think you’ll have time to explore the N2, why not consider joining us on one of our Private Day Tours in Portugal or book a Self-Guided Premium Tour in Portugal?
Getting Ready for the N2
The main decision you’ll have to make before setting off on your road trip is how long you wish to explore the N2. With Portugal being a relatively small country, it is possible to traverse the N2 in a couple of days. This would, however, rob the experience of everything that makes it so appealing.
We would recommend reserving at least a week to explore the N2. This way, you can make stops in all the major sections of the journey, spending extra time in the destinations that appeal to you most.
Before beginning your trip, collect an N2 passport from the tourist office in either Chaves or Faro. The passports provide information on the 35 municipalities the route passes through, and you can collect stamps from the tourist offices of each area. Think of it as your marathon finisher’s medal, a unique reminder of your fantastic time in Portugal.
Below, we pick some of our favorite places to stop on the N2.
Most travelers on the N2 will begin their journey in Chaves, the first stop in the north of Portugal (of course, you can just as easily begin your journey in the south, at Faro).
In Chaves, visitors can cross the city’s ancient Roman bridge (known as Trajan’s Bridge), which dates from the 2nd century when Chaves was a Roman town known as Aquae Flaviae. The Praça de Camões central square, Chaves Castle, and Jardim Publico de Chaves are also highlights.
However, our first suggested stopping point on the N2 is the city of Vila Real, where visitors are treated to a wealth of eye-catching historic architecture. Notable buildings include the Baroque Mateus Palace, the 17th-century Capela Nova, and the Gothic Igreja de São Domingos.
Although Vila Real is a walkable city, it offers enough attractions for an overnight stay.
For a moment of peace and the revitalization that only nature can offer, head to the UTAD Botanical Garden. And if you want to get out of the city for more ambitious hikes, you’re a short while from the beautiful Alvão Natural Park and Serra do Marão.
Douro Valley and Lamego
You will reach the Douro Valley by heading south along the N2 from Vila Real.
Possessing UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the Douro Valley is one of the oldest designated wine regions in the world and the most important wine-producing area in Portugal.
This is unquestionably one of the most beautiful areas in Portugal and you may well want to make this a place for a longer stay. Those interested in wine and the luxurious things in life will love our Douro Valley Private Tour.
Further along the N2, you will reach the medieval city of Lamego, our next recommended stopping point.
Famous for its Baroque architecture, wine, and cultural sites, Lamego is one of the most attractive towns in the Upper Douro Valley. Wine lovers will want to Lamego’s specialty: sparkling wines that undergo their second fermentation process in caves, such as the Caves da Raposeira.
Lamego is the capital city of Baroque architecture in Portugal. To enjoy wonderful views and a masterly building from the 18th century, climb the 700 steps that take you to the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Sanctuary.
Elsewhere, visit the Cathedral of Lamego, which traces its origins to the 12th century.
Next on our list is Coimbra, the former capital of Portugal and home to the country’s oldest university.
Famed for its Fado music and rich cultural heritage, Coimbra is endlessly fascinating. Bibliophiles won’t want to miss some of the city’s wonderful evocative bookshops and libraries, such as Biblioteca Joanina, an 18th-century library home to over 250,000 precious books.
Go to the Machado de Castro National Museum to browse its enormous collection of tapestries, paintings, sculptures, and altarpieces.
The next highlight from our tour of the N2 is Tomar, home of the Knights Templar’s Convent of Christ. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed in the 12th century and acted as a stronghold for the knights.
Exploring this medieval holy site and the defensive fortress will leave you spellbound. The site’s famous round tower was modeled on the Dome of the Rock and Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, a connection to the crusader origins of the knights.
Close by is the mightily impressive Aqueduto dos Pegões, an enormous aqueduct engineered in the 16th century. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery around the aqueduct and even walk along its upper tiers.
After exploring the Convent of Christ, enjoy time in Tomar’s Old Town. The Knights Templar meticulously planned the town, and the charming Old Town streets form the shape of a cross, with each arm directing you to a holy site. Begin your wanderings from the exquisite Praça da República.
Proceeding south along the N2, you will enter the Alentejo region. Here, you will have the chance to visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town of Évora. This historic city often ranks among the most liveable places in Portugal.
The Romans were the first to establish Évora as we see it today. The most important extant piece of Roman history in Évora is undoubtedly the Corinthian temple that sits in the center of the modern town, right where the center of where Évora’s Roman forum would have been nearly 2,000 years ago.
Regularly referred to as the Temple of Diana, the Corinthian temple is actually thought to have been built in honor of Emperor Augustus, who was deified after his death.
The Old Town of Évora is the country’s best example of Portuguese Renaissance architecture. In 1755, a powerful earthquake destroyed buildings across Portugal, most famously leveling most of Lisbon. Évora, on the other hand, was spared the worst of the devastation and exists almost like a time capsule of Renaissance Portugal today.
There is the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) for travelers drawn to eerie and unusual sights. This is a famous charnel house where human remains are stacked from floor to ceiling, often arranged in creative displays.
Coming to the end of the N2, we reach the Algarve’s capital city, Faro.
Faro offers boat tours, pristine sandy islands, and a vibrant dining scene. In Faro, you can really enjoy a slice of luxury. Spend your days sunbathing or swimming in the sea before enjoying nights eating the delicious food of the Algarve and grabbing a refreshing cocktail.
Wildlife lovers may want to extend their trip and explore the Ria Formosa, one of Europe’s most naturally diverse and attractive regions.
This brings to an end our guide to the N2.
We hope we’ve given you plenty of inspiration for your journey on the N2. If you have any questions, please get in touch.