Portugal Van Life

This trip to Portugal was a difficult time for me because half way through my holiday I found out my best friend passed away in the 2018 London Marathon. He was running to raise money for the Brathay Trust so if you could donate anything at all then please, please do so here. Thank you. I made the decision to continue my trip in Portugal exploring the coastline and watching sunsets with a beer in hand, just how Matt would have. 

After leaving Lisbon we set our sights on visiting Sesimbra as we’d found a beautiful hidden beach on Instagram that we wanted to visit. After navigating some tricky, small cobbled streets through Sesimbra village we found the perfect van spot overlooking the ocean and this is where you start the walk to find the beach. It’s a 20 minute easy hike to the viewpoint then you can walk down to the beach after another 10 minutes of scrambling down the side of the cliff. Sounds extreme, it wasn’t.

Our camper van from West Coast Campers was equipped with a camping stove and all the kitchen essentials. I love cooking but I especially love it when you have the best view, a glass of red wine in hand and you can enjoy the warm evening temperatures. I love winters in the Alps but I am definitely a summer kind of person. We cooked all vegan food and the first few meals had some awesome vegan chorizo in that I found in Lisbon.

After a night in Sesimbra, we headed inland to the medieval town of Évora as the weather forecast was predicting rain for a couple of days so we thought we’d escape the coastline. Évora is a historic walled town and capital of the Alentejo region which is surrounded by olive and cork tree groves and traditional Portuguese villages. It was a relaxing drive to the town and we used the Park 4 Night website to find a place to park for free and sleep overnight. We found this website really useful but you can also just drive into a town and spot where the other campers and RVs are and that’s usually where you can stay. We found Portugal really easy for “boondocking” but I think it’s because we were there out of the main season so it might be different during the summer months.

We wandered around the quaint streets and found some awesome historical sights to marvel then we had to run to find somewhere to escape the pesky rain storm. We stumbled upon Xafarica wine bar where we had some nibbles and local red wine. It was a gorgeous bar with a friendly atmosphere and good music playing. After a fun, spontaneous night, we went back to our van to cook and listen to the torrential rain. We enjoyed moving somewhere new every day so we left Évora for the Algarve as the weather was looking better so with a friend’s recommendation, we headed towards Tavira. We had run out of water and needed a shower so we picked out a basic campsite in Fuzeta to stay over night. We were pretty reluctant to pay to camp somewhere as campsites in Europe can be so expensive but this one (Parque de Campismo Fuzeta) was only €11 for one night which was good as we got a decent hot shower and refilled our 50 litre water tank. We arrived late after quite a long drive through the Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana so went to explore the town the next day. After a quick scoot around Fuzeta we left the campsite and went to Tavira in search of lunch.

We arrived into Tavira just as the sun was coming back out after a couple days of rain, so we got to see the pretty Algarve town at its finest. We left Tavira with full tummies courtesy of Bio Tequim Vegetariano Restaurante where I had a lovely vegan nut roast with roast veggies and Pete had an amazing meze plate. It was a quick tour of these towns but we wanted to head towards Lagos where there were some awesome looking beaches and find a nice spot to camp.

We explored the beach at Praia Dona Ana which had these amazing sandstone towers. You could get a better view of these from the coastal path all the way to Farol da Ponta da Piedade which had sweeping views of the rugged coastline.

It was really beautiful here but we needed to find somewhere to camp so Pete chose Porto de Mos beach. We had a lovely spot here where we stayed for two nights. This is where we heard the devastating news about Matt so I don’t have many photos here as I wanted to just have time and space to process everything.

We left Porto de Mos after two days and headed towards Sagres, the most south westerly point of Portugal. The coast was really rocky here and I loved seeing and hearing the crashing of the huge waves. After a relaxed lunch of peanut butter and banana on bread (my absolute fave), we headed back north up the coastline to a village called Vila Nova de Milfontes.

We found a cool spot near this beautiful inlet and went for a sunset stroll through the dunes. The town itself was so sweet and we had a great evening drinking wine in a local bar and wandering through the residential streets with colourful doors and doing a bit of window shopping. The final place we camped was on a beach just south of Costa da Caparica on Praia de Rainha. There was a small van community there which was really cool and as we left for the West Coast Camper van depot in Lisbon, we donated the rest of our left over food…mainly garlic cloves!

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Another amazing sunset

From Lisbon we took the train back down south to Faro where we stayed in an Airbnb. It was really quiet in Faro town as the season has started off very quietly, according to locals, but we had a lovely meal at the vegan cafe Mel & Limao. It was tapas only as they  serve a hot main at lunch times, however, the tapas was so tasty with a great selection using fresh ingredients. It was polished off with a bottle of local, organic red wine.

We definitely want to revisit Portugal in our own van one day, six days just wasn’t enough to see everywhere we wanted to and sometimes spending two nights in one place would have been preferable. We didn’t really have an agenda for the trip and we loved the relaxed vibes and slow travel of moving from place to place with your home in the back of the van. It has really inspired us to buy our own van this year and make it into our perfect home on wheels. It gives you so much freedom to move when you want and sleep where you want. We have camped A LOT in our tent and of course we love that too but the van is much more practical for when it rains or when you arrive somewhere late and the last thing you want to do is put your tent up. West Coast Campers were great from start to finish. The van was so good, cheap and ours was designed for up to four people but I think two was cosy enough. It had everything you needed and I would recommend them to anyone.

Portugal has been great for vegan/vegetarian food and also great for chilling out together. We had a pretty hectic winter ski season and just wanted to have some down time without any alarm clocks or plans. Portugal, you exceeded my expectations and we will be back! I really want to see northern Portugal and visit Porto and the mountainous region.

Here is a little video from our GoPro photos:

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