Kind of messy wires on the streets of Yangon
Best van life guide of Portugal's north west coast
My old car broke time a few times on its way from The Netherlands to Portugal, so I was happy to finally arrive -even though I got towed into the country-. The northern part of Portugal is far more civilized and commercial than south but definitely has its own charm. I traveled by van and can tell you the best spots to camp and what places definitely not to miss out on!
My first stop was Porto (as I got a ride from the roadside assistance, all the way from Spain). She was of course still beautiful, more bubbly this time with nice jazz bars and healthy little restaurants. A local very much recommended me the sunset boat tour on the Douro River, I can imagine it’s beautiful. We had dinner on the other side of the Douro, from you have an amazing view on Porto, especially when the sun just goes down! liked this boulevard more than the other side. More relaxed, fewer tourists, some street artists and good vibes. We didn’t stay for long this time, as the city is just really not the best place to be when you live in a campervan: I needed some nature!
On the way from Porto to Nazaré we passed Aveiro by without a pitstop which was a pity, as it turned out to be the Venice of Portugal. So don't make the same mistake, and give it a go! We did say hello to Figueira da Foz which is a good place to catch some waves and we continued to Nazare. Yes, Nazaré. The place where the highest wave ever is surfed and every winter huge waves are rolling in and records keep breaking. Not by me, and not when I was there in the summer. Even though, from up the lighthouse you have an absolutely stunning view over the Atlantic, coastline and Nazaré. And usually I don’t like to pay for stuff I think I don’t need, but I really can recommend you taking €1 to the lighthouse and read a little about Nazaré her history and have an even better view from up top of the lighthouse. Click here to check out some more amazing pictures of Nazaré!
Besides this, I wasn’t blown away by Nazaré’s downtown. It was all pretty touristic and as a very much not pro surfer, I didn’t feel like it’s a place to paddle out for me. So we continued to Peniche which was my first Portugal-experience in 2014. Already then, popular for its good surf. Even though I didn’t had that back experience back then: it was flat from the day after I arrived there. I realize now, 2 big vin-cuts with 3 and 5 stitches further… The surf sport has never really liked me back. Anyway, the 3G Surfschool was a nice place to hang out, had friendly people working there and good prices for rental and lessons. When there was something that looked like a wave, we went in together and it was with them I caught my first –mini- wave!
So back there, memories came across and I have to say I was kind of overwhelmed by even more popular and crowded this place had become. Baleal, which is a small town on the other end of the beach, had some cool bars but (to me) even more important: an AMAZING camp spot. Wide look out over the sea, quiet and on natural ground. It’s behind the supermarket. When you come from the beach, it’s the first lefts and then the first left again after this supermarket (don’t worry, there is only 1 ‘the supermarket’ in Baleal). This supermarket is not only a supermarket, also a social spot where people get cheap beer and snacks and sit outside to chat about daily life (surfing). For the rest I want to inform you that the World Surf League takes place in Peniche every year in October. Even more people but there is a really good vibe and it’s amazing to see the best surfing catching waves! Also have a go a bit further on that beach where they train: more tricks to see as they are freer to experiment!
To me, Peniche was okay, but I somehow missed a soul in this town. I was happier to meet the cute and cozy town Ericeira. With one of the best surf spots I’ve been: Ribeira D’Ilhas. It can be very difficult to come in and out with low tide, as there are quite some rocks. But the waves are beautiful, many right-handers and surfable in many different conditions.
After this, or before, or both, head to Bom Amigo for All You Can Eat Sushi. Yes, with capitals.
The price is insanely low: €7,50 for lunch and €9,95 for dinner. No joke. It’s good sushi and besides
this they also have fruits, fried food and different kinds of deserts. YUM!
More towards Ericeira and heading south, you have many great surf spots. When you’re not that
experienced, I think that Praia do Sol and Foz do Lizandro are the nicest are to get used of the
water and your board. And camping-wise? Is Foz do Lizandro my absolute favorite of this side
of the wild west coast. It will be pretty busy in high season, but if you can manage to get yourself
a spot near the abyss, you won’t worry about anything else. You’ve got an amazing view from up
top of the hill and a great sunset guaranteed.
So, as a van lifer, city trips are usually not on my list. But Sintra is something else. I don’t even see it as a city, more like a fairytale town. The castles are built by kings for their queens with the most beautiful trees imported from all over the world, architecture out of dreams and parts are designed by Gaudi. Park your campervan a little out of town. Like this, you see the most of this place but more important: the streets in this town are so tiny, you really don’t want to get stuck in traffic and you won’t find any parking place anyway. This is some advice you should really just take from me. For the rest I won’t say anything more about Sintra as there are a million other blogs to read about this town, I will only strongly recommend you not to pass this place!
An absolutely stunning, kind of 4x4 camping spot near Sintra and near to a little hidden beach, is found when you Google “Estacionamento Praia da Ursa”. I have many favorite places and this was one of them. I was there in November and even though the rest of Portugal was still pretty campervan-overloaded, we were the only one here at that moment: winning!!!
And just before you head to Portugal’s capital, there is one more place I want to tell you about. Guincho is a quite popular surf spot, but out of season also just a good place to chill in your van for a few nights. It’s far from any city of town, there is a big parking place and there is –again- beautiful nature around you with cliffs and a view on the horizon.
And from there, you can pretty much touch Lisbon! A really beautiful city with a great nightlife. The best way to get to know this -and actually every- big city, is to join one of their many Free Walking Tours. They will show you around and tell you about the must-see places and you can ask this local all you want to know about their city. One of the things they will probably tell you (and otherwise I will do anyway) is about heading to the Santa Catarina square at the end of the day. Here you can enjoy live music, good vibes and a beautiful sunset. Bring your own drinks! For the rest I can highly recommend the Flea market at Feira de Ladra, every Tuesday and Friday from 08:00 till 17:00. Join for a delicious vegetarian dinner Jardim dos Sentidos. Different styles of food and all really great! Got it recommended again and again and I got to understand why! To go partying, you can go to anywhere in Lisbon. But if you like to mingle you a little more between the locals, I would say you would be better off in Rua de Sao Paulo. Pensao Amor Bar is here my top favorite, with its crazy eccentric look. These were my highlights for Lisbon, but I won’t close this blog without telling you the best place to camp your van. Which is so near to the city, you would hardly believe it! Put your navigation here, it's next to the K Urban Beach Club and you will see what I mean: right on the waterfront, together with new van-friends and a 10-minute walk via the train station to the center of Lisbon!
Costa da Caparica
Not far from Lisbon you have the town Costa da Caparica. This place is known for its long waves, so really good for longboarders and beginners! Next to Parque de Campismo Inatel Caparica is a really great place to park your van, click here for the exact location.
As I didn’t want to overwhelm you with all the tips about Portugal in one time – sorry if I did anyway – I have divided the country into 2 parts. Also want to head south? Move on to the next blog about the stunning Algarve! Really, the most beautiful must still come………..