Portugal: The West Coast – Praia Boca do Rio – Carrapateira – Porto Covo – Parque Natural Da Arrabida – Sintra – Lisbon. 29th March – 6th April

After leaving Lagos we carried on our plan to head North up the West coast of Portugal. Carrying on the N125, following the coast line around the cliffs, we followed a steep road down to a stop, marked on the app, in the middle of nowhere called Praia Boca do Rio where only a few other vans were parked up along with a couple of University minibuses on a field trip from Germany!

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And after a short walk it was clear why the students had been brought there – a little stream with mini rapids led you down to an unspoilt beach surrounded by cliffs covered in wild flowers; perfect to view the sunset from. After dark it we realised how remote we really were, with absolutely no light or sound pollution whatsoever.

We started the next day a little slower, experimenting with smarties and pancake mix before taking another walk by the beach by which time the German students had returned with petrol powered augers to collect their soil samples. Carrying on the coast road, we ended up in a place called Sagres which was home to a large Fort and an even larger carpark which would be our home for the night, once again we were spoilt with another lovely sunset.

The next day we decided to take a drive around to the next “point” on the coast called Cabo de Sao Vicente where we stopped by the lighthouse shortly before bumping into our German friends, Fynn and Caro, from Lagos.

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After a quick chat it became clear that we were all up for a BBQ so set off to get supplies and then meeting up once more at a fairly stunning place just outside of Carrapateira on top of the cliffs where we made camp for the night and lit up the BBQ!

After a really chilled out evening we parted company once more, taking the N268 before joining the N120 with a plan of a beach day, the wind however changed our plans and after taking some ridiculously steep hills along with dirt tracks that unbelievably were marked on the map as public highways we ended up in a place called Almograve, with a beautiful beach and another dirt track which ran along the top of the cliffs, perfect for an evening drive!

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Waking up to another sunny but far less windy day at the beach carpark we were suddenly part of the local 4X4 clubs photoshoot before their Sunday outing!

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After driving a little way on the N393, we stopped at the estuary on the opposite side of Vila Nova de Milfontes where we laid on the beach enjoying the view of the town but not appreciating quite how hot it was due to the sea breeze, turning a lovely shade of pink before we even set off again in the van…

Already feeling a little tender from the sun we carried on to Porto Covo, that on our arrival was full of life! After taking a lap round the town (spotting a very tidy green LT from Germany) we ended up in the campervan carpark where we managed to squeeze in! After cooking up some dinner, a chap came up to us admiring the van, he turned out to be the owner of the German LT! After the obligatory Volkswagen chat we went for a walk around the town where everyone was getting stuck in to their “Sunday dinner” at the restaurants.

After taking a detour due to a road block the next morning we eventually found a small coast road out of Porto Covo to Sines where we  spent the morning stocking up on supplies and fuelling up! We then carried on in search of Lagoas de Santo Andre e Sancha a large lake by the coast that we had spotted on the map. After turning off the A26-1 we followed sandy tracks through woodlands which brought us straight to the shore! (Syncros eat ya’ heart out!)

Intrigued to see where the lake joined the sea we followed more tracks back to a main road (the M544) to the beach, where like on the Algarve, boardwalks had been built through the dunes which we explored after a bit of lunch. Carrying on the N261, N253 and the IC1, driving through Setubal into Parque Natural Da Arrabida we came across Praia Da Figueirinha, another stunning beach which we shared with only a couple of other vans!

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The next day we visited Cabo Espichel, which although looked ‘down the road’ from us turned out to be quite a drive! But definitely worth it! Home to a Chapel dating back to the 15th Century and the ruins of an Opera House from the 18th Century.

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After a calm and relaxed morning of sightseeing we made the decision to drive to Lisbon… After crossing the old bridge into Lisbon we carried on directly through the centre, up all the cobbled roads amongst the tourists, mopeds, tuk tuks and  trams (which make frequent stops on the most steep hills) in one word; nightmare. However the van coped well, getting a little warm but so did we!

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Traffic and trams – not a great combo when you’re sitting in an old van!

However the van coped well, getting a little warm but so did we! Eventually finding our way out we decided that Lisbon and Campervans shouldn’t mix and found a quiet place called Cabo Raso near the beach where derelict buildings had been claimed by the sea!

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The next day, after we’d recovered from the madness of the day before, we decided to head on the N247 towards Sintra, a gorgeous road through the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. Parking up near the centre, with a view of the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, we went off to first explore the town, not appreciating how early we had arrived, not a lot was going on so we walked back, past the van, up the road to get a better look at the Palace! Even more impressive up close, surrounded by nice little bars and shops we noticed a Gothic style house in the distance, so after playing a game of ‘where’s Wally’ with the van…

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…we decided to go and investigate. As we got closer it became clear that the house was within the grounds of an attraction. Still not knowing exactly what it was, other than it’s name “Quinta da Regaleira”, we found ourselves buying entry tickets with which we were handed a map, where we started to understand the vast scale of the grounds! (4 hectares to be precise!) I think it’s fair to say that any landscaper would be proud to put his name to it, complete with extensive manmade tunnels, caves, a 27 metre deep well (!) which had its own spiral staircase down to the bottom and all of the gothic style turrets and architecture. And considering that, nearly all of this work was completed within 6 years over 100 years ago (1904-1910) is absolutely phenomenal! Our photos really do not do it justice! Certainly a must see (especially if you’re a landscaper) if you’re on holiday in Lisbon as it’s only about 20 miles down the road!

After another wander around the town, we headed in the van to Odrinhas (down the road from Sintra) on the N247 and the N9 to a camperstop called Parque Autocaravanas Odrinhas, which unbeknown to us came complete with outdoor swimming pool and a cute little bar to use their very good wifi, all for a very fair price! Definitely worth a stop over if you’re in the area…  www.odrinhaspark.pt


After spending a week along the Algarve (South Coast) and then a week (so far) along the West Coast, we’re both in agreement that the “Algarve” is fairly overrated, the beaches are nice but the scenery is hardly memorable, maybe this was due to the fact that everyone had made such a thing about the Algarve that our expectations were too high, but put it this way, we wish we’d got to the West coast a little quicker!

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