Chaves – Porto– Coimbra – Prego Dam – Benagil Beach – Saint Luzia
We drove for hours and hours through the mountains in Spain to end up in Portugal. The Landscape was amazing, on the Northern Spanish side we were surrounded by green forested mountains. Once we passed through to the Southern side we were suddenly in a much hotter dryer climate, with landscape similar to the Grand Canyon.
We stopped at a free campsite on the outskirts of a town in Portugal called Chaves, we found this stop on Camper Contact and it’s a great place to rest for the night to break up the journey to Porto. This was on the river behind a small family restaurant; they let you stay for free, if you are a customer at the restaurant. We just had a couple of beers under their grape vines and headed back to the bus for a peaceful early night. They had a well for you to dump the toilets and a hose you could use to fill up, all for free! Find the link to the site here: https://www.campercontact.com/en/portugal/norte-36–4049–5054/chaves/24231/motorhome-parking-o-moinho.aspx
We then made our way down to Porto; by the side of the river they have a great free camping spot! There is no facilities so stock up on water and empty your toilets before you get there! Link to site here : https://www.campercontact.com/en/portugal/norte-36–4049–5054/porto/14297/motorhome-parking-porto.aspx.
We walked along the river and into town, the energy of the City is so magical, there is buskers on every corner, and everyone sat out enjoying the sun! Porto’s life and soul is on her hilly streets, in the many hipster bars and smoky cafes. We were starving so we stopped in a little Brazillian pork sandwich shop and had juicy pork rolls and a cold beer. Next we wondered through the streets and found a cool bar by the university called Base. It’s a hidden gem in Porto. You can sit on crates or just lay on the grass, watching the stars! Next we headed down to the bar district, most of them don’t open till late! We grabbed a few wines and then started to make our way back to the bus, stopping at one or two bars on route!
The next day we chilled out and went out for grilled Sardines at a little restaurant near the motorhome parking. This was a lovely little gem, far removed from the tourist traps. Unfortunately we didn’t get the name but you will see it on the side of the road as you walk down to the main foot bridge, it has a big charcoal grill outside and they cook delicious little sardines over it. We also shared a bottle of wine for only 6 Euros bargain!
On day 3 we decided to head across to Restaurante Grande Palácio Hong Kong as we heard it had the best Dim Sum in Porto! It was a 4.3km walk from the Motorhome parking but it was sooo worth it, it was seriously some of the best Dim Sum we ever had. We had a leisurely walk back home through town, stopping for delicious roast chestnut and port ice-cream. We also made our way across the top of the Dom Luís I Bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel . There are breath-taking views of the city from the top!
We could have easily stayed in Porto forever, but alas we needed to top up our shower water so we decided to move on. We drove down to Coimbra stopping on the way to pick up a group of lovely young Polish hitchhikers who were trying to make their way to Lisbon.
There is a really good free Motorhome Car Park on the outskirts of Coimbra with free facilities! Find the link to site here: https://www.campercontact.com/en/portugal/centro-2225–3038–6064/coimbra/11634/motorhome-parking-parque-verde-do-mondego.aspx . This spot is right on the river, with kayak rentals nearby. You can also swim in the river! There is a little café on site that does cheap toasted sandwiches and churros and there is a swimming pool very close by that is open during the summer months.
Coimbra itself was a bit of a let-down compared to Porto, it was the medieval capital of Portugal for over a hundred years, and site of the country’s greatest university for the past five centuries.
We walked over the bridge and into Coimbra; we grabbed a pizza at a little Italian restaurant on the river and then went into town to find a supermarket. Unfortunately we got caught in a torrential thunderstorm with no umbrellas and got absolutely drenched! We had also left the roof vent on the bus open which soaked our bed.
We had a glass of wine outside the bus, and met a Scottish chap who had been living in his campervan there for 3 months. The next day we walked up to the old university and had a nosy round. We found a little Jazz bar and had a glass of wine, we could hear some amazing singing coming from the square below so we decided to go check it out. Turns out it was our new Scottish friend busking. He joined us for a couple of beers and then we made our way back to the bus to make some cocktails. His girlfriend also joined us for far too many Caipirinhas into the early hours of the morning.
Unfortunately the weather had been cold and rainy and we were desperate to get some sun, so we decided to try and make our way to the Algave. It was too long a drive to do in one go so we stopped at Barragem do Pego do Altar a free Motorhome parking place on the edge of a reservoir. There is not much to see there but it was a handy place to park for the night. Link to site here: https://www.campercontact.com/en/portugal/alentejo-20-21-7079/pego-do-altar/12325/motorhome-parking-parking.aspx
Next stop was Benagil Beach. We had heard about an amazing sea cave there and wanted to go check it out. It is located in the small village of Benagil, which is situated between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra. There was a small sandy parking plot opposite the main car park for the beach that is ideal for campervan parking, although the terrain was a bit uneven. There are boat tours to the cave, however I would recommend just swimming round yourself. The boat tours are crowded and do not let you get of the boat, so it would be impossible to see the cave properly. Wanting on our own, we set our alarm for 5am and headed down to the beach for an amazing sunrise. We inflated our kayak and paddled out only 5 minutes across to the sea cave. Thankfully, as we had hoped, we managed to beat the crowds and had the cave all to ourselves for a couple of hours, which was really magical.
Next we drove down to Santa Luzia, a small fishing village on the outskirts of Tavira. Santa Luzia is famed for its octopus, which is caught using traditional methods by the fishing fleet and then served up in the family run restaurants that line the harbour front. We found free parking right by the river however this did not have Motorhome facilities. Link to site found here : https://www.campercontact.com/en/portugal/algarve-80-89/santa-luzia/54834/motorhome-parking-areas-st-luzia.aspx
To get to the main beach you have to take a ferry across the river, this is 2 Euros a ticket. The Praia da Terra Estreita beach is regarded by some as the best beach in the region and is always quiet, even at the height of the summer season. There is a little bar on the beach and toilets but no showers, the sea was lovely so we went for a refreshing swim. The last boat back to Santa Luzia leaves the beach at 7pm. We spent the evening wondering through the town, there are a handful of restaurants and bars, our favourite was Meia Pipa Bar. The owner is really lovely and we had a good chat with him. We also met a nice young couple on holiday from Liverpool and had a couple of drinks with them. The next day we found a nice little coffee shop and spent the day in there ordering ice-creams, coffees and writing our blog.