campervanning in portugal

Campervanning in Portugal – The Best Guide to Portugal Vanlife

Campervanning in Portugal is one of the best ways to experience this beautiful and diverse country. In this guide, I share everything you need to know about Portugal vanlife, so you can come fully prepared and ready to explore.

When it comes to the best campervan destinations in Europe, Portugal often tops the list. With endless rugged coastlines, bustling cultural cities, and so much more, it’s not too difficult to see why.

We recently spent a couple of months touring Portugal in our self-converted campervan. We fell in love with its diversity, culture, wine, and, of course, its unrivalled winter climate.

In this guide, I aim to share everything we learned about driving a campervan or motorhome in Portugal. Things like road laws and regulations, where to camp, and the best places to visit.

There is plenty to consider when it comes to vanlife in Portugal. So please read the entire article to ensure you remain safe and compliant and make the most of your trip.

But with all that said, let’s jump into it. Here’s our ultimate guide to campervanning in Portugal.

Vanlife Portugal
We loved Vanlife in Portugal!

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Driving to Portugal in a Campervan or Motorhome

When planning your campervan trip to Portugal, the first thing you’ll want to work out is how you’ll get there.

Whether you’re driving from the UK to Portugal or from elsewhere in Europe, this section will give you a few options to think about.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to rent a campervan while in Portugal, I also have some information on that.

Driving from the UK to Portugal

The most popular way of driving to Portugal from the UK is to cross over into France, then head South into Spain and on to Portugal.

Unfortunately, it sounds easier than it actually is. There are a lot of miles to cover between the UK and Portugal. You can expect to be driving at the very least for two whole days.

Also to take into consideration are the costs of completing such a drive. First, there’s your crossing from the UK to France, then your fuel, and on top of that, there’s likely to be tolls.

Tolls in France are notoriously expensive. There are ways of avoiding them, but they can add a significant amount of time to your journey.

I talk more about the difference between toll and no-toll roads further down.

Ideally, you will have enough time to stop over in France and Spain on your way through. That’s what we did, which helped break up the journey.

If not, you can find a breakdown of different campervan routes from the UK to Portugal in this article.

Portugal from UK

Ferry Crossing from the UK to Portugal

Sadly there are no direct ferries from the UK to Portugal. However, there are crossings into Spain which might be an option if you don’t fancy the long drive.

The two closest ports to the Portuguese border are Santander and Bilbao. Brittany Ferries have regular sailings from Portsmouth or Plymouth, and the crossing takes around 24-30 hours.

The issues with this option arise if a) you’re travelling with a dog or b) you get seasick!

While each crossing has pet-friendly cabins available, they often sell out months in advance. If you miss those, your only option is to keep your dog in the onboard kennels.

Then there’s the crossing itself. You will be crossing the Bay of Biscay, renowned for its rough sailing conditions. So if you get at all seasick, it might be wise to avoid it.

Driving from Somewhere Else in Europe

Regardless of where you are driving from in Europe, your road trip will ultimately lead you through Spain.

There are several routes that you can take through Spain. It will all depend on where exactly you are coming from and whether or not you want to make some stops along the way.

Either way, as long as you drive from another Schengen country, you can travel freely into Portugal without border checks.

Portugal Motorhoming

Renting a Campervan in Portugal

If you don’t have your own home on wheels yet, renting a campervan in Portugal is always an option.

With the rise of vanlife in Portugal, there are many campervan and motorhome rental companies from which you can rent a van.

Two of the more popular companies include Indie Campers and Siesta Campers, who have depots in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro. But there are plenty of others if you decide to shop around.

Regardless of who you rent a campervan from, you can expect to have everything you need for a convenient and comfortable trip.

Things like cooking facilities, a comfortable bed, running water, and campervan electrics should come as standard. So be sure to check all of that before committing to your rental.

To rent any vehicle in Portugal, you’ll need to be over 21 (sometimes over 25, depending on the rental company), you’ll need a valid passport or identification, and you’ll need to of held your driving license for over one year.

It’s also your responsibility to check that the vehicle you hire has the required safety equipment for driving in Portugal. You can find more information about that in our road laws and regulations section.

Vanlife Portugal FAQs

Since returning from our Portugal campervan adventures, we’ve been bombarded with questions about our trip.

Here I answer the most common ones, excluding those about road laws and regulations. I have an entire section on that further down the article.

You will love the beautiful beaches in The Algarve!

Best Time to Visit Portugal in a Campervan

There are a few things to consider when planning the best time to visit Portugal. So here’s a quick rundown of what to expect during the different seasons.

December to February 

The winter climates can vary wildly in Portugal. For example, there might be snow and sub-zero temperatures in the north. Whereas the South Coast can see temperatures of 20 degrees plus.

Yes, The Algarve has dreamy, all-year-round weather conditions. With a winter that most of us can only dream of, thousands of vanlifers flock there, searching for some winter sun.

It still gets rather chilly at night though, so you’ll want to pack some warm and cosy clothes. Especially if you don’t have heating in your campervan!

March to May

As spring starts to bloom in Portugal, you can expect pleasant temperatures throughout the country.

It can be a great time to visit Portugal, as it’s still out of season. Meaning fewer people and, quite often, cheaper rates at campsites and aires.

While we’ve not experienced Portugal at this time of year, it’s meant to be the perfect time to admire the wildflowers and plants that blossom across the countryside and nature parks.

Serra Da Estrela National Park
Hiking in Serra Da Estrela National Park!

June to August

As we approach the Summer months, temperatures soar, and so does the number of visitors. With that brings busier roads, crowded beaches and inflated prices.

If you are set on visiting Portugal during the summer months, I suggest going in June or early July to avoid the summer school holidays.

However, do keep in mind that it’s common for temperatures to reach 30 degrees plus, which could be quite uncomfortable when travelling by campervan.

September to November

The autumn months might be the best time to visit Portugal. We went at this time of year, so I might be biased, but I couldn’t have wished for anything more from our time there.

The weather was fantastic. Dry & sunny but rarely too hot, and I can count on one hand how many times it rained. The climate doesn’t allow for much autumn foliage, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

By this time, the summer crowds have died down, so that you can enjoy quieter beaches and cities. Parking enforcements for campervans also seem more relaxed at this time of year.

Porto Itinerary

Is it Safe to Drive in Portugal?

Driving in Portugal is relatively safe and stress-free. Roads are generally in good condition, and other road users aren’t as erratic as they are in, say, Germany or Italy.

You will still want to have your wits about you, though. I noticed that many drivers don’t like using their indicators, and it’s not uncommon for them to cut across you unexpectedly.

The toll roads allow for the safest and quietest driving conditions; however, they can be expensive, so you’ll want to be selective.

It can also be stressful around big cities like Porto or Lisbon, so I would avoid driving in the city centres if you’re not a confident driver.

If you want to visit these cities, look for Park & Rides or Campsites nearby. That way, you can leave your van in a secure place and use public transport to visit the city.

We have some tips further down on places to stay with your campervan in Portugal.

Ronnie loved our campervan adventures in Portugal!

Can I Travel with my Pet?

Yes. You are permitted to travel with selected pets to Portugal. These include dogs, cats, and ferrets; however, they must meet certain requirements.

It’s vital that you check the requirements for each country you travel to. Rules change all the time, and you don’t want to find yourself in a position where your pet is quarantined.  

At the time of writing, pets travelling to Portugal from the UK need the following:

  • A microchip
  • A valid rabies vaccination
  • An animal health certificate*
  • Tapeworm treatment – administered at least 24 hours and no more than 120 hours before returning to the UK.

*Please note that pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid.

We found the easiest way to cross over to France with a dog is by the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. That way, you all stay inside your vehicle and won’t have to put your pup into the kennels.

Campervanning Portugal

Do I need a Visa?

Most tourists travelling to Portugal do not need a visa. However, from November 2023, the EU will introduce the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System).

It will be an electronic system that keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. It’s expected to be a quick enough process and will cost around 7€.

How Long Can I Stay in Portugal?

Tourists travelling with a passport issued outside of the Schengen area can stay for 90 days in any 180-day period.

It’s confusing to understand, but from the date you enter a Schengen country, any visits to the Schengen in the previous 180 days count towards your 90-day allowance.

If your passport was issued within the Schengen area, you are free to stay as long as you like. Lucky so and so’s! 

Couple in Portugal
Living the good life campervanning in Portugal!

Costs of Campervanning in Portugal

If you’re wondering what a campervanning adventure in Portugal might cost you, here’s a quick breakdown of expenses*.

  • Ferry Crossing: 100 – 200 GBP
  • Channel Tunnel: 75 – 200 GBP
  • Fuel: 10 – 30 GBP  / Day
  • Insurance: 100 GBP
  • Breakdown: 25 GBP
  • Tolls: 0 – 25 GBP / Day
  • Food: 20 – 40 GBP / Day
  • Camping: 10 – 40 GBP / Day

*Based on 2 people travelling from the UK to Portugal.

Crossing the Spain/Portugal Border

It’s a straightforward process of crossing the border from Spain into Portugal. In fact, we didn’t even realise we’d crossed the border until our phones updated.

That’s because the Schengen area is a travel zone without borders. It allows both EU and non-EU residents to travel freely between the 27 Schengen countries without border checks.

National authorities can still carry out police checks at the borders. But this has only ever happened to us when travelling at night and never when crossing into Portugal.

Converted Ford Transit Camper
Our converted Ford Transit Campervan!

Can I Take Food Across the Border?

You will have no issues taking food across the Spain/Portugal border; however, there are restrictions when travelling from the UK to France.

Travellers from the UK are not allowed to bring meat, milk, or any products that contain them into the EU.

There are some exemptions. For example, powdered infant milk, infant food, and special foods or pet feed required for medical reasons. 

You can find more information on the European Commission website.

 Staying Connected

If you’re travelling from the UK or elsewhere in Europe, you should be able to use your own SIM card in Portugal. But first, check with your provider about any applicable roaming charges.

If steep roaming charges apply, consider getting a local e-sim instead.

Portugal has good 4G signal in most places. It’s only when travelling to more remote locations that you may not get service.

Tip: We use the Huawei B535 4G wifi router to help improve internet coverage when staying in remote areas.

Portugal Motorhome Road Laws & Regulations

This section aims to provide accurate information regarding local road laws and regulations when driving a campervan in Portugal.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure you adhere to local guidelines, not only in Portugal but in the other countries you drive through to get there.

It’s not uncommon for local authorities to pull tourists over for routine checks. They can issue on-the-spot fines if you do not carry the correct documentation or safety equipment.

Documents to Carry

Here is a list of documents that you’ll need to carry when driving in Portugal:

  • Passport or other valid identification.
  • A full, valid, and in-date driving license.
  • International driving permit if required*
  • Motor insurance – make sure you’re covered for driving in Europe.
  • European breakdown cover (Not compulsory but recommended).
  • Personal travel insurance (Not compulsory but recommended).
  • Animal health certificate if travelling with a pet.
  • V5 registration document displaying your current address. 

 

*If you have a driving license issued in the UK or another EU country, you shouldn’t need an International Driving Permit. You might need one, however, if you only have a paper driving licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

Equipment to Carry

In addition to the required documentation above, drivers are required to carry the following items:

  • Hi-vis reflective jackets – (mandatory to carry in your vehicle and wear if you need to get out of your car on the carriageway).
  • Warning triangle – not compulsory but recommended.
  • Headlight beam converters – unless you have a vehicle that allows you to adjust the beam for European driving.
  • ‘UK sticker’ on the back of the vehicle – GB stickers are no longer valid.
  • Spare tyre and a tyre changing kit – not compulsory but recommended.

Tip – Remember, France, Spain and other EU countries have their own requirements. So be sure to check if there’s any additional equipment you’ll need for driving to Portugal.

Portugal Speed Limits

Portugal uses the metric system for all road signage, which means speed limits, distances, etc., are displayed using kilometres. 

You must observe and adhere to local speed limits. Not only for safety reasons but to avoid any fines. 

If you don’t have a kilometre speed gauge in your vehicle, be sure to know your conversions to avoid unintentionally going over the speed limit.

Contrary to popular belief, it can follow you home if you commit a driving offence in Portugal. This is a result of the EU cross-border directive, which was enacted in May 2017.

Campervans Under 3,500 Kg

  • In built-up areas: 50km/h (unless indicated otherwise by a road sign)
  • Outside built-up areas: 90km/h – 100km/h (unless indicated otherwise by a road sign)
  • Motorways: 120km/h

Campervans Over 3,500 Kg

  • In built-up areas: 50km/h (unless indicated otherwise by a road sign)
  • Outside built-up areas: 70km/h
  • Motorways: 80km/h

Portugal Toll Roads

Some of the motorways in Portugal have tolls, so you’ll need to plan your route accordingly. Most digital apps like Google or Apple maps allow you to avoid tolls if you’d prefer.

Routes with tolls are generally much quicker as the roads are quieter and in better condition. However, they are often less scenic compared to the non-toll routes.

Compared to other EU countries, it’s not so easy to Pay as you Go when using Portugal’s toll roads. Most motorways only accept electronic payment, which can be a bit of a pain.

The best option for electronic tolls is pre-ordering the Via Verde Visitor Transponder. 

You place the transponder in the front of your vehicle and fees are automatically deducted from the credit or debit card associated with it.

If, like us, you’re already on the road when finding out this information, do not fear. There are other options:

EasyToll – You can sign up for EasyToll at any of the 4 border points. Here you’ll provide your payment details and a photo of your vehicle registration. Each time you pass a toll, payment will be taken automatically.

Pre-Paid Toll Card – You can purchase these at your local Post Office. You’ll add pre-paid credit to it and then activate it over text message.

Pay Online – Finally, you can check and pay your electronic tolls online at portugaltolls.com. Click on “Easytoll Services” and enter the requested information.

Rules of the Road Vanlife Portugal

More Rules of the Road in Portugal

Here are some more tips, tricks, and things to know about driving a campervan or motorhome in Portugal.

  • Dash Cams – Any dash cam or device that actively detects speed cameras or interferes with police transmissions is prohibited by law.
  • Road Use – In Portugal, motorists drive on the right and overtake on the left.
  • Right of Way – Drivers coming from the right have the right of way on junctions and roundabouts.
  • Horns – Horns should be used in moderation and never at night in built-up areas.
  • Seat Belts – It’s compulsory to wear seat belts.
  • Accidents – In the event of an accident, you should stop safely and use your hazard lights and warning triangle to alert other drivers. Exchange details with the other parties involved (use a translation app if required) and take plenty of photos to attach to your claim. You’ll also need to complete the EU Accident Statement. 
  • Emergency Number – 112 will connect you to the emergency services.
  • Towing – Campervans or motorhomes with trailers are not allowed to exceed 18.75 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width. Loads must be at most 10 tonnes at a single axle.
  • Children – All children under 12 years of age and measuring under 1.35m must travel in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight.
  • Low Emission Zones – Portugal has one low-emission zone in Lisbon. Click here for more information.
Portugal Vanlife

Portugal Campervan Services

Here I will briefly go through the various services you’re likely to require when driving a campervan through Portugal. 

Fuel

Petrol is known as Sem Chumbo (95/98), and Diesel is known as Gasóleo.
Fuel is readily available throughout Portugal. You can use Google Maps to locate your closest petrol station and compare prices.

Many fuel stations are open 24 hours, and you pay using a self-service card machine. Most of our UK credit and debit cards worked, but our EasyFX travel card did not.

At some fuel stations on the motorways, you might find that you have to pre-pay for your petrol with the cashier. 

In our experience, the price of fuel fluctuates throughout the country; however, generally, it’s on par with the UK.

Supermarkets

The most popular supermarkets in Portugal are Lidl, Aldi, Continente and Intermarche. 

Lidl and Aldi are great for everyday items, such as fruits, veggies, meats, etc. However, if you want branded items or international ingredients, Continente has a better selection.

Again, the cost of groceries is on par with the UK. But you can expect to pay a premium for the brands you love at home.

Shopping locally and seasonally is most cost-effective when touring in Portugal.

Gas

If you run out of gas when campervanning in Portugal, you shouldn’t have too much trouble refilling or getting a replacement.

We use the Campingaz 907 Cylinder, which you can exchange at hundreds of outlets in Portugal and other EU countries.

LPG is also readily available at most petrol stations. 

Dump Stations & Water Refills

If you plan on doing a lot of wild camping in Portugal, you’ll need to know where you can find essential campervan services such as dump stations and water refills.

You can locate these easily on campervanning apps like Park4Night or searchforsites

It’s also worth checking with local aires or campsites as they may allow you to use their services for a small fee.

Campervanning in Portugal - Where to Sleep

OK, we’ve got all the essential (and, let’s face it, boring) information out of the way. So now, it’s time to start planning the fun stuff.

Here I’m going to run through all your options regarding stopovers in Portugal. By that, I mean places where you can stay overnight in your campervan or motorhome. 

Portugal Campsites

Campsites are pretty much everywhere in Portugal. They range from the extremely basic and budget-friendly to the more expensive and more luxurious end of the scale.

A basic campsite can cost as little as 5-10 a night. For this price, you’ll get a pitch to park your campervan and use of essential services but little else.

For 10-20 a night, you can usually expect an electric hook-up (link) plus onsite facilities such as showers and toilets.

Campsites at the higher end of the scale often have swimming pools, restaurants, and evening entertainment. 

It’s worth noting that many campsites in Portugal close down during the off-season. As a result, campsites that remain open often get booked up months in advance.

For excellent deals on campsites throughout Portugal, we recommend booking with Eurocampings.

Tip: If you’re travelling outside the peak season, it’s worth investing in an ACSI Camping Card. The card allows for discounted rates at campsites all over Europe, including Portugal!

Example of a motorhome aire!

Portugal Campervan Aires

Aires are approved overnight parking places for campervans and motorhomes. 

They operate similarly to what campsites do; however, you cannot book them. They operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

There are two types of campervan aires in Portugal – Municipal Aires and Commercial Aires.

Municipal Aires (sometimes called ASAs) are mostly found near larger towns and cities. They are generally free and offer essential campervan services. 

The general rule of Municipal Aires is to stay at most 2-3 nights. You also shouldn’t hang out washing or put camping chairs out as the authorities could move you on.

Commercial Aires, on the other hand, you have to pay for. They are usually around 10-12 a night and include EHU and basic facilities.

You can stay as long as you like at commercial aires, but remember; you cannot book them in advance.

You can locate Portugal’s campervan aires using Park4Night or searchforsites.

Portugal EasyCamp
Get off the beaten bath with Portugal's EasyCamp initiative!

Portugal EasyCamp

A fairly new concept on the Portugal vanlife scene, Portugal EasyCamp provides a sustainable alternative to traditional overnight stopovers.

The idea is to connect travellers with local businesses. It allows you to stay overnight at various locations, from vineyards and farms to rural tourism units. 

In exchange for your stay, you must buy a product or welcome pack from the landowners in advance. It’s a great deal considering the uniqueness of the experience.

It allows you to explore the real and rural side of Portugal, and you’ll also get to sample local produce and maybe even connect with a local family.

Ashamedly, we only just learned about this concept once returning from our Portugal road trip. But it’s certainly something we look forward to trying next time!

Wild Camping in Portugal

Portugal has been a vanlife hotspot for years now. Long before the trend became popular, vanlifers would flock to The Algarve for its year-round climate and beautiful beaches.

Up until 2021, it was common to see campervans parked overnight in free car parks up and down the country. 

The authorities tolerated this behaviour so long as people were discreet and respected the environment.

After the pandemic hit, more and more people bought campervans and motorhomes. But unfortunately, not all of them were very sensible or considerate.

The lack of facilities at wild camping spots led people to leave their rubbish and excrement and dump their chemical toilets into the environment. 

Times this by hundreds and thousands of campervan owners, it’s no wonder the Portuguese government finally had enough.

wild camping Portugal
You'll need to understand the rules of wild camping in Portugal!

Is Wild Camping in Portugal Legal?

After years of abuse and mistreatment of the environment, a new law was introduced in 2021 prohibiting campervans and motorhomes from wild camping.

Initially, the law stated that all campervans or motorhomes must stay overnight in a designated campsite or aire regardless of where you are in the country.

However, they later made an amendment, and this now only applies to protected areas, coastal zones, and national parks. 

Outside of protected areas, coastal zones and national parks, you can wild camp for up to 48 hours in a municipality, as long as there is no signage prohibiting it.

So, Can I Wild Camp?

Naturally, the rules do not stop people from wild camping in restricted areas. We ourselves wild camped on various occasions when touring Portugal and never once got ‘the knock’.

However, I believe we got lucky because we were campervanning Portugal out of season. I’ve heard plenty of stories of offenders getting fined during busier times of the year.

Of course, I do not encourage anybody to break the law. However, if you do choose to wild camp in Portugal, be sure to follow these wild camping guidelines. 

And again, Park4Night and searchforsites are excellent apps for locating wild camping spots.

Places to Visit in Portugal with a Campervan 

From picturesque cities and charming towns to pristine beaches and natural parks, there are endless fascinating places to visit in Portugal.

Of course, how many places you’ll visit when campervanning in Portugal will depend on how much time you have. We were there for about six weeks, so we were able to cover a lot.

Below you’ll find a map of our campervan trip around Portugal, followed by a short write-up of recommended places to visit.

Unfortunately, we needed more time to visit all the places on this list. But I’ve also included the spots that are on our bucket list for next time.

Map of our Campervan Trip in Portugal

Penede Geres National Park
Peneda-Gerês National Park​

Peneda-Gerês National Park

We are kicking off our list in the very north of the country. Peneda-Gerês National Park is the only protected area classified as such in all of Portugal.

The sprawling national park is a dream come true for lovers of hiking, nature, wild swimming, and other outdoor activities. 

Get lost amongst the rugged landscapes. Find waterfalls and wild swimming spots. Go canyoning or canoeing along the river. And discover medieval castles, monasteries and traditional villages.

The opportunities to adventure and connect with nature here are endless. Although I’m ashamed to say we missed it this time around, it’s a priority for our next trip

Porto Viewpoint
You can't miss Porto when touring Portugal!

Porto

Our Portugal campervan adventures began in Porto – the second-largest city in Portugal (after Lisbon).

Honestly, we aren’t usually city people. We much prefer to get lost in nature. But we left Porto feeling incredibly grateful that we’d taken the time to visit.

With its impressive architecture, world-famous wine and cuisine, and budget-friendly prices, it’s easy to see why Porto’s popularity has exploded. It’s a beautiful and fascinating city.

I talk more about my favourite things to do around the city in this Porto weekend itinerary. You’ll only need a day or two to get around the highlights.

My only advice is to be cautious about where you leave your van when exploring Porto. Reports of campervan theft around Porto are high.

We parked our van free of charge at this park & ride location. A gentleman there watches over the vans, so we felt very safe leaving it while we were out exploring the city. 

Douro Valley
Douro Valley is one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal!

Douro Valley

Another location we are gutted to of missed on our last trip is the jaw-dropping Douro Valley.

The Douro Valley is widely considered one of the most beautiful regions in all of Portugal. With its terraced vineyards and enchanting mountainous landscapes, it’s not too difficult to see why.

Located just 100km east of Porto, many vineyards that produce port wine are found here. It’s also home to charming villages, endless hiking opportunities, and breathtaking viewpoints.

It’s possible to take a day trip to Douro Valley from Porto. Or, if you have the time, I would visit there in your campervan and spend a few days enjoying the soul-soothing scenery.

Paiva Walkway Trail
Nature lovers will not want to miss the Paiva Walkway Trail.

Paiva Walkway Trail - Arouca

If you’re looking for something unique to do when campervanning in Portugal, I highly recommend the Paiva Walkway Trail in Arouca.

The 8-km trail is part of the Arouca Geopark – recognised by UNESCO as a geological heritage site. The trail is made up of a series of wooden walkways that snake alongside the Paiva river. 

The route extends from Areinho to Espiunca, encountering a variety of natural scenery along the way. You may also see the Arouca suspension bridge – the second-largest of its kind in the world.

Be aware that dogs are not permitted on the trail, and there is no wheelchair or pushchair access.

Serra Da Estrela National Park
Serra Da Estrela National Park was one of our favourite stops when campervanning Portugal!

Serra Da Estrella National Park

Another unmissable spot for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts is Serra Da Estrella National Park – home to the tallest mountain range in the country.

In contrast to the pristine trails that we experienced in the French Pyrenees, the hiking around Serra Da Estrella is rugged and almost eerie.

Huge boulders litter the landscapes (which reminded me a lot of Hampi in India), and there’s little to see in terms of flora and fauna. It’s bewitching nonetheless and well worth a visit.

We found this wild camping spot next to Vale do Rossim, one of our favourites in all of Portugal.

From here, we hiked to Covão dos Conchos – one of the most interesting attractions within the park – and spent time swimming and paddle boarding in the lake. It was fantastic!

Bucaco Forest
The enchanting Bucaco Forest is a must-visit!

Buçaco National Forest

From Serra Da Estrella, we continued our Portugal road trip to the Buçaco National Forest – a 259-acre natural reserve and one of the most picturesque woodland areas in the country.

We stumbled upon this place while looking for hidden gems in Portugal. We knew we had to visit as soon as we saw the photos.

No less fascinating is the location’s rich history. Benedictine monks established a hermitage here as early as the 6th century, planting exotic tree species from their missions all around the world.

Navigating the moss-covered paths through the forest is like a journey through wonderland. Discover enchanting grottos, majestic ruins, and the star of the show, Buçaco monastery.

Coimbra Streets
The atmospheric medieval streets of Coimbra.

Coimbra

If you are at all interested in Portuguese history, you may wish to add Coimbra to your vanlife Portugal itinerary. 

Coimbra is Portugal’s former capital city. It has a rich medieval history and boasts some of the country’s most acclaimed architectural wonders.

The most famous of them all is the University of Coimbra. Founded in 1290, the university is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the oldest universities in Europe.

There’s plenty else to see as well. Be sure to meander the atmospheric streets of the medieval town, explore the grounds of the old cathedral and marvel at the beautiful Santa Cruz Church.

For overnight stays, there’s little in terms of campsites. You could try this municipal site, although the reviews aren’t very good.

We took our chances and wild-camped at this spot that we found on Park4Night.

Nazare
Nazare is famous for its beautiful beaches and wild surf!

Nazaré

Next, we visited our first coastal location in Portugal – the surfer’s paradise town of Nazaré.

If you’ve heard of Nazaré before, it’s likely because of its infamous surf conditions. Some of the highest waves ever recorded were in Nazaré, which is a magnet for extreme surfers.

Planning a trip around a natural spectacle is always risky, but the best time to see the enormous waves and the impressive surfers who brave them is between November and March.

Outside of that time, the coastline is still impressive. Praia do Norte, for example, is a vast expanse of beach that attracts surfers and tourists all year round.

As with most surfer towns, Nazaré itself is cool and vibey. Enjoy quirky restaurants and lively bars, or soak in the laidback atmosphere at one of its plentiful beaches.

Again, you’ll need to be careful where you park your van. I read many stories on Park4Night of vans being broken into. Your best bet would be to book a nearby campsite.

Lisbon
The colourful streets of Lisbon are unforgettable!

Lisbon

We continue your Portugal campervan trip to the country’s capital and one of the most picturesque cities in Europe.

As you would expect from any capital city, atmospheric Lisbon is teeming with things to do, see and eat. 

You’ll spend your time wandering charming cobbled streets, admiring the impressive architecture, and delighting yourself in local delicacies from pastel de nata to bacalhau.

This is a big, bustling city, so it’s not ideal for campervans or motorhomes. Many vanlifers stay at a campsite like this one and use it as a base to visit both Lisbon and Sintra.

We didn’t get a chance to visit on our last trip, so I have no recommendations for wild camping, but there are plenty of options on Park4Night.

Sintra
Sintra is one of the most unique and beautiful places in Portgual!

Sintra

Located just 30km from Lisbon, Sintra is one of Portugal’s most extraordinary locations.

It’s basically a vast, majestic pine forest, home to whimsical fairy-tale palaces and other fascinating historic buildings.

Historically, the area of Sintra was a popular destination for Europe’s most wealthy and elite. They built their grand palaces and mansions here due to its slightly cooler climate.

While many people visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon, there’s plenty to be discovered here. You could easily spend 2-3 days enjoying its beautiful natural scenery and magnificent buildings.

Only Sintra is not at all motorhome friendly. That’s why many people stay at a nearby campsite and use public transport to get to and from the town. 

Portugal Vanlife is the best by the coast!

 Vicentine Coast Natural Park

The Vicentine Coast Natural Park is a protected area of coastline that spans 100km along the southwest coast of Portugal.

While considerably less popular than the Algarve, there are plenty of reasons to visit this beautiful stretch of coastline. 

First of all, it’s one of the best-preserved coastlines in all of Europe. The dramatic cliffscapes and unusual rock formations are a prominent attraction.

Then there’s the diversity of wildlife, birdlife, and vegetation that you won’t find anywhere else in the country. Along with other highlights such as the local culture and excellent surf.

Of course, the park stretches over a vast area, so you might have to be picky about where you choose to visit. Sagres on the Southern tip should be on everyone’s must-visit list!

Remember, this is a protected natural park, so wild camping is not permitted! You can, however, find several campsites and aires.

Vanlife Algarve
With beautiful beaches like this, it's no wonder that vanlife in the Algarve is so popular!

The Algarve

We are rounding off our Portugal campervanning trip to one of our favourite locations in Europe – The Algarve!

There are many reasons why The Algarve is so famous amongst vanlifers and other travellers. 

Pristine beaches & remarkable rock formations, charming towns & villages, and a fantastic all-year-round climate, to name but a few. 

It’s also a fantastic location for outdoor activity enthusiasts. Enjoy excellent hiking in the Algarve, like the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, or learn to surf or paddleboard on Praia de Faro.

Again, there are countless places worth visiting in the Algarve. Some of my favourite spots include Lagos, Alvor, and Portimao.

Wild camping of any kind is not permitted in the Algarve. We did, however, wild camp for a few nights along Praia de Faro without any bother. Otherwise, there are plenty of campsites and aires. 

Campervanning Portugal
Sun, Sea, and Sand Campervanning in Portugal!

Campervanning Portugal Essentials

We are rounding off this Vanlife Portugal blog with some campervanning essentials. 

The items, apps, and services on this list come with us on every road trip – including Portugal. 

  • Security Camera: It’s always worth having a campervan security system. Van theft is rising, so the more advanced the system, the better.
  • Motion Sensor Alarm: Another deterrent should anybody attempt to get into your van.
  • Apple AirTag: You can hide this in your van; should the worst happen, it could help you track the location.
  • 4g WIFI Router: Works using any sim card, allowing for better coverage in remote areas.
  • Ear Plugs: It can get noisy at night, depending on where you are camping. Ear plugs will help.
  • Levelling Blocks: You’ll need these more than you think. It’s not at all comfortable trying to sleep on un-level ground.
  • Blender: Smoothies are our all-time favourite breakfast. There’s nothing better than starting the day with a ton of nutrients and vitamins from fruits and veggies.
  • SUP Board: We love this activity! It’s made us even more intentional with our travels, as we always seek places we can use our board.
  • Jackery Solar Generator: Although we have a fully-functioning electric system in our van (link), our Jackery Generator is a handy backup on days when we don’t have much power.
  • Camping Chairs: An obvious one, but an essential nonetheless.
  • Head Torch: Again, pretty self-explanatory. 
  • First Aid Kit: Always handy to have, just in case.
  • Movie Projector: There’s nothing cosier than setting up a movie projector in a campervan.
  • Breakdown Cover: Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We had to use our breakdown cover on our first day of road-tripping in Europe.
  • Park4Night App: The best app for finding wild camping spots, campsites, and other campervan services.
    maps.me App: An offline map should you ever run out of data or lose signal while on the road.
  • Travel Insurance: The vanlife lifestyle has its fair share of challenges and worries. Having a suitable cover that protects you if anything goes wrong should never be one of them.
This is why breakdown cover is a campervan essential!

Enjoy Portugal Vanlife

I hope this Complete Guide to Portugal Vanlife has you excited about your trip! It’s the perfect destination for anyone who loves nature, food, arts, and friendly people. 

If you’ve already been to Portugal and have something you’d add to this guide, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Stay adventurous and Happy travels.

If you enjoyed our free guide, you could support us by buying us a coffee! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we share more travel advice and inspiration. Charlotte & Natalie x

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We’re Charlotte & Natalie, a British lesbian couple with a passion for travel and adventure.

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