When we savoured enough port wines in the Douro Valley, we moved on and drove back towards Portugal’s South-West Coast to find a nice campspot along the coast. We had various options, but were extremely content with the one we decided to stay on top of a cliff near Atouguia da Baleia. We didn’t know what to find since it is a wild-camping spot, but upon arrival, we were glad to see there wasn’t any other camper, only a couple local cars were parked (fishermen or beach visitors).
We set-up our chairs and tables for the evening, positioned North to have splendid views of the coast-line and simply enjoyed the stunning beach below us. Whilst Laura decided it was time for a good book, I couldn’t help myself trying to find a way down to the beach. Although the road down wasn’t exactly paved or signed, about 10 minutes later, my feet hit the sand. Not bad on flipflops.
Dinner with a view
During the evening, as the sun slowly set behind the ocean, we cooked a delicious meal. We picked up some squids from the supermarket and managed to actually properly clean them out, marinate them with some lemon juice, olive oil and parsley and fried them in the pan as a starter course (yup it was a bit of a restaurant dish that night, but with the better views). For mains, we enjoyed a lovely shrimp pasta Laura created and with a glass of wine next to it, the evening was pretty much complete.
The next day we woke up and decided we couldn’t keep the four-pawed friend from the ocean any longer. As the road straight down was a bit treacherous with a dog on a leash, we decided to walk around town and hit the beach from the North side. The walk was only about 20 minutes and the town had some small shops and coffee bars which gave it a relaxed mood.
We spend some time on the beach playing fetch, although Mr. Bravefur didn’t exactly go for his swims as the waves were too big and he didn’t dare.
Ericeira & Ursa Beach
After the beach we moved further South, stopping in Ericeira, the surfer hotspot of Western Portugal. The town is on the coast and is very lively. We found many groups of people (learning) surfing and there were plenty of restaurants and coffee bars. As we were out of season, parking was quite easy in fact as there was a massive parking lot for campervans right close to the city centre (thanks Park4Night app) and the walk to town from there guides you through the many colorful streets and little squares Ericeira has to offer. Cool place, although I lost Laura a handful of times as she dropped into every surf shop to look at the clothes they had on sale. After viewing the town and the coastline, we managed to get a seat at the Dear Rose café. It’s quite a tiny café but has delicious coffee (and cake yup).
In the afternoon we drove down to Ursa Beach, known as one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches. We weren’t aware it is in fact super close to Cabo da Roca, which is (continental) Europe’s most western point! The beach itself is not directly accessible be car and North actually faced his first real challenge making it to the parking lot. The unpaved road down here was full of pot holes and bumps, so we had to slow down and take our time to get there. The drive took about 5 mins only luckily. However, from the parking, we still had to walk a pretty steep hike down for about 20-30 minutes, which was a bit challenging with Moose pulling the leash here and there causing Laura to slip a few times. We reached the beach unharmed, although not exactly “relaxed”. It was worth the journey though, as the beach is surrounded by a massive rocky display, sheltering it from the wind. We stayed down a few hours and had some fun playing with Moose until he got into a fight with another dog. We don’t know why, but he wasn’t happy and neither was the other dog. We checked him up, but he didn’t have any scars, although he was a bit frightened for the next 15 minutes, so we decided to move back to the van shortly after.
That night we searched for another wildcamp spot, but only found one which looked quite shabby and there were already 3 other campers down there, hence we moved on to a campground near Cascais, a laid-back town to the west of Lisbon.
We stayed in Cascais for the next 3 nights. The campground had an outdoor pool (which Laura was especially excited about), but also the campground was close to the oceanfront and at walking distance of the village (about 1.5 hours, if the correct route was taken). I decided I would take on the walk the next day and explore the town, to allow Laura to catch up with work and enjoy a well deserved poolbreak.
I decided to take the coastal route, thinking it would take about 1.5 hours, which ended up in close to 3 thanks to the detour I took. I couldn’t exactly say it was worth it. Although it was a walk along the coast, it wasn’t truly the most spectular part of the coast, apart from the areas close to Cascais. I took a break at Casa de Guia, which is a lovely small restaurant village on the coast with about a handful of restaurants and some shops. Very laidback, well worth the visit, although iced café was really iced café, so skip that if you are looking for something like a frappucino like I was.
Cascais itself is actually a lot bigger than I thought, more like a small city than a town. Buzzling with people, plenty of icecream shops and restaurants, but also quite touristy. It has some great old mansions and a little castle which is stunning in general is quite photogenic. I opted for a quick Uber back (only 4 euro) instead of walking the entire route back for another 1.5 hours (if I would have taken the right direction this time).
Laura enjoyed her day at the poolside, which I was happy to join her in the late afternoon.
The next day we were headed for Sintra, a place Iwas quite excited to go to for a while. I had visited Lisbon a couple years back with a group of friends, but we missed out on Sintra at the time. Hence I didn’t feel like skipping it again and it being a Tuesday afternoon in the pre-season and not too hot yet, it felt like a great opportunity to get there. We were able to leave Moose to guard North at the campsite and dropped in an Uber to Sintra, as we read parking is quite limited in Sintra and also you would still need to use some form of public transport to get up to the hill with all the castles.
We got ourselves dropped off at the top of the hill, close to the entry of Pena Palace. Upon approaching the front gate, we noticed there was a little queue at the ticket box, which was a first surprise (yes more were to come). We stood in line for about 10 minutes and got ourselves 2 tickets. It was around 15:30 and we were getting a ticket for 16:30, but we were informed we could enjoy the gardens meanwhile. The gardens are more like a natural park itself and are quite beautiful, there is a sort of a quest to guide you through the gardens and shows you plenty of wonderful flora and fauna and old greenhouses. Actually we really enjoyed walking through the gardens, but it wasn’t the reason we were coming to Pena Palace.
Entering the interior castle
Around 16:15 we made our way back to the palace entry. We were greeted by a massive queue. We were a bit surprised to find this given the time of our visit, but we didn’t give up hope and stood in line to wait for our slot to open. At 16:30 the queue started moving, but we learned we couldn’t even see half of the queue and it took us literally over 30 minutes to reach the interior entrance. Already slightly overwhelmed by the crowds, we still kept telling ourselves that it would be great if we could freely roam the castle’s interior and look in the different rooms it had to offer. Unfortunately, nothing of that was going to happen; as the entire route through the castle was set and bordered between fences and everyone was forced to follow the exact same route, at a stop-walk-stop pace and see the glimpses of the castle. The guy in front of us seemed much content, taking selfies at a 20 second interval for the entire duration (queue time included), but we were less excited by this way of visiting the castle. After moving at snail pace for about 15 minutes inside, we decided it wasn’t our thing. Instead of crawling forward for another hour, we skipped some fences and got out after 10 minutes. We were disappointed. Don’t get us wrong, the castle is beautiful, both from the outside and inside (for what we’ve seen), but the crowds really spoil the fun. We didn’t expect to be there all by ourselves, but we couldn’t imagine what you would encounter in the high-season (not even considering the heat by then as well).
Once we were out, it was about 17:15, we felt a bit letdown and decided to skip the other castles, actually some already closed anyway, but even the others we didn’t expect we would get a very great experience, hence we returned home after another walk through the gardens. So Sintra, if you don’t mind massive tourism, a big go, otherwise, a big skip.
We spent the night around the campground and the next morning we moved on from Cascais and moved further South to the Costa Vicentina. Our first stop on this part of the coast, which also marked our first complete month of travel, was Porto Covo. We got to a campsite right on the edge of town, which was very quite, a bliss compared to the busier surroundings we had just left. During the night, we had a stroll along the coastline, which was gorgeous in the low-hanging sun. I pulled the camera and grabbed some shots of the dramatic rock formations showing along the coast.
In the morning, excited by this more natural and quite part of Portugal, we drove to Zambujeira do Mar, a very small town that is as relaxing as it sounds. Second to that, the famous Fishermen’s Trail passes by this town (running from Sines to Lagos). Here we decided to take a few days break and relax at a campsite to enjoy the good weather, the food and to take stock of our first month’s travel. I mean, if you intend to travel for the long-term, you need to keep an eye out on your costs, so we did and decided to share it with you to get an idea!
The Fishermen’s Trail
The day we left Zambujeira do Mar, we split up. Well not really, we still love each other, but Laura took North and Moose (who looked almost distressed seeing his humans go different directions) to the next campsite and I decided to make the same journey by foot, along the Fishermen’s Trail. This is the section from Zambujeira do Mar to Praia de Odeceixe (Odeceixe beach), extended to our campsite, amounting to 25km, so a nice day’s walk.
This part of the Fishermen’s Trail is known as one of the more beautiful and rough sections with not much human interference and so was my experience. It isn’t particularly hard, there a few steeper sections and somewhat deeper sand, but mostly it’s more a walk than a hike. There’s in fact 2 roads of the same name, one being the old Fishermen’s Trail (and the more beautiful one) and the new trail, which is slightly more inland. I decided to follow the old one for where it was possible, as it is a lot more exciting and stays closer to the steep cliffs (it’s not that dangerous really, but don’t get too close to the edge). The walk itself is quite diverse, it brings you along multiple beaches, mostly deserted apart from the many storks nesting on the rocky peaks. On a good day, it gives splendid and distant views along the western coast of Portugal, which is very much worth the effort. Right around two-thirds between Zambujeira do Mar and Odeceixe beach, there is a small town named Azenha do Mar, which is very tiny but hosts two (maybe more, but I saw two) restaurants, ideal for a stop and a lunch break overlooking the cliffs.
After the lunch break, I found the trail got more inland, as portions of the old trail were really unstable hence there was no other option. It is a lot less exciting walking the inland trail though, apart from the funny “mini zoo” that hosts some zebra’s, buffalo’s and ostrich (with eggs!) that pops up all of a sudden.
Reaching the end I arrived at the viewpoint overlooking Odeceixe beach. This is marked as the highlight of the walk, although I felt there were many other, equally beautiful viewpoints earlier on the day. It is a fantastic view however, overlooking Odeceixe Mar and the beach, as well as the river flowing out into the ocean here.
From the viewpoint, I still had around 6km walk to the campground, which is not as exciting as the coastal part, but it does take you along the river for a while, before it runs through the country side. It is nice, but not fantastic, as you mostly walk along the main road where cars also drive. Of course one could grab an Uber or other means of transport to skip this port, but it was a good sunny day, so I decided to finish by foot.
Arriving on the campsite, I was welcomed by a happy Laura and Moose, we relaxed some time at the pool, rested some soar legs in the hammock, made a few calls to our parents and enjoyed the night on the campsite close to São Miguel.
On to the Algarve & Andalusia
The next morning we moved all the way South, into the Algarve and Andalusia, which where visited the most South-Western point of Europe, enjoyed the most beautiful sunset yet on our travels and had a lot of fun on waterslides, inside caves and in great Spanish towns!