October 6, 2016 by Ellis Dixon
Camping in Portugal: Sites That Are Worth the Hike
Finding great camping in Portugal isn’t always a walk in the park, so let us help.
Quinta dos Pentieiros, Ponte de Lima
41.775613, -8.649062 website
The sprawling green lawn that connects the main office to the back edge of the grounds is reserved for both tent camping (though there are not a lot of trees for shade) and the occasional father/son football match.
The cleanliness of the lawn and common areas helps remind the clientele to be considerate of other campers, which isn’t the case with some other campsites in Portugal. The highlights are the large swimming pool and the amazing tree-house for rent. It’s spacious and solidly constructed and can sleep a family of four if you bring extra sleeping bags and mattresses, as there is only one double bed inside.
There’s a small café (where you shouldn’t call your coffee a bica, because this ain’t Lisboa), good grilling sites with plenty of space, deep sinks for clean-up, and an ample number of tables to accommodate even a crowded weekend. This area is perfect for the Fall as you can watch the leaves changing colors and the weather is mild, though it can get a bit chilly at night. Take a walk down one of several hiking routes in the natural preserve area, over well-maintained boardwalks with observation posts guiding you through your tour with information about the flora and fauna you’ll almost certainly see if the kids would just shut up.
The campsite is a short drive to Ponte de Lima, where you can take a walk through the beautiful Jardim Botânico on the other side of the ancient stone footbridge leading out from town. You can eat dinner out if you’re sick of grilling at the campsite: We recommend the cabrito (kid goat) at just about any restaurant that you pass, but for the more adventurous, try the lampreia. We aren’t telling you what it is.
Camping Praia da Galé, Melides
38.203353, -8.772212 website
This campsite sits atop red clay cliffs with a stunning creamy-sand beach below. It has charming stone and wood bungalows with porches comfortable for a small family to play a candle-lit card game or two. There’s also the option of setting up a tent beside the bungalow for a bit of mix and match, or for some parental private time.
There are ample grill sites, a large (and pristine) pool at the center, and trees all around that add the scent of pine to the salty air year round. To get to the beach you must descend the cliffs by way of stone stairs, which can go to work on your knees, and the walk back up will negate the dip in the water you took to freshen up. But it’s worth the haul.
If you’re into archeology, take the EN 261 at Melides for one kilometer toward Santo André to the village of Vale Figueira and follow the signs to the Doleman of Pedra Branca. (38.112971N, 8.724247W). This is a late Neolithic arrangement of stones that date back to about 2500 BC. It was once used as a burial chamber and, when discovered back in the 1970s, it was filled with 65 human skeletons from that period, all in the fetal position. The monument is located atop a hill with stunning views of the Alentejo region.
Camping Cepo Verde, Montesinho
41.845370, -6.859983 website
This is a private campsite in the Northeast region of Portugal near Bragança. It sits in a mountainous, wooded area with loads of chestnut trees (and the occasional annoying fly swarm). The surrounding areas are sprinkled with ruins of an ancient Roman settlement. There are clearly-marked hiking trails nearby that can take you to some of them, others you will just stumble upon as you walk around.
As you check in, you’ll notice many beautiful handmade wooden-handle knives for sale. Most noteworthy is The Guinness Book of World Records’ largest knife, standing proudly at over two meters in height at the entrance. It is obviously not for sale.
There’s plenty of room at the campground and lots of shady spots to choose from when pitching your tent. The park itself can accommodate 140 people, but unless it’s August, it’s rare to find even half that many. For tents and caravans, the campsite is closed from the beginning of November until the end of February, but if you’d rather rent a bungalow, they are available year-round. For camping, you can expect to pay from €3.10 – €4.25 per adult, depending on the season.
If you’re into swimming and snacking, there’s a pool open from 10h until sunset for the daily fee of €1.50, and a fantastic café/restaurant that is open to the public in the evenings for dinner. If you decide to take a spin through Bragança, the Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje is worth checking out to see the strange, shaggy carnival costumes and intricately-carved wooden masks on display.
Orbitur Camping, Guincho
38.721663, -9.466224 website
For a weekend getaway from Lisbon, this campsite is highly recommended. It’s easy to access and the amenities are enough to keep you there comfortably for days on end no matter if you happened to make the mistake of setting your tent on top of a root system.
At €9 per person, camping is not too bad a deal. It’s ultra-shady under the canopy of gnarled pines and cypresses keeping you cool during the warm months and dry during the rainy ones. It also guarantees a semblance of privacy even if tents get a little too close together.
The swimming pool (open daily at 10:30) is always just the right temperature, even if it’s over-flowing with people, which usually happens on the weekends in the summer months. It has an on-site mini-market and café, clean(ish) bathrooms never short on hot water, a game room for foosball fanatics, RV sites with nearby built-in table tennis areas, and various sizes of bungalows for rent if you forget your tent. The café even offers evening entertainment at times. One unnamed Atlas correspondent might have done a mean rendition of Bobby McGee when the campsite hosted karaoke night.
There is easy beach access via a 15 minute walk across a pristine boardwalk spanning a beautifully preserved dune. It’s close to fancier restaurants along the Guincho coast, but we recommend trying out Muchaxo for a time-warped cocktail and a seafood entrée.
Turiscampo, Praia da Luz
37.102070, -8.733041 website
This place is a far cry from what you imagine when you hear the word “campsite.” One look at the luxury swimming pool and the landscaping done around it will make you forget you’re “roughing it.” There’s an excellent (not too expensive) restaurant on the grounds that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, comfortable bungalows for rent with good-sized covered front porches, and spic-and-span bathrooms conveniently located all through the park.
It’s a 10-minute drive to the beach, so for those on foot, it’s a bit out of the question, but hey, it’s the Algarve. I’m sure you can hitch a ride. The town of Praia da Luz is incredibly charming, with lots of restaurant options and a nice open beach. You’ll be hearing a lot of British English as this is one of their meccas in the Algarve, but as a result there are a lot of places serving British breakfast open at 9h30 if you want to get your beaching started early on a full stomach. If you’re looking for a tasty treat around town, check out Serge & Satoshi Pâtisserie Française for a little bite of heaven. Their croissants are deliriously delicious.
Not hungry? There are loads of things to see and do around Praia Luz, like water parks, zoos, go-carting, ceramics shopping, golfing, and even bowling. Check out this helpful website to get you started.
38.725431, -9.208284 website
If you’re in Lisbon on a budget, this is the campsite for you — it’s the closest one of all to the city center. The grounds are in Monsanto, that big green patch on your city map, otherwise known as Lisbon’s lung. You can access it by car or by public transportation as the 714 bus can get you from there to the center of downtown Lisbon in about 45 minutes. Once you enter the park, you forget that you are located right next to the big-chain warehouse shopping capital of the city, but step around the fence and it’s at your disposal.
There are tent sites and bungalows for rent at reasonable prices, as well as places for RVs to park and hook up electricity. The grounds are well-maintained but the facilities could use a little TLC. The pool is kept more or less clean and is big enough to accommodate the summer influx that happens especially during the music festival season.
There’s a café and a restaurant on site, as are public grills to cook your own meals next to comfortable picnic tables. But hey, if you’ve got a craving, the meatballs at IKEA are only a 20-minute walk away, and they always seem to make people happy campers even if the line is out the door.