Kim, our ambassador, went to Portugal for 2 months in her van, an Opel Vivaro. She tells you about her trip in the middle of "winter" (January-February), her surfing sessions, her favorites things and the perfect spots to park her van or campervan and enjoy the sunset and sound of the waves.
There are trips that we dream of doing for a long time but that always fall through. Have you ever had that happen to you? Those trips you've been planning for ages but never reach your destination! For me, it was this van surf trip in Portugal!
First stop was nothing short of incredible: the fabulous and mind-blowing Nazaré.
Portugal welcomed us with the most beautiful of surprises! The "GIGANTE NAZARE" competition. Does this cliff with a red lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean look familiar to you? You have surely already seen it in certain programs or reports which recount the stories of these men and women who are not afraid of anything.
This unique place sees the biggest waves in the world and run along the Portuguese coast. The waves are attempted to be tamed by a few surfers from all over the world.
Seeing this show was one of our wishes (that we put on the "To-do-list" for a long time) and we were lucky enough to see the ocean come to life here just 3 days after our arrival!
We spent 2 incredible days on this cliff watching these men and women put their lives in the hands of the ocean and face these 20m monsters. We experienced a succession of emotions displayed in this unique show. The pictures speak for themselves!
Nazaré is also and above all a fishing village. With its typical little cobbled streets and fish restaurants, there is plenty to visit and keep busy even if you are not lucky enough to stay there when the ocean is raging.
Staying in a van is quite easy. The spot above Praia do Norte is ideal for spending the night.
You'll have a great sunset and wake up to the sound of the waves.
After this beautiful big wave show, we have only one desire: SURF!
Direction Peniche. We arrive at a small town that lives and breathes to the rhythm of the ocean. Here we go in search of different spots.
First stop: SUPERTUBOS. This beach is just amazing, every wave is really a tube! We stay there for a long time watching the local surfers who ride the waves with rather ease. The last rays of the sun bring us and the van towards a small bar on Baleal, another well-known spot in the area.
We don't know it yet but this bar will become our HQ. Tapas, snacking and Superbocks (Portuguese beers) will end our evenings. The "Danau" is invaded by surfers at the end of the day who come to relax and debrief on their session of the day in front of a magnificent sunset.
Bonus: the spot to spend the night is a car park just opposite, located 400m from the beach. We will stay there for almost a week, it feels so good.
The spots are all next to each other, which is very practical! Especially when you are 2 surfers with different levels.
Me, an eternal beginner, taking advantage of the small waves that gently roll over Baleal in the morning. My companion, who is an experienced surfer, can push his limits in the tubes of Supertubos every afternoon while I play apprentice photographer to immortalize these beautiful moments.
Our week in Peniche is all about surfing, eating...surfing, eating...walking the beaches...surfing, eating and surfing again !
Oh yes, I forgot! Our other favorite occupation: touring the surfshops: You'll have plenty to do if you want to spend your money!!
I must admit that we fell in love with this little town, which is very quiet in winter (which must not be the case in summer)
Life in a van is easy there, the sun and the waves are present every day! What more could you ask for!
Ericeira is a fisherman town that has become a very popular seaside resort for the Portuguese, Ericeira all by itself represents everything one imagines when one thinks in Portugal: small cobbled streets, typical restaurants, beaches and walks by the sea and for boardsports fans, superb surf spots and skate parks!
Unfortunately we didn't stay there long because the weather was not on our side.
In 2 days, we were still able to visit the city center which is super cute, a lot of small Portuguese bars and restaurants where fish is king!
So why deprive yourself of it when you can enjoy grilled sea bass on the terrace for less than 10 euros!
The small restaurantnt "Canastra", opposite Fisherman's Beach, offers typical Portuguese dishes, including the famous Cataplana , to be enjoyed on wooden tables, red and white checkered tablecloths, with a view of the ocean. Perfect for lunch!
The huge Boardriders and 58 Surf shops kept us busy: gigantic shops that have everything you could need or want for your surftrip! With a café/bar and skatepark to try out the gear, a real Disneyland for surfers! Watch out for your wallet!
We also visited other small surf shops in the old town which are very interesting for second-hand gear. We found our longboard there, impeccable quality, at such a ridiculous price. I strongly advise you to equip yourself there!
For the "night spot", as the weather was rainy and quite cold, we opted for the municipal campsite at the entrance to the town . Very well equipped, hot shower, clean and quiet, the night is 8 euros for 2 people and a van (without electricity).
We want to see the sun so much that we leave Ericeira without having been able to surf, it will be for next time. Head South!
Towards the east, the south coast is calmer, a beach of fine sand inspiring relaxation and sunbathing and above all being able to provide us with fallback options when the swell is too big to surf.
First step: find a place to sleep at night, which is no small feat in this region where everything is monitored and protected by the GNR. (Which is understood, it is a natural park and there have been too many abuses in recent years).
The solution of camping therefore seems obvious to us, and for several reasons:
- Having a hot shower after the surf sessions (we are still in winter).
- Not worrying about finding a new spot every night.
- Do not risk the fine of 250 euros.
- Have a little foothold for the next 2 weeks.
Our choice is the Salema eco-camp. Campsite nestled in the heart of the natural park, there is a connection with nature, their restaurant "Nazari" offers natural and vegan meals that are great! For accommodation, you can also opt for tepees, safari tents, and ecolodges.
Price: 13 euros for 2 people and a van, without electricity in January.
Once this small detail has been resolved, we set off to explore the surrounding spots.
The first days bring a strong swell to the west, so we stay on the south coast which gives us nice little waves. We love the beaches of Zavial and Praia dos Mos in Lagos.
You can take out the longboard and let yourself ride quietly. Sun, temperatures are approaching 20 degrees in the sun, are we in Spring?
What a joy to feel this warmth in the middle of winter!
Once the big depression passed, we spent our days on the West Coast.
The small town of Sagres at the end of the road offers several spots next to each other, very nice little bars and a skatepark facing the ocean. We stop there a few times during our stay.
There is a little air of Brittany in this territory at the far end of Europe.
But our favorite destination every morning is Praia do Amado!!
Wild beach with ocher colors on the Atlantic coast along the Costa Vincentina, it offers beautiful small waves and a magnificent landscape.
A paradise for surfers and hikers, we will spend most of our days here admiring the ocean, waiting for the tide, analyzing the waves and surfing.
Not so easy to tame the waves here, bigger and more powerful than the Mediterranean, my fear catches up with me quickly. So I decide to get into bodyboarding to try to manage this fear that paralyzes me.
And it works pretty well! I can finally go in waves that exceed 1 meter. Obviously, the fact of not having to stand up removes a weight and allows me to have fun without apprehension. This discovery of a new sliding sport saved several sessions of my trip! Thank you bodyboard!
We stayed almost 15 days in this region. We spent a lot of time by the sea and didn't have the time or the energy to discover the hinterland which seemed to offer beautiful hikes
The Algarve is really an ideal destination for winter, pleasant temperature, wild nature, not many people around, the Portuguese are very welcoming, even with the “vanlifers".
To sum up...
A few things to do and not to miss:
- A sunset at Cap Saint Vincent
- Walking around Sagres
- Swim on the beaches of the Costa Vincentina
- Walking on the Ponta de Piedade in Lagos
- Taste a Cataplana
- Enjoying “slowlife”
And for more vanlife adventures...
Find the presentation of our ambassador Kim on our page Ambassadors-rices as well as all her articles.