Leaving the Coast Behind, Wandering Through Inland Portugal
After our first week in the Algarve we turned right, to head up the western coast, and found lots to love about the area. Firstly, the gorgeous coast, stopping off for a wander around the beach at Bordeira and then stopping for a few days at the lovely little town of Zambujeira do Mar. Both beautiful but they were just warm ups for the stunning coastline at Porto Covo. The town is cute, well maintained but the coastline, with all it's cozy beaches, sweeping coves, and craggy promontories, was to die for. The campground we stayed in was immaculate and just a short walk from all that beauty. We also got to hang out again with our friends Colin & Karen from Rewind the Gap. It was a great stop and the weather was pleasant. It was a tough spot to leave and our favorite place in Portugal so far.
From here we moved away from the coast to the city of Evora. The weather turned against us over for the next few days, but in between the wet parts of the day we managed to explore some of this interesting city. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has many interesting places to explore, with a Roman temple, cathedral and aqueduct in the center of town.
For us the most interesting visit was the Capela dos Ossos, (chapel of bones). This small chapel next to the Church of St Francis is filled with human bones and skulls taken from a nearby cemetery during construction. It is both chilling and thought provoking. I've long thought that the human race would have learned to cope with something as inevitable as death over the course of history. But this was built in the 16th century to remind visitors of mortality and that life is transitory; a lesson that seems still not to have been entirely heeded 500 years later. A bonus exhibit here was a huge collection of Nativity scenes from around the world, ranging from huge alabaster ones, to tiny scenes made inside a matchbox or walnut shell.
Evora is also center of the Alentejo wine region, and again dodging the rain we enjoyed a tasting at a purpose built tasting room in the city. I have developed quite the fondness for Portuguese wines, especially the crisp aromatic whites. Many of the grapes used in Portuguese wine are unique to the country, one of which is Touriga Nacional; I made the mistake of commenting to the women in the tasting room that I had read it was related to the Tempranillo grape grown in Spain. Well I should have learned my lesson from previous Portuguese experiences to never compare anything in Portugal to something similar in Spain. I was chastised accordingly and told that this is the original and better grape - I reminded myself not to make that mistake again!
After leaving Evora we headed north through ever changing landscapes, some of it extremely pretty, a few parts ravaged by the recent wild fires. We ended up finding ourselves on the shores at lovely Lake Portugal. We stayed at a very picturesque spot and were the only ones there. The campground is actually in the grounds of a fine dining restaurants, so after a day of sheltering inside the motorhome all day from the torrential rain we decided to treat ourselves. We enjoyed a fabulous meal with local wine in a gorgeous setting.
With little hope of the weather clearing up in a few days we decided to push on north, with the aim of getting to the Douro Valley for the sunny days we were promised at the weekend. We chose a couple of stops on the way up, first the pretty Knights Templar city of Tomar. Again the weather dampened any hopes of exploring the monastery, we did find a dry spell to take a quick wander through the interesting city and vowed to come back another time to see the rest of the sights. There is actually lots in this region we would like to see, so it will definitely be an area we’ll come back to.
Our final stop before getting to the Douro Valley area was Viseu. A larger city, with an atmospheric old town and beautiful cathedral. We enjoyed wandering around and only got slightly wet!! As you can tell by this time we were a bit fed up of getting wet, it had been a soggy week. And we really didn’t do the places we visited justice and missed out others that we wanted to see. That’s what next time is for!
So as we approached our last few days in Portugal we were excited to get to the Douro Valley, where we knew things would pick up. The forecast was looking good both for sunny weather and excellent wine tasting! That’s more like it.
Recommendations & Tips
Where we stayed: We visited at the end of March beginning of April, a few weeks before Easter and had no problem easily finding spots either in campgrounds, camper parks or free spots.
21. Zambujeira Villa Park. Nice campsite, walking distance to the pretty town. ACSI Card accepted, 15 Euro a night with elec. GPS: 37.52398, -8.77644
22. Costa do Vizir, Porto Covo. Beautifully maintained campsite with excellent, modern facilities. ACSI Card accepted, 18 Euro a night with elec. GPS: 37.85691, -8.7864
23. Free Parking Evora, Unexciting parking place, but near to town with a full motorhome service point. GPS 38.56341, -7.91637
24. Camping Lake Portugal. beautiful peaceful spot. 24.90 Euro a night with elec. GPS: 39.54865, -8.30908
25. Free Parking Tomar. Old municipal campground, now just left as a free parking place. Convenient for town, with full motorhome service point. GPS: 39.60704, -8.41028
26. Free Parking Viseu, Another unexciting parking lot, but convenient for town with a full motorhome service point. GPS: 40.66479, -7.91744
You can always find details of where we stay on our overnight stays map.
Drivability: The south west coast is quite remote, and the roads are of mixed quality, but perfectly driveable in a motorhome, although things get rattled around a lot. Similarly inland we had no problems with roads, even heading through the countryside in more remote areas, the roads are quite wide, so apart from some crazy drivers no problems. .