As well as fado music, grilled seafood and Cristiano Ronaldo, for most people Portugal is also inescapably linked with stunning, sun-drenched beaches. With a seemingly endless coastline that stretches 1,700 kilometres you would think there’s more than enough sand for everyone, right? Well, with Portugal being one of Europe’s most visited destinations, finding those postcard-worthy spots only the locals whisper about is becoming increasingly tricky.
Fortunately the team at Siesta Campers have years of experience navigating Portugal’s south and west coasts, in search of those elusive cliff-backed coves and secluded swathes of golden sand. Although the vast majority of Portugal’s sun-seeking visitors head for the Algarve, the country is blessed with numerous beaches that are definitely worth pointing your van in the direction of. When you collect your van the Siesta Campers team will always offer you their extensive knowledge about top spots and amazing parkups.
We simply can’t list all of the top spots here, but here are five you simply have to see!
Near Porto (Norte Region)
- Praia Forte do Paço, Viana do Castelo
If you rented your vw campervan from Porto or have ventured north from further afield, we highly recommend visiting Praia Forte do Paço, which is the best of a number of rarely discovered beaches in the area. Located one hour north of Porto in the district of Viana do Castelo, this untouched 800-metre stretch of sand awaits beyond wooded hills. Shallow pools of sun-warmed seawater form under granite boulders, creating ideal paddling pools for your little ones, whilst the nearby ruin of an 18th-century fort, is every small pirate’s perfect hideaway.
Near Lisbon (Lisbon Region)
- Praia de Galapinhos, Portinho da Arrábida, Setúbal
If you’ve already sampled some of the delights of Lisbon you might like to take the short hour’s drive towards the picturesque harbour village of Portinho da Arrábida, a stone’s throw from the historic city of Setúbal. The reason for the drive is to experience the beach voted Europe’s Best in 2017, Praia dos Galapinhos.
This hidden treasure remains puzzlingly absent from the tourist map, which is almost suspicious once you’ve set eyes on its calm, crystal clear waters and white sand, backdropped by the breathtaking wooded slopes of the Serra da Arrábida rising dramatically above the coastline. Protected as the Parque Natural da Arrábida since 1976, this popular hiking spot for Lisbon locals in the know, is also home to eagles, buzzards, wildcats, badgers, and polecats.
- Samouqueira Beach, Porto Côvo
To the north of the Algarve, Portugal’s tourist hotspot, is its poorer, less developed and more sparsely populated neighbour, the Alentejo. It’s been described as Portugal’s Provence or Tuscany, but that’s an unfair comparison as the scenery is not as memorable and neither is the food. However, what this region has in spectacular abundance and quality is beaches. Lots and lots of beautiful beaches!
For this reason the south Alentejo coast is hugely popular with the Portuguese, who return here for its rolling hills, ocean-carved cliffs, and unassuming towns and villages built around halcyon bays. The former fishing village of Porto Côvo is most deserving of your attention, not least because of its close proximity to numerous beaches, including the extremely pretty Samouqueira Beach. It’s so named because of its exceptional rock formations and caves that warrant admiration and exploration during low tide.
We recommend heading to here
- Bordeira Beach, Carrapateira
The Algarve is home to some of Portugal’s, and therefore Europe’s, best surfing. To the surfer crowd Praia da Bordeira is spoken about with reverence yet surprisingly, most other people tend not to have heard about what is unquestionably one of Europe’s finest beaches.
Pack up your Siesta Camper and immediately head towards Carrapateira, a short drive north from Sagres or south from Aljezur. A couple of kilometres below the sleepy village of Carrapateira, you’ll find Bordeira in all its wild glory. Backed by huge sand dunes, limestone cliffs and a river, its three kilometres of continuous golden sand and crashing surf is a sight to behold.
The surrounding cliffs are easily accessible by tarmac road and offering ample opportunity to park and admire the sunset, or sunrise if you don’t mind running the risk of a wild camping fine from the GNR.
- Praia do Barril, Ilha da Tavira
A mere 40 or so minutes’ drive from Faro you can find one of the eastern Algarve’s best-kept secrets: Tavira Island (Ilha de Tavira), a sandbar island that stretches southwest from Tavira, reaching almost to Fuseta.
Located within the Ria Formosa natural park are the impressive dunes of this barrier island, which safeguard an area of flooded marshland from the power of the Atlantic. After parking your campervan in the car park, it’s a pleasant walk along a pine tree-lined footpath that leads over the salt marshes to the 11 kilometres of seemingly endless sand waiting to reward you. You can even jump on the mini open sided train and arrive at the beach for a mere 2 euro ride. This is a must if you have young children.
Further exploration to the west side of the island will take you through the anchor cemetery, a striking reminder of the tuna fishing industry that once supported the area before tourism, and the naturist-friendly Praia do Barril. Its soft white sand and calm, blue waters offer an idyllic hideaway to unwind and dive into a good book.