A vegan van tour through Portugal has been one of my dreams ever since I fell in love with the country 2 years ago! Our original plan to make such a tour had to be cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, so we waited until it was safe to travel again to spend a week in nature. The result of this trip: I want a van! 🙂 Seriously though – we had such an amazing time that I can’t wait for our next trip and would highly recommend this kind of holiday to anyone.
Due to time limitations and work obligations we flew in to the south of Portugal and back straight from Lisbon. We decided to rent one of the beautiful vans from Siesta Campers – one of Portugal’s leading campervan hire companies. They work wonders restoring vintage and new VW’s and create the most stunning vehicles.
Our van (we had the VW T6 Siesta Beach) was waiting for us at Faro Airport, which was where we flew in. We basically arrived with no plan whatsoever on where to spend the night, but one of their super nice employees directed us to the perfect small beach to spend the first night.
BTW – if you want to check them out, the code “dreamalgarve” saves you 10% on your booking!
Disclaimer: Since this year, wild camping is officially illegal in Portugal. Enforcement is more or less strong depending on travel season and region, but if you choose to do so, it is 100% at your own risk.
Personally, we didn’t have any problems with it. That may have been due to the fact that not a lot of people are traveling yet, so there were way less tourists at this point. In any case, the most important thing you need to think of when choosing to sleep/be in nature is always: LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND. Collect your trash, don’t pollute and respect your surroundings!
In any case, Portugal has an amazing network of great official camp sites where you can stop and spend the night (including recharging electricity + showers/toilets).
After having been in Portugal twice before, I knew that food-wise we wouldn’t have to worry as it is astonishingly vegan-friendly. Even with a camper van, far off from bigger cities we always managed to find some hidden foodie gems, or cooked for ourselves.
Below I’ll show you the exact route we did, where to stop, best beaches, where to eat and anything else that might be of interest. If you like this guide and consider traveling to Portugal maybe also check my Vegan Guide To Lisbon!
Praia do Castelo
After collecting the van at the airport we followed the recommendation to visit a small cliffy beach next to Albufeira. The amazing the from Siesta Campers had left us some fresh bread, homemade fig jam and organic veggies from their garden in the fridge, plus we stopped at a supermarket on the way, so we were good for the night.
In all of the bigger supermarket chains you can find a health/section with tofu, meat alternatives, plant milk, plant yogurts, spreads etc. so it’s really easy to prepare some tasty vegan meals on the road.
Breakfasts included everything from bread with pb + jam, fresh fruits, cereal, porridge, avocado toast, salads, juices and sandwiches.
There is a small parking space on the cliff overlooking the beach and when we arrived it was completely deserted so we decided to spend the night. For breakfast, after a quick ocean dip, we had a nice breakfast on the cliffs with an amazing view!
Praia da Albandeira
We continued to another beautiful beach along the coast, where we ended up spending the whole day, walking around the impressive cliffs and refreshing in the ocean from the crazy heat. Since the van is equipped with all necessary equipment for cooking we made an amazing roasted vegetable pasta for lunch.
Before sunset, we continued to the nearby fishermen’s town of Benagil, most famous for it’s hidden cave. The plan was to wake up early and catch a kayak to the caves – this idea failed, however, since the waves were so strong that no kayak/boat rental company was working that day.
Nevertheless, we were so impressed by the cliffy beaches in this area that we decided to spend the night on the main parking lot and continued to explore an amazing beach the next day.
Praia do Carvalho
A truly stunning beach with water as turquoise as the Caribbean and entry only through a built-in staircase inside the cliffs. Definitely felt adventurous as we were climbing down the stairs! 🙂 We spent the whole morning at the beach, snacking on fruits from the local stand near the beach, before we continued into the city for Lunch.
I remembered this cute place in Lagos called Goldig Café from 2 years ago and we weren’t disappointed this time, either. Sparkling beetroot kombucha, delicious Vegan Lasagna and a super tasty and nutritious buddha bowl was everything we needed on that day to refresh!
From Lagos, we decided to pick up the pace a bit and drive all the way to spend the night at a beautiful camp site near Sagres called Salema Eco Camp. This was actually the only night we spent on a camping site and it was perfect to take a proper shower, charge the batteries and have a relaxing night.
Although the van has a built in water tank, it’s more used for taking a quick rinse after an ocean dip, rather than a full blown shower. The morning of the next day we spent at one of my favorite beaches called:
Praia da Figuera
This is a relatively hidden, less crowded beach where you’ll find lots of people with dogs or naked and it just has this pristine, super clear water with a beautiful long sandy beach right ahead of you. After parking your car you have another 6-8 minutes of walking through the valley until you reach the beach but it’s definitely worth it!
For lunch we continued to to the next bigger city to find an incredibly cute vegan place with good food! 🙂 We ate burger for lunch at the Laundry Lounge, a beautiful cafe with great interior design!
For the night we randomly decided to stop at a nearby beach to watch the sunset and, oh boy, was that a lucky decision. We ended up finding this incredibly beach called:
Praia do Beliche
Again, the parking is on top off the cliff and you walk down 100 stairs to the beach. The cliffs in this beach were so incredibly impressive, that retrospectively, it might have been my favorite beach of the trip. We watched a beautiful sunset here and woke up to an even nicer view in the morning!
Where to eat?
- Mercearia 355
- The Laundry Lounge
We liked it so much that we stayed most of the next day here, only to continue for a late lunch (around 16pm) to our favorite pizza place on the West coast called Trigo Vermelho, close to Aljezur. We ate here twice during those 2 days that we spent in the area which says a lot. It’s simply the best healthy pizza I’ve eaten so far. A crunchy buckwheat base with home-ground buckwheat, topped with delicious sauce, homemade almond cheese, vegan parmesan and your favorite toppings.
They have a mainly vegetarian/vegan menu and encourage cooking without refined sugar etc.
The small town of Aljezur has won over my heart the first time I stayed there. It’s definitely my favorite spot in Portugal! The combination of charming old town, beautiful nearby beaches, super friendly people and vegan cafe/restaurant choices just makes it a special place.
We ended up spending two whole nights here just because we love the location.
There are several beaches in the vicinity of Aljezur: Praia de Monte Clérigo (picture), Praia da Amoreira, and Praia da Arrifana. Depending on your preferences (surf, nature, swim) each holds different attractions. We decided to stay on the official parking site near Monte Clérigo and absolutely loved it!
For lunch we made a delicious Mexican-inspired pan with rice, beans, corn and a side salad.
Where to eat?
- Trigo Vermelgo
- Móagem Veggie Bistro
- Madame Granel (zero waste shop with fresh cookies)
After Aljezur we took the longest drive all the way up to Setúbal to spend our last night closer to Lisbon so we could easily hand over the van the next day and spend 2 more days in the capital
We found a beautiful spot called Praia dos Coelhos inside the Parque Natural da Arrabida. The nature is very lush and stunning, but since we arrived late and left early we, unfortunately, couldn’t enjoy much of its surroundings.
All in all it was the most wonderful van experience and holiday we had! It was our first time renting a van and it was so easy, uncomplicated, spontaneous that we will soon do it again. Also, the whole team of Siesta Campers assisted us so much with any requests or issues we had along the way that we had a beautiful trip! 🙂
Make sure to follow them out on Instagram and check them out for your next Portugal trip!