The Algarve is one of our favourite destinations to travel with the campervan. Why? For several reasons; it is easy to travel, you can stand in many free places in nature, it is a social place with many more van-dwellers, and it is easy to communicate (most Portuguese speak English well). Let’s tell you all about it! We made a list of our favourites to park and explore.
But first, let’s give a bit of background about the Algarve. Formerly the southernmost province of Portugal, the Algarve is now divided into several districts, with Faro and Albufeira being among the largest cities. The Algarve extends over the entire south coast of Portugal with many beautiful beaches, idyllic villages and large cliffs. It is the place to discover and experience, at an easy pace.
A Home Awaits in the Algarve
Our favourite way of travelling is day by day. We mainly stay at free places and prefer to visit sites in nature, small towns and hidden gems. We have tracked our route via polar steps and now it’s time to share it with you.
This municipality is located in the north-western point of the Algarve. It is a quiet area, with a low population of inhabitants. There are many hiking trails, nice restaurants and endless cliffs and beaches. For us, finding free spots in this area was a bit more difficult, but there are some campsites nearby and it is also possible to explore for a day.
The town of Aljezur has charm. The small town has typical Portuguese houses with many little restaurants. You can easily park here and explore the town. In addition, it has a laundromat and some supermarkets, very convenient! Don’t forget to visit the RetroActivo Vintage store, where you can buy nice vintage second-hand clothing!
A place that has stayed with us is Arrifana. Here you will find a beautiful beach and many nice restaurants on the coast. For example, the Sea You Surf Cafe has delicious coffee and tasty snacks. It is an ideal place to do some online work.
Villa do Bispo is a municipality in the southwest of Portugal. It’s a paradise for surfers, full of hidden gems and huge cliffs.
Primeiro de Maio
A place that has stayed with us is Primeiro de Maio. There is a campsite, called Figueira Caravan Park, in the village where you can stand for a low price, and it has all the services you could need. We usually are on free spots, but we needed to empty the black and grey water at that moment. And we came across this campsite by chance. For us, it was not the campsite that made it special, but the walk to the hidden gem: Praia da Figueira. You can walk to the beach via narrow sandy paths along the hills in nature. There is also a route up where you look out over the beach. It is so worth it!
Please don’t skip Sagres, the most south-west point of the municipality. In Sagres, you will find a fortress of the 15th century, where you can walk endlessly along the cliffs with a stunning view. For a few euros, you can visit the fort, which gives some information about the location. Unfortunately, you can’t see much of the fort itself, but it is a large area with many hiking trails. You can park here for free in the large parking lot, and there are several day and night parking spaces.
Monchique is more inland, surrounded by mountain tops. Here you will find the highest point of the Algarve, the Serra de Monchique with a peak of 905 meters. The route through the mountains is breathtaking, with few houses and full of nature.
Friday Happiness – Mãe Gaia
Near Mãe Gaia is a hidden magical place, called Friday Happiness. Every Wednesday there is an open jam session and on Friday a pizza party with live DJs. This place is run by volunteers of different nationalities. This is the place to meet fellow travellers, and enjoy music and great food. You pay an amount for a monthly entrance. You can park here for a few euros for the night, together with all the other campers.
A village that we, unfortunately, did not see is Monchique. This village is known for its cosy old streets and thermal springs. The thermal springs are known to be healthy due to the heat of the water: the minerals come into contact with your skin and all their properties will be absorbed through your pores. There are several hot springs in the region, including the spring in Caldas de Monchique and the one in Fonte Santa, Alferce which can be visited for free.
The municipality of Lagos is one of our favourites. The area is a bit busier, with a variety of different things to do. There is so much to experience, from roaming through the city to a hike through the rugged cliffs of São Gonçalo.
The old city of Lagos is very cosy with small white streets, a beautiful boulevard and nice places to eat. It is ideal for parking (in winter) and for strolling through the city. Here you will find a restaurant with one of the best burgers in the world, called Nah Nah Bah Luz. The burgers have the funniest names and the Sangria is delicious!
Ponta da Piedade
Oh, this place! If you drive down a little you will arrive at Ponta da Piedade. This is one of the places not to be missed! Here you have a breathtaking view of the sea, with large rock formations and extensive hiking trails. It almost seems magical. There is enough space to park, but it is visited a lot. That is why a viewing in the morning is the ideal time.
Vale da Lama
A location in Lagos that we enjoyed is Vale da Lama, home to an estuary connected to the Atlantic Ocean. It is known among kite surfers and there are many day and night spots for campers. At low tide, you can cross a path with stones and you will reach several beaches. Do you like peace and nature? Then definitely don’t skip this place.
Portimão is somewhat busier than most regions in the Algarve. Most live on tourism and fishing. Portimão city is a port city located on the Rio de Arade River. It is known for its long beaches where you can walk endlessly.
We stayed for a few days near Alvor, where you have nice places to stand with the camper. You can relax on the beach and walk to Praia da Rocha where you have several bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, most shops and restaurants were closed due to bad weather when we were there, but still nice to walk through the streets.
Praia da Rocha
It is ideal to park here with the camper, close to the beach. It was full of campers when we were there, so a great spot for social time! The beach next to the car park is beautiful, with many boulders in the water. You can also walk up, where you have a nice view of the area.
The municipality extends to the interior of the Algarve, where a lot of history can be found. For years it was owned by the Moors, and from the 13th century, it returned to the hands of the Portuguese king. In the south is a beautiful nature reserve where we spent most of our time in Portugal.
Lagoa dos Salgados
Here lies a hidden gem where you can walk along the coast, spot birds and spend days with other van-dwellers. This place was and still is our favourite in the Algarve. Den loves bird watching and wanted to go here. By chance, we found a beautiful place to stand and we stayed for about 10 days. We even saw flamingos!
Maybe you know, the city is known for many tourists and big parties. But the municipality of Albufeira is more than that. It is the southernmost municipality of the Algarve. Besides the hustle and bustle, you will find beautiful beaches, small fishing boats and cosy streets with small cafes and shops.
It was not our favourite but we thought it was worth discovering the city. Albufeira is big but feels small in some cases. There are several neighbourhoods with small white streets and typical Portuguese houses. Especially the old town was quite cosy. If you need some specific stuff, it is an ideal place, there are many shops to be found. We love Dutch snacks, and they have them here too. If you like a Dutch snack, go to Patricks’ Corner!
Loulé is one of the oldest municipalities in the Algarve, with beautiful beaches, villages and a place where wealthy tourists rent or buy a summer house. For us, this place was a must-have place to go as Bai’s father used to work at a beach bar here many years ago!
Quinta do Lago Beach
You will find many beach bars, expensive summer houses and long sandy beaches on the coast. Yet there are beautiful places to stand for free (in low season), and where you can see a beautiful sunset! We enjoyed it up there.
Almancil is a small village where you have some restaurants and supermarkets. For us, it was not very special, but ideal if you want to eat cheaply or do the laundry!
Faro is a top place! The city, and municipality, have so much to offer. There is nature, a city full of history with a lot of life and you have all the services for your camper!
The old town is cosy with nice bars and restaurants. We had a great night out, with live music and fun. It’s easy to park in the city with your camper, and sometimes for free! Don’t forget to eat well at 100 Montaditos, a tapas bar where you can get a large lunch for less than 10 euros! Here you see beautiful coloured houses and beautiful wall drawings. Really, go to Faro!
Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
Next to the airport is the nature reserve: Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. A very strange experience, because in the parking lot you hear and see the planes with many other campers, but it is next to a nature reserve. From the parking lot you can walk to the area, where there are many hiking trails with beaches, forest areas and mudflats. There is so much variety. You can see spoonbills, flamingos, and birds of prey here.
Ilha de Faro
Ilha de Faro, or the island of Faro, is a peninsula with many restaurants and bars. You also have a campsite on the island. It is frequented by local Portuguese and is not allowed for campers, but is tolerated in the low season. You can visit the island via a small bridge, or by boat for a few euros. The bars and restaurants are a bit more expensive here, so we brought our groceries. Take a nice beach walk here, it’s super.
Tavira is a town and municipality in the Portuguese district of Faro, very close to the Spanish border. You will find beautiful canals and a beautiful harbour at the mouth of the river Gilão. The moment we were in Tavira, we already made more speed to go to Spain. This was our last spot in Portugal!
Tavira city has stayed with us. The city has a nice atmosphere with cute colours and flags, and a pretty view over the two large bridges that take you from the old to the new centre. You can also cross for a few euros with a boat to the beach: Praia da Ilha de Tavira. This is a sandbar island, where many locals enjoy a day at the beach.
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