North Road Trip With Portugal By Van
Portugal has becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, winning many tourism awards and attracting millions of tourists all year round. While the capital Lisbon and sunny Algarve are the most common choices, there is much more beauty and authenticity in the north. During 5 days we took our sweet home on wheels from Portugal by Van and hit the road on an unforgettable road trip through the North region of the country, where we explored some of the most underrated landscapes, rivers, waterfalls and natural reserves. If you are a nature lover and a fan of the real side of traveling, then keep reading.. you will feel amazed by what we are about to show you!
Based in Lisbon, Portugal by Van is a camper van rental company in Portugal, with the mission to provide incredible moments and road trip experiences through our beautiful country. Suitable for every type of road trip lovers, either you are on the hunt for the best waves of the south coast or the most incredible landscapes that our north has to offer, renting one their vans is the best choice possible.
For this road trip we took the cosy 3 seat Fiat Ducato, with one single bed, one double bed, kitchen, gas stove, kitchen appliances, a 30L water tank, a small fridge and electricity that is charged by a solar panel on the roof. It doesn’t feature a bathroom or a shower, but you do not really need it if you are traveling in Portugal, as you can go to any cafe, firefighter station, gym, river beaches, recreational clubs, municipal swimming pools or campsites to do your personal hygiene, for a small fee. The portable camping table and chairs were a great addition to the van, a perfect fit for our love for outdoor spirit and spontaneous picnics. Whenever we saw a wonderful view, we would just stop the van, set up the outdoor sitting gear and enjoy a delicious meal, accompanied by a sweet glass of Portuguese wine, what else could you need?!
The North of Portugal
We already made our point clear but it’s key that you understand that Portugal is not all about sun, beach, eat and repeat. There is much more beauty and raw experiences to be lived, especially if go venture more inland, where there are numerous vineyards, rivers, waterfalls, astonishing viewpoints and endless natural beauty to admire. Porto is one of the main cities in the region, you might know it as the capital of the north, but there are many other cities and small villages on the way that are worthy of your visit. Viseu, Vila Real, Lamego, Peso da Régua, just to name a few are authentic countryside gems, where you can taste great food, drink the best wine and have the most incredible cultural experiences. Compared to the center and the south, the weather in the north is way cooler and humid, even during summer, so we suggest you pack something warm for the trip, you might need it.
We left Lisbon in the morning and drove all the way to Peso da Régua, stopping a few times on the way to rest and get some fuel in our bodies. It is a long trip, especially if you take the national roads as we did – we like to avoid toll roads, as they tend to be expensive and you will lose some of the most beautiful sights on the way – but you can easily reach the city in 6/7 hours. We spent the night on a caravan park and early in the morning we hit the road and drove till Cabeceiras de Basto, a small little town with a lot of charm and good places to eat.
On the following day we made our way to Geres National park where we spent two days in Terras de Bouro, the heart of Geres. On the way back, we met a dear friend at Murça, a town that will leave you speechless with its hidden gems and landscapes. We spent the night by the riverbanks under a small bridge and made the drive back Lisbon in the morning. We had 5 days on the road with adventurous moments, incredible landscapes and meaningful connections!
What can’t be missed
On both banks of Douro River lies the most spectacular views in the whole country! Landscapes of vineyards and green lush hills, that light up all their glory during the golden hour. On your drive up to Peso da Régua it is impossible to miss out this views. Prepare to make a stop at every km, it is absolutely magical.
ESTRADA NACIONAL 222
Awarded as the most beautiful road in the world, Estrada nacional 222 it’s the roadtrip lover’s dream! The road connects Peso da Régua to Pinhao and it crosses the Douro River, landscapes of vineyards, olive trees fields and lush nature vibes. It is almost impossible to describe it by words, so you just take the van there and see for yourself!
S. LEONARDO DE GALAFURA VIEWPOINT
A must stop at sunset time. This viewpoint is located 30 min from Peso da Régua, a quick drive up to experience some of the most peaceful and golden sights from Douro Valley. We were there all alone for the entire sunset time, till it was dark, so you can enjoy it peacefully.
PRAIA FLUVIAL DO RANHA
The north of Portugal is full of little river beaches, that fill up with locals during the hot summer months, but all year round they are empty and make it a perfect place to chill and snap some photos. Praia Fluvial do Ranha is one of those that is well taken care off, with picnic areas, loads of space to put your towel and an incredible atmosphere. There is also a small coffee shop on site with showers and toilets.
GERÊS NATIONAL PARK
There are a least 12 national parks and reserves in the country, and Geres is one of the biggest and most diverse ones. You can expect to find a lot of biodiversity, natural landscapes, waterfalls and lagoons, cultural heritage, walking trails and ancient villages. The Park is huge and there is a lot to see and experience, so we will give you our top 3 places to see.
PONTE DA MIZARELA
Also known as the Devil’s bridge, this is one of the most incredible sites in Geres. A small stone bridge, embedded in the woods with a waterfall on the background, a true hidden gem.
TRILHO DAS 7 LAGOAS
This is probably the one that will require you to hike a little bit, as the access is not an easy one. There’s a road that lead straight to the lagoons, but it is only for jeeps, quads or really experienced drives. Our advice is that you start the hike in Xertelo, where you can park the car and then walk 5 km through some amazing views till you reach the lagoons. It can be a long walk but it will be worthy!
CASCATA DO ARADO
A popular destination while you are exploring the park. There are signs on the road that will lead you there so it has an easy access.
Probably one of the most underrated cities in the north, land of vast vineyards, small creeks in the woods and incredible landscapes. We decided to explore a little bit of this city as we have a good friend of ours that works as a photographer for the county, so he show us all its glory. Our favourite spots are Ponte Nova that is located just above Tinhela River, where there is a beautiful lush green scenery to admire and Porrais Village with an amazing view to the river, especially if you go at sunrise.
Road-tripping is not always easy, especially when you don’t have that many experience living on the road, so here are a few tips that will smooth up your journey:
- Take the national roads! Toll roads in Portugal are way to expensive and the views aren’t great, so why not drive along some of the most beautiful roads that cross many little villages, wild landscapes and cultural heritages? It might take you longer but sure will fill your heart and soul with passionate moments.
- In Portugal there are many free reserved parking lots for caravans – some of them with charging stations - almost in every city so it makes the perfect pit stop to get some rest. Just google one near your destination or follow the blue signs with a ‘P’ and a caravan image.
- Toilets and showers are available at every campsite for a very small fee (if you are not staying there) and you can also go to the firefighters station and ask to use the facilities to do your personal hygiene, usually they let you in for free.
- The cheapest places to overnight are the open caravan parks, but if you want to be based in a place for a few nights, the campsites are very affordable.
- Buy local! Vegetables and fruit are very cheap at the local markets and they will taste better than supermarket ones. For other groceries, look for Intermarché, it usually has the cheapest prices for food products.