20th - 21st August 2021
Area : Parque de autocaravanas Silveira
What3Words : https://w3w.co/bluffed.boom.roasting
We, like many people, had heard that all Wild Camping is now illegal in Portugal, and it is. Technically it’s always been illegal, but now the rules are being enforced more “vigorously”. However, that does not mean that it is illegal or even impossible to camp for free in some of Portugal’s most beautiful spots. There are still many FREE and super cheap aires to be found, you just need to know where and how to find them.
While we were in Zambujeira Steve had a great chat with one of our Portuguese neighbours. This neighbour gave us some fantastic advice and a couple of “FREE Aires” to try.
We picked a Parque de autocaravanas right on the beautiful, wide, golden beach at Silveira. This aire has services, at one end of the carpark, by the cafe, there are toilets and and beach shower. Down by the motorhome and campervan parking there is a service area including an elsan point, grey waste disposal, and fresh water tap.
This was a fantastic FREE parkup, and we spend a lovely 24 hours on the beach building sandcastles and splashing in the waves.
#VanLife #BeachCamping #Portugal
18-20th August 2021
Camping Lisboa : https://lisboacamping.com
What3Word Location : https://w3w.co/jogging.oddly.racked
FREE WALKING TOUR : https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/lisbon/free-tour-of-lisbon
Our amazing guide was Rita Jardim. You can find her on Instagram as "RitaTheGuide"
I don’t really associate “city breaks” with camping holidays, and I think this is because it’s so hard to find decent campsites close to historical UK cities. But I need to change my perception as we have found some incredible places to park up and explore some of the loveliest cities in Europe. As we continued our trip north, we stopped off long enough to fall totally in love with Lisbon.
Although just 8 uber minutes from Lisbon's historic centre, Lisboa Camping feels like a forest campsite. It’s situated in the huge Park Florestal de Monsanto and has large, well spaced pitches that are all beautifully shaded by ancient trees.
As well as a wonderful large pool with splash pool, and diving boards, Lisboa Camping also features tennis courts, multi-sports areas, mini golf and playgrounds providing plenty of outdoor activities for all ages. There is also a canteen style restaurant and supermarket on site.
After a good night's sleep we booked our uber and headed into town to meet the incredible Rita from Sandemans Tours. We love a free walking tour, it’s our favourite way to get our bearings and get to know a new city. Rita walked us around Lisbon bringing to life the city’s rich and colourful history. It wasn’t a dry list of dates and locations, but a series of linked stories woven around landmarks and real people. As usual, Harry and I lapped up every detail. Before we left, Rita gave us a list of places to visit and places to avoid.
We absolutely walked George’s socks off, and when we arrived back at Lisboa Camping he headed back to the pool for a well earned swim. That night the boys picked a dish number and ate at the onsite restaurant. It was not glorious food, but like everything else at the campsite it was good enough.
When we first arrived, the campsite felt old and tired. Maybe a better description is “very concrete”. But, it’s clean and well tended, and once we got used to it, we realised that it is old, it’s not very modern but it’s clean and well tended and a better description is that it is “of it’s time”. It does have it’s own charm, and almost feels like it could be the setting for an epic soviet spy novel. We genuinely loved this campsite!
#Lisbon #Citybreak #Campsite
17th -18th August 2021
What3Words : https://w3w.co/gravitation.placing.marines
As we head North from the Algarve, the coastline of Portugal becomes more rugged and spectacular. After a quick pit stop at a supermarket we head to Camping Villa Park Zambujeira for a night at Portugal’s answer to Balamorey.
Camping Villa Park Zambujeira is a popular large site with narrow access roads but plenty of shade. Dotted around the site are lots of shared BBQs and picnic tables, we saw 3 different groups use the BBQ closest to us. In addition to touring pitches, there are several brightly coloured one and two bedroom houses available to rent.
10 minutes (probably less in cooler weather) is all it takes to walk from the campsite gates down to the stunning local beach. With cooler water than on the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast provided excellent waves for surfing and bodyboarding fun. Back at the campsite, the pool has a retractable roof for year round swimming.
While we were there, our toilet broke. Poor old Steve spent an hour trying to fix it before realising that something had snapped and the lid was beyond repair!
We only stayed for 24 hours, but Camping Villa Park Zambujeira is one of the friendliest campsites we have visited.
#Portugal #Motorhome #RoadTrip
16th - 17th August 2021
What3Words : https://w3w.co/leggy.stalled.cutely
In our final campsite on Portugal's Algarve Coast we stopped at the pristine Yelloh! Village Algarve-Turiscampo. Set up on the hill above Lagos, the site is a lovely mix of bungalows and touring pitches all set on flat terraces with mature trees providing plenty of shade.
When we first arrived we were met by friendly professional staff who warmly welcomed us. All of the staff members we met during our stay had excellent language skills and were keen to chat and ensure our stay was wonderful. The animation team provided a kids club, daily exercise classes (including yoga!) and evening entertainment.
At the apex of the hill is one of the cleanest and most perfect pool complexes that we have visited on this trip. There is a large open air pool with jacuzzi, and a smaller, but equally pristine pool with movable roof which would provide shelter for year round swimming. In addition to the swimming pools, Turiscampo also has sports facilities including tennis, table tennis, football and basketball.
Turiscampo is a wonderfully thoughtful family friendly campsite. Dotted throughout the site are small play parks to keep small children safe and entertained while camping chores are completed. I understand that in winter it is a popular site with long term winter sun seekers.
#Algarve #Portugal #Campsite
13th - 16th August 2021
What3Words Link : https://w3w.co/flannels.forcing.poking
We were warned when we arrived that we may never leave this place. As you probably know, we rarely spend more than one or two nights in one location. But, from the moment we drove under the “Mikki’s Place to Stay” sign, the quirks and magic ensnared our hearts and we stayed for 4 amazing days.
At just €18 per night, Mikki’s place on paper should be a simple Aire or Autocaravan Park, essentially a secure carpark maybe with electric and motorhome service area. But there is so much here! Reception is in an huge open plan building that houses the bar and kitchen. First impressions are of beautiful mismatched furniture, giant fans circulating high above your head and lots of smiling faces.
Mikki’s is famed for its Exotic Universe home to chickens, doves, donkeys, wallabies, goats and even lamas! The pool is a glorious salt water outdoor pool, created to look natural and oh so welcoming. The pitches are all well spaced and the bathrooms are clean and efficient. Spread across the whole site, the gardens and pitches are dotted with art and ceramic sculptures. Wherever you look there is colour; clashing and complimenting drawing the eye to new nooks and crannies.
George and Steve obviously enjoyed the pool for the whole time they were there, but if you were to ask the big boys what they loved most about Mikki’s place they would say the bar area. They stayed up late into the night playing pool and table football making friends with other guests and living as teenagers did before covid came and changed the world. Each evening we ate at Arno’s Restaurant. Steve ordered the chicken shawarma kebab every night, while the boys and I tried to work our way through more of the menu.
Trying to put a finger on why Mikki’s Place is so special is incredibly difficult. YES, it’s beautiful and bold. YES, it has all the facilities you need close at hand, but so do many places. I think that actually it’s the people that make Mikki’s place so amazing. We met so many people! There were families with friendly teenage children (hurrah), older couples, younger families, single travellers and even Brazilian TikTok creators. The relatively small size, and huge communal area provided a natural meeting place. Lots of Brits had come to visit, and instead of leaving were now working in the bar! There is an incredible sense of acceptance and community
Mikki’s Place To Stay is a beautiful and friendly camper stop with a glorious pool, relaxed bar and great restaurant. During the summer it is busy and bustling with international travellers, in the winter the expat and long term travellers come together to create a wonderful community.
#Algarve #Camperstop #MotorhomeAdventure
12th -13th August
What3Words Link : https://w3w.co/kennels.repeats.haven
After such a long frustrating day yesterday, we decided to do something we rarely do… We returned to a campsite we’ve visited before!
We arrived mid-morning and reception was already busy. Before we could even check in, Eddie and Harry had to complete negative Lateral Flow tests and Steve and I had to show our Covid Passports. Eventually we reached the front of the queue and were allowed to drive through the gates.
Camping Albufeira is a large resort style campsite. There are very few “formal pitches”, and campers are allowed through the gates and are sent to find their own camping area. We selected an area shaded by mature trees and set up a lovely pitch to welcome our good friend Renato for the evening. We first met Renato 5 years ago when we pitched up next to each other. He and his fiance spent many hours playing chess and football with the boys and chatting long into the night with us. Every summer his family head south to spend summer at Camping Albufeira.
Camping Albufeira is set on a hill, with a fantastic leisure complex at the apex. The swimming pools are glorious, there are several lovely restaurants and a bakery and spa too. The Animation team were full of summer energy and the whole campsite felt busy and fun. Initially it was difficult to relax, being so close to so many people after 18 months of social distancing was really tough. But once I remembered that everyone there was either vaccinated, or had completed a negative test I was able to chill, relax and enjoy this fantastic family campsite.
Walking around the site it was lovely to see a broad mix of nationalities. There were fewer German and Austrian campers than usual, but we heard lots of French, Dutch and even several British families too. Camping Albufeira is a fun campsite with excellent facilities ideally positioned for a trip to the Algarve.
11th - 12th August 2021
Well, we finally found the crowds! At the start of our trip, we found many quiet campsites and camper parks. Don’t worry though, we’ve found everyone, they are all right down on the southern coast!
We planned to spend one last night in Spain. We had a pin on our map for a beautiful looking Camper Park with a lovely pool, but unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was full. So, next we tried an amazing looking campsite, but when we attempted to book in we realised we had left our passports at the previous camperpark and had to return to collect them. By this time it was quite late in the afternoon and we didn’t want to pay full price for a luxury campsite.
So we pushed on to another aire, but this time the one way system was working against us. Feeling ever so slightly defeated we made the decision to leave Spain and hop over the border into Portugal. We were relieved when we crossed the bridge and there were no passport of covid checks. Hurrah, we’ve arrived in the Algarve! Boo, there was no way to access an electricity supply at the first aire we came to.
Our final failed stop was a beach carpark. As we drew closer, memories started flooding back of a wonderful afternoon spent on the beach with our good friends Nick and Sarah and their boys Jacob and William. We also started to remember that this was “day parking” only. Before we even arrived at the gates we were met by a “Grumpy Attendant” and turned sharply away.
After a long and frustrating drive we finally arrived at the Algarve Motorhome Park in Tavira. This new motorhome park features lovely well spaced pitches, modern facilities including a decent sized laundry room and electricity and water to each pitch. As well as safe overnight parking, the Algarve Motorhome Park Service Area is also accessible for motorhomes passing through.
10th -11th August 2021
Camping Playa Las Dunas : https://www.lasdunascamping.com/
What3Words Link: https://w3w.co/screamed.scoring.remarked
Usually when a campsite is full, we get back on searchforsites.co.uk and look for another option. BUT, Camping Playa Las Dunas was recommended to us by one of our fabulous subscribers. Rather than miss an opportunity to explore a recommendation we accepted a parking spot in the site’s overflow carpark and set up a very very basic pitch.
Camping Playa Las Dunas is a lovely mature site, with wonderfully shaded pitches, a huge swimming pool and lots of great facilities for campers of all ages. Our absolute favourite feature was it’s location. Right on the beach! We spent a wonderful morning splashing in the sea and building the most epic sandcastles. The boys even created a new ball game!
This is an excellent base for a visit to Cádiz, it’s very family friendly and even has a small supermarket on site. But as we weren't overly excited about our pitch, we stayed just one night, setting off the next morning to squeeze in one more Spanish Campsite before heading into Portugal.
9th - 10th August 2021
What 3 Words : https://w3w.co/coverage.sockets.manufactured
Steve and I share a long term dream of living fulltime in our motorhome and travelling the world. There are 3 main reasons that we haven’t already taken steps to make this our reality. 1. Eddie, 2. Harry, 3. George. Our children are bright sociable young people who actually love school. Also, having spent much of 2020 in “home school hell”, I absolutely do not want to take full responsibility for their education!
But, during our trip around Spain and Portugal we spent a fantastic couple of days with Alex and Amy from the YouTube channel; KiteVanMan. In 2020 Alex found himself locked down with his gorgeous dog Sen in Morocco, he eventually escaped back to Spain where Amy joined him. For the majority of 2021 they have been living fulltime right on the beach in Southern Spain, but as the world has opened up again, they are planning to explore and share their adventures on their new channel With Alex & Amy.
We met up with Alex and Amy at Playa de Cala Sardina, one of Malaga’s loveliest beaches. There is a split level relatively flat carpark on the hill overlooking the beach, and it’s completely legal to wild camp on the top level. Obviously it’s not encouraged to set up a full pitch complete with awnings and sunloungers, but overnight parking, and sleeping are still completely legal here.
George absolutely maximised his time at the beach, playing, wave jumping, body boarding (though it was quite calm), and we all went snorkeling together. After a delicious meal at the beach restaurant we sat up chatting late into the night.
Playa de Cala Sardina is a fantastic beach stop, there are seasonal toilets and showers down on the beach, but I wouldn’t recommend camping there unless you are entirely self sufficient.
7th - 9th August 2021
Area El Hornillo Playa : https://www.xn--reaelhornilloplaya-xrb.es/
What3Words : https://w3w.co/scores.skateboard.unfairly
€12!!! Just €12 to park up right on the beach… Though we did have an adventure before we even arrived.
The cupboards were once again bare, so before picking our next campsite we headed into town to find Aldi. Luckily enough, Aldi was right next door to McDonalds and we killed two birds with one stone allowing the boys to experience an “authentic Spanish” McDonalds. With full cupboards and full tummies we set off back to the coast to find a campsite for the evening.
Now, you may have heard us say this before (possibly several times), but we don’t often make bookings in advance. We also firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. And this day was a classic example of those two philosophies colliding to make magic.
The first campsite we had in mind was full and actually when we arrived it was too small for us to maneuver around easily. The next couple of sites along that stretch of coast didn’t inspire us to stop, so we revisited www.searchforsites.co.uk and looked for Aires with Services. In the few miles along the coast leading up to Malaga there are several options but for some reason we were drawn to El Hornillo. There were no reviews, and the photos weren’t very inspiring, but my spider sense was tingling and we decided to investigate.
Arriving was… umm... dramatic. SearchforSites showed the entrance to be on the seafront. This entrance isn’t actually accessible to large motorhomes like ours. We followed a very narrow, very winding road with cars parked either side along the sea front. Steve even jumped out at one point, moving a jeep by releasing it’s handbrake and pushing it a couple of feet out of the way. Eventually we arrived at the entrance and the turn in was so tight other cars had to be moved so we could maneuver and line up with the gates, and then we got stuck AGAIN. The drop from the beach into the campsite was so steep we almost lost our exhaust and whatever gubbins we have under the van. Thankfully the owner and several guests and even one or two locals came to our rescue. They helped place a couple of pallets under the back wheels, which lifted us up enough that we could pass over the ridge safely. Phew.
Once on site we found a piece of heaven. Area El Hornillo is a brand new family run aire with services. It had only been opened a few weeks, no wonder there were no reviews or photos! Anna and her Uncle Antonio, in fact the whole family made us feel so welcome. The services are basic, but spotless - which is exactly what we expect from an Aire.
Even though we had been shopping, that first evening we decided to head to local beach restaurant La Isla. We enjoyed a wonderful fish meal and delicious wine. The restaurant was fully booked later in the evening, but being the Brits we are, we were the first to arrive and ate before most of the locals even left home!
During our two night stay we enjoyed many wonderful hours at the beach splashing in the sea. Two days after we arrived we packed up and left through the main entrance at the back of the site. This road out of the site is also very narrow and winding but there are less cars and it’s not one way!!! The What3Word link above takes you to the correct exit from the main road.
Anna and her family made us feel so welcome and we would thoroughly recommend this camper stop to anyone, especially at just €12 per night!
6th - 7th August 2021
Camping Mar Azul : https://www.campingbalerma.com/en/
What3Words : ///solos.tenfold.singer
Myself, Eddie and George have all been struck down by the sickness bug poor Harry started with just a few days ago. We need air conditioning, fresh water and a nice toilet block, so we leave Vilaricos and head for a campsite further around the coast.
Camping Mar Azul is a wonderful family friendly resort. Situated right next to the beach it has a kids club, swimming pool, sports facilities and a lovely cafe with really really good coffee. During the summer, the site is full of families and family fun, during the winter the owners assured me the site is full of long term and touring British and Northern European adults enjoying the winter sun.
Unfortunately as we were so sick, only Steve really got to use most of the facilities, but I can assure you that the toilet and shower block were clean and actually very lovely. This is a campsite we would absolutely recommend for year round fun and community.
4th - 6th August 2021
Situated in the south east of the Province of Almeria (Andalucia) in Southern Spain, Villariocs is a small unspoilt fishing village with a harbor at each end. Our good friends Graham, Sue and their children Abbie, James and Joe own a wonderful property and one of our all time favourite Spanish activities is meeting up with them. This year we joined them for 3 days and 2 evenings of fun filled activities and the odd hairy moment!
When we arrived we were lucky enough to find a perfectly positioned parkup overlooking the pretty harbour. This isn't a good parkup at the weekends as Villaricos host a wonderful market each Saturday so that road needs to be kept clear, but for a cheeky night or two mid-week it was exactly what we needed. Arriving late morning, we spent an amazing afternoon at the Luna Water Park, which is a fabulous manmade waterpark with giant inflatables, cable wakeboarding, kayak and SUP boarding and a nice bar for a chilled glass of wine while your family tire themselves out.
For dinner that evening we headed back to one of our Villaricos favourites; Lucky Bar. Steve and Graham both tucked into Lucky Bar's famous moussaka and I absolutely adored my calamari. It was during dinner that our first disaster struck! Steve bit down on his fork, and a crown fell out. This is a crown right at the front of his mouth that had last been repaired almost exactly a year ago in France!
Disaster 2 struck around 1.30am, when Harry's tummy bug from the day before landed with me, and then George and then Eddie. We were all vary sick that night and felt very sorry for ourselves for much of the next day too. I spent most of the night sitting on the harbour wall, dangling my feet into the sea while hanging on to a bucket.
The next day dawned beautiful and clear and Sue helped Steve find a local dentist who could help him with a temporary fix. While Steve and Graham visited the dentist, the boys and I relaxed with Sue at the pool.
Returning from the dentist Steve was inspired by a fantastic idea, or as I like to call it Disaster 3. He thought it would be fabulous to move the van down on to the beach and wild camp down there for our second evening! And it probably would have been if I had been well enough to add my usual "caution" to his impetuous energy. While in my delicate tummy bug state, I wasn’t thinking quickly or clearly enough, so before I had fully processed his idea and assessed the parkup options, he had driven us right on to the beach and got us stuck!! Luckily, Sue has an incredibly calm approach to life and suggested that we ring our breakdown cover and request a tow. Thank you so much to Comfort Insurance who provide our breakdown cover as well as our travel insurance.
Within 1 hour of making the call, we were being hauled off the beach to safety. It is very little consolation that the man pulling us off the beach was experienced at dealing with this kind of rescue! Good old Sue and Graham again came to the rescue by ordering pizza for dinner and making sure the boys were safe and fed while Steve and I watched the rescue.
I cannot imagine that Sue or Graham will be excited for us to visit ever again, but we did love our time with them, and hey - what doesn’t kill us...
2nd - 4th August 2021
Camping & Bungalows Bellavista, Aguilas : http://campingbellavista.com/
What3Words : https://w3w.co/collect.ranges.scoots
Our first choice campsite was closed until September, so we pushed on down and made it all the way to the coast. We found a lovely little campsite with a great pool. BUT, Oh No! A tummy bug has landed in our van and poor Harry is so sick.
Rather than drag a poorly boy out on the road, we decided to make a base a Camping & Bungalows Bellavista in Aguilas, Murcia. The campsite is a lovely site just across the road from the beach. We all had a lovely time splashing about in the pool, playing table tennis and generally relaxing.
Unfortunately, as Harry was so poorly, we didn't get out and explore the local area, so we have saved this for next time.
1st - 2nd August 2021
Camping Los Viveros : http://www.campinglosviveros.com/
What3Words : https://w3w.co/whirlpools.weekends.embalmed
Madrid was incredible, but 1 day was enough and it was time for a big driving day. After almost 4 hours we used SearchforSites to find a small campsite in the mountains with a pool to cool off in.
Camping Los Viveros is a family owned site surrounded by nature 350m above sea level. We didn’t really fit on any of the available pitches, but we were fed up of driving, and the family were very keen to help us and eventually they found us a makeshift pitch with electricity and a bit of shade. It was all we really needed for a 24 hour stay.
While the boys set off to enjoy the huge pool, I stayed back to take care of some washing. The toilet blocks were large, clean and very convenient, and although there was a restaurant across the road, we stayed near our van for a home cooked meal. Walking around the site we spotted a lot of long-term or seasonal pitches. There was a lovely relaxed vibe to the place and lots of large groups of extended Spanish families.
To be brutally honest, I think we were all still very tired after our hot day in Madrid and after a swim and dinner we turned in for an early night. Before setting off the next morning we were reading the campsite reviews and realised we were very close to a very special monastery. Before we left the region, we took the 5 minute drive down to the monastery to see it for ourselves.
Set in to rock caves overlooking the River Segura, the Sanctuary of the Virgen De La Esperanza is one of the most beautiful centres of pilgrimage in the Murcia region. Legend states that back in the 16th Century a shepherd discovered the image of the Virgen de la Esperanza “La Pequenica” or little one inside. Exactly how the statue ended up in the cave remains a mystery. When the local townspeople were unable to move the virgen, the sanctuary was built around her.
Camping Los Viveros was a nice enough campsite with lots of potential for hiking and biking and outdoor activities. And and although we loved the pool and enjoyed our visit to the sanctuary, we were excited to leave and get back on the road!
30th July - 1st August 2021
Area de Autocaravanas Las Cigüeñas | Polígono atalayuela, 28031 Madrid, Spain
Free Walking Tour : https://www.neweuropetours.eu/madrid-walking-tours/
We love city camping! There is something very special about being able to take your home to a new city and use it as a base to explore. Neither Steve nor I had ever spent any real time in Madrid, I had organised a couple of events there but hadn’t seen anything outside of the hotel walls so we were both very excited to explore the Spanish Capital.
We don’t mind paying for great campsite facilities when we know that we are going to use them. But when we visit cities we plan to be up and out of the van early and not returning until late, so our number one priority when looking for a city parkup is security. We just want a safe place to park, oh and electricity. Electricity was actually very important as the temperature in Madrid in August is typically in the 40*s - Ooosh!
Rather than picking a fancy campsite, we found an Aire on Park4Night. Area de Autocaravanas Las Cigüeñas is brand new and we couldn’t even find a website, but we could see it on Google Maps. Thankfully when we arrived there was plenty of space for us to park up and relax. At some point in the future, this aire will have toilet and washing facilities and probably even a small pool. But for now, the area is just a carpark with a fence and a lovely couple running the site.
After a nice cool night’s sleep (thank you Air Conditioning!!!), we booked an Uber and rode 15 mins into the city centre. One of our absolute tip top favourite activities is a FREE walking tour. We love that the guides are local experts, they are fantastic at bringing the city and it’s secret (or not so secret) history to life. Technically they are not free as you pay in tips. The better the guide, the more we like to tip - not that we have ever had a bad guide! The city tour covered only a small geographical area, but Madrid is quite hilly and we were all grateful that we picked a day where the temperature didn’t raise any higher than 27*.
For lunch we dined on the local speciality of Calamari Sandwiches and Potato Tortilla. The omelette was divine and became a staple of our lunches for the rest of the trip (Lidl’s own is excellent!). Tired and hot after our day of exploring, we caught an uber back to the van and enjoyed a relaxing evening listening to the owner on his decks.
Area de Autocaravanas Las Cigüeñas is a brilliant and convenient no frills park up perfect for a visit to Madrid. For now, it’s only good for visitors in self contained units, but in the future it could be open to everyone.