Wild camping in Portugal is one of the best ways to spend the night with your motorhome or camper van. There is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of the sea, waking up in the middle of the forest or having breakfast with beautiful views over the mountains. Unfortunately, motorhomes also cause a lot of nuisance and junk, so many countries won’t allow wild camping. We’ve spent about two months in Portugal with our camper van and free camping was our way to go during most of our time there. Is wild camping in Portugal legal? Continue reading to learn more out about our free camping in Portugal experiences.
Is wild camping in Portugal legal?
In short: yes, free camping has been allowed (again) since the end of 2021.
Wild camping in Portugal has always been prohibited, but was tolerated for a long time as well. Since January 2021, action has been taken against illegal camping, as motorhomes and campervans caused too many troubles around the country, leaving a lot of junk and ruining natural areas. But that already changed a few months later, as a new law in late 2021 made wild camping in Portugal a legal activity, but only under certain conditions.
So about these conditions for free camping in Portugal. You are allowed to park your motorhome or camper van for a maximum of 48 hours within the same municipality, unless it is a nature reserve or if there is a prohibition sign. Before you get too excited, you should know that many great spots and parkings have this prohibition sign, especially around the beaches and the more popular areas like in the Algarve. But we found many amazing spots without any prohibition signs, so we stayed at the most beautiful wild camping sites when travelling around Portugal.
Tip: we haven’t found anyone traveling with a motorhome or camper van not using the Park4Night app to find the best camper spots. Make sure to use the paid version. It isn’t expensive and it will allow you to easily filter out the best (wild) camping spots.
Free camping without wild camping
If wild camping sounds a bit too adventurous for you, but you do like the idea of free camping, Portugal is the right place to go as well. There are many free camper spots around the country, some even with great free facilities like showers, toilets, water or even electricity to plug in your van. And even if there is a charge for those type of motorhome pitches, it is usually only between € 7 and € 12 a night.
So how did we find those great free camping spots? We used the Park4Night app and used their filters to find the best free pitches. Some of our favourites:
- Parque Urbano de Souselo with free water, electricity, toilets and even showers
- The motorhome parking at Celorico da Beira with free water, electricity, toilet and showers
- Motorhome parking Miranda do Corvo, near Coimbra, with free electricity and water
- The market area in Coruche, where you can use the free water and electricity except on market days
- The motorhome parking in Alcobaça with free electricity, water and toilets
- Quinta do Monte Travesso in the Douro Valley where you’re expected to buy some wine or olive oil (available from €8) and you get to use electricity, water and hot showers
- Quinta da Padrela in the Douro Valley with the same pricing, where you get to stay on a stunning winery with a toilet and hot shower
The best wild camping spots in Portugal
#1 Near the Faro beach
When we looked for a suitable parking space for our campervan at the Ludo Trail in the beautiful Ria Formosa nature reserve near Faro, we found a beautiful wild camping spot. Many campers were parked in the large parking lot next to the nature reserve and we quickly decided to join them for the upcoming night. It is a great parking area next to the nature reserve where you can spot flamingos and enjoy some easy hiking trails. And the Faro beach – with free bathrooms and cold water showers – is within walking distance as well. We stayed for one night and came back later on our trip to enjoy this beautiful spot again.
#2 At the Boca do Inferno in Cascais
The Cascais beach is a wonderful day trip from Lisbon for those who want to alternate a city trip with some beach time. But if you travel with a motorhome, this might also be the perfect place for wild camping in Portugal. In the small parking lot at the Boca do Inferno – be sure to go to the viewpoint to see this beautiful sea gorge – you can park your camper van at a great spot overlooking the water. We had the most beautiful sunrise here the next morning! You can easily walk from the parking to the town of Cascais to explore the old fisherman town and have a meal – we can highly recommend the vegetarian dishes at House of Wonders.
#3 On an island in the Lago do Alqueva
One of the most beautiful places in the Alentejo region is the Lago do Alqueva reservoir. Where man-mane lakes are often a clumsy, artificial plain full of water, the Lago do Alqueva is different. It is an idyllic lake with bridges, islands, nature and sand beaches. In the summer months, it is the perfect place for a refreshing swim at one of the many beaches around the lake. Or in the lake, if you choose to explore one of the islands in the Alqueva-lake. One of those islands is also one of the most stunning places for wild camping in Portugal. We fell asleep and woke up to a beautiful view of picturesque Monsaraz and the lake. This area is also known as one of the best places for stargazing – there’s an observatory nearby where you can join a nighttime stargazing experience – so you’re in the right place for a beautiful night.
#4 At the Castelejo Environmental Trail in the Algarve
It is hard to find a good wild camping spot in the Algarve, as many municipalities try to prevent motorhomes and camper vans from taking over their towns and nature reserves. We noticed many motorhomes even on the beach parkings with clear prohibition signs, but we opted for a stunning free camping spot among the trees near the Castelejo nature reserve without any of those signs. It is a great place for a short walk in the Castelejo park, the supermarkets and other facilities are nearby and one of the most idyllic beaches of the west coast is within a few minutes drive. We stayed for two nights and had an amazing wild camping experience.
#5 On Ferragudo Beach in the Algarve
The charming town of Ferragudo is one of the best places to park your motorhome or van in the Algarve. Right next to the town is a large beachy area where you’ll quickly see many vans and motorhomes parked for the night. It is the best spot for an amazing sunset and sunrise experience while camping at the beach. We recommend you to spend a few nights as we did and enjoy the small town with its small streets. Make sure to explore the nearby Algarve’s iconic cliffs as well and we can highly recommend the Trail of Headlands or Seven Hanging Valley Trails for the best views.