The Camping Dream Team! Camping in the Alentejo

Every summer, my family leave the comfort of our house in the Algarve and retreat under canvas into the Alentejo. Is this total madness or an inspired life choice? I will let you decide.

Despite living in one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe – everyone occasionally needs a change of scenery and a way of breaking up the endless school holidays! We all know how expensive it is to travel in July and August, so why not consider camping in the Alentejo this summer? It has a different atmosphere to the Algarve, is less busy and feels more like the ‘traditional’ Portugal, just a short drive away.

Along with two other families, we have been doing this now since our children were babies, becoming so adept at the mission of creating fun, freedom and friendship under canvas, that we have now called ourselves the Camping Dreamteam! And our mantra for these trips is simple: “have another beer and think about it!”

I have finally decided to share our well-kept secrets in order to inspire others to join in the fun. And there are a number of very good reasons why you should follow our lead.

Tents are fun and easily acquired from Decathlon, which has a superb range at affordable prices. Not only that, tent technology has advanced in the last few years. After years of arguments with my husband as we attempted to fit poles together, we invested in an inflatable design and an electric pump. This means that creating our accommodation merely involves plugging our pump into the cigarette lighter and watching our four-man tent pop into life. I will admit that hammering tent pegs into rock-hard earth can be challenging, but nothing a well-deserved beer from the cooler won’t fix!

With the climate in the Alentejo giving you pretty-much guaranteed sunshine with no unexpected downpours, why not opt to embrace the outdoor life? Most campsites have plenty of shady trees to camp under and there is nothing like the feeling of putting out your camping table and chairs and sitting in nature with friends enjoying al-fresco dining.

The kids love it! Imagine wasting all that money on hotels when the kids prefer camping. I also credit the fact that I took my youngest daughter camping when she was a baby as the reason she has never had a serious ailment. I think crawling through and eating dirt made her immune to every microorganism known to man!

There is nothing like getting together under canvas to create some serious bonding. I now count these families as among our best friends. The male bonding is particularly intense during the BBQ ritual and cooking of meat. Most campsites do not allow your own BBQs due to fire risk, but most have an area with built-in BBQs. There is generally a good deal of camaraderie with other campers and sharing of hot coals when yours won’t light! Our boys like to take a cooler of beer along with them while the ladies chop up a salad at camp with a G&T: Caution: Over consumption of beer while BBQing can cause serious pain the next day!

Top Tips

Blackout Tent  Make sure to purchase a black-out tent, so you are not woken by sunlight at the crack of dawn

Puncture repair kit Kids love jumping up and down on blow-up mattresses, ultimately ending in punctures. On my last camping trip, I woke up on the ground in the middle of the night after a slow puncture. Don’t forget your puncture repair kit!

Hammock This versatile piece of equipment can be bought from Decathlon and fits into a small pouch. Campsites have plenty of trees to hang it from. The kids use it as a swing during the day and once they are asleep, I lie in it looking at the thousands of stars that the Alentejo night sky displays.

Ice Keep a cooler constantly full of ice. Most camping shops provide bags, vital for keeping beers cold and an essential supply of cold water.

Hangovers Waking up in a tent with a hangover in a tent is not fun and has led to some Camping Dreamteam mishaps! Drink responsibly!

Alentejo Campsites – My Top Picks

São Miguel

Located in the Alentejo Southwest Natural Park, the São Miguel Camping is just 4km away from the beautiful Odeceixe beach, which makes it worth staying in itself. On top of this, it has a lovely vibe, with camping under magnificent pine trees and a colonial-style main building containing a great buffet-style restaurant opening onto lush lawns.

The swimming pool is a pleasant focus and in peak season, there is a lovely pizza restaurant which overlooks the pool, lit by attractive fairy lights.

If you stay here, be sure to walk to the Thai restaurant in the adjoining village of São Miguel, a homely atmosphere with home-cooked cuisine is a treat for hungry campers.

The main draw is to spend your days on the spectacular beach of Odeceixe, where the kids are in heaven swimming in the river. Every time I visit this beach I remember why it won the ‘7 wonders of Portugal’ beach award. It combines a stunning river, surf beach and quaint town with fabulous eateries.

Costa do Vizir

While this campsite lacks some of the wild charms of the above-mentioned, it makes up for in comfort. As part of the Yelloh chain, it offers superb facilities such as I have never experienced in Portugal. It also has marked-out pitches, giving it a more organised feel.

Located in Porto Covo, it allows you the opportunity to explore this magical stretch of coastline with Praia Grande, only five minutes away.

The swimming pool was heaven for the children and the poolside terrace bar was adult heaven! It also has a nice playground.

There was a very civilised BBQ area, which even had lighting, so there was no need for the usual head-torches. Perfect for cooking up a meat feast. We found the on-site restaurant to be quite peculiar, as it was stylish and expensive. Not what you would expect on a campsite– and certainly not child-friendly. So we gave it a miss and opted for a wonderful seafood lunch in the charming centre of the town instead. 

I can highly recommend visiting the spectacular beach of São Torpes, where there is a superb beach bar offering delicious seafood and friendly service.


Quite literally, Alentejo’s best-kept secret (actually, my husband didn’t want me to tell anyone about it) this is privileged information and not to be shared with anyone but Tomorrow readers!

It was discovered by one-third of the camping dream team, who went there on their honeymoon! A utopia on the edge of an inland lake, it is simply breathtaking. Very un-crowded even in the summer, you camp on spits jutting out into the shimmering water, which appears like a mirage in the rugged landscape.

The on-site restaurant is simply sublime, overlooking the lake with local cooking and friendly service.

It is essential to take a SUP board with you and padel down to admire the spectacular engineering of the dam, which holds the lake in the valley. The only downside is that in the summer it can be incredibly hot. In fact, one August we sat in the lake all day, even putting our picnic lunch on the board so we wouldn’t have to leave the cooling water. This was exceptional, but you can expect it to be hotter than the coast.

The facilities are dated, but nothing can dampen your enjoyment when you are immersed in such tranquil beauty.

Monte Carvalhal da Rocha

I have spent many happy times encamped in the wooded terraces overlooking a spectacular valley to the sea in this camping heaven.

The park has 2.5 hectares of wooded area, pine forest, eucalyptus, acacia and strawberry trees. The lovely cove of Praia do Carvalhal is walking distance down a hill. By a happy quirk of fate, an eccentric landowner who occupies a superb house overlooking the beach, keeps a menagerie of exotic animals, meaning that you can view zebra, buffalo and emus along the way. The cove has a small stream for the kids to dam and caves to explore. More importantly, a beach bar provides a lazy lunch spot or sundown cocktails.

If you can’t be bothered to cook, then the campsite restaurant is superb, serving up traditional Portuguese dishes. The lovely campsite owner is there every lunchtime BBQing fresh fish and delicacies like perceves and porco Alentajano are often on the menu.

It benefits from a huge swimming pool surrounded by grass, which is never crowded. A lovely place to while away an afternoon if you feel weary or indeed dirty from camping! And they serve cocktails at the poolside bar. The sunsets from the terrace are spectacular.

The dreaded campsite facilities are also surprisingly good, with slate tiles, regularly cleaned and well-maintained.

My only negative is that this area is subject to its own microclimate and you can get sea mists.


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