The Estremadura and Ribatejo regions played an important role in Portugal’s history and have monuments worth exploring. Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar have some of the most exciting buildings in Portugal. Ilha Berlenga is worth a visit in summer. Obidos is a stunning walled medieval village. There are great castles at Porto de Mos, Leira and Almoural.
The coastal region offers come lovely places to visit. Nazare and Ericeira are the most popular resorts. However there are many other less visited areas worthy of visiting, in particular Sao Martinho do Porto and the coastline of Leiria.
The valley of the Tejo River in the Ribatejo region (which translates as ‘banks of the Tejo’) has some of Portugal’s richest vineyards, with many towns hosting lively festivals. The most famous is the Fiesta do Colete Encarnado of Vila Franca de Xira, a Pamplona style bull-running through the streets.
Peniche and Ericeira are the epicentre of Portuguese surfing. Each is home to world class surfing breaks, but the towns themselves are very different.
Nazare was once perhaps the most picturesque village in Portgual, but years of promotion and development have destroyed this image. However you can still see women weaving barefoot through the town with immense trays of fish on their heads. Fisherman still sit unperturbed on the beach, mending their nets beside brilliantly painted sardine boats. Nazare is often very crowded in summer. The beaches are beautiful, but dangerous for swimming.
Campsites in Nazare
tel: 262 561 111
min-Nov to min-Jan
tel: 262 561 800
Set in pine woods 2km out of town on the road to Marinha Grande (N242), with swimming pool and bikes for rent.
Leiria is a large, old town, with cobbled streets, attractive gardens and fine old squares, once you bet past the modern outskirts. Leiria has an impressive castle hanging above the town, once an important stronghold in Moorish Portugal.
Pinhal de Leiria
Pinhal de Leiria is one of the most idyllic spots on the coast west of Leiria. The vast 700 year old pine forest stretches from Sao Pedro de Muel to Pedrogao. The beaches are beautiful and clean.
Campsites in Pedro de Muel
There are two campsites north of Pedro de Muel:
Orbitur, Pedro de Muel
tel: 244 599 168
The closest campsite to town. Can get busy during summer.
Inatel, Pedro de Muel
tel: 244 599 289
Further out than the Orbitur site, but less expensive. Closed min-Dec to mid-Jan.
Campsites in Pedrogoa
tel: 244 695 403
A good campsite, set in the woods. Closed mid-Dec to Jan.
Fatima is the centre of Portuguese religion, and one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in the Roman Catholic world.
Up until the fifthteenth century Peniche was an island. The town was enclosed by high stone walls. Although the walls still exist, Peniche is no longer an island. The area has silted up and Peniche is now joined to the mainland. Development has caused Peniche to burst outside of the city walls. Most of the development has been industrial fish processing factories which fill the air with a bad smell, and have ruined the visual affect of the area. Tourist development has now taken over, with apartment blocks appearing on the edge of the suburbs.
There are a few banks, a cinema showing some films in English and an internet cafe within the town walls. An Intermarche supermarket is on the main EN114 road, and signposted. The Pingo Doce supermarket, near the big town car park is cheaper than the Intermarche. The tourist information (Turismo) is inside the town walls.
Surfing Peniche beaches
Famous for the Supertubos break, Peniche has many excellent surfing beaches. Read the guide to surfing Peniche.
The fortress (Fortaleza)
Peniche is also famous for the 16th century fortress, the Fortaleza. Up until 1974 the Fortaleza was a political prison used by the Portuguese dictator General Salazar. Since which it has been converted into a museum, housing local archeology, natural history and crafts. It is also possible to visit the old cells, the solitary confinement pens and the visitor’s grille.
Parking in Peniche
Within the town walls parking is limited. There is a big free carp park outside of the city walls, with an easy walk way through the walls.
There are lots of car parks on the road from Peniche to Baleal where free camping is acceptable. The main car park at Baleal is popular, and has great view of the bay. There is a fresh water tap and shower in the larger car park. There are several bars and restaurants around the car park.
Free camping is also possible near the Supertubos beach, and at some of the car parks around Baleal bay.
Camping Parque Municipal de Campismo – Recommended
Tel: 262 789 529
Reasonable facilities but very cheap. You will see the signs on the roundabout when entering the town on the main IP6 road.
Out of season it is popular with surfers, as it is 2 mins from Supertubos, and 5 mins from Baleal. Open year round. Very cheap.
On the island at Baleal, drive across the causeway
tel: 262 769 333
A small but well equipped campsite
Camping Peniche Praia
tel: 262 783 460
A good private campsite with swimming pool and restaurant on the north shore of the peninsula.
WiFi in Peniche
I was able to get an unsecured connection outside the swimming pool shop on the road towards the Intermache supermarket.
Obidos (pron: ‘ob-e-dosh’) was the traditional bridal gift of the kings of Portugal to their queens. The tradition began in 1282 and the town has hardly changed since. It is small and completely enclosed by high medieval walls, cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and steep staircases. The views are stunning. Five hundred years ago nearby Peniche was an island, and the sea reached the foot of the ridge on which Obidos stands, the boats being moored on the walls below. The silting of the river had created the plains where Peniche now stands, and has left Obidos as a elevated hill town.
Obidos is touristy, and the area is becoming a little built up. You can walk right around the perimeter walls, although this is often narrow and hair-raising.
Ericeira’s natural harbour made it a major port and important place with trade connections to countries such as Scotland and Brazil. Today it is a lively attractive resort, with the town now mostly pedestrianised. Ericeira is at its busiest at summer weekend, with many visitors from Lisbon. The seafood, particularly lobsters and crayfish, is excellent in Ericeria.
Praca da Republica, a small main square is the centre of town. There are many good sidewalk cafes and pastelarias. Bars and restaurants and gathered on Rua Dr. Eduardo Burnay. There are many good beaches around Ericeira. Drive a little of out town to find less crowds. The surf here is world class, and a leg of the world championship is held here.
Parking in Ericeria
Parking is available at various places as you approach the town. Many car parks have height restrictions. The car park at Praia do Norte is big, has no height restrictions, large spaces, a great view and is good for free camping out of season.
Campsites in Ericeira
Parque Mil Regos, close to Praia do Sao Sebastiao
tel: 261 862 706
Well equipped campsite.
Free camping in Ericeira
The car park at Praia do Norte is big, has no height restrictions, large spaces, a great view and is good for free camping out of season. It isn’t very level though. It is generally best to park at the western end, facing the sea, parking on levelers if you have them. There is a supermarket and several bars across the road. There is a nearby toilet.
Also try the various beach car parks outside of Ericeira.
A small settlement, with a recent golf course development. Its a pretty place, with great beaches which are good for surfing.
Free camping in Porto Novo
There is a large long car park on the southern side of the settlement. Free camping is possible here, and with great view.
A town with some great beaches, especially good for surfing. There are various car parks around, which may be ok for free camping.