Europe in a Van Part 15 – Portugal: Praia da Barra, Porto and the Douro Valley

Wine tasting, mattress purchasing and very rude neighbours all make it in to this weeks blog. From Nazaré, we continued up the coast, making our way towards Porto. After a short overnight there, we headed east into the Douro wine region where we spent the weekend driving from winery to winery. Bliss

Highlights and Lowlights


  • We got the opportunity to stay at some Portuguese wineries and taste the local wine
  • The Douro Valley really exceeded our expectations – it is so beautiful
  • Most of the places we stayed were free or really cheap – I do love a bargain


  • The dogs are still barking
  • I am making plans for returning to work in May – this is taking up a lot of headspace which I’m not enjoying
  • The shine of van life is starting to wear off a bit. We’re both feeling like we need to settle and have some more space.

Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.

A Sleepy Seaside Stop in Praia da Barra

Campsite Parque de Camprismo – Praia da Barra
Cost – €19 per night for two people inluding electricity
Facilities – no extra facilities
Accessibility score – 2/ 5

See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.

This was one of those spots that just filled a few days for us. I wouldn’t go back, nor would I recommend the campsite, but it was fine for a few work days. We barely ventured outside the campsite, only leaving once to go out for dinner.

It was also the scene of our first encounter with a rude and unpleasant neighbour. Over the last nine months, we have been lucky to have not had any nasty situations, but this guy changed that. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad, he was just a gentleman set in his ways who didn’t want us to park within 2 meters of his van, despite the fact that we were within our own pitch while doing so. Anyway, no biggie.

This campsite was only OK. It was nothing to write home about and there was no real effort made regarding accessibility. The pavements were really uneven, especially at the bathrooms and there was little to no signage anywhere.

A Quick Overnight in Porto

Campsitethis wild camping spot
Cost – free
Facilities – no facilities
Accessibility score – N/A

A very quick stop on the outskirts of Porto as we needed to do an IKEA dash. Our mattress has become less and less comfortable as the weeks have gone on and my poor back can no longer handle it (31 going on 70). There are plenty of other things I’d much rather do than go to IKEA but it just had to be done.

We spent the night parked by the beach. It was just a car park with no facilities but it was fine for the night. We could hear the waves crashing away next to us, which was a lovely sound to wake up to.

Touring the Douro Valley

Expectations were hugely exceeded in the Douro valley. What an amazing place! The valley follows the curves of the Douro river, rising in green mountains on either side. Wineries, quintas and olive groves are sprawled across the mountainsides, meaning it is dotted with little white houses and the fields are cut into steps for the vines to grow on.

A picture of the Douro Valley. A blue curves in between green rugged mountains. The sky above is bright blue.
A view over the Douro Valley

We spent the weekend just driving from one winery to the next. Many will let you park your van overnight for free, some with an obligation to buy products, others not. How could you not though! Super cheap and delicious wine and olive oil as far as the eye could see. Heaven.

Here is our itinerary for The Douro Valley in a van:

  • Quinta do Roncão – as a first intro to the Douro Valley and its wineries, this was a good choice. Parking was free once you spent €20 in their shop. A fair deal. We bought a bottle of wine and some olive oil and spent the evening watching the sunset on the terrace. The staff were fantastic and were really welcoming. We spent one night here and explored the surrounding area on foot the next day.
  • Quinta da Monte Travesso – Our second stop was a bit further up the mountains to another vineyard. They allowed us to park for free (including electricity) with no obligation to buy their products. We couldn’t resist more wine and olive oil so bought one bottle of each This was a really quiet spot and we had the whole place to ourselves for the night.
  • Quinta da Padrela – on the third day we set off early (ish) to make the 550 meter drive to the next quinta. We aimed to get there mid morning so we could join a wine tasting and tour. No luck though! We had to wait until the following day. The owner here was incredibly welcoming and invited us to a tour and tasting the following morning. We of course went along and bought more wine, olive oil and local sheep cheese
  • Peso da Régua, Parque de Pernoita de Autocaravanas – this wasn’t a quinta but more of a fancy car park for campers. It was in Preso da Régua which is the de facto capital town of the Douro Region. We stayed here for 3 nights as The Driver worked and I pottered around. At just €3 a night including electricity and services, it was hard to leave!
A view out of the open back doors of the van. The quilts and cushions are piled on the bed. The doors open onto green grass, a line of motorhomes and the Douro river.

        A quite enough couple of weeks for us. I think we needed it after all the socialising in the few weeks beforehand! After we left Preso da Régua we celebrated Christmas again as we checked into a lovely spa hotel for a few days. This was our Christmas present to each other and it was a real treat.

        While at this spa hotel, we made a big decision about the final 8 weeks of our trip. After 9 months in the van, we felt it was 1) time for a break and to settle down somewhere and 2) Vanessa requested a holiday. So within 12 hours we completely changed all our plans and booked 7 weeks in an apartment in Bilbao! I’m going to miss the ability to be this spontaneous. More on that and our last week full time in the van, next week!

        Thanks for reading! Aoife x

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        All of the views in this post are my own and there are no sponsorship or advertising deals in place with any of the businesses listed above.