Fun in the Atlantic surf and skinny dipping in local lakes were part of the Portuguese experience for Paula and Peter Starling
In previous years we had visited Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve, well known for its Mediterranean beaches. This is a very popular tourist destination and its central coast between Lagos and Faro is now lined with villas, hotels, bars and restaurants. On this latest trip we decided we would escape the crowds and stay in the Alentejo region, a far less developed region just north of the Algarve. In this region you can explore the rugged interior of Portugal as well as visit the spectacular beaches on Portugal’s western Atlantic coast. In July and August you will find the region buzzing with Portuguese holidaymakers but at the time of our visit in late Spring we enjoyed warm weather without the crowds!
Our chosen route was Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Santander and then to drive across northern Spain into Portugal. This route cuts out the huge drive through France and gets you to the sunshine much quicker! The overnight ferry crossing arrived in Santander at 6.15pm and we had intended spending the first night at a nearby campsite, but we were wide awake, however, so decided to crack on and not stop . The roads were empty and with a couple of coffee breaks we had covered the 560 miles to our first site, Monte Naturista O Barão by daybreak. Dutch owners Laura and Jeff made us very welcome and we were soon all set up and ready to relax.
Monte Naturista O Barão is a small friendly campsite with generous size pitches and electric hookups. Pitches are available in the sun or shade and for those without a tent, caravan or motorhome, there is rental accommodation. Facilities include showers, bar, bistro and a terrace overlooking the beautiful countryside. There is also a lovely salt water swimming pool to burn up those calories or just chill and relax by.
If you a fancy a beach day, the official naturist beach Praia do Salto is only 30 miles to the south west. Car parking was easy and there are steps leading down the cliff to the sandy beach. We went there several times and had enormous fun in the Atlantic surf.
The total cost of a pitch at Monte Naturista O Barão, including 2 adults and electricity is around 28 euros. We stayed for 28 nights so paid in total 784 euros less 10% INF discount. The INF discount of 78 euros (approx £68) easily covered our annual BN membership fee!
We started our return home via a second naturist camping site in Portugal, Quinta do Maral. This is also a rural site and is located on the Portugese/Spanish border near the 13th century castle of Marvao. It is very important that you don’t use sat navs but follow the directions given on the web site, otherwise you may end up on the narrow road up to the castle with nowhere to turn around - as we did!. Quinta do Maral is a lovely, peaceful site, well managed by the owners, Paula and Nuno. The facilities are much the same as Monte Naturista O Barão although the pool is much smaller. They also have some accommodation to rent.
Although a long way from the coast, one aspect of this location that we did particularly like was the opportunity for skinny dipping in some of the local lakes. Paula and Nuno told us of two - Barragem da Apartadura and Barragem de Povoa. We visited both and it was such an exhilarating experience to swim naked in the middle of the countryside. We did encounter a dog walker and a cyclist but neither seemed surprised or perturbed by our naked escapades!