This route details a suggested route from France/Spain down to the Algarve and back up homeward. I’ve compiled it for a friend who wants some guidance as to how best spend their first 7 week motorhome trip. The ‘site’ numbers are not consecutive as I am using the maps from our 2012 trip and this ‘shorter’ route doesn’t take in all the stops that we managed when we had the luxury of eight months away. The prices are all 2012 and I have no way of determining if they have gone up but they do give an indication of whether expensive or (as usual) not.
The above map shows our approximate route through France starting at Calais and finishing up at Matha – sorry I have no more ‘technical’ way of showing the route but I am sure with my ‘felt tip blue line’ and the details below you get the idea.
From Calais travel south – (somewhat obvious but there you are) I’ve indicated the approximate miles from the last ‘site’
2/ Forge Le Eaux – 160 miles. Great casual aire with electricity and just 6 euros. Lovely town/village with quaint shops. Lots of bars and places to eat. Two supermarkets.
4/ Le Mans – if you like cars, if you don’t then carry on! (halfway between 2 and 5)
5/ Durtal – 200 miles
7/ Turquant – 60 miles. Free aire (ten spaces), no electric, famous for its mushroom caves which are well worth a visit.
10/ Gente – 150 miles (near Cognac). Free small aire with free electric and toilets. Water supply also. Sited in local small village with football pitch and skate park. One shop, nowt else.
13/ Pomarez – 200 miles. Free aire with electric, water and public toilet. Located in front of a bull ring (despite being France still – its starting to look a bit Spanish)
14/ Sailles de Bearn – 30 miles (last stop in France). Aire on outskirts of town – 6 euros via a machine which raises barrier. Lovely quaint town. Well worth a detour for.
16/ Mendigorria – 100 miles. Formal campsite with everything 32 euros (anything near here is expensive!). Nonetheless we spent two nights as we needed a break. Nice old fashioned town.
18/ Aranda de Duero – 200 miles
20/ Salamanca (Shown within ‘Portugal’ map below) – 140 miles. Formal campsite 16 euros. Main city with lots of castles/churches and other impressive buildings. Impressive car museum too.
The blue line is the route for 2012 (the black one was 2010 – too tight to buy a new map_
21/ Almeida – 100 miles. Fantastic walled fortress town with free aire opposite the fire station. We love this place. Great authentic unspoilt bars and shops. Charming – end of story!
25/ Tomar – 200 miles. Lovely town and fantastic monestary (right up a huge knackering hill) Nice parks and shops and well worth a visit. Big supermarket on the outskirts. I cant advise any aires as we stay with friends in nearby Poco Rodondo but there is a campsite there (which we have never used obviously but we’ve had a drink in there with the owner) At a guess its a 20 euro a night place.
28/ Pegoe – 150 miles. Middle of nowhere and free stopover overlooking the barrage. There’s water and a (only for the brave) toilet. You can fish in the reservoir.
A separate map for the Algarve area
The above covers from the west and across to Albufeira, whilst the next map takes us from Albufeira across to Cabanas and well on the way to the Spanish border.
29/ Portimau – 130 miles. Basic aire but has all you need for 3 euros. Backs on to the Marina – lovely town with loads of bars and shops and places to eat on the beach overlooking the sea.
Alvor no number and not shown on my map. 20 miles. Basic aire with electric and about 7 euros (2016 price). We didn’t go here in 2012 but did so in 2016. Lots of shops, bars, miles of beaches too. Two good supermarkets.
31/Lagos – 10 miles. Small aire outside the football stadium and near to the marina. Just 3 euros – pay at machine. You can grab a shower in the footie changing rooms for a euro too. We’ve stayed here lots of times – a great base for bobbing about the Algarve. Lagos is a lovely town packed with bars and restuarants. Nice beach and marina also full of bars.
32/Boca do Rio – 6 miles. Free camping on the beach or nearby car park. We managed three nights in this ‘idyllic’ beach setting. No facilities whatsoever. My favourite place ever!
33/ Sagres – 20 miles. Loads of beach bars and a fantastic fort. No facilities although I found a public loo for water. Check with local tourist office about staying. Every now and then they clear off the hourdes of dirty buggers that seem to overstay their welcome and boast about being ‘economic saviours’ and how the locals should fall at their feet for spending next to bugger all in the shops.
34/ Carrapeita – 20 miles. Another idyllic beach spot. No facilities and obviously free. Small shop and bar nearby.
Monchique (no number) best for a day trip as there’s nowhere to camp up there. Stunning views and worth a trip if not just to annoy the coach drivers who get stuck behind you (yep – it’s steep)
35/ Praia da Gale – 30 miles. In-expensive aire with everything you need for 8 euros (electric extra) – wifi, pool, water and nearby beaches. We spent eight weeks here in 2012!
36/ Moncarapachio – 60 miles. A unique campsite (20 euros) with parrots, camels, and other circus stuff. The owner used to be in a travelling circus hence the bizarre surroundings. Good showers and toilets too.
37/ Cabanas – 60 miles. We stay at a friends place in his orchard which obviously isn’t an option for everyone but there is a campsite at 20 euros a night with everything including a pool for those not as lucky as us! Great beaches, loads of authentic bars and places to eat. Our favourite place in Portugal apart from Lagos, Luz, Boco do Rio, Alvor, and all the other favourite places!
38/ Villa Real – 15 miles. Last stop in Portugal and ideal for stopping at as you proceed to Spain. Fantastic town/city with lots of shops. Local fortified castle is well worth a peep too. We were able to stay in 2012 but they’ve knocked it on the head (refer to earlier mention of pikey ‘overstayers of welcome’)
The return part of this suggested route is not one I have specifically undertaken although we have been to many of the places suggested – as a result I haven’t the amount of detail regarding where to stay as the earlier part of the route.
AA/ (Villa Real) to Seville. The first leg of the trip back up north through Spain. This is a mere 90 miles of easy driving but Seville is a must see spot for many.
BB/ Caceres – 165 miles. Lovely old town and plenty of eating and drinking establishments. There is a free aire on the outskirts of town.
CC/ Valladollid – 175 miles. A busy city but also boasting a place to park up overnight near the busy bus station but free.
DD/ Vitoria Gasteiz – 150 miles. I have no information about this place! It seemed like a sensible destination distance wise.
EE/ Bordeaux – 210 miles. Back in France now (obviously). I’m certain you will find many aires available.
FF/ La Rochelle – 120 miles.
GG/ Nantes – 85 miles.
HH/ Le Mans – 120 miles. There is a low cost riverside aire in the town and Le Mans is a must see for any car enthusiast. The museum is world class.
II/ Rouen – 130 miles.
JJ/ Le Crotoy – 80 miles. There is a free aire near the beach. Somewhere to empty the loo but little more.
KK/ Calais – 70 miles. There is a brand new aire now at Calais but naturally there are plenty of places to stay overnight if required. We prefer to stay outside Calais and travel in at the last moment.
So, that’s it – a suggested route taking in France, Spain and Portugal. You can skip some places if ‘car museums’ aren’t your bag or you fancy a long stay at Gale. Approximate mileage would be 3100 miles so the trip is very manageable within a seven week timeframe.
I’ll add a few more photo’s into this when I get opportunity so do pop back for updates.