Just before the global Covid-19 pandemic hit, we stumbled upon an incredible road trip in Portugal called the N2. When the world opened up again, we headed back to Portugal to experience the BEST European road trip ever.
In January 2020 we were visiting family in a Portuguese village and did lots of fun stuff locally. We visited schist villages, spent a lovely day in Coimbra and headed to Nazare, famous for huge atlantic waves. On our travels, we stopped off in a tourist information centre and discovered a ‘passport’ for the N2.
What is the N2?
The N2, or the Estrada Nacional 2, is an iconic route that starts in the northern Portuguese town of Chaves. Built in 1945 it was once the main route through central Portugal, snaking its way south for 739km (453 miles) before reaching Faro on the south coast. The route dissects Portugal, passing through beautiful towns and villages along the way.
The passport for the route is an eye catching bright yellow booklet, providing information on each of the towns to visit. We took a copy away with us for an affordable €1 and promised that we would return to do the journey at another time.
Not everything goes to plan
Between January 2020 (when we first discovered the route) and July 2021 a LOT happened. Not long after we got back from Portugal the Covid-19 pandemic hit which turned everyone’s life upside down. At the time of that trip, Amy was pregnant with Ollie.
Ollie made his appearance in September 2020 in the midst of the pandemic but neither he nor Amy could come home straight away. Both were poorly and spent a short time in hospital until they were well again.
We had planned to take a year off together when Ollie was born, but we didn’t bank on that being right in the middle of a pandemic. We had a vision of waiting until Ollie was about 3 months old before hitting the road on a European campervan adventure. Unfortunately, we were grounded, along with the rest of the world.
As it turned out, having nowhere to go was a blessing in disguise. It gave us time to learn how to be parents together. It also gave us time to plan a shorter road trip back out to Portugal. In July 2021 after waiting patiently for Covid restrictions to be lifted, we set off on a 2-month campervan adventure with Ollie in tow.
Our plan was to drive to Portugal to visit Ollie’s Aunty so she could meet him for the first time. This took 5 days and we vlogged our trip along the way. Check out our daily video diary on our YouTube channel, starting at Day 1.
After a short break in central Portugal, we planned to head south on the N2 all the way down to Faro. From there, we thought we might head to the West coast before heading back to the centre for some more family time with Ollie’s Aunty. Then we planned to do the northern leg of the N2 before heading back home via Spain and France.
Day 1 on the N2 was brilliant and the first stop in our passport was the delightful town of Penacova. Nestled on the side of a mountain, we wound our way up steep, narrow streets to reach the Tourist Information office. Guided by Google, we found a parking spot right outside and nipped in to get our first passport stamp. The lady behind the desk was so pleased to see us and asked where we were from. Much to our surprise, she gave us some little souvenirs of the town which we still treasure to this day.
The beauty and diversity of Portugal was another major highlight. There were so many breathtaking views! As the N2 isn’t a major road, you’re forced to slow down and really enjoy the ride. We spent so much time appreciating our surroundings and had several pit-stops at gorgeous little villages.
The weather was extremely kind to us and on one long hot day, we literally found an oasis. It was mid afternoon and we were winding our way along the southern stretch of the N2 when we drove past a River Beach. These are dotted all over Portugal and are dedicated swimming areas within a river setting. In the majority of River Beaches, there has been some construction in local rock and stone so that you have somewhere to sit, steps to access the river and in some cases a cafe / bar. On this occasion, the River Beach that we discovered had everything; toilets, BBQ cooking areas, a cafe, two separate river pools and plenty of places to sit. We spent a lovely hour splashing around with Ollie in the sun and Dizzy in the shade before driving on to our next destination.
Highlight after Highlight
There are way too many highlights of the N2 to mention; it’s a truly amazing road trip in a wonderful country with so much to see. In short, we have to mention finding the geographic centre of Portugal by accident, getting the campervan stuck in a high-walled town and having to do a 32-point turn to reverse out, reaching the end of the N2 in Faro, driving to the most northerly point in Chaves at mile zero, winding our way through the grapevines in the northern region, getting our passport stamped in the most beautiful towns / villages, eating the most wonderful food, meeting lovely people, achieving all the stamps in our N2 passport and having the most amazing family adventure.
Camping along the N2
At the time of our trip, it was unclear whether ‘wild camping’ was allowed in Portugal. What we mean by ‘wild’ is staying overnight in locations without facilities. We were warned about receiving fines for parking ‘wild’ so we stuck to campsites.
We found all of our campsites with the help of Google. With a rough plan of how many miles we wanted to travel in a day, it was easy to plan ahead and see where we could stop. Ideally we preferred to stay on smaller sites. Luckily, there was only one time where we had to stay on a large commercial park.
The cost of camping ranged from €9 to €28 which was pretty affordable! To help us pick a site where there was more than one choice, we relied on Google reviews which worked well. We visited in July / August which would normally be the height of the tourist season. At the time we went, things were only just opening back up post-Pandemic so campsites were quiet. We never booked ahead, just rocked up on the day and were successful with getting a pitch
Since our trip, wild camping is now permitted in Portugal. However you have to move on after 48 hours in one place (correct as of 2022).
Want to know more?
If you’re keen to know more detail about this road trip including how we drove to Portugal, follow this link to the Portugal section of our YouTube Channel.
If you have any more questions, you can drop us a line here or reach out to us on our social media links below: