Do you ever dream of being out in the wilderness - no bedroom lights, street lights, headlights; shooting stars up above, crickets and howling coyotes? Do you see photos of travelers sleeping under the Northern Lights, atop a sand dune in the Sahara Desert, or next to a pristine lake? Do you wish you were them? Do you ever smell a fire pit and wish you were around a campfire with all your friends, eating hotdogs and roasting S’mores? So… what’s stopping you?
Oh yeah, I know – you are probably sitting on your couch in front of the television because from your experience, camping is actually not all that glamorous. It’s a lot of mind-crazy preparation for the “privilege” of living a few precious days in the heart of nature, hoping you didn’t forget anything critical, like toilet paper or a can opener. I mean, clearly, it looks beautiful, but is it really? Is it (or are you?) beautiful when you don’t shower for days on end, or when you pretend that the sleeping bag laying over a rock that is digging into your back is a feather bed on a pillow top mattress. Or when your “gourmet” food is dehydrated? If you feel this way, then we are very much alike.
To me, camping is great for about one night. I always wish I had it in me to camp longer because camping is the best way to disconnect from the world. It’s about trade-offs; creature comforts vs nonexistent cell phone coverage in a fabulously beautiful setting. Sad to say, the comforts have always won in my world.
So why do I ask these questions? In a nutshell, because I found the cure to this yearning. Curious yet? A growing travel trend throughout Portugal is GLAMPING. You may have heard of it and if not, it is exactly what the name suggests – glamorous camping.
Imagine the world where you can have a bed that is suspended above the dirt with a comfy mattress, a kitchenette, and a closet in the woods; you can still listen to the howling coyotes and the crickets while someone else does the work and you sleep like a baby.
Glamping only became a word in 2006 but is a known concept for many decades. African Safaris may be your first thought that comes to mind when you think of this concept. Exploring the canyons, craters, deserts, and jungles during the day, and sipping a lovely South African Pinotage over candles at sunset on the balcony of a tent.
Now let’s put this setting into Portugal, one of the best places in the world to glamp.
Where do I Glamp in Portugal?
In Portugal, glamping is becoming more and more popular, especially by European travelers. Why Portugal?
Portugal is incredibly diverse, giving travelers a range of mountains, beach, and vineyards. In fact, you could even jump around depending on your mood for your travel adventures and glamp throughout the entire country. Simply drive around, considering how quickly this trend is blossoming in Portugal, you will undoubtedly find a glamp site without quickly.
Let’s start with the south of Portugal.
Algarve, the home to stunning teal water and white sand beaches. While you have a plethora of options for hotels, resorts, or villas, Algarve is an ideal place for yoga retreats, strategically set away in quaint locations. And yes, you lodge in beautiful glamp sites and yurts. While others may go back to their 5-star hotels and grab dinner at a highly recommended indoor eatery or a tourist hot-spot restaurant, you have the option to stay in tree houses, caravans, and tikis and experience the great outdoors in one of the best outdoor places in the world. To add to the appeal, you will likely find glamping sites that include yoga or surfing retreats (or whatever you fancy) for an all-around experience. Check out Glamping Hub for Glamp sites!
Alentejo, for those who love to combine travel with history, culture and archaeology. Alentejo is also a “they thought of everything” location to glamp lavishly. You will find lots of Eco-villas along the scenic coastline where you can pull your car off to enjoy a breezy night, listening to the waves crash as if to remind you that you really are on vacation now. Drive far into the countryside and stay in a yurt near a vineyard, drinking wine produced locally. It doesn’t have to even be a great wine to taste like a Wine Spectator favourite when you’ve had a day like this.
Coimbra, the former Portuguese capital and known for its medieval flair. This part of the country is also swimming in glamping sites. Want to glamp for cheap? Coimbra is for you! You will find amazing glamp sites for very inexpensive in this area. The main point of attraction to this area is the beautiful Mondego River. This runs along the entirety of Coimbra and is a great place to park your car and have an “I have absolutely nothing on my schedule” couple of days at a glamp site. Enjoy some hiking, swimming, biking, horseback riding, and more during the warm summer days in Portugal.
Guarda, where you need a sweater at night, but must swim in the morning. Set in the mountainside, Guarda is a spectacular area to glamp. Exclusive and intimate, Guarda glamp sites hide in the depths of the woods, with streams and clear waters, long hiking routes, and no neighbors. Because this area is located along the hillside, you’ll find that most of these glamp sites have gardens and organic options.
Peneda-Gerês National Park, on the northern border of Spain and Portugal, this area is the luxury of all luxury glamp sites. Hidden near this stunning national park, you will have a chance to sip coffee slowly, read your favourite book, with your legs up and reclined in a comfy chair, overlooking a sparkling lake. It doesn’t get much more blissful than this!
Activities while glamping?
One of the beautiful parts of glamping is that most glamp sites offer an array of activities you can join. For example, many offer yoga classes throughout the day, massages, horseback riding, archery, cycling, guided hiking tours, art, cooking classes, and more.
There are often common areas where you can meet some other travelers, read a book, grab some WiFi (possibly), draw, write in your journal, enjoy an afternoon happy hour. Or nap. After all that relaxing, you might need one.
Do I need to bring food?
Many times, you will find that glamp sites will have kitchenettes in your tent, where you can cook your own food. So, absolutely! You can bring your own food. You may find a shopping centre on your way to the glamp site and if cooking is on your “to do” list, be sure to stop and pick up some essentials.
Even better, however, is that many glamp sites have a mini restaurant option for you, or offer you amenities like a continental breakfast or dinner/breakfast, included in the price. Remember, this is not your normal camping. There are often bars and kitchens with bartenders and cooks to attend to your traveling foodie desires. Do some research before your travel, it is always nice when you don’t have to fuss about what to eat on vacation!
On a budget, but want to glamp?
Not to worry, I have your solution. While glamping is special, it isn’t always the easiest kind of travel, especially if you do not have a car and must rely on public transportation, trains, or buses. This is mainly because glamp sites are usually off the beaten path and require a car to get you through the nooks and crannies.
If you have some time, check out HelpX or Wwoofing and make this the way you travel there. Let me tell you why.
My husband is a chef and a few years ago he was trying to figure out where he wanted to spend his summer. Being a chef, he was on a chef’s budget – we will refer to it as “sparse with edible perks”. He checked out HelpX and came across an incredible opportunity to cook for a glamp site in Parque Natural da Serra da Estrala near Guarda, Portugal. Neither of us had really heard much about glamping or thought about it being a part of our summer adventures, but after this experience, we both unequivocally say that this is one of the coolest ways to travel.
An average day for my chef husband looked like this: He woke up and cooked some breakfast for guests who requested and paid for it. The breakfast often included pancakes, waffles, omelettes, yoghurt, and fruit bowls. He then would take a little morning break to go for a hike to a new area around the mountainside. At about noon, he would come back to attend to some lunch requests and finish up around 2 pm. His afternoons were spent swinging on the rope swing into the stream, swimming at the pool, playing with the owner’s dogs and kids, cycling with the guests, or horseback riding with another HelpX-er. Before dinner, he would tend the garden and pick fruit and veggies that he would use for evening meals. He cooked dinner for many guests every night, all different kinds of cuisines then would cap his night off with drinks at the bar with guests or other workers. This was truly his kind of “Disneyland”, the most unique and memorable way he could have ever imagined to spend a summer.
And the cost?
My husband worked for his stay and did not pay for any food/drinks/transportation/lodging during his 2.5 months in Portugal. This is a fabulous way to travel for cheap! If you want to immerse yourself in a cultural adventure amid an international clientele in a gorgeous setting for little to no investment, consider working for a glamp site.
Did I sell you yet? I hope so, I promise you won’t regret this decision.
“So your husband is a chef but I can’t cook. What other kinds of work can I find at glamping sites”, you ask? This particular glamp site had a lot of activities and built-in opportunities to add to the experience for the clientele. Many glamping sites will welcome your ideas. My husband taught cooking classes in the afternoon upon guest request, earning some extra money to help fund side trips on his days off. Here are some other ideas.
A growing trend in the glamping world is yoga retreats, which need traveling yoga instructors. My husband’s site had a yoga instructor who ran classes throughout the day, including morning and nights. This was at an additional charge for the guests and the yoga instructor could keep her profits.
The same goes for the masseuse that was there. The masseuse charged $30 for a 60-minute massage. She set up her station right along the water and a blanket covered her area so onlookers would not be able to see in. She did not play music but let the natural and serene sounds of the stream and birds chirping relax the client. It makes me relaxed just reflecting on it. Heavenly.
Horseback riding was also a major activity and in general, is an ideal activity for remote, trail-lined regions. Most glamping sites work to maximise their opportunities and if the setting lends itself, horses are available and caretakers needed. The owners of my husband’s glamp site had two horses and hired a HelpX-er to take guests on horseback rides around the area.
Now, this is a true win-win for the avid horse lover – hobby, job, and vacation all wrapped into one beautiful summer package!
Get creative, there are lots of ways that your talents can be applied to one of these incredible glamp sites! Don’t be afraid to propose an idea. Send an email and highlight some of your special artistic, musical, or sports talents.
We have just explored a unique vacation experience from the luxury and financially careful traveller's perspectives.
No matter what side of the budget you are on, you will find glamping to be a nature lover’s paradise without the ice chest, tent stakes, and blow up mattress that always seems to spring a leak.
Don’t let another summer pass you by!