We’re always looking for short-drive destinations that are within 100km radius from Estremoz to get away for a few days in our self-built camper—and one of our favourite places to visit is the Rio Tejo (Tagus) that delineates the northern border of the Alentejo region in Portugal. Over the past few years several river beaches (praias fluviais) have been set up along the banks of the river, usually with a nearby campsite or ASA (service area for campervans), and best of all hiking trails and picturesque passadiços (purpose-built wooden walkways). Many also have the requisite baloiço (swing) for staging your own Instagram photos.
So having earlier enjoyed a peaceful stay and nature hike in Ortiga, in the municipal region of Gaviao, last week we decided to try our luck further downstream at Abrantes.
Aquapolis Park, Abrantes
As with most Alentejo towns, Abrantes sits on a steep hill with a castle at the top. Set on the north side of the Tagus, we camped on the south side at the municipal Aquapolis Park. From here there is a great view across the river to the town, especially at night when the castle and hillside are lit up.
Rossio ao Sur do Tejo
This side of the river is known as Rossio ao Sur do Tejo and to be honest the suburb has seen better days. I believe there was once a thriving metalwork industry here, which has left many boarded up foundries and factories and the accompanying ruined mansions to go with them. Today they are all closed up and although the riverbank area has been upgraded with a modern restaurant, picnic area, gardens and events venue, venture just a street back from here and it is rather run down. Not a problem for us as we love the urban feel and you get to rub shoulders with the ‘real’ Portugal and its people.
Hiking along the Rio Tejo
As part of the Medio Tejo region, there are some great walking trails that radiate out from the central bridge, which is the main artery into Abrantes and is never quiet. These follow the river both in an easterly and westerly direction. We found the walks to be generally well signposted and except for in a couple of places, easy to follow, although they are not circular and you do have to retrace your steps. These trails also form part of the Fatima pilgrimage route.
Wildlife and flowers
The Rio Tejo, even close to the town, is full of wildlife and we saw families of both ducks and wild geese close up. It is also tidal, controlled by a weir just out of town, so the character of the water totally changed on the second day, dropping low and revealing the ruins of forgotten quays and sandbanks underneath.
We walked east towards Ortiga the first day and west towards Constancia on the second. Both days we were the only people on the paths, so could let Amlou (camper dog) run free, enjoying wading through a stream to cool our feet on the first day, and crossing a couple of rope bridges on the second.
We hiked as far as Tramagal to the west on day two, following the river on the right and train line on the left. Set on a significant bend in the river, there is a small river mooring and also photo opportunities at the top (with a swing). Several locals had dug terraced gardens into the banks and it was amazing to see the fresh produce they grew. Throughout the walks we passed through fields of wild flowers, forests of ferns and walls of prickly pears. Beautiful!
Parque Tejo campsite
The campsite was excellent; only 14 plots but each with its own individual water and electricity, which was included in the price, dogs are allowed and picnic tables overlook the river. In high season there is a café, lounge and interactive tourist facility.
The town of Rossio had limited amenities on offer (maybe more in the summer) but there were a few cafés open, some grocery stores and an excellent bakery. For dinner there is a roast chicken takeaway (frango assado) and a great value restaurant at the train station.
Next visit we will cross the bridge and hike up to the castle!