Why it’s useful to speak Portuguese, and how to learn

Rayburn/Lisbon skylie
The red tiled roofs of Lisbon’s Alfama district look out over the Tejo river.

Being able to speak Portuguese, even a few words, is a huge advantage for anyone planning to move to this lovely country. Yes, many Portuguese people, especially those under 40, speak very good English. They are ready to help you even if you start off speaking to them in their own language. But they are usually delighted when you show that you’ve made the effort to learn and they will often compliment you on your halting sentences.

Portugal is becoming a popular potential retirement destination for an increasing number of people from the US. If you are one of those considering a move, it is worth making a scouting trip to explore different parts of the country and get a feel for life here. It is also very valuable to familiarize yourself with the language before you come.

That said, if your pronunciation is off you may get blank stares even though you think you have said the word correctly. It’s worth mentioning that there is a big distinction between the Portuguese spoken in Portugal and that spoken in Brazil. Think about the variations between the English spoken in the UK, the United States and Australia. Or the Spanish spoken in Spain versus that used in Cuba, Mexico or Argentina.

Online language learning options

There are several online options to learn Portuguese. I followed an online course offered by Babbel.com. It was simple, practical and fun. The monthly subscription is currently $11.15 if you sign up for six months, less for longer subscriptions. Duolingo as an app you can use on your mobile phone with a free option. It gradually builds your vocabulary and grammatical skills. It also nags you daily to keep going. Babbel and Duolingo only offer the Brazilian version, but I still found them useful. After all, Portugal still has close ties with its former colony Brazil. There are hundreds of thousands of Brazilians now living in Portugal.

There are options for learning European Portuguese too. You can try the app Memrise, which does have a limited free version. There is also PracticePortuguese where you can listen to short conversations. If you subscribe, you can follow along with the text. The idea was developed by a Portuguese guy and his Canadian partner. It has useful information on the nitty gritty stuff like verbs as well. PortuguesewithLeo is a fun alternative available on YouTube.

Lost in translation?

There are of course a lot of Portuguese people who do not speak English. Some people use Google Translate to help them communicate in those situations. However, it’s not always foolproof. I know one woman who somehow managed to ask a very formal Portuguese man she met at a grand country hotel if he would marry her! Luckily he had a sense of humor. I have found the app Deepl to be very helpful when I need to translate a sentence quickly.

A couple of words and phrases that will stand you in good stead. “Casa de Banho” pronounced “cah-zah de bahnyo” means bathroom. A conta “ah cawn-tah” means the bill at a restaurant. Cerveja “ser-vay-zhya” means beer. Thank you is “Obrigado” for a man, “Obrigada” for a woman. “Bom dia” is good morning, “boa tarde” is good afternoon. So, good luck, or boa sorte, with learning Portuguese.

Follow my blog to learn about daily life in Portugal and check out my novel “The Power of Rain” on Amazon.

Rayburn.Skyline of Porto
Porto, Portugal’s second largest city is a gem to visit.

Portugal’s pall of precipitation

Fed by weeks of heavy rain, the Rio Nabão gushes over this weir in Tomar, central Portugal.

Back in early October everyone in Portugal was praying for rain. We’d had an unusually warm dry spring and a long hot summer that continued well into what is normally autumn. According to Portugal’s Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), 2022 was the second driest year since records began in 1931.

Then it began to rain, and rain and rain. As I write I can still hear the rain drumming outside my house.

Winters in Portugal are mild compared to other countries in Europe with average temperatures in the day time reaching around 14-15 degrees Celcius (57-59 F.) November and December are typically the wettest months with most rain falling in the central and northern parts of the country.

This year we have had a “bumper crop” of rain and it has cast a pall on everyone I talk to. It’s not just the daily showers and drizzle. While not quite on the California level, we’ve had periods of torrential downpours which have caused serious damage. During two days in December, the capital city of Lisbon received 15 percent of normal total annual rainfall. Neighborhoods like Alges and Alcantara had dangerous flooding. Pictures on the evening news showed water pouring into metro stations. Dozens of homes had to be evacuated and one woman died when she was caught in a flooded basement.

Porto’s turn to swim

In January it was the turn of Porto, the country’s second largest city. It is located on the coast about four-hours north of Lisbon by train, at the mouth of the Rio Douro. A twenty-minute cloudburst on January 8 transformed streets in the center of the city into raging rivers. The downtown São Bento train station was flooded. News coverage showed a man being borne along by a torrent of water and mud.

The other aspect of this endless rain is the dampness inside the home. Typical Portuguese houses are not well-designed or constructed to ward off the effects of high humidity. Everyone I talk to has a constant battle against mold, mildew and condensation. The best advice I could give anyone who plans to buy a house, or who has recently moved into a Portuguese house, is buy a dehumidifier! Buy the biggest one you can find. You will need it!

Water was released at the Barragem do Castelo de Bode near Tomar in mid-January because the lake behind it was becoming overfull. The dam was built in the mid-20th Century to contain waters of the Zezere river, a tributary of the Tagus which flows past Lisbon. The release of water was used to generate electricity. I’ve been told that the 60 km-long artificial lake created by the dam holds sufficient water for the region for two years of use.

Sunny Days Ahead – I hope

Thankfully, my trusty iPhone is showing that next week, we will have a few days of sunshine!! Hooray!!

Follow my blog to get updates on life in Portugal. Check out my book “The Power of Rain” available in digital or print format from Amazon.

Fireworks, sunshine herald new year in Portugal

Fireworks launched from boats herald the start of 2023 at the beachside town of São Martinho do Porto.

Fireworks are a tradition on New Year’s Eve in Portugal. Although villages and towns all over the country create their own displays, firework shows in coastal cities like São Martinho do Porto and Nazaré draw huge crowds. A big part of the attraction is the way they are launched from boats moored a short distance offshore. Rockets soar skyward flashing light into the night air all around them and blazing reflections from the water below.

I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group of friends driving from my area in central Portugal to see the display at São Martinho. First we made a stop at the town of Caldas de Rainha which is popular with British and US expats. Located just a few miles from the Atlantic beaches, Caldas is in part of the area known as the Silver Coast. Our destination there was a large exhibition hall where the New Year’s Eve festivities were just getting underway at around 9:30.

A band was belting out one of the typical Portuguese songs that remind me of what a Latina friend of mine in Albuquerque called “Mexican Polka Music.” The entertainment included a couple of girls dressed in short glittery dresses enthusiastically dancing cha cha steps from one side of the stage to the other. The hall gradually filled and the dance floor became crowded. Food trucks did a brisk trade in “bifanas”, the Portuguese sandwiches consisting of a bread roll filled with slices of grilled pork. Bar stands sold beer (cerveja) or wine (vinho tinto) in plastic glasses for around one Euro.

Festive Foods

New Year’s eve traditions in Portugal include eating “passos”, raisins as the hour strikes midnight. If you eat one for each bell it’s supposed to bring you good luck. Another tradition is to eat “Leitão”, suckling pig. I went to a party my first New Year’s eve in Portugal where they had the treat displayed on a large skewer on the sideboard along with the other foods. I didn’t try it, but it is supposed to be tender and delicious.

Here Comes the Sun

A really welcome gift to us all in the first few days of January has been the return of the sun. Since the middle of October we’ve had days and days of rain. On Christmas Day it poured in torrents! Portuguese houses are notorious for dampness. Many people I know have been complaining about mold, mildew and condensation. I’ve been running the dehumidifier I bought a couple of years ago regularly in each of the bedrooms in my house and gathered A LOT of water.

Oh well, now the sun is out we can enjoy ourselves for a few days.

Bom Ano! Don’t forget to subscribe to follow my blog, and get a copy of my novel “The Power of Rain

Fireworks turn the sky red on New Year’s Eve in São Martinho do Porto.

A new book adventure in Portugal

Writing a book feels like a huge undertaking. Getting a book published is another huge hurdle. Marketing a book is like climbing Everest.

On Sunday, I will be holding a book reading/signing event at the Crespaço Gallery, Rua Major Afonso Pala 7, in Setubal, south of Lisbon as part of a LGBTQ event that will include open mic entertainment. I’m rehearsing my reading skills and making sure I have a good pen and a few copies of my novel, “The Power of Rain.”

What’s it about, you ask? Here is the shortest pitch I have developed. “Passions clash in Las Vistas, a Southwest desert town where money buys power and corrupt politicians turn a blind eye. Digger Doyle, is the tough young lesbian reporter who investigates political intrigue and finds love at the risk of her career.”

I finished my first draft of my novel in mid-2019. I spent another few months getting friends to read it and give me feedback. I spent another few months doing revisions. Then I started sending out query letters to try to get an agent. I did loads of online seminars and other research on the best way to find the right agent, how to write an irresistible query letter and submitting them. I wrote dozens of them. Each one had different requirements. Some wanted you to send the first ten pages, some the first three chapters, often in different formats. It was a time-consuming and anxiety-producing time.

I had a few false hopes raised, but nothing concrete. Several friends recommended I go the self-publishing route. I gave myself until the beginning of 2022 to decide. Finally, in March this year I decided to go for it. I contacted Sara DeHaan the book designer who had been recommended to me. She outlined a process by which she could connect me with IngramSpark, a company that works with self publishing authors and does print-on-demand and distribution to Amazon and other online book sources and book stores.

I also worked with Sarah Jane Herbener an editor who was recommended to me by a contact with whom I worked through Portugal Living, the online lifestyle magazine I freelance for. She went through the manuscript, made some valuable suggestions and ensured that it conformed to the right style.

So, big excitement, after a bunch of money, my book, “The Power of Rain” a mystery with political elements and an LGBTQ romance, became available in paperback and Kindle format in June. The hardest work then began. Learning how to navigate the multitude of ways you can try to make your book stand out from the tens of thousands of others that are published every day. It’s something that consumes a lot of my time, that is time that I would prefer spending writing the sequel, which is called “Sunshine Dreams.”

So, follow my blog, my Tweets and my Facebook posts to learn more about the characters, in my novel. And of course, life in Portugal.

Cover of my novel “the Power of Rain”

Using Portuguese healthcare

Portugal has a universal healthcare system which is available to foreigners who are legal residents. The system has is a network of clinics and pharmacies in towns and villages all over the country. Usually, these health centers, “Centro de Saude” are open just a few hours a week. Ideally, there is a doctor who is available during these times, but some centers only have a nurse. The Covid situation put the Portuguese health system under great strain.

Fortunately, I enjoy good health and have had little reason to use my local health clinic. The only times I have been are few and far between. When I first arrived one of my new neighbor’s little dogs bit me and I had to get a tetanus injection. This was actually a blessing in disguise, because it obliged me to go to the main health center for my “Concelho” or municipal area, to register in the system. I had to provide identification and my residency permit and was eventually given a “numero de utente” or user’s number. This is the number you must always show when seeking to use any of the services in the Portuguese healthcare system.

The other time was when I was having some digestive issues. I went to the clinic in my local village and the nurse told me to wait. I was able to see a doctor who spoke English. He ordered a battery of tests which included bloodwork, electrocardiogram, abdominal sonogram and an endoscopy. Because I am over 65, I didn’t have to pay for the doctor visit. (People under that age usually have to pay a few euros.) I was only charged for one of the tests, and staff apologetically explained that it would cost me 15 euros!

Impact of Covid

Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic made it harder to access healthcare services during the past two years. Several hospitals had to temporarily close departments because of a lack of staff. The clinic in my local village did not have a doctor available for about a year. In order to see a doctor, you either had to go to the main municipal clinic on a Saturday morning, or go to the local hospital. Either option was about (16 kms) or 10 miles away.

Despite these drawbacks, Portugal had an efficient system for alerting people when they were eligible for a Covid vaccination or a flu shot. I received a text message on my mobile phone and sent a return text with my Utente number to confirm. I also received a letter in the mail giving me an appointment to get a mammogram at the mobile unit when it was visiting my area. No cost for the vaccinations or the mammogram!

Waiting game

I recently heard that a doctor would once more be visiting the Centro de Saude in my village. I stopped by one day when I saw the door open and a nurse told me I should come at nine o’clock on Friday morning to make an appointment. I duly turned up at the correct hour and found four people standing around outside the clinic, wearing masks. (There is something unnerving about wearing a mask, especially if you don’t speak the language fluently.) Luckily it was not raining that morning because I gathered from the conversations around me that the clinic was actually not scheduled to open until 10 a.m. We all stood outside in the chilly sunshine. More and more people showed up while we waited.

Finally, at about 9:45 the nurse arrived and we could go inside. Some of the people already had appointments. One of the other ladies told me I should go up to the window and ask the nurse. Fortunately my Portuguese language skills are improving and I was able to ask her if I could make a “marcação para uma consulta”. She scribbled out the time and date on a Post-It note. So, I have an appointment for next week. We’ll see how long I have to wait!

The hospital in Tomar, Central Portugal, which serves my area.

Portuguese health care options

The private Hospital Da Luz in Coimbra
Hospital Da Luz in Coimbra is one of the many private hospitals and clinics in Portugal.

Healthcare is a big concern for many people who move to Portugal. The country has a well developed national healthcare system, Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), that is funded by taxes and can be used by all legal residents. They can seek care at little or no costs at the SNS network of health centers(Centro de Saude) in towns and villages all over the country or at public hospitals which are located in the larger towns and cities.

There is also a growing network of private facilities and providers, such as Hospital da Luz, CUF and HPA, available throughout Portugal to those who pay for medical insurance.

These public and private healthcare networks rank well overall. The World Health Organization gave Portugal a number 12 ranking in its 2019 World Health Report.

How does the public system work?

Americans and residents of countries outside the European Union who want to move to Portugal must obtain a D7 visa. In order to get the visa, they must show proof of travel insurance which covers medical costs. (Since January 2021, because of Brexit, people from the United Kingdom must also have a D7 visa to move to Portugal.)

In effect this means that residents of these countries must have private health coverage when they arrive in the country in expectation of a permanent stay.

D7 visa holders can apply to be covered by SNS once they have been granted a residency permit by the immigration and borders service, Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF).

Once a person has their residency permit, they can register to be covered by the SNS at their local health center to get the health system’s user number, or número de utente. They will have to show documentation such as passport, tax number (Número de Identificaçao Fiscal or NIF) number and residency permit.

After registering, in theory, you are assigned to a local primary care doctor and will be able to make appointments in person, by phone or online. There is a small fee for consultations and tests, usually less than 20 euros, services are free for those aged 65 years and older. In practice, the Covid 19 pandemic has put a severe strain on the system and many local health centers no longer have a doctor. So people have to travel further for routine appointments and care. Many hospitals are also experiencing staff shortages which have forced them to temporarily close certain departments or services during recent months.

A public hospital in Tomar, central Portugal.
Hospital Nossa Senhora da Graça in Tomar, a public hospital in the Medio Tejo region.
A sign for a local “Centro de Saúde” or health center and the associated pharmacy.

Private healthcare options

Numerous private health insurance options are available in Portugal through companies like Fidelidade, Allianz, Cigna and Medis. Plans cover most or all of the cost of routine check-ups and consultations with private specialists and hospital charges.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions is not typically available through these plans. However, the Association of Foreign Property Owners in Portugal (AFPOP) also offers its members special insurance rates through Medal Seguros. Under certain circumstances those plans will cover pre-existing conditions.

One thing to be aware of is that the cost of different plans increases with the age. In addition, there are very limited options for people over age 65. For those people, private insurance is available from MGEN, Medis (Vintage Plan) through Millennium bank, or Allianz-Medal, through membership in AFPOP.

For more detail on healthcare in Portugal and interviews with people who have moved here, read my article “Portuguese Health Care: Public and Private” on page 83 in the current issue of Portugal Living magazine.

Follow my blog to learn all about life in Portugal

Why Americans are moving to Portugal

Porto waterfront along the Douro river.
The river Douro flows through Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. Wooden boats called “rabelo” ply the waters giving tourists a great experience of the city. Historically the boats were used to ferry crates of wine from the Douro Valley to Porto.

everywhere I look I see articles about how many Americans are moving to Portugal or considering retirement in this country. I made the move myself in 2019 for a number of reasons which I will explain below. Curious to find out why all these other US residents want to relocate to Portugal I posted the question on a couple of the Facebook groups aimed at that target audience.

There was an interesting similarity to the answers I received. Two reasons came top of the list for most of those who commented. Guess what? Political climate and healthcare costs were the most frequently mentioned reasons people said they decided to make the move.

It’s not hard to understand why Americans might feel disturbed about the political climate in the US. The last few years have seen a new level of turmoil. It’s become a cliché to say the country is deeply divided. But the animosity seems to have reached new heights, with the two major political parties behaving like football teams repeatedly clashing to gain ground while they lose sight of the goals.

Healthcare in the US has long been an industry aimed at maximizing profits rather than actually delivering an improved quality of overall health. Studies have shown life expectancy in the US has fallen in recent years, infant mortality rates are higher than in many European countries and the cost of healthcare is a leading cause of bankruptcy for American families.

Healthcare and politics in Portugal

I recently spoke to a couple who moved to Portugal the same year I did, 2019. A month after they arrived, one of them fell seriously ill with a rare autoimmune disorder and was hospitalized for a month followed by four months in a rehabilitation facility. Portugal has a national healthcare system which provides free or low cost care to the population. This particular couple had private health insurance (this is a requirement for Americans to obtain the D7 visa to move to Portugal), but they were still terrified they would be hit by huge bills. Guess what? They weren’t. “In the states we would have been medically bankrupt,” they told me.

Politically, Portugal has a parliamentary system where many political parties typically have to form alliances. The country just held an election on January 30 where the center-left Partida Socialista of Prime Minister António Costa was returned to power with an overall majority. Costa called the election in November after failing to win support from left-leaning parties for his proposed budget. After living in the US where the razz-a-ma-tazz of elections seems non-stop, Portuguese elections are refreshingly swift and modest affairs. The candidates actually focus on the issues rather than smearing each other’s characters like playground bullies.

Feeling safe

Safety was another factor some people mentioned. After living here for more than two years I can definitely vouch for this. As a woman walking around Lisbon or Porto on my own I have never felt unsafe.

Now for all the other reasons why Americans are moving to Portugal: great climate, low cost of living, beautiful beaches, historic cities and towns etc etc.

Yes, I appreciate those too. I was born in the US but lived most of my young life in various European countries. I longed to get back to a place where I felt more at home, where people mattered more than the competitive consumer culture. But the main reason I decided on Portugal, rather than one of the other European countries I was more familiar with –such as Spain or France– was the Portuguese people. The first time I came to Portugal on vacation in 2011, I was so impressed by the welcoming attitude and kindness of everyone I met, that I began dreaming about moving here. I knew I couldn’t retire in the US. And Portugal has not disappointed.

Blue skies above the city of Porto, the second largest metropolis in Portugal.

Why I’m learning Portuguese, and how

The city of Lisbon with the Castelo São Jorge overlooking the red rooftops.

A lot of posts I see in Facebook groups for people interested in moving to Portugal ask questions about learning the Portuguese language. Many of the replies comment on Portuguese being a difficult language. I disagree. Why? Let me count the ways.

Portuguese is what they call a “Romance language” – this has nothing to do with love – it merely means it is a language that evolved from Latin, the language we commonly associate with the Romans. As such, it is similar to French, Spanish and Italian. So, if you have a knowledge of any of these other languages, you have a head start on learning Portuguese.

Another point I’d like to make about learning Portuguese. If you have learned any other language, you have a basic grasp of what I call the “mechanics” of a language. It’s not unlike knowing how to use a hammer and screwdriver, power tools, working with engines or mathematics. If you understand the big picture – why doing A and B in the right order will get you to C – you can apply the same logic from one language to another.

Written Portuguese looks quite similar to Spanish. If you can read Spanish you can probably figure out a lot of what you read in Portuguese. However, the pronunciation is radically different. A lot of English speakers think Portuguese sounds like a slavic language. A Bulgarian woman I met recently disagreed completely. Still, the sh and zh sounds in Portuguese sure sounded like Russian to me the first time I heard it.

Questions to ask yourself

In the end, a lot depends on the individual. Is learning to speak the local language important to you? Do you see that as part of accommodating to a new country, culture and lifestyle? Are you committed to making the effort to learn? Many people in Portugal speak English so it is relatively easy to get by without having more than a few phrases. However, not knowing any Portuguese can be a huge drawback if you find yourself out in the country and need to buy something or get some vital service and no one in the village speaks any English.

A few resources

So, how do you learn Portuguese? I first visited this country in 2011 and was so smitten that I immediately enrolled in a class through my local university’s continuing education program. Unfortunately the class was dropped after the first semester for lack of participants. I went looking online. Babbel.com offers Portuguese among its selections. Be warned, it is the Brazilian version of the language. Think–learning British English versus US English versus Australian English– you get the idea. The accent is different, some grammar and many words are different.

I see many comments on the Facebook groups that seem to advise against learning Brazilian Portuguese. I disagree. There are thousands of Brazilians living in Portugal and you will hear it here, especially in big cities like Lisbon or Porto. The lessons offered by Babbel deal with real life situations, they are easy to follow and fun! The monthly subscription is just under $13, less if you sign up for several months.

Duolingo is an app you can use for free on your smartphone. This also is Brazilian but it is helpful and it nags you daily to keep practicing. Memrise is another app you can use on your phone. It offers continental Portuguese.

For the Portuguese spoken in Portugal, I found the best experience with Practice Portuguese. This is a great website started by two guys, Rui and Joel who offer videos, short conversations with text and translations, extensive information on verbs and a wealth of other useful material. Absolutely great for listening and learning. A subscription costs a little under $20, or 15 Euro per month. The videos and conversations are lively and informative. Well worth the time, expense and effort.

Many people rely on Google translate to translate from English into Portuguese. But often you can come up with some very weird results. Some other alternatives worth trying are Deepl. The website Linguee is an online dictionary.

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What I’ve learned from two years living in Portugal

Spring flowers in Portugal
A carpet of oxalis flowers on my little piece of land in Portugal is a portent of spring.

I see a lot of posts on Facebook groups from people who are considering a move to Portugal. Many of them ask what is the best place to live? After more than two years living in Portugal I think I can offer some useful information. My advice to anyone considering a move to this country is to come here for as long as you can to get a real sense of the place. You can do all the research in the world online; but nothing, nothing, compares with what you will learn by having your feet on the Portuguese earth.

Also, ask yourself a lot of questions: Are you used to living in a city? Do you want to have shopping and restaurants within easy reach? Do you get upset if you can’t find the products and food you are used to? Can you adapt to new ways of doing things? Are you willing to learn a new language? Many Portuguese speak English but an ability to speak the language gives you a big advantage.

What are the most memorable things I’ve learned? Hard to say. I will list a few things in no particular order.

  • Portuguese people are some of the kindest you will meet anywhere. Almost without fail, they are willing to go the extra mile to spend time to offer you whatever help they can. That said, everybody gets that attention and you may have to wait your turn.
  • Portuguese bureaucracy can take time. Some expats complain about the amount of bureaucracy to do things like getting a driving license or opening a bank account. Remember, all countries have their version of red tape. It’s just that when you move to a new country you have to deal with a lot of it all at once.
  • If you are 65 years old or more you travel half price on the trains. Comboios de Portugal, the train service in Portugal is efficient, on-time and very user friendly.
  • Portuguese weather is generally kind. It’s hot in the Alentejo and Algarve regions south of Lisbon, with summer temperatures soaring over 100 degrees F (38 Celsius). But in the central and northern regions it is more temperate. Winters are milder too, with frost or snow rare except in the far north. In most areas you can grow oranges, bougainvillea and banana trees.
  • Portuguese winters can be very wet! When it rains in Portugal it is often a deluge. The rain can continue for days.
  • Dampness can be a big problem in houses. Many people complain of mold and mildew in their homes. You have to be vigilant about ensuring adequate ventilation. Buy a dehumidifier!
  • Portuguese houses are usually not well insulated! They stay beautifully cool in the hot summers but can be freezing in the winter. An electric under blanket can make life cosy.
  • Many people rely on wood burning stoves for heat. Remember to buy most of your wood in the fall. If you buy supplies after Christmas you may end up with some damp wood. If you are paying for it by the ton, wet wood ends up costing you more and it is hard to get your fire going.

So, as I head into my third year here, I am happy to see flowers blooming on my land. I look forward to many hikes in the spring and to planting my vegetable garden.

Portugal’s great hiking, biking trails

Portugal has lots of cycling routes through the hilly countryside.
Portugal is a great place to cycle, even though the terrain can be challenging. The scenery is spectacular and there is little traffic on the country roads.

Portugal has a great system of bicycling trails that are part of the Eurovelo network. Whether you ride a mountain bike, a road bike or choose to do touring, there are plenty of cycling options.

The Eurovelo network extends throughout continental Europe. In Portugal, there is a well-marked trail going from North to South. Another goes through Spain and traverses the country. Or, you can ride along an Atlantic trail in the Algarve, on the southern coast.

Three major bike routes in Portugal.

Cycling is very popular in towns all over Portugal. Even on country roads where there are no shoulders, motorists are very considerate of cyclists. I used to be terrified riding on some back roads in New Mexico. Here in Portugal I haven’t had any problems. Drivers in the country are used to having to slow for tractors and animals. I also haven’t encountered the broken glass that was an unwelcome feature of roadsides all over New Mexico.

Small communities all over Portugal also have networks of way-marked trails that are suitable for walking or mountain biking.

There are also some great long-distance hiking trails in Portugal. One of the better known routes of the Camino de Santiago, starts in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, and extends northward to the Spanish border. Another popular long hiking trail is the Rota Vicentina from Sines to Sagres, in southwestern Portugal.

Hiking trail under a hill with wind turbines on top.
Hiking on a way-marked trail near Alvaiazere, in Central Portugal. The trail goes over two big hills and skirts a valley beneath a crest where several wind turbines turn gently in the breeze.

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