Hiking and Backpacking in Portugal: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in Portugal: A hiker walking on a beach trail

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Portugal offers a diverse and affordable travel experience for all outdoor enthusiasts. Exploring scenic trails along rugged coastlines dotted with secluded beaches and sampling delicious local cuisine are just some of the highlights.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at hiking and backpacking in Portugal (mainland) from an ultralight standpoint, providing tips to help you prepare for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

We’ll share the TOP 5 trails in Portugal in two parts. The first is for day hikes under 30 miles, great for exploring in one day. The second is for longer multi-day trips.

Key Tips for Hiking and Backpacking in Portugal

  • What to expect: The routes range from short day hikes to multi-day treks on famous paths like the Rota Vicentina. With well-marked networks of trails traversing lush natural scenery across the country, Portugal provides excellent hiking for backpackers of all levels. If you are not sure about the region to head to first, solid options are Cascais, Sintra, or Algarve.
  • Essential gear: Be sure to pack lightweight, versatile clothing that can handle changing weather, like moisture-wicking shirts, pants that convert to shorts, and layers for chilly coastal breezes. Don’t forget sun protection like hats and sunscreen.
  • Wildlife: Hikers and backpackers in Portugal should be alert for certain hazardous creatures like jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ war, venomous vipers, wild boar, and free-roaming dogs, though dangerous encounters are uncommon.
  • Wild camping: Wild camping in mainland Portugal is legally restricted but loosely enforced. While pitching a tent outside designated campgrounds violates regulations in protected areas and private properties, some tolerant municipalities permit it. The key is being respectful by not overstaying, keeping noise down, and leaving no trace. If you want to learn more about stealth camping, check here.
  • Best time to go: The ideal time to go is in spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November), when temperatures are mild and crowds are smaller than summer peak season. Spring brings blooming flowers and greenery, while autumn showcases Portugal’s vineyards during harvest. The weather stays pleasant into early summer and late fall as well.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

We picked out some of the best day hiking trails where having lightweight gear will be really useful:

  1. PR1 LGA – Seven Hanging Valleys (8.0 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Trilho da Cascata do Arado – Poço Azul (6.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Zambujeira do Mar – Odeceixe via the Fisherman’s Trail (11.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Almograve – Zamujeira do Mar via the Fishermen’s Trail (13.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Praia das Maçãs – Cabo da Roca (10.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Explore Portugal’s best scenic long trails for epic adventures with diverse wildlife:

  1. Caminho Português pela Costa: Porto – Santiago de Compostela (169.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Rota Vicentina: Porto Covo – Odeceixe via Fishermen’s Trail (45.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Rota Vicentina Complete via Fisherman’s Trail (137.4 miles)
    See on AllTrails.
  4. RoVia Algarviana Rota Completa (189.1 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Caminho Português da Costa: Lisboa – Santiago de Compostela (400.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

The annual weather for backpacking in mainland Portugal varies, but generally, it experiences a Mediterranean climate:

  • Summer (June to August): Expect high temperatures ranging from 77 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 35 degrees Celsius). It’s the driest period, providing ideal conditions for backpacking, but be prepared for the heat.
  • Fall (September to November): Temperatures start to cool down, ranging from 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius). Fall brings more comfortable weather, and the landscapes are still vibrant.
  • Winter (December to February): Mild temperatures prevail, typically ranging from 46 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (8 to 15 degrees Celsius). It’s the wettest season, so be prepared for occasional rain.
  • Spring (March to May): Temperatures rise again, ranging from 54 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 20 degrees Celsius). Spring is a great time for backpacking, with blooming flora and pleasant weather.

Before you grab your backpack and head outdoors, take a look at the weather statistics for Portugal (Lisbon):

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F586065677278828379726459
Low °F474851545762656564595349
Rainy Days765652113789
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while camping in Portugal? 

Lighting campfires while backpacking in Portugal requires extra caution and consideration. Open fires are prohibited in many protected wilderness areas, so research regulations beforehand. Where permitted, choose durable surfaces like sand or gravel, keep fires small, gather only dead & downed wood, maintain safety buffers from vegetation, avoid lighting fires during dry conditions, never leave the fire unattended, fully extinguish embers before leaving, and follow any restrictions on backcountry fire bans.

What are some safety tips for backpackers in Portugal?

When you go backpacking in Portugal, make sure to do some research on your route. Pack the right gear, like maps, a compass, a first aid kit, and extra layers. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Stick to the marked trails, be careful on steep slopes and loose rocks, and always have enough water with you. If you’re hiking on the beach, be cautious of strong winds and currents. Know the signs of getting too hot, make sure you’re eating well, and use insect repellent. Keep your valuables hidden, ask park rangers about recent wildlife sightings, and only camp in designated areas. It’s safer to hike with a buddy, check the weather forecast, and consider getting evacuation insurance just in case of an emergency.

Where to go if I don’t want to backpack in mainland Portugal?

For stunning hikes surrounded by nature and mountains beyond mainland Portugal, consider the Azores and Madeira islands. The Azores are known for volcanic peaks, lush forests, waterfalls, crater lakes, and abundant wildlife. Hike through UNESCO-protected laurel forests or up Pico Mountain for incredible views. Madeira’s mountainous interior is covered in levadas providing access to the island’s pristine native laurel forests, cascading waterfalls, and spectacular coastal vistas. The Azores and Madeira both offer incredible hiking opportunities immersed in dramatic natural scenery and mountainous terrain away from mainland Portugal’s crowds.

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