Trekking and Hiking in Portugal: top 10 tips
1. Don't rely on PR or GR signposted walks
Although the official signposted walks have greatly improved in the last few years, it would be wrong to totally rely on them as many of thesigns/signposts have either been knocked down, covered by foliage or not completed/repainted in the middle section. Always plan and take a map or guide. It's often best to try out the trail before taking loved ones or little ones on a walk, so you can get lost without the pressure of company!
2. Be careful of ticks
Always wear trousers, socks and good boots when going off the beaten path. There's been a lot said about Lyme disease recently and tick infections in Portugal are not uncommon. Be especially careful with dogs; brushing your four-legged friend after a hike is recommended. Obviously, treat your dogs on a monthly basis with an anti-tick treatment.
3. Take a stick
I never go hiking without a stick. It gives you that extra security when faced with a loose dog, snoozing snake or even a wild boar. It is also a great help on cliffs and steep slopes.
4. Don't rely on your mobile phone coverage
Always tell someone where you're going, especially if you are going on your own. You are often advised in trail guides never to walk on your own but, in my view, this is nonsense as it misses the point of why so many people hike.
5. Remember that temperatures can fluctuate
The weather can change dramatically so be prepared. Most hills and mountains are big condensation barriers and the weather may be very different from where you set off. Remember your sunblock and hat too, especially on those windy days.
6. Avoid Hunters
It is difficult to know when local hunting seasons start and finish and which days and times are more dangerous. My advice is never to go off the beaten track at dawn as you may be mistaken for a big rabbit by the camouflaged guy who has just moved on from Vinho Verde to Aguardente. Accidental shootings are not uncommon - so stay visible and less rabbitlike!
7. Carry water
Always take more than enough water and never rely on topping up at the lovely spring you saw in the spring because it will have dried up by the time you find it again - and the water isn't guaranteed to be drinkable anyway. Remember to take a dish for the dog too!
8. Be careful where you park
Parking in front of where a signposted walk starts may seem logical but it may also be the main access for the park warden and the local fire brigade, who will be upset if you block their route to the nature reserve. This is particularly important in the dry season.
9. Take a change of clothes
You will sweat whatever the weather and the best way of avoiding getting ill is to remove the damp t-shirt and wet socks once you've completed your trek. This may also improve your popularity at lunch afterwards.
10. Avoid Sundays
If you are fortunate enough to be able to go for a hike on weekdays then do, as you'll be likely to have all the beauty to yourself. Sunday seems to have become the day for mountain biking - cyclists often use the walking trails, and getting out of their way every so often can spoil a nice walk. Then there's dirt bikes, which have their place, I guess, but not on my trail!