I realise not everyone can choose when to take holidays but I’m always surprised by the number of emails I get from people seeking advice on cycling in Portugal during July and August.
It gives me a real dilemma. On the one hand I want to help, but on the other hand I don’t want people going there thinking they’re going to have a lovely time pottering around in the summer sun.
‘No,’ I say to myself. ‘It’s madness. You’re going to melt!’
I hate putting people off – it’s a wonderful country for a whole raft of reasons. Personally, though, I’m very happy being a lot further north than Portugal at this time of year!
To my mind, the country starts getting a bit on the warm side in April or May (depends of course on where you are in the country) and doesn’t even start cooling down until late September or October. Yes, I’ve done a fair bit of cycling there in June but only on a road bike with no luggage. I certainly wouldn’t want to go touring with loads of panniers in July or August.
Just take a look at the screen grab below. It’s from the Portuguese met office and shows the weather forecast for today (July 14th) with temperature highs ranging from 24-38°C (75-100°F). Now, I recognise that’s not hot in some people’s books but for me anywhere north of 30 is starting to get a bit too warm for riding.
That’s not as extreme as it gets, either. As the summer goes on, you can expect to see temperatures well into the 40s (110°F+), particularly away from the coast.
Oh, and the little chart on the right with all the yellow, orange and red areas is indicating the fire risk in different areas – yellow is moderate, while red means highly elevated.
One is that 90% of the Portuguese population are on holiday during August. And the vast majority of them go to the coast to escape the heat inland. Meaning that inland towns are dead because no-one, not even the Portuguese, really wants to be there when it’s too hot to breathe.
On the other hand the coastal towns and resorts are heaving. It might be a fair few degrees cooler and there’s much more chance of a pleasant breeze, but you’ll also find the roads are at their busiest, the campsites are heaving and space of any kind is at a premium.
I’m not trying to put you off going to Portugal, honest. But try going between October and May, you’ll have a much more pleasant time out there on the road.