In recent years Portugal had a growing media exposure and notoriety as a tourist destination, but also as a place where people and companies come searching for adventure on off-road and overland trips. Well, if you’re thinking about coming this way for your next trip, you’ll be most welcome but first here’s a few things you should know to ensure you don’t incur in situations of illegality, and have a safe, trouble-free and truly memorable experience in this wonderful country of ours.
Adventure and off-road trips
Like in other parts of the world, the organisation of adventure and off-road trips in Portugal is regulated and subject to permits and permissions. In accordance with the Portuguese legislation only companies (national or foreign), registered with the RNAAT – National Registry of Tourist Agents, managed by Turismo de Portugal, the official Tourism Authority, can legally carry out these activities.
According to the official definition, these are “activities of a recreational, sporting or cultural nature such as outdoor or adventure activities, translating into experiences of enjoyment and discovery of nature and scenery”. Adventure, overland, off-road, rally or any other word you can think of to define these tours fall into this category and as such are covered by the Portuguese legislation.
With the RNAAT registration, a number is given to the company that must be included in contracts, correspondence, publications, advertisements and all its external activity. So, the next time a company announcing this type of activity in Portugal is not able to provide you with their RNAAT registration number, just refuse the offer and wave them goodbye.
If done illegally, these activities are subject to serious legal actions from the authorities ranging from the immediate interruption of the trip to heavy fines for participants and organisers, not to mention the bad reputation you’ll get. There’s a few well-known and fully registered companies over here providing this service, so next time you book one of these trips, make sure they’re fully legal.
Inside the Protected Areas under the jurisdiction of the ICNF – Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests (www.icnf.pt), these activities are called “nature tourism activities”, and must comply with the respective regulations in place in each Area.
In these areas, off-road and adventure trips may only be done by companies who have obtained the official recognition of “nature tourism”, confirmed by the authorisation granted by ICNF to use a specific logo.
The organisation of these activities inside protected areas is subject to a written permission from the entities responsible for each Area.
Who hasn’t dreamed of sleeping in a remote place or waking up on a deserted beach? Well, in this respect the Portuguese legislation determines that overnight stays and camping outside the permitted places (camping and caravanning sites) is not permitted and is subject to the authorisation from the authorities and the land owners.
Portugal has an extensive network of good quality campsites, many of them located in places of rare beauty where you can be in full communion with nature. So, if you don’t want to risk being awakened by the authorities and go home with a much lighter wallet, we recommend that you plan your trip in advance, stay only in legal campsites and choose the ones that best fit your itinerary. Stay safe and sweet dreams…
During the summer season, Portugal is historically affected by numerous forest fires. During the critical period that normally goes from June to September, the authorities will limit or even prohibit certain activities such as the circulation of vehicles, barbecues and picnics in rural and forest areas, depending on the level of risk. In this case, the right thing is simply to avoid the forest areas, follow the indications from the authorities and take the preventive measures that are in your reach, such as not smoking or making fire. If during a trip to Portugal you feel like doing a barbecue outside the authorised places (campsites or picnic areas identified as such), be aware that this is subject to permission from the local authorities.
In a nutshell…
Portugal is a wonderful country to be discovered through tracks and remote paths that cross mountains and valleys and take us to magical places. To appreciate it in a safe, legal and environmentally responsible way and to extract its full potential, make sure you follow the local regulations and use only authorised operators like us for the organisation of your next trip.
By doing this, you will be helping all nature and adventure trip lovers to continue to enjoy our magnificent landscapes and to be able to legally drive our paths and offroad trails for many years to come.
Come with us to discover a surprising Portugal!