The texting turned into a conversation about how we should do a couples’ trip to drink port in Portugal. Instantly, I was in. There was only one problem; my husband doesn’t drink port wine. So I decided to look for other activities for us to do together if we went. Turns out, there’s no shortage of things to do. The more I read, the more I wanted to experience it. Then, I compared it to my retirement wish and noticed that it lined up nicely. The more I looked at Portugal, the more I wanted to go experience it. It’s now my screen saver at work and on the short list for retirement places to visit.
Here why Portugal made our short list for a potential retirement haven:
1. Algarve Beaches
I googled “Algarve Coast” and the first photo I laid eyes on was that of a beach I’ve wanted to visit forever. I thought the beach was in Mexico, but I’m glad I was mistaken. The beach is located on Ponta de Piedade on the Algarve coast. The beach (or praia in Portuguese) is littered with sandstone caves and grottos that make the perfect hidden forts and private swimming! Who would not want to play here? Heaven is the only thing I think of when I see this place. Shade (needed when you are a Ginger like me), sun, and my multi-colored water all plunked down in one place. I currently have it as my desktop picture on my computer. Even on the roughest work day, this picture always makes me smile.
2. Rota Vincentina
Hiking is an activity that my husband and I absolutely love. Rota Vincentina is a massive conglomerate of trails in Southwestern Portugal. Rota Vincente covers over 248 miles (400 kilometers) in total. The trails feature a variety of ability levels, lengths, and views. It’s possible to hire a guide to do these trails, but it’s also possible to walk them independently.
The trailhead begins near Cabo de St Vincente on the Southwestern-most point of the Algarve coast. From Cabo de St Vincente, which sits on the peninsula between the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, the trail juts north. There are multiple routes to choose from after leaving the trailhead. One winds its way along the Atlantic coast. The Atlantic trail is lined with dramatic, sand-hued, sheer cliffs that drop into the sea. For those that want a different view, there is also an inland option that leads through gently rolling hills and forested canopies. I’d love to start with the sea option!
3. Nazare’s Giant Waves
I may tend to lean towards scuba diving as my water activity, but my husband and I do both enjoy trying our hand at other water sports, like surfing. Nazare may not be where we’d start our surfing days, but it sure would serve as a great spot for inspiration.
Nazare sits on Portugal’s central Atlantic coast, just about an hour or so drive north of Lisbon. Nazare’s coast possesses an extremely unique geography. Not too far off-shore lies an undersea canyon, that is incredibly deep, and angled to point towards the town of Nazare. When storms in the Atlantic kick up big waves out at sea, the waves crash into the canyon, creating monster swells, sometimes reaching over 100 feet in height. Surfers have recently done some daring wave shredding here and I’d love to take a seat and see these master surfers conquer these massive waves!
4. Architecture and Castles
Granted this was never a want on my retirement wish-list, but I’ll lump castles under my history category. Pena Palace is a beautiful building filled with history (and exquisite decor and furnishings), perched on a high on a hill outside of Lisbon. It was built here after villagers witnessed an image of the Virgin Mary on the site. The palace was built to be seen and to be admired. The palace can been seen from throughout the city of Lisbon and views from the palace’s balconies span from the city to the sea. Pena Palace is open for tours all days except national holidays and costs $13 US to tour.
5. Natural Parks
Portugal has 13 Natural Parks in total and the land within them is protected. These are very similar to the setup of national parks in the US. The Natural Parks of Portugal were selected on their level of biodiversity and the ability for the land to be conserved.
Sintra is one of these Natural Parks. It’s about 20 miles outside Lisbon and surrounds Pena Palace. Sintra is an example of a beautiful national park near a large urban area. It’s littered with hiking trails and helps protect the green space that surrounds the city. Conservation of the land is important to the Portuguese people and it shows in their parks. One of the most striking features in Sintra, is the deep, moss lined well. It like something out a fairytale.
6. It’s cheap
For a country that’s on the Euro currency, it’s incredibly cheap. Portugal does not have the prices of its European Union counterparts like France and Germany.
Based on the current Euro to US dollar conversion rate, here is a sampling of current prices in Portugal:
- Rent for a one bedroom downtown apartment $780 US/month
- Monthly utilities (heat, water, electric) on a 1000 square foot apartment costs $120 US
- Internet $30 US
- Imported beer costs $1.89 US. Domestic beer costs $1.67 US.
- Cheap meal out for two is $10 US. Moderate meal is $25 US.
These prices are also for Lisbon, which is a large, capital city. Prices outside of the main cities tend to be even less. Most likely Lisbon would break our bank, but Algarve would not.
7. Properties are way under valued and rentable
Compared to many other countries in Europe, Portugal’s homes are still affordable. It’s still possible to buy a condo or small home for under $120,000 dollars in the coastal regions. Paying around $150,000 to $200,000 US can land a nice a nice apartment/condo on the beach.
If we would decide to buy in Portugal, I’d have to dig into any laws regarding foreigners buying property. From a cursory search, it appeared that it is possible to finance properties in Portugal. This means we wouldn’t have to plunk down the full amount for the property, like in some other countries we are looking at for retirement.
Portugal’s Mediterranean coast is popular with European tourists. This is especially true during summer, when many Europeans take family beach vacations. To take advantage of the influx of tourists, many home owners in this region rent their properties on Airbnb with great success.
I prefer to rent out a full place as compared to a room. Places on the beach, like this one, in Algarve start around $40 US dollars per night. Others, like this one in Lisbon, rent out for $52 US dollars per night. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but these apartments are consistently rented, so the amounts add up quickly. Both of these units featured in this article were booked well into October. If we bought a property in Portugal, the only requirement I could find for renting it out was to register it with the Portuguese Tourism Authority, which doesn’t seem to difficult.
8. There’s plenty to explore nearby
I’ve talked about possibly developing island fever in a place like Ambergris Caye in Belize or Roatan in Honduras. Portugal may be on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, but it’s certainly not an island. It offers the opportunity to serve as a launching pad to explore the rest of Europe. It’s neighbor, Spain, has been of a lot interest to me for a long time because of its hikes and hot springs. Spain is also ridiculously close to Morocco; only eight miles across the sea. Ferries, including car ferries, run frequently throughout the day between Morocco and Spain, with the quickest rides taking between 30 minutes to an hour. Ferry tickets cost around $40 US for a roundtrip voyage. Imagine visiting three countries and two continents in the same day! And speaking Portuguese, Spanish, and French in that same day! Amazing!
9. Scuba diving
It should be no surprise that scuba diving was a draw for me. There’s plenty of great diving scattered throughout Portugal. There are wreck dives in the Atlantic off Lisbon, dolphin dives off the Azores, and a variety of marine life off Algarve’s Southern Mediterranean coast. I am terrified of shipwrecks and don’t like to even look at them in pictures. This leads me to believe I’d have more fun diving with fish in the Mediterranean and with dolphins in the Azores.
I’m considering becoming a dive master in retirement. I’ve already received my advanced open water and am looking into the next step, which is rescue diving. I never thought I’d like scuba diving. I tried because my husband thought it would be fun to do in the Great Barrier Reef. However, I fell in love with it. It’s so relaxing and peaceful. Scuba diving would be a nice way to do something I love and bring in a side income. Working as a dive master with fish and dolphins and hanging out with travelers from all over sounds like a sweet way to spend the day.
Portugal benefits from its location on the water. Temperatures will range from north to south and inland versus coastal. We plan to live on or near the coast no matter where we end up. Coast temperatures in Portugal stay at comfortable range of between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. No roasting and no freezing either! A sea breeze also helps cool folks off during the height of summer!
Portugal, with it’s latitudinal position, also benefits from 12 hours of sunlight on average per day. Our current town of Denver is bright and sunny most of the time so I’m looking forward to retiring somewhere equally as sunny. Sunshine = happiness!
11. Port Wine and Craft Beer
Since the article started with a reference to this delicious drink, it’s no surprise that it’s my reasons to add Portugal to our list. Portugal is the birthplace of one of my favorite drinks, the lovely and delectable Port Wine. For those who have never had port, it’s a sweet version of red wine. I think it tastes like syrupy Koolaid. I will often have a glass of port instead of dessert. Fonseca is one of the big port producers in Portugal and they make some delicious stuff. Fonseca is located in the Douro region of Portugal and offers tastings and tours. Douro is known for its rolling hills and plentiful vineyards. A mini-Napa to accompany hiking, beaches, castles, and affordable living. Yes, please!
Craft Beer has also made its way to the main cities of Portugal. Lisbon has a couple of really unique micro-brew bars listed on Yelp. One of them with the best reviews is Dois Corvos. It features everything from saisons to IPAs to milk stouts. To my surprise, it even brews a raspberry sour beer, the Rosa Vicosa. I love sours so I’m very tempted. Craft beer and port wine, how delightful!
Portugal, I’m amazed by you and can’t wait to visit you as a potential retirement location. Right now, I’m targeting 2017!