Rain in Portugal

It’s not just the British who love complaining about the weather, the Portuguese do their fair share of grumbling at this time of year.

No one really minds a day or two of rain. After all, we all know how necessary it is in the scheme of things, especially those of us who have sweated through long dry summers. By the third day of non-stop rain, however, the novelty has worn off and the garden has had a thorough soaking. We want our blue skies and sunshine back; they make it so much easier to deal with the day, both in practical terms and psychologically.

After a week of rainy days, everyone is noticeably grumpier and more lethargic.

After two weeks of pretty much constant downpours, the washing is piling up, water has found sneaky ways to enter buildings and rivers have broken their banks.

River Alva in flood, Moura Morta
River Alva in flood, Moura Morta. There was a road under here.

The optimist in me keeps telling me that after two weeks, we should be due a respite, although I know from experience that we often get full months of solid rain.

That’s what we got in January, or so it seemed. Oh well, I thought. February is bound to be better; I remember sunbathing in the garden last February.

This year? Not a chance!

Instead of winter sun, we’ve had some frighteningly bad storms and rain almost every day. I know Portugal isn’t the only country to have suffered severe weather conditions but since most people think of it as a sunny country, the shock of rough weather smacks us round the back of the head every time. 

(By the way, if you’re wondering about severe weather conditions in Portugal or any other European country, this site shows current warnings.)

(Also see this article about the best time of year to visit Portugal for a general overview of what to expect for each season.)

Across the country, roads have collapsed, trees have fallen, giant waves and ferocious winds have caused millions of euros worth of damage and I’m thankful not to have suffered personally. In fact this year, by some miracle, my internet connection hasn’t been cut off – I just hope I’m not jinxing myself with that!. We’ve had minor power cuts and I have a permanently shrieking phone line but as long as the internet works, so can I.

Expat Tip: If you’re moving to Portugal and wondering which internet provider to use, I’d strongly recommend anything that isn’t dependent on the phone lines. I have no choice at the moment but you might save yourself a lot of headaches. 

Dirty black storm clouds
Dirty black storm clouds in Moura Morta

And on it goes

I’ve lost count of how many days it’s rained this winter but I do know that dry days, let alone sunny ones, have been scarce. Despite the central heating, patches of mould have sprouted on our walls and both me and the dog are getting fatter as our walks get shorter, and the River Alva has been flooded for weeks. The air is so damp that nothing dries, even under cover. I’m extremely glad we invested in a tumble dryer during a similarly rainy winter a few years ago. Another purchase that’s proved its worth is the dehumidifier although I probably should have started using it before the mould, not after it.

Expat Tip: Most older Portuguese properties don’t have central heating so in practice, one room gets too hot while the others are freezing, and probably damp. If you can, you should seriously consider installing central heating. We went for a pellet stove so we can programme it to start warming the house before we get home from work and we love it.

More rain in Portugal than in the UK

While we were bemoaning  the rain, a Portuguese colleague surprised me by telling me that Portugal’s annual rainfall is actually greater than that of the United Kingdom. We just get it all in huge doses instead of spread throughout the entire year! While I haven’t managed to come up with exact figures to prove or disprove his claim, the UK does appear to get a lot less rain than I thought. Here’s the wikipedia link if you want more on that.

And there’s definitely more rain here than I expected. One consolation is the number of rainbows we get, often double ones. Sometimes, they even land in our garden but I always seem to be walking the dog when that happens. Now where did I leave my shovel…?

Double rainbow in Moura Morta
Double rainbow in Moura Morta

Is there an end in sight to all this rain?

Not for at least a week. According to the weather forecast, we should get three whole days of sunshine to get March off to a good start. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that.

Expat Tip: If you want to practice your Portuguese weather vocabulary with a detailed local weather forecast that has plenty of images to help you understand it, try tempo.pt.

I hope I haven’t made you too miserable with my latest Personal A to Z of Portugal post. If you haven’t been following my alphabet, check out the other A to Z posts here. They’re not all complaints about the weather, I assure you.

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16 Comments

  1. We’re from the US where central heating is king and are just learning about the mold growing on the walls! Fortunately, a dehumidifier has saved the day and we’ve kept it running 24/7 since we got it in December. It’s a pain sometimes to move it about the apartment but much easier than washing walls and worrying about getting sick from the mold. Now, if we could only afford to heat more than a couple of rooms at a time! Never-the-less, we love Portugal, rain or shine and think our move here is the best decision we’ve ever made. Anita

  2. Julie, am desperate to find an apt in this highly competitive market, Lisbon. If you can help, please let me know. Thank you

    1. Author

      Sorry, Candace. I’m not the right person to ask. I’d start with the estate agents or olx.pt, or Airbnb if you’re looking to rent short term.

  3. Try Pico, Azores. The best climate in Europe, with coolest summers (every day around 24-27C even in August) and warmest winter nights with 10C to 16C at night in January. P.S.: Regarding Madeira and Canarias, those are geographically in Africa.

  4. Does all of Portugal suffer from the rain? I want to move there but cold rain will do me in. Any suggestions on the dryest part of the country? Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Candace, Your best bet, if you want to avoid the worst of the rain, is probably either the Algarve or the Alentejo. The Alentejo does get extremely hot in summer though and the Algarve gets crowded. Both have beautiful aspects though.

  5. Hi,
    I read this with interest “Expat Tip: If you’re moving to Portugal and wondering which internet provider to use, I’d strongly recommend anything that isn’t dependent on the phone lines. I have no choice at the moment but you might save yourself a lot of headaches.”

    What other options can you suggest please.

    Such an informative blog, thanks for the effort

    1. Author

      Hi Robyn,
      Your options will depend on where you live. If you’re in a city, you can get high speed internet via optical fibres or get excellent 3G or 4G coverage from mobile phone providers. The 3g or 4G options do exist in rural areas but coverage is patchy so you need to check speeds for your post code with individual providers to find out if it’s likely to be adequate for your purposes. Where I am, it’s just not fast enough to make it useable. Yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one day, things will change but our village isn’t on anyone’s high priority list so it could be years!

  6. Fridays in Portugal are SEX(ta feira). Will soon be changed to CHU(va feira). Even in the AÇORES.

  7. It rained for 5 days here on Pico island in the Azores. Oh, by the way, you should educate yourselves on the issue of “chemtrails”.

  8. I am hoping to relocate to Arganil and I am having difficulty in finding a web site that gives the actual flood levels on the river Alva. If you could point me in the right direction I would be very greatful.

    1. Author

      Hi Ted, I’ve asked around and the best place to ask is the Civil Protection department at the local council, i.e. Câmara in Arganil. I seriously doubt you’ll get that info on a website though. Good luck!

  9. I so love your articles…!

  10. Last year, our first living in Portugal, locals told us the heavy rains in the north were abnormal. Now they say the same, where we’ve moved to the center of the country, near Coimbra. Thanks, Julie, for giving us hope that it really has just been an unusual meteorological period here. No matter what, it’s a terrific place to live.

    1. Author

      Hi Tricia,

      I don’t want to disappoint you but in the six and a half years I’ve lived here, there has always been an extended period of rain at least once a year (which is why we bought the tumble dryer). Last year, I think it was March and April that were especially wet but I can remember very soggy Mays, Octobers and Novembers.

      I guess what I’m saying is that the weather seems to be all over the place these days and no one can say with any certainty that X month will behave in any particular way (except July and August which will just be hot and dry). I am fairly certain that there will be at least one seemingly solid month of rain each year but it’s anyone’s guess which it will be!

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