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Barragems are possibly Portugal's best-kept secret. Barragem simply translates to dam, often abbreviated to 'Bgem' on maps. In an effort to provide sufficient water for the country Portugal has dammed hundreds of rivers. Many Barragems have areas set aside for water sports and activities, often promoting this on road signs from many kilometres away. Portugal has embraced Barragems as community areas, often allowing fishing, swimming, sailing and windsurfing. Some even have river beaches so traditional seaside pastimes can be enjoyed right across Portugal.
Barragems are normally very well signed and easy to find. What makes them ideal for the motorhomer is many have large car parks overlooking the water. Often dirt tracks can provide access to the water's edge or a secluded spot for bird watching. Barragems are wonderful places to spend the day or somewhere to stop for a leisurely lunch, some also have picnic and BBQ areas.
In some cases, such as Barragem Pego do Altar or Abrantes, it is possible to park overnight and facilities such as water and toilet emptying are provided. At others, neither camping nor motorhomes are prohibited. Responsible tourism must be upheld. There is no quicker way of spoiling a good thing than lots of motorhomes camping, overstaying their welcome or illegally emptying their waste. Do this and the motorhome exclusion signs will go up, don't spoil it for everyone else. Take only your memories and leave only your tyre tracks.
Warning! - Some Barragems are accessed by dirt tracks that may be potholed, have protruding rocks, sudden dips or overhanging trees. Damage to your motorhome can occur, body overhangs and steps are most vulnerable. If you choose to drive down these tracks do so slowly and take extreme care.