The best independent guide to Portugal
The best independent guide to Portugal
March is a very good month to visit Portugal. The country is just coming out of the grey winter months, and there are amazing deals on accommodation and flights.
A holiday to Portugal in March should be focused on the south or central region of the country, where the weather will tend to be better. March is also a fantastic month for a city break to Lisbon, with the main tourist attractions crowd-free and a more relaxed ambience about the city.
The Algarve (the southern coastline of Portugal) will always have the best weather of Portugal, with bright sunny days reaching an agreeable 19C. The weather is pleasant, but is slightly to cool for sunbathing or lounging by a pool. This is a great month for an activity-based holiday in the Algarve, such as cycling, hiking or golf.
March is ideal for a touring holiday, and an enjoyable route is the far eastern side of Portugal, with its fortified towns and spring blossom. A second route could visit the traditional towns and villages of the Algarve region.
The island of Madeira could also be visited in March, and this is the start of the flowering season. March is regarded as the low season, but the Gulf Stream keeps the island warm (max 22C), and any rain tends to fall on the northwestern side of the island, away from the main tourist area.
A typical day in the Algarve in March; bright pleasant weather and near deserted resort towns and beaches – the image is of Praia da Rocha
Being at the south of Europe, Portugal is one of the first European countries to escape the cool winter weather. In March the temperatures are increasing, and there can be long periods of good weather, but there is always the risk of rain.
Portugal has three distinct weather regions during March; the sunny and pleasant Algarve region, the cooler and wet north (Porto and Douro Valley), and variable central region (Lisbon)
Insight: March tends to have less rain than April. If you are thinking about a holiday to Lisbon or the central region, we would suggest visiting in mid-March rather than April. The Algarve is comparatively dry for both months
A visit to pretty Obidos in March will be free of the summertime crowds
March may be the low season, but there are many good reasons to visit Portugal during this time of the year. The main tourist attractions will be almost deserted, there are outstanding deals to be found on accommodation, and the resort towns have a relaxed atmosphere.
Our suggested tours in March of Portugal include:
1) Lisbon to Porto. Two days in Lisbon, Sintra day trip, the central region for two days (Nazare, Obidos, Tomar and Coimbra) and two days in Porto
2) Tour of The Algarve. One night in Faro, two in Tavira, two nights in Albufeira and three in Lagos.
3) Lisbon and the Algarve. Three days Lisbon, then four days relaxing at Albufeira or Lagos.
4) 1 week in Lisbon. Three days exploring Lisbon and day trips to Sintra, Setubal, Cascais, Evora and Obidos.
5) Castles and forts of Eastern Portugal. Evora, Elvas, Marvão, Castelo Branco, Monsanto, Almeida, Trancoso (this route needs a car)
6) Madeira – one week based in Funchal with day trips around the island when the weather is dry.
Advice: If you are considering the tours that include Lisbon and Porto, make sure that your plans are flexible in case there is poor weather.
Below is an interactive map the showing the suggested tours and best locations in Portugal for March. The yellow line is the Lisbon to Porto tour (1), the red line is the tour of the Algarve (2), the green line is the 1 week in Lisbon (4), the , and the blue line is the route visiting the east of Portugal (5).
Insight: Portugal is a relatively small country and has an excellent express train network. It takes only 2.5 hours to travel from Lisbon to the Algarve if the weather deteriorates, or 3 hours from Lisbon to Porto if there is a spell of sunny weather. Flexible plans are the best method to get the most from a holiday to Portugal during March.
Lisbon is an excellent choice for a city break during March. The city offers a huge variety of sights and activities, along with many in-door activities if the weather is inclement.
If it is sunny, head to the magical town of Sintra with the whimsical Pena Palace and the ruins of the Moors castle. If the weather is good head to the characterful resort town of Cascais or the traditional beach town of Sesimbra.
If the sun shines head to the Pena palace
If it does rain, there is the wonderous oceanarium, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Calouste Gulbenkian art museum or a ride on the number 28 tram. If it stays wet, head to the artisan area of Lxfacory, then taste Portugal’s finest foods in the Timeout Market, before ending the day in trendy underground bars of the Bairro Alto district.
In the low season, there will be no queues for the major tourist attractions and your experience won’t be ruined coach loads of tourists.
Lisbon is fantastic in March, and is our recommended destination.
Related articles: Our Lisbon guide
The Algarve is great destination in March, so long as that you accept that the resort towns will be very quiet, and the beaches are not warm enough for all-day sunbathing.
The bars and restaurants that closed for the winter season tends to open for Easter, so in March many of these venues will be still closed.
Our advice is to stick to the larger resort towns, such as Albufeira, Lagos, or Vilamoura, which have large permanent populations and will have a decent selection of restaurant and bars open. To experience some Portuguese culture in your holiday, consider adding the charming town of Tavira and the city of Faro to your trip.
The early spring is the ideal season to explore the traditional villages of the Algarve coastline
March is the time to find a bargain hotel; search the hotel comparison websites to find last minute 5-star luxury for the price of 3-star mediocre. We would strongly advise hiring a car so that you can explore the region, and are not just tied to your deserted hotel complex or quiet town.
Some good ideas for activities in March include the stunning Praia do Vale de Centeanes hiking trail, a coastline boat tour from Albufeira or Vilamoura, cycling the quiet roads around Burgau or Tavira.
March is a popular season for golfing holidays in the Algarve, the weather is bright and dry but without the intense summer heat. Vilamoura is always a good base for a golfing holiday.
Porto is difficult to predict, as the weather could be good, or it can be very wet.
If it is wet, the city has significantly less indoor activities and sights than Lisbon. The main unique in-door experience is Port tasting in the vast cellars that line the banks of Douro river, and with over 14 different cellars there’s a lot of Porto tasting!
If the weather is dry head to the pretty city of Guimarães, which is regarded as the birthplace of Portugal, or hire a car and explore the picturesque Douro Valley.
Our advice: If you are thinking about visiting Porto in March, leave the planning to the last minute, and base your decision on the long-term weather forecast. If it seems wet, head to Lisbon or the Algarve, if its dry book Porto and get yourself a bargain holiday.
Related articles: Guide to Porto
The Ponte Luís I in Porto, crossing the Douro River