The best independent guide to Portugal
The best independent guide to Portugal
September is one of the best months to visit Portugal. The weather is still glorious, but the country is passed the hectic and crowded peak season of July and August.
With the end of school holidays and package tourists, the whole country takes on a much more relaxed ambience, and is the best time to visit Portugal if you are travelling in a couple.
In September there will be shorter queues for the major tourist attractions, while the slight reduction in the temperature means it is also a fantastic time to explore the country.
Being straight after the summer season, everything is fully open (the resort towns tend to close down at the end of October), and the weather is still warm enough to spend time on the beaches.
September is actually one of the busiest months in the Algarve, especially for older tourists who are drawn by the relaxed pace of life, after the children have gone back to school.
It is a myth that prices are lower in September, but hotels and flights will not be sold out, so there will be more choice and availability.
With the whole of Portugal perfect to visit during September, let us suggest some itineraries that are great for this time of the year:
1) A city break to Porto, with a cruise along the Douro River and day trips to Braga, Guimaraes and Aveiro
2) A beach holiday to Albufeira, Alvor or Vilamoura
3) A touring trip of the Algarve (Tavira, Faro, Lagos and Silves)
4) A city break to Lisbon, with day trips to Sintra, Cascais, Sesimbra and Obidos
5) A tour of the undiscovered north east of Portugal (Serra da Estrela mountains, Beira region, Monsanto and Lamego)
The map below shows these suggested itineraries.
For the suggested tours 2 and 3 you would fly into Faro airport, for 1 and 5 Porto airport and for route 4 Lisbon airport. A car is needed for route 5 as this is a remote region of Portugal with almost no public transport.
Portugal in September is warm, sunny and dry, but is without the intense heat of the summer. Rain is rare in September but there is always a possibility with a likelihood further to the north.
September is a great time to visit the Algarve, and is perfect for so many different tourist types.
The weather is warm enough to lounge about on the beaches, if all you want is a relaxing holiday. All of the resort towns are fully open, so you are spoilt for choice of where to stay. There are the larger and livelier resort towns such as Albufeira, Praia da Rocha or Vilamoura or the smaller and more personable beach towns such as Carvoeiro, Olhos de Água or Alvor.
The main beach of Albufeira in September, with many visitors and sunny hot weather
The slightly cooler weather in September makes the Algarve great for an activity holiday, such as cycling, golf, hiking, surfing, kayaking or deep-sea fishing. For a stunning coastal hiking route, there is the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos or the mountains near Monchique. The best surfing is to the far west near Sagres, while Vilamoura is the centre for golfing holidays.
September is ideal to discover the culture and history of the Algarve with a touring holiday. There is the charming fishing town Tavira, the castles of Castro Marim, the Roman ruins at Estoi, the markets of Loule and the Moorish history of Silves. In the summer any serious sightseeing is too hot and draining, but in September it is enjoyable.
Related articles: Albufeira guide – Lagos guide – Tavira guide
September is a great time to discover the Moorish history of Silves
Insight: When most tourists consider a beach holiday to Portugal they instantly think of the Algarve, but Portugal has many more beautiful beaches and traditional resort towns.
Popular beach towns near Lisbon include Cascais, Estoril, Sesimbra or Ericeira. The Costa de Prata offers glorious beaches and charming towns (Nazaré, São Martinho do Porto or Costa Nova) or for somewhere completely undiscovered, consider the Alentejo coastline (Nova de Milfontes).
Porto is a treat in September, but is often overshadowed by the more well-known Lisbon or Algarve.
It takes two days to explore the city, and his makes it an ideal destination for a city break in September.
There is the quaint riverside Ribeira district to explore, the ancient cathedral district and endless opportunities for Port wine tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia. Porto is not just about history and culture, it boasts great nightlife, unique cuisines and a trendy forward-thinking vibe. No matter your age, you will love Porto.
Porto sits on the banks of the Douro River
Depending on your style of holiday, you may wish to take a relaxing boat cruise along the Douro River, as it passes through the scenic vine-covered hills around Peso da Régua and Pinhão. Equally, you could hire a car and explore the Douro region independently following the N222 road.
If the weather is hot and sunny and you fancy a trip to the beach, then head to the characterful beach town of Vila do Conde, or the vast sandy beaches of Espinho.
If you have more than three days in the Porto region, you may want to visit the common day trips, which include the historic city of Guimaraes, the religious city of Braga or the coastal town of Aveiro. If you want to explore somewhere slightly away from the common tourist routes, consider visiting pretty Lamego or the port city of Viana do Castelo.
The terraced vineyards of the upper Douro near Peso da Régua
Lisbon has fewer crowds than in the summer, but it will still be busy, especially in the main tourist areas such as the Baixa and Belem districts or in the pretty town of Sintra.
There is so much to do and see in Lisbon, there is the ancient cobbled streets of Alfama, the grand plazas of Baixa, charming yellow trams to ride and the picturesque district of Belem to discover. Along with the vast array of sights, there is buzzing nightlife, a flourishing artisan scene and a social atmosphere about the city.
Lisbon extends over seven hills and the castle sits atop the highest
It takes three days of sightseeing to fully discover Lisbon, and then there are the day trips to further extend a holiday.
Sintra is a delightful town with lavish palaces and villas dotted around the hills of the Serra da Sintra. There is the pretty beach resort of Cascais, which is surrounded by gorgeous beaches or the authentic port city of Setubal. Slightly further is the walled town of Obidos or the historic city of Evora.
Lisbon is one of the greatest capital cities of western Europe, but in September (and with the whole of the summer) we suggest visiting Porto, as it is equally as good and is significantly less crowded. Lisbon is best visited in the late spring and especially June.
Related articles: Lisbon guide - 1 week in Lisbon - Top 10 sights of Lisbon
The grand Praça do Comércio sits at the centre of Lisbon and was the historic commercial hub of the city
Portugal is not just Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, and some of the most magical areas of the country are off from the main tourist routes.
The Alentejo coastline is stunning in September but is little visited. Here vast pristine beaches await you, with huge waves for surfing and unspoilt countryside for hiking or cycling. Vila Nova de Milfontes is the main town of the region, while Porto Covo is a pretty village, and both are wonderful for a relaxing beach holiday.
The unspoilt Praia de Almograve beach, just south of Vila Nova de Milfontes
For a touring holiday, consider exploring the hilltop castles and rugged scenery of northeast Portugal. A tour of this dramatic region, which is barely known by tourists, could include the fortified towns of the Beira region (Trancoso, Almeida and Marialva), the mountains of the Serra da Estrela and the boulder-strewn town of Monsanto. September is one of the best months to visit the Serra da Estrela, as the scenic mountain roads aren’t clogged with Portuguese day-trippers.
Monsanto maybe remote from everything but is definitely worth visiting
For a more cultural touring holiday, consider the central region of Portugal. Destinations that could be visited include the university city of Coimbra, the Knights Templar fortified town of Tomar, the monastery at Batalha and the pilgrimage town of Fatima.