The best independent guide to Portugal
The best independent guide to Portugal
Portugal has a fantastic climate, and is almost suitable to visit the country year-round.
In general, Portugal has hot dry summers, bright and warm springs and autumns, and winters which are mild, but with always a chance of rain. The south of the country tends to be hotter and drier, while the northwestern region (Porto and the Costa Verde) can be very wet in the winter.
The peak season is during the summer months (July and August), and this is when the beaches are at their most busy and the cities are crowded with tourists.
The best season to visit Portugal is either side of the summer months (May to June and September) when the weather is still glorious, but everything is less hectic.
Portugal's southern coastline (the Algarve) offers some of mainland Europe's best weather during the winter season (Nov-Mar), but temperatures are not warm enough for spending time on the beach.
The capital city of Portugal, Lisbon, is a year-round destination, so long as your happy to accept the possibility of rain during the winter. Porto, the second city of Portugal, is too wet and chilly to visit during the winter and best visited between May and October.
This article will provide a guide to the weather of Portugal and where to visit in each of the seasons.
Portugal's weather is influence by its latitude and close proximity to the cool Atlantic Ocean, and there are surprisingly significant regional differences for such a comparatively small country.
The following weather charts display the average weather for the north (Porto), Lisbon and the Algarve (Faro).
The summer season is the busiest time of year in Portugal. This is when families flock to the Algarve, and tourists descend on the cities, while the Portuguese escape to their beachside campsites and holiday homes.
Generally, everywhere will be busy and prices at their most expensive, but there is an amazing holiday atmosphere in the resort towns.
Albufeira beach on a busy and hot summers day
The interior and eastern side of Portugal swelter under the intense summer sun, and is too hot for sightseeing and most visitors. In the summer it is best to be close to the sea, and preferable a beach to relax on.
If you are wanting a lively beach holiday then Albufeira, Vilamoura, Lagos and Praia da Rocha in the Algarve are always good choices. For a beach resort with a bit of Portuguese character, consider Tavira in the Algarve, Cascais or Sesimbra near Lisbon or Nazare, Ericeira or São Martinho do Porto on the Costa da Prata (Silver Coast).
The beautiful Alentejo coastline has yet to be fully discovered by foreign visitors, and Vila Nova de Milfontes and Porto Covo are two wonderful beach towns.
The wild and pristine Alentejo coastline near Vila Nova de Milfontes
If you are wishing a city break or more of a sightseeing holiday, then the north of Portugal is the area to visit during the summer.
Porto is an outstanding destination, with many sights, day trips and beaches, and is considerably less crowded than Lisbon in the peak season. For a touring holiday, and to escape the tourist masses, head to Portugal's far northern coastline around Viana do Castelo.
Related articles: Porto guide - Vila Nova de Milfontes guide
Porto is a captivating mix of history, culture, and of course Port Wine!
Late spring (May-June) is the best season to visit Portugal. The weather is wonderful but without the extremes of summer, and the tourist areas are fully open but not overcrowded.
In the late spring, the whole of Portugal could be visited, but Lisbon is at its finest. During the first two weeks of June are the Popular Saint festivals (Festas dos Santos Populares), and the whole of Lisbon is decorated with tinsel and streamers, and traditional dances are held every night.
The culmination of the festivities is a carnival on the night before Saint Anthony feast day (13th June), where the entire city comes out to celebrate.
Lisbon is always an outstanding destination but is even better in June!
Spring is a great time to visit the Algarve, either for a relaxing beach holiday or a tour of the region. The Algarve is much warmer than the rest of Portugal, and there can be decent beach weather from Easter. Easter is also the time of year when everything re-opens in the Algarve after the winter shut down.
April is a surprisingly wet month in northern Portugal, and there can be very intense downpours. We would suggest leaving any visit to Porto and the Douro Valley to May or later spring.
Related articles: Lisbon guide
For a relaxing activity, a cruise along the Douro River can’t be beaten, but save it for May and onwards
Portugal is a mixed bag during the winter, you could be lucky and have a holiday with bright warm days, or equally, you could have seven days solid rain.
The Algarve is the driest and warmest region during the winter, but it is not immune from a bit of rain. Porto and the north can get very wet and is best avoided. Lisbon can be a good choice for a city break as there are lots of indoor tourist activities in case it rains.
Christmas is a great time to visit Lisbon
The Algarve will have some of mainland Europe's best weather during the winter months, it won't be warm enough for sunbathing on the beach (max 18C), but it is pleasant for an activity (cycling, hiking touring) holiday.
During the winter it is best to be based in one of the larger resort towns (Albufeira, Lagos or Praia da Rocha) where most of the tourist facilities and hotels stay open year-round.
For suggested tour routes and further ideas about visiting Portugal in the winter, please see this guide, Portugal in November.
Autumn, like the spring, is a very good time to visit the whole of Portugal.
September is actually one of the busiest months in the Algarve, as couples seeking sun and a relaxing holiday visit the region after the manic school holidays.
In September the weather is great, and the whole of the country could be visited. There can be real bargains for Douro River cruises and last-minute holidays to Porto.
The slightly cooler weather of September and October also is a wonderful time to visit the eastern side of Portugal, with the historic city of Evora, the boulder town of Monsanto, or the Serra da Estrela mountains.
By the end of October, the weather starts to tail off and it is time to consider Lisbon on the Algarve coastline.
The village of Monsanto was constructed around the giant boulders on the top of the hill