Many people ask me if it’s worth travelling to Portugal in the winter. Yes it definitely is. There are advantages to it including very quiet main attractions and the ability to get good photos easily when it’s not busy. But you do need to be aware of the weather and many restaurant closure in the winter season.
The coldest winter months in Portugal are December and January. In November you can still catch the odd day of sun, but don’t expect beach weather! You can expect winter temperatures between 8 and 18 degrees. It properly starts to warm up around March/April.
My trip to the Algarve in Winter
I spent two weeks travelling around the Algarve from the end of November to the beginning of December this year. Although there were some activities not running and I had to wrap up warm, I still really enjoyed it. If like me, you like exploring old towns, visiting Churches and general photography then you will still be able to do the things you want to do.
I visited Faro, Olhao and Tavira during my trip. I stayed at Tilia hostel in Faro and used this as a base for onward travel.
Although it was windy, I did manage to get a good feel for these places and take some great photos. Instead of trying to do beach days, I hopped along the Algarve coast on the train from Faro station. Although some places were closed, I could always manage to get decent food and find a decent bar for a drink. For me, the trip was worth it as I was happy to get away from the UK winter to a slightly milder climate.
Benefits of Travelling to Portugal in Winter
Here are the main benefits of travelling to Portugal in winter…
- Cheaper flights.
- Not busy at main attractions.
- Easy to get good photos as not many tourists.
- Will be appreciated by locals that you are travelling in off season – they will look after you well.
- Accommodation is cheaper and more readily available – it’s even usually possible to book somewhere to stay last minute.
- Youth hostels are much quieter – sometimes there may only be one or two people in your dorm so if you travel in hostels you will probably get more sleep!
- Winter is milder compared to places like UK, Finland and Canada.
- Sunsets are beautiful and skies can look dramatic!
Down Sides to Travelling to Portugal in Winter
Of course, there are many down sides – it will be a bit chilly when you eat outside, and some days the weather will be too windy for beaches and boat rides. Here is a summary of the main draw backs to travelling to Portugal in winter:
- Some airline routes stop running in the winter time (this can happen with the cheaper airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet).
- Bar and restaurant closures – particularly in the Algarve some completely close in the winter.
- Less people travelling so less to socialise with (although you will still meet some travellers!)
- Boat trips may get cancelled due to high winds.
- Many excursions won’t run if there are not enough people on them.
- Cobbled streets can be slippy and dangerous in the winter time.
- Cold compared to the summer months – be prepared to layer up so you will need to pack more clothing.
Top Tips for travelling to Portugal in winter
Here are some of my top tips for visiting in the winter months. If you adjust your expectations, Portugal in winter is still worth it!
What to Pack – Wrap up warm!
If you are travelling to Portugal in winter then you will need to wrap up relatively warm. Pack jeans and jumpers rather than shorts and t shorts. Layers are a good idea: also make sure that you take a wind and rainproof jacket and sturdy footwear such as comfortable trainers or hiking boots.
Here is a good packing list for Portugal in Winter:
- Wind/rainproof jacket
- Scarf or Shawl
- Underwear – maybe thermal if you feel the cold!
- Warm hat
- Walking boots or comfortable trainers
- Comfortable backpack (rather than suitcase)
- Lots of layers e.g. vests and leggings
- Hair dryer (if there is not one available at your accommodation)
- Smartphone and Camera
- Wallet, passport and travel documentation of course!
Look out for Slippery pavements
The cobbled streets that you find in most cities in Portugal are not great when wet. Trust me, I’ve slipped in Lisbon as a result of the rain many times! Sometimes if the roads are not busy it’s easy to walk on the side of the road rather than the slippery cobbles but of course look out for traffic. High heels and stilettos are not recommended.
Get good Travel Insurance
Make sure that you have good travel insurance incase you do have an accident and need healthcare while you are in Portugal – that goes without saying for any trip. Considering the Coronavirus situation, you may want to check that your insurance covers you for Covid-19.
Don’t expect to sit on the Beach!
One main bit of advice – if you are a sun worshipper and looking for beach days, DO NOT travel to Portugal from November to February! If you are travelling to Portugal in winter then you will need to adjust your expectations. Sitting and relaxing on the beach in your bikini is just not going to be an option, especially with a strong Atlantic breeze. If you go expecting this you will be greatly disappointed.
Be aware of Restaurant and bar closures
Expect places like Faro, Lagos and Albufeira to be very quiet during the winter time. This includes many bars and restaurants being closed for the winter season. Don’t expect a lovely nightlife scene in the Algarve at this time of year although you will find it still in Lisbon or Porto.
Have you ever travelled to Portugal in winter? What’s your take on it? Yay or Nay?
If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Western Algarve – Introducing the Region