Visiting Algarve in the winter?
Let’s take a look at what Faro, Lagos, Albufeira and more are like during December, January and February!
If you’re looking for a warm European getaway, Portugal’s Algarve is pretty much a dream come true. I had a great time visiting during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I got to soak up the sunshine, walk along the (normally crowded) beaches and check out some of the cutest Christmas markets I’ve ever seen!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the weather, where to go and what to do during winter in the Algarve!
Winter in Algarve: Weather & Temperature
With nearly 300 sunny days every year, you can expect average temperatures to be about 60°F / 30°C, even in the coldest month of January! Portugal’s rainy season lasts from November to March, but luckily the Algarve receives way less precipitation.
And when it does rain? The showers are over before you know it!
Winter weather and temperatures can fluctuate depending which part of the Algarve coast you’re in. You’ll find the warmest conditions in the southernmost region from the Faro District to Sagres. Meanwhile, the west coast can be quite windy and cold due to winter storms that come from the Atlantic Ocean.
Why Visit Algarve in Winter?
The Algarve is by far is one of the loveliest places during winter where you can enjoy sunny beaches, great food, and holiday festivities! There are a number of reasons that winter is the best time to visit Portugal.
- Affordable Prices: From December through February, you’ll find lots of good deals on hotels, flights and activities.
- Less Crowds: You’ll have plenty of room to enjoy the beautiful beaches without worrying about high season crowds.
- Surfing: Winter is prime time to catch waves as the swells are more powerful and consistent, with water temperatures staying above 57°F/14°C.
- Christmas Markets: Europe is known for its festive holiday markets and the Algarve is no exception. Keep reading fo the best markets in Faro, Lagos, Albufeira, and beyond.
Things to Do in Algarve in Winter
The Algarve has some of the most exquisite geography in the world! Winter can be the perfect time to visit spots like Benagil Cave, Ponta da Piedade, and the Algar Seco rock formations. You can cross off some epic Portugal bucket list items and avoid all the annoying crowds!
Let’s take a look at more of the best things to do in Algarve in winter:
Hikers, you’re in luck!
One of the best winter hikes in the Algarve is the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. With nearly 6.8 miles of gorgeous turquoise water, hidden caves, and secluded beaches, this hike is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Another epic route is the Fisherman’s Trail. Extending over 135 miles (220 kilometers), across the Costa Vincentina this area has 13 different sections that take between 4 to 14 days to cover. For a shorter single-day adventure, try the circular hike known as The Dunes of Almograve. This scenic trail intersects with some of the most beautiful parts of the Fishermen’s Trail.
Southern Portugal is famous for its iconic scenery and stunning beaches. Even though it may not be swimming weather, the sunny sand is still perfect for a picnic or coastal sightseeing.
Praia de Marinha, filled with coastal rock formations and crystal-clear water, is one of the best beaches to explore. For a boat tour or nightlife, head to Portimao’s Praia da Rocha.
In the winter, you’ll likely have most of the beaches all to yourself. Can’t think of a better time to soak up some sun!
Visiting the Algarve wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Benagil Cave.
An incredible sight to behold, this cave is one of the most popular attractions in the area because of how unique it is.
Known for its natural skylight and the spacious golden beach inside the cave itself, it’s a pretty surreal spot. In fact, the only way to reach Benagil Cave is by swimming, kayaking, or boating to the openings.
Ponta da Piedade
One of the Algarve’s most popular tourist attractions is Ponta da Piedade, a breathtaking headland filled with massive rock formations and picturesque arches that jut out of the sea. Hands down one of the most Instagrammable places in Portugal!
The way the vibrant golden cliffs stand out against the sparkling turquoise water is an utterly magical experience. Whether you explore by kayak, boat, or cliffside walk, the sunset views here are truly unforgettable!
Another spectacular natural wonder you’ll want to visit is Ria Formosa. Located near Faro, this reserve includes tons of secluded islands and unique wildlife like flamingos, cranes and egrets here. An epic place to birdwatch is the Ludo Trail and its mysterious saltwater swamps.
Castles in Silves & Loule
After a few days at the beach head inland to see some of the most historic castles in Portugal!
The town of Silves is famous for its red Moorish castle, last occupied between the 8th and 13th centuries, this castle is a testament of history and architecture. Check out the stunning ancient architecture before getting lost in the streets of town and basking in the old-school vibes.
Next, head to Loule, another popular tourist destination where you can experience the traditional Portugese lifestyle. Visit the Castle of Loule and the famous town market where locals sell produce, treats, and handicrafts. Great for buying some Portuguese souvenirs!
Another incredible thing to do in Algarve in winter is to check out the Algar Seco! Formed over thousands of years by the relentless force of the Atlantic waves, this network of caves and captivating rock formations includes natural pools, sea caves, and unique photo opps. Don’t miss the Boneca, a series of tunnels and caves that lead to dramatic cliffside views.
Best Places to Visit in Algarve in Winter
When planning a trip to Algarve in winter, it’s important to know what sort of experience you’re looking for so you can decide where to stay. Let’s take a look at what each city has to offer.
Faro in Winter
One of the best places to visit in the Algarve in winter is the capital city of Faro.
Like the rest of the Algarve, the weather is mild and sunny, only receiving about 5 days of rain a year with an average of 60°F / 30°C.
You can enjoy numerous museums and cafes in this calm fisherman village. Definitely check out Capela dos Ossos. With the bones of Carmelite Monks adorning the entire surface of the church, this spooky chapel is an astonishing sight!
If you’re headed to Faro in December, don’t miss Casa do Pai Natal, the famous Christmas market in Manuel Bilvar Garden. The town puts on dance and theatre performances and highlights local food and handicrafts. This charming event is full of holiday cheer!
Albufeira in Winter
The winter months in Albufeira are a perfect time to stroll through the old town without having to deal with crowds and extreme heat. The weather stays around 55°F / 15°C during the day, but like the rest of the Algarve, nights are usually cooler.
Check out the Old Town Square known as Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco and all its cafes, bars and local shops. You’ll also want to visit the Santa Anna Church and Bell Tower as well as the Albufeira tunnel which connects the old town to the main beach.
Lagos in Winter
Lagos is the ideal wintertime destination if you plan on hiking or touring the caves and grottos. With mild temperatures, it’s the perfect time to explore the many hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the coastline and surrounding areas.
One popular attraction you won’t want to miss in Lagos is Ponta da Piedade, a stunning natural rock formation that can be reached by boat or foot.
The average temperature is similar to the other cities with an average high of 61°F / 15°C.
Sagres in Winter
Sagres, the town which used to be known as “the end of the world” is located at the very tip of southwest Algarve in Portugal.
Sagres in winter is just as beautiful as the eastern side. It’s typically colder and windier, but receives just as much sunshine. Known for its wild beauty, this town is ideal for surfers.
In the off-season, experienced surfers are drawn here as swells pick up. Western beaches like Tonel have the perfect conditions for expert and intermediate surfers.
On the Eastern side, Martinhal and Mareta beaches will give beginners a chance to catch the more manageable waves.
While in town be sure to visit Fortaleza de Sagres where Henry the Navigator planned his voyages and seafaring methods.
Portimao in Winter
The southern port town of Portimão is an idyllic getaway during the winter months. There are tons of outdoor activities to keep you busy, but if the weather is less than ideal, there’s still plenty to do indoors.
Check out the iconic Nossa Senhora da Conceição, a Roman Catholic Church in the classic Manueline architectural style, as well as the Fort of Santa Catarina which used to protect the village from pirates!
Portimao is incredible to visit in December when the city is decked out for the holidays! The area boasts five different festive zones which include a Christmas stage with 23 shows, an ice rink, a holiday market, old Saint Nick’s house, a life-size nativity scene, and more!
Travira in Winter
For even more Christmas festivities, head to Travira in December! Said to be one of the prettiest coastal towns in the Algarve, Tavira comes alive with holiday lights and music. You can even catch festive circus performances at the Mercado de Ribeira!
A great spot for families, kids can visit Santa and ride a holiday train at Praça da República, one of the town’s main squares. Afterward, grab some holiday treats at the Municipal Market and shop for gifts and souvenirs before making your way to the stunning castle of Tavira.
Like to travel in luxury? If so, the Vilamoura Resorts are the place for you. Located in Loule, these resorts are known for their 6 golf courses, casinos, and marina.
The area is filled with cafes, restaurants, local craft stores and fancy boutiques. Plus. parties continue well into the evening with international DJs often playing at local nightclubs.
Make sure to check out the sandy Vilamoura Beach and the Cerro da Vila archaeological museum with the ruins of a Roman Villa, complete with ancient bathhouses and gorgeous mosaics!
Seville Day Trip
If you have a couple of days, why not visit a second country on an easy day trip to Seville! One of the warmest places in Spain, it only takes about 2 hours from Faro.
In December and January, visit Seville’s Christmas Markets at Plaza Nueva and Avenida de la Constitución.
What to Eat
Good news! Some of the best food in Portugal can be found in the Algarve. From fresh seafood, to savory rice dishes and yummy local pastries, cities like Faro and Lagos have plenty to offer.
While visiting this region in the South of Portugal, you have to try the famous cataplana de marisco! This savory seafood stew reminded me of Spanish paella. It’s even cooked in a dish with the same name, just like its Spanish counterpart!
Another must-try is arroz de polvo, a traditional rice dish with cooked tomatoes, sautéed onions, and succulent diced octopus.
At Christmastime, expect to find plenty of polvo à lagareiro, grilled octopus with olive oil, garlic and potatoes. Be sure to save room for dessert so you can try the famous azevias, sweet pastries filled with sweet potato and cinnamon, and sprinkled with sugar.
Christmas in the Algarve
The Algarve is incredibly enchanting during the holiday season since there is so much to see and do!
You won’t want to miss the Christmas Markets in Faro and Lagos. These include stalls selling local handmade goodies and crafts as well as regional food and beverages, plus numerous activities for the whole family from holiday shows to train rides.
The Monchique Christmas Market located at Largo dos Chorões is a regional favorite with its pretty carousel, ice skating rink, Santa’s House set, plus competitions and concerts.
Vale do Lobo also hosts a popular indoor holiday market located in the Parque do Golfe Complex and Auditorium that’s a good time in any weather. Here you can also dine and enjoy beverages while you shop for handmade goodies and trinkets.
Lastly, adventurous travelers can start a new Christmas tradition with the Santa Swim, a charity-sponsored activity where you’re challenged to take a dip in the chilly sea! This activity in Armação de Pêra supports local families.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Algarve
New Year’s Eve celebrations are always something to look forward to, and the parties in the Algarve are no exception! If you choose to ring in the new year in Southern Portugal, consider checking out the street parties in Albufiera, Portimão, or Faro where the celebrations last all day. Plus, there are plenty of food stalls to keep you fed, concerts to rage at and always fireworks at midnight.
If you’re celebrating in Albufeira check out Armação de Pêra, this NYE blowout will have live music at Praia dos Pescadores until midnight followed by an epic fireworks display. You can expect up to 80,000 people in attendance here!
Nearby Portimão has concerts near Zona Ribeirinha de Portimão with a continuing party at nightclubs around Praia da Rocha and Alvor.
While in Portugal for New Year’s you must try their quirky NYE traditions. One of them is to wear blue underwear for good luck throughout the upcoming year. It’s also a tradition to eat 12 raisins as the clock strikes midnight. With each raisin, you should whisper a small wish to yourself for the year to come. What will you wish for this year?
Where to Stay in the Algarve
If you’re visiting the Algarve in December, January or February, you’ll have plenty of options on where to stay! I recommend considering these main destinations below depending on your travel style or what experiences you’re after.
Faro is the perfect place to stay while visiting the Algarve. It’s the capital city where the airport is located so it’s super easy to get to.
The town itself is very walkable. In fact, you could walk the entire town in a day if you wanted. I really enjoyed strolling down by the water with a drink in hand, the perfect pre-dinner activity.
Since it’s quite close to nearby attractions, you could plan at least a dozen exciting day trips from Faro and explore plenty of the region.
On the western side of the Algarve, is the lovely tourist hotspot, Lagos. The town itself can be rather quiet in the wintertime which is perfect if you’re looking for a calm escape.
If you’re interested in outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, kayaking, Lagos is also a great fit! Plus, it’s only a short drive from plenty of the best surf beaches in the Algarve that are great for
both intermediate and beginner surfers. For example, Praia da Arrifana is only a 40-minute drive and it’s one of the best places to surf in the winter for intermediates.
Located between Faro and Lagos, you’ll find the vibrant city of Albufeira. Well-known and loved for its bustling nightlife, this is a great destination for anyone in search of wintertime nightlife.
Albufeira is also centrally located, making it easy to reach most of the best surf destinations in the Algarve. Plus, it’s close to tourist attractions like Benagil Cave and Ponta de Piedade.
Great for solo travelers, be aware that Albufeira can be busy and loud at night.
If surfing is your primary reason for visiting the Algarve in winter, then Sagres is the place for you! No matter if you’re a beginner or advanced surfer, you’ll be able to find the perfect waves for you in this region.
This quiet surf town is great for nature lovers looking to escape the noise and business of more tourism-focused destinations and resort towns.
Getting Around the Algarve in December, January & February
Your adventure in Southern Portugal awaits, but do you know how do you plan to get around? If you’re interested in exploring areas off-the-beaten-path then renting a car is the smartest option, but if you only want to check out a couple of the main cities then public transport is cheap and easy.
Getting to the Algarve
You can get to the Algarve in a flash thanks to the Faro International Airport. From a nearby location in Europe, it’s easy enough to arrive via train or bus. I chose to fly into the Algarve and took buses to each destination.
Bus & Train Travel
After you make it to the Algarve you can rely on buses or trains to take you into the city centers. I also found that Uber and rideshares were convenient. If you’re up for a thrill you can always rent a scooter, but the best idea is to rent a car if you’re interested in scoping out a bunch of different locations.
Renting a Car
It’s easy to rent a car in the Algarve. You can do so at the Faro airport but there are plenty of rental shops in most cities, so you won’t have a problem locating one. Check out everything you need to know about renting a car in Portugal.
What to Wear in Winter in the Algarve
Now that you’re ready and excited for your next winter holiday in the Algarve, you just need to know what to pack.
It’s important to remember that even though it’s much warmer than other parts of Europe, it still gets chilly in this region. Bring warm clothes, a jacket, preferably waterproof, as it does occasionally rain, and walking shoes for all the incredible sights.
If you’re traveling during the holidays, be sure to pack something cute for those special nights out.
And don’t forget your sunnies and a hat! The Algarve is one of the best places to visit because of the 300 days of sunshine, enjoy!
- Portugal in Winter: Things to Do in December, January, & February
- The Best Time to Visit Portugal: Season Guide
- The Ultimate Algarve Travel Guide
- 15 Fabulous Day Trips from Faro, Portugal
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