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The best time to visit the Algarve (south of Portugal)

This is the English version of my blog GDAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). I'm still working on it. English is not my native language. Please, feel free to correct me.


I love the Algarve. It’s a privilege to live here. The south of Portugal has paradisiacal places and a lot of fun for visitors. It’s easy to understand why the region is one of the favorite destinations for European tourists. By the way, I’m always here to help tourists decide when to visit the Algarve.

Understandably, the Algarve is promoted by the Portuguese department of tourism as “Europe’s most famous secret.” There’s a beautiful, heart-touching video about this, and I recommend you watch it later.

Oh, Damas, I want so much to explore this Portuguese paradise. What’s the best time to visit the Algarve?

Let’s get this straight.

Take your sunglasses, your sunscreen, your hat … and come with me.

Best time to visit the Algarve: The four seasons

First of all, two notes for you.

It is not convenient to point out the best time to visit the Algarve, or the best season. Let’s talk about the best ones, pointing advantages and disadvantages of each. But one of them brings only disadvantages, so I will recommend you avoid it.

The second note is about rain in the Algarve. People often ask about this.

This is no longer a simple matter. Climate instability does not allow us to determine periods of rain, as we easily did a few years ago. But, in general, rain is not a problem for tourists here, because it rains less and less in the region — and this is a nightmare. Let’s take April as an example. Traditionally, it was a month of heavy rains, but in recent years we saw an entire April with no water from the sky.

Amid uncertainties, at least I can say one thing: Most probably, you will not see rains in Summer. This season in the Algarve is very hot and extremely dry.

The best time to visit the Algarve and an example of Summer: Nosolo Água, in Portimão.
Nosolo Água, a bar in Portimão.

Winter

• 21st December to 21st March

sad-face

Usually, Winter is not intense in the Algarve. Temperatures are higher when compared to the rest of the country. They hardly advance to negative numbers.

But no matter how the temperatures are, one thing still doesn’t change: Tourists practically disappear from the Algarve during almost all Winter. Therefore, many attractions – bars, restaurants, parks, monuments, castles – reduce opening hours, or simply do not open. The beaches, key interest in the region, are almost deserted.

Tourism is so miserable that many hotels see the season as an opportunity for recess to all employees.

And there’s more. The days get dark early. The sky is already dark around 5 pm.

Algarve in Winter is depressing

Frankly, it’s depressing. It is sad to see and feel the doldrums, in contrast to the high spirits of other times.

Without a doubt, I say that Winter is a TERRIBLE choice for tourism in the Algarve.

Consequently, the Algarve is not a good idea for Christmas and réveillon. (But understand, please, that the other regions of Portugal are great for this. By the way, New Year’s Eve in Madeira Island is considered the most beautiful in the world.)

Fortaleza da Luz, in Lagos
Fortaleza da Luz, in Lagos: a restaurant in a fortress.

Damas, you said above that “tourists practically disappear from the Algarve during almost all Winter.” Almost. Why?

Oh, I love attentive readers!

Officially, Winter ends in March 21st. But from the second week of March, Spring almost arriving, tourism begins to reborn. It’s a good time to be here. Not the best, but already viable. Quiet, pleasant, with many places open.

Spring

• 21st March to 21st June

very-happy-face

The Algarve comes back to real life at the end of March.

It’s Spring!

The number of tourists rises, but we still do not see the tumultuos days of Summer. All hotels are in operation, and famous places open their doors with pleasure.

The end of March and all April bring mild temperatures. Thermometers go up in May and even more in June, but not reaching the extremes of July, August and September.

The best time to visit the Algarve is the opportunity to visit the summit of Serra de Monchique
Fóia, Monchique (950 meters / 0.59 mile / 1039 yard above sea level)
A street in Lagos.
Historic Centre of Lagos. It’s a great season for a visit, with more tourists in the region, but we still can find calm places.
Luz beach is a good point in the moment tourists consider when to visit the Algarve.
The area of Luz Beach, in Lagos.

The season is also very good for golf players. Oh, yes, the Algarve keeps a leadership as one of the best places in the world for golf.

However, the super-ultra-greeeat-main attractions here are the beaches. Thousands of tourists live wonderful moments on the beaches. The water is cold, but the sand and the gorgeous landscapes are always a delight.

The Algarve is also the land of fresh fish and seafood. How about finishing your day at a typical restaurant, eating what was caught a few hours earlier? (Not me, I’m a vegetarian, but most tourists appreciate this a lot.)

Summer

• 21st June to 21st December

Summer is the climax of the Algarve. The entire region is in a frenzy.

The number of tourists skyrockets. Europeans, especially, come here in droves. Moreover, the number of tourists from other continents has increased. The Portuguese themselves, from other areas of the country, usually spend their holidays here.

All touristic sites — bars, restaurants, parks, castles, fortresses, etc. — extend their opening hours. Everything is working. That’s when big money comes to the region.

Restaurants and pubs get croooowded. And I say “pubs” because we fortunatelly have an intense British influence. British come here and open up their own businesses in the style they already know very well.

You can now imagine how the beaches are. By the way, the Algarve has been awarded, year after year, for featuring one of the world’s best beaches. A recent poll in the United States elected a beach in Lagos as the most beautiful in the world (and this beach was featured as an official wallpaper in Google’s Pixel XL 2 smartphone).

Summer is full life in the Algarve

Sea activities are limitless. Tourists live intense adventures in boats, ships, yatchs, canoes, etc. Even a “pirate ship” comes every year to take people away! And how about a cruise ship to see caves, dolphins, distant beaches? Or maybe you prefer the skies instead of the sea? Go skydive in Alvor. Do you like theme parks? Visit the famous Zoomarine.

There are so many attractions and parties that you may get lost when selecting your favorites. Different events happen all the time. For example, the famous medieval fairs, which make cities simulate life in the medieval era, with the participation of the public. I’m a fan of those medieval fairs! They are more common in August.

To make everything better, night falls much later. The sky gets dark around 9:30 PM.

Beaches in Alvor may make Summer be the best time to visit the Algarve.
A beach in Alvor (also next photo).
This beach in Alvor is to be considered in the moment you decide when to visit the Algarve.
Crowded street in Alvor, Algarve.
Historic Centre of Alvor (one of my favorite spots in the Algarve). The are lots of pubs and restaurants. This is how we see the streets in Summer nights.
Nosolo Água in Portimão
Nosolo Água, in Portimão. A piece of Paradise on Earth.
Silves castle.
Medieval Fair in Silves. The castle is part of this great party.

Oh my God, Damas, I’m concluding that the best time to visit the Algarve is Summer, period.

Intere— I mean, very interested in Summer in the Algarve? Good. But it’s not all good news. You have to consider other things when deciding when to visit the Algarve.

Summer comes to the Algarve with lots of fun, which is wonderful. But two problems come together: Overcrowding and excessive heat.

The increasing number of tourists promote a happy atmosphere. At the same time, we have to deal with overcrowded places, long lines, headaches when parking cars (in case you rent a car).

The main problem to me is the heat, especially in July and August. The real feel easily exceeds 40 degrees Celsius / 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides, we don’t see rain in this period. The extremely dry climate is uncomfortable.

Many people are not uncomfortable with this. What about you?

Autumn

• 21st September to 21st December

good-face

Until recent years, Autumn was a poor choice in regards of the best time to visit the Algarve. But now, the Algarve being more and more popular, we receive much more tourists during this season.

December is exception. Avoid it. With Winter almost arriving, tourism flow drops heavily. Consequently, many places close the doors.

I love the Algarve in Autumn. There’s still a lot of fun and temperatures are mild (with peaks of cold and wind in some days). We still see brave people who enjoy the beaches, although the water is cold.

Ria in Alvor and the best time to visit the Algarve.
“Ria de Alvor.” Always a pleasant place to visit!
A restaurant in the marina of Vilamoura and the choice of when to visit the Algarve.
Vilamoura Marina, considered one of the best marinas in Europe. There are a lot of restaurants and bars around it.
The hills of Sagres.
The impressive hills of Cape of São Vicente, in Sagres (also next photo).
Sagres.

I often see people in doubt about choosing Spring or Autumn to visit the Algarve. People who prefer calmer visits and wish to avoid the extreme temperatures of Summer. How to choose?

Yes, both seasons are great in the Algarve. I told you that already. But I have to admit that Spring is a bit better than Autumn. Spring brings more fun … more energy.

An overview about when to visit the Algarve

Let’s make our thoughts a bit clearer.

Consider the following, in terms of the number of tourists, the number of attractions and how much fun we feel in the air.

Winter is depression. Autumn is happiness. Spring is 5 times happiness. Summer is 10 times happiness.

So … when to visit the Algarve?

According to most people, I point Summer as the best time to visit the Algarve. Let’s make a list in order of preference:

  1. Summer
  2. Spring
  3. Autumn
  4. Winter

Note that I refer to “most people” in the previous paragraph. Some people do not feel well in very hot weather and prefer to avoid places during high seasons (overcrowding). If you see yourself here, consider this new list, also in order of preference:

  1. Spring
  2. Autumn
  3. Summer
  4. Winter

It’s worth to emphasize that Spring offers most of what Summer has for us, but with milder temperatures and less overcrowded.

Best time to visit the Algarve: Month by month

Let’s now consider month by month. When evaluating, I analyze the number of tourists and the number of attractions.

When to visit the Algarve:

  • January 🙁 Forget!
  • February 🙁 (a little better during the carnival)
  • March
    • First half 🙁
    • Second half 😐
  • April 🙂
  • May 🙂
  • June 🙂
  • July 🙂
  • August 🙂
  • September 🙂
  • October – 🙂
  • November 😐
  • December 🙁

Have a nice stay in the Algarve! Good luck!


G. DAMAS
I live in the Algarve (South of Portugal). My first fiction book, for young adults, was published in 2001 in Portuguese language — a time travel adventure that won thousands of readers. I also wrote some travel and tech books and manuals.
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