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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.


I love the Algarve. It’s a privilege to live here. The south of Portugal has paradisiacal places and a lot of fun, keeping as a favorite destination for European tourists (especially English, Irish, German, French, Dutch, and Spanish tourists).

Cleverly, and understandably, the official Portuguese department of tourism promotes the Algarve as “Europe’s most famous secret.” There’s a beautiful, heart-touching video about this, and I recommend you watch it later (please, don’t miss this video!).

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

It will be a pleasure to see you here.

To get your answers, take your sunglasses, your sunscreen, your hat, your beach chair… and come with me.

Best time to visit the Algarve: The four seasons

First, two notes for you.

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

The second note is about rain in the Algarve.

Climate instability does not allow us to determine periods of rain, as we easily did a few years ago. But rain is usually 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.

If we see rain in the Algarve, it will be most probably in one of these months: January, February, March, April, October, November, December.

Amid uncertainties, at least I can say one thing: You will not see rain in Summer. This season in the Algarve is very hot and extreeeeeemely dryyyyy.

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

Winter

sad-face

Usually, Winter is not intense in the Algarve. Temperatures are higher when compared to the rest of the country, rarely advancing 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, strongholds, castles — reduce opening hours, or simply do not open. The beaches, key interest in the region, are empty.

And there’s more: The night arrives earlier, with the sky getting dark around 5 PM.

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

Algarve in Winter is depressing

It’s 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, many people consider the New Year’s Eve in Madeira Island 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.” I noticed the emphasis in the word “almost.”

Oh, I love attentive readers!

Winter ends on March 21st, but, from the second week of March, Spring almost arriving, tourism begins to revive. It’s a good time to be here. Not the best, but viable — calmer, pleasant, with many places open.

Spring

very-happy-face

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

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

The end of March and all April bring mild temperatures. Thermometers go up in May and 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 appropriate 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-major attractions here are the beaches. The water is still cold, but the sand and the gorgeous landscapes are always a delight.

By the way, hold your breath, because the Algarve features some 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 (the same beach we later saw as an official wallpaper in Google’s Pixel XL 2 smartphone).

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

Summer

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

The number of tourists skyrockets, coming in droves. Not only foreigner tourists: The Portuguese themselves, from other areas of the country, usually spend their holidays here.

All touristic sites extend their opening hours. Everything is working.

Restaurants, bars and pubs get crooooowded. I say “pubs” because we fortunately 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.

Summer is full life in the Algarve

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

There are so many attractions and parties that you may get lost when selecting your favorites. For example, the famous medieval fairs, which make cities simulate life in the medieval era. I’m a fan of those medieval fairs! In the Algarve, they happen in August, in Silves and in Castro Marim (this one, near the border with Spain).

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: there are lots of pubs and restaurants. This is how we see the streets on summer nights.
Nosolo Água in Portimão
Nosolo Água, in Portimão: a piece of Paradise on Earth (“água” means “water” in Portuguese).
Silves castle.
Medieval Fair in Silves. The castle is part of this brilliant party.

Oh my God, Damas, I decide now that my favorite time to visit the Algarve is Summer, period.

Intere—

I mean, very interested in Summer in the Algarve? Ok, but it’s not all good news. Consider other things when deciding when to visit the Algarve.

Summer comes with lots of fun, which is wonderful, but two problems come together: overcrowding and excessive heat.

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

The major problem to me is the heat, especially in July and August. The real feel easily reaches (or exceeds!) 40 degrees Celsius / 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many people don’t feel uncomfortable with all of this. What about you?

Autumn

good-face

Until recent years, Autumn was a poor choice regarding the best time to visit the Algarve, but now, the destination being more and more popular, we receive lots of tourists during this season.

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

December is an exception. With Winter being close, tourism flow drops heavily, and many places close the doors.

Ria in Alvor and the best time to visit the Algarve.
Ria de Alvor: 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, has a lot of restaurants and bars.
The hills of Sagres.
The impressive hills of Cape of São Vicente, in Sagres (also next photo).
Sagres.

Hum… Damas, maybe excessive heat is too much for me. Now I’m in doubt about Spring or Autumn.

I often see people in doubt about choosing Spring or Autumn to visit the Algarve.

Both seasons are great in the Algarve, I told you that already, but I have to admit that Spring is better than Autumn. Spring brings more fun… more energy. It’s also important to note that Spring offers most of what Summer has for us, but with milder temperatures and less overcrowding.

An overview about when to visit the Algarve

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 five times happiness; Summer is ten times happiness.

Have a pleasant stay in the Algarve!


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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