Algarve in winter: What to expect + best things to do

a beach with golden cliffs in Algarve in winter

The beautiful Algarve region in the south of Portugal offers its visitors incredible landscapes, countless beaches and picturesque coastal towns. It is one of the sunniest places to visit in Europe during winter and an excellent destination for those looking to escape the cold and gloomy weather of Northern Europe.

With blissfully quiet beaches, peaceful hiking trails and cheap accommodation, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Algarve in winter, which I’m going to share with you in this post.

We traveled to the Algarve in December to flee the grey winter days of Denmark (our home base) and explore the wonderful nature of the Algarve without the crowds. When we arrived, we were rewarded with perfect sunny weather and clear blue skies – something I hadn’t seen for weeks! 

Tall golden cliffs and turquoise ocean at Praia do Vale de Centeanes beach in the Algarve, Portugal
Praia do Vale de Centeanes

Although the weather didn’t stay quite as good for the rest of our trip, we still managed to do some fantastic hikes, discover the famous Algarve cliffs and beaches, find some hidden gems and much more. 

Read on to find out about what to expect when visiting Algarve in the winter as well as the top things to do and places to stay.

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Algarve in winter: What to expect?

Lower prices

If you visit the Algarve in December, January or February, you can enjoy significantly lower accommodation prices. 

Many hotels and resorts offer amazing deals in the low season with discounts up to 50%. So if you’re craving a luxurious getaway, a winter trip to the Algarve is definitely worth considering.

In addition to more affordable accommodation and cheaper flights, the price for renting a car in Portugal also tends to be cheaper in the winter. We rented our car from Sixt at Faro Airport and paid just €18 per day for it.

A woman standing on a rock watching the colorful sunset, one of the best things to do in the Algarve in winter
Sunset at Carvoeiro

Fewer crowds

Another huge perk of visiting the Algarve in winter is that you can enjoy its beauty without the masses of tourists. Since the Algarve is a highly popular beach destination, it can get uncomfortably crowded in the high season, especially in August. Apparently, some of the most popular attractions like Benagil Cave and Praia do Camilo get jam-packed in the summer months.

In the winter, you’ll have all the famous places practically to yourself and you won’t need to stand in queues, worry about parking or fight for photo spots. Visiting off-season allows you to soak up the beautiful surroundings in peace and quiet, without the stress of the crowds.

A man standing on a staircase and admiring the limestone cliffs at Praia do Camilo in Algarve in winter.
Praia do Camilo

On the downside, some restaurants and shops are closed in the winter in Algarve. We never had a problem finding a place to eat though. The options were more limited but we still found some lovely restaurants serving up mouth-watering local dishes. I highly recommend Casinha do Petisco in Lagos and A Sagres restaurant in Sagres.

If you’re looking to experience the infamous nightlife scene of the Algarve, a summer trip would be a better option as most of the bars stay closed in the winter.

Portuguese cataplana, a delicious stew with seafood and vegetables
Seafood cataplana – a must-try when in the Algarve!

Winter weather in the Algarve

With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll get warm sunny weather if you visit the Algarve in winter. With that said, you should also be prepared for rainy and windy days.

The winter weather in the Algarve might not be hot enough for a beach holiday but it’s definitely an upgrade from the cold and dark winter that most of Europe experiences. The daytime temperature hovers around 15°C-20°C (59°F-68°F), which feels pretty amazing if you come from the freezing north!

During our trip to Algarve in December, we got a mix of sunny days and cloudy days with some rain. The temperature stayed pretty warm throughout our stay but on some the wind was really strong, which made the weather a bit chilly. It’s definitely a good idea to bring a warm jacket to your Algarve winter vacation to be on the safe side.

Based on our conversations with locals, the weather is usually better than what we experienced and they said that we just got unlucky. Apparently, right before we arrived, it had been so warm that lots of people were swimming and sunbathing on the beaches.

A woman walking along the sandy Praia da Dona Ana beach in winter in Algarve, Portugal
Praia da Dona Ana

Things to do in the Algarve in the winter

Go hiking

There’s no doubt that one of the top things to do in Algarve in December, January and February is hiking. The Algarve region is blessed with some of the most spectacular hiking trails in Portugal and winter is an excellent time for exploring them.

The temperatures are milder, the trails are not crowded and the vegetation is lush and green. Although in the summer the weather is more reliable, it can simply be too hot for hiking, especially if you want to tackle the more challenging trails.

In the Algarve, you’ll find hundreds of kilometers of coastal trails featuring jaw-dropping limestone cliffs, sandy beaches and incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean. Besides the coastal walks, there are also several inland routes that are more off the beaten path and lead you through mountain ranges, authentic villages and tranquil cork oak forests. 

Ochre-colored limestone cliffs and green vegetation on a hiking trail near Lagos in Algarve, Portugal
A hiking trail near Praia do Camilo

Some of the most famous walking routes in the Algarve are the fantastic Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, Via Algarviana trail and the Rota Vicentina that extends along the beautiful Vicentine Coast. Read my blog post on the best hikes in the Algarve for more details on what to expect from each of these trails.

If you prefer a more leisurely stroll rather than a hike, visit the scenic boardwalks at Carvoeiro and Ponta da Piedade. These boardwalks are ideal for less mobile visitors or for families with small kids. They are much easier to access and still provide amazing views of the cliffs and rock formations. 

A woman hiking along the coast on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, one of the top things to do in the Algarve in winter.
The Seven Hanging Valleys trail

Stroll along empty beaches

Another one of the best things to do in Algarve in the winter is to explore its countless beaches. From huge stretches of golden sand to tiny coves surrounded by awe-inspiring cliffs and sea stacks, the beaches in the Algarve are nothing short of incredible. 

A woman enjoying a view of an empty golden sand beach, one of the reasons to visit Algarve in winter.
Praia do Vale de Centeanes

Due to their popularity, they can get extremely crowded in the summer months. I’ve heard that on some of the more popular beaches like Praia do Camilo, you can barely find a spot for your towel! 

During your Algarve winter trip, this will definitely not be the case. You can take peaceful walks along empty beaches, take photos without any other people in them, watch the sunsets and even sunbathe if it’s warm enough.

And if you have the courage, why not go for a swim as well? Even though the winter months in the Algarve are the coldest, the water temperature stays relatively stable throughout the year. It hovers around 16°C (61°F) in the winter and 20°C (68°F) in the summer.

Although I didn’t go swimming, I really enjoyed discovering the wonderful beaches of the Algarve. My personal favorites were Praia da Dona Ana, Praia da Bordeira and Praia da Marinha. Take a look at my Algarve itinerary post to see all the amazing spots we visited on our 5-day road trip.

Colorful limestone sea stacks and cliffs at Praia da Marinha, one of the best beaches in Portugal
Praia da Marinha

Explore the towns

The Algarve is home to a variety of cute towns and villages and if you’re visiting in the winter, you can explore them without the herds of tourists.

Lagos is among the most charming towns in the Algarve and boasts a beautiful Old Town full of restaurants, bars and little shops. One of the best things to do in Lagos is to get lost in its narrow cobbled streets and marvel at the colorful facades, the traditional whitewashed houses and lovely squares lined with cafes.

Just outside the town, you’ll find some of the most famous beaches in the region, the iconic cliffs of Ponta da Piedade as well as the Rota Vicentina hiking trail.

To explore a side of the Algarve that’s completely different from the popular coastal towns, head to Monchique. Nestled in the Serra de Monchique mountains, this town will charm you with its lush surroundings and historic town center with an authentic atmosphere.

The area is also known for its healing geothermal spring water, which you can bathe in at the Villa Termal Monchique spa resort. For a panoramic view of the Algarve, head to the Foia viewpoint, which is the highest point in the region. 

I’ve also heard great things about Tavira though I didn’t have time to visit it myself. It’s a fishing town on the south coast of the Algarve with lots of historical attractions and a strong Moorish influence. There’s also a long sandy beach just outside the town. 

Go surfing

Another one of the top things to do in the Algarve in winter is surfing. Portugal is a real surfers’ paradise and the top surfing destination in Europe. Although you can surf in the Algarve at any time of the year, winter brings the best conditions. That’s when the waves are the highest and most consistent due to powerful Atlantic swells. 

These winter swells also make it possible to surf along the amazing south coast of the Algarve, which doesn’t receive many waves throughout the rest of the year. The west coast of the Algarve gets waves all year round.

And even if you’re not into surfing yourself, it’s still fascinating to watch the surfers from ashore.

A woman walking on a boardwalk overlooking the huge Praia da Bordeira, a popular beach among surfers
Praia da Bordeira, a popular surfing spot

Where to stay in the Algarve in winter

Depending on the length of your Algarve winter trip, I recommend staying in a few different towns since they offer a very different vibe. The larger towns like Lagos, Portimão, Faro and Albufeira are livelier and have more hotels, shops, dining options and tour operators.

If you’re looking for some tranquility and small-town charm, consider spending a night or two in Monchique, Carvoeiro or Ferragudo. Be aware though that in the winter, most restaurants and other businesses might be closed in smaller towns. 

Here are my recommendations for where to stay in the Algarve in winter:

Lagos: Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda
Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, this 4-star hotel is one of the most beautiful hotels in Lagos. It has spacious rooms, a fantastic garden with a pool, an on-site restaurant and a spa. The hotel also offers yoga classes with a sea view.

Lagos: Lalitana Townhouse
This is where we stayed in Lagos. It’s a lovely, clean, budget-friendly accommodation in the very center of the Old Town, near all the restaurants and shops.

Monchique: Villa Termal Monchique
Nestled in a lush valley in the countryside of the Algarve, this 4-star spa resort consists of beautifully restored 19th-century buildings and looks like a tiny historical village. Even if you don’t choose to stay in this hotel, it’s a lovely place for a quick walk. There’s a spa with both an outdoor pool as well as a hot indoor pool with mineral-rich geothermal water that is said to have healing properties.

A yellow 19th-century building at the Caldas de Monchique spa resort in the countryside of the Algarve
One of the buildings at Villa Termal Caldas de Monchique

You might also be interested in my other blog posts about Portugal:

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1 Comment

  1. I visited the Algarve last month and loved it! It is such a beautiful and diverse region! I also didn’t go to Tavira, which is my biggest regret from the trip. I didn’t have enough time but it looks so beautiful…

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