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!
Although the weather didn’t stay quite as good for the rest of our trip, we still managed to do some fantastic hikes, discover those famous Algarve cliffs and beaches, find some hidden gems and much more.
Read on to find out about what to expect when visiting the Algarve in winter as well as the top things to do and places to stay.
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Algarve in winter: What to expect?
If you visit the Algarve during the winter months, 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.
For instance, one of the places we stayed at was this cozy room with a balcony in the heart of Lagos Old Town. We paid only €37 a night and it even included breakfast!
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.
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. I’ve heard that some of the most popular attractions like Benagil Cave or 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.
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 can 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.
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. 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 15-20°C, which feels pretty amazing if you come from the freezing north!
During our trip in December, we got a mix of sunny days and cloudy days with some rain. The temperature stayed pretty warm throughout our stay (17-20°C) but some days were really windy. It would definitely be a good idea to bring a warm jacket. Based on our conversations with locals, the weather is usually better than this and we just got unlucky. Apparently, right before we arrived in the Algarve, it had been so warm that lots of people were swimming and sunbathing on the beaches.
Things to do in the Algarve in winter
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.
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.
Stroll along empty beaches
One of the best things to do in the Algarve in 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.
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!
In the winter, this is definitely not the case. You can take peaceful walks along empty beaches, take photos without any other people in them, watch the sunset 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 in the winter and 20°C in the summer.
Although I didn’t go swimming, I really enjoyed discovering those 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.
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 Caldas de Monchique spa resort. For panoramic views 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.
Another great thing to do in the Algarve in winter is surfing. Portugal is a real surfers paradise and is known as 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.
Where to stay in the Algarve in winter
Depending on the length of your trip, I recommend staying in a few different towns since they offer a very different vibe. The larger towns like Lagos, Portimão 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 facilities might be closed in the smaller towns.
Here are my recommendations for where to stay in the Algarve in winter:
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. A nice breakfast is included in the room rate as well.
Lagos: Casa Mãe
This amazing sustainably-minded 5-star hotel is definitely one of the most stylish hotels in Lagos. It features three buildings, each with a different aesthetic – boho chic, minimalist and vintage. There are multiple pools, spa facilities and an on-site restaurant.
Monchique: Villa Termal Caldas de 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.
You might also be interested in my other blog posts about Portugal:
- 5-day Algarve road trip itinerary
- Best hikes in the Algarve
- The Seven Hanging Valleys hike in the Algarve
- 7-day Madeira itinerary
- Madeira beaches guide: from black sand to volcanic pools
For more photos and videos of our Algarve trip, check out my Instagram account. Look for the stories highlight called ‘Algarve’.
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