It may be a relatively small country, but to determine the best times to visit Portugal, you have to take into consideration the great variety of landscapes that influence weather, events, activities, and peak times. Between the mountains of the Estrela Range in the north, the beaches of the Algarve in the south, and the island groups of the Azores and Madeira in mid-Atlantic, each region has its own perfect time to visit.
Portugal, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Spain, has a Mediterranean climate with, generally speaking, the best times to visit being spring (March to early June) and fall (September to late November). Meanwhile, Madeira and the Azores are influenced by the Gulf Stream, which accounts for a subtropical climate. The summer months of July and August are the hottest and, especially at the beach resorts of the Algarve, most crowded and expensive.
Best Time to Visit Northern Portugal
The north of Portugal is a lot cooler than the south which makes it an ideal part of the country to visit if you like sightseeing, road trips and hiking. The best times to visit are spring and fall.
In the spring, the mountains and valleys of the north are covered with wildflowers, and the almond trees are in full bloom. This time of year is ideal for hiking and exploring the fabulous cities of Porto, Sintra, Coimbra, and Braganza in the far north.
Fall is harvest time (mid-September to mid-October) when the valleys of the Duoro and Dao become a hive of activities during the grape harvest. Chestnut trees are blooming, giving the countryside a lot of lovely colors. If you like to hike in the mountains, fall is the time to visit the Minho and Tras-os-Montes regions with average temperatures of 55 degrees F.
It’s a lot colder in the winter (between January and March), especially in the Estrela Range, where it will snow, so skiers head to one of several sports centers in the region. If you are a keen surfer, head for Ericeira or the Atlantic coast (Costa Verde) in the months from November to February, where waves reach records heights of 80 feet.
If you are looking for a beach holiday in the north, the summer months are ideal and less hot than the south because of the fresh Atlantic breeze. There are plenty of beaches to choose from in the north. Just be prepared that the water temperature is lower than in the south, and there may be an occasional rain shower. Book well in advance if you can only visit in the summer because prices can be high as the beaches in the north are also popular with the Portuguese who have their vacations in the summer.
Best Time to Visit Southern Portugal
The south of Portugal includes the Algarve, from Lagos to Tavira, and the border with Spain and inland to Monchique. You’ll find more sunshine and warmer air and water temperatures than in the north .
Again, the best times to visit are spring and fall. The summers in the Algarve get very hot, easily up to 104 degrees F and crowded, which is reflected in the highest prices for accommodation and food. Winter, which lasts from Dec. 21 to March 19, is the season where costs are lowest. There are the occasional rainy days, especially in winter, but the Algarve has a mild and pleasant climate year-round even for a visit to the beach, so avoid the peak season if you can.
Apart from a beach holiday, the Algarve is a golfers’ paradise with no less than 42 golf courses. It’s, of course, much more pleasant to play golf in spring or fall than in the heat of summer. There is also sightseeing in Faro, Lagos, and Monchique and delightful boat trips to the Nature Reserve of Ria Formosa and the islands, all of which can be enjoyed year-round.
Best Time to Visit Madeira
Madeira does its nickname ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ justice with a subtropical climate and average temperatures of 77 degrees F in July and 62 degrees F in January. Rain falls in the months of March, April October, and November, due to the location in the Atlantic, 600 miles off the coast from Lisbon. You can visit Madeira year around if you don’t mind a bit of rain in the offseason (and cheaper) months of rainfall with the best price cuts from April to mid-June.
The island, which of of volcanic origin, has a lush vegetation and is famous for flowers and fruit such as guava, mango, and annona. Depending on your taste in activities, you can swim in lava pools, go windsurfing (September to February), birdwatch, laze on the beaches, explore the Laurisilva Forest, or watch whales (April to October).
Best Time to Visit the Azores
The Azores are a group of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic, at a distance of 1,200 miles from Lisbon. Some of the islands are hardly ever visited, and the rest of them are still more laid back and peaceful than the rest of Portugal. The best time to visit is from May to October. May to September is also the best time for whale watching, which is big in the Azores. Each morning, boats set out from Faial and San Miguel.
Summertime runs from June to September with the highest air and water temperatures. March, April, May, and October are the months with the most unstable weather; sunny days can alternate with plenty of rain. It is said that each of the four seasons can be experienced in a single day because the weather can change so quickly.
November to March is winter and the peak of the rainy season. Temperatures don’t reach freezing point, but the damp will make it feel colder than it is. Still, there are things to do and enjoy, like relaxing in the thermal springs—just bring the right clothes, and take advantage of the low prices for accommodation.
Like Madeira, the Azores are volcanic, which makes for a wild landscape and the chance of exciting hikes. Pico has the highest mountain, Pico Volcano, with a rather tricky climb to the peak that you don’t want to do in the rain—June would be the best time.
Key Festivals & Events
- The Madeira Flower Festival is probably the island's most well-known festival. To celebrate the arrival of spring in April and May, the festival spans several days with a variety of attractions. It takes place in Funchal.
- Angra do Heroismo, Portugal’s leading jazz festival takes place in October in one of the most beautiful towns of the Azores on the island of Terceira.
- Carnival of Loule Carnival is a big event in Portugal and among the oldest. It's a three-day party in the Algarve town of Loule in February.
- The Rose Festival in Vila Franca do Lima is a tradition going back to 1622. Highlights include are huge baskets filled with roses in the shape of coat of arms.
- The Fiesa Sand Sculpture Competition is an event not to be missed in Pera, near Algarva. This massive creation and exhibition of sand sculptures runs from March through November.