The Algarve is a good place for a winter holiday, though it may not seem like it to us, living here. Those from countries in the northern hemisphere will mostly be up to their eyes in wind, rain, cold, maybe snow and ice, and a winter holiday to escape from it all might seem like a good suggestion. Obviously, the nearer you get to the equator, the warmer it will be, but your guests might be recommended to look here for a little winter warmth.

January and even February are probably the coldest months of the year in southern Portugal when the locals shiver and grumble about trying to keep warm. Yet a holiday in January for someone from a colder climate will find our weather balmy. I remember my first trip to Portugal to stay with friends being in January, and while our host was shouting to keep the door closed to keep the cold out, we were rolling up our trouser legs in sheltered spots around the pool, absolutely loving the warmth of the winter sun. Where we had flown from was suffering the worst snow we had ever experienced, so Portugal felt like heaven.

Advantages of holidays in our winter

There are plenty! How about having the beach to yourself? No sunbathers to trip over, no rush to get the best sunbeds by the pool! The water may be too cold (for some) to swim in, but a stroll along the shoreline in bare feet, for example, is a pleasure as there are less crowds, or time to catch up on reading around the pool on those sunbeds might be appealing.

Flights are cheaper (though maybe not so frequent), the cities are still here waiting for visitors, and again are less crowded – fewer queues and more chances of good accommodation at good prices, and there are still cafes and restaurants where guests can stop off for a meal or just take a break for a coffee or a glass of wine.

Winter in Portugal is the best time for surfing

Portugal in winter becomes a surfing hot spot for enthusiasts along its western coast. In fact, Praia do Norte in Nazaré is one of the most famous surfing spots in the world, with some of the biggest waves. While many visitors to Portugal in winter head there to watch surfers on the huge waves, it could also be a great time for those adrenalin junkies to burn off some energy by taking surf lessons at one of the surf schools along the coast.

Since winter in Portugal is the low season for tourism, there’s lower demand for accommodation, tours, restaurants, and other tourism-related things. As a result, prices drop a bit. Rates for booking accommodation will be better value, and the prices for tours might be slightly lower. Booking in advance might also contribute an extra discount, so it’s well worth planning travels a few months ahead.

Yes, there are days here when it rains, or a chilly wind blows, or the sun is reluctant to come out, but the positives outweigh the negatives, and those days could be used for a trip to the shopping mall, of which there are plenty or a lazy day to recharge, refresh and relax.

If you combine all the costs for a winter trip to Portugal it will certainly be good value. Winter is a fantastic season for an activity-focused break in the south of Portugal, be it a round of golf or hiking the Rota Vicentina coastline trails, cycling in the eastern Algarve or surfing in Sagres.

You might get plentiful sun, so don’t forget the sun cream, and although the tan will fade, the memories will last forever!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan