The best time to visit Portugal is from March to October, but you may want to schedule your visit either side of July and August. During these summer months, temperatures can be particularly searing and the beaches in the south overcrowded.
The Best Time for...
Hitting the Beach
With July and August being the hottest months and a very popular holiday period for locals, you’ll find the seaside resorts will be at their busiest. June won't be as hot but the beaches should be less crowded, and as autumn approaches in October, the sea temperature remains warm enough for swimming. If you’re looking for great surf, head to the coast from late winter to early spring, so from December onwards.
Visiting the Wine Region
While harvest time comes with stunning scenery and activities in the winelands, wine tasting is something that can be enjoyed all year round. In the north you’ll find the popular Vinho Verde Route which runs from the Minho to the Douro. Along the route you’ll find a variety of palaces and manor houses with vineyards that you can visit. Alongside the river Minho you’ll find Monção and Melgaço the birthplace of the well-known grape varietal Alvarinho. Head to the centre of Portugal and you’ll find the Bairrada Wine Route which runs along the coast and around Coimbra. This region is particularly known for its sparkling wines. In addition to beautiful beaches, south of the river Tagus you can explore the Setúbal Península Wine Route. One of the most reputed wines in Portugal, Setúbal Muscatel, comes from this region.
Portugal is great for outdoor activities and hiking. If you’re keen to try a little surfing or windsurfing, then aim for late winter to early spring when the waves are best. Sagres, Peniche and Ericeira offer waves for all skill levels. The best time for four-wheel-drive adventures and off-road tours is in spring, summer and autumn especially if you’re near Rabaçal in Madeira, or Fogo Lake in the Azores. And if you’re in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park over that time of year you can also go mountain biking. Hiking enthusiasts should plan to visit in spring or autumn to make the most of some of Portugal’s finest hiking routes. Some of the best areas and trails to aim for are Paiva Walkways, Gerês Waterfalls, Caldeirao Verde Levadas in Madeira, and Ribeira Grande and Twin Lakes in the Azores.
The best time of year for dolphin watching is from June to September, particularly in the Algarve. Look out for bottlenose, striped and Risso’s dolphins. We can arrange a privately guided expedition to discover some of the area’s best marine wildlife.
Festivals and Events
You’ll find carnival parades all over the country in February, with Lisbon and the towns of the Algarve having particularly spectacular celebrations. While it may seem to be all bright costumes and feathers, carnival dates back centuries to when people held feasts to the meat which was forbidden over Lent. In fact, ‘carne’ is the Portuguese word for meat. Festivities start on the last Friday before Lent and finish on Shrove Tuesday. Over Holy Week or Semana Santa in March and April, there are celebrations and processions all across Portugal. If you find yourself in Braga, the Algarve or Tomar over this time you’ll most likely experience an abundance of flowers and lights.
From March to August you will be treated to a display of amazingly intricate sand sculptures as part of Fiesa, the international sand sculpture festival in the Algarve’s Pêra. Artists use around 40,000 tonnes of sand to create works of art, some of which tower to 12 metres high. There is a full programme of workshops, demonstrations and competitions as well.