Despite being renowned for its fantastic summer weather and activities, there is still a lot to do in the Algarve in the cooler months. In fact, winter is a great time to visit some of the popular tourist spots, away from the summer crowds. The cooler season also offers a great opportunity to explore some of the region’s various landscapes and beautiful countryside.
The winter months are a fantastic time for hiking. Despite the weather being a little more unpredictable, there is still plenty of sunshine without the high temperatures of the summer, and there are lots of trails in the area to explore.
The Seven Hanging Valleys trail runs from Praia da Marinha to Praia de Vale Centeanes. The entire walk is across the coastal cliffs, offering some incredible views of the beautiful Algarve coastline. There are several stops you can make along the way including the Alfanzina lighthouse, and the beaches of Benagil and Carvalho.
You can explore the west coast by walking along the Castelejo Environmental Trail, in Vila do Bispo. This trail is a fairly easy walk and is famous for its varied flora and fauna. It takes you from Praia do Castelejo through the Vicentine Coast Natural Park and back, with various stops at some small, secluded beaches along the way.
You can also take a walk around one of the many trails in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, where amongst the wonderful scenery, you can see many different types of birds and wildlife, in fact, it is one of the best spots for bird watching in the winter months in the Algarve.
If you want to go higher up and for some incredible countryside and sea views, take a hike up to the Fóia viewpoint in Monchique. It’s best to head up to the Monchique mountains towards the end of the winter, closer to spring, to avoid some of the stronger winds that the winter months can bring.
The south of Portugal is one of the best destinations for cycling in the winter. In fact, the region attracts many avid cyclists in the winter months. The west coast offers some great cycling routes, across the western Algarve coastline and through the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. There are also plenty of cycling trails that allow you to cycle through the countryside, across different terrain and quiet country roads.
There are several long distance trails that you can follow across the entire region of the Algarve. Here is a great guide to the various trails in the region.
Enjoying the Beaches in Peace
In the summer months, you can’t even begin to imagine what the beaches would look like without hundreds, or sometimes thousands of holidaymakers on the sand. In the winter you can take a long stroll along even the most popular beaches and sometimes not see another soul!
Beaches like Meia Praia, Praia da Marinha, Praia de Benagil, Praia da Falésia, and Praia de Odeceixe are some of the many beaches that are often flooded with visitors in the high season. The wintertime offers a great opportunity to explore the coastline without the crowds.
It’s a wonderfully peaceful time to be in the Algarve, and it really gives you the time and space to appreciate the beauty of the region.
You can still take a boat tour around the cliffs and caves of the Algarve in the winter months. Whilst the weather might be a little less predictable and you’ll need a few extra layers than you would in the summer, you can take a much more peaceful trip around the coast with fewer people to share the views with.
The islands of the Ria Formosa are also wonderful to explore in the winter, by boat and foot. In the winter months, the islands that see a lot of traffic in the summer months are practically deserted. It’s a great time to take a boat trip around the natural park or a walk around the islands and take your time to really soak up the atmosphere.
Getting to Know Different Places
There are plenty of cultural and historic hot spots in the Algarve. Tavira on the eastern Algarve is a beautiful city with plenty on offer to do and see. Many restaurants, cafes, and cultural sites here remain open during the winter months, unlike some of the more tourism-dependent towns across the Algarve, as do many places in the capital of the region, Faro.
Silves is also a great spot to explore in the cooler months, it has a wonderful castle with amazing panoramic countryside views. A little further east in the historic city of Loulé, there is even a carnival held at the end of February, which is the oldest continuous pre-Lenten party in Portugal.
It’s usually a big celebration with plenty coming to watch and enjoy the parades. The floats have samba groups, Brazilian dancers and giant costumed characters, coming together to put on an impressive show. Despite being canceled a couple of times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s a great event to attend when it restarts.
Staying in the Algarve over Winter?
If you are staying in the Algarve over the winter, definitely be sure to take advantage of the quieter atmosphere. Whilst there may not be as many activities as there are in the summer, it’s a great opportunity to explore the region. You may even find yourself longing for the peace and quiet of the winter when the summer comes around and the Algarve fully opens its doors to visitors from across the world.