The golden, cliff-backed beaches of the Algarve rank among the loveliest stretches of sand in Europe. Given the region’s obvious natural beauty – plus the great surfing, kayaking and other aquatic activities – it’s no surprise that southern Portugal draws big crowds.
Although temperatures vary from month to month, the Algarve gets reliable sunshine 300 days a year. Summertime sees the biggest influx of visitors, while winter feels like an entirely local affair, but there are plenty of activities happening no matter when you visit.
Until recently, many resort towns in the Algarve virtually closed up for the winter, with limited options for lodging, dining and organized tours. That has changed in the last few years as the Algarve’s tourism authority has begun promoting the region as a year-round destination.
Nevertheless, some places still close for the season, so keep that in mind when making your plans. Here's our guide to the best times to come to the Algarve.
The high season (June–August) has the best beach weather
The Algarve sizzles during high season, encouraging days of lounging on the beach followed by refreshing dips in the ocean (cold Atlantic currents mean that the sea never gets quite as warm as it does in the Mediterranean). There’s also very little rainfall and skies are virtually cloud-free during the summer peak. In July and August – the Algarve’s hottest months – the average temperature is around 28°C (82°F), though some days can get as hot as 40°C (104°F). With cool ocean breezes, evening temperatures hover around 22°C (72°F), making for comfortable outdoor dining.
Naturally, the peak season for tourism coincides with these inviting conditions on the beach. Hotel prices are highest and the crowds are thickest in July and August. If you plan to travel at this time, you’ll need to plan well in advance. Expect to pay a premium to secure your top choices when it comes to accommodations. You’ll also have to share those pretty sands with plenty of other travelers – though you can still find quieter beaches if you travel away from busy tourist centers such as Albufeira and Lagos.
The spring and autumn (fall) shoulder seasons are the times to enjoy outdoor adventures
The spring months from April to May and the autumn months from mid-September to October are the best times to visit if you’re interested in hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and other land-based activities. The days are still warm and sunny, though there's a small chance of sparse drizzle, and the temperatures rarely get so hot as to be uncomfortable. You’ll find noticeably fewer crowds at this time, and you can save as much as 30% on lodging rates compared to the high season. April and May are also good months to see wildflowers dotting the hillsides, fields and coastal areas of the Algarve.
Get the best deals by traveling in the low season (November–March)
The Algarve feels like a different place if you travel in the off-season. You’ll see far fewer crowds and hear much more Portuguese spoken everywhere you go. Temperatures drop, but the days are still quite pleasant, with average highs of around 16°C (61°F), even during the coldest weeks in January and February. Even though most of the Algarve’s annual rainfall comes during the winter, the showers tend to be short, and you’ll likely see a fair number of sunny days. In all, it’s still a great time to be outdoors, though picture yourself taking long walks on the seaside (with a light jacket handy) rather than swimming in the ocean.
January is for cultural exploration
There’s a lot happening on the Algarve’s cultural calendar in January, with art exhibitions, dance and theater performances and special winter film screenings. Faro, Portimão, Lagos, Loulé and Albufeira have the most going on, along with Tavira and Silves.
Key events: Festa das Chouriças (Sausage Festival, Querença), Encontro de Janeiras (Silves)
February is for concerts
On chilly February nights, locals head inside to catch live music and dance performances in Loulé, Faro and other key cities. With the general absence of tourists, days are fairly quiet at seaside towns, except during the Carnaval celebrations, which see parades and revelry in the streets.
Key events: Carnaval (Loulé and other towns), Al-Mutamid Music Festival (Albufeira and other towns), Volta ao Algarve bicycle race, Algarve Cup women’s football (soccer) tournament
March is for springtime flowers
The early days of spring bring longer days and the first spring blooms to the hillsides around the region. With pleasant temperatures, March is ideal for long walks without the crowds.
Key events: Spring Mediterranean Garden Fair (Faro), Feira dos Enchidos food festival (Monchique)
April is for Easter celebrations
Easter typically marks the end of the off-season in the Algarve, with the first signs of life emerging in the Algarve’s slumbering seaside towns. Easter processions add excitement, as does Liberation Day (April 25) when you can see fireworks and parades in some towns.
Key events: Easter procession in São Brás de Alportel, Liberation Day
May is the time to hit the trails
Whether you're heading off on a long trek such as the 300km (186-mile) Via Algarviana, or simply going for a seaside walk in the afternoon, the sunny, rain-free month of May is a great time to be out and about.
Key events: Mãe Soberana procession (Loulé), Kizomba Open Summer Festival (Albufeira)
June is the official start of summer
Rising temperatures bring beach lovers to the Algarve in droves, especially toward the end of the month. Things get noticeably livelier in seaside communities, with a tangible feeling of joie de vivre as visitors fill outdoor restaurants and bars and the outdoor festival season kicks off in earnest.
Key events: Dia de Portugal (Portugal day), Festival MED (Loulé), Santos Populares folkloric festival (Portimão)
July is the best month for festivals
During the baking month of July, you’ll find a wide range of events happening all across the Algarve, including music festivals on the beach and a surreal outdoor market lit by candles.
Key events: Afro Nation Portugal (Portimão), Arrifana Sunset Fest (Aljezur), Alameda Beer Fest, Mercado de Culturas à Luz das Velas (Lagoa).
August is the time to hit the water
During the hottest month of the year, beat the heat by staying close to the sea and enjoying your fill of aquatic activities. August is also a good month to spot dolphins on boating excursions.
Key events: Silves medieval festival, Portimão street food fest, Fatacil summer fair (Lagoa), Olhão seafood festival
September is for beach days without the crowds
Water temperatures in September aren’t much different from water temperatures in August, but cooler air temperatures make for pleasant beach days. You'll see fewer crowds than during the previous month.
Key events: Lagoa International Guitar Festival, FOMe festival of objects and puppets, Lagos flamenco festival
October sees the skies fill with migratory birds
Birdwatchers flock to the Algarve in October to see winged beauties passing through en route to Africa during the annual autumn migration. This is also a great month for outdoor activities, as you’ll get a welcome break from the summer heat.
Key events: Oktoberfest (various locations), Feira de Santa Iria (Faro), Feira de Praia (Vila Real de Santo António)
November is the time to enjoy local celebrations
In the midst of autumn, things are getting sleepy in the once-busy resorts along the coast. You’ll have astonishing seaside views all to yourself, but you'll need to pack a light jacket for cooler days and nights. Be ready for the odd rain shower.
Key events: LUZA International Festival of Light (Loulé), Feira de São Martinho (Portimão), Walk & Art Fest (Barão de São João), Aljezur sweet potato festival
December sees plenty of fun Christmas events
As the days grow shorter, you’ll face brisk nighttime temperatures but lovely mild days, with highs around 17°C (62°F). In the buildup to Christmas, many towns have special markets and put out life-size nativity scenes (Vila Real de Santo António has one of Portugal’s biggest tableaus).
Key events: Christmas markets, holiday theater performances, New Year’s Eve fireworks