Although Portugal can be visited all year round, on this text we are going to talk about the best time to go to Portugal.
Climate conditions change greatly throughout the year, and they also change from one region of Portugal to another. Portugal is not a large country when compared to its neighbour Spain, and even less when compared to the US or Australia. But you will be surprised to know how conditions can change from one part of the country to another.
On this text we want to help you with your choice with tips and information: each period of the year offers opportunities and drawbacks for a road trip. And we want to be sincere with you: the fact that Portugal is open all year round doesn’t mean the 12 months of the year are equally suited for a road trip.
SEASONS AT A GLANCE
Seasons are clearly defined in most of Portugal, even more so in the regions of the interior of the country. Madeira and the Azores archipelago are a completely different matter, and we’ll deal with them later.
Portugal in winter
Winter in Portugal, between December and March, is the coldest period of the year. But thankfully, and with the exception of a few mountain regions, it is not as harsh as in neighbouring Spain. Temperatures below 0ºC (32º F), while not unheard of, are not that common.
When a cold wave hits the country, there might be road closures due to the presence of ice and snow on the surface on the above mentioned mountain regions.
Another outstanding feature of the winter period is that the number of hours of daylight is quite small, compared to other periods of the year. You can expect sunset at around 6 pm in winter.
While we don’t think winter is a bad period of the year for urban tourism in Portugal, it is definitely not top of the list when it comes to planning a road trip.
Winter is a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … avoiding mass tourism is a priority – it is the period of the year with less tourists in Portugal, even more so outside the main cities. If you plan on visiting destinations in the interior of the country, you will have the privilege of doing so on your own.
- … you want to stretch your budget to the maximum. It is low season all throughout Portugal. This is particularly the case for cities like Lisbon or Porto, with the lowest accommodation prices of the year.
- … you will get to see a Portugal completely different from the traditional postcards.
Winter is not a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … you want to make the most of your daytime. As it gets dark at around 6 pm, you won’t be able to cover as much as you would do in other periods of the year.
- … stable and firm weather is your thing.
- … warm weather is your thing. Temperatures inland can be quite cold at night.
- … you want to avoid any risks associated with winter driving.
- … you intend to visit the Azores – it is the rainiest period of the year on the archipelago.
Portugal in spring
Spring in Portugal, between April and June, is a period of transition from the harshness of winter to the sun-drenched days of the summer. A cold wave might make the temperatures drop, but the extreme temperatures of winter are gone.
Days grow longer, and in May and June, in particular, the number of hours of daylight is quite spectacular, with the sunset at around 9:30 pm.
Spring is a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … you want to make the most of your daytime. As the season approaches June, daylight hours increase considerably.
- … you are after pleasant weather. Neither too cold nor too hot.
- … you want to avoid the tourist crowds that visit Portugal during the summer. Tourism arrivals slowly increase, but it’s still nowhere as crowded as during July and August.
- .. you want to stretch your budget. While the lowest season of the year is gone, prices are still much more friendly than during the height of the summer months.
- … you plan on visiting nature destinations. They look so lovely during the period!
Spring is not a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … we can’t think of any reason not to visit Portugal during spring!
Portugal in summer
Summer in Portugal, between July and September, is the hottest period of the year, with dry weather and plenty of sun on the sky.
Days continue to be quite long during the period, allowing for an excellent enjoyment of your time.
Summer is a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … you are after hot and sunny weather.
- … you want to make the most of your daytime.
- … you want to visit the Algarve, it’s the right time of the year if you intend to enjoy the beach.
Summer is not a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … you want to avoid the crowds. It’s high season in Portugal, which translates in hundreds of thousands of tourists along the coastline. You will find the most expensive prices of the year too.
- … extreme heat in specific regions of the interior of Portugal (the Alentejo comes to mind) might make for a very uncomfortable experience.
Portugal in autumn / fall
Autumn in Portugal, between October and December, is a period of transition from the sun-drenched days of the summer to the harshness of winter.
Days grow shorter, and in November and December, in particular, the number of hours of daylight hours is quite small, with the sunset at around 5:30 pm.
Autumn is a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … you are after pleasant weather.
- … you want to avoid the tourist crowds that visit Portugal during the summer.
- … you want to visit nature destinations. It is a beautiful time of the year in the forests and the mountains of Portugal.
Autumn is not a good choice for a road trip in Portugal if…
- … you want to make the most of your day. In November and December the number of daylight hours is quite small.
NOT THE BEST TIME TO GO TO PORTUGAL: HIGH SEASON
We all know that high season means high prices and hordes of tourists. Probably no the best time to go to Portugal. Let’s have a look at the main critical periods of the year in Portugal, tourism-wise:
- July. School is over and July is the first month of holidays for Portuguese – and half of Europe too. You can expect crowds and full prices everywhere.
- August. Along with July, August is the most expensive period of the year accommodation wise.
- Christmas and the New Year. In recent years Lisbon has become a coveted destination for the period of Christmas and the New Year.
GOING TO THE ISLANDS?
Due to their geographical location, both Madeira and the archipelago of Azores enjoy a sub-tropical climate where low temperatures are unheard of.
However, you should know that the highest rainfall is registered in the months of December and January.
If you are planning a road trip on the islands, choose whichever month of the year suits your calendar (and budget) best! If you are after the loveliest colours, the period between April and September should be your choice.
THE PERFECT MONTH TO GO TO PORTUGAL
We opened this text stating that Portugal can be visited all year round.
But if you want to know our personal opinion about the best time to go to Portugal, there is one fantastic month to tour Portugal, the month of June. For several reasons:
- extremely long hours of daylight. In mid-June, you can expect total darkness after 11pm.
- the temperatures are just wonderful, a bit on the warm side, but safe from the summer heat.
- you can enjoy the beach.
- for road trippers, the sight of the fields full of flowers is wonderful.
- while prices tend to go up as the month advances, they are nowhere as expensive as in July or August.
If you can’t make it to Portugal in June, consider May, September or October as worthy alternatives.
Travelling to Spain?
If you’d like to know when is the best time of the year to visit Spain, have a look at the text The best time to go to Spain.