The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal, famous for its stunning coastline, golden beaches, picturesque villages, and Mediterranean-like climate. This is a popular travel destination during the warmer months but overlooked by tourists during the offseason.
We wanted to escape the cold winter days here in the Netherlands, so decided on visiting during December. This turned out to be the best decision because there were little to no crowds and the weather was perfect. If you would like to enjoy sun, seafood, and beach during the colder season then I suggest traveling to the Algarve in winter.
How cold is the Algarve in winter?
Temperatures during the winter range and average anywhere from 46 F (8C) to 62 F (17). During our stay we experienced rain but most of the time it was sunny and above 60 F degrees. The months of January and February have the coldest temperatures. Relative to the weather we get here in the Netherlands, winter in the Algarve feels like a cold summer day.
Where to stay in the Algarve?
How long are you planning on visiting? Do you prefer to stay in one location or break up your trip by going to several towns? I suggest staying in Sagres, Tavira or Monchique. Portimao and Lagos are also nice but very touristy. We stayed in the cliffside, fishing town of Albufeira which is a half-hour away from Faro airport. Albufeira is typically swarming with tourists and is one of the busiest in Portugal. However, in winter it’s very quiet and visitors can enjoy this seaside resort to themselves. It was also the perfect home base as it was only a 20-30 minute drive to all of the Algarve’s hotspots and landmarks.
One of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve is Marinha beach. It’s surrounded by limestone cliffs, and water that takes on stunning shades of sapphire and turquoise – where you can see the ocean floor. From the entrance, head past the picnic tables and cat shelter, where you’ll discover a number of walking and hiking trails alongside the cliffs. It is here where you get the most breathtaking views and photo ops. Alongside the entrance, there is also a walkway path that gives access to the beach. I highly recommend coming during golden hour to see the sunset. The way the light hits the limestone rock formations is absolutely captivating.
Explore the caves of Benagil
The highlight of our trip was exploring the natural cave systems in the town of Benagil by boat. On this route, our guide and captain took us to see the spectacular caves, grottos, and pinnacles. I suggest renting a kayak or paddleboard to see these natural landscapes up close. Just ensure to check the sea and weather conditions beforehand because the current may be too strong. Seeing the Algarve from the perspective of water is a magical experience that I highly recommend.
Ponta da Piedade
We headed to the coastline in the town of Lagos to visit the rock formations of Ponta da Piedade. The scenery here is breathtaking. Although there were a few tourists when arriving, we practically had the main viewpoints and trails to ourselves.
The city of Silves
We took a day trip to explore one of the oldest towns in the Algarve, Silves. This medieval town was ruled by the Moors for five centuries and their influence is marked in the surrounding architecture and monuments. We specifically came to see the red, sandstone Castle of Silves, which was built in 201 BC. As you walk the castle grounds you’ll notice how well-preserved this Portuguese landmark is. What’s really nice is that you can see what parts are currently being excavated.
When going to the castle I suggest purchasing a combined ticket which gives you entrance to the Municipal Museum of Archaeology.