September 14, 2018 | By Roxane Hudon |
It’s impossible to resist the many charms of Spain’s friendly coastal neighbour. Perpetually sunny, rich in culture and history and naturally breathtaking, Portugal paints a pretty picture year-round. Check out our breakdown of the best times to go to Portugal.
Spring & Summer
It’s no secret that hotter days and warmer waters bring in bigger crowds. That being said, the numerous outdoor festivals and balmy beach weather welcoming you between May and July deter shrugging off a spring or summer Portugal vacation.
Portuguese people honour their saints in very interesting ways. Case in point: the Festa de Santo Antonio in Lisbon. It pays homage to Lisbon’s patron saint with feasts of grilled fish, street parties to rhythmic fado music and…free weddings! Meanwhile, you might want a hard hat for Porto’s Festa de São João, an eccentric tribute to Saint John the Baptist. Festivities include the odd tradition of banging revellers on the head with colourful plastic mallets, as well as more typical goings-on like fireworks and dancing.
If you worship a more modern set of idols, Portugal attracts some of the best musicians and bands in the world with top-notch summer music festivals cropping up near its main cities, from the indie sounds of NOS Primavera Sound to the rockin’ rythms of Super Bock Super Rock and the eclectic star-fueled lineup of NOS Alive.
The Portugal’s Delightful Duo rail tour brings you to Lisbon and Porto during any of these events!
A spring or summer trip to Portugal calls for soaking up the sun along the country’s dreamy coastline. A prime place to do so is the sunny southern region of The Algarve where spectacular rocky cliffs surround golden beaches varying in size and popularity:
- Praia de Rocha buzzes with high-rise beach resorts and lively bars and restaurants to entertain the hotels’ inhabitants.
- The smaller, secluded Praia do Camilo serves up a postcard-perfect setting with the gorgeous Ponte da Piedade also just a short walk away.
- Don’t skip out on iconic Praia da Marinha, aptly named one of the best beaches in Europe and located down a dramatic cliff side.
We could keep listing our favourites, but taking a tour of the Algarve, like our Portugal City & Coast rail tour, will let you discover yours, from the surfing paradise Praia do Amado to the adventurous Praia de Benagil and its sea cave.
We love fall travel to Portugal: cooler climate, quieter cities and…wine harvest season! Sure, the Atlantic isn’t as sizzling, but it’s often still warm enough for a dip, plus all popular sights have cleared of their summertime crowds.
Take a Hike
A drop in temperature makes this season perfect for hiking Portugal’s many trails without breaking a sweat.
Near Lisbon, the fairy tale-like, UNESCO-listed village of Sintra sits a day-trip away. Wander up romantic forest paths leading from the town’s Moorish Castle to the colourful, Disney-like Pena Palace, surrounded by gardens and the rugged landscape of the Serra Mountains. Take on the coastal trails of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, home to continental Europe’s most westernly point, Cabo da Roca, and mystical monuments like the Convent of Capuchos or the Hermitage of Peninha.
Turn your trek into a pilgrimage by climbing up all 686 steps leading to the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios sanctuary in Lamego. Shrouded by dense woodland, it offers quite the view of the town and surrounding hills once you’ve made it to the top. Elevate the experience by timing your visit with the Festival of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary’s shrine. Join thousands of religious devotees in pious processions, including one that carries the statue of Our Lady of the Remedies on an oxen-lead cart.
Wine & Dine
We kept the best for last: food and wine!
The scenic and charming Douro Valley lures you in with its rolling green hills and aromatic vineyards, including those specializing in the region’s famous Port wine. Douro’s a breathtaking sight any time of the year, but wine harvest season really steals the show with its landscape coloured in autumnal shades. Many of the area’s wineries will invite you to participate in the harvest, from grape picking to stomping and the inevitable taste testing. That glass of vinho tastes even better once you’ve worked for it.
Fall’s cooler nights prompt heading indoors and trying all of the country’s culinary delights. Savour everything from traditional bacalhau to pork-based dishes, spicy piri-piri chicken and creamy Serra da Estrela cheese. Of course, complete any meal with one of their famous (and delicious!) custard tarts, pastéis de nata. For a seasonal treat, hunt for sweet Portuguese Rocha pears, freshly picked from the Oeste region.
Keep an eye out for all our tours to Portugal! They run from spring to fall and are the best way to take in all the sights or experiences mentioned. Hot travel tip: while some of our tours, like the Fly & Rail tour Sunny Portugal or our Fly & Drive tour Highlights of Portugal, operate as early as April or May, others like Portugal North to South only take off in June. This might influence when and how you decide to travel to Portugal! You can always opt for our year-round option, the Lisbon Your Way Urban Getaway.