Algarve in Winter – best budget destination in Europe
Visiting the Algarve coast in winter is our favourite remedy against a the cold that keeps northern Europe in a tight grip. After all, the region in the southern Portugal is the warmest place in Europe in January. As much as we seek to explore new terrains, we are appreciating the comfort of repetition and the well known. In this spirit, after spending the 4th vacations in Portugal, enjoying the Algarve in winter, I think it’s safe to say it became a family tradition.
Portugal’s Algarve coast is the place to be if you’re seeking sunlight and beautiful sceneries – without spending a fortune
We are showing you the best activities around the Algarve Coast if you’re visiting in the colder time of the year or just if you’re tired of sunbathing.
Algarve in Winter: 25 best activities and points of interest
The fortress of Sagres lays on a peninsula and is strongly linked to Portugals nautical past and the 15th century explorer Henry the Navigator. Even Francis Drake can be linked to the fortress of Sagres: being himself, he pillaged it in the 16th century. Sagres is just stunningly beautiful. A trail leads once around the land tongue, along steep cliffs, rough landscapes and bat shit crazy fishermen that are balancing on the very edge of the crag to drag up their dinner – or crash in the stiff breeze. Either way it makes you hold your breath and it’s a beautiful walk during your Algarve vacation in Winter, just take a hat, it could get cold.
2. Praia de Marinha
Praia de Marinha with it’s dramatic rock formations is probably the most classic Algarve postcard motive you can find. You REALLY don’t wanna miss it – trust me, you don’t. From the parking you can turn either right, to walk on the cliffs and enjoy the view or take the stairs on your left to explore the beach. Best reason to visit it when being at the Algarve Coast in Winter: you’ll be almost alone there!
3. Menires Do Lavajo – Celtic remains at Portugal’s Algarve Coast
who would have thought that you find celtic signs in the southern part of europe? See the couple of Menhirs but don’t expect to much; it’s really only two and they are protected by a fence. But if you interested in celtic culture, you don’t wanna miss this. ,
4. Serra de Monchique – Algarve’s mountain chain
When leaving the coastline of Algarve and head inlands, you will soon stumble upon the hilly grounds of Monchique. It’s perfect for hiking. You should head to Moint Foia, the highest mountain of this chain. The streets might be challenging for people with motion sickness but Algarves’ highest peak will reward you with a spectacular view. In a 30km far distance you can even spot the sea. We usually use this trip for a Picnic at the mountain top and to fill up our water bottles with the local source water. That is really a thing by the way, people are queueing to fill up their bottles.
5. Ria Formosa – A natural park near Faro
The natural wetland park is very close to Faro and got elected to one of the 7 natural wonders in Portugal. The Ria Formosa is an important area for aquatic birds and stop over point on the migration route between Europe and Africa.
6. Praia do Barril Beach, Tavira – Anchor Cemetery
Tavira, in the east of the Algarve Coast is a fishermen town that once thrived on the tuna fishing industry. The tune fishers are long gone but the anchors of their boats are left. Lined up and rusting on the beach. Read on here to get more info on Tavira
7. Explore the Algarve coast by bike
Algarve is great for bike tours, especially during the cooler seasons. If you’re not coming with your own gear, there are plenty of stores where you can get rental bikes. Or you take an organised tour, click here to see all offers and best deals
8. Cape St.Vincent – the most southwestern point of Europe
This iconic spot is the most southwestern point in Portugal and even Europe. It’s a great view along the coast line. It’s very close to Sagres (15min drive) and makes a really nice day trip.
9. Lagos Zoo – top pick for kids!
unlike most other theme parks in the Algarve region, the zoo is open though-out the whole year. The Zoo of Lagos is specialised on birds, fishes, mammals and reptiles. Some feedings are open for public.
10. Algar de Benagil
It’s probably one of the most famous caves ever. It’s only reachable by boat and should be on every bucket list. You can book a tour from Portimão or Lagos to visit the caves. Often those tours are combined with a Dolphin watching tour or a coastline tour.
11. Alvor Broadwalk
This broadwalk starts in the city of Alvor and leads through the salt marsh lands and wetlands and until the Alvor Lighthouse. The area is great for bird spotting. Check this page for more info.
12. Fort of Cacela
The fortress was build during the muslim period around 250 years ago and belongs to the protected area of the wetland park Ria Formosa. The Fortress is not far from Faro and grants you a view until Spain.
An ancient maritime town with historic city walls. Great for having a stroll through the typical old town, with plenty of shopping possibilities and also Bars and Restaurants.
14. Storks – Algarve is an important stop over on their migration route between Africa and Europe
You see them all over Algarve, on chimneys, churches and utility poles.
15. Go surfing!
The Algarve coast is one of the best surfing spots of Europe, if not world wide. The idea to get on a board in December, January or February might not be the most appealing perspective, but winter is actually the best season for surfing in Portugal and you find some of the best waves worldwide at the Algarve in winter.
16. Enjoy spring blossoms and orange trees
While the northern parts of Europe are cold and frosty, the Algarve’s almond trees are in full bloom from January. And the best: they are everywhere! They are one of the reasons why it’s so great to visit Algarve in winter; it is not winter anymore 🙂
A bit off the coast lays the typical Algarven town of Loulé. The indoor market offers a huge selection of fresh fish, local fruits, veggies, cheese and everything else the region has in display. You don’t wanna miss the old town neither. The cobbled stoned streets are cute and cozy and make great motives to rock your instagram profile #nofilterneeded
cobbled stoned streets, colourful houses and cute doors – The old town of Loulé
18. Algarve Shopping – an covered shopping mall near Albufeira
The perfect deal for rainy days; the shopping mall Algarve Shopping just a short drive out of Albufeira. You find all common stores there in a nice setting, mainly covered. It’s a cozy mall that looks like a little Portuguese village.
Faro is the administrative center of the Algarve coast and the biggest city within the region. It’s a nice town to do some shopping or have a dinner out. The old town is worth a visit; check out our free self-guided walking tour. Faro is as well a good starting point for many tours, for example to the wetland natural park Ria Formosa or dolphin watching cruises.
Faro is a popular starting point of various Tours and Activities – click here to check for offers and availabilities
Just a few kilometres east of Faro and within the protected area of the natural park Ria Formosa lays Olhão. A little fisher town with narrow streets and and typical little shops. Olhão is also port of departure of ferries to Armona and Culatra, 2 of the offshore islands.
It’s the largest city in western Algarve. It offers plenty of shopping and dining options and is also a good starting point to visit the Benagil Caves or to walk the Alvor Broadwalk.
Probably the most lively town at the Algarve coast. In summer Albufeira is a touristic stronghold, most likely the biggest in the entire region. But if you are visiting the Algarve in winter, you find this town peaceful and calm. Most stores and bars are open though, and you can spent a great time on empty beaches.
Silves is situated a bit inland, without direct access to the sea. One of the top activities in this town is to visit one of the wineries and join a wine tasting.
24. Viva de Lagos Science Centre: Top pick for kids!
An exhibition for the whole family. Plenty of hands-on exhibits, a fun and interactive way to approach science. Perfect to spent a rainy day. The Lagos Science Centre is open year round.
25. join the carnival festivities
Carnival usually takes place in February. Enjoy parades, dancing, singing and beautiful costumes. The carnival at the Algarve coast is closer to the Brazilian carnival than the venetian and you the most colourful festival takes place in Loulé.
Where to stay
When visiting Algarve in Winter, you don’t risk to end up in a touristic stronghold either way. However, bigger cities like Lagos or Albufeira are busier than others. There are more tourists, but also a more on open bars, restaurants, shops and activities.
Personal Tip: I recommend to chose an accommodation that offers some indoor activities: indoor pool, gym, spa, games room… it’s a good remedy against cabin fever on rainy days. If you are traveling on a budget, check if your hotel room is equipped with a kitchen. Often those rooms even come with a washing machine, which is just perfect when you’re traveling with young children.
The Hotel Cerro Mar Atlantico is a perfect match for our needs as a family of 4, travelling with a toddler. Check here if they are free on your travel dates
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