Portugal is known as a very interesting destination in the winter due to its mild and temperate climate that makes all year long, but what to do on colder days?
The answer is simple: If you like snow you must visit Serra da Estrela; If you prefer the milder weather you can head south and choose a destination in Algarve’s interior or take some time to get to know the “Wine Routes” in the Alentejo region.
But, let me suggest what activities and locations you should visit in the winter to get the max of this relaxed season.
Get to know Serra da Estrela
“Serra da Estrela” is part of Portugal’s highest mountain range and during the winter it’s filled with snow, allowing a different view of the usual hot country known in the summer.
In the central massif of Serra da Estrela, during the coldest months of the year, the mountain covers itself with snow allowing the practice of winter sports that many are looking for.
It is not a very large resort, but it allows to delight the little ones. You can rent a snowboard or a pair of skis and get on the slopes to spend some pleasant hours and fun.
But it’s not only snow, many travelers also visit the mountain to see different places and unique villages on its slopes.
Examples of these villages are Almeida, Sortelha or Piodão that fill the view of any tourist with its unique characteristics.
Getting to know the Cities
It is very common during winter to see tourists through the big cities and the explanation is simple; The high temperatures that are felt during the summer are not suitable for city visits, where the intense heat and the inexistent wind take away the comfort that we find by the sea.
In addition, during the winter the tourist density is lower, being possible to take advantage of the existing activities or to visit monuments without troubles.
For these reasons the choice of winter to get to know a city is an excellent solution for well spent days.
In addition to Lisbon and Porto, you can choose cities like Braga or Guimarães to the north or Évora and Setúbal in the south.
Taking the example of Guimarães, the “Cradle of Portugal”, it’s a medieval village and the most important historical villages of the country, recognized by Unesco as a village of “Exceptional Universal Value” for its exemplary preservation, becoming part of the World Heritage List.
In the north you should also visit the city of Braga, being one of the oldest Portuguese cities and one of the oldest Christian cities in the world.
Either of these options will offer you a different and unforgettable experience that you should enjoy to meet in the winter months.
Explore the other Portugal
Portugal is not just beaches and sun, there is many more than that and in the interior, you will find hidden secrets that can’t be seen in the summer, as the excess heat will be your biggest enemy.
In Évora you will find a city full of history that belongs to the network of the Oldest European Cities from Unesco, just like Guimarães.
From the monuments to gastronomy, Évora is a place to meet in the mild and sunny winter.
Setúbal, a city enchanted by the river, embraced by the “Serra da Arrábida” that gives protection from the north winds, making the climate very welcoming.
In Setúbal, you will find the best fish dishes the country has to offer.
The people of the land are proud of this fact and live to give the better than the sea has to offer.
It’s here that you’ll find the famous “Choco Frito” (fried cuttlefish) which is one of the best-known dishes of the city, and I guarantee that you will not regret.
A walk through “Serra da Arrábida” will allow you to have a unique view of the city and the estuary of the “Sado” river.
Getting to know the rural Algarve
Algarve is synonymous of beach, sun and summer, but the interior has much more to offer.
São Brás de Alportel is a small town in the interior of the Algarve.
Enjoy the place to rest away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and retreat to the local inn for a well-deserved vacation.
“Serra de Monchique”, a unique and isolated location far from the city mess.
Enjoy the moment to relax and stroll through the typical village streets and check to stay in “Caldas de Monchique” where you find a spa located in the heart of the mountain.
In “Castro Marim” you will retreat a few centuries in time, the imposing castle surrounded by thick walls make the presentations.
This small village bordering the Guadiana river has other charms, such as the “Forte de São Sebastião” or the “Reserva Natural do Sapal” where you can visit the local salt flats that are part of the simple local economy.
Aljezur, a small village located on the edge of the Algarve region that is part of the “Natural Park of the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina”, founded in the Xth Century and where until today, you will find several archaeological remains left by the Arabs which remained here for five centuries until the Christian conquest.
Visit the Douro river slopes
The Douro region is perfect for winter getaways. Its slopes guarantee the protection from the winds and cold, creating a perfect and pleasant microclimate.
Here you will find breathtaking scenery, unforgettable cruises and unique colors that you can only see during the winter and spring.
In addition to the stunning landscapes, you should enjoy wine tasting, which tastes better in the cooler periods of the year.
If you prefer to take a cruise on the Douro River, there are numerous suggestions that in addition to the tours include lunch or wine tastings.
This is a region not to be missed.
Visit the Portugal interior
The coldest months of the year are the best time to visit the interior of Portugal, thus taking benefit of lower temperatures to be able to take some walks and hikes through places that are very hot in the summer.
Portugal is a country full of history and it is natural that many visitors seek this type of tourism.
To begin, you can put on the map the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal making this unique trip through the interior of Portugal to know these beautiful villages.
Descending a little further south, we find the riverside villages of Alqueva, located in the Alentejo interior.
These villages have become known as riverside villages since the Alqueva dam occupied a significant part of the soils of this region, altering not only the local geography but also the whole tourist panorama of its surroundings.
If you are a wine lover, you can get lost in the Alentejo region and get to know 8 “Denomination of Controlled Origin” areas, Portalegre, Borba, Redondo, Reguengos, Vidigueira, Évora, Granja / Amareleja and Moura.
I could spend many hours giving suggestions of what you can do in winter in Portugal, but I would certainly end up with a huge list of suggestions, and this is an endless topic.
These tips I leave here are examples of visits to different places that you can do in the colder months of the year that will leave you a souvenir of a different and authentic Portugal.