The Algarve is popular all year round. Temperatures don’t drop too low in winter and much of the tourist industry stays open. Retired couples from Northern Europe come for mild winters and to escape the short days and biting winds of home. But note, it can be wet too: the majority of the annual rainfall arrives between November and March. Temperatures start to rise in March and stay high through October. July and August may be too hot for many, with temperatures in excess of 35 degrees common. The beach/swimming season runs from June to mid-September - but out of these periods beaches are unlikely to be manned and swimming pools in some hotels may be closed.
The Alentejo is deeply rural and mostly free of tourists, while its seasons are governed by ancient rituals with festivals to celebrate everything -from the grape harvest in autumn to the slaughtering of pigs in spring. It’s hot and dry in summer, wet and wild in winter. Come in spring for lush savannah and wild flowers or in autumn for the last heat of the year.
Lisbon and its hinterland Estremadura has a year-round tourist season that lags slightly in January and February, then picks up again with the advance of spring. Most hotels have high and low season prices and there are good deals to be had in November and December, so come to do your Christmas shopping. Carnival passes though in February or March, and street parties and fireworks are the order of the day in June (Santos Populares: St Anthony on 13th, St John on 24th and St Peter on 29th). Portugal celebrates its maritime history in August with the festival of the ocean, the motorbike Grand Prix at Estoril takes place in the second week in October and November sees the Festival of Wine when the grape harvest is celebrated with the odd tipple.
The Madeira archipelago, discovered by the Portuguese in 1418, consists of Madeira, Porto Santo and a scattering of uninhabited islands. Mountainous Madeira lies only 723km west of Morocco, so its winters are mild and its summers are warm. The climate is not unlike that of coastal California, but the ocean waters moderate the temperature so that the island never suffers extremes of heat or cold. Winter months are pretty wet, particularly up in the mountains, though there are often spells of fine settled weather too. The clouds disappear almost entirely from May until September, but you get occasional drizzle, even fog, especially in the hills. In general this verdant, almost tropical island is blessed with sunshine: 5-6 hours a day in winter, and 7-8 hours in summer.
NB, please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning.
PORTUGAL: BY AIR
From the UK: carriers include British Airways, easyJet, Flybe, Jet2, TAP, Thomsonfly and Ryanair.
Within Europe: try Air France, Air Nostrum, Air Berlin,Lufthansa, germanwings, easyJet, Iberia, PGA Portugal, TAP.
From the USA: Sata International and Condor.
By train from the UK: London to Lisbon via the Channel Tunnel and riding the French TGV takes over 24 hours. There are 2 main rail routes into Portugal: from Paris via Bordeaux, Biarritz, Irún, San Sebastian and Guarda to Lisbon (change at Guarda for Coimbra & Porto) and from Irún to Madrid crossing into Portugal at Marvão-Beirã and then on to Lisbon. See Seat 61 or Rail Europe.
PORTUGAL: BY CAR
Car hire is recommended, see our car rental recommendations. However, we do not advise taking cars into Lisbon.
PORTUGAL: BY TRAIN
The Portuguese national rail company CP operates all trains in Portugal. Faro, Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto are all connected by high-speed trains.
LISBON: BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
it is not advised to try Lisbon on foot as it is very hilly; we advise an inexpensive travel card which works on the transport network made up of trams, buses and a small metro. Travel cards can be bought from Carris. They have a small number of yellow booths around town where you can get tickets; otherwise try metro stations or tram/rail termini.
LISBON: BY TAXI
Not expensive but do make sure your taxi has a meter. Those that don’t will charge you double.
LISBON: BY FERRY
You may like to take one over the River Tejo to Almada simply to glimpse the extremely impressive suspension bridge.
FARO: ON FOOT
Faro's city centre isn't very big, and most sights are within a 20-minute walk.
MADEIRA: BY CAR
Most people hire cars for the duration of their visit - see our car rental recommendations.