You may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but if you’d prefer Santa to bring you blue skies and sunshine then flights to the Algarve should be top of your Christmas list.
As winter unfurls its milder embrace, the Algarve emerges as one of Europe’s sunniest getaways, offering a warm retreat from the cold and gloom of Northern Europe. With tranquil beaches, inviting hiking trails, and budget-friendly accommodations, there’s a plethora of reasons to explore the Algarve in the winter season.
In this article, we’ll unveil the enchanting winter charms of the Algarve, inviting you to discover its hidden treasures and serene beauty.
Reasons to visit the Algarve in December
- Escape the grey! Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is no laughing matter. It’s caused by a lack of sunshine, so a short break in the Algarve will sort you right out.
- If you’ve always wanted to have Christmas on the beach but don’t fancy a long-haul flight, this is the best chance you’ll get within Europe.
- The beaches are peaceful and quiet, but you’ll have them all to yourself. Temperatures still soar up to 18°C so, even though it’s not really warm enough for swimming (although some people still brave it), it’s still great for topping up your tan.
- If you live in Northern Europe, it’s a great way to escape the Christmas chaos. While there is an air of festivity, it’s not quite as commercialised. The supermarkets are busy, but not crowded: more like an average Saturday afternoon back home.
- You can get a really good deals on luxury hotels during December. Hotel prices are often half what they are during July and August, so a good opportunity to treat yourself.
- It gives you a chance to see a different side of the Algarve. During summer its busy and vibrant, but during December it’s sleepy and calm. It also gives you a chance to munch on seasonal treats like bolo rei, bolo rainha, and the ubiquitous roast chestnuts.
What to Pack
- Comfortable shoes: The Algarve is a region meant for exploration on foot, with picturesque towns and villages to discover. Pack comfortable and sturdy shoes suitable for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
- Light jackets or sweaters: Although the Algarve generally experiences mild temperatures in December, evenings and overcast days can be cooler. Packing a light jacket or sweater allows you to layer for added warmth. Of course, if you’re visiting during Christmas time, you should pack a fun Christmas sweater too!
- Light layers: The weather in December can be changeable, with alternating sunshine and clouds throughout the day. To stay comfortable in varying conditions, bring along lightweight layers that you can easily add or remove as needed.
- Waterproof clothing: December marks the onset of the wet season in the Algarve, so it’s wise to have waterproof gear on hand. Include items such as a raincoat, umbrella, or rain boots in your packing list to stay dry in case of rainy or inclement weather.
- Sunscreen: Despite it being the off-season, the sun can still be potent during the day in the Algarve. Ensure you pack sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- Hot water bottle & pyjamas: Although the weather is warm outside, properties in Portugal can be quite cold inside, particularly in the evening. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, assume that you might need an extra layer inside and maybe even a hot water bottle for the night.
Christmas in the Algarve
Christmas in the Algarve is a unique experience for anyone visiting from Northern Europe whether it’s the lack of commercialism, being able to take a walk along the beach on Christmas day, or even have Christmas dinner outside.
If you’re planning on self-catering, you could try and put together a traditional Portuguese Christmas dinner of something bacalhau or octopus, along with other Portuguese dishes, desserts, and cakes. For those coming from the UK, Ireland, or the Netherlands, there are several expat supermarkets such as Iceland Overseas where you can stock up on goodies from home.
If you plan to say in a hotel, it’s best to stay along one of the major coastal resorts like Albufeira, Carvoreiro, or Praia Da Rocha where some restaurants will be open on Christmas Day.
Gift shopping in Portugal can be hard, be warned. Most people end up doing a lot of their shopping in the big supermarkets (e.g. Jumbo or Continente) and inevitably end up giving each other Port or some other type of alcohol.
There are shopping malls which have clothing shops like Pull & Bear and C&A. The biggest is Mar Shopping Algarve, and there’s also Algarve Shopping near Albufeira, Forum Algarve near Faro, and Aqua in Portimão. It’s also worth heading to a Christmas market, as the locally-made products that are for sale there can make great gifts.
What’s on in the Algarve in December?
The Algarve is fairly peaceful this month, but each town has small-scale Christmas events. We’ve put together a brief guide to what you can expect from them.
They’re not as big or elaborate as the Christmas markets you find in Germany, but the Algarve’s Christmas markets are still well worth keeping an eye out for. There’s usually food and drink, including glühwein, and the stalls are great for picking up Christmas gifts as well.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
There’s a big display in Albufeira with a live band, with other celebrations taking place in Armação de Pêra, Faro, Quarteira, Portimão, and right across the Algarve (more about NYE in the Algarve). Alternatively, if you want an even bigger party, you could head up to Lisbon or Porto.
Weather in the Algarve in December
During December in the Algarve, you can anticipate daytime temperatures reaching highs of around 18°C (64°F) with nighttime lows of approximately 9°C (48°F). The average daytime temperature hovers at about 13-14°C (55-57°F). While December stands as the wettest month in the Algarve, it remains considerably drier than northern European regions.
December days are characterised by bright, sunny weather and relatively warm temperatures, though the nights may bring a touch of chilliness. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or somewhere without central heating, be aware that the property can get quite cold during this time of year.
Have you visited the Algarve in December? Did you come for Christmas or NYE? Share your thoughts, recommendations, and reviews by leaving a comment below.