Portugal's temperate, mild climate makes it a favoured holiday destination. The Algarve gets the most of the sunshine throughout the year, where high temperatures in peak summer months are cooled a little by Atlantic breezes. Not so the central south Alentejo region which broils in summer.
During July and August its hot everywhere in Portugal (the Portuguese tend to holiday in August, so book early if you coming then!). Temperatures rarely fall below zero around Lisbon, so pleasant all year round city breaks are on the menu here. There are rainy seasons in Portugal, particularly to the north so be prepared. The island of Madeira has a mini micro climate all its own and the Azores is favoured in the high season summer months when high winds and rain are less frequent.
The Algarve's glorious hot and dry summers, with mild winters has been pulling in UK holidaymakers since the late 1950s when the area first began opening up. By the 1970s Algarve resorts like Praia da Rocha, Albufeira and Quarteira were well known to UK holidaymakers. The Leeward Central and Eastern Algarve Coasts are a little less exposed than the Windward West Algarve Coast. The Windward West Algarve gets more of the wind, so windsurfing, surfing and kitesurfing tends to be more popular on the West Algarve, particularly the far west around Sagres and Lagos. Central and Eastern Algarve pulls in Algarve family holidays looking for sheltered long sandy beaches around Vilamoura and Albufeira.
In the peak summer months of July and August, Algarve temperatures can reach into the late 30 degrees centigrade, with warm seawater temperatures in the early 20s. With long sunshine hours, and a choice of some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, you've a recipe here for the perfect beach holiday.
The Algarve, the most southerly region of Portugal, has the best of Portugal's climate. Cooling sea breezes make peak summer season here not too oppressive, although temperatures can climb up to 37 degrees centigrade in August. Average daily minimum temperatures on the Algarve can range from 8 to 10 degrees centigrade. Many suggest that the best time to visit the Algarve is between May and June when temperatures are up around 24 to 30 degrees centigrade - not oppressively hot, although that's hot enough. Expect very hot temperatures in July and August on the Algarve when they tend to push into the mid 30 degrees centigrade.
Don't assume that the Algarve has day in day out sunshine out of peak season - it doesn't, it does get the rain too, mostly from November to April. Not much rain though, on average per year only around 50 days and a total of 500mm. Summers are hot and dry, whilst winters are mild. Cooling sea breezes ease the heat in peak summer, and sunshine hours are long. Sea water temperatures range from around 14 degrees centigrade in January to around 22 degrees centigrade in peak August. Good news for surfing and watersports fanatics then! The eastern more sheltered Algarve coast around the Faro, Tavira and Montegordo beaches have the best of warm sea water temperatures, and superb sheltered calm waters perfect for family holidays on the Algarve.
Lisbon is a hot and sunny all year round destination, with short, mild winters and long hot summers. Its coastal location means that sea breezes have a cooling effect in peak summer months. Watch the evenings in Lisbon all year round, as it gets cooler come evening time. Mean maximum temperatures can reach 28 or 28 degrees centigrade in peak July and lows of 8 degrees centigrade in January.
Sunshine hours are long so keep the suncream flowing! At its peak in July you can expect 11 long hours of sunshine, shrinking to around 5 in January. From May to October sunshine and high temperatures are relatively constant, with the rainy season falling between December and March.
Temperatures in Lisbon rarely fall below zero, and these mild all year round temperatures make moving around the city's museums, shops, cafes and bars pure pleasure. Occasionally mists come in off the River Tejo cooling the temperatures a little.
Madeira has a subtropical climate with an average annual temperature of 22 degrees centigrade - mild indeed, and milder than the Portuguese mainland average temperature. Temperatures rarely fall below 16 degrees centigrade on Madeira. Madeira benefits from both the warming effects of the Gulf Stream which keeps sea temperatures high and from its far south location.
Like the Canary Islands, particularly La Palma and La Gomera, Madeira has a microclimate influenced by its mountainous terrain. You could be simultaneously basking in sunshine in low-lying Funchal, whilst the interior peaks are shrouded in cloud and mist. Rainfall in Madeira is generally experienced to the north (around 4 times higher annually than Funchal). You can expect rain though on Madeira particularly from October to May.
The Azores benefits from a temperate maritime climate with some fluctuations in weather patterns. July and August are the warmest months with pretty much sunshine all the way, but it's not necessarily guaranteed as the Azores experiences what's called Mares de Agosto or August tides. Infrequent warm front storms do blow in bringing high winds and high waves. It usually blows over fairly quickly though and you could have sunshine and rain all in one day. The high winds that do hit the Azores can cause delays on Azores flights and ferries, so be prepared for that.
The rainy period falls in April and May, with January and February the coldest months.
The climate in the north and central areas of Portugal are a mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic climates. Being the most westerly country in Europe it receives more rain than you'd expect when you're sitting sweltering in the summer heat.
Between June and September central and north Portugal are very much like everywhere else - sunny and hot, consistently around the 30 degrees centigrade mark. In northern Portugal, the Upper Douro gets ridiculously hot where it can exceed 45 degrees centigrade in July and August. Sunscreen is an absolute must otherwise you'll be spending your holiday sore and blistered.
November through to March is when Portugal gets most of its rain. The central and northwest areas of the country, particularly near the coast, tend to be mild and there is a chance of rain in north Portugal throughout the year.
In both the centre of Portugal and the north are several mountain ranges. Obviously the higher you go the cooler it gets, even on summer's days, so you need to be prepared with a range of clothing in case of chill, rain or fog that can come in quite unexpectedly. In January and February there is a good covering of snow on the inland mountainous areas, particularly Serra da Estrela where they're able to support a small ski resort at Torre.
Late Spring is a good time to visit Portugal, particularly if you want to see the beautiful array of flowers in bloom; although February to March is when the almond blossom decorates the landscape.
Early Autumn is also a good time when it's still warm but it's not too hot which means the holiday hordes will have dissipated a little.
On the coast the official swimming season is June to mid-September. Outside of that beaches may not be patrolled with lifeguards. You need to take care when swimming in the sea as the west Atlantic Ocean has some strong undertows