A weather map of endless sunshine sums up the situation across the whole of Portugal in summer, certainly between June and September, when usually the only daytime variation across the country is a degree or two further up or down the scale from 30°C. In July and especially August (the Portuguese holiday month), the coastal resorts are at their busiest and prices reach their peak, worth bearing in mind when thinking about the best time to visit. It’s also too hot to do much exploring – if you want to do any serious hiking, or even just walk around the cities, towns and archeological sites, you’re better off coming in May or October. Most of the rain falls in winter, from November to March, though you can just as easily experience bone-dry winter months and downpours in May and June. The crisp, sharp sunshine makes winter an appealing time to visit central Portugal, while in the south, especially on the coast, it is mild all year round. In the north, on the other hand, it’s pretty cold, especially inland where snow is common along the mountainous border areas.

Perhaps the best time to visit Portugal is spring (ie, from February) – when dazzling flowers carpet hillsides and the almond blossom lights up the countryside – or early autumn (October), when the weather is warm but not too hot and the summer crowds have thinned out. The sea, too, is warm in autumn, though the official swimming season only lasts from the beginning of June to mid-September; outside these months – no matter how lovely the weather – outdoor pools and river beach facilities close.

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