Weather in Portugal – Winter and Spring

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It’s been a while since I talked about the weather in Portugal, so today I’m going to talk about winter and spring here in the Algarve.

Winter and spring tend to merge together somewhat in Portugal, and these seasons have become rather unpredictable in recent years.

The winter of 2009 was so wet that our entire house went moldy – a fact that long-term readers of our blog will know plenty about, as will those who have read our book (details below).

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

The last couple of winters have been dry and fairly warm. In fact, during Christmas 2010, the weather in Portugal was such that I sunburned my nose on Boxing Day! But clear, warm days make for sharp, cold nights.

Sometimes to weather in Portugal is like this
Sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this

Last year, the time between November and February was so dry that people started to mention the word “drought.” Then April, a month that often sees us beginning to visit the beach regularly, brought weeks of wind and rain.

I’m not going to go all technical and start talking about climate change. These observations are aimed at those who are considering a move to Portugal. Sometimes, those who haven’t lived here through a few winters are blinded by marketing literature that boasts of “over 300 days of annual sunshine.” And while this information is perfectly true, it doesn’t give the full picture. Not at all.

There are some key points to consider here. Firstly, many properties are poorly insulated and built so they stay cool in summer, rather than warm in winter. Secondly, central heating is absent in all but the most luxurious of properties, and anyone who tells you that reverse cycle air-conditioning is a realistic substitute is talking nonsense.

So, when you look online at the winter weather in Faro from a centrally heated property in a “colder” country and see lots of days that say “16C, Sunny,” you can put the envy on hold. While, admittedly, we are feeling the occasional bit of sun on our faces, we are, in fact, spending most of the time running up extortionate electricity bills trying to stay warm indoors.

But sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this
But sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this

Even tourists get a false impression of the weather here at this time of year, with many enjoying drinks and snacks outside during the warmest part of the day on pleasant suntrap terraces. If you live here and have to work, you don’t often get the chance to do this.

Now, all of this probably sounds like a big moan, and I guess, to a point, it is – because no one back in the UK ever seems to believe that people who live in the Algarve find themselves willing on the start of summer just as much as they did before they moved. The point of this post is to provide a strong warning that winter can be just as cold, crappy and disheartening in Portugal as it is anywhere else.

On the bright side however, it is sunny rather a lot, and once summer arrives, you can guarantee it will stay put. I would never want to return to those UK years where you get to September and have to accept that you’re simply not getting a summer this year. You can avoid that by moving to the Algarve, but you can’t avoid feeling cold in the winter. Unless, perhaps, you move to Madeira…

PS. The above details our experiences of weather in the Algarve. Far more varied and extreme weather can be found elsewhere in the country – just pointing that out before anyone else feels compelled to!

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  1. We’ve got central heating in our house in central Portugal – it was a condition of me moving in with my now husband! We got a pellet stove and it makes a real difference. Unfortunately, the distribution of the radiators wasn’t worked out properly so we still have hot and cold rooms and I often find myself sitting at my desk wearing a hat and gloves, even when it’s sunny outside.

  2. Hi Julie,
    It’s good to hear that at least someone is warm, even if it is only in certain parts of the house! Sadly as we rent our property we don’t have the option to install a pellet stove, so we will just have to sit by our plug-in radiators, watching the electricity meter work overtime…
    Best wishes 🙂

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