Portugal is a small country, with a
large range of weather conditions. The country can be climatically split up
into 3 main regions: the north, the south and the islands. However, all coastal
regions see a variation of the Mediterranean climate type.
On the whole the north has cooler temperatures than the south and sees
significantly more rainfall. As you head east toward the Spanish border,
winters become longer and summers hotter as the land as affected by the
moderating Atlantic winds.
The climate along the 700km coast line is predominantly influenced by the
currents and winds of the Atlantic Ocean,
especially so in the northwest of the country where a mild, rainy climate is
observed. As a rule, as you head south you will find temperatures and hours of sunshine
tend to increase while precipitation declines. As in any coastal destination,
the summer highs are tempered by the cooling sea breeze and the winters warmed
by the ocean waters.
Northern Portugal is mountainous
with central mountains and plateaus that rise over 6,000 ft in some places have
a great affect on Portugal’s climate, as well as receiving varying climates
themselves; the higher you are the cooler the temperature and the higher the
rainfall. They create a barrier to the Atlantic winds, trapping cool air and
rain on north side of the mountains. While temperatures near the coast are hot
in the summer and mild in the winter, and rainfall follows the dry summer, wet
winter pattern of a typical Mediterranean climate, coastal west Portugal sees
much higher rainfall than true Mediterranean areas at all times of year. The
high rainfall encourages greenery in abundance.
Starting in the very northeast
of Portugal you will find
yourself in the Cantabrian Mountains, a mountain chain that stretches east - west. In this region you
will find Bragança
which is a small city 22km from the Spanish border at an elevation of 700m. The
climate here is primarily influenced by its altitude and its 200km from the coast.
The city and the surrounding region experiences long severe winters and
shorter, hot summers. Due to its altitude, snow in the area is a regular
occurrence. It often settles for a few days. January sees highs of 6ºC while
the peak of summer sees temperatures of around 28ºC. The record high in the
city was measured when the mercury topped a sweltering 40°C, which shows the temperature
extremes that occur when a city is not moderated by coastal influences.
Winters can often be so severe that the barometer dips to low of -15ºC. Total
annual rainfall in the area averages 743 mm, and the area sees, on average of
123 rainy days per year and 20 days of snow. Although normally the area is
relatively wet, the year of 2005 did see Portugal suffer a particularly dry
year and Bragança
suffered water shortages and devastating forest fires in the rural areas.
As you head further south, remaining inland, you will hit the Serra da Estrela
which is the highest mountain range in Portugal. Its highest peak has an
altitude of 1,993 m and is home to the Vodafone Ski Resort. Snow is frequent
and heavy here in the throughout winter.
Moving westward toward the Atlantic coast you will find Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. Porto’s
temperature follows a typical Mediterranean trends with an extended, hot summer
and a mild winter. Rainfall is low at the peak of summer but quite high at
June to September sees average highs in the 20s with July and August being the
warmest months reaching average highs of 25°C. Porto
can experience occasional heat waves which see temperatures as high at 40°C;
these heat waves generally last 5 to 10 days and humidity is fairly low
Winter in Porto sees temperatures typically
range between 5°C during morning and 16°C during the afternoon, though it is
not entirely uncommon for the thermometer to hover just below freezing come
night time. On average, the winter months from December to February see average
maximums of 13°C to 14°C and an average minimum of 5°C.
The climate of Portugal heats
up and dries out as you head further south. This is due partially to increasing
proximity to the equator, but more significantly to the affect of the central
mountains on northerly winds and to the influences of Africa and the Mediterranean. Higher temperatures are encouraged by
weather systems coming over from the Mediterranean and up from Africa; the latter also brings aridity. With northerly
winds trapped in the north, the south stays drier and temperatures are left
Once you hit Lisbon, the
country’s capital, you see a fairly typical Mediterranean climate. Lisbon’s climate is mild,
temperate and warm, consisting of sunny spring and summer months in which
temperatures frequently reach over 30°C. Winters on the other hand are wet and
windy with average temperatures of around 10ºC; the winter season is shorter
than the summer season.
Temperatures begin to drop around autumn, but even throughout the cooler months
of October to April, vibrant sunshine is almost a constant feature. However, as
a result of its proximity to the sea, the presence of mist and drizzly rain can
sometimes make Lisbon
feel cooler than its inland neighbours. It is rare for temperatures to fall
below freezing and even December and January only see average minimums of 8°C
Southern-most Portugal is
the country’s most prized tourist destination: the Algarve. The Algarve is
the sunniest, driest, and warmest part of the country. While this region is
undoubtedly the hottest in the country, it doesn’t reach the uncomfortable
sweltering highs that some parts of south-eastern Spain
reach, such as Seville,
due to the cooling Atlantic winds. The region receives minimal rain, averaging
500mm annually falling on 50 days of the year.
Here you will find the popular destinations of Lagos, Praia da
Luz , Sagres
and Faro -
capital. There are many smaller towns which lie close to the Algarve’s famed
beaches and are ideal for a less crowded summer getaway.
Sagres is the most southernmost point of both Portugal
and Europe. It lies inside the Southwest
Alentejo and Costa
Park and is known to
enjoy its very own microclimate. In Sagres there is very little
vegetation, the ground is mainly rock with barely any soil. However, if you
head north from the town, vegetation becomes more interesting and you will find
varieties of wild orchids. Sagres’s microclimate means it sees on average 300
sunny days per year and very mild winters.
As you head immediately north of the cape you will find areas that are
more exposed to the winds and high tides of the Atlantic which plays host to
quite dangerous offshore currents.
Heading further east you will
reach the vibrant coastal town of Lagos, which
like most of southern Portugal
is a popular year round destination. Winter months see the average lows ranging
from 9°C to 11°C, with a low rainfall for a Mediterranean climate. The spring
and autumn months see temperatures in the mid teens. The months either side of
summer (May, September and October) see conditions that resemble summer
conditions in the UK.
Another attraction of the shoulder seasons is that beaches and accommodation
won’t be as busy and the whole experience will be more tranquil.
Summer in Lagos
and neighbouring areas can be very hot. It is not uncommon for temperatures to
reach in excess of 35°C, but generally they hover around the high 20s and low
30s. Days are somewhat cooled by sea breezes. If you are lucky, the wind will
wash over the town and make sitting on the terraces and beaches more
comfortable. If you can handle the crowds and love the heat than the peak
season months from June to August will be your ideal time to visit.
Azores and Madeira Islands
The Madeira Islands
Madeira is an
archipelago that is located in the Atlantic Ocean 860 km off the coast of
The islands are much closer to Africa than to Europe.
Madeira has a mild climate with a small
temperature range. Because of the mountain range in the centre of the island,
the north side of the island sees a slightly different climate to the south
side. The mountain acts as a rain shield, stopping a lot of rain from drifting
to the south from the north. As a result, the southern part of the island sees
less precipitation than the north and on the mountains. The south side sees
most of its rainfall in the winter months, whereas the north witnesses
precipitation throughout the year.
The average high temperature throughout the summer months, June to September,
sits around 19°C to 23°C. For the remainder of the year the temperature sits at
about 15°C to 18°C, with October to February being the coldest and wettest
months. The sufficient rainfall on the island has led to a verdant landscape
and Madeira has been labelled the ‘floating
are a Portuguese archipelago located about 1,500 km from Portugal’s capital of Lisbon. Azores
witnesses a temperate, maritime climate which is characterized by agreeable
temperatures with a small range. Due to its location in the North
Atlantic the archipelago is in constant contact with the high
pressure areas, polar and tropical air masses.
The average annual temperature sits at about 17ºC and varies between 13º and
14º C during the colder months of January and February and 22ºC - 23ºC during
the summer months. Obviously as the region is an island and surrounded by water
a high level of humidity (77% average/yr.) is therefore observed. Rainfall is
well distributed throughout the year though the winter months see slightly more
than the summer.
The ocean temperature gets down to 15ºC in winter and up to 23ºC in summer.
The area is affected by the Gulf Stream, which is a Northern
Atlantic current that brings warmer waters up into the region,
this consequently warms the surrounding waters. The Gulf Stream affects all of Portugal.
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