As we approach the longest night of the year the temperature, just like the remaining leaves on the trees, keeps quietly falling. The sun is becoming a rare sight while the wind whistles around the window frames, reminding us not to venture out without our layers of thermal protection. Our thoughts, quite understandably, turn to escape. But where?

Travel to any of the popular European destinations in the early months of the year and you’re unlikely to see large crowds of tourists. Many folks head off to the other side of the world to escape the winter chills. Yet even on the European mainland there are holiday options that offer plenty of activities in weather than is considerably more pleasant than back in the UK.

Cities of Portugal

Portugal is perhaps one of the best winter destinations to consider. At the south-west tip of the European mainland it is sheltered from the harsh cold winds that affect the north of the continent. Daytime temperatures rarely drop into single figures, although the big cities of Lisbon and Porto do see most of their rainfall in the winter months so it is wise to come prepared. City life continues as normal and the main attractions remain open throughout the year. In fact a visit to Lisbon in the winter offers the chance to explore the most popular attractions (such as the Oceanarium) without getting stampeded by the many tour groups and school children that pile in once Easter arrives.

The Coast

If sunshine is important to your break then the southern coast along the Algarve is a better bet. Here you’ll find a pleasant Mediterranean climate, where the winters are quite dry and the sun is never far away. It is the time of the year where you’ll find the lowest prices on accommodation options and with many international visitors coming to the Algarve resorts on long-term visits the towns and villages throughout the region remain open for business.

Portuguese Festivals

While most of Portugal’s many festivals typically kick off with the Semana Santa (Holy Week) parades there are still events that might draw your attention in the early months. A visit to the Obidos International Chocolate Festival is one that stands in the calendar. For a few days each year the streets of this pretty town north of Lisbon are lined with chocolates, cakes and a variety of home-made sweet treats. Reason enough to go, I would say.

For more ideas on winter holidays to Portugal take a look at our site and let us know where you want to visit this winter.

by Andy Jarosz