Thinking of visiting Portugal’s Algarve region in December and wondering what to expect at this time of the year?
What is the weather like in Algarve in December? Is it warm enough for a beach holiday? What to pack and what to wear? Is everything open? Are there Christmas Markets or other seasonal events? How busy is it around Christmas – New Year and which towns have the best fireworks and New Year’s celebrations?…
In this article, you can find answers to all these questions, as well as our experience-based tips for visiting Algarve in December. Find out!
Algarve December Weather
The Algarve region experiences a mild and pleasant climate throughout the year. While December is one of the coldest months, you can still expect very pleasant temperatures.
☀️ Average daytime temperatures in Algarve in December are around 15-19°C (59-62°F). When the sun is shining, December days feel like summer (definitely if you are coming from a colder climate).
The warmest temperatures we personally experienced in Algarve in December were 20-21°C (68-70°F). In the sun, it felt even warmer. However, the moment the sun is gone, temperatures drop immediately.
🌙 Evenings tend to be much cooler, with nighttime temperatures ranging from 8-10°C (46-50°F). If you are staying further from the coast or in the mountains, it can even freeze at night.
The coldest nighttime temperatures we personally experienced on the Algarve coast in December were about 4°C (39°F). But there were also nights when it was 15°C (59°F).
🌧️ You might be wondering if it rains in Algarve in December. Yes, December is one of the wettest months, with an average of 6 days of rain. However, the rain here is usually rather modest. Even if it rains, it hardly ever lasts longer than a few hours, let alone the whole day. You may just as well spend a week or two in Algarve in December and not see any rain at all.
On our recent visit to Algarve in December, the weather forecast was quite mixed showing a chance of rain for several days. However, in reality, it only rained on two occasions over a period of two weeks. Both times, it was a really hard, pouring rain, but it only lasted an hour or two.
Algarve Beach Holiday in December?
If you are looking for a sunny and warm destination to visit in December, then Algarve is an excellent choice. The weather is perfect for sightseeing and long walks on the beach. You can also enjoy sunbathing, although only during the warmest hours of the day.
HOWEVER, Algarve is definitely not the best winter destination for a beach holiday. The weather is usually not warm enough to truly enjoy water activities.
While you often see people swimming in the ocean in December, you have to be really warm-blooded to enjoy the ocean or an outdoor pool at this time of the year. Most people seem to just run in and out of the water and don’t stay too long. Locals that we see surfing in December always wear warm wetsuits.
TIP: If the weather is nice and sunny, you can go kayaking in Algarve. We sometimes see people parasailing at this time of the year as well, but I personally would only do it if the temperatures are at least 18-20°C or if you wear a windbreaker jacket.
Good to know: The majority of outdoor pools in Algarve are not heated. Some hotels have heated indoor pools, but that’s also something you usually only find at the bigger hotels and beach resorts. So if you are planning a winter visit and want to go swimming, be sure to check if your accommodation has any heated pools at all. You can find some recommendations for hotels with heated indoor pools at the bottom of this article, in the ‘where to stay‘ section.
Good to know: All the best water parks in Algarve are closed in December, apart from Aquashow Indoor in Quarteira. It has a very nice indoor water park with several pools, water slides, and multiple SPA experiences, but is also quite pricey (+-35 EUR for 3 hours).
What to Wear
One of the main questions I see people asking all the time is what to wear and what to pack when visiting the Algarve in winter. The best advice I can give you is to dress in layers.
On sunny days, it’s often warm enough for shorts and T-shirts. However, in December, I would never leave the house without a sweater, even if it’s 20°C. The moment the sun hides behind the clouds, it gets much colder.
In the evenings, you need long pants, a sweater, and often also a jacket. I personally also always wear a scarf. What kind of jacket you need depends on what you are used to. Many locals wear heavy coats and winter parkas and some tourists get around without any jacket at all…
We usually pack a light puffer jacket at this time of the year. It’s light, takes little space, and is warm enough even for cold December evenings. If you are flying to the Algarve in the winter, you’ll likely need a jacket and a sweater for your trip anyway.
As for footwear, you may be ok in sandals during the warmest days and you often see tourists walking around in sandals or even flip-flops in Algarve in December. It’s a personal choice, of course, but we always wear closed shoes or sneakers in winter. I once put on my slip-on shoes without socks on a sunny day around Christmas and it was perfectly fine during the day, but by 5 pm my feet got really cold. So definitely no sandals for me in Algarve in December.
READ ALSO: Algarve Travel Tips
The sunrise in Algarve in December is around 7.30 – 7.45 AM and the sunset is usually around 5.15 – 5.25 PM. So you have about 10 hours of daylight.
It gets dark quite early too – it’s pitch dark half an hour after the sunset.
What we like about visiting the Algarve in the winter months is that you can see both – sunrise and sunset from pretty much anywhere on the south coast. This is not the case in the summer when the sun rises much further to the east and sets much further to the west, making it difficult to see the actual sunset from most beaches in the south.
Is Everything Open in the Algarve in December?
The main tourist season in the Algarve is more or less between April and November. So it will come as no surprise that many seasonal and tourist-oriented businesses are closed in December. Also some of our favorite restaurants close for a few months in the winter, but they definitely deserve a break after all the hard work throughout the year.
However, you really don’t have to worry about this. Plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars are open in December. And those that remain open are usually really good – the ones that have plenty of local clients.
In addition, some bars and restaurants that are closed in winter reopen for a few days around Christmas and New Year.
Most beach cafes are closed in December, but some beach restaurants remain open daily throughout the year. We recently spent a few weeks in the Algarve in December and saw quite a few beach restaurants that were open for lunch, and even several that were open for dinner. So it really depends on the specific place.
Is It Busy?
December is the low season in Algarve, so generally speaking, it’s very quiet. By far the busiest time is New Year’s Eve. But it’s only really busy in the biggest towns during festive concerts or fireworks.
However, a lot also depends on the town/attraction and when exactly you visit.
Book ahead! Even though it’s quiet, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan ahead. For example, if you want to take any kind of guided tour, be sure to book in advance. There are fewer departure times in the winter so much less availability. Also often the staff only arrives somewhere at the start of the tour, so you can’t just pop in and expect to find availability.
TIP: We always use GetYourGuide for all our tour bookings, also in Algarve. You can immediately see what’s available and at what time, book the activities you like, and then just arrive a few minutes before the starting time without any stress or guesswork about what will be available or when.
Here is just one example based on our recent experience. We wanted to visit the salt mines in Loulé in December and were wondering if we had to book ahead. Luckily we did because they declined everyone who didn’t have a booking. For most people, it was quite a far drive to get there… So if you already take the time to research tour times and drive somewhere, be sure to reserve your spot before you go!
Good to know: Most restaurants in Algarve are quite busy in the week between Christmas and New Year. So it’s always best to reserve a table before you go, a few hours in advance is usually sufficient. However, if you are looking for a nice restaurant for December 25 or 31, you should book several weeks (often even 2-3 months) ahead. December 24 is even more difficult because most Portuguese spend the evening with their families, so most restaurants are closed and most tourists dine at their hotels.
Best Things to Do in Algarve in December
You can do pretty much everything in the Algarve in December that you would do in any other season, except some water-related activities such as water parks.
December is a wonderful month for sightseeing, exploring the nicest towns in Algarve, hiking, golf, or other outdoor activities in the Algarve. The weather is mild and you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot even at the most popular beaches. And if it’s rainy, there are plenty of nice things to do indoors – see below.
Here are some of our favorite dry-weather activities in Algarve in December:
Exploring the most scenic beaches of Algarve, the cliffs at Ponta da Piedade, and the beaches of Albufeira.
Hiking: Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, Falésia Beach clifftop walk, Monchique area,…
Kayaking at Ponta da Piedade.
Ria Formosa boat trips and looking for flamingos (also around Tavira, Fuseta, or Olhão).
Quad tours, horseback riding, visiting vineyards,…
Here are some of the best cold-weather or rainy-day activities in Algarve:
Salt mines in Loulé.
Lagos food tour (and other attractions in Lagos).
Fado concert in Faro (and other attractions in Faro).
Indoor water parks or pools.
Shopping, cinema, bowling, indoor carting…
READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Algarve
Christmas Markets & Seasonal Events
While you won’t find snow or a traditional Christmas atmosphere in the Algarve, there are quite some seasonal events and celebrations throughout December.
Most bigger towns in Algarve have Christmas Markets or ‘Christmas Villages’ which are like low-key fairs with kids’ rides and activities, a few food stalls, and sometimes also a skating rink (with artificial ice).
Some Christmas Markets and other seasonal events only run on specific dates, others remain open daily through most of December but stop before Christmas. Some Christmas Villages remain open until New Year.
The best way to find out what’s going on during your visit is by checking the websites of local municipalities, but it may not always be easy if you don’t speak Portuguese. Alternatively, ask at your hotel or join some Algarve groups on Facebook where locals often share this kind of information.
TIP: One of the best events not to miss in the Algarve in December is the Medieval Festival in Paderne. It takes place between December 29 and January 1 and it’s a great experience for the whole family.
New Year in Algarve
Algarve is a great destination for New Year’s celebrations and some municipalities dedicate really big budgets to attract visitors.
We were recently in Albufeira at New Year and wow, the city absolutely did an amazing job. They had wonderful – and FREE – concerts at Fishermen’s Beach on December 30 and December 31. The fireworks/ laser/drone show on New Year’s Eve was the best we have seen up to now (and we have been to places like Dubai and Las Vegas for New Year, not even to mention many cities across Europe). It was just fabulous!
Portimao usually also has big New Year’s celebrations and many other towns in Algarve have fireworks as well.
Where to Stay
Depending on your interests and budget, there are many nice places to choose from at this time of the year.
Because it’s low season, accommodation prices are really low, including the holiday season. Even the most luxurious, 5* resorts in Algarve are very affordable in December. So if you want to treat yourself and stay at a really nice hotel, this is your chance!
Some things to keep in mind when looking for a place to stay in December are the location of your hotel, dining options at the hotel or nearby (keep in mind that many seasonal restaurants will be closed), and whether they have a heated indoor pool.
Here are some of the best-rated hotels with heated indoor pools in Algarve:
Albufeira: Alfagar and NAU Sao Rafael Atlantico.
Alvor: Longevity Health & Wellness Hotel (adults-only).
Lagos: Belmar Spa & Beach Resort.
Portimão: Jupiter Algarve Hotel.
Quarteira: Aquashow Park Hotel.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all indoor pools are heated and even those that are, have different temperatures. The hotels in the selection above generally do a good job at this, but even then, remember that everyone has different expectations. If you want tropical temperatures then I’m afraid that you won’t find it at many places.
Advantages of Visiting Algarve in December
There are many advantages of visiting Algarve in December. Here are some of the main ones:
The temperatures are mild and the weather is usually perfect for sightseeing and hiking.
It’s very quiet and you can get to experience the more authentic feel of the Algarve.
Accommodations and car rental are very affordable.
Winter is a great time to see sunrises and sunsets from the south coast. And since the days are shorter you don’t have to get up very early or stay up late.
It’s a good time to see all kinds of birds that come to spend the winter in the region (Ria Formosa Nature Reserve is the place to be).
Oranges! Not only can you see them on the trees and for sale all over the Algarve, but they are also absolutely delicious at this time of the year.
There are all kinds of seasonal events and celebrations throughout the region during the entire month of December. New Year’s concerts and fireworks are excellent (definitely in Albufeira!).
Disadvantages of Visiting Algarve in December
There are also some disadvantages to visiting Algarve in December. Here are some things to consider:
The weather is less predictable and there’s always a chance of some rain.
Seasonal restaurants, shops, and outdoor water parks are closed.
It’s too cold for a traditional beach vacation.
Outdoor pools are freezing cold and swimming in the ocean in December is also not for everyone.
If you want to escape cold and wet winter weather at home and are looking for some sun and mild temperatures, December is a great month to visit the Algarve. If you are lucky, winter weather in Algarve will be even nicer than summertime in the UK or Scandinavia.
While December isn’t the best month for a beach vacation in Algarve, it’s perfect for sightseeing and outdoor activities. You can still enjoy long walks on the most beautiful beaches, go sunbathing during the warmest hours of the day, and – if you dare – even swim in the ocean.
So it all depends on your expectations, flexibility, and willingness to adjust your plans in case you do get some rain.
READ ALSO: Algarve Itinerary (how to plan your first trip)
So, this is our guide to visiting Algarve in southern Portugal in December. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect and what it’s really like at this time of the year.
We visit the Algarve several times a year, in all seasons, and we love it every time. Each month has something special to offer and we always have such a great and relaxing vacation. So if you are still hesitant, I’d say go for it and once you visit Algarve, you will want to return again and again.
TIP: If you have any questions for your upcoming trip, be sure to check out our Algarve travel guides (you can find many links throughout this article and the complete overview on our Portugal travel page).
More travel inspiration for visiting Algarve:
Best Places to Visit in Algarve (must-sees)
Best Towns in Algarve
Where to Stay in Algarve
Algarve Travel Tips
Best Places for Kayaking in Algarve
Best Things to Do in Algarve with Kids
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