Top 5 Algarve’s spring attractions
Spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit the Algarve; the flora comes into bloom, the temperatures are mild and the hustle and bustle of peak summer season is yet a distant notion.
The region may be more peaceful in terms of crowds and cars, but that’s not to say there’s any less to do. Besides admiring the landscapes and enjoying the warmer weather - think long beach strolls and countryside hikes - the Algarve has plenty to offer in terms of entertainment.
I’ve rounded some of the top reasons to visit the Algarve in spring:
1. Orange & Almond blossom
The Algarve is famed for its stunning almond trees, which blossom their delicate white or purply-pink flowers in spring. Recent years have seen the otherwise gnarly trees transform into beautiful clouds from as early as January. Legend has it the region’s almond trees were brought from the north by a young Moorish prince, whose Nordic Princess wife pined for her snowy homeland.
The Algarve is usually the first part of Portugal to welcome Mother Nature’s spring transformations, exploding into a palette of color and fragrant scents that stimulate all of the senses. One of the region’s most distinctive spring scents is the wonderful smell of orange blossom, which lingers in the air. Visit Silves, orange capital of Portugal, to see and smell the citrus groves in their full glory.
Preceding the official arrival of spring and later Easter, Portugal explodes into dance and color with its famous Carnival festivities, typically made mid-to-late-February or early March. This year Carnival, a beloved nationwide celebration, falls towards the end of February. Festivities reach a climax on Carnival Tuesday (Mardi-Gras / Fat Tuesday) which this year falls on the 16th of February 2021, though masquerade balls and parades that normally take place from as early as the weekend before, this year have been cancelled due to COVID.
On Carnival Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, towns, no matter how small or large, close off their main streets for local parades, which typically a procession of colorful floats and scantily-clad dancers (come rain or shine!). One of the Algarve's largest, oldest and most popular carnival parades takes place in Loulé, where colorful floats, usually portraying politically-satirical messages, trail a storm of confetti and streamers through the city main streets, as samba dancers bring a touch of Brazilian heat to the tail-end of the Portuguese winter.
3. Jazz in the Wineries
As part of the Algarve regional tourism board’s 365 Algarve low-season entertainment program, jazz sessions have been organized in some of the finest wineries in and around the counties of Silves and Lagoa, under the designation “Jazz in the Wineries”. These popular wine-tasting sessions, paired with the region’s top jazz ensembles take place at least once or twice a month between October and May, offering the opportunity to sample the Algarve’s best wines, tasty tapas, while foot-tapping to catchy tunes
4. Cheaper hotels, flights and mild weather
It goes without saying the off-season the Algarve’s hotels offer excellent rates that are typically significantly cheaper than in peak season (roughly July-September). The same can be said for flights. Out of season, the Algarve is not only cheaper to visit, but also quieter and more relaxed than in the full frenzied swing of summer.
With over 300 days of sunshine per year, spring in the Algarve is usually dry (with the exception of April, which can be famously rainy, as per the Portuguese proverb 'Abril - Águas Mil', or April, a thousand waters) and warm. Average temperatures range from daytime highs of 20-25 degrees Celsius, although overnight lows can still feel quite cool.
The entire region is green and fresh, with blue skies and pleasant, mild temperatures that are perfect for activities such as hiking and cycling. Pack t-shirts and light sweatshirts for the day, and a light jacket or cardigans for nighttimes. And if you find a little sun-trap you’ll need the sun-cream too!!!
Spring is one of the best times of the year for birding in the Algarve. Despite boasting a wealth of bird species year-round, spring is when most of the migrating birds pass through, bringing exotic and unusual species to the region.
In spring season, the majority of migrations occur in March and April, with the Algarve’s blooming flowers and warm climate creating an attractive stopping point for species wanting to show off their finest plumage. The region’s colorful flowers and verdant vegetation makes an incredible backdrop for photographs, especially when coupled with its famously nitid spring light.
The trans-Sahara migrant European bee-eater is among the most emblematic bird species that visit southern Portugal in spring, arriving during the latter half of March to occupy their nests. Storks are also a common sight in the Algarve in spring, despite being found there pretty much year-round nowadays. When winds are favorable, Black-eared Wheatear can be found widely along the Algarve coast in April and early May, while Subalpine Warblers can be spotted further inland, in the rolling rural countryside. More elusive is the Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) which breeds in the Algarve; the first Great Spotted Cuckoos arrive in early February, occasionally even in late January, while the Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) returns to the region in March. These are just a few of the many wonderful birds that can be spotted in the Algarve in spring.
Top spots for bird-watching include the Salgados Lagoon in Pêra, the Ria Formosa protected wetlands, and the blustery Sagres cliffs.