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Late February itinerary for Portugal (7 days) - no car - should we skip the south of Portugal?

I would love peoples' thoughts as to whether it makes sense to concentrate on Lisbon and Porto in late February and skip the Lagos and other southern areas given the time of year. I've never been to Portugal and we're flying into Lisbon on a Saturday and back out from Lisbon the following Sunday. Should we stick with, say Lisbon for the first 3 nights, then 1-2 nights in Porto and back to Lisbon for 2-3 nights? We can do a day trip to Cintra and other places, I'd think. I want to keep it fairly simple, but have read the south is a can't-miss (most months, anyway). Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted by
5011 posts

Yes, skip the south. You have so little time as it is so concentrate on Lisbon and Porto. Excellent day trips are Sintra, Evora and Coimbra. I have never heard the Algarve called a "must see."

Posted by
3496 posts

The Algarve is not a “must see”, particularly in February when some places will be closed for the winter. You need 2 weeks to make it worthwhile to visit the Algarve plus Lisbon and Porto unless you want to spend more time in transit than actually visiting places.

Sintra, Cascais or Evora are all better uses of your time than the Algarve.

Posted by
35 posts

Rick Steve's lists Lisbon and the Algarve areas as must-see but I don't think he was talking about in February...

Posted by
35 posts

I figured 2 nights in Porto mid-week, otherwise stay in Lisbon either in the same hotel (so we can leave some things in a storage area during our Porto trip) or split it and stay in one hotel for 3 nights, then 2 nights Porto and a different hotel/area for 3 nights. Open to ideas! - Thanks so much for your replies, that simplifies things quite a bit.

Posted by
314 posts

I would skip the south. If you are looking for a coastal experience, there are lots of options between Lisbon and Porto - such as Nazare (which Rick recommends) and Sao Martinho do Porto (which he doesn't) Either make a really good base for day trips to Obidos, Alcobaca etc

Posted by
4378 posts

Jean,
Since you’re flying R/T to Lisbon, I’d suggest you consider spending a few nights in Sintra upon your arrival, and leaving Lisbon till the end of the trip.

You may get some ideas from our trip report here: Our trip in progress...Sintra

Wishing you a wonderful trip!

Posted by
10938 posts

Jeanmarie,

First, since you're in NYC, keep an eye on this board for our next live Travel Group meeting, in November. We meet on a Sunday at Panera Bread on 5th Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/travel-meetings

Second, when you say you've read the Algarve is a "can't miss":

1) Not all of us agree with Rick's suggestions or priorities. In particular, the Algarve gets a lot less love on this website than it does from some other sources.
2) Even people who like the Algarve at certain times of the year don't like it in February.
3) With only 7 days, you will have to be brutally selective. You just don't have time to see northern, central, and southern Portugal. So, pick one or at most two of the three.

It sounds like you've already booked your airfare. If not, look into flying into Porto and out of Lisbon, or vice versa. Particularly on a short trip, this saves precious time. To find these fares, use the "multi city" or "multiple destinations" option on airline websites, Google Flights, Kayak, etc. Two one-way flights are usually much more expensive than a multi-city flight all on one ticket.

Posted by
27 posts

I am curious for more specifics on why people are so down on Algarve in February. I'm curious because like Jeanmarine we are planning a February trip to Portugal. My understand is that the average temperature in Lagos is about 5 degrees warmer in the south as compared to Porto. We're intrigued by the interesting rock formations along the beaches and to see the most southeastern point in Europe that was once considered the end of the world. Are we missing something?

Posted by
35 posts

OP here. I sense the reason for the "skip the Algarve" advice is that so much is closed in the off season, that there's less to see and do. we aren't going there, based on the advice on this thread. I think there's so much do around Lisbon and Sintra, and Porto, that the 6 hours round trip to/from the Algarve is more than we need sans car. I already decided we'll do 3 hours each way to Porto and back to Lisbon, because the flights into Porto and out of Lisbon cost more, on airlines I like less, at strange times, versus using Lisbon as a home base.

Posted by
3496 posts

The Algarve is my default summer beach location. I have been a couple of times in March, which tends to be milder and drier than February. Obviously being further south than Porto, it will be warmer - 16 vs 14 degrees average daytime temperatures.

There is more to see in Lisbon and Porto if the weather is inclement than in the Algarve, which is all about the outdoors. It rains on average 14 days a month in February, some of which can be torrential if March rains are anything to go by.

The best beaches to see the cliff formations are not in Lagos but north of Vila do Bispo, around Carrapateira and Bordeira. Zambujeira do Mar, closer to Lisbon is another great place for rock formations, but I haven’t been at that time of year and being a smaller place, it maybe closed up for the winter.

Sagres and the Cabo de Sao Vicente are ok to tick the box to say you have been there, but there are many, many places in Portugal that are more interesting and less bleak.