November is THE BEST month to travel in Portugal!
Long-time no post! Yup, it has been a while since we were able to create a blog post. Why the hell haven’t we been able to write a mere blog post lately? Simple: High season was off the charts and we just managed to get some office work done now. But don’t despair! This next post will surely be interesting enough to keep you busy for some time… Useful nuggets of information alert!
Today’s post will be dedicated to the best time of the year to visit Portugal: November… November?! Why on earth this month? Simple. Just like Spring, during Fall season daylight is still good, the weather is still reasonably mild (you might get some rain) but the hordes of culture thirsty tourists are long gone. It’s a very “balanced” month and as such, your Portuguese experience will be maximized! This is the time to get the authentic experience you were looking for!
In October, the sheer number of tourists in Portugal drops by close to a million (-11,4% vs September) and in November that number drops by 2 million tourists (-35% vs October) *. That being said, one thing is true, while Fall is still largely under-explored, the seasonality curve in Portugal is getting flattered and flatter as people are starting to enjoy our beautiful country during different times of the year. Take 2014 for instance: During that year 39% of sleeps were concentrated in high season (June-July-August) whereas in 2018 that number was down to 36%. Anyway, the fact remains that the tourist concentration drops massively, but the touristic offering is still off the charts. There are plenty of culturally unique things to do that will make your trip worthwhile.
Enough of boring touristic indicators. What can we do in Portugal during these two months? What are some of the unique things you can do in Portugal during the Fall? Luckily for you, we’ve created a shortlist of activities and tips you should follow during the next month.
1) Awe yourself with the power of the Atlantic Ocean during the storm tide season.
Portugal’s coastline is rich and diverse enough to provide entertainment to watersports enthusiasts of all kinds throughout the year. So, it’s not by mistake that Portugal is known as Europe’s surfing Mecca. Each year, small towns such as Ericeira, Peniche and Nazaré, all welcome people from all over the globe either to learn how to surf or to take on some of the best and most dangerous surf in the World.
In fact, the achievement of surfing the biggest wave in the World was done in Nazaré in November 2011 by renowned Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara (the record was later surpassed by Rodrigo Koxa). If you’re looking to witness big wave surfing in particular, then October and November are probably the best months to get some action. In case you haven’t been able to catch the action on the WCT Surf competition in Peniche in late October, you can always get lucky and witness the power of Nazaré and its world-class monster waves (see the video below). It’s usually a matter of luck, as the spot needs some specific weather conditions to function at its very best. Besides surfing, you can always combine the visit to Nazaré with some of its nearby attractions such as Fátima, Óbidos, Batalha or Alcobaça. Leisure + culture, is there any better way to spend the day?
2) Near Lisbon: Visit the Alentejo region.
During Summer in the Alentejo region, it’s not entirely uncommon to experience temperatures as high as 45c. It’s an unforgiving region whose Summer temperatures can be extremely cruel for most tourists! With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the best tourism you can do in Alentejo actually takes place during Spring and Fall. Get out there, we suggest that you get out of Lisbon and make a short drive South towards Alentejo! There is plenty to see!
From a historical standpoint Évora is probably unrivaled in the region, but there is plenty of other things to see/do in Portugal’s biggest region: wine tourism (try “Monte da Ravasqueira” or “Herdade da Cartuxa”), local crafts (for instance the rugs of Arraiolos, pottery of Nisa), local food (be sure to try dogfish soup or “migas”), among many other interesting activities you can plan. One thing that stands out in November and that you might want to look for, are some of the local festivals dedicated to the traditional Alentejo folk choir called “Cante”. Check out Cante Fest or Cante à Mesa for more information (getting info in English might prove a hard task).
3) Near Lisbon: Visit the Ribatejo region.
Just like Alentejo, the region of Ribatejo, just a few km north of Lisbon, Ribatejo holds some of the best heritage and culture in the country. The countryside atmosphere retains some of its old charm and still thrives on the traditions of the past. The best thing you can do in the region is a combination of a visit to a culturally/historically significant attraction with a more leisure like activity. Some tips below:
- Historical attractions: Santarém historical center, Casa dos Patudos in Alpiarça, Tomar (Templar Village), Mira d’Aire Caves.
- Activities: Wine tour/tasting (Quinta da Lagoalva, Casa Cadaval), Tagus boat tour, Bullfight (it’s offseason but you might be lucky), Golegã horse fair.
There is one particular thing that really stands out in November: The National Horse Fair of the village of Golegã. This quiet little town in the region of Ribatejo, just 1H North of Lisbon, transforms itself into a horse Universe during mid-November during the feast of Saint Martin… You might just be lucky and witness a horse inside a bar! Check the program here.
4) Sintra in the off-season
We already covered some tips for visiting Sintra during the high season. Luckily for you, you can let go of most of those tips in November! While the weather is definitely colder and more humid in November, the queues for the attractions are cut in half, making this month one of the best in the year to visit this charming village. Take your time to visit the magical Pena Palace, understand all of the symbolism of the Regaleira Estate and to immerse in the narrow streets of the city center. You might even feel that spending one more day there is not such a bad idea, so perhaps you can even spend an extra day and visit other places such as the Capuchos Convent or the exquisite Monserrate Estate!
5) Food in November
Legend holds that Saint Margin had once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the latter from the cold. That night, he dreamt of Jesus, wearing the half-cloak and saying to the angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is now baptized; he has clothed me.” What does this have to do with food you might ask?! Well, from then on, the feast of Saint Martin has been widely celebrated in Europe, and like many other feasts, food is central in the celebrations!
During the month of November in Portugal, and especially during St. Martin festivities (November 11th) throughout the country, chestnut is a crucial ingredient. In the past, it was an important food source and while its importance is reduced nowadays, it’s still widely available on the streets (roasted) and as an ingredient in some traditional cuisine. Be sure to check some of these food fests:
- “Festival nacional de gastronomia” in Santarém – Traditional Portuguese food
- “Mostra gastronómica – feira do tapete” in Arraiolos – Pies and other regional cuisine
- “Semana Gastronómica da caça” in Reguengos de Monsaraz – Meat from hunting game
- “Festa da castanha – Folgosinho” in Folgosinho – Chestnuts with traditional Portuguese cuisine
- “Festival de sopas da Serra da Estrela” in S.Paio (Guarda) – Soups and other Traditional dishes
- “Festa da Castanha e paladares de Outono” in Trancoso – Chestnuts with traditional cuisine
- “Festival gastronómico da cachola e da morcela” in Alcanena – Pork and sausage cuisine
- “Festival gastronómico do Bacalhau” in Figueira da Foz – Codfish cuisine.
*Number of sleeps – Source: INE statistics
Authentic Experiences for Authentic Travelers