Despite Portugal being a small country it boasts a large variety of different weather conditions. The country is typically split into two different regions, the north, and South. The climate along the coastline is predominantly influenced by the currents and winds of the Atlantic Ocean. As a rule if you head South you find that the temperature tends to increase, the amount of sunshine goes up, and the amount of rain goes down.
Northern Portugal is mountainous with central mountains and plateaus that rise over 6,000 feet above sea level. The higher up you are the cooler the temperature becomes and the higher the amount of rainfall will be.
Temperatures near the coast are hot in the summer and mild in the winter, rainfall follows the summer. The interior regions have a typical Mediterranean climate whereas the coast has much higher rainfall all year round creating an abundance of greenery.
Starting in the very northeast of Portugal you will find yourself in the Cantabrian Mountains, a mountain chain that stretches east – west. The climate here is primarily influenced by its altitude and its 200km from the coast. The surrounding region experiences long severe winters and shorter, hot summers. Due to its altitude, snow in the area is a regular occurrence. It often settles for a few days. January sees highs of 6ºC while the peak of summer sees temperatures of around 28ºC. The record high in the city was measured when the mercury topped a sweltering 40°C, which shows the temperature extremes that occur when an area is not moderated by coastal influences.
Winters can often be so severe that the temperature dips to lows of -15ºC. Total annual rainfall in the area averages 743 mm, and the area sees, on average of 123 rainy days per year and 20 days of snow.
As you head further south, remaining inland, you will hit the Serra da Estrela which is the highest mountain range in Portugal. Its highest peak has an altitude of 1,993 m and is home to the Vodafone Ski Resort. Snow is frequent and heavy here in the throughout winter.Portugal’s second largest city of Porto can be found in the North West. The city’s climate is typical of the Mediterranean. The city boasts a hot dry summer and a mild winter.
Porto can experience occasional heat waves at 40 °C and these tend to last between 5 or 10 days.
The climate of Portugal heats up and dries out the further south you go. This is partly due to the increasing proximity of the equator but more significantly to the affect of the central mountains and northerly winds emanating from Africa. Higher temperatures are encouraged by weather systems coming over from the Mediterranean and up from Africa; the latter also brings aridity. With northerly winds trapped in the north, the south stays drier and temperatures are left largely un-moderated. The Algarve located on the far South coast of the country is Portugal’s most prized tourist location. The Algarve is the sunniest, driest and warmest region of the country. The area maybe the hottest place in the country but it never gets to the uncomfortable levels found in South Eastern Spain thanks to cooling South Atlantic winds.