The heat is on, with temperatures often reaching a scorching point during the day, and balmy evenings perfect for sundowners by the sea, open-air cafes and alfresco dining.
In the north of the country in Porto, it’s warm as opposed to sweltering, with average temperatures hovering around 77°F (25°C). Lisbon is hot and dry, with highs of 82°F (28°C) and barely a drop of rain. Down south in the Algarve, there are highs of around 86°F (30°C) and it’s often as much as you can do to move your beach towel.
Bring sunblock and a sunhat to protect from the strong rays (especially on the coast), and be sure to stay well hydrated.
Crowds & Costs
The sunshine is naturally great for lazy beach days, but less so when you’re jostling with huge crowds in the cities. Many schools are now vacation and this sends flight prices and room rates soaring (in some cases they are double or even triple what they would be in the low season).
You’ll also have to book well in advance to secure your first choice as the best places are snapped up quickly. Bear in mind that top restaurants and activities may need to be pre-booked, too, as demand rises. If you’re heading south, make sure your room comes with aircon.
Where to Go
This is weather for the coast, and even the Portuguese decamp en masse to the nearest beach at weekends. If the southern Algarve is too busy for you, turn your gaze elsewhere—to the north and west Atlantic coast, say, where there’s still plenty of breathing room and sandy, dune-flanked beaches.
Crowds and hotel beds are at a premium in the big cities, so this might be a good time to set your sights further afield if you’re craving a culture fix. Northern Coimbra is a beauty, with its hilltop medieval center, historic university, and fado (folk music) heritage. Or you could explore alley-woven Braga in the Minho, a highly spiritual city topped off by an incredible Romanesque cathedral (the country’s oldest, dating to 1070).
Otherwise, head for the mountains, where temperatures are not overly hot and crowds are few. The Beiras region is sprinkled with pretty stone-built villages and laced with excellent walking trails. It’s comparatively cool, too, at around 66°F (19°C). Sidling up to the Spanish border in the north, the Minho is another good off-the-radar bet.
What to Do
If you just want to relax or make the most of watersports on the beach, July is ideal. That said, popular beaches can get jam-packed. If you’re heading to the Algarve, for instance, you might want to venture to more off-the-radar west-coast beaches, such as cliff-backed, wave-pummeled Praia do Amado and Praia da Arrifana, both surfing meccas. Or head further north to the Costa Verde in the Minho, where Viana do Castelo combines a medieval center with long, golden, dune-fringed sands.
With their low-key vibe, higher elevations and cooler climes, the northern Minho and Beiras appeal at this time of year. Come for backcountry walks or to road trip from one gloriously sleepy village to the next. Both regions keep a tight grip on shepherding traditions, with farmsteads nestling among meadows and forests of pine and cork oak. Hiking is best in the national parks and nature reserves, with top billing going to the granite peaks, hidden lakes and thick forests of Serra da Estrela and Peneda-Gerês.
Portugal is hot and so is the lineup of events. If you want tickets for one of the big music festivals, make sure you book them months in advance as they often sell out in a flash.
Festival ao Largo Orchestras and ballet troupes take to the open-air stage at Lisbon’s Teatro Nacional São Carlos for this free three-week festival. It’s a fabulous way to spend a hot summer evening.
Festival Internacional de Folclore Porto is a feast of folk music, dancing, and elaborate traditional costume during this festival held in the last week in July, attracting acts from all over the country.
MEO Marés Vivas On the third week in July, Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto is the backdrop for this raucous three-day rock and pop festival. Headliners in recent years have included Sting and Keane.
NOS Alive Algés on Lisbon’s western fringes is the host of this mammoth rock, indie, and alternative music festival. Pearl Jam and Taylor Swift have featured on the line-up in previous years.