Fall has arrived in Portugal, bringing with it more fickle weather, which can swing from clear-skied, warm and sunny days to serious downpours at the drop of a hat.
While temperatures in Porto in the north can still nudge highs of 70°F (21°C), they can drop as low as 54°F (12°C), and around 10 days of rain are to be expected. Edging south towards Lisbon, it's a tad warmer, with highs hitting 73°F (23°C) and around eight days of rain. Driest and hottest of all is the Algarve, where there's still plenty of sunshine and maximum temperatures of 77°F (25°C), though you should certainly expect the odd shower.
As the month progresses, things get cooler and wetter, so come prepared with a waterproof, sweater and umbrella. Layers are the way to go.
Crowds & Costs
One of the real joys of visiting Portugal in October is the distinct lack of crowds. Summer has finally fizzled out, but the weather is still often stable enough to tour the cities in little more than shorts and T-shirts, lounge on one of the now half-empty beaches, or eat seafood on a restaurant terrace by the ocean. If you want to check out the major sights and attractions, this is a prime month to do precisely that, as there is a lull after the summer storm.
As Portugal shifts gear from shoulder to low season, there are some great deals up for grabs on flights and accommodation (with discounts of up to 50% on summer rates). The one major exception is the final week in October when some countries in Europe have a school vacation, which can mean a short, sharp spike in prices.
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Where to Go
October is a terrific month for city-breakers, as the crowds have now reduced to a trickle in hotspots such as Lisbon's Moorish, maze-like Alfama and fortress-topped Castelo districts, and Porto's Unesco World Heritage historic centre, which focuses largely on the alley-woven lanes of the riverside Ribeira neighborhood.
While the rains are picking up a bit in the north, the south is still seeing a lot of dry, sunny, warm days, making southern regions like the Alentejo and the Algarve the best bet for all manner of outdoor activities, tours and road trips. And if you're in the mood for a little beach time before the winter truly arrives, now is your last proper chance. Some days in the month are still likely to be warm enough for sunbathing on the south coast and (if you're brave and don't mind the chilly water) swimming.
What to Do
So you want to see the trophy sights but without the madding crowds? Wise choice. October is by far and away one of the best months for exploring the most popular cities, towns and Unesco World Heritage sites in relative peace. Sintra, near Lisbon, is a fine choice, with a weird and delightfully whimsical collection of fantasy Moorish and Manueline castles and palaces spreading across thickly forested, boulder-speckled hills.
Or make for the likes of Mafra to admire its remarkable baroque and neoclassical palace-monastery, or the pristinely preserved medieval walled town of Évora, complete with a fortress-like cathedral and Roman temple (Templo de Diana).
In the Algarve in the south, the stable weather is ideal for outdoor activities from surfing (swells are picking up nicely) and cycling to coastal hiking.
October is a quieter month on the festival front, but there are still a couple of events that merit attention if you happen to be in the right region.
Fátima Pilgrimage Considered one of Portugal's holiest villages and sanctuaries ever since a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in 1917, Fátima draws droves of pilgrims to one of the most important shrines in the Catholic world on October 13. Even if you're not religious, the candlelit vigil is a powerful and moving sight.
Lisbon Marathon Lisbon's streets are pounded by runners in their thousands at the capital's annual marathon in late October, which heads along the banks of the River Tagus and has been hailed one of the world's most beautiful.