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Traveling Off-Season to the Algarve, Portugal

A church in Albufeira’s center.

A Winter Getaway

With last weekend being a 3-day weekend in Andalucía, Spain thanks to “Andalucía Day” I made my winter escape across the border to the Algarve region in Portugal. I made the same trip last year and loved the area so much, I couldn’t wait to return. What’s so enchanting about the Algarve? For me, it’s the white-washed buildings, the jagged red cliffs characteristic on the beaches, the hospitable people and the relatively cheap costs compared to the rest of Western Europe.

This looks more like Spring than February.

High-season vs. Low-season

In August, much of Europe shuts down and flees for the coastline. Tourists pour in from all over the world and prices skyrocket in the places still open for business, making this time of the year the most expensive to travel. With the weak dollar against the Euro, consider traveling off-season to lower costs, escape the crowds and get a more authentic feel of a place.

Beautiful door in the center.

Lower Costs: I am not one to over-plan my trips as to allow for planned spontaneity, and have been known to even show up without so much as a hostel booked. This time, I went against my laid-back travel style and booked the room first. Despite this being a last-minute trip, I found an incredible deal at a clean, modern beachfront hotel with a private balcony overlooking the Atlantic, breakfast included. I normally opt for hostels whenever I can, but this deal was so good, it was comparable to the costs of staying in a hostel. With a deal like that, traveling off-season was really starting to win me over…

Sunrise from my private balcony!

Fewer Crowds: Little sucks the charm out of a destination than mobs of sweaty, photo-snapping, fanny-pack wearing tourists. Ok, clearly not all tourists are so typical, but you get the point. In the low-season, which is normally November-March, you have the same sights with fewer people. This means less people in your shots, lower ticket prices, and more.

Rock formations on the beach.

Better Weather: So this one is dependent on exactly what month you come and where you go, but I’m mostly referring to the Mediterranean countries which are notoriously hot in the summer months. So hot you step outside and your clothes stick to you. So hot that going out at certain times of the day is reserved for the crazy. So hot that you take a shower, dry off, step outside, and are just as wet as before. I might be exaggerating slightly on the last example, but the point is, late spring and early fall weather is usually the perfect time to travel. I went to Portugal last weekend, which was February, and was soaking up the sun on the beach. If this doesn’t entice you to travel off-season, I don’t know what will!


Local Color: I’ve made the point before that when the tourists leave, life carries on, and it isn’t a vacation year-round. Well, traveling between the months that see less tourists means a closer look into the daily life of the locals. This completely enriches a traveling experience for me, and I’ve found shopkeepers, waiters and the like aren’t disillusioned by the onslaught of tourists just yet, meaning friendlier encounters. :)

So what’s holding you back? Would you consider traveling off-season? And if you have, how does your experience compare with traveling high-season?

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I'm Christine - a 25 year old American expat living la vida Española on the Mediterranean coast in Spain!

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