By January time, the heady days of high summer will increasingly become an ever more distant memory as the mercury plummets. To cap it all, the spectre of even more, chilly winter months lie ahead for those of us who still live on these misty isles. Meteorologically speaking, there will be little January cheer around for those who tend to prefer balmier days, sunny blue skies and sparkling azure seascapes.

But hang on! Wait just a minute! All may not be entirely lost. Even in the latter stages of a dank British winter, those of us who set our hearts on get-aways to the sun dazzled Algarve will still have much to look forward to. The dreaded melancholy and any associated hints of Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD) should be cast aside. Instead, we should follow the habits of those more sensible of avian species, take to the wing and jolly well fly south.

Fantastic weather

Naturally, weather conditions even on the Algarve aren't going to be quite as guaranteed as they may have been for those who choose to travel earlier in the year but it's going to be way more pleasant than bracing Bognor or baltic Burnham!

Quite frankly, my early winter 2022 time on the Algarve was absolutely blessed. I barely experienced a solitary cloudy day, with day-time temperatures reaching the low to mid 20's on a daily basis. These temperatures easily matched and even exceeded what would be deemed a perfect summer's day even in southern England. I didn't witness any chilly evenings whatsoever. I must therefore declare, quite unreservedly, that the Algarve absolutely delivered.

The beauty of a winter get-away is the peace and tranquillity that's afforded to off-peak punters in comparison to those who arrive during the height of the tourist season. The resorts might still be reasonably busy but, as a rule, they're not going to be anywhere near as crowded. This is clearly highly advantageous, especially in these Covid-19 times.

Even the Algarvian roads are pretty quiet. It was actually quite relaxing to be able to drive around and have time to think, rather than being swept along by the sheer weight of traffic, constantly looking out for bad drivers who might not be entirely accustomed to the Portuguese motoring experience. You can often spot these dodgy drivers by the way they negotiate traffic islands (i.e. not heeding the Portuguese way of doing things).

As for amenities? Roll up!.. Pick a restaurant - any restaurant. The abundant choices are quite literally yours for the taking. Most establishments seemed to be open for business despite the ravages of this ongoing pandemic and the knock on effects it's had on so many people's livelihoods.

Naturally, the organic thinning out of tourist numbers during will be very noticeable for those who relish the vibe of a busy summer resort. But on a positive note, there will be none of the customary standing about routine whilst waiting for a table to become available at the most popular establishments. This was very obvious particularly at top resorts such as Vilamoura.

During my visit, dining out actually turned out to be quite a casual experience; to the point of almost being surreal. It felt a little like having the whole of the Algarve to myself. And it never got unbearably hot either, even during mid-afternoon. It was quite literally perfect. Just roll up wherever you fancy, whenever you fancy and the Algarve will quite literally be your oyster (or perhaps even a dozen rather succulent ones, with a squeeze of lemon - if you play your cards right!).

A trip to Silves

I particularly relished my visit to the city of Silves which was once the capital of the Algarve. This capital status was lost when the once navigable Arade River silted up and Silves' vital trade link with the outside world was lost. Today, Silves is famed for its splendid hilltop castle, its many secretive narrow streets and an abundance of history which is still enshrined in its ancient architecture.

The municipality of Silves boasts a sizable chunk of the Algarve's citrus fruit production. Oranges were introduced into Portugal by the Moors. These sweet, juicy citrus bombs are now grown in vast plantations in this region. Silves is sited on the largest aquifer in Southern Portugal (Aquifero Querença Silves) which, of course, keeps the orange crops well watered, therefore producing vast quantities of premium fruit.

Driving along the rural routes reveals a staggering array of orange plantations, all brimming with an abundance of produce. There are designated routes that lead into the heart of the Algarvian orange producing region (Rotas da Laranja). There are lots of pretty villages to explore where a genuine flavour of authentic Portuguese country living can be experienced first hand.

Silves is a wonderfully chilled out town. No one appears to be in any great rush. The cafes are typically relaxed with young folk as well as the elders sitting around relishing the warming rays of the Portuguese sunshine whilst enjoying a fresh coffee, some tasty snacks or even a lovely glass of wine. Maybe even some freshly squeezed local orange juice!

I think Silves looks just as spectacular during the evening as it does during daylight hours. Once the sun has set, the hilltop castle is magnificently floodlit. It just presides over the entire town as daily life bustles below in this Algarvian capital of old, which still resides on the now more genteel banks of the Arade River.

Gastronomic temptations

It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention that there are plenty of gastronomic temptations to woo even the fussiest eaters in Silves. Although it's located several miles from the coast, there are still plenty of seafood restaurants proudly serving freshly caught fish, possibly caught by the fishermen of nearby Armação de Pera.

Whether you enjoy glorious coastlines and the Algarve's many beaches and secluded coves or whether you prefer a more rural idyll - Silves offers both. Excellent roads soon get you down to the amenities offered by the busier coastal resorts of Portimão, Carvoeiro, Alvor or Armação de Pêra. Head a few miles North and the slopes of Monchique await with jaw dropping views over huge swathes of the Algarve and far beyond. An off season visit provides a super opportunity to enjoy it at your leisure.


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes