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Winters can be tough, especially if you are living in a city that has an especially long, cold and dark season. As an Australian from the sunny state of Queensland, lower temperatures and shorter days are a struggle.

During my year living in Europe, I suffered tremendously from the cold and rain. The lack of sun also affected my mood in a way I did not expect. After talking to Europeans, I learned that many people take winter escapes to brighten their disposition. The climate of Portugal can be classified into two. It is oceanic in the north and Mediterranean in the south. It is also one of the warmest countries in Europe. The average temperatures in the mainland are 13∞C (55∞F) in the north and 18∞C (64∞F) in the south. Summers are hot and dry. Winters are cold and wet. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Portugal.

The best thing about Portugal is that despite being a part of modern Europe one can still find the rural dwellings which have stood by time and has preserved its traditions. While modern architectural marvels like high-rise resorts dot the coast in the Southern province of the Algarve, Lisbon on the west coast, on the other hand, is a crowded city home to many fine tourist resorts. If you want to go back in time you have to just travel few miles north or east where you will see scenic countryside still resemble medieval villages and towns of earlier centuries.

Warmer Temperatures in the Lisboa

If you get tired of shoveling snow or piling on an inconceivable number of layers, then the Lisboa in Portugal could provide your sea change. The Lisboa is the southern region of Portugal which has high temperatures averaging over 60 degrees during the winter.

I visited in early March with a friend who had been living in London. She couldn’t believe the difference in temperature and kicked herself for not packing a bikini. She even gave up her first beach day to go to the nearest mall for swimsuit shopping and waxing.

Having the Beach to Yourself

The high season in the Algarve is during summer when many hotels and resorts become booked out. However, during winter, you will find dramatically fewer tourists. My friend and I were able to enjoy sections of the beach to ourselves in the resort town of Albufeira.

The temperature might not be warm enough to go swimming, but you can still enjoy walking around in shorts and flip-flops while feeling the sun on your face.

A Budget-Friendly Escape

Despite the recent boom of tourism, Portugal is still one of the more inexpensive travel destinations in Europe. Its position in the west also potentially means shorter and cheaper flights from the United States. There are direct flights from New York City to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon that take less than seven hours, too. From Lisbon, you could be in the Algarve in just a few hours either by bus, train or car.

My friend and I took a relaxed bus ride from Lisbon to Albufeira, then another onto Faro before flying out of Portugal. In addition to the capital, Faro also has an international airport where you can catch a connecting flight.

Portuguese Food and Hospitality

Portugal is a tourist-friendly destination for everyone from backpackers to family groups. Portuguese people are welcoming and generally, have very high English proficiency.

One thing that surprised me during my winter escape was how delicious and affordable Portuguese cuisine is. My friend and I enjoyed three-course meals with a bottle of wine from €16.50 each ($18.82 USD) during our time in Faro.

If you are planning your winter escape to Portugal, get ready for tasty pastries and rich savory dishes that will fill your stomach after lazy beach days.

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