Does it snow in Portugal? Yes, but only in limited places!
Portuguese snow is usually isolated to the mountainous areas, with cities like Lisbon and Porto only seeing freezing weather on very minimal locations.
Portugal’s a narrow country, and many towns and cities are dotted along the coastline, which substantially warms the country.
But there are mountains, and even a ski resort!
Here’s all you need to know about snow in Portugal.
Does it snow in Portugal?
Yes, it snows in Portugal, but the amount and frequency varies considerably depending on the region and elevation.
Snow’s very rare (although not impossible) in coastal cities like Lisbon and Porto.
But Portugal has mountains, and it can snow particularly heavy in the Serra da Estrela.
Portugal might not immediately spring to mind as a snowy European country – and the snow levels are nothing like places like Switzerland or Norway, BUT it certainly can happen in some areas.
When does it snow in Portugal?
Snowfall in Portugal is limited to the cooler months, even in high elevations. Let’s take a look at what you can expect!
Does it snow in Portugal in November?
In November, the likelihood of snow is quite low and mostly confined to higher elevations like Serra da Estrela.
It’s virtually unheard of in coastal regions and major cities like Lisbon.
Does it snow in Portugal in December?
Many places in Portugal have very mild winters (it’s one of the most popular winter sun destinations for that reason!) but it can snow more in higher elevations in December.
It’s still unlikely to see any white stuff in coastal areas throughout the country.
Does it snow in Portugal in January?
January’s the coldest month in Portugal, and areas above 1,000 meters have quite a lot of snow. Portugal’s only ski resort in the Sierra da Estrella is in full swing!
While this is the most likely month to see snow in places like Lisbon and Porto, it’s usually much warmer.
When I was in Lisbon in January, it got up to 17°C/ 63°F – I was walking around wearing a t-shirt!
Porto’s January weather is usually colder and rainier, but snow’s still exceptionally rare.
Does it snow in Portugal in February?
Snow in the mountains continues in Portugal in February. It’s also an excellent month for winter sports in regions like Serra da Estrela.
In the lowland region, the pattern is pretty much the same – less snow, more winter sunshine – unless the winter is particularly cold.
Does it snow in Portugal in March?
Snow still sticks around in the mountains in Portugal in March, but the chances of snow in other areas of the country diminish.
Where does it snow in Portugal?
You certainly won’t find snow everywhere in Portugal – its likelihood depends on the region and its geography.
North Western Portugal
The coastal areas of Northern Portugal, including the city of Porto, rarely see snow.
Winter’s milder in Porto compared to the interior of the country and snowfall is much more an exception than the rule.
Northern Meseta is part of the plateau which spans across Spain and Portugal.
This area’s higher and temperatures drop significantly in winter, which often results in snow!
Close to Spain and the mountainous areas, snow’s more frequent in winter, particularly at higher elevations.
Mountains where you might see snow in the Northern Meseta are Garganta das Negras, Serra de Montemuro and Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês which is right on the border of Spain.
Serra da Estrela
Located in Central-Eastern Portugal, the Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal.
Encompassing places like the village of Cabeça, which turns into a Christmas paradise in the festive season and Portugal’s only natural snow resort, this is your best bet for winter sports in the country.
Serra da Estrela descends down to the coastline, leading to Lisbon.
This part of Central Portugal has much milder winters.
While you might encounter snow during a particularly cold snap but it’s not common.
The climate in the southern regions, such as the Algarve, is Mediterranean.
Winters are mild and while it can be rainy, snow is incredibly rare.
The Azores, which are technically part of Portugal, are mid-Atlantic islands that boast a mild climate year-round.
Snow doesn’t happen at lower elevations, but it can do in the Azores.
The island of Pico, home to Portugal’s highest mountain, is occasionally covered in snow.
On December 26, 2022, snow covered the mountain, transforming it into what was described as an “authentic Christmas postcard.”
Pico’s mountain, formed by a volcano around 750,000 years ago, has an elevation exceeding 2,351 meters, making it not just Portugal’s highest but also its youngest mountain.
So snow certainly can happen here, but its proximity to the equator makes it rare.
Madeira’s subtropical climate makes snow a rarity, seen only at the highest peaks during particularly cold winters.
It can snow in the island’s highest elevations, particularly those areas above 1,400 meters.
As recently as February 2023, a significant snowfall event covered the high areas of Madeira, causing road closures and temperature drops below 0°C.
Does it snow in Porto?
In Porto, the likelihood of snow is very low, largely due to the warming effect by the mild jet stream around the coastline.
Winters are generally milder, especially compared to inland areas.
In Porto, snow happens once every 5 to 6 years, or even less frequently – and usually it’s not even long enough for making a snowball.
The most recent snow in Porto was recorded back in January 2009.
Before that, residents recalled snow in early February 1983.
But when it does snow, it’s usually in minimal quantities—insufficient even for making a snowball.
Does it snow in Lisbon?
Winters are also mild in Lisbon and snowfall is even rarer!
Snow’s is virtually unheard of, apart from during exceptionally frigid winters!
However, there have been instances that locals still talk about.
The most recent memorable snowfall happened in January 2006, lasting only for a few hours.
Prior to that, 1954 saw more significant snow.
Like Porto, snow in Lisbon is a rarity.
But when it does snow, it’s usually in the winter months of January or February.
Why does it snow in Portugal?
Due to its position in Southern Europe, Portugal’s weather is diverse and generally a lot warmer than other places in Europe – it’s closer to the tropics than most other places in the continent.
Here’s why certain parts of the country see snowfall while others do not.
High-altitude zones, particularly the Serra da Estrela mountains, see the most snow in Portugal.
These mountains not only rise above the sea level significantly but they are also situated away from the ocean’s moderating influence.
Due to their elevation and interior location, these areas get snow for an extended time, sometimes from late autumn through early spring!
But most of Portugal encompasses low-lying coastal plains and rolling hills, subject to a Mediterranean or maritime climate.
Western Portugal is mainly coastal, which means that this part of the country’s under the Atlantic Ocean’s moderating influence.
This means milder winters and a substantially lower likelihood of snowfall.
What is the snowiest place in Portugal?
If you’re seeking snow in Portugal, your best bet is the Serra da Estrela mountain range.
As the highest elevation in mainland Portugal, it consistently sees the most snowfall.
From late October to early May, you’ll find slopes covered in the white stuff – and there are even ski slopes!
Serra da Estrela is also home to Portugal’s only ski resort, too.
Skiing in Portugal: Serra da Estrela
If you fancy skiing in Portugal, there’s only one place you can do it!
The Serra da Estrela is located between the elevations of 1,851 and 1,997 meters and this resort boasts a range of slopes suitable for various skill levels.
Slopes and skill levels
Serra da Estrela offers 5.9 km of slopes, segmented as follows:
- Easy: 2.4 km (41%)
- Intermediate: 2.5 km (42%)
- Difficult: 1 km (17%)
Ski lifts and operating times
The resort operates three lifts to transport guests across its winter terrain.
During the general season, which lasts from mid-December to late March, lifts operate between 09:00 and 16:30.
These times can vary due to external conditions or holidays.
Ski pass prices
Day tickets for adults cost €25, while children’s passes are available for €15.
Multi-day passes and seasonal passes are also available.
Location and accessibility
The resort is most accessible from two main towns: Covilhã, located 21 km away, and Seia, which is 27 km from the resort.
These towns offer additional lodging options and are good bases if the resort is fully booked.
If you fancy something else, check out ski resorts in Spain including the Sierra Nevada and Val d’Aran in the Pyrenees.
While Spain’s also a warm country, it snows in more places here (largely due to its size, border with France and expansive mountains inland!).
Tips for visiting Portugal in the snow
Here are some things to consider if you’re visiting the snowy areas in Portugal!
- Check Weather Forecasts: Before venturing into the mountains or other areas prone to snow, consult reliable weather apps or websites like Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA) for the most current information.
- Road Condition Updates: For real-time road conditions, especially in mountainous areas, check Via Michelin. This provides updates about road closures or necessary precautions during winter months.
- Winter Gear and Rentals: If you’re not packing your own, ski gear and winter clothing can be rented at local shops near popular destinations.
- Emergency Numbers: Always keep a list of emergency numbers handy. In Portugal, the national emergency number is 112. You can also check Safe Communities Portugal for immediate alerts and assistance.
All you need to know about Portuguese snowfall
So, that’s all you need to know about snow in the Southern European country of Portugal!
Most visitors head to Portugal for sun, even in winter, but head to the mountains for snow.
Or, venture across the Iberian Peninsula to Spain, where there are more mountain ranges, ski resorts and subsequently much more freezing weather.