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Portugal - the Algarve at Christmas

Tour Code: PRT09

A relaxing 8-day holiday focusing on the best of the Algarve's birdlife in winter.

8 days from £1695(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1495 SRS: £170

There's a growing appetite among Naturetrek clients to get away somewhere interesting at Christmas, and this 8-day holiday in south-west Portugal has been picked to offer two lovely hotels (one with stunning sea views), some decent December weather and plenty of bird and wildlife interest. Based for four nights at the Memmo Baleeira Hotel, situated just a stone's throw from a fort which served as Henry the Navigator's 15th century School of Navigation, and for three nights in the hills north of Tavira, we will make daily excursions along the coast and into the neighbouring Alentejo region. Close to our Sagres hotel are the spectacular cliffs of Cabo Sao Vicente, Portugal's "Land's End". The winter warmth and Portuguese traditional hospitality should leave us with a healthy glow in our cheeks as we head home!

  • Little Bustard, Red-billed Chough & Black Redstart among the resident birds
  • Explore coastal wetlands & lagoons for wintering waders, raptors & other birds
  • Greater Flamingoes & Eurasian Spoonbills at Castro Marim
  • Little Stint, Marsh Harrier & Booted Eagle winter along the coast
  • Day trip to look for Great Bustard & Black-bellied Sandgrouse in Alentejo
  • Led by expert naturalist guide


Food and wine all included in the price.


A 2-centre holiday, based in comfortable hotels. All rooms have private facilities.



Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Faro; transfer Sagres.

Day 2/4 Daily programme of birding excursions from our base in Sagres.

Day 5/7 Daily programme of birding excursions from our base in Tavira.

Day 8 Fly UK.

There is a keen appetite amongst Naturetrek clients to get away to somewhere interesting at Christmas —our short-haul programme over the festive season often sells out months in advance! We look for a destination that combines some genuinely warm hospitality, and plenty of interest from a bird and wildlife perspective, and some decent December weather to boot ... and the Algarve fits the bill perfectly.

Lying at the far south-western tip of mainland Europe, Portugal’s beautiful Algarve region makes for an ideal short-haul midwinter getaway. Famous for its golf courses, beaches and winter sunshine, there’s another side to the Algarve, away from the high-rise hotels and beach-bound holidaymakers, and on this tour we’ll take you off the tourist trail, to the windswept cliffs, sand dunes and heaths of the west coast, the marshes and saltpans of the south, and the Cork Oak forests and wide open plains of the Alentejo. A relaxed pace of life prevails away from the tourist hotspots and we are sure that you will soon be seduced by southern Portugal — not only by its excellent birdwatching opportunities, but also by its beautiful language, charming people, and delicious food and wine.

Our base for four nights will be the wonderful Memmo Baleeira Hotel, situated just a stone’s throw from a fort which served as Henry the Navigator’s 15th century School of Navigation. Comfortable, clean rooms are enhanced by a breathtaking modern design and, with outstanding views over the Sagres coastline, this hotel provides a relaxing and welcoming retreat.

Close to our hotel are the spectacular cliffs and wild surfing beaches of Cabo de São Vicente — Portugal’s and mainland Europe’s ‘Land’s End’! Here, Little Bustard, Red-billed Chough, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart are all resident, and in winter there are usually a few Alpine Accentors to be found. Sea-watching from the cliffs may reveal Sooty Shearwater, European Storm Petrel and both Great and Arctic Skua. Razorbills often winter in this area, together with the odd Puffin and Audouin’s Gull. Cetaceans are not as numerous as earlier in the year, but we will hope to see at least one of the following species of cetacean: Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin or Harbour Porpoise. 

Our next base is up in the hills above Tavira, in the central Algarve. The Parque Nacional da Ria Formosa, just to the south, consists of coastal lagoons, vast areas of tidal-flats, saltmarsh and saltpans that are enclosed by a belt of sand dune islands and peninsulas. This is a great site for wintering birds from northern Europe, especially waders such as Black-tailed Godwit and Little Stint. Marsh Harriers are resident and Booted Eagles are regularly seen in winter.

The Castro Marim wetland nearby is a complex system of creeks and natural saltmarsh as well as man-made saltpans. This is an important site for wintering Greater Flamingoes and Eurasian Spoonbills, and it is perhaps the only site in Portugal where Lesser Short-toed Larks may regularly be found. Black-necked Grebes winter here, together with a few Stone Curlews.

Although further away, we may also drive north for a day to the wide plains of Castro Verde in the Alentejo. Within the Castro Verde Special Protection Area we’ll hope to see Europe’s largest flying bird, the Great Bustard, as well as Little Bustard and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Several exciting raptors hunt over these open plains and we will survey the rugged steppe country from the region’s highest point, Sierra de Aracelis, for Black and Griffon Vultures, Hen Harrier and the magnificent Spanish Imperial Eagle.

Whatever birds we see, the hospitality of our hosts at this special time of year, together with a glimpse of winter warmth, should see us heading home with a healthy glow in our cheeks!

We currently don’t have any images for this tour. If you have any suitable image you would like published then please email us.

This trip fulfilled our expectations. A very good holiday in an excellent hotel and pleasant weather. A good way to spend Christmas in convivial company.
Wonderful. Well researched sites with an abundance of opportunities for seeing all kinds of birds. Guides always willing to listen to specieal requests and respond. Some very memorable sightings.
I had been on the Naturetrek 'Spring in the Algarve' trip but I was amazed at the sheer variety of birdlife at this time of year, feeling that I had seen more species of birds in a huge varierty of habitats. There was always something to see, the group mix was excellent and both Stuart and Jill went the extra mile to ensure that we were all included and able to view the birds.
Mr & Mrs F.
The hotel was excellent and their food the best we've encountered on a Naturetrek trip.
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Sun 23rd December 2018 - Sun 30th December 2018



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: More info

Land only cost: £1495 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Portugal

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This trip fulfilled our expectations. A very good holiday in an excellent hotel and pleasant weather. A good way to spend Christmas in convivial company.
D.R., Clyde