If you fancy a European trip during the winter, then Portugal is worth a look.
In terms of temperature, it is a country of contrasts at this time of year – the beaches remain open in the southern Algarve region, while skiing is available in Serra de Estrela in the east.
If you fancy something in between, New Year's Eve in Lisbon is lively and friendly. Here are my three suggestions for making the most of Portugal this winter.
Winter Walking in the Algarve
Winter is a great time to visit the traditionally touristy Algarve region, served by Faro Airport.
Rail links are good in Portugal. Inexpensive car hire can also be picked up during winter and is a great way to see the region.
Although some restaurants and shops will close, most remain open, with the only nod to the season being slightly reduced opening hours.
The climate during the winter is excellent for walking.
Try the rugged cliff-top paths between Salema and Luz or, for the more committed walker, the Algarve Way runs across the region, from the Spanish border in the east to Cape St Vincent, where Portugal's south and west coasts meet.
New Year's Eve in Lisbon
New Year's Eve in the capital Lisbon centers on Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), or Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square), as confusingly it is often still known due to the palace that stood here until the late 18th century.
Located by the River Tagus, the evening typically involves a big-name band performing and fireworks to mark the beginning of the new year.
You don't have to be in the square to enjoy the fireworks – somewhere near the river is probably best and less crowded.
Afterward, it's a good plan to head to the Bairro Alto district, about a 15 to 20-minute walk away, where it's still lively, but a better selection of bars will be open through the night.
Skiing in Serra da Estrela
The Serra da Estrela National Park in western Portugal boasts the country's largest mountains, and during winter, there is skiing available.
It's not the biggest ski resort ever, but there are four lifts and nine runs, and it is ideal if you're into snowboarding or maybe just fancy a day or two on the slopes as part of a more extensive trip around the country. Even if you don't ski, the park looks stunning this time of year.
I love Portugal in the winter as it offers infinite possibilities, particularly in the south where the weather is temperate and the coast less crowded than at other times of the year.
About the Author: This post was written by Duncan Constable.