If you love to travel off the beaten path like me, you’ll adore these hidden gems in Portugal. This country (one of my favorites) boasts so many stunning places to visit, but the underrated and lesser-known ones are always more fun to explore.
From natural parks to hilltop towns to unique landmarks, I hope to surprise and inspire you with more than 20 off-the-beaten-track spots.
HIDDEN GEMS IN PORTUGAL: CITIES, TOWNS, VILLAGES, AND LANDMARKS
The village of Lindoso provides the ultimate rural landscape – a little hamlet nestled in the middle of a national park, a 13th-century castle, and traditional granaries from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The castle itself had great military importance, especially against the Kingdom of Castile, and today, it houses a small museum featuring weapons from the 14th-19th centuries and local archeological exhibits.
Reachable by car, this picturesque historic village is a wonderful stop on a northern Portugal road trip. It can also be added to a road trip through northern Spain if you’re coming from Galicia to the Peneda-Gerês National Park via the border at A Madalena.
Situated in the historic Buçaco Forest, the Buçaco Palace is a photogenic landmark you don’t want to miss.
The forest itself houses one of Europe’s most remarkable collections of trees in Europe (some are more than 400 years old), and it was also the home of the monks of the Order of Discalced Carmelites.
Buçaco Palace’s gardens and some areas in the building were actually a part of the convent the monks established in 1628. Then, in the late 19th century, the palace was built for the last Kings of Portugal but was soon turned into a luxurious hotel (which is still available to book!).
If you love historic spots, Gothic architecture, and beautiful gardens, Buçaco Palace will not disappoint you.
By Tjasa from The Travel Momento
Imagine whitewashed houses, hillside streets dressed in colorful flowers, cute boats, and beautiful beaches. Welcome to Ferragudo, one of the prettiest traditional villages in the Algarve that remained untouched by the massive tourism and should definitely be part of your Algarve itinerary.
On your stroll through the city, make sure to stop at the Igreja de Ferragudo – the iconic white and yellow church offering stunning views over the coastline.
Let yourself get lost among charming cobbled streets. Afterward, relax at the city’s main square, Praça Rainha Dona Leonor, with plenty of local restaurants and live performances.
Another iconic landmark of Ferragudo is the old terracotta castle sitting on the top of the beach’s rock. The Fort of São João de Arade used to be home of Coelho de Carvalho, known Portugese poet.
Ferragudo is easily reached by boat, car, or even bicycle from Portimao or by train, bus, or car from Faro. You can spend here a pleasant afternoon or a whole weekend.
Ferragudo by The Travel Momento
By Ann from The Road Is Life
Surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Douro Valley’s rolling hills, the little town of Pinhão sits peacefully on the banks of the Douro River.
Aside from the stunning landscapes, the main attraction of Pinhão is the many historic vineyards that offer wine tastings and tours. The Douro Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and is known for producing some of the best wines in Portugal.
Taking a day trip to the Douro Valley from Porto is the ideal way to get a feel for this amazing wine region if you are short on time. You will have the option of taking the train, renting a car and driving there yourself (it’s only a 1.5-hour drive), or taking a guided tour.
Some of the must-do things when in Pinhão are taking a vineyard tour and perhaps a scenic boat cruise along the Douro River.
Pinhão’s vineyards by The Road Is Life
By Kerri from Beer and Croissants
Lamego, located approximately 90 minutes drive east of Porto, has a lot to offer, despite its relatively small size. At the heart of this Douro region town is the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios.
For the best experience, start at the bottom so you can wonder in amazement at how you’ll ever climb the 600 stairs, and then celebrate with a beautiful view once you get there. Don’t worry if you can’t climb the stairs. The 18th-century church at the top can also be accessed via road.
Take the time to enjoy a local delicacy called presunto accompanied by a glass of local sparkling wine. For a great tasting plate, head to A Presunteca de Lamego. You’ll find this fantastic café and outdoor terrace at the bottom of the steps.
Lamego is best accessed via car, so why not add it to your road trip or take a day trip from Porto.
Lamego by Beer and Croissants
By Cath from Moving to Portugal
In the Alentejo region, you will find Marvão, a tiny hilltop village that should definitely be included on this list of Portugal’s hidden gems.
It is only reachable by car and is located 234 km northeast of Lisbon, but the drive up the side of the mountain and final walk into the walled town are worth it.
Marvão is small, and the main thing to do there is to visit the impressive castle. It offers amazing views across the Alentejo region and over to Spain, given this town was once a hilltop fortress against Spanish invaders.
After visiting the castle, wander through the narrow, cobbled streets and stop at a café for a pastel de nata and coffee before hitting the road again.
Marvao by Moving to Portugal
By Cláudia & Jorge From Travel Drafts
Misarela Bridge is a medieval bridge in the Gerês region in the North of Portugal. It is a small but magnificent bridge with a beautiful waterfall just a few meters away. Although it is quite popular among locals, it remains one of the best hidden places in Portugal.
The Misarela Bridge is also known as the Devil’s Bridge as it’s supposedly created by the Devil and is surrounded by interesting myths and legends. The bridge is 13 meters high and was built in the early 19th century.
To visit this region of Gerês, you will need a car. From the main road, you will still need to hike a stunning trail for about 20 minutes to reach the bridge, but it is well worth the effort. We also recommend going to Peneda-Geres National Park, which is very close and is the only national park in Portugal.
Ponte da Misarela by Travel Drafts
By Alya from Stingy Nomads
Sagres is a small beach town in the Algarve that doesn’t get overrun by tourists even in the peak season. It is a great place for those who enjoy sandy beaches, water sports, and outdoor activities.
You can get to Sagres by bus from Lagos, and the journey takes 30 minutes. The town is small, so you don’t need a car to get around, and you’ll find plenty of accommodation options for any budget, from camping and hostels to beach resorts.
This off-the-beaten-track town has all you need for an active beach holiday. Mareta Beach is a great spot for surfing, and there are several walking routes in the area, including the famous Rota Vicentina, that offer breathtaking views and take hikers to secret beaches and hidden bays.
Cape St. Vincent, 6 km from Sagres, is known as the southwesternmost point of continental Europe. It’s an amazing place for watching the sunset.
Sagres by Stingy Nomads
By Jackie Rezk from Jou Jou Travels
Águeda is a small off-the-beaten-path town in Portugal. It is located just a 30-minute drive from Aveiro and 1 hour from Porto, where the closest airport is. The main reason to visit is to see the colorful umbrellas that fill many streets in the quaint little town.
The Umbrella Sky Project takes place every July to shade the sunny streets. The project also hosts music in the evenings and different art exhibits. You will also find pretty murals all along the streets of Agueda and stairwells full of painted colors.
It is a fun place to stroll around, and you only need a few hours to explore this vibrant town full of creativity and energy.
Agueda by Jou Jou Travels
CONIMBRIGA ROMAN RUINS
By Soumya from Stories by Soumya
The Conimbriga ruins of Portugal are one of the most impressive Roman ruins in the world, especially because of their exquisite mosaic floors that are still in great shape after 2000 years.
The mosaics at the House of Fountains are the most vibrant, with birds, animals, and people depicted all over them. Neatly arranged around a pool of water fountains, they make for a pretty and memorable sight.
Other unmissable attractions include several huge noble houses with carefully laid out gardens and several rooms lined with mosaic floors, a Roman forum, and a series of public baths. Be sure to drop into the museum onsite if you wish to dig deeper into Conimbriga’s Roman past.
Conimbriga is easily visited as a half-day trip from Coimbra. You can get here by car or take a Transdev bus labeled Conimbriga or Condeixa-a-Nova. The ride takes less than 30 minutes.
Conimbriga by Stories by Soumya
By Tiago from Go To Portugal
Visiting Piódão will allow you to discover one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal! The “Aldeia Presépio” – the Crib Village (known by this name because of the layout of the houses) is located in the Açor mountains (Central Portugal), a few kilometers from the magnificent Serra da Estrela natural park.
During your visit, you must lose yourself in the alleys and admire the lovely houses made of schist walls with wooden doors and windows painted blue and white.
Visit the Matriz church and the Piódão Museum and don’t hesitate to take a 3 km walk to Foz d’Égua to take a dip in the waters of the beautiful fluvial beach.
Currently, with just under 200 inhabitants dedicated to agriculture, cattle breeding, and tourism, Piódão has centuries of history (it is older than the Portuguese nation) and is inscribed in the network of Historical Villages of Portugal, which counts 12 picturesque villages.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Portugal and you want to experience the authenticity of the countryside, the rural way of life, and the beauty of this region, visit Piódão!
Piodao by Go To Portugal
By Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic
Located along the beautiful Costa Vicentina in southwestern Portugal, extremely photogenic Aljezur stands apart for its fascinating history and atmospheric castle.
It features two unique sections, the ancient Moorish west and the slightly more modern eastern area, where you’ll find several nice plazas, two classic churches, and most of the restaurants and hotels.
Although it sits a few kilometers inland, Aljezur is still close to three outstanding surfing beaches, attracting an interesting mix of road trippers, backpackers, and surfers. It is also a popular stop on the extraordinary long-distance Rota Vicentina hike.
Art lovers should stop at the Museu Pintor Jose Cercas, and everyone should tackle the short climb up to the remains of the Castle of Aljezur for panoramic views of this special Algarve destination.
Aljezur by Routinely Nomadic
SAO MARTINHO DO PORTO
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Sao Martinho do Porto is a small seaside town located around 1.5 hours north of Lisbon.
With stunning white-sand beaches and lots of little restaurants to choose from, this town is definitely one of the most underrated places in Portugal and somewhat of a hidden secret in the area.
You’ll mostly find local tourists here and will most likely be able to escape the crowds. This area is known for its impressive surf beaches and great conditions for all sorts of water sports.
Of course, you can also relax by the beach and sunbathe or go for a hike along the cliffs. The views are absolutely amazing, and especially the impressive sand dunes are well worth a visit. You can either stay at a local campsite or one of the small hotels in Sao Martinho do Porto.
Sao Martinho do Porto by Guide Your Travel
ARCOS DE VALDEVEZ
By Cláudia & Jorge From Portugal Things
Arcos de Valdevez is a small, cute town in the north of Portugal. It is an idyllic hidden gem for nature lovers and people who love to eat well.
The town is located 100 km from Porto, easily reachable by car, taking only one hour. You can get there by bus, but it will be a handicap as you will need a car to go to the main attractions, which are near yet located outside the town.
The most spectacular thing to do in Arcos de Valdevez is hiking Ecovia do Vez and going to Sistelo. Ecovia do Vez is a trail that goes from Joldra S. Paio to Sistelo, passing through Arcos de Valdevez.
It is a stunning trail that goes along the banks of the Vez River, where you will view cascades, rapids, dikes, and mills. The endpoint of the trail is the picturesque village of Sistelo, which is called The Portuguese Tibet.
But Arcos de Valdevez has much more to offer, including a rustic old town, a manor house, and a beautiful river beach. You’ll have plenty to do and enjoy.
Arcos de Valdevez by Portugal Things
By Marco from Travel-Boo
Only a stone’s throw from Lisbon lies the quaint village of Palmela, one of the best secret places in Portugal.
This charming town is perched atop a hill with the 12th-century Palmela Castle as its centerpiece on top, offering visitors incredible views as far as the eye can see, even all the way back to Lisbon on a clear day.
Not only is Palmela set in one of Portugal’s best wine regions (be sure to try out the sweet Palmela Moscatel), it is also located really close to the stunning Arrabida Natural Park that is home to a range of some of the best beaches near Lisbon. So much so that a few had been voted the best in Europe, such as the gorgeous Galapinhos Beach.
Palmela can be reached by car or train from Lisbon. Do note that Palmela’s train station is set a bit further out from the historic town center, so traveling by car is the best option.
Top Tip: Visitors can overnight in the beautiful Palmela Castle Pousada. If you are visiting the castle, be sure to book your lunch spot ahead of time at the incredible Taverna o Bobo da Corte restaurant that services delicious traditional Portuguese cuisine. Reservation is essential as it’s usually booked up.
“Castelo de Palmela” by Portuguese_eyes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
PORTUGAL OFF THE BEATEN PATH: NATURAL SPACES
MIRA DE AIRE CAVES
Considering the fact that the Mira de Aire Caves are 150 million years old, it’s pretty curious that they were only discovered in 1947. They are the largest caves in Portugal, home to some unique forms of stalactites.
The site is open all year long, and all visits to the caves are guided and scheduled as travelers arrive. If you’re driving from Lisbon to Porto (or vice versa), add this quick stop to your itinerary.
PARQUE NATURAL DA RIBEIRA DOS CALDEIROES
By Michele From A Taste for Travel
Situated off the north coast of São Miguel in the island archipelago of the Azores, the Parque Natural da Ribeira Dos Caldeiroes is a treasure well worth exploring if you want to experience Portugal off the beaten track.
Take a walk along the cobbled walkways of this protected area of forest and gardens, and you’ll discover cascading waterfalls (complete with rainbows), giant ferns, moss-covered cliffs, orchids, historic water mills, rushing waterways, and more.
While it’s possible to travel to the park independently by car, if you’re feeling adventurous, book a canyoning excursion to go jumping, rappelling, and splashing down the steep cliffs into clear, blue natural pools. It’s a truly epic experience in this otherworldly landscape.
After your workout, soothe your aching muscles in the hot volcanic waters in one of the nearby thermal spa hotels in Furnas, Azores.
CAVAO DOS CONCHES
By Phil and Izzy from The Gap Decaders
Hidden deep in the Serra da Estrela mountains is a phenomenon the locals call “the eye”. Cavao dos Conches is, in fact, a man-made bell mouth sinkhole in the middle of a lake in the middle of the mountains!
This vast hole is designed to take water from the surrounding lakes and hills via a tunnel to the beautiful Lagoa Comprida 1500m away, over boulder fields and glacial valleys.
The eye itself is surrounded by natural flora and fauna, which grows and lives as the water ebbs and flows depending on rainfall and local weather systems.
To start your hike to Cavao dos Conches, head for the pretty town of Seia and drive up the snaking road to park at Lagoa Comprida for the trailhead. Follow the signed path from there.
Cavao dos Conchos by The Gap Decaders
By Allison of Eternal Arrival
For a unique spin on a Portugal trip, look to the beautiful island of Sao Miguel, part of the Azores Islands off the Atlantic coast of Portugal.
There are many hidden gems in Sao Miguel, but my favorite is Ferraria, a beautiful hot spring that empties out into the ocean, making a natural warm pool.
You do have to time the tides correctly – too low, and the hot spring will fill too much (making the water too hot), and too high, and the hot spring will be diluted and too cold. However, if you have the timing right, it feels like a lovely warm bath made of saltwater, right on the ocean!
To get there, simply drive to Ponta da Ferraria on the GPS. The road down to the hot spring area is a little steep and very narrow, so be careful! There is also a lighthouse nearby you can check out as well.
Ferraria by Eternal Arrival
ALQUEVA DARK SKY RESERVE
By Marco from Travel-Boo
The Alentejo region of Portugal is well known for its traditional gastronomy, award-winning Portuguese wines, historic towns and villages such as Evora and Monsaraz, and its beautiful countryside. But many don’t realize that this area is also home to the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve, a delight for stargazers and astronomy buffs.
Set in the heart of Alentejo roughly 2 hours by car from Lisbon, the Dark Sky Reserve is a truly magical place that allows you to wonder at the incredible night sky and stars.
To help increase visibility, the surrounding municipalities all banded together to impose lighting restrictions at night, keeping light to a minimum to allow for optimal viewing.
This internationally recognized protected area is certified as a Dark Sky Reserve and offers visitors a range of interesting activities and events to participate in and enjoy.
These include stargazing, night tours by canoe, workshops for Astrophotography, a visit to the Astrophotography Exhibition and Mini Museum, and solar observations.
“Alqueva lake, Portugal” by kees scherer is marked with CC0 1.0
By Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Tavira Island is found to the South of the city of Tavira. You can get there only by boat which departs from Quatro-Aguas and the city center.
Tavira Island is a great place to visit because of its best beaches in the Algarve region. It is 11 km long and offers areas where you can experience just nature and nothing else.
Despite its small size, the island offers a lot of interesting things to do. It houses a camping park, restaurants, and several bird species, including flamingoes.
Apart from that, you can visit Tavira Castle, Fado Com Historia, Praca da Republica, Tavira Island Webcam, and more. You can find where to stay in Algarve and explore all of it on your trip.
By: Or Amir/ mypathintheworld.com