Best Hidden Gems in Portugal
In recent years, the cities of Lisbon and Porto have become the favourite destinations of travellers from around the world and have been experiencing the largest tourist growth in Europe. If you have already had the chance to visit these two exceptional cities and want to think outside the box, come and discover some of Portugal's best hidden gems.
They are among the most beautiful villages of Portugal or among the most beautiful secret places of Portugal. Often hidden, little known to travellers, they are real jewels and well worth a visit.
From the island of Farol via Casa do Penedo and the island of Flores, come and visit exceptional places in one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
Aveiro - Porto
Costa Nova is renowned for the beauty of its colourful houses and fish market.
The houses along the main avenue, Avenida José Estevao, are the main tourist attraction of this small town connected to Aveiro by a bridge. They were once used to store fishing equipment and over time have become vacation homes. Some are available for rent. Hurry up! These beautiful little colourful houses are sometimes booked months in advance.
How to get there: Book your flights to Porto and your accommodation in Porto and discover Aveiro and Costa Nova by train (40 minutes from Sao Bento station). For a perfect holiday, book your tours and activities in Porto.
Where to stay: We advise you to book your accommodation in "Porto Moments", located in the heart of the historical district of Gaia.
Casa do Penedo
Moreira do Rei
This strange house is located in "Moreira do Rei" near Fafe, in the north of Portugal; it was built in the middle of 4 big rocks similar to the outer walls of a castle and seems to come straight out of an episode of "Flinstones".
Its owners had it built in the mid 70's and still use it as a holiday home. It's very rustic though: there is no electricity. Want to find the spot easily? Type "Rua Rally de Portugal n.º1610, 4800-000 Fafe" in Google Maps and follow the directions.
Where to stay: Book your accommodation in "Porto Moments" located in the historic centre, near the docks: the place is perfect to discover Porto and region.
Azenhas do mar
Azenhas do mar
Only 50 minutes from Lisbon experience a total change of scenery. This small fishing village, hung to the flank of the cliffs, will blow up your Instagram account.
Once you've taken your photo and posted it on your social networks leave your phone in your bag, put on your swimsuit and dive into the natural pool of seawater or lie on the sheltered beach. Are you a bit peckish? Typical Portuguese food and seafood restaurants await you in this authentic Portuguese village.
Where to stay: We recommend the "Casal Santa Virginia" hotel, very well appreciated for the friendliness of its staff and its exceptional location, facing the sea.
Quinta da Regaleira
This is where the most beautiful palaces and the most beautiful castles of Europe are. They seem to come straight out of a fairy tale and charm travellers, celebrities and crowned heads. from all over the world: Madonna, who lived in Lisbon for 3 years, also bought a "Quinta" in Sintra; she was seduced by the beauty of this city north of Lisbon. Finally she did not take the time to renovate her palace and Queen Madonna left Sintra on a whim: the Municipality had refused her the access on horseback to a historic palace for the needs of one of her music videos. Furious, she left Portugal.
Madonna is gone now but the beauties and riches of Sintra remain. Do not miss a visit to "Pena Palace", you can book your tickets online today to avoid queues.
Where to stay: If you are staying in Sintra we advise you to book at "Chalet Saudade" located in the city centre of Sintra: it offers a neat and elegant decoration.
If you are staying in Lisbon we advise you to book in the Alfama area: the "Alfama Loft Studio with river view" is a good choice.
You think that "Peniche" is already a hidden gem and that this small fishing town is already a little piece of paradise. Portugal is generous and always offers you more. Berlengas Archipelago is the icing on the cake.
Located just an hour's drive from Lisbon (and a 10-minute boat ride from Peniche), the Berlengas Archipelago seems to have come out of a children's fairy tale. Its fort and lighthouse, on the main island of Berlenga Grande, are the symbols of this archipelago.
This nature reserve is protected but visitable and accessible. You can even sunbathe on the small beach accessible only by boat.
Where to stay: We recommend the "Mercearia of Alegria Boutique B&B", (dating back from 1936).The tradional grocery store has been fully renovated.
North of Madeira
Santana (north of Madeira) is often a little rainier than the south; it is known worldwide for its traditional triangular and colourful houses. To be honest, the village is not really typical on the island since only one house is inhabited and the others are transformed into souvenir shops. Anyway it's a lovely place to take pictures and discover some local handicrafts.
But Santana is much more than that: perched on the heights of the north of the island the village offers many hikes in the heart of a lush nature.
Where to stay: If you want to stay in Madeira like a celebrity, book your room at "Reid's Palace", probably one of the finest hotels in Europe. If you are a nature lover, book your room at the hotel "Quinta do Furao" which offers travellers many outdoor activities.
Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gêres
Located near the "Penada Geres" national park, 1.5 hours by car from Porto, Sistelo is one the best hidden gems in Portugal. This village of 300 inhabitants, considered one of the 7 wonders of Portugal is also called "The little Portuguese Tibet".
Like in the Douro Valley, the green terraces of Sistelo have been shaped by human hands: the flat parts are used for cultivation, a.o. corn. The harvested grains are stored in "Espigueiros" granaries, raised from the ground so that rodents can’t eat the precious harvest. The corn is then ground into flour thanks in the mills that run along the river.
During your stay in Sistelo, don't miss the "Cha da Armada" viewpoint which offers the best views of Sistelo. Walk up the M1289 to Padrao and Porta Cova and enjoy exceptional views of the village of Sistelo.
If you like hiking in nature, Sistelo is the destination for you. "Brandas de Sistelo" is a small 11km trail that starts in the village and takes you to the most beautiful natural places of this incredible region. History buffs can visit Sistelo Castle. This cultural heritage and its exceptional landscapes are now protected since Sistelo has been classified among the national monuments and cultural landscapes of Portugal.
Where to stay: If you want to wake up surrounded by nature, book 2 nights at "Casa do Ramiscal - Eido do Pomar". Its large windows offer magnificent views of the entire region.
Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
Sao Miguel - Azores
Facing the island of Sao Miguel, the main island of the Azores Archipelago, the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo will be the icing on the cake of your stay in the Azores.
Only 1 kilometre from the coast, this small island is actually the visible part of an incredible underwater volcano. Crystal clear waters and a small beach await you in this unique little corner of paradise.
How to get there: Book your flights to Ponta Delgada and your accommodation at the best price on the island of Sao Miguel. Also book your tours and activities in The Azores such as a whale and dolphin watching tour with Vila Franca Islet visit..
Where to stay: If you want to stay near this Islet, book your room at the best price in Vila Franca do Campo.
The parish of Odeceixe is situated on the steeply inclined topography that divides the Algarve and Alentejo regions; the south bank of the Ribeira de Seixe which runs through this parish is the dividing line for this frontier.
The parish includes Praia do Odeceixe at the mouth of the Ribera de Seixe. This has one of the few official naturist beaches in Portugal! (copyright CC)
How to get there: Book your flights to Faro (1h30 by car), your transfer, your accommodation at the best price in Odeceixe and your tours and activities in The Algarve such as a Benagil cave sunset boat trip.
Where to stay: "Monte do Cardal" Guests can enjoy various activities in the surroundings, including cycling and hiking.
Lagoa - Algarve
This beautiful fishing village is part of the municipality of Lagoa, one of the most beautiful municipalities in the Algarve that includes the cities of Porches, Carvoeiro, Ferragudo.
We advise you to get to the village by N125 (free) while passing by the city of Parchal. There is a vacant lot at the entrance of Ferragudo, you can park there and will get an amazing view of Ferragudo and Portimao, the nearby town.
The photo above was taken from that place. While strolling around in Ferragudo do not miss to rest on the beautiful beach of "Praia Grande": it is less crowded than Carvoeiro and Portimao beaches. There is also a "nudist" part at the end of the beach which is not very crowded, but nudism is tolerated.
How to get there: Book your flights to Faro (45 min by car), your transfer, your accommodation at the best price in Ferragudo and your tours and activities in The Algarve such as a Benagil cave sunset boat trip.
Where to stay: One of the top rated hotels by travellers to Ferragudo is "Caneiros Luxury House & Suites", located 300 metres from the beach.
Ilha das Flores
The island of Flores is located in the northernmost part of the Azores archipelago. For this reason the island is less visited by tourists and is a real paradise on earth for nature lovers and hikers.
Do not miss to taste the guava jam: the microclimate of Flores Island is perfect for the guava.
How to get there: Book your flights to Ponta Delgada, the capital of the island of Sao Miguel and take a direct flight that will take you to Flores in 1 hour (from 60 euros).
Where to stay: "Casa Pedras Brancas" featuring garden and sea views
Tenoes - Braga
Tenoes was a small parish connected to Braga. They call it a “freguesia" in Portugal. Since 2013 it has completely been attached to the city of Braga.
The beauty of the Sanctuary of "Bom Jesus do Monte" is breathtaking. Park your car below the sanctuary and climb the 116 metres of elevation of its sumptuous stairs.
These stairs are divided into 5 levels: they represent human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Each sense is represented by statues standing on each level. Too tired to keep climbing? No problem, a funicular, classified among the most beautiful funiculars in Europe, will take you to the heights of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus in just a few seconds.
How to get there: Book your flights to Porto (45 min by car) and your accommodation at the best price in Porto or Braga and your tours and activities such as a "full-day historical tour of Braga with transport from Porto".
Where to stay: We advise you to book your accommodation in "Porto Moments", located in the heart of the historical district of Porto.
Olhao - The Algarve
You may have seen it from the plane to Faro. The island of Culatra is a small hidden gem accessible only by boat or catamaran from the city of Olhao.
The island is car-free, the air is pure, life is peaceful. The crystal clear waters of Culatra Island invite to swimming and diving.
Where to stay: During our stay near this beach we stayed at the "Vila Monte Farm House" located in Moncarapacho, just a few minutes from the beach. The hotel is a marvel.
Centro de Portugal
We love this one! Montsanto has nothing to do with the often criticized agricultural biotechnology firm in the US, Monsanto is a historic village in Portugal that received the title of "Most beautiful Portuguese Village" in 1938.
This small village is full of religious and historical buildings built by the Templars such as its castle. If you are not passionate about history this is not a problem, the panorama alone deserves a visit.
After a 3-hour drive from Lisbon, you will have the opportunity to rest at the "Adega tipica o cruzeiro" restaurant which offers exceptional panoramic views of the entire region.
Where to stay: We advise you to stay at the "Monsanto GeoHotel Escola" located less than 300 metres from Monsanto Castle.
Lagoa - The Algarve
What was once a small fishing village has now become a pretty, little, popular seaside resort with travellers from around the world. Carvoeiro, however, has not lost its soul and many Portuguese still live there.
The view from the school is incredible and tourists also enjoy the beautiful beach of Carvoeiro voted as the most beautiful beach in Europe.
How to get there: Carvoeiro is located 1 hour from Faro Airport (Taxi transfers: 50 euros for 4 people). Book your flights to Faro, your accommodation at the best price and your tours and activities in Carvoeiro.
Serra do Açor
Recognized as one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal, Piodao is located in the "Serra do Açor".
Piodao is proof of the incredible capacity of Portuguese to adapt to nature. The village is part of this incredible landscape and the houses are nestled in this natural setting in a natural, sober way.
How to get there: Book your flights to Porto (2:30 by car), your accommodation at the best price and your tours and activities in Porto and discover one of Portugal's best hidden gems. Avail yourself of the opportunity to visit Coimbra, another beautiful city of Portugal.
Where to stay: We advise you to book your accommodation in "Porto Moments", located in the heart of the historical district of Porto.
Arrabida Natural Park
You will have a crush on Setubal! Located just 40 minutes drive from Lisbon, Setubal has it all: the sea, sublime beaches, a charming and authentic city centre, covered markets, traditional restaurants, trendy cafés and bars, hotels in a natural reserve, sweetness of life under the sun...
Cross the magnificent 25th April bridge or the incredible and endless Vasco da Gama bridge (12 kilometres long) and get to Setubal. It is definitely worth a visit.
Spend a few days there and enjoy this exceptional place. Do not miss a visit to "Praia dos galapinhos" awarded the title of the most beautiful beach in Europe!
How to get there: Book your flights to Lisbon (60 min by car).
Where to stay: We advise you to stay at the "Ha Mar Ao Luar", nestled on the heights of Setubal, at the entrance of the nature reserve of Arrabida park.
Ponte da Piedade
Lagos - Algarve
Ponta da Piedade could be ranked among the 7 wonders of the world and certainly among the 7 wonders of Portugal. Rocks cut by millennia of waves form an incredible lace of exceptional beauty.
You can reach Ponta da Piedade by car ( there is a car park at the foot of the lighthouse "Farol de Ponta da Piedade") or by boat by booking your tours and activities in Lagos such as a Ponta da Piedade Kayak tour.
Lagos is a popular destination for travellers looking for a destination that combines outdoor activity, beach, bars and restaurants, historic city centre with souvenir and traditional shops and nightlife.
Where to stay: Book your room at the best price at the "Vila Graciosa - Tranquility Oasis". It offers an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by gardens and sun loungers.
Marvao, hung at the top of Serra de Sapoio (900 metres of altitude), is a beautiful fortified city located in the Alentejo region at the Spanish border and 2h30 from Lisbon.
Do not miss to visit the city of Evora with its traditional whitewashed houses and Gothic cathedral (one of the symbols of the city).
How to get there: Book your flights to Lisbon (2h30 by car), your accommodation at the best price and your tours and activities in the Alentejo such as an "Evora full-day tour with wine tasting from Lisbon".
Where to stay: Looking for an unusual accommodation? Book your room at the best price in a former railway station located in Beira, 8 km from the village of Marvao in the "Train Spot Guesthouse".
Carvoeiro - Algarve
Dugged by the waves, this cave is spectacular inside with the sunlight streaming through the roof, the waters are clear, the sand is fine, the beach is secret: you can get there only by boat or Kayak.
How to get there: Book your flights to Faro (40 min by car), your transfer, your accommodation at the best price in Carvoeiro, your tours and activities in Carvoeiro such as a Benagil caves boat cruise with dolphin watching.
Where to stay: We advise you to book "Algarve Moments" a perfect apartment for 2-5 people or for a romantic getaway.
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