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Although Portugal is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, it is surprisingly easy to escape the crowds and find some hidden gems here. Follow our lead to discover some underrated spots you may not have known existed!
Lisboa region: Watch dolphins at Reserva Natural do Estuário do Sado
The Sado Estuary Natural Reserve is a wonderful place to visit, not least because of the diverse birdlife that congregates on its shores and across its mudflats. However, the estuary is equally famous for its resident bottlenose dolphins. Visitors are welcome to witness these graceful creatures in all their playfulness on a sightseeing cruise.
You can easily combine the dolphin seafari with exploring Sétubal, where the cruise boats depart from. The busy port is notable for its two large architectural attractions, the Igreja de Jesus and Castelo de São Filipe, perched on a high bluff above the city.
Setúbal lies on the northern flank of the Estuário do Sado, opposite the Península de Tróia. So you can extend your day trip by packing a picnic and catching the ferry to this largely untouched spit of sand, featuring the Roman town of Cetóbriga.
Centro de Portugal: Unravel the mysteries of Tomar
The central part of Portugal is full of hidden gems, romantic mysteries, and fascinating history, with Tomar being one of the best places to experience all of these.
Spend the day admiring the architecture of the 12th-15th centuries and sipping a cocktail on the medieval square. Make sure to visit the Tomar Castle, the Convent of Christ, and the other fortresses and churches that were once used by the Knights Templar as residences and headquarters.
South of Tomar, there’s the Almourol Castle, one of the most emblematic monuments of the Christian reconquest. This enchanted beauty bolsters the legend that it’s haunted by a ghost of a long-gone princess.
Porto and the North: Explore nature and dive into the past in Peneda-Gerês national park
The only national park in Portugal, Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês is enveloped in lush and varied landscapes, from wooded valleys to granite mountain peaks. With marked trails leading up to stunning viewpoints, past gushing waterfalls and secluded swimming spots, it’s so enjoyable to head off the beaten track here!
In charming villages like Lindoso or Soajo, near the Spanish border, you can stay in lovingly restored traditional stone cottages. Quaint houses and tiny churches with mountains glowering above create an idyllic picture, but the most impressive local feature is espigueiros, granite granaries built above the ground.
Alentejo & Algarve: Walk the Trilho dos Pescadores
From Porto Côvo, a quaint Alentejan fishing village, the Trilho dos Pescadores path meanders over clifftops, through river valleys, and along beaches to Odeceixe. This is where it meets the Caminho Historico, a rural trail that runs through farmland, wooded valleys, and hills to reach Portugal’s far southwestern headland, Cabo de São Vicente in the Algarve.
While walking the Trilho dos Pescadore, you’re more likely to see goats, ponies, and soaring birds than another human being. This long-distance 226,5 km path, following the picturesque fisherman’s routes along the coast, is divided into 13 smaller sections. You can do either a part of the route or just one section of it each day, finishing in seaside villages to enjoy a good meal and a bed for the night.
The Fisherman’s Trail is a part of one of the most beautiful and well-preserved coastal areas in Europe, the Rota Vicentina. The whole route totals over 340km from Santiago do Cacém in the Alentejo to Cape St Vincent in the Algarve.
Madeira: Hop on the Teleférico das Achadas da Cruz for the stunning views not seen by many
The Achadas da Cruz cable car is one of Madeira’s best-kept secrets. You may see farmers harvesting crops along the way. Many locals have their lands down there, and the cable car was installed mainly to facilitate their access, without having tourists in mind. In other words, you will be able to experience something truly authentic.
Enjoy magnificent views of Porto Moniz from the Achadas da Cruz cable car – open every day from 08:00 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 18:00!
Azores: Taste the difference with a gastro tour across nine islands
Despite their small size, the Azorean islands boast untrodden paths and unique flavours to experience. If you’re a total foodie, munch your way through the Azores following our guide.
10 dishes to try while on the Azores
- Queijo São Jorge, Omorro Amanteigado from Faial island, and other local cheeses. Tip: visit The King of Cheese (O rei dos queijos) in Ponta Delgada to taste them all!
- Marmelada (a Portuguese quince jam)
- Alcatra (pot roast)
- Cozido das Furnas (a volcano-cooked meat stew). You can also have a Caldeira das Furnas – a corn cooked underground the same way
- Grilled fish, seasoned with Portuguese olive oil
- Cracas (barnacles boiled in seawater)
- Lapas (grilled limpets)
- Bolo Lêvedo (a sweet Portuguese muffin)
- Masalada (a Portuguese fried dough)
- Pastel de nata (a custard tart)
If you are looking for a sophisticated place for a drink, then book your table at Cella Bar. It is a tapas restaurant and a cocktail bar located on the island of Pico in the municipality of Madalena. Cella bar consists of two buildings – a remodelled barn with volcanic stone walls, and a bulbous timber extension. Although the food might be a bit pricey, the drinks with a magnificent view prove to be totally worth it.
Book your flight to unexplored Portugal now and check the local government advice before you go: