Sun. May 19th, 2024

Situated in South West Europe, Portugal is a beautiful country that’s famed for its delicious cuisine, world-famous beaches, and beautiful architecture. And while the country has become a must-see tourist destination over the past few decades, there are still plenty of hidden gems left to uncover. Here’s your guide to the best of secret spots in Portugal that you must visit for yourself.


Portugal is a country in South West Europe that is best-known for its breathtaking beaches, historic towns (predominantly dating back to the 16th-19th centuries), and delectable food scene.

Some of the most popular places to visit in the country include The Algarve Coastline, the city of Porto, and the Palaces of Sintra. If you’re planning a trip to this stunning destination for yourself, be sure to read our Portugal travel tips guide and our suggested souvenirs from Portugal to help you avoid common travel mistakes!

portugal map


By Greta of Greta’s Travels

If you’re looking for beautiful off the beaten path destinations in Portugal, you have to add Mertola to your list. Located in the south east of Portugal, in the Alentejo region, it’s an incredibly scenic town, with a very well preserved old town centre.

The town is perched on a hill overlooking the Guadiana River, with the Castle of Mertola towering above it. The castle is free to visit and a must-see in Mertola. Besides being an interesting sight for anyone passionate about medieval history, the castle also offers stunning views over the town, river and surrounding countryside.

After visiting the castle you can spend a few hours wandering the streets of the old town, getting lost amongst the white houses, cobbled streets and red roofs that characterize the town. Other must-see sights are Church of Nossa Senhora de Anunciacao, a 12thcentury church and former mosque, and the local market.

If you plan to spend a night in Mertola, you should stay at one of the accommodation options on the opposite side of the Guadiana River.

That way you’ll wake up in the morning and get to enjoy incredible views over Mertola and the river. Don’t miss out on this hidden Portuguese gem, and make sure to add Mertola to your Portugal itinerary!

mertola portugal

Madeira sugar cane factory

By Sinead of Map Made Memories

An unusual and less visited hidden gem in Portugal is the last operational sugar cane factory on the island of Madeira. The factory was founded in the 19th century but there has been sugar cane produced on Madeira since the 15th century.

Visitors should park at Calheta beach and walk the short distance to Engenhos da Calheta (the sugar cane factory and museum). Once inside the free museum, a small but engaging exhibition and bi-lingual film charts the history of the factory and of sugar cane production on Madeira.

Visitors self-guide around the small factory but must keep within designated areas from where it is possible to view where and how the sugar cane enters the factory and how it is processed.

Sugar cane juice is collected and made into squash like drinks or distilled into alcohol such as brandy or cane rum. The sugar itself is processed for use in baking or for honey.

Any remaining cane pulp is processed and made into animal feed. It is best to visit the factory whilst operational and particularly in the busy sugar cane harvesting season in April / May.

Next door to the tiny factory is the on-site cafe and shop where visitors can see the biggest Bolo de Mel ever baked in Madeira (Madeira honey cake) and buy their own honey cake, sugar cane juice and alcohol to take away.

The cafe sells a range of cheap drinks and cakes with tasters available.  A short visit to this small, unpretentious factory will feel like watching a slice of Madeiran history and culture.

madeira sugar cane factory

Ponta Delgada

By Disha Smith of Disha Discovers

One of the best-hidden gems of Portugal is Ponta Delgada in the Azores. This volcanic archipelago sits in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s often overlooked by more popular cities such as Lisbon or Porto.

Ponta Delgada has a long and rich history dating back to the 15th century. The city was founded by Diogo de Silves, a Portuguese explorer, in 1427. It quickly grew into a prosperous port town. It had become the most important city in the Azores by the 16th century.

The city played an essential role in the Age of Exploration. Many Portuguese explorers, including Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco da Gama, stopped in Ponta Delgada on their voyages around the world.

There are several reasons why Ponta Delgada is a stunning destination in Portugal. It’s a unique and beautiful place with mountains, lakes, and forests. The second is its exciting history and culture. The city has a long and rich history, much of which you can explore at the many museums and historical buildings here.

The third reason to visit Ponta Delgada is for its outdoor activities. Hiking, biking, swimming, and whale watching are just some of the things you can do here. Sete Cidades National Park is the most popular attraction in Ponta Delgada.

This beautiful park features two lakes – one blue and one green – which are the result of a tragic love story. The Azores has some stunning landscapes, but this one might be the most picturesque.

Another must-do in Ponta Delgada is to admire Igreja de São Sebastião. This parish church was founded in 1533, and there’s a beautiful clock tower attached to it. Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Esperança and Convent is another church worth visiting. Nuns still occupy it, and it has gorgeous artwork.

For epic views of the town, stroll along the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, a waterfront promenade. You’ll be able to see Forte de São Brás from here.

One travel tip for visiting is to always carry an umbrella. The weather is quite unpredictable, and it can rain without any notice. This uncertainty adds to the experience, though.

ponta delgada


By Clotilde of A princess travelling with twins

During a road trip in the Douro valley, a visit to the sleepy town of Lamego is a must, a true hidden gem of this enchanting region. Located about 20 minutes from the more famous Peso de Regua, Lamego fascinates with its narrow streets and quiet air, although small and compact it amazes you with the number of interesting sites it contains.

Lamego is divided into two parts: the uppermost part of the town contains the historical archaeological area. Here you will find a small castle, which, having never been inhabited and consequently never having been the scene of battles, has been very well preserved.


There is also a delightful tiny free museum with archaeological finds from the area, and not far from the charming alleys you will find a simple door that gives access to a building that houses a vaulted stone cistern, that shows Arabic influence and has been renovated and opened to the public

Moving to the lower part of Lamego, the newest part, you can visit the Se Cathedral, one of the oldest in Portugal. From the promenade next to the Cathedral you can then start to appreciate perhaps Lamego’s most famous site: the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios sanctuary.

The sanctuary is located in an elevated position over the town and is connected with it via a monumental Baroque staircase, consisting of hundreds of steps (686 to be exact) that zigzag from the top to the bottom, forming nine richly decorated tiers.

The view from below is truly spectacular, but after the usual photos, if the climb of the nearly seven hundred steps should prove too daunting, you should know that the sanctuary can also be easily reached by car. Lamego is definitely a spot not to be missed.

lamego, portugal


By Claudia & Jorge of Travel Drafts

Talasnal is a cute Schist village and a fascinating hidden gem in Portugal. There are several Schistic villages in the interior of Portugal, which are characterized by having the houses, roads, and main squares mainly built with schistic, a native stone of this region.

Talasnal is one of the most visited and beautiful schistic villages, it is located near Lousã. With 10 to 20 houses, the village is very small, but it has one restaurant, one coffee and one shop where you can buy local art and a few gourmet products.

In the past, the schist villages were inhabited by small groups of people that earned a living from cattle briding, but slowly they started to be abandoned with the lack of jobs and living conditions. Nowadays nobody lives in Talasnal so it is used for tourism and preservation of Portugal’s historical legacy.

You can rent one of the cute schistic houses and enjoy a relaxing stay on the mountain. It is the ideal place to rest and be isolated from everything. Though you won’t be bored as there are plenty of activities to do like hiking and mountain biking.

You can walk to Lousã, the closest city, and visit the castle and its river beach. Or, visit the other schistic villages near Talasnal that are within walking distance, Casal Novo, Cerdeira, and Candal. Talasnal is a very remote place, there isn’t any public transportation so you will need a car to visit it.



By Claudia & Jorge of Portugal Things

Drave is an abandoned village in the mountains of Arouca in the center of Portugal. Its last permanent inhabitant left in 2000, but despite it being abandoned it is still quite well maintained, as it is a camping site of Portuguese scouts.

Drave is truly a hidden gem, as there are no paved roads to reach the village. The only ways to visit it are by foot or by using a 4×4. We recommend hiking, as it is a wonderful trek.

The hike to Drave is only 4 km (8k with return). As you have to walk up and down the mountain, it can be quite rough sometimes. Thus, it’s not advised for people with reduced mobility. However, it is well worth visiting.

First of all, the trail is gorgeous. During the trail, you are able to appreciate the wonderful view of the mountains and spot herds of sheep. Second, visiting the village is a unique experience.

The village is full of stone houses and roads, plus there are small lagoons and waterfalls where you can swim. It is quite cool exploring the abandoned houses it looks like a mystical place.

It was not by chance that Drave earned the nickname of “the magic village.” We advise you to visit Drave in Summer so you can enjoy swimming in the lagoon, but be aware that there are very few shadows along the way and take lots of water.

drave portugal

Terceira Island, Azores

By Vanda of The Yogi Wanderer

If you’re looking for a true hidden gem in Portugal, the remote Terceira Island in the Azores will not disappoint you! From pristine nature and stunning scenery to rich history and cultural traditions, there’s much to do and see in the third-largest Azorean island, without the hordes of tourists you’ll find in more touristy destinations.

Terceira was the third island of the Azores to be discovered by the Portuguese navigators in the 15th century, hence its name which means “third” in Portuguese. Its capital, Angra do Heroísmo, is the oldest city in the archipelago and was once the capital of the country during the Liberal Wars.

Today, Angra do Heroísmo is classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site due to its beauty and historical significance. Wandering through the cobbled streets of the city center and admiring its Renaissance-style architecture is a must-do while here.

Terceira is one of the few places on earth where you can go inside a volcano. Located right in the center of the island, Algar do Carvão is a spectacular ancient (and extinct) lava tube now covered by lush vegetation and unique stalactites.

Some other places worth visiting are the natural lava swimming pools of Biscoitos, in the north of the island, the geothermal site of Furnas do Enxofre, and the breathtaking view from Serra do Cume.

Hikers are spoilt for choice as the island offers an accessible and extensive hiking trail network through its intact nature. Ocean lovers can also choose from a wide range of nautical activities, including surf, SUP, kayaking, boat tours, and whale and dolphin watching.

There are daily flights from Lisbon to Terceira all year round. The best way to explore the island is to rent a car or join a guided tour, as public transportation is sparse.

Biscoitos, Terceira Island

Peneda-Gerês National Park

By Coni of Experiencing the Globe

Portugal’s only national park is an absolute must. Tucked in the northern corner of the country, in the border with Spain, this place is a delight for nature lovers, hikers, and culture tourist alike.

Although it’s located only 100 km from Porto, exploring Gerês in public transport is impossible, so you’ll need your own wheels. You could take a day tour, but it’d allow you to only see a fraction of the park.

So rent a car and stay overnight (or better yet, for a few nights). You can camp in any of the several authorized camping spots, or stay in one of the villages. If you want to focus on the landscape, visit the Mata da Albergaria, a magnificent oak forest.

For the best viewpoints, head to Pedra Bela and Vale da Peneda. If you don’t mind a bit of hiking, go to Pincães, Portela do Homem and Arado waterfalls. These ones have easy access, so you’ll be swimming in no time. If you prefer more demanding treks, then Tahiti and Fecha de Barjas waterfalls are the ones for you.

Also, don’t miss Misarela, known as the Devil’s bridge. Built in the Middle Ages and rebuilt in the 19th century, the walk down the hill to reach the bridge is beautiful, and you’ll be rewarded by close ups of the river and a waterfall.

If what you prefer is to explore the cultural side of the park, for authentic small villages with top-of-a-hill castles, go to Lindoso and Castro Laboreiro. You can also visit Nossa Senhora da Peneda and São Bento da Porta Aberta Sanctuaries, 18th and 19th century Baroque churches.

But the musts are Gerês and Soajo. They still maintain the old ways, with shepherds leading their cows and sheep to graze, and grannies selling homemade jams and other goodies. The most interesting thing in the latter are the Espigueiros, a collection of granite granaries perched on stilts

There’s a bonus track. The region that houses the park is where the famous Portuguese Vinho Verde (green wine) is produced, so don’t leave without trying it! Portugal is one of the best wine destinations around the world for a reason!

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Conimbriga Roman Ruins

By Soumya of Stories by Soumya

The Roman ruins of Conimbriga in Central Portugal are a true hidden gem. Located just a bus ride away from the university town of Coimbra, Conimbriga sees less than a hundred tourists a day.

Conimbriga was a thriving Roman town in the 1st and 2nd century AD. In the 5th century, German Suevi tribes arrived and caused massive damage to the city. The Romans fled leaving behind their mansions that had some of the most amazing mosaic floors in all of the Roman Empire.

Today, Conimbriga is one of Portugal’s largest Roman archeological sites and definitely one of the most well-preserved. Here, you will see the ruins of noble homes complete with manicured gardens, water fountains, and several rooms.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these houses is the presence of vibrant mosaic flooring. These mosaic floors are filled with images of birds, animals, and people, thus giving us a quick glimpse into life from 2000 years ago. You will find the most beautiful floors at the House of Fountains and the House of Swastika.

At the site, you will also see a Roman Forum, public baths, an amphitheater, and some indigenous houses that date back to pre-Roman times. There is a museum that gives you deeper insights into the region’s Roman past.

A standard ticket for the ruins and museum costs €4.50. The site is open Monday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm, except for major public holidays. It is easy to reach Conimbriga from Coimbra by car. The drive takes only 15 minutes. You can also take a bus labeled Conimbriga or Condeixa-a-Nova. The ride takes only 30 minutes.

Conimbriga Roman Ruins


By Victoria of Guide Your Travel

Nazare is a beautiful little seaside town located 1.5 hours north of Lisbon. Nazare is known for its incredible surfing conditions and is actually home to the biggest waves in the world.

Some get as large as 100 feet and every year there are new record-breakers. Annually, between December and March the big wave surf tow championships are held in Nazare where some of the best surfers in the world compete.

The event can only be announced a few days in advance so it’s never easy to predict when exactly it will take place since it depends on the wave conditions. During summer, the waves will be slightly smaller but still impressive and walking up the Nazare’s iconic lighthouse viewpoint is a must do during any season.

This is also the location of the town’s surf museum which you can visit for just 1€ entrance fee. If surfing doesn’t interest you very much you should still visit Nazare. In addition to big waves, there is also a calmer bay here which is perfect for swimming and relaxing.

Walk along the beautiful beach promenade and have lunch in an authentic Portuguese restaurant. Nazare is the ideal place to stop on a road trip through Portugal especially if you have time to spend at least a few days here.

Take the funicular up the cliffs and admire the incredible view of the ocean. The coastline in this area of Portugal is rugged and beautiful and will make you want to come back over and over again.

nazare portugal


By Raluca of TravelWithASpin

One of the most underrated places you could visit in Portugal is Coimbra, a charming university city and its first capital. This is an easy day trip by train or car from either Porto or Lisbon. But if you have enough time, staying overnight in Coimbra is much more rewarding than a day trip.

Coimbra was built on a hill overlooking Rio Mondego and is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, which is also an UNESCO heritage site. The beautiful university complex stands right on top of the hill and the entire town developed around it.

It was founded in 1290 and is now the main attraction in town. If you want to visit at a specific date and time, make sure to book your tickets in advance, especially for Joanina Library, one of the most wonderful university libraries in the world.

As an historical town that respects itself, Coimbra has not one, but two cathedrals, The Old Cathedral dating back to the 13th century and The New Cathedral from the 16th century.

The city center also hides some unexpected gems, like a cafe in a church (Santa Cruz), a sunken monastery (Santa Clara-a-Velha) and one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Europe.

In the old town, small reminders of the Moors’ occupation can also be seen. Children will be happy to wander around Portugal dos Pequenitos, a miniature park designed especially for them. Couples should not miss Quinta das Lagrimas and its romantic legends.

Coimbra is old, but has a young spirit. The city is green, full of quirky places and pretty cheap, even for Portugal. Its old town is rather small, thus all the attractions are pretty close together. Since the town is built on hills, it’s recommended that visitors wear comfortable shoes.


The Bone Chapel in Evora

By Claire of Tales of a Backpacker

If you’re looking for unusual places to visit in Portugal, Evora’s Bone Chapel has to be one of them.  Évora is a lovely city, about an hour and a half away from Lisbon.

You could take a day trip to Evora from Lisbon, but if you have time then it is worth spending a couple of days here as there are plenty of things to do in Evora and the surrounding area to keep you busy.

The Capela dos Ossos bone chapel is part of the Church of San Francis and the monastery which was attached to it. The Franciscan Monks who lived in the monastery built the chapel in the 16th Century with bones from local graves and used it as a place for prayer and contemplation about life, death and the human condition.

The chapel is decorated from floor to ceiling with bones and skulls from some 5000 bodies, which are carefully placed in patterns, creating a beautiful if macabre design.

There used to be two entire skeletons hanging from one corner of the ceiling, but they have now been placed in glass coffins in the chapel. It is small but quite spacious and has some natural light, so it isn’t as creepy as you might think.

At the entrance, an inscription in Portuguese reads “These bones that lay here wait to welcome yours”, so it certainly makes you think about mortality.

Upstairs from the chapel, there is a museum where you can learn more about the history of the church and chapel, and see several religious paintings and artefacts as well as some photographs showing the recent restoration of the buildings.

While you are in Evora, take the time to see some of the other attractions in the city, in particular the Roman Temple of Diana and Evora Cathedral.

chapel of bones in evora interior


By Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers

One of the best hidden gems in Portugal is the charming surf town, Ericeira. Only half an hour north of Lisbon, you find the first and only World Surfing Reserve in Europe. It is also one of the best places for surfing all year round, though for beginners, it is recommended to go between May and September.

But there are things to do in Ericeira for those who do not surf as well. The white and blue town is crisscrossed by narrow cobbled streets and lined with a dramatic coastline.

In between incredible beaches where you can admire surfers ride the waves all day, there are rock formations where you can find poems on tiles, modern rock carvings, and old cannons pointing out to the wild Atlantic Ocean.

The coast of Ericeira has no lack of stunning viewpoints either. You can walk along the coast from beach to beach and viewpoint to viewpoint. Stop at any bar or restaurant to grab a drink or a bite.

One of the best beaches is Foz do Lizandro. It is unique due to the river running into the ocean and makes it a perfect place for paddle surfing. Considering the proximity to the Portuguese capital city, it is extremely tranquil in Ericeira and it is a wonderful, accessible day trip if you do not have more time.

That said, it is absolutely recommended to stay a few days to take in the relaxed vibe, and even if you are new to surfing, there is no excuse not to take on the waves in Ericeira joining any of the many surfing schools.

Ericeira Portugal


By Sarah of Cosmopoliclan

Odeceixe is a wonderful destination for those looking to escape the South-Algarve-bound crowds without having to compromise on beach scenery. This picture-perfect rural town enjoys a privileged location between two stunning coastlines: the Costa Vicentina and the Costa Alentejana.

It comprises a mountain-perched center and a beach community called Odeceixe-Mar. An idyllic and fully functional historic windmill marks the town’s highest point.

This landmark is also known to offer the most priceless panoramas as it overlooks the white-washed houses, the verdant valley and the meandering river Seixe that gave this town its name.

Days can be spent at the beach, where the river forms a unique lagoon that hugs the cliff-flanked golden patch of sand before mouthing in the Atlantic. Go surfing in the wild ocean waters or SUPping in the river lagoon, the choice is yours.

Another popular local attraction is the Fishermen’s Trail, part of the Rota Vicentina hiking network, which connects Odeceixe to Porto Covo in Alentejo. Explore a landscape of wetlands, sand dunes, wildflowers, towering cliffs and an abundant collection of unique plants and herbs that makes up the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.

It’s a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts. When the evening falls, the tranquil town center transforms into a lively place. Go wine-tasting in the winery museum, visit the 15th century Nossa Senhora da Piedade church with its Manueline-style accents or just stroll the paved streets while taking in the spectacular ocean views. For dinner, head to a local tasca or Portuguese tavern and treat yourself to the freshest grilled seafood paired with locally grown sweet potatoes.

Odeceixe, Portugal

Faro Bone Chapel

By Bec of Wyld Family Travel

Standing out the front of the Igreja do Carmo Faro Church many would find it hard to believe what is located at the back of this otherwise unassuming church. The facade is a crisp white with a contrasting yellow with the twin bell towers rising up over the small town square it sits in.

It looks like any other church in Portugal but in the rear of this church is a Capel dos Ossos, a Bone Chapel. Once you have paid a small entry fee you can take your time walking through the Church itself.

Many people take the time to sit and admire the Church that dates back to 1719 before making their way through to the Bone Chapel. Visiting a Bone Chapel is rarely what people think it will be.

The one in Faro Portugal is a small room at the rare of the Church located off a beautiful little garden. The walls and ceiling are lined with the bones of Carmelite monks who were exhumed from a nearby graveyard.

What makes this Bone Chapel different from most is that it is smaller than most, measuring only 5 metres long and around 2 meters wide. There is an altar at one end where some people can sit to pray while others make their way into the small garden to reflect.

There is a guard that keeps an eye on all who visits as unfortunately, people try to take the bones or touch them which makes them deteriorate.

For some and especially people travelling in Portugal with kids, Bone Chapels are not at the top of the list of must-see sights. Visiting the Faro Bone Chapel is an experience you won’t forget.

faro bone chapel portugal

Parque Natural do Alvão

By Lotte of Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog 

Parque Natural do Alvão is a beautiful natural park in the north of Portugal that should feature on any Portugal road trip itinerary. It’s about 75 minutes from Guimaraes and an amazing destination for outdoor lovers. Since 1983 this area has been recognized as a natural park and while it’s only small in size, there is a large variety of and many things to see and do.

First of all, there’s the plains of Lamas de Olo with the Fisgas de Ermelo, a chain of waterfalls with 250 meters of high difference over 1.5 kilometers. There are many trails in the area which offer beautiful views over the falls. Even if you plan to do this

The villages in this area, such as Ermelo, Dornelas and Anta are known for their typical houses. These houses are made from granite, this type of rock is most commonly found in this area of Portugal.

Another highlight is the Senhora da Graça de Mondim de Basto, though technically that’s a little outside of Alvão Parque. Situated on top of Monte Farinha and overlooking the village Mondim de Basto and the surrounding area this imposing sanctuary can be seen from afar.

Just the drive up is already worthwhile, with 360 views as you spiral up the mountain. You can also cycle up, but keep in mind this is only for the practiced biker as it’s a really challenging climb.

To get around the area you need your own wheels as public transport is either very limited or not available at all. Also keep in mind that within the park there are no large supermarkets, just tiny neighbourhood stores which sell basic necessities (and of course pastel de nata). 

Be sure to bring plenty of water and enough food and snacks if you plan to spend a day or two exploring this wonderful off-the-beaten path area in Portugal.

Parque Natural do Alvão


By Maartje of The Orange Backpack

The small town of Tomar is one of Portugal’s best off the beaten track destinations. It is home to one of the best UNESCO gems in Portugal, the Convento de Christo of Tomar, which is one of the most extravagant and unique monasteries you’ll ever visit.

The history of Tomar is strongly linked to the Templar Knights who once liberated Portugal from the Moorish occupiers. The Portuguese king was extremely grateful and gave the monastic order land, titles, wealth and also Tomar.

The Templars built their headquarters there until the knights became too powerful and rich and their order was disbanded by the Pope. The Portuguese king remembered the services of the Templars well and was so grateful to them that he founded a new order, the Knights of the Order of Christ, and the monastery is now named after them.

The monastery of Tomar has been expanded over the centuries into a spectacle of architectural styles and new monastery additions. The highlight of the monastery is the central, round church where every centimetre is richly decorated.

But perhaps the church is even more beautiful from the outside, which you can see from one of the monasteries next to it. The window in the west façade is one of the most famous features of the convent, as it is one of the best examples of the Manueline architectural style that you can only find in Portugal.

The facade and the window are decorated with ropes, seaweed, coral and more references to the king, the Templars and especially Portugal’s reputation as a navigator nation.

In addition to this beautiful and large monastery complex, Tomar has a unique aqueduct that was built in the sixteenth century and is 6 kilometres long.

Just outside the city you can climb to the top of the viaduct and walk over the upper arches. That is only reserved for the daredevil, as there is no balustrade and the aqueduct is 30 meters high at its highest point.

Also wander around the old town of Tomar, where the picturesque streets, churches, park and squares will enchant you. For the best coffee stop, you have to go to Insento, a great place that justifies a visit to Tomar.

Convento de Christo Tomar Portugal

Enjoyed reading about the best of hidden gems and secret spots in Portugal? Pin this article now, read it again later:



By Lala