Portugal off the Beaten Path
Portugal boasts some of the most beautiful coastlines, breathtaking sceneries, and unique architecture, making it one of the best travel destinations in Southern Europe. The temperatures are warm all year round, and there is a vibrant nightlife scene that everyone needs to experience.
There are various lesser-known attractions off the beaten path that haven’t been commercialized yet in Portugal. For example, the stunning natural caves and grottoes in the Burenglas Islands. Let’s learn more about the best off-the-beaten paths in Portugal!
Lagos is a miniature city in southern Portugal that is a must-see for beach lovers. Not only are there awe-inspiring coastlines and rich, diverse cultures to experience, but see the most magnificent architecture. Another unique experience is the Lagos market. There are three floors of stalls where you can find fresh fish, vegetables, homemade sauces, and trinkets.
You will find Pena Park in Sintra, a small town in the beautiful hills of Serra de Sintra. You can see Pena Palace, a beautifully made bronze “gigantic warrior” statue, and exotic fauna and flora. You will find Cruz Alta Point, another off-the-beaten-path attraction close to the park – the viewpoint is the highest point of the Sintra Mountains and has magnificent panoramic views.
3. Madeira Island
Located off the Portuguese coast, you will find Madeira Island. Thrill-seekers will find adventurous opportunities such as hiking, scuba diving, big game fishing, and paragliding. The island is 2,000 meters above sea level, and it can be accessible with a chartered flight. These are unforgettable sights that every adventurer will appreciate.
4. Côa Vally
If you’re interested in prehistoric art, travel to Côa Valley Archeological Park! There are prehistoric engravings that date back thousands of years and landscapes that surround them. There are stone engravings that depict horses and humans in Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Archaeologists date these engravings as far back as 20,000 years.
5. Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is one of the most breathtaking destinations. This off-the-beaten-path location is located in the Minho Lima region in southern Portugal. There are outstanding sites, such as the infamous monument Santa Luzia Basilica at the peak of Mt. St. Luzia. You can’t miss the amazing view of the city, sandy beaches, and Lima River. Find the oldest floating naval hospital in Viana do Castelo named Gil Eanes Naval Museum. It got constructed in 973 and still contains original medical equipment.
Sortelha is a charming town, the most preserved and oldest village in Portugal. This tiny village can be dated back to prehistoric times and consists of 13-century architecture. There are mountains and valleys displaying the striking greenery Sortelha has to offer and stony pathways to explore. Spend the night in a stone house with traditional furniture and experience the rural side of Portugal.
Silves is Algarve’s best-kept secret! The region has the perfect blend of local food, eccentric culture, and stunning landscapes. Bustling cafes sell your favorite local dishes and a booming restaurant scene to keep you occupied in the evenings. The well-preserved red castle can be dated back to 201 BC, and many of the walls and towers got built in the 12th and 13th centuries. Along with the history, the streets are colorful, and there are many shopping plazas to discover.
8. Peneda-Gerês National Park
If you thought the last 7 points were enough to get you excited about planning your next trip to Portugal – think again. Peneda-Gerês National Park covers more than 70,000 hectares of land with granite peaks, rivers filled with trout, translucent lakes, thick forests, and glimmering waterfalls! The further east you travel, the more rugged the landscape becomes. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Portugal.
Take a short 30-minute boat ride to the small island of Berlenga. This is as far off the beaten path as you can get. There are no hotels to stay in as the whole island is a nature reserve. The island oozes myths and legends as you see the centuries-old fortifications built within the rocks. The remote beaches and abundance of plants and birdlife won’t disappoint. Unfortunately, the Berlengas Islands get hit hard by big storms each year, so plan your trip accordingly.
Don’t take the usual tourist route through Portugal and choose the off-the-beaten-path. You will find many fascinating places to see and cultures to experience. Let’s not forget the tantalizing cuisine too! The vast landscapes of Portugal are waiting to be explored.
Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq. is a co-founder of World Footprints. A three-time TEDx presenter and international speaker, Tonya was appointed a Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (63rd Session). An almost “recovering attorney”, Tonya has found her purpose as a cultural connector. She loves spreading positive messages about the power of travel and the strength of the common humanity we share. Tonya holds a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics and memberships in the National Speakers Association, Society of American Travel Journalists, Women in Film and Video, Society of Professional Journalists and the North American Travel Journalist Association where she serves as a Board Member. Tonya enjoys a life full of adventure, dark chocolate and champagne with her husband and business partner, Ian, and their beloved cat, Irwin.