Portugal is one of Europe‘s most popular destinations, home to charming cities like Porto, Lisbon, and Faro. But how about discovering places that are still off the beaten path and will show you another side of the Portuguese culture? Fortunately, despite Portugal’s popularity, there are still many places in the country that are off the tourist radar. If you want to get off the beaten track on your next visit to Portugal, here are the best places to check out.
Tucked in the far northwest of Portugal at the border with Galicia, Minho is an area of outstanding natural beauty flanked by scenic river valleys, majestic mountains, and the dramatic Atlantic coastline. While its hillsides are covered in pine, its meadows are braided by vines that produce the region’s finest wines.
There’s so much to appreciate as you meander through Minho, most notably the majestic waterfalls and thatched stone houses at Parque Natural do Alvão. The Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês, with its beautiful meadows, wooded valleys, and craggy upland moors, is also a joy to explore.
The main towns of Minho are Braga, Guimarães, and the Atlantic resort of Viana do Castelo. Braga is known for its religious heritage and is home to the Bom Jesus do Monte complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a series of chapels with sculptures evoking the Passion of Christ. Meanwhile, Guimaraes is a wonderfully preserved medieval city and the first capital of Portugal.
Coimbra & the Beira Litoral
When people go to Portugal for the beach, they immediately think of Algarve. But there’s a long stretch of good sandy beaches lying along a coastal strip known as Beira Litoral. Located in the northwest of Portugal, west of Beira Baixa and Beira Alta, Beira Litoral lies along the Atlantic Coast. It encompasses the resort town of Figueira da Foz and the university town of Coimbra.
The main towns that make up Beira Litoral are Figueira da Foz, Aveiro, and Coimbra. Coimbra is renowned for the historic Coimbra University and its two cathedrals, Se Nova and Se Velha. Here, you’ll also find several fine museums and the Roman remains at Conimbriga, just a short distance south of the city.
If you’re here for the beach, you will have plenty of choices. You can stay at well-equipped resorts like Figueira da Foz and Buarcos. But if you prefer something more adventurous, you can go camping at any of the campsites in Coimbra & the Beira Litoral.
While Algarve often gets a bad rep for being overcrowded, there are many areas in the region where you can enjoy some peace and quiet. If you drive a few kilometres from the coastline, you’ll find several beautiful beaches that are definitely off the beaten track with plenty of peaceful Algarve campsites if you want to get out of the tourist spaces..
Consider visiting the sleepy town of Silves, about 40 miles from Faro and a 15-minute drive from some of the most popular beaches in Algarve. It’s a great town to explore on a day trip. And unlike the more famous cities of Porto and Lisbon, it’s rare to find tour buses loaded with eager tourists wanting to get a glimpse of this sleepy town.
Silves is home to some of the region’s best-preserved castles, built during the medieval times when the town was still under the Moorish settlement. It’s also home to the best seafood restaurants where you can sample grilled sardines and other authentic Portuguese delicacies.
Dubbed the “Island of Eternal Spring”, Madeira enjoys a subtropical climate, making it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Although it’s part of Portugal, the island is closer to Africa than Europe. Its rugged coastline and volcanic landscapes look stunning, yet only a few tourists would venture here.
At the northwest tip of Madeira, you’ll find the village of Porto Moniz, home to a series of natural swimming pools formed from volcanic lava. Naturally filled with seawater, the water is crystal clear. After a dip at the pool, take time to explore Madeira’s vineyards and taste the region’s finest wine. Thanks to its warm climate and fertile soil, the region has produced some of the world’s best-fortified wines for hundreds of years.
Given the diverse landscape of Madeira, it has a dramatic microclimate, which means you will never be far from sunshine whenever you are on the island, giving you plenty of time to spend outdoors. Aside from admiring its breathtaking scenery made of lush valleys and dramatic cliffs, you can explore the region’s best food markets. Head to Mercado dos Lavradores to get a taste of the local life. It’s an Art Deco food market dating back to the 1940s and packed with stalls selling everything from fruits to flowers and vegetables.
With all the many exciting things to do in Madeira, the best way to enjoy everything is to spend a few nights in the region. You can stay in large Portugal holiday homes overlooking sandy beaches and sparkling blue ocean.
Douro Valley is located in the lush region of Northern Portugal and boasts stunning beauty. Famous for its scenic hikes and delicious wines, the Douro Valley is a must-visit for all kinds of travellers.
Portugal is home to an abundance of hiking trails, but you’ll find some of the most scenic hikes at the Douro Valley. Some routes will take you through a patchwork of olive groves and vineyards, passing through idyllic mountain villages. If you are more adventurous, you can take up the more strenuous hikes towards the panoramic viewpoints of São Leonardo de Galafura, Casal de Loivos, or São Salvador do Mundo.
Wine lovers should definitely include Douro Valley on their bucket list. Since the 18th century, the area has been attracting wine enthusiasts who want to taste port wine’s sweet and robust flavour. For a unique way of learning about the region’s wine culture, visit in September and participate in the harvest and production of wine. It’s a truly awesome way of learning more about wines while appreciating this intensely flavoursome drink.