Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Hidden Gems of the Algarve's West Coast
The Algarve region of Portugal is a favorite destination among European travelers looking for idyllic beaches, cliff-lined shores, and quaint towns. While hotspots like Lagos, Portimão, and Albufeira often draw the biggest crowds, the west coast offers plenty of hidden gems for those seeking a more peaceful Portugal escape.
Venture beyond the tourist trail to discover this enchanting stretch of the Algarve coastline. The small town of Aljezur sits between rugged cliffs and untouched sandy beaches. Wander its narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses and stop at the photogenic Igreja de Aljezur church. Enjoy strolls along scenic hiking trails and surf sessions on the Atlantic waves. Head to Praia da Bordeira for a secluded beach day or Praia da Amoreira to surf some of Portugal's best breaks.
Further up the coast near the town of Vila do Bispo, seek out the remote serenity of Praia da Cordoama. Accessible only by foot via the Rota Vicentina hiking trail, this picturesque beach features red sandstone cliffs, crystal clear waters, and very few people even in peak season. For equally stunning scenery minus the hike, visit the iconic Cabo de São Vicente. The southwesternmost point in Europe, this rugged cape showcases dramatic cliffs plunging into the ocean.
Inland in the rural town of Monchique, trade beaches for forested hillsides and charming cobblestone streets. Sample local mead at a family-run distillery or feast on grilled chicken piri piri, the region's claim to fame. Nearby, Caldas de Monchique provides a peaceful thermal bath experience surrounded by nature.
What else is in this post?
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Hidden Gems of the Algarve's West Coast
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Experience Authentic Alentejo in Tiny Alvito
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Discover Obidos' Charming Backstreets
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Hike to Remote Praia do Carreiro Beach
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Wander Guimarães' Cozy Cobblestone Alleys
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Relax in Luz's Overlooked Coastal Hamlet
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Journey to Madeira's Untouched North Coast
- Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Explore Stunning Sintra Without the Crowds
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Experience Authentic Alentejo in Tiny Alvito
Tucked away in Portugal's underappreciated Alentejo region, the charming village of Alvito provides an authentic glimpse into traditional Portuguese culture away from the crowds. With its cobbled lanes lined with whitewashed houses, flowering trellises, and sleepy village atmosphere, Alvito transports visitors back in time.
Despite its small size, Alvito brims with character. Meander the atmospheric streets, stopping to admire the bright blue and yellow tiles adorning many facades. Pop into the gothic Igreja Matriz de Alvito church to view its Manueline portal and neoclassical interior. For panoramic views over the red-tiled rooftops, climb up to the ruins of the medieval Castelo de Alvito. This well-preserved castle provides a scenic vantage point over the village's patchwork of fields dotted with cork oak trees.
The pace of life in Alvito remains relaxed and rooted in tradition. Locals still gather in the open-air market on Rua Nova to chat and barter over mounds of fresh produce. Nearby, ovens at Padaria Alvitense churn out freshly baked loaves of crusty, homemade bread throughout the day. Stop by the shop to pick up a loaf along with some local cheese, olives, and cured meats for the ultimate Portuguese picnic.
For a taste of Alvito's rich history and culture, time your visit to coincide with the Feira D’Aires festival held each June. This three-day event fills the streets with live music, dancing, handicrafts, and delicious Alentejan cuisine. Or come in September for the Nossa Senhora da Conceição festivities honoring the village's patron saint.
Accommodation options in tiny Alvito remain limited, with atmospheric guest houses like Casa do Terreiro do Poço comprising the sparse offering. Alternatively, position yourself in nearby Vila Nova da Baronia to easily access Alvito and other Alentejo highlights like Monsaraz and Évora. This charming base sits among vineyards and provides an inviting escape from city life.
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Discover Obidos' Charming Backstreets
Obidos charms visitors with its beautifully preserved medieval architecture and lively atmosphere, but most tourists flock straight to the shops and cafes lining the main Rua Direita street. For a more authentic experience, slip down the narrow backstreets to admire the whitewashed houses adorned with vivid blossoms trailing from wrought iron balconies.
Leave the crowds behind by entering the residential zone within the town walls through the modest Porta do Vale gate. From here, the cobbled Rua Doutor Luís Mateus Guerra leads past charming homes and secluded squares perfect for a peaceful stroll. Stop to appreciate the blue and white azulejo tiles decorating many facades, a classic decorative element seen throughout Portugal.
Hang a right down Rua João de Ornelas to reach the petite Capela de São Martinho chapel displaying brilliantly-colored 17th century tiles inside. Nearby, peek into the diminutive Capela de Santo António da Cerca, built right up against the defensive town walls. As you wander, admire the brightly-painted doors and window boxes overflowing with vivid red geraniums that add pops of color.
Don't miss the atmospheric Largo do Santuário lined with orange trees - it's easy to imagine villagers gathering here centuries ago. Make your way over to the pretty Miradouro do SubLanço viewpoint for panoramic outlooks over Obidos' sea of terracotta rooftops. Next, head down Travessa do Facho and up Rua do Alqueidão Pequeno, where you'll get lost in the intimate charm of Obidos' backstreets.
Stop for a break at Petiscos e Granitos, a tiny tavern great for trying Portugal's smoked chorizo sausage and sheep's cheese paired with local wine. Before leaving, make sure to sample ginginha, a cherry liqueur Obidos is famed for - A Ginjinha Sem Rival in Largo Vasco da Gama offers shots of this sweet libation.
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Hike to Remote Praia do Carreiro Beach
Tucked away on Portugal's remote southwest coast, Praia do Carreiro provides a peaceful beach escape for those willing to tackle the spectacular hike down to its shores. Located within Vicentine Coast Natural Park near the village of Vila do Bispo, this pristine sandy beach remains well off the tourist trail despite its incredible beauty. What keeps crowds away is the challenging 9 km (5.6 mile) trail connecting Praia do Carreiro to the nearest road. Yet for avid hikers, the trek offers a rewarding way to experience the Algarve's breathtaking cliffs, sea views, and secluded beaches.
Setting out from the Vereda da Penha signed trailhead, the route descends gradual switchbacks down nearly 600 feet of elevation through coastal scrubland dotted with wildflowers. The surrounding cliffs loom high as you traverse sections narrowly hugging the edge, providing nonstop ocean vistas. After about 45 minutes, the trail reaches a coastal lookout perched dramatically atop staggered cliffs.
Continuing on, you'll pass remote Praia da Telha Negra tucked at the base of soaring rock formations. The hike concludes with a final steep descent to heavenly Praia do Carreiro, where golden sands meet turquoise waters underneath dramatic ochre-hued cliffs. Due to tricky access, you'll likely have this picturesque beach all to yourself even in summer. Relax beneath the stunning scenery before tackling the thigh-burning uphill return journey.
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Wander Guimarães' Cozy Cobblestone Alleys
Tucked away in northern Portugal's verdant Minho region, the historic city of Guimarães charms visitors with its wonderfully preserved medieval core dotted with cobbled plazas and narrow lanes. While Porto and Braga attract more tourists, Guimarães sees significantly fewer crowds, allowing you to wander its atmospheric streets soaked in history and culture.
A walk through the historic center instantly transports you back in time. Meandering the pedestrianized lanes, you’ll discover tranquil pocket squares flanked by gorgeous old buildings covered in ornate carvings and elegant wrought-iron balconies. Flowering vines trail down ancient stone façades in vivid bursts of purple and red, adding pops of color. The rhythmic click-clack of your footsteps against the lichen-spotted cobblestones echoes between the honey-hued townhouses with their distinctly Portuguese “ Manueline” windows.
Make your way to the photogenic Largo da Oliveira square, anchored by the imposing Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. This impressive church with its twin bell towers has watched over the plaza since the 14th century. Nearby, you can delve into Guimarães’ history at the thin, crenelated Touro Palace that served as the home of Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, born here in 1110.
For panoramic outlooks over the sea of red-tiled rooftops, climb up to Guimarães Castle. Perched on a hilltop above town, this 10th century fortification offers sweeping vistas encompassing the city it historically protected. Within the well-preserved castle walls, a giant statue of Afonso Henriques riding his horse cuts an imposing figure against the verdant valley backdrop.
Returning downhill, stop for a break at the charming Cafe Vianna housed in a 19th century building adorned with colorful tiles. Sip a galão coffee paired with one of their rich pastéis de nata custard tarts, the perfect fuel while exploring. Wandering quiet side alleys like Rua de Santa Maria and Rua Dom João I, time seems to stand still amid these hidden corners laden with history. Keep an eye out for the small 17th century Capela das Almas church tucked away on Rua Francisco Agra.
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Relax in Luz's Overlooked Coastal Hamlet
Nestled along Portugal’s picturesque western Algarve coast, the former fishing village of Luz provides an idyllic seaside escape away from the crowds flocking to busier resort towns. With its laidback ambiance, sweeping ocean vistas, and wealth of activities, this overlooked gem offers everything you need for a rejuvenating beach holiday.
Luz charms with its seaside promenade lined with palms gently waving in the ocean breeze. This tranquil walkway links Luz's twin sandy beaches where you can spend days lounging beneath colorful beach umbrellas, swimming in the refreshing waters, and gazing out at distant fishing boats bobbing on the glittering horizon. In the evening, wander down to the photogenic Nossa Senhora da Luz chapel perched above Praia da Luz’s russet cliffs. Watching the sun sink below the waves while the chapel glows under golden hour light creates an idyllic end to the day.
When you’re ready for a break from the beach, meander Luz’s sleepy streets dotted with whitewashed buildings sporting terracotta roofs and vibrant pink bougainvillea cascading from wrought iron balconies. Pop into the Mercado Municipal to check out stalls brimming with fresh fish and juicy fruits and vegetables. Nearby cafés like Cafe Paris tempt with servings of rich Pastel de Nata custard tarts and strong bica espressos providing fuel while exploring.
Active travelers will love the wealth of water sports on offer in Luz. Try your hand at standup paddleboarding, kayaking, or surfing – lessons and rentals are available right on Praia da Luz. Lagos’ well-known world-class waves are just a quick drive down the coast. Or tee off at the scenic Parque da Floresta golf course surrounded by pine and eucalyptus just minutes from town.
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Journey to Madeira's Untouched North Coast
The verdant, volcanic island of Madeira dazzles visitors with its dramatic landscapes, charming villages, and abundance of nature. While the island's sunny south coast tempts with its mild climate and lively tourist resorts, the rugged northern shores remain largely overlooked. Yet for travelers seeking to escape the crowds and experience Madeira’s wild beauty, the island's untamed north coast delivers in spades.
Venturing up the coast from Santana’s iconic triangular houses, the tiny village of Porto Moniz provides a gateway to Madeira's northern treasures. Breezy seaside cafés lining its picturesque natural harbor serve up Espada, a fish skewered on sugarcane sticks and grilled over an open fire. Locals will tell you the village’s name came from a day when the sea turned the color of blood – or “porto moniz” in Portuguese.
From here, head west to Madeira’s northernmost point at Ponta de São Lourenço. Stop first at the viewpoint overlooking the Ilhéu Mole islet to take in the volcanic rock formations dramatically colliding with the Atlantic's thrashing waves. The park's lunar landscape continues with the 2 mile loop hike across Ponta de São Lourenço. The easy trail traverses arid cliffs plastered with towering basalt columns, narrow ridges, and precarious pinnacles towering above the sea – a unique sight in the island's verdant interior.
Nearby, in the coastal parish of Seixal, seek out one of Madeira’s most remarkable natural wonders at Porto Moniz Natural Pools. Formed by ancient lava flows cooling in the sea, these dazzling pools offer incredible places to swim and snorkel. Experience the surreal landscape from within as you float weightlessly between the natural basalt “walls”, gazing up at the vibrant greenery framing the sky.
The north coast’s tranquility also provides a sanctuary for whales and dolphins. Sign up for an ocean safari to spot these magnificent creatures gliding through the Atlantic’s ultramarine waters. Companies like Ventura do Mar offer small group tours on RIB boats that allow you to zip over to prime whale and dolphin watching spots when sightings are reported.
On land, Madeira’s northern reaches contain some of the island’s most pristine laurel forests woven with centuries-old walking trails. Lace up your hiking boots and set out into the mystical UNESCO-protected laurisilva covering the island’s interior mountains. Channel your inner explorer as you trek through this lush alien world draped in blankets of moss, lichens, and vibrant green foliage.
Escape the Crowds: 5 Secret Spots in Portugal Away from the Tourist Hordes - Explore Stunning Sintra Without the Crowds
With its fairy tale palaces and lush natural beauty, Sintra stands as one of Portugal’s most enchanting destinations. Hordes of day-trippers flock here drawn by postcard-perfect Pena Palace perched atop the Serra de Sintra's pine-dotted hills. Yet venturing beyond the selfie-snapping masses reveals a wealth of magical places hidden within Sintra’s tangled forest. Follow forgotten trails through this verdant wilderness to uncover captivating royal retreats in total tranquility.
Just a 30-minute walk from Sintra’s epicenter whisks you away from the crowds at the hilltop ruins of the Moorish Castle. Dating from the 8th century, this mystical stone fortress features craggy ramparts overlooking Sintra’s terra cotta rooftops. Wander the windswept grounds where only crumbling walls and abandoned cisterns remain today. Soak up panoramas stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sintra Mountains engulfed in mist. Descend to the adjacent town wall for Instagrammable views of Pena Palace across the forested valley.
From the castle, a network of shaded footpaths tempts deeper into Sintra’s wooded hills. Follow scenic hiking trails like the Two Palaces Route winding through oak and giant redwood groves down to the secluded Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla. This whimsical estate hidden in the forest treats you to fanciful follies dotted amid camellia-filled gardens. Nearby, dogs joyfully romp at Cantinho dos Animais, an animal sanctuary that will steal any pet lover’s heart.
Venture further to uncover the overgrown ruins of Montserrate Palace, an eccentric neo-Gothic royal villa creatively incorporating exotic architectural elements from across the Portuguese empire. Undulating walking trails then lead through dense vegetation to the enchanting Convent of the Capuchos. This bewitching 16th-century monastery dotted with tiny chapels seamlessly blends with the surrounding boulder-strewn landscape.
Sintra’s rugged western frontier delivers more awe-inspiring scenery. The hike to Praia da Ursa beach rewards with sweeping coastal panoramas atop 100-foot sea cliffs. Or witness thundering waves crashing against craggy outcroppings on a trek across the wild headlands of Cabo da Roca, mainland Europe’s westernmost point.