Portugal is a great destination if you’re looking for beautiful sunsets, picturesque beaches, great wine, and good value for money, but underrated and overlooked is the perfect description for the Portuguese countryside that lies between the popular Algarve region and the bustling city of Lisbon. Although these well-travelled tourist hubs have plenty to offer tourists, Portugal has some hidden gems off the beaten track, proving that there is more to Portuguese breaks than beach holidays in the Algarve. We explore some of Portugal’s hidden gems that fly under the tourist radar.
Portugal has some of the most beautiful secluded beaches in Europe, particularly in the Algarve region where secluded coves have been carved into the magnificent honey-coloured cliffs along the coast. Here are 10 secluded beaches in Portugal that offer holidaymakers the perfect escape from the bustling resort towns:
Praia da Marinha, Lagoa (Algarve)
This attractive cove is located on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, near the city of Lagoa. The sandy beach is surrounded by honey coloured cliffs that are common in the Algarve area. The arches that have formed in the rocky outcrops only add to the beauty of the beach. It’s no surprise that this gorgeous beach has been used in numerous international advertising campaigns. To access Praia da Marinha you need to climb down a steep set of stairs. At high tide there is just a narrow strip of sand, but at low tide you can also access the adjacent coves. You can also take boat trips from the beach to explore nearby grotto’s.
Summer is almost upon us and that means it’s time to bring your bathing suits, flip flops and sunscreen out of storage. What better way to cool off during a summer vacation than at a water park? If you’re looking for some family fun in the sun why not slip and slide your way into summer at one of these fabulous water parks:
For some travellers, one of the best ways to experience new countries and cultures is by indulging in local food and wines. Some of the most memorable holiday experiences are created around local cuisine and wine. Gastronomic tourism allows you to experience local culture through great food and wine, all the while enjoying beautiful surroundings and creating memorable holiday experiences. More specifically, vinitourism allows travellers to combine the pleasures of travel with the joys of fine wine, so if your idea of the perfect holidays is touring wineries in Bordeaux or Napa Valley, read on. For those vinitourism enthusiasts, here is a list of my favourite wine-producing regions around the world.
You’ll find the port city of Faro on the southernmost tip of Portugal. In the summer the city is overrun with visitors who use it as a base to explore the rest of the Algarve and southern Spain, but in the winter Faro is peaceful and delightfully warm. Faro is an excellent gateway to southern Portugal and Spain, but don’t make the mistake of rushing off to your next destination before you have really taken the time to explore the hidden gems Far has to offer.
Brush Up on Your History
The Roman and Moorish influence in Faro can be seen in the architecture, particularly in the Old City, (Cidade Velha). It’s located off the harbour and has narrow alleyways that lead to small, whitewashed houses, tapas bars and charming little restaurants. The 18th century Portuguese and Moorish-influenced architecture and cobblestone streets have been well preserved and give visitors a glimpse into the history of Faro.
There are a number of historical monuments and places that you may want to visit, like the Municipal Archaeological Museum, the 18th Century city gates or the 400 year old church in the nearby village of Santa Barbara de Nexe.
Laze on the Beach
One of main reasons tourists visit Faro in the summer is for the beautiful beaches. In winter, they are even better. There are no crowds to contend with and the sun is delightfully warm but not scorching. Faro Beach (Praia de Faro) is a popular choice if you plan to do any water sports like swimming, windsurfing, sailing or jet skiing.
If you’re a nature lover, bird watcher or just lazy, you may want to stretch out on the golden sands of Ilha da Barreta (also called Ilha da Deserta) and Ilha da Culatra, which are only accessibly by ferry.
Go to Church or Take a Hike
Do you enjoy the macabre? Then you should go to church. Not just any church (there are plenty in Faro), the Capela dos Ossos. The chapel is located at the back of the Igreja do Carmo church (you have to walk through Igreja do Carmo to reach it). It might just send a chill down your spine when you see the bones of over 1,200 former monks that decorate the chapel.
If ghoulish is not really your idea of fun you can always take a hike along one of the trails in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. Another great place to spend an afternoon walking and exploring is the beautiful town of Tavira, which is 40 minutes away by train. The charming town has medieval walls, a castle and historic churches and is worth a visit.
Tantalise your Tastebuds
There are dozens of restaurants to choose from that serve fresh fish and seafood, as well as traditional Portuguese dishes like cataplana. Bigger isn’t always better in Faro and you’ll find that the best restaurants are quaint little places that may be hidden from view if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Tasca do Ricky is tucked away in a narrow cobbled street near the train station and offers exceptional food that is very reasonably priced. Le Marquis Restaurant is located on a quiet hilltop outside of Faro and not only has an excellent menu and wine list, but friendly hosts who create an unforgettable ambience. For great food and a vibrant crowd go to Adega Nova.
If you know where to find Faro’s best attractions you’ll have a truly delightful winter break in Faro. When you’ve explored these hidden gems you’ll wonder why you never did it sooner.