Tourists who visit only the most popular attractions get identical traveling experience. I understand them. They don’t want to miss out anything that’s worth visiting. So they choose the popular places thinking that it’s the best choice. Besides, hidden gems in Portugal (and anywhere else) are called so for a reason. They’re harder to find than Lisbon. Why bother searching for them?
There’s a palace combining achitectural styles ranging from Roman to Manueline. Its grounds consist of underground passages with breathtaking grottoes. Sounds like a nice place to visit? This palace (Quinta da Regaleira) is better known than any other attraction you will find in this article. The rest is even more exciting!
So if you didn’t bother to search for something unusual, just continue reading! The plan for your next trip to the South-West corner of Europe is right here.
1. We will start from the north. And by north I mean more than Porto. About 30 kilometres east from Braga, near the village of Várzea Cova is the Stone House. It’s a house built between 2 large boulders. Did you see the portuguese movie “Moon”? You’ll know what I’m talking about. This combination of modern and stone age architecture is a sight to see.
2. Let’s go to the west from there. Past Porto and into the village of Miramar. Since 17th century, a church sits on top of a pagan worship site there. You can see the boulder where pagans did their rituals. Stangely, the church is named Capela do Senhor da Pedra (Chapel of the Lord of Stone).
If you want to see pagal rituals, visit during Trinity Sunday and the following days. An annual festival takes place at that time. The next Trinity Sunday will be on June 11, 2017. It makes this destination one of the best hidden gems in Portugal.
3. Just a few kilometres into the land from this chapel is another treasure. The museum of Saint Maria Adelaide. Well, not really a saint as she was never canonised. However, her kindness is still remembered among the locals over 100 hundred years after her death. The museum is a must-see because of Maria’s relics and even herself. Exquisitely clothed and well preserved. I bet you haven’t seen the mummy of a saint yet.
4. Going further south into Coimbra and the central region you will see rugged landscale full of rivers. Following Mondego river to the west for 16 kilometres from Coimbra you can come upon Conimbriga Ruins. One of the oldest and largest roman settlements in Portugal. It was a living town for almost 2,000 years until the early medieval period brought it to the end. It’s almost the oldest of the hidden gems in Portugal. You can walk around the original foundations in this 1,5 kilometre wide town. See the famous roman thermal baths, house of the fountains and more.
5. You can also travel south along the eastern side of Portugal. Especially because you would get the chance to see the village of Monsanto. The most portuguese town in Portugal. It is built among large boulders, much like Stone House. The difference is that instead of just 1 house, a whole village follows the same example of architecture.
It’s also worth visiting because of the views into the countryside. Monsanto is situated on top of a hill, so you can view the whole region in one glance. Despite it being far from popular attractions, this is an absolute must-see.
REGION OF LISBON
If you go to Lisbon, don’t skip another famous town nearby. Sintra. Especially because Quinta da Regaleira (mentioned in the beginning) is there.
6. Otherwise, travel 20 kilometres south from Sintra to the town of Cascais. Its coast meets Atlantic Ocean. And in this coast there is Boca do Inferno. Among hidden gems in Portugal this one is probably hidden the best. It’s an interesting cliff formation forming a kind of a doorway. Or a mouth. The name means “mouth of hell” because of how savage the ocean waves seem in this place. It’s particularly unique because the famous occultist Aleister Crowley faked his death there. If you want to know more, visit it and read all about this story yourself!
Évora is the town most densely packed with hidden gems in Portugal. Or at least in Alentejo region. It’s 2,000 years old. Its streets are a labyrinth build by Romans. Not as old as Conimbriga, but still alive. It’s about 130 kilometres to the east from Lisbon. So you have to take one of the bridges over Rio Tajo to get there as straight as possible.
7. Before you reach the town itself, stop by Almendres Cromlech. It’s the portuguese Stonehenge. This neolithic monument is about 5,000 years old. To this day, it connects to the skies, aligning to the sun, the moon and the stars. Go there yourself and see whether you can tell which is which. On top of that, the site is on the high ground. The landscape around it is truly spectacular!
8. I won’t skip the chance to tell about the chapels built from bones. There are quite a few of them in Portugal. However, the Chapel of bones in Évora is a great example of them all. Some inner walls are built with nothing else but bones of the deceased. Aside from that, you can find inscriptions on various parts of the the building. There’s even a poem dedicated to the chapel and its purpose.
9. If you travel all the way south, I recommend visiting Loulé. It’s famous for its sandy beaches and has some interesting attractions. However, the best time to visit is during Loulé Carnival. The oldest carnival in Portugal! It takes place during February or Match and lasts for 3 days. Parades, music, dances and pretty much anything you can imagine. The next one is going to take place on 25 – 28 February, 2017. Starting at 3:00 pm of the first day. Be there.
10. Algarve has something to offer for those who don’t like huge crowds of people, too! Just go all the way south from Loulé to Ria Formosa. This natural park is just about 10 kilometres from the center of festivities. Strangely enough, its beaches are almost untouched. There are no cars in the sand island of Culatra. The beauty of the region is breathtaking. Those who want activities won’t be disappointed either. Want to learn kitesurfing? You can do that in the town of Cabañas. There’s a school dedicated just for that.
There are even more hidden gems in Portugal. So this TOP 10 does not mention everything. It’s just something we have chosen from the list of the most exciting attractions. May it serve as a proof that the most popular locations aren’t necessarily the best.
The more you travel and the more you experience, the better you become at discovering beauty in the least expected places.