Are you a travel enthusiast wanting to discover unique places and escape all the selfie-makers and loud tourists? Maybe you should start looking for some amazing places off the beaten track and discover the secrets Portugal has to offer that often stay out of the tourist guides. We did the job for you! These are the 9 best hidden places to visit in Portugal:
1. Miramar Beach: the beach with a church
Miramar beach, also known as Praia do Senhor da Pedra, is one of the most beautiful beaches to enjoy a sunset and take some amazing pictures to update your Instagram game. The white-sand beach has a unique feature that distinguishes it: a little chapel built on a rock in the middle of the beach.
The beach is located in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, and it’s very easy to get there from Porto. You can reach the beach by train — take the Linha de Aveiro train in Campanhã and stop in Miramar — or by car following the A8 highway. The best time to visit it is at the end of the summer when its gets quiet.
2. Passadiços do Paiva: a walk in nature
Located on the riverbank of the Paiva River, this is a two and a half hour route through 8km of wooden walkways above and along the river. It’s a stunning walk with breathtaking views of the mountains.
Along with comfortable sneakers, don’t forget to pack a swimsuit, because the lagoons along the path call for a swim! Also remember your water bottle as this is a long path in the middle of a geopark.
The easiest ya to get there is taking a car from Porto, it’s just 1.20h. To visit, you have to make a reservation and choose the day you want to go on park’s official website. The €1 cost per adult helps maintain the path open and in good condition.
3. Fantasticable: one of the longest cable slides in Europe
This one is for the brave at heart. Have you ever wanted to slide down 1538 metres? Well, in Ribeira da Pena you can do so in one of the biggest slide cables in Europe. It’s 150 metres high, and you can gain a speed of up to 130km/h while sliding down.
Check their official website to see how you can get there from your current location. After that, all you need to do is make a reservation and choose between the wide offer of activities (and choose Fantasticable!).
If you’re either in Porto or Braga, you’re lucky as Fantasticable is only 1h to 1.30h away. Make sure you get to the starting point.
4. Bacalhôa Buddha Eden Garden: a unique and peaceful place
The largest oriental garden in Europe is located in Bombarral, about an hour away from Lisbon. Along these 35 hectares of green land you can spot Buddhas, pagodas, terracotta statues, and oriental sculptures. The central staircase is one of the most gorgeous points of the park, where the golden Buddha offers you a very chill welcome!
The garden is open every day (except on the January 1 and December 25) from 9am to 6pm. Tickets are €4 euros per person, and you can pay an additional €3 euros to make the ride around the park in a cool old-school train. Sadly, there is no public transportation close to Buddha Garden, but you can reach it by car by taking exit 12 on the A8 highway.
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5. The Nautical Club of Trízio: fancy some water sports?
If you’re into water sports, then you must visit The Nautical Club of Trízio in Castelo de Bode, in the Ferreira do Zêzere region. Here you can find all you need for a perfect summer vacation. It’s the perfect place to hang out with family and friends, and a fantastic opportunity to practise water sports, such as canoeing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. You can rent all the equipment there!
6. Bussaco National Park: deep into the forest
Imagine yourself in a fabulous spot for walking or cycling, where you can have the pleasure of waking up early to jog, and a perfect place to spend the afternoon reading a book or even having a memorable dinner in a luxury hotel in the fairytale Palace Hotel do Bussaco. Guided tours through the Natural Forest of Bussaco cost only €10/person.
You can either bring your tent and stay at the Luso Camping, or you can rest in the Grande Hotel de Luso if you’re up to spending a little extra — in the summer season, rooms start at €66 with breakfast included. If you do stay in this hotel, you have direct access to thermal baths!
To get here, you need to catch the bus in Coimbra to Luso or Viseu through the forest and then stop at the Bussaco Palace. The trip takes around one hour.
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7. Pego do Inferno: everyone’s favourite waterfall
Accessed via the back roads leading out of Tavira, this is a tricky place to find. Anyone who has seen pictures will recognise the waterfall when they visit Pego do Inferno. The water varies in colour, ranging from perfectly clear to muddy brown/orange, depending on the time of year.
In mid-summer, the water is clear enough to see fish swimming around the pool in shoals, which scatter when locals plunge into the depths from the tattered rope swing or the top of the cliff from which the waterfall pours. It’s nature at its purest: free!
8. Praia de Benagil: see The Eye
Praia de Benagil is a small beach in the Algarve. It’s located in the picturesque village of Benagil, between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra. Next to the beach there’s an impressive cave, known as Algar de Benagil. Inside this cave you can look up to the blue sky through an opening in the ceiling, known as The Eye (o Olho).
This is a very popular place amongst photographers — if you’ve been to the Algarve, you have likely come across photos of this cave on postcards. It’s highly recommended that you visit The Eye with a guide, especially if you’re new to the area. However, if you’re with someone who knows the beach, it’s possible to swim to the cave.
Access to the beach is via a steep road. Go early — there is limited parking space and it fills up quickly in the summer.
9. Ria Formosa Natural Park: one of the Portuguese 7 Wonders
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is just a short drive away from Faro and is the best place to visit to experience some of the most beautiful wildlife in Portugal. The park is home to endangered creatures such as the chameleon or the seahorse. The whole park is of great natural and cultural interest and offers unique landscapes — and sometimes you can even spot dolphins!
The best time to visit the park can vary according to what you want to see. If you like a more cultural visit, any time of the year is ideal, although you should avoid the high summer season if you’re seeking peace and relaxation. If you’re interested in seeing the local fauna, then fall and winter are the ideal times to go.
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What is your favourite place in Portugal that doesn’t come in the tourist guides? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces.