Undiscovered Portugal: best places to get off the tourist trail

updated 6/15/2021
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Undiscovered Portugal is remarkably easy to find. Head east instead of west from Lisbon Airport. Drive over the Vasco da Gama bridge. And in no time you're in a landscape of cork trees, vineyards and nesting storks. Matthew Hancock, co-author of The Rough Guide to Portugal reveals his favourite places to get off the tourist trail and into undiscovered Portugal. All information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Portugal, your travel guide for Portugal.

Marvel at the views from Marvão in Alentejo

Less than three hours drive from Lisbon, Marvão is a tiny Alentejan village.

It perches on a rocky outcrop close to the Spanish border. First fortified by Moors over 1200 years ago, it's surrounded by 17th century walls.

The original village was designed for views over Spain and Portugal. And those views are just as impressive today.

Watch sunsets over the mountains here. Or head down the Roman road to swim in the river.

Tiny Marvão is the essence of undiscovered Portugal /CC0

Walk the peaceful Trilho dos Pescadores

Parts of the coastal Trilho dos Pescadores are deserted. You can walk for hours and see no one. In fact, wildlife and occasional surfers are more common than walkers.

These historic routes along the coast divide into sections. You can easily walk one in a day. And most end at seaside villages where you can stay overnight.

The Trilho start in the village of Porto Côvo. The route then meanders over clifftops and river valleys. Before it dips down to beaches at Odeceixe. Here it joins Caminho Historico. This rural trail runs inland towards Portugal’s far southwest. And ends at Cabo de São Vicente in the Algarve.

Find undiscovered Portugal in western Algarve

Drive west of Faro airport. In less than an hour you'll find sleepy villages and wild coastline.

Stay in laidback Odeceixe. Here the quaint village tumbles downhill to a river valley. And the local beach is well known to savvy surfers. Not up for riding waves? There’s also lagoon for swimming.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Portugal or Portugal Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Portugal expert.

Kayak the tranquil Mondego valley

Explore the Mondego River valley in Central Portugal by kayak.

Start at Penacova and paddle 25km along the river. Pine trees and vineyards line the banks. Grapes dangle over the water, if you fancy a snack. You'll see kingfishers and soaring birds of prey.

The river's usually calm year round. Watch out for a few small rapids. And in summer you can stop at river beaches.

The river runs into the centre of Coimbra. So take a paddle break and go exploring.

Prefer to paddle with experts? Kayak down the Mondego to Coimbra with local guides.

Kayak the Mondego River valley to ancient Coimbra © saiko3p/Shutterstock

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Discover rural Portugal at traditional Sortelha

Peaceful Sortelha is truly undiscovered Portugal. The village is tucked beyond the Serra da Estrela. Ancient houses are built into a granite landscape punctuated by huge boulders. And there's only one café/restaurant and a tiny population.

For real escapism consider staying over. Book Casa Da Lagariça, a traditional village house minutes from Sortelha centre.

Escape into the majesty of Peneda-Gerês National Park

Spectacular Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês is Portugal's only national park.

It covers wooded valleys and granite mountain peaks. You'll find waterfalls and viewpoints. There are even places to swim.

Marked trails network the park. So it’s easy to hike off the beaten track here.

Want to really explore Peneda-Gerês? Stay at Quinta do Bárrio, surrounded by its mountains and lakes.

Montesinho Natural Park is as remote as it gets in Portugal © Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock

Get back to nature in Montesinho Natural Park

Northeastern Parque Natural de Montesinho is as remote as Portugal gets. Time has truly stood still here. Oak forests, rolling hills and grassy plains haven't changed for centuries. .

Iberian wolves still roam wild in this park. But you're more likely to see deer, boar or golden eagles. In the north, Rio do Onor straddles Spain's border. It's a village so remote, it developed its own dialect. How do you know you've crossed the border? There are cobbles on the Portuguese side and tarmac in Spain.

Find more inspiration for your Portugal trip with the help of our guide of the best things to do in Portugal.

Ready for a trip to Portugal? Read more about the best time to go to Portugal, the best places to visit and best things to do in Portugal. For inspiration use the Portugal Itineraries from The Rough Guide to Portugal and created by our local travel agents in Portugal. A bit more hands on, check out the map of Portugal and learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay in Portugal once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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updated 6/15/2021
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