From towns to mysterious villages where time stood still, travelling through legends and mystical houses, you have it all in Portugal. If you would like to travel to places with fewer people, but full of mysteries and charm, take a look at what I have selected for you.
1. Foz d’Égua
Foz d’Égua, located in the municipality of Arganil, is one of those remote spots in Portugal that look untouched. Here you will also find many schist houses, abandoned mills and one of the most heavenly river beaches of Portugal.
2. Aldeia das Dez
Aldeia das Dez is a source of inspiration for musicians and poets such as Vasco Campos, who once wrote emotional poems about this location, inspired by the marvelous Fonte do Povo (Fountain of the People) and Fonte do Soito Meirinho (Soito Meirinho’s Fountain) that open the doors to the village.
Its semblance made from stone and even the old phone booth with its glass windows framed in red is part of what makes this place so unique. This cheerful and charming viewpoint to Rio Alvôco looks like a long-standing belvedere with a privileged view of the surrounding mountains.
Walk the roman road towards the Santuário de Nossa Senhora das Preces, a place of dinstictive characteristics that you should visit.
For all those who have a sweet tooth, you will find that the traditional pastries from the village, the coscoréis and cavacas, when made in the typical way of Aldeia das Dez, are hard to resist. Take the chance to also taste the jam or the liquor made from medronhos, a fruit which abounds in the region.
The landscape is magnanimous.
3. Sobral de S. Miguel, Covilhã
This roman village is often called “Heart of Schist” due to the enormous number of houses made of this stone that exist here. Sobral de S. Miguel can be found in Covilhã and is one of the best hidden corners of Portugal.
From here, schist is exported to the world, but the raw material is not all it has to offer. It has a very typical gastronomical tradition; you cannot miss the bacalhau (codfish), the sardines, the honey, the chouriço, the bread baked in a firewood oven and the region’s own ginjinha. Sobral de S. Miguel offers great treks, that either follow the course of Ribeira do Porsim or go straight through the village’s streets.
Trás-os-Montes is one of the privileged regions to find remote places in Portugal.
Many are the secrets of the village of Gimonde and you shouldn’t miss them. Cross the bridge over the river Malara and if you follow it, you will discover the village’s houses and their odors, just like the Gimonde bread, whose aroma is so characteristic that it seems to have impregnated the walls of this village.
Gimonde used to be more relevant to the region in the past. The pilgrims walked past here on their way to Santiago de Compostela. This constant transit of people used to bring some dynamic to the village that, with time, started to fade.
The best way to explore Gimonde is by walking around its streets and appreciate the details. It is a typical village of Terra Fria Transmontana (Cold Land of Trás-os-Montes), where everything revolves around agriculture.
From here you can also get to know other remote villages of Portugal that are situated nearby, and I recommend Rio de Onor, Varge, Gondesende and Guandramil.
5. Ponte da Misarela
This is a one of a kind region, surrounded by cliffs and a waterfall, where a legend has assumed an essential role.
It is said that a thief escaped because the devil helped him break out by creating a bridge (Ponte da Misarela or Misarela’s bridge) so that the robber could cross the river. This legend turned the place into a cult spot, where local residents go to to seek an answer to their problems.
One of the most charming trails of Ponte da Misarela connects the rivers Cávado and Rabagão, where you can walk 12 km surrounded by nature virtually untouched by Man.
What awaits you here is a tranquil location of astonishingly rare beauty.
6. Serras de Fafe
If you enjoy remote places with breathtaking views, do the Wind Trail at the Wind Farm of Terras Altas de Fafe.
In the Hills of Fafe, you will find a strange attraction, to say the least; it may be the strangest house in the world. Inaugurated on the 13th of October 1974, Casa do Penedo was built between four major boulders that form its structure. Stone prevails in its interior. A place where nature is king, together with serenity and originality.
7. Curral das Freiras
Hidden in a valley right in the heart of the island of Madeira, we find a small village in the municipality of Câmara de Lobos. Curral das Freiras is a secret place where a group of nuns took refuge in 1566 (it is said they escaped from pirates) so that they could hide their treasures, of which very little is known these days.
Curral das Freiras offers an astounding mountain view, divine, one could say. Watch it from the parish of Jardim da Serra, through Boca dos Namorados and Boca da Corrida, as well as from Eira do Serrado in the parish of Santo António, which is the quintessential belvedere from which to admire this parish. Here they celebrate one of the largest festivities in Madeira, named Festa da Castanha (Chestnut Festival), which is well worth a visit.
You can also enjoy a walk to the neighbouring parish of Boaventura. The trail’s length is about 16 kilometers, and it takes some 8 to 9 hours. It is a historic trail for its importance in the past centuries.
The river beaches of Poço dos Chefes and Poço do Fantelho are also a must-see in the region.
8. Porto das Salemas
Porto das Salemas is in the island of Porto Santo. The trail that takes us there is steep and it should only be visited when the weather conditions allow it.
The whole island is known for its sandy beaches with therapeutical properties, but Porto das Salemas is a well-hidden alternative in the north of the golden island, offering natural pools, as well as an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean, where you will not find any crowds. The island is wonderful not only for its landscapes, but also from the gastronomical point of view, so if you love either natural beauty or good food, this spot cannot be missed!
9. Ponta da Ferraria
This is, without a doubt, a spot touched by the hand of God.
In the sea, these natural hot water pools where temperatures can go to up 30ºC, you can go, in a matter of meters, from cold water to boiling water, even hotter than that in your immersion bath.
This lavic fajã (Portuguese for talus or strip of land) of Ponta da Ferraria is located at Ginetes, on the island of São Miguel in the Azores. This phenomenon occurs thanks to the thermal springs that touch the ocean. These waters seem like a miracle, having been used as a remedy for the treatment of rheumatism, muscular pains, among other co-related issues.
I swam here and it was an experience that I will never forget. From its romantic environment derived from the magnificent landscape that surrounds it, to the sensorial experience that is having cold water and boiling water just four strokes away, diving at Ponta da Ferraria is well worth it. The sunset is also superb and, being here, you can also visit Miradouro da Ponta da Ferraria where you will enjoy the panoramic and impressive views over the fajã.
I would love to come back here….
10. Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo
Last but not the least, few know of the existence of this heavenly spot in the Island of São Jorge, in the Azores. Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo offers a dazzling view of the whole slope of the island, including a lagoon that is full of clams and is great for both refreshing baths and watersports.
The name denotes a religious connection, due to a pilgrimage of the local Christians during the month of September to this exact location, as a means of expressing gratitude for graces and the miracles. It is also an international protected heritage site as this is a sort of a sanctuary for many water birds.
The Azores are a magnificent territory consisting of 9 islands that have so much to explore, mainly in terms of natural beauty, for now more less-explored sites are known, where you do not meet mass tourism.
Pack your bags and come discover them!