Portugal is a popular destination this year. To help you explore this enchanting country, Booking.com used its internal data to uncover the very best Portuguese hidden gems.*
Seclusion, stunning coastline, and custard tarts are just a few of the delights that await you.
Historical village of Monsanto
In the small, mountaintop village of Monsanto, gigantic boulders are strewn all through the winding, medieval streets as if the place had been hit by a meteor shower. The entire village has been built around these 200-tonne rocks, with houses squeezed between, underneath and on top. The organic shapes of the stone cottages and cobbled streets create a magical, fictional feel, where wonky walls and windows are decorated with pillar-box red shutters and floral vines.
Vila Franca do Campo, Azores
Panoramic view of Vila Franca do Campo's lagoon
The islet of Vila Franca do Campo is actually the crater of an ancient volcano, submerged in the sea. What remains is a perfectly spherical lake, surrounded by steep cliffs of layered rock coated in vegetation. Though a channel connects it to the sea, the lake is well-sheltered from the wind and waves. So its deep, electric blue water is brilliant for snorkeling and swimming and the islet is home to many delicate species of birds, crustaceans and flora.
Take in the beauty of Mosteiro da Batalha
The monastery in Batalha is the star attraction, deservedly so. You’ll have to crane your neck to take in even a fraction of this mammoth structure, carved in mind-boggling detail out of stone. It’s a Gothic masterpiece, built by King Joao I in the 14th century, and its exterior is an explosion of intricate masonry. From gargoyles, flying buttresses and pinnacles to minute Manueline details and wafer-thin carvings.
Take a break from touring Vila Vicosa and enjoy an authentic Portugese custard tart
As your footsteps echo walking through Vila Vicosa’s expansive and elegant main square, paved entirely with marble, you’ll be wondering how it’s not teeming with tourists. Close to the Spanish border, this dainty city is relatively far from Portugal’s coastal hotspots. And its economy still largely revolves around local marble, from which everything here is made. But visitors are slowly arriving, keen to climb up to its hilltop castle, meander its ancient streets and tuck into Portuguese coffee and custard tarts.
Surfers flock to Baleal in search of the perfect waves
Separated from the mainland but for a slim sandy causeway, Baleal is an island-village of undulating rocks and sharp cliffs jutting out into the Atlantic. Its main selling point is its surf – having both north- and south-facing beaches, good waves are guaranteed. And a selection of surf schools have cropped up to cater for every surfing level.
Enjoy a coastal walk or fresh, barbecued sardines in Ferragudo
Ferragudo is a quiet, old-fashioned Portuguese fishing village on the estuary of the River Arade. Amazingly, it’s avoided the kind of development seen elsewhere along the coast. Calm waters and white-washed houses are overlooked by the village’s São João Fort. Walk the quayside and stop to try fresh, barbecued sardines alongside the local fishing boats before a drink in the cobbled town square. Or follow a trail along the coastal cliffs to lighthouse lookouts and little cove beaches.
Data was segmented to only include bookings by Portuguese travellers. The destinations featured had to have had 50 bookings per year to ensure that big cities and destinations that were already popular with tourists weren’t included. Then the list was filtered down by only selecting destinations that had a positive year-on-year growth in bookings, to ensure that destinations featured were also emerging in terms of popularity.