Portugal is a veritable treasure trove of stunning natural hotspots that must be seen in the flesh to be truly appreciated. From its luscious rolling hills in the countryside to its unforgettable sandy stretches, there is so much to be admired in Portugal’s great outdoors, but don’t just take our word for it. Such is the natural significance of these areas. Several spots have even earned UNESCO world heritage status.
Three places of natural beauty you have to tick off your Portugal bucket list
With such a generous offering of natural beauty in Portugal, it’s impossible to admire all there is to see in just one trip. From the wine-producing valleys in the north to the isolated yet breathtakingly beautiful Azores out in the Atlantic Ocean, these incredible places will no doubt have you wanting to come back for more, time and time again.
If you’re unsure where to start, we’ve taken on the unenviable task of narrowing Portugal’s endless catalogue of stunning scenes to just three of the best. Here are three bucket-list destinations you never knew you had to visit.
1. Peneda-Gerês National Park
Just over an hour’s drive from Portugal’s second-largest city of Porto, Peneda-Gerês National Park makes for the day trip of all day trips. Hugging the Spanish border, the area covers over 70,000 hectares and remains the only classified national park in the country. In case that’s not enough to make you want to check it out, then there’s plenty more that may convince you.
If hiking is on the agenda for your next outdoor adventure, then all roads lead to Peneda. This hiker’s paradise offers a range of different walking trails to suit all abilities, from leisurely three-hour loops to more gruelling multi-day adventures.
No problem if hiking doesn’t feature on your dream holiday itinerary either – you can enjoy the park from the comfort of your car. Either way, be sure to pay a visit to one of the many waterfalls dotted around the area. Cascata do Arado is one of the best-known water features of the park and is easily accessible by car. For the whole Peneda experience, why not cool off from the blazing sun with a quick dip in the natural pools here?
So whether you’re looking for a memorable hiking route, a refreshing swimming spot, a breathtaking viewpoint, or a combination of all three – a visit to Peneda-Gerês National Park is a non-negotiable for any nature-loving travellers.
2. Sete Cidades, São Miguel Island
São Miguel is the largest island in the Azores Archipelago, almost 1,500km west of Lisbon on the mainland. The entire island is a technicoloured paradise and should be on the bucket list of any outdoorsy traveller. You’ll want to spend multiple nights on the island with so much to see and do. But where should your journey of discovery begin?
The fairytale scene at Sete Cidades is always a good place to start – it’s one of Europe’s most breathtaking natural sights. For the most iconic picture-postcard vista, head to Vista do Rei. From here, you’ll be treated to unobscured views of the twin lakes surrounded by the luscious greenery that lines the borders of the crater.
Note that this is one of the highest points on the island, and thick cloud coverage is a common feature of the weather here. Check the forecast before your trip to the crater to enjoy unspoiled views of this awe-inspiring landscape.
3. Praia de Marinha
Did you really think we’d have a list of Portugal’s most beautiful places without a mention of the inimitable Algarve? Portugal’s south coast is undoubtedly one of the most naturally charming areas in the country and continues to draw tourists year after year. Such is its endless beauty, and you’ll likely want to return again to truly appreciate all this Atlantic jewel has to offer.
One of the first places on your Algarve tick list has to be Praia de Marinha. The enchanting views, fascinating geology and perfect sandy stretches provide all the ingredients you’d expect from a world-class seaside resort… and then some. There’s plenty more to discover from the water, too. The calm, clear sea creates the perfect conditions for a snorkelling trip, where you can expect to see a range of exotic aquatic wildlife. Afterwards, take a boat trip to the nearby Benagil cave, which is another truly unforgettable sight.
Whether you plan on admiring the Algarve’s beauty from the comfort of your sun lounger or enjoy a more active adventure as you explore the surrounding landscapes, there’s no wrong way to enjoy the beauty of Praia de Marinha.