Afriend once cycled through Portugal, and on his return explained the allure of taking the long way round: ‘There are long stretches of nothing – but then you get to where you’re going, and it’s worth every mile of wondering if you’re completely lost’. From Sagres’s secret surf scene in the south to Alentejo’s underrated wine country, there’s more to Portugal than Lisbon (although, what a capital it is). With its Atlantic coast and Mediterranean climate, the country is scrappier than Spain and wilder than France – its charm is in its reluctance to be too polished, and Portugal’s prettiest places are raw, real, natural. After all, once something is too shiny, it simply presents a reflection of the familiar rather than its beautiful, authentic self. Here are 15 places in Portugal that are worth every mile in between.
- COMPORTA’S COASTArguably one of the country’s finest stretches of Atlantic coast, Comporta’s sandy beach goes on (and on, and on…) for almost 40 miles, which means there’s space to spare, even when Lisbonites head here for long weekends and wellness retreats. Its shallower, most family-friendly waters are in the northern Tróia peninsula and there’s surfing towards the southern end at Praia do Carvalhal. Try horseback riding along the shoreline with Cavalos na Areia, one of the smartest stables in the area, then position yourself outside Sal restaurant for service at your daybed, and easy access to one of the best places to eat on the beach.Comporta: Portugal’s best secret beach spotBEACHESComporta: Portugal’s best secret beach spotALAMY
- MONSANTO, CASTELO BRANCOIf you like the idea of Benagil for its geology (and not just its photo ops), but your itinerary is taking you to the north, head to medieval Monsanto instead, where the village is built into giant stone boulders that look like they might roll down the narrow streets clinging to the mountaintop any second. Because of its elevation and terracotta rooftops, this also happens to be a stunning spot for sunsets – Taverna Lusitana has the best tables.GETTY IMAGES
- DOURO VALLEY VINEYARDSNovelist José Saramago called this northern region the eighth wonder of the world, and there’s something undeniably hypnotic about the visual ASMR of Porto’s terraced topography. The wine region’s winding waterway slices through the green landscape, which you can take in from a gentle river cruise or from the window of Six Senses’ first European resort or the Vintage House Hotel in Pinhão.GETTY IMAGES
- BENAGIL CAVES, ALGARVEPark near Praia do Carvalho – instead of Benagil beach, which can get overcrowded – and rent a stand-up paddleboard to access the weather-worn limestone-layered Benagil Sea Cave (currents are strong, so swimming from beach to beach isn’t recommended). Pools of sunshine stream through the natural skylight, but the shade cast by the rock formation provides relief from Portugal’s intense heat, which can creep into the 40s in peak summer season.
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