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The first thing that should cross every traveler’s mind when thinking of Europe is “diversity”. Europe has 51 independent countries and each of them has its own set of traditions, landmarks, and natural wonders to show.

Of course, many of them are well-known, world-famous, and frequented by large numbers of international travelers. But there are many amazing places off the beaten track: Europe’s lesser known tourist gems are so numerous that we could fill a library with their descriptions.

Today we’ve chosen three of our favorite hidden gems in Europe – have you heard of these?

3 European Destinations You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Portofino, Italy

Portofino might not be the most crowded resort in Italy but it surely has one of the richest histories of them all. Over the years, it was inhabited by illustrious personalities like King Richard I (the Lionheart), writer Guy de Maupassant, Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio, among others.

Portofino is known for its picturesque setting – the city, filled with colorful buildings, surrounds its small harbor. It has been reproduced at the Universal Orlando Resort, opened in 1999, and inspired the seaside town at DisneySea in Chiba, Japan.

Portofino, Italy

Faial Island, Azores Islands, Portugal

Faial Island is part of the Central Group of the Azores – it is the Westernmost part of the continent, too. It is also known as Ilha Azul (Blue Island), a name coined by Portuguese poet Raul Brandão in the mid-1920s, thanks to the large numbers of hydrangeas that bloom on the island in early summer.

Fayal is a volcanic island – it has its origins to thank for its beauty. It has the shape of an irregular pentagon with the volcanic cone sitting in its middle. The island has a rich collection of historical, natural, and modern-day attractions, attracting yachts, cruise ships, naturalists, and tourist groups from all over the world.

It has everything a visitor might need: traditional farm houses and modern attractions, hotels, and restaurants, black sand beaches and rock pools scattered along its coast, and historical landmarks such as the Fort of Santa Cruz.

Faial Island is part of the Central Group of the Azores

Rocamadour, France

Rocamadour is a lesser-known destination for the average traveler but it’s well-known among pilgrims. The commune is said to have been founded by St Amadour, identified with the Biblical tax Jericho collector Zaccheus (mentioned in Luke 19:1-10), after being driven out of Palestine.

He was said to have been driven by an angel to the coast of France, where he met Bishop St. Martial. After traveling to Rome and witnessing the martyrdoms of St Peter and St Paul, St Amadour is said to have returned to France where he built a chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

Rocamadour expects its visitors with a unique view – it is set on top of a gorge above a tributary of the River Dordogne. It is filled with historical monuments and pilgrimage churches.


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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Portofino by wbeem. Faial Island by Allie_Caulfield.


  1. We actually just went to a restaurant in Washington DC called Portifino that specialized in the regional cuisine. It was very good. We have never been to Italy, but we would want to get out of the major cities a bit and see the true Italian countryside. That would be our ideal Italian vacation.

    • Sounds fabulous – can’t beat regional Italian cuisine! Italy is one of my favorite countries – so much authenticity and charm. The countryside really is spectacular, you’ll have a fabulous time!

  2. Although I have heard about Portofino & faial islands.. I didn’t know the pilgrimage island in France.. Crazy how less we know about certain things!

    • Glad we could provide some further context for you :) Hope you have the opportunity to visit one of the two soon :)

  3. We loved the diversity of Europe when we visited, but we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked and were left wanting. Portofino was one of the places on our list and it was a real pity we had to miss out. The picturesque waterfront takes my breath away. I didn’t realise how much it had inspired. Faial Island was also on the list, and we were actually very close. Thank you for this post, it has definitely sparked my desire to go back.

    • Definitely not a continent which can be done in one trip – there’s so much to Europe, it’s impossible to cover everything. Really is such a diverse region – so glad you enjoyed your time there.

      Hopefully Portofino and Faial Island can be part of your next itinerary for a return trip!

  4. I feel honoured, I have heard of all of these! In fact, Rocamadour is only 2.5hrs from our house ;-) I haven’t been to Portofino or Faial Island though. There are paths across France that illustrate the various battles that took place with Richard the Lionheart trying to gain more control over various dukes… none as beautiful as Portofino though. I can’t believe Universal Orlando copied it! We are spending time in Portugal next year, so I will add Faial to the list!

    • That’s awesome – lol we’ll have to try harder next time we come up with destinations people probably haven’t heard of then :D

      Must be fabulous being so close to Rocamadour – what a beautiful region of France you live in :) Yes, can highly recommend Faial and the Azores Islands when you’re in Portgual. Have a great trip!!

  5. I hadn’t heard of the Faial Island in the Azores. Is it easy to get to? In the past, the Azores were just a stopover place for ships and refuelling for older planes. Sounds like things have probably changed a lot.

    Portofino is a very beautiful area of Italy and definitely worth a visit

    • Glad we could introduce you! You can fly to the island of Pico from Lisbon and then travel in one of the Atlanticoline boats. There are several daily connections and the duration of the trip to the island of Faial is of only 30 minutes.

      The Azores have become quite the hidden gem for tourism – would love to know what you think when you have the chance to organize a trip :)

  6. I think you’re right that Portofino, Faial Island and Rocamadour aren’t on, say, most Australian or Americans radar when they’re planning a trip to Europe. And especially if it’s the person’s first time visiting Europe.

    But Portofino is the most popular beach resort town on the Italian Riviera, so it’s hardly off-the-beaten path. We always avoided it when we lived in Italy, because rows of beach chairs and umbrellas set up closer together than the tiny tables at Parisian bistro just aren’t our idea of a relaxing beach holiday. Portofino could be nice in the shoulder season, like September or even October when Europeans don’t go to the beach. I think that’s the best time for the Amalfi Coast too.

    I live in Bordeaux, which is really even off the radar of most Americans still, and it’s only about 2.5 – 3 hours away from Rocamadour. I haven’t been there yet, because like Portofino, Rocamadour is the top destination in the Dordogne and the French and Spanish flock there. I’m planning to go in the spring before the summer European crowds arrive.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, especially in Portofino – yes, when I visited Italy years ago it was in the shoulder season, so perhaps I lucked on missing the crowds unintentionally!

      Good to note though that just because we haven’t heard of these spots in Australia / America it doesn’t mean that they’re not popular among Europeans.

      I loved our time in Bordeaux – visited with my mum in 2009 and it was such a wonderful trip. A beautiful region for sure. Thanks for sharing your tips on the best time to visit Portofino and Rocamadour :)

  7. I was living close to Portofino for a while (but neighbor Camogli is much much more beautiful) and I visited Rocamadour few years ago so I am only missing the Azores on this list. Hopefully Republic of Catalunya will be added to the list of independent countries in Europe very soon, wait and see! :-)

    • Thanks for the tip on Camogli – one I hadn’t heard of yet! Hope you do manage to visit the Azores at some stage soon. And yes, I’m keeping the region of Catalunya in my prayers. Hopefully it unfolds in favor of the Republic very soon.

  8. Well, you’re absolutely right, I haven’t heard of any of these three cities. I think Portofino would be my pick of the three. I love that it’s picturesque and less crowded than the other resort towns. I hate fighting crowds places. Although, Rocamadour is its own kind of picturesque. I’d like to visit the pilgrimage churches.

    • Glad we could introduce you to a couple of new names Paige :) Yes I hate fighting against a wave of tourist crowds too – Jennifer mentioned in her comments above that these places are probably well known among European travelers during the summer months, so shoulder season would be the best time to travel.

      Hope you have the chance to visit soon!

  9. yeah never heard of those places! But now that I have; I am going to put them on my bucket list especially the France one! Have you visited more off the beaten path places like these?

    • Glad we could introduce you and inspire a couple of new places on the bucketlist :)

      Yes, we love seeking out off the beaten path experiences and destinations – there are many countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia which are fabulous for this type of travel. Feels like real discovery when you’re in a place not many people have visited before!

      Happy travels!

  10. I love the diversity in Europe and the fact that there are just SO many gorgeous places to visit. It’s why I keep going back year after year!

    A couple of years ago whilst staying on the Cinque Terre we were planning to visit Portofino for the day. The owner of the B&B we were staying in encouraged us to go to Portovenere instead – and we are very glad she did! It is so gorgeous – and very similar in looks to Portofino from the photos I’ve seen – but a bit less touristy. We absolutely loved it.

    You’ve now added another ‘must-visit’ place to my ever-growing list: Faial Island. Thanks for sharing.

    • Totally agree on the diversity of Europe being what makes it such an addictive place. So glad you had a fabulous time in Italy!

      Thanks for the tip on Portovenere – first time I’m hearing of the town, so will have to add it to the list for our next trip.

      Hope you do have the chance to swing by Faial Island when you go back through :) Happy travels!

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