There are places that are made to explore, even while wearing a tie. Places where sweat, shorts and a canteen are not the right things to carry along with you. For example, the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais is designed for the aristocrats. But who said you are not one of them?
Maybe you don’t use silver cutlery, or even pay attention to the ups and downs of New York Stock Exchange. However, when it comes to travel, you look for excellency and comfort. If this is the case, then you have to visit Sintra-Cascais, a place where nature is a doctorate in protocol.
This area, full of lagoons, groves, cliffs and dunes, extends from the Sintra Mountains, 30 kilometers north of Lisbon, to Da Roca Cape Cliffs, the westernmost point of continental Europe. Once you get there, you’ll understand why the royalty and the aristocracy go to this place that has been recognized as the Cultural World Heritage.
Weather is another of its appeals. The perfect temperatures allows for wearing just a light blouse. Sintra-Cascais, one of the most humid places in all of Portugal, is the paradigm of environmental elegance. Soft, ambiguous, chilly, and slightly warm, making it ideal to enjoy these 6 routes.
1. The Village of Sintra
Sintra is located in the northeast of the mountain range. The route from Lisbon is an easy one. You can drive there or take one of the trains that departs from Lisbon every half hour.
The historic center of Sintra is a good starting point to begin your visit to the mountains. From here there will be several paths that depart to the most emblematic sites of the park, such as the Moros Castle, Capuchos Convent and Pena Park.
Moros Castle and Pena Palace
The presence of man is much more evident in the town than in other areas of the park. However, that doesn’t prevent the many different species of birds from residing here. They flap their wings all around the gardens and groves of the city, just like the ones in Quinta da Regaleira.
Quinta da Regaleira
2. Da Pena Park
Although its name seems to have been taken from a fado, Da Pena Park will brighten your day. It is easy to reach by car or by bus from Sintra. If you feel like walking, it’s also possible to get there by foot, taking paths that depart from the National Palace of Sintra or the Information Center of the Natural Park.
This park is a large garden surrounding the Da Pena Palace, built in 1838 by Fernando II on an old Jeronimos monks convent. The Palace is the most visited monument in Sintra. The garden is an assembly of botanical species from all over the world.
The Valley of the Lakes is in the northen part of the Da Pena Park, on the hill west from where the Palace stands. In its 6 lakes, going from north to south, live many swans, grey herons and mallard real.
Valley of the Lakes in Da Pena Park
3. Blue Lagoon
To get there, you need to take the National Road 9 from Sintra towards Cascais and then take the road leaving Linho to Malveira da Serra. The next stop is the Blue Lagoon. Taking the walking paths from Sintra is a good option as well. Along the route you wil find forests with sequoias, yews and hollies, among many others.
Blue Lagoon © Gonçalo Almeida
This spot is one of the best places to stop and eat a little snack, according to visitors.
Peninha sanctuary is located on the highest point in the Sintra Mountain Range, only 488 meters high. This can be acessed from the Malveira road, after leaving Capuchos convent on the left. The last 200 meters are a good leg workout.
Sanctuary of Peninha
In the northern area of the sanctuary, you’ll find enormous rocks frequently visited by the alpine accentor. On the slope, the main vegetation are pines and cypresses.
The queen of the area is the Bonelli’s eagle. On the Peninha summit lives the only couple of these left in this park.
5. Da Roca Cape
“Where the land ends and the sea begins”.
Da Roca Cape
This engraved cross on the monument welcomes visitors arriving to Da Roca Cape. Over there, the Natural Park is abruptly cut off to make way for a 150 meters cliff, where ancient Portuguese believed it was the end of the world.
For you, it’s just another stop along the way that you can easily reach. It is just 20 kilometers from Sintra and 15 from Cascais.
Da Roca Cape is a great place to catch a glimpse of seabirds, especially the tufted cormorant. However, you might not see that many birds like shearwaters and the peregrine falcon.
A shearwater visiting Sintra coast in the summer
Several paths depart from the cape, which allow you to go along the coast line by foot. Walking northbound along the cliff, you will reach Praia Grande, where you can see dinosaur foot prints.
6. Raso Cape
On the southern coastal route, close to Cascais, you’ll find Raso Cape.
On the contrary to Da Roca Cape, this rock is not as high above the sea. For this reason, we won’t find many trees there but the view of the coast is still amazing.
In addition to being a place of reference for ornithologists, because of the presence of seabirds, Raso Cape is also a meeting point for surfers due the big waves in the well known Guincho Beach, located at the north of the cape.
Heading towards Cascais, you will arrive at Boca do Inferno, a strange landscape created by the collapse of a cave due to the erosion of the sea.
The interesting geography of Boca do Inferno
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is a fairy tale park. This wonderful protected area confirms that in this country, the geography has been kinder than it’s history.