Hugging the western tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Sintra-Cascais National Park is a protected area of incredible natural beauty and biodiversity. Undulating, forest-spiked mountains slope towards the Atlantic Ocean, where jagged cliffs intersperse with inviting sandy beaches. Only half an hour’s drive from Lisbon, this corner of Portugal begs to be explored. Follow the trail as we take you to Sintra-Cascais National Park’s most beautiful points of interest.
An architectural marvel, Pena Palace’s turrets punctuate the clouds, elegantly perched atop a rocky peak in the Sintra Mountains. One of Portugal’s Seven Wonders, the spectacle’s vivid pink and ochre facade is unmissable – even from Lisbon, on a clear day. You can visit Pena Palace and the surrounding Pena Park with its winding paths and quaint pavilions; enjoy a leisurely lunch on the palace restaurant’s terrace and admire the panoramic views over the ocean.
Whatever time of year you visit Sintra-Cascais National Park, you’ll discover a cornucopia of diverse plants and wildlife. In spring, shrubs and plants blossom with colourful blooms, while in cooler months, the bright yellow ulex densus shrub carpets the hills. While you’re out walking through the Serra de Sintra forest, keep your eye out for peregrine falcons or hawks circling overhead in search of wild rabbits. By the coast, you’ll see migratory and resident seabirds like gannets and gulls flock over the granite cliff outcrops.
Take a visit back to the land before time at Praia Grande beach, near the village of Rodizio. At the southern end, you’ll find a giant vertical limestone wall pockmarked with dinosaur footprints. Millions of years ago, when giant creatures roamed the land, vast lagoons covered this region. Their footsteps imprinted into the fine sediment, which later became fossilised. The eruptions of Sintra’s volcanoes later relocated the limestone into their current position.
Centuries ago, Cabo da Roca was believed to be the edge of the world. The European continent’s most westerly point, it’s a rugged, picturesque headland that remains blissfully undeveloped. A lighthouse presides over dramatic, windswept cliffs, which offer plenty of coastal pathways and hiking trails for scenic strolls. Expect camera-ready views and some blustery breezes.
Nestled on the outskirts of Sintra, the legendary Quinta da Regaleira is a beautifully ornate early 20th century palace straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Conceived and designed by Italian set designer, Luigi Manini, this decorative residence is pure theatre. Quinta da Regaleira’s magic lies in its garden; littered with underground caves, lakes, grottos and Knights Templar symbolism, it’s a mysterious and beguiling destination.
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