Less than half an hour away from Cascais, amidst sprawling green mountains, dewy forests and glittering fairytale palaces, rests the medieval town of Sintra. With a true feeling of traveling back in time, its UNESCO World Heritage sites provide for some extraordinary scenery; pastel-hued manors and baroque palaces fold into lush green hills that roll down to the blue backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
With its history dating back to the 8th century, the Celts used to worship their moon god in Sintra’s clear skies, and the Moors built their castle – the ruins of which you can still visit today – on one of its precipitous mountains, next to which sits the National Palace of Pena; one of the greatest expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world, with its pink, yellow and pink towers being visible all the way from Lisbon on a clear day.
Everywhere, perfectly-preserved azulejos line the town’s facades, speaking to its regal past. Its winding roads, that lead up to the hills, provide awe-inspiring views – none more so than the one felt at Cabo da Roca, Europe’s westernmost point, where the hills give way to massive, jagged cliffs and the wilderness of the Atlantic Ocean’s waves below.
Located in the Sintra hills, the Park and Palace of Pena are the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s creative genius and the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal, denoting clear influences from the Manueline and Moorish styles of architecture. The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth.
Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal, and is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO – it is famous for its spiral staircase that stretches for dozens of meters into the ground. Embraced by green plants and leaves that weave and intertwine through its stone walls, Quinta da Regaleira embodies Sintra’s mysticism perfectly, and is well worth a visit.
Cabo da Roca is a wild and rugged headland that marks the most westerly point of mainland Europe. The windswept cliffs of Cabo de Roca were believed to be the edge of the world up until the up until the late 14th century and the spectacular, desolate scenery adds to the allure of the location. The raging Atlantic Ocean waves pound the base of the massive jagged cliffs while challenging hiking trails follow the coastal paths.