hiking Sintra: Village, Mountains and Coastal Trails
Hiking Sintra, whether it’s in the village and along paths to the castles and palaces or further afield in the mountains and tracks of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, is a rewarding experience. There are dozens of fantastic tracks just perfect for walking off all the pastel da nata you have likely been eating! Below we share some local favorites.
While traveling through Portugal, you will find magical locations you would think only existed in your dreams. With breathtaking seascapes, charismatic cities, and pristine countryside, Portugal has a captivating appeal that is hard to resist.
One of these locations is Sintra, a charming village only a few kilometers away from Lisbon. This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site holds some of the most stunning properties in Portugal.
The Romantic-style palaces lost amidst the mythical and dense forest will leave you speechless.
Hiking Sintra highlights
Many visitors coming to Sintra take a day trip from Lisbon or Cascais to explore this beautiful village. However, you should consider staying overnight. Sintra village and its mountains belong to Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, a nature reserve where the forest meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Along the hiking trails, you will have the opportunity to explore the historical center of Sintra and visit the Sintra National Palace, a beautiful building of Moorish influence. You will explore the dense forest leading to Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. Other trails will take you through Quinta da Regaleira, a bewitching villa from the 19th century, or the Anta Andrenunes, an ancient burial site.
The hiking trails will you take farther from the village center towards the sea. At Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, you will find a breathtaking seascape.
Get your hiking boots ready and join us! We will take through the best hiking trails to explore Sintra!
Hiking Trails near Sintra’s historical center
Although Sintra is a small village, you will find many places to visit within walking distance. Once you are settled, explore the routes starting at Largo Rainha Dona Amélia.
Exploring Old Town Sintra
A quick way to discover Sintra’s beauty is walking the Santa Maria Trail PR 1. It is one of the easiest trails in the Sintra historical center since it is only 2-kilometer long.
Starting at Sintra’s National Palace, this circular route will take you through the historical center. Wandering along these ancient streets, you will discover the Fonte Mourisca, the Casa dos Penedos, and the iconic Santa Maria church.
Sintra is well-known for its monastic confectionary. If you would like to try traditional Sintra sweets, then we recommend the Queijadas, Travesseiros, and Belas at Casa Piriquita, the oldest pastry shop in Sintra.
Are you looking forward to finding a millennium-old castle or discovering the most romantic palace in Europe? Well, in Sintra you will find both!
Exploring Sintra’s history
The hiking trails PR 2 and 3 are among the most well-known paths in Sintra. It is a difficult hiking trail because of its steep slopes. Along a 4-kilometer circular route, the forest’s natural beauty will overwhelm you.
From Palácio Nacional de Sintra towards the mountains, the walking trails PR 2 and 3 will take you through the forest to the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. Since this is the most well-known path in Sintra, you will find many visitors along the way.
You will have the opportunity to visit the Igreja de Santa Maria, a beautiful 12th-century church. Yet, your goal will be to find the Moorish Castle and Sintra Pena Palace.
The Moorish Heritage
The Castelo dos Mouros is an example of military architecture left by the Moorish during their occupation in the 10th century. On the highest hill in Sintra, you will love the panoramic mountain views offered from the walls of the Castle of the Moors.
In the distance, you will see the colorful Pena Palace. Once you get to the Moorish Castle, you can walk downhill to the old town or explore the shortcut towards Pena Palace.
A royal estate on the hills
If you choose to continue your adventure, then you will find Pena Park, a 200-acre property where Pena Palace is located. Once you cross the gates, luxurious gardens and a dense forest meet you. The labyrintic paths of Lapa trail will lead you to Palácio Nacional da Pena.
At Pena Park’s main entrance, there is a ticket booth, where you will find the trail sign for this hike.
On top of the hills, you will find the important bright-colored palace, once the home of the Portuguese royalty. We suggest wandering around the palace exterior corridors and contemplating the landscape. However, if you would like to have your photo of the palace, then we suggest hiking to the High Cross, “Cruz Alta” in Portuguese. It is the highest point in Pena Park, and it offers amazing views of the palace.
If you fear these trails are too difficult for you, then we suggest taking bus 434 from Sintra’s historical center. This bus will take to Castelo dos Mouros and Palácio da Pena. From there, you can walk downhill to the village.
Sintra’s mystical villas
During the 19th century, Romanticism was the main cultural movement, influencing all arts from literature to architecture. Its focus was to exalt feelings and emotions.
As the wealthier classes established in Sintra over this period, they built mysterious villas and chalets that could evoke fairy tales and daring myths.
A fairytale villa
The beautiful Quinta da Regaleira is the most famous villa in Sintra. At Regaleira Park, we suggest visiting the iconic Initiation Well, an inverted tower built to depict the renowned Dante’s Inferno.
Nearby Regaleira Park, there are other landmarks you cannot miss, such as the charming Palácio de Seteais or the amazing Villa Sassetti.
Dreamy trails await you
Now, how do you find these jaw-dropping locations? While hiking, of course!
The Seteais Trail and the Rota das Quintas Trail, also known as PR 4 and 5, offer an incredible opportunity to learn more about Sintra’s history. Usually, intentional travelers walk these trails separately.
However, since it is a short walk, we recommend combining both. The total length will be roughly 5 kilometers.
Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most visited properties in Sintra. We suggest touring during the earliest opening hours to avoid long queues.
Amidst Sintra and its Mountains
The shortest hiking trail in Sintra is located only a few kilometers away from the village center. The Monserrate Eco-Trail is a circular route less than a kilometer long, offering a peaceful walk through the gardens surrounding the stunning palace.
A Romanticist paradise
Monserrate Palace is considered an architectural masterpiece. The wealthy merchant, Francis Cook, was so impressed by the location he ordered the construction of one of the main attractions in Sintra.
By combing the Romantic-styled architecture with Gothic, Indian and Arab influences, Cook became the owner of a staggering property.
Did you know renowned Lord Byron was a frequent guest at Monserrate? In fact, the famous Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage was an homage to this beautiful estate!
While hiking, we suggest having a picnic at Monserrate’s surrounding gardens. Parques de Sintra, the organization responsible for maintaining Sintra’s monuments, offers you the opportunity to book a picnic. It is the perfect activity for a couple or a family with small children.
If you prefer longer trails, then we recommend combining the Monserrate Eco-Trail with the Rota dos Capuchos – PR 11. Thus, you will walk along a paved road along with the beautiful palace gardens and admire the mountain view.
Hiking Trails at Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Now that you discovered Sintra’s historical landmarks, it is time to admire the mountain’s natural beauty.
Sintra Coastal Hike
At Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, starts the PR 7, a 13-kilometer circular hike. This easy trail will take you through the beautiful Praia da Adraga, Praia da Ursa, and Praia da Aroeira. We suggest a slight detour to Praia Grande. There you will have the opportunity to see one of the few dinosaur footprints in Portugal.
Alternative way on the cliffs
If you prefer a linear path, then we suggest a coastal trail from Cabo da Roca do Azenhas do Mar, a beautiful whitewashed village overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This 10-kilometer Sintra coastal hike is a section of the European Long Distance Path, connecting Portugal to Estonia!
On this hike to Azenhas do Mar, you will have the opportunity to admire a rugged coastline as you pass stunning sandy beaches, such as Praia das Maçãs.
The coastal hikes near Cabo da Roca are the perfect opportunity to explore the stunning Sintra Cascais Natural Park. However, these are also the most dangerous trails. We recommend wearing your best hiking shoes. It is best to avoid walking on the cliffs after raining, as the path will be slippery.
Wandering in Serra de Sintra Mountains
Sintra Mountains offer some of the best hikes near Lisbon. Through the dense forest of Sintra Cascais Natural Park, the trails lead you to ancient monuments and stunning panoramic views of the coastline.
Ancient history for the avid hiker
One of these hikes is the Santuário da Peninha Trail PR 10. It is a medium difficulty hike in a 5-kilometer circular path. Starting at the car park near the Santuário, the trail will lead you down a beautiful forest.
Hiking along the way, you will find the Anta Andrenunes, an impressive burial chamber from the Stone Age. Once you recover your breath, take a moment to admire the stunning views of the coastline between Cabo da Roca and the Berlengas Islands.
Rota dos Capuchos PR 11 trail
Alternatively, you can also explore the Serra de Sintra with the Rota dos Capuchos PR 11 trail. This 5-kilometer circular hike is one of the easiest in the mountains. It will take you through beautiful historical sites lost in the forest. Since this trail connects the Cruz Alta to Peninha trail, you will have the chance to combine this trail with the Peninha Trail.
The Capuchos hike starts at Convento dos Capuchos, a medieval monastery built in the 16th century by the Franciscan Monks who longed for a place close to nature. We recommend visiting the monastery and exploring its simple architecture.
Walking along this trail, you will also find the Memorial dos Soldados, a monument honoring the men who lost their lives during a forest fire in the Sintra mountains in the 1960s. Halfway through this hike, you will find the Tholos do Monge, a collective burial site dated 2.500 B.C.
Since there is no public transport to Peninha Trail, the best way to get there is by car or taxi. Alternatively, you can use the local bus to head towards Convento dos Capuchos and start hiking from there.