Walking in… Sintra (and beyond), Portugal

The Essentials:

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Description: A mix of town, countryside and coast, this picturesque walk has everything, and gives you a snapshot of the beauty Serra de Sintra has to offer. It’s a truly beautiful part of the world.

Details: Approximately 32km (including approx. 950m of elevation climb). There are lots of hills in the second half of this walk, but you will be rewarded with some lovely views.

Stops: Refreshments available at a number of places along the way, including Colares, Praia das Maçãs, Almoçageme, and Sintra itself has plenty of shops and facilities.

Difficulty: First half: easy. Second half: more difficult, with a large number of hills to tackle. Most of the walk can be done on a solid road surface, though.

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Getting to Sintra:

By train:

I recommend getting to Sintra by train as it is very simple. Trains run between Lisbon and Sintra every 20 to 30 minutes depending on the day, and is by far the quickest way of getting between the two places. Rossio station is the most centrally located station, and the most regular trains to Sintra run from here.

At the time of writing, the most up-to-date timetable can be found here, but train times can easily be found both online and at Rossio station.

By bus:

If you are coming from Cascais, the better option would be to take the bus. More information about the 434 tourist bus can be found here.

Sintra to Praia das Maçãs:

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Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira

If you have never visited Sintra before, it is well worth setting aside some time to explore the town. Surrounded by hills and palaces, there is a lot to visit, although I will be focusing the majority of this article on a walk that takes you out of the town.

Sintra has a lot of unique gardens and we passed a couple on this walk that we had already visited. If you plan to complete this walk in full, be aware that visiting the extra treats in Sintra could prolong your trip significantly, and you should be aware of the later return train times if you have come from Lisbon.

From Sintra station, we walked through the town and headed west on the larger road, up Rua Consiglieri Pedroso and onto Rua Barbosa do Bocage. Initially, you may find it helpful to follow any signposts to Quinta da Regaleira.

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Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is another one of those places in Sintra that really needs a little time set aside to be explored. Its gardens contain all kinds of weird and wonderful features, grottoes, the Portal dos Guardiães (Portal of the Guardians) and a subterranean tower that spirals down into the earth, providing an opportunity to impress your friends with your very own photograph of something they have probably seen before on a travel group somewhere on Facebook!

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The Portal of the Guardians
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One of Quinta da Regaleira’s spiralling towers.
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Some of the grottoes.

Moving West towards Colares:

As you pass the entrance to Quinta da Regaleira, you will see a fork ahead of you. Take the road to the left which goes uphill (you may see a signpost directing you to the Tivoli).

For a while now you simply have to follow this road. Some views will emerge to your right, and you may even get a look over to the Atlantic Ocean. On this stage of the walk you will also pass the Monserrate palace and park to your right.

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The first stage of our beautiful walk!

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Keep going down the main road (the N375) until you reach a series of road signs, most of which will point right to Lisbon, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais, and, importantly, Praia das Maçãs. This is because we are entering Colares and a main road runs through here. Follow the signs right until you find some more signs at the fancy house. Go left, following the signs to the ‘praias’ (beaches) and Cabo da Roca.

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Colares is very small, but is a good place to stop for a refreshment, particularly if you go on a hot day (like we did). There is a pharmacy and a couple of cafés (we stopped at a café at the Galp garage, incidentally).

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Colares to Praia das Maçãs:

The signposts are mostly quite clear to Praia das Maçãs, although we did manage to take a wrong turn in Colares! Near some BP petrol pumps, the main road continues ahead, but you will need to turn right. The turn right will take you across a bridge which goes over a small waterway.

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The small waterway you should see on the correct road!

If you cross this bridge, it’s a nice simple walk ahead until the road becomes Avenida do Atlantico. You might see a small railway line running along this road – this is the tram line which runs between Sintra and the beach and you might even get to see the pretty old trams pass if they are running.

Follow the road all the way ahead until you see a road called Avenida Maestro Frederico de Freitas to your left. You probably won’t want to go down this road, but when you see it, you should know that you are getting close to the beach.

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Follow the road with the tramline at your side until you eventually reach a small town and the beach. Praia das Maçãs is a large, open beach and it is a popular destination for both surfers and sunbathers on hot days! Take a break, grab some lunch / get an ice cream, and take a few minutes to take in the area. It’s worth taking the time.

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Entering the area surrounding Praia das Maçãs.

Praia das Maçãs to Serra de Sintra:

Coastline and Villages:

When ready, cross the beach to the other side and cross the small waterway that leads to the sea. You will need to find a way up to the footpath and simply follow the elevated coastline for a short while.

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Looking back across the Praia from the other side. Cross the small waterway below until you can stand on this path.

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We followed the path down past Praia Pequena do Rodizio and reached a car park. Praia Grande lies on the otherside of the car park and is another popular beach for tourists and surfers. We turned left at this car park and looped back up Avenida Alfredo Coelho before taking the first right, up Estrada do Rodizio.

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Try not to think of all the wonderful food you may have already eaten at a Brazilian Rodizio restaurant previously in Lisbon (this might only apply to us, but I can imagine many visitors to Lisbon will have eaten a great deal of food at these wonderful buffets and meaty extravaganzas) and head south down Estrada do Rodizio as far as the Toca do Julio restaurant. Turn right into Avenida Dr. Brandao de Vasconcelos and head into the small village of Almoçageme.

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Almoçageme.

There are a couple of small shops here where you can buy some drinks or fruit to top up the energy. Now it’s time to head through a couple more cute Portuguese villages, but be aware that now we are heading into the hilly parts of the Sintra countryside, and it may get more tiring!

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Follow Avenida Dr. Brandao de Vasconcelos to the end until you meet a slightly busier main road. Cross the road and take the Rua Principal in the direction of Penedo. You will also see signposts directing you here.

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Looking up to Penedo.

Penedo is another small village and you will need to pass through, and you will weave uphill through small streets, following Rua do Tanque Novo until you leave the village.

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A route through the village of Penedo.

Rua do Tanque Novo will eventually seem to end and turn into a smaller lane straight ahead, but it also meets Caminho do Moinho to the left. Follow this road all the way to its end until you get to a new marked road. This is the N247-3, and you just need to turn left and follow this road.

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These roads are somewhat less popular and less touristy than much of the walk so far, and you will definitely find road signs more helpful here. Initially, you should be heading in the direction of Convento dos Capuchos (the Italian version of these ‘Capuchin’ friars, incidentally, is where we get the word ‘Cappuccino’ from) and soon you will see signs pointing to Palácio da Pena, which is the beautiful looking palace you may have seen high up on the hill.

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Looking up to the Pena palace, high on the hill.

There are also boards on this road which will provide more information and guidance, but ultimately this stage of the walk is simply a case of following the main N247-3 road all the way until the Palácio da Pena park and palace. You may also want to look out for the Cruz Alta, a cross high up on the hills which also offers spectacular views.

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Where the 247-3 road meets the Cruz Alta and Pena palace and gardens.
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The Pena palace. It’s rather pretty.

Clearly there is a lot to see and explore here, so what you do now is entirely down to you. However, if your day is drawing to a close, you simply need to follow the signs back to Sintra, down the Estrada dos Capuchos. Thankfully, this is nearly all downhill from here, and the windy paths are an easy end to this long walk.

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Estrada dos Capuchos soon becomes Estrada da Pena, and after a few more minutes of travelling downhill, you will soon find yourself back in the town of Sintra. Congratulations!

In all my time in Portugal, this was one of my favourite walks. It was long enough to feel rewarding and healthy, hilly enough without being impossible, beautiful in every respect and we also met some friendly people along the way. There are opportunities throughout the walk to extend and explore, so perhaps a few days are necessary to really get the most out of the area. Luckily, if you are staying in Lisbon or Cascais, it is very easy to get back to Sintra for another wonderful walk!

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