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Discover Portugal – Sintra

An easy half hour away from Lisbon, Sintra is a lush valley a stone-throw away from the Atlantic Ocean. With its stunning view of the ocean, it’s no wonder that it was always a favorite getaway and the location of Lisbon’s elite family’s holiday and summer homes. Although the term “homes” is used loosely, because Sintra is in fact full of mansions and palaces, with quite a few open for visits – and well worth the detour!

If you’re in Sintra itself, some must-sees include:

Quinta da Regaleira the most incredible of estates with small castles and a magical garden set on the hillside with different levels, towers offering views of the whole property, caves to explore and hidden passageways coming out in what looks like a well but has a staircase up.

Moorish Castle hiking up from Sintra takes about half an hour depending on how often you stop to let yourself be distracted (or inspired!) by the view. You can go up through Parque das Merendas or through Quinta da Amizade, as both paths reconnect towards the top. Entrance to the Moorish Castle costs a few euros (6 for adults if memory serves) which is well worth it as its extensive walls provide a gorgeous view of the surroundings and the whole visit gives you a taste of medieval life (in a good way).

Convento dos Capuchos – a little ways away from Sintra (7min by car), this old monastery is tucked away on a hillside that you access by driving through a forest and coming back out the other side. With an architecture intended to blend in with the environment, the monks who used to live here only allowed themselves one luxury: to line the convent walls and their cells with cork for insulation. A lot of the cork is still in place and gives the visit a distinct “hobbit-like” touch, especially given how small some of the rooms are! Price of entry is also a few euros, unless you get the Parque de Sintra pass.

Right next door there’s a Donkey Reserve which is open on Saturdays and offers donkey tours for children.

If you’re more of a beach person, you can hop on the old trolley to go to Praia Maca to enjoy the (cold) water and white sand beach. There are quite a few restaurants and cafes nearby too.

If you want to explore a bit farther out, from Sintra you are very close to the Westernmost point of continental Europe, Cabo da Roca which has a lighthouse you can visit.

You can also go through Almocagem, a quaint little village close to a hidden beach Praia da Adraga. Stop for ice cream or a meal at Restaurante Adega Coelho, or simply enjoy the fact that you’re in what used to be the westernmost limit of the Roman empire!

Last but certainly not least, if you’re curious about sustainable living and eco-villages, check out Ecoaldeia de Janas near the village of Janas. They have cob houses, a nursery, all sorts of animals, and in the village their café serves fresh fruit and dishes made with home-grown organic produce – and as a bonus they sell second hand books and some organic goods.

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