Sintra-Cascais National Park On a BudgetThe Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is located on the west coast of Portugal and is often called the place where "the land ends and the sea begins". The UNESCO listed park is famous for being home to Cabo da Roca, a seaside cliff that is actually the westernmost part of Europe. Sintra-Cascais is interesting due to their large diversity in landscape which includes sand dunes, lakes, forests, and ocean cliffs.
The climate in Sintra-Cascais is warm and sunny year round, with temperatures ranging from 75-85° Fahrenheit from May-September with June-August being the warmest of those months. Temperatures rarely dip below 60° F even in the winter months from November to March.
SightsOne of the most popular sights in the entire park is the Cabo da Roca, a dazzling vertical cliff that is actually the westernmost point of Europe. The site is so popular that you can even get a certificate stating that you've been there after going to the top of the cliff. From Cabo, head inland where you'll find the various smaller parks, farms, and mountain ranges. A must-see mountain range is the Serra de Sintra, which is covered in lush vegetation and known for producing incredible, fresh, aromas during the summer due to all of the flora on the mountain.
The inland area of the Park is also home to the Quinta do Pisao, an agricultural part of the park where you can get a guided tour and even purchase some of the produce they grow! Then, make your way back to the coast to see the Boca do Inferno, a 150-million-year old cave that opens into the sea and makes for the perfect sunset-viewing spot!
Parks and TownsThe Sintra-Cascais is a huge park which has been divided into smaller parks and towns to make it easier to navigate.
Marechal Carmona Park: Located in the center of the park, Marechal is essentially a resting place where you'll find a café, library, and a few footpaths that wind through well-kept gardens. The Nature Tourism Information Centre is located in front of the entrance to Marechal.
Quinta do Pisao: Located on the north side of the park, it is an agricultural and forestry estate open to tourists.
Pena Park: Home to the impressive Pena Palace and breathtaking natural scenery which can be explored through relaxed walking paths.
Monserrate Park: Located in the central part of the Sintra mountains, it is a large garden with a greenhouse.
Tapada de Mafra: A small town in the northern part of the park, it is a popular place to enjoy the local wildlife.
ActivitiesThe Park is fantastic for sports enthusiast as you can do everything from windsurfing to hiking to mountain biking. For windsurfing, surfing, and swimming, head to Praia Grande Beach where you'll find great sandy beaches and the perfect water conditions for all of your activities. For hikers, there are dozens of trails to follow throughout the entire park, all of which are well-marked. Many of these trails can also be toured on bicycle, and you can even rent a bike for free from the Nature Tourism Information Centre.
For something more adventurous, head to the Pedra Amarela Base Camp on the southern side of the Serra de Sintra. Here, you'll find activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, and rope sliding. If you prefer something a little more relaxed, you can take a train safari ride around the Mafra Park and catch views of the wolves, foxes, genets, and eagles.
Food and DiningBeing so close to the ocean, this is a fantastic area to try local seafood and fish dishes; common types of fish include sea bass, bream, and Cascais sole. The area is also known for their wine production, specifically Colares wine which comes from the northern mountainous region of the park. Colares wine comes in both red and white and can be found at restaurants all over the area. There are restaurants and cafes dotted around the park, with everything ranging from relaxed traditional cuisine to upscale restaurants with international fare. There are a few seaside restaurants, although the majority of options are found closer to the city of Sintra.
TransportationIf flying into Lisbon, you can take either the metro or bus to get to Cascais or Sintra. From these towns, you can take a bus, taxi, or rented car into the park to your final destination.
Traveling around the park is made easy by the Scotturb buses which are tourists buses that run to the major attractions throughout the area. There are also a few trams that connect the larger parts of the park and run through some of the valleys. If you decide to rent a car, you can easily drive throughout the area as the roads are fairly easy to navigate. If you're staying in a small part of the park, you can easily navigate on foot or bicycle.