ESCAPE TO SINTRA VIA QUELUZ
Before Sintra envelops you in its exuberant natural and architectural beauty, start acclimatizing your senses at the ‘Portuguese Versailles’: Palácio Nacional de Queluz (Queluz National Palace). Just 15-kilometers from Lisbon city center on the Sintra Road, the former royal residence dates back to 1747 and was one of Europe’s last great Rococo palaces. Then it’s onwards to one of Portugal’s most revered towns…Sintra is all you’ve read and more. It take less than an hour from Lisbon to travel back to the age of imperial Portugal and Europe’s original epicenter of Romantic architecture. Portuguese aristocrats have followed their Royals here since the 14th century. And it’s not hard to see why as you drive the region’s winding roads. Open the windows and inhale the pure air of the Serra de Sintra (Sintra Mountains), fresh with the scent of the region’s thousand different species of plants. Then float away on the dreamy UNESCO World Heritage imagery revealed before you: sprawling baroque palaces amidst box hedges and fountains; towered and turreted summer residences shaded by magnificent formal gardens; hilltop princess-palaces silhouetted pink, yellow and red against a turquoise sky…. Everywhere, glazed azulejos whisper a regal past and the awe-inspiring views transport the imagination deep into the mysterious mountains.
There are almost too many sites to mention. Visit: Palácio National de Sintra, the oldest royal palace in Portugal, for its azulejo-smothered interiors; Palácio National de Pena (Pena National Palace) for its storybook, ice-cream-colored turrets and magical hilltop location; Quinta da Regaleira (Regaleira Palace) for its lavish Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture and extraordinary garden wonderland comprising underground tunnels and caves, towers, fountains and wells; A Piriquita, for the famous travesseiros (flaky pastries filled with melon jam, almonds and eggs) and Fábrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa for to-die-for queijadas: delicate homemade goat’s cheese and almond cakes. Magical, ethereal, timeless….describing Sintra is like trying to catch the moon: visit and enjoy.
CASCAIS BEACHSIDE SOPHISTICATION
Perhaps one of Lisbon’s most underrated enclaves, Cascais melds the laidback lifestyle of the American East Coast with European refinement and sophistication. It’s leisurely and casual yet uniquely chic – the elegant choice for well-dressed families seeking a more high-end beach retreat. Think sailing boats and surfing, exclusive condominiums and horse-riding through the waves, golfing and yachting followed by a picnic on the beach with a great bottle of wine. Don’t miss the ice-cream at Santini Gelati Fini – favourite of King Juan Carlos 1 of Spain. Try it for yourself!
Roughly six miles beyond Cascais lie the sandy beaches, dunes and pine forests of the Guincho Coast. Recognized as having some of the world’s best breaks, it’s a surfers’ and wind-surfers’ paradise, complete with jaw-dropping Atlantic Ocean views. Here nature is untamed and dramatic; the waves are big and the wind is strong. Whether you’re watching the surf championships, horse-riding or simply enjoying the vast swathes of sand, embrace every inch of ruggedness: you’re in Guincho!
CABO DA ROCA
Cape Roca—’where the land ends and the sea begins’ according to famous Portuguese poet Luís de Camões—marks Europe’s most westerly point. Head to the lighthouse for the best views. Don’t forget to collect your commemorative certificate: not everyone gets this close to the edge...
- Piriquita for typical pastries
- Casa Branca for Portuguese linen
- Loja do Vinho to taste or buy
- Portuguese wines and cheeses