Sintra Palace and Castle Loop

  • Highlights: views, Pena Palace, Villa Sassetti, and Moorish castle
  • Distance: 2.6 mile loop
  • Elevation change: 1,025’
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Sintra Portugal, Estrada de Pena near the Moorish Fountain
  • Website: Sintra Parks
  • Beer Pairings: Lord Byron Pub—Super Bock & Sagres

The Hike:

For our European friends (and others lucky enough to visit Portugal) this hike has great views, historic castles, and fantastic gardens. Sintra is located 15 miles northwest of Lisbon. It’s a popular day trip from Lisbon. We spent three days in Sintra and still didn’t get to see everything. 

Visit the Tourist Information (TI) desk at the train station and get a pedestrian route map and assistance finding the starting point for this hike. If you wish to tour Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle, buying tickets in advance is highly recommend to avoid an hour plus wait to buy tickets at the gate. The TI can assist with advance purchase tickets.

We enjoyed this hike so much, we did it two times. On the second day we were joined by our friends Andrew and Trisha and to save time, we took a taxi up to Pena and then walked down. No matter how you get to Pena Palace, get an early start as the crowds are enormous every day.

To begin the hike, walk through town heading steadily uphill to Estrada de Pena and the gate to Villa Sassetti will be on the left. There is also a large sign with a trail map here. There are signs and markers on the trail and this is a popular hike so just follow the people ahead of you.

The hike to Villa Sassetti is steadily uphill. Much of the trail is paved with bricks and there are steps and switchbacks to make the climb easier. The hike winds through gardens and water features. In about .2 miles there will be a small cafe and rest rooms and then Villa Sassetti. The interior is closed to the public but the grounds are and gardens are open and no tickets are required. Enjoy the views and the surroundings and continue the hike following the signs for the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros.

Pass through a stone arch as you exit from the gardens of Villa Sassetti. Up ahead high on a rocky summit looms the castle. The western side of the rocky cliffs of the castle is popular with rock climbers.

You will get your first view of the Moorish Castle to your left high above on granite cliffs at .5 miles when you reach a trail junction. This hike visits the castle on the way back down to Sintra. Follow the signs for Pena Palace and gardens, continuing further up the hillside. 

Reach the main road and parking areas for Pena Palace at .6 miles. There are restrooms and ticket stations here. You will return to this location to resume the hike down to the Moorish Castle.

Note the long lines and be glad you purchased tickets in advance online. You can walk up to the palace or wait in a line to take a bus. We walked up to the palace and did the self-guided tour. It is an amazing place and the gardens are spectacular. 

After touring the palace, return to the parking area and follow the signs downhill to the Castelo dos Mouros. The castle dates to the 10th century and has been heavily restored. After hiking all the way to the castle you can appreciate why the Moors were able to defend this location.

From the castle you can get great views of Pena Palace, Sintra, and on a clear day the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy the views and the crumbling walls of the castle and return to the entrance. Follow signs for the Santa Maria Trail (Percuso de Santa Maria).

The Santa Maria Trail is mostly in the shade as you pass downhill through the forest. It arrives back in Sintra and ending at Rampa do Costello. Follow the signs to Santa Maria church and continue past the church on Calçada dos Clérigos. 

Turn left on Rua Marechal Saldonha to return to the starting point for this hike. Better yet, just a few hundred meters away is Cantinho Lord Byron, a great option for post-hike refreshments.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Cantinho Lord Byron is an English-style pub in the heart of Sintra. British poet Lord Byron was a frequent visitor to Sintra and he called the town a “glorious Eden.” The Lord Byron has decent food, wine, and beer with a tiny indoor seating area and an even smaller area outside. 

We were lucky to get an outside table. Portugal is world famous for great wines and port. Beer is not their strong suit. Super Bock & Sagres are Portuguese lagers and they served us well as we reflected on a great hike and watched the world pass by.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.