The mountaintops of Sintra are shrouded in mystery, magic, and, more often than not, fog. When it’s beach weather in Lisbon and the nearby town of Cascais, it’s likely misty and sometimes even hailing up at the top of the hills. But don’t let that deter you from exploring them. In fact, what makes hiking here special is the unpredictability of the weather conditions in this region — not to mention the incredible ruins and impossible structures you find hiding there. One such site that is begging to be found is the Ermida Peninha and its sanctuary.
Built atop a high rocky outcrop are the ruins of the hermitage of St. Saturnine, the Santuário da Peninha, and the palace which was designed and built by Carvalho Monteiro, the dude who also built the Quinta da Regaleira. It’s not surprising that Ermida Peninha is the site of a supernatural occurrence of sorts: in the 16th century, there was an apparition of the Virgin Mary to a hungry shepherd girl where the chapel was later constructed. The humble palace and chapel with bare-bones quarters for men and women of the church have never been lived in nor are they open to the public, but you can step foot inside the St. Saturnine hermitage in its advanced state of ruin.
Even though we arrived at this summit in the thick of the fog, on a clear day one could enjoy stunning, sweeping views of the Sintra coastline from here — they say you can see all the way from Berlengas Islands in the north to Cape Espichel in the south, but they must’ve had a great zoom lens. The terraces surrounding the structures are open for exploration, as are the trails around the sanctuary, which are not to be missed. Here’s a 4.5km loop you can try out, and here’s another clocking in at just under 6km. It’s recommended to access the Peninha parking lot by car or motorbike. It takes a couple of hours to walk from Sintra, so take our advice and save the walking for the hilltop.
How to get there: Peninha is close to Malveira da Serra (mid-way between Sintra and Cascais). From Sintra, take the N9 south towards Cascais for about 6km and turn right onto N9-1 towards Malveira da Serra. After about 7km, turn right on to the narrow Caminho dos Fetos and continue for another 2.5km. Take a right at the crossroads and after 1.3km turn right to the Peninha Chapel parking area.