Do it All in a Day: Walking from Sintra to Cabo da Roca

This four-hour walk between Sintra and Cabo da Roca lets you see many of Sintra’s famed landmarks and includes plenty of forest-walking, sea-gazing, and cliff-scrambling. And you don't need a car to reach it.

Some people love hop-on-hop-off tour buses, enabling them to see all the hot spots of a city in a day or two. We get it, sometimes you just don’t have any time. But there are better ways to holiday-cram than a big red bus. Like this walk between two of greater Lisbon’s most popular destinations — Sintra and Cabo da Roca.

The walk only takes about four hours, so depending on when you start your day, you should be able to see much of Sintra’s old center and possibly a site or two such as Quinta da Regaleira before setting off. The hike itself passes by many of Sintra’s other famed landmarks such as the Moorish castle and Pena Palace, so with a little side-stepping, you can see it all!

Parts of the walk offer fantastic coastal views.

Start at the train station (assuming you are arriving from Rossio in Lisbon) and make a sharp left to immediately hit very steep hills. Get used to it. On the plus side, as you climb, you are greeted with beautiful views of Castelo dos Mouros and the valley. You’re heading to the castle, and at this point, it is all paved roads and relatively easy going. As you walk, you pass by interesting but rarely visited spots such as Igreja de Santa Maria and Quinta de Santa Maria. Feel free to take a moment to check them out.

Eventually, you get to the castle grounds. Now, the way marked on the GPX track passes through an area that is currently “closed.” Use this at your own risk, you can always go around. But, if you do walk the lesser-trod path, you are rewarded with a chance to peer into one of Sintra’s little dark doors that seem to burrow into every hillside (you’ll know what that means soon enough).

If you want, take some time to explore the castle grounds, and even the castle itself (tickets required), before passing through toward Palácio Nacional da Pena. You’ll notice that as you exit the castle grounds, the walk takes you to the right while the palace itself is to your left. But, in the words of They Might Be Giants, “You’re not the boss of me now!” If you want to go to the palace, you do just that.

Breaks in the dense forest give sneak-peeks at the sweeping vistas.

Continuing the walk, your meandering road passes through fields of boulders with private drives shooting off either side and patches of forest. If you turn around here, you get a very good view of Pena palace. After a long hike, you get to a crossroads, and most paths lead to where you want to go. But dead ahead is a forest road, which simply seems more interesting.

You stay in the forest on footpaths, bike tracks, and forestry roads until you reach Azoia. It is a short drop back into civilization, passing along the outskirts and the bizarrely-themed Moinho Dom Quixote, until the road turns back into a dirt path and eventually into a goat track.

The drop back into civilization, however short, can be slightly distressing.

The track takes you along cliff tops and valleys as you approach Cabo da Roca and is probably one of the wilder sections of the walk. With loose rock, high cliffs, and more succulents than you can count, make sure not to lose your footing or be too distracted by the magnificent coastal views.

Eventually, you emerge victorious on the large rocks that top the final cliff of Europe. Take a moment to enjoy the scene, since as you start to climb, the tourists — who number in their hundreds — will surely block the view.

From Cabo da Roca, you can take the 403 bus back to Sintra or, for a relatively quicker journey, to Cascais, where the train takes you to Cais do Sodre. It is worth noting that even if you got a Lisbon to Sintra return train ticket, it can be changed in Cascais for no extra cost (or at least it could in February 2019, you know bureaucracy).

Want to get freaked out before walking alone through the woods of Sintra? Check out the myths, legends, and paranormal activity that swirl around the area.

If you fancy taking the walk, the GPX track can be found here.



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6 Responses

  1. How can GPS signal do not work on an open-wide site on Earth? :))
    Regarding million of tourists I hate them, maybe late Oct will be more air to breath. 🙂

    1. Sometimes signals can vanish! Anyway, I know it’s hard with the influx of tourists here in PT, but keep your head up! They don’t merit hate, perhaps just a little patience sometimes.

  2. Hi Eden,

    Is it possible to do this journey without reliable cell service? My carrier tends to be spotty, and I’m wondering if there is a good way to have the directions offline.


    1. Hey Alex!

      If your cell service is spotty in general, Sintra will take you offline for sure.
      I used OsmAnd+ (it’s an app on Google and the App Store). It allows you to have offline maps (one or two for free!) and while the GPS might still not work, basic map reading skills will get you by. So long as you can recognize footpaths and roads, you should be grand.

      I’m sure there are a bunch of other options out there as well, that’s just the app I used.

      Or, kick it old school with a physical map, phone signal be damned! I’ve heard that in Portugal, your best bet is using a “Military Map” from the Centro de Informação Geoespacial do Exército. They are supposed to be similar to ordnance survey maps in the UK, BUT I have never used one so can’t verify that.

      Hope this helps!


  3. I did this walk because it sounded really good. It started off nicely in Sintra going up to the castle. But very quickly it good a bit unpleasant because every two seconds there was a Tuktuk passing by or a car. When I arrived at the castle there were hundreds of tourist and cars. I don’t know it if was a public holiday, it was a Monday, or if this is normal. And then I didn’t really know which road to take. The GPS on this website really doesn’t work in a phone and the description wasn’t really good.

    So I just walked on the main road. It got a bit better and in the end there wasn’t anybody which was nice. But I pretty much walked for 3 hours on the main road. I don’t think that was the idea haha.

    When you arrive at Cabo da Roca theres pretty much 5689 million people taking selfies with the sunset and they will all be in the bus with you back to Sintra. So yeah, I guess that’s reality.

    1. Hey Jean,
      Thanks for taking the walk, and sorry that it sucked!
      Alas, there are always lots of tourists that go to Sinta or Cabo da Roca! It is indeed a reality and one that we, in our quest to see new things, contribute to (even if we do so without the selfie sticks).

      In terms of the GPS, do you mean the GPX file that is linked or the GPS tracker on your phone? If the latter, this can happen in Sintra, is a valid point, and will be added to the article as a warning for future travelers. If the former, please let us know where it could be clearer or what the problem was and we will be sure to update it! (Or, if you created a GPX, send it to us!).

      I’m glad that you at least enjoyed the end, that is my favorite part too and absolutely spectacular. If you took any photos, hit us up on Instagram @atlaslisboa as we’d love to see them.


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