Meet Luís Lopes, our mountain biking expert and resident guide on our daily mountain bike tours in Lisbon! When he is not “on tour”, he is devouring trails and routes in his playground, Sintra! Here are some of his suggestions for a complete and memorable day out mountain biking in place he calls “home”, Sintra. Here are his suggestion for a ride starting from Lisbon to explore Sintra, that you can follow on your own to discover his favorite roads and spots:
The cultural landscape of Sintra, also known as the moon hill, is located in Portugal’s central region, at the extreme west of the Iberian Peninsula and a few Km's away from the Atlantic Ocean. The earliest remnants of human occupation were discovered in early Paleolithic era and, from the late 14th century, it became a summer resort for many Kings throughout the history of Portugal. Located just 30 kilometres away from Lisbon, the UNESCO World Heritage village of Sintra is both the perfect place for a fairy tale story and is the starting point for a unique mountain bike ride surrounded with history.
If you're staying in Lisbon, take a train in Rossio or Entrecampos railway stations and prepare for a 30 minutes journey that will lead you to the starting point for today’s ride. Leave at the train station in the historical village of Sintra, and prepare for a 32 km loop with 1075 meters of vertical climb in the Sierra. Leaving the train station, turn left and walk with your bike for 200 meters, where you will spot a 19th century edification, the the city's Town Hall. Following the road to the left you will enter "Volta do Duche" road, a beautiful path surrounded with trees and sculptures made by local artists, which you'll follow until you reach the centre of the village. Once there, on your right, you'll be able to see the 15th century Sintra National palace and it's two chimneys, an iconic monument that is the symbol of Sintra's municipality. Also, if you are looking for some treats or local pastry to stock up before the ride, on your left you will spot many local shops where you will find a diversity of souvenirs and also the famous pastry shop, "Piriquita", where you can try the Travesseiros de Sintra (“Sintra Pillows”) or the queijadas de sapa (“Sapa tarts”), both local delicacies that will give you the perfect boost for the ride! Today's map:
Following that same road, you'll ride by the Lawrence hotel and restaurant, built in the 18th century- the first hotel established in the Iberic Peninsula (Portugal and Spain). You'll tackle the first climb of the day, by an asphalted road, a 2 km winding climb surrounded with beautiful chalets and private houses - ride in single file to the right of the road. Finishing the climb, you will get to an intersection and turn right. Keep climbing for a few meters until it converts into rolling hills where you can recover from the last big climb and admire the next monument, the Condessa D’Edla Chalet , built in the 14th century. Keep following the road for more rolling hills in the next 5 kms - you have now left the village of Sintra and are now in the Natural Park of Sintra and Cascais.
From now on, the ride will be super quiet and low in traffic. Also from here you will be able to start doing "proper" mountain biking, as back in the village you are not allowed to ride on any trails surrounding the monuments and the gardens. After that 5 km road, you'll arrive at another intersection (“Cruzamento dos Capuchos”), where you'll turn left and a follow the next section, where you will spot some downhill trails - you may consider giving it a try, but be careful, some sections are steep and technical with plenty of roots and rocks. Back on track, you'll arrive at “Pedra Amarela” gate, as a reference. From here on, you'll start riding by the gravel trails of the natural park, surrounded by the local forest as you climb towards the highest point you can cycle to in the Sierra, where a sanctuary is located. In the last 250 meters of this section, you'll tackle a steep climb, overlooking the Atlantic ocean on your right side, what will definitely help you with this tough section. Once at the top, you arrived at one of the most unique points in Sintra, "Peninha Sanctuary", a 16 th century church right at the top of the sierra. It is impossible not to get overwhelmed with the beautiful view over the ocean and all the coastline from Cascais, all the way left to Lisbon. Take a break from your ride to walk up to the monument - the balconies surrounding it have a beautiful 360degree view and you can also spot, up North, the village of Ericeira and the westernmost point of continental Europe, the lighthouse at Roca Cape. If you brought some food and snacks for the ride, this is also a good option for a picnic - if not, just follow the route to the next point, where you can stop for a coffee or have your deserved lunch.
Leaving the sanctuary, start going downhill towards the ocean - be careful, as this this downhill section has a lot of loose rocks and you easily overspeed so make sure you have control on your bike, that section is all the way down until you reach the national road. Here, make a turn left, for a short incursion by the national road, straight to recommended place for lunch, the “Moinho
Dom Quixote”, a pet friendly old windmill, now totally converted into a restaurant. It features several options for a light lunch, like sandwiches, tapas, meat, fish or vegetarian followed by natural fruit juices or simply a coffee with an outstanding view over the ocean. Here, you are half way back on the loop today and just 3 km’s away from the Roca Cape and it's lighthouse, the westernmost point of continental Europe (this section is a detour from the track provided). Leaving Moinho Dom Quixote, get back by the same road until the intersection with the national road, turn left, and 20 meters then turn right to the road that will lead you back to the forested area, it’s a 2.5 kms beautiful climb back to the top section of the Sierra, where you will arrive into a granite boulder area. Here you can spot the famous Pedras Irmãs (Sister stones), the two huge boulders standing side by side and the biggest ones you will find in the area. Also you can spot a natural spring water fountain and refill some water on your bottle, the water has no contaminants and it is perfect for drinking. Following the road you will find a steep climb for the next 200 meters, until you make a turn left, to a gravel road and a gentle climb until the next point.
After the climb, you'll find yourself in a place that the locals call “Monge”, where most of the trails start from. Here you have a variety of options, but all require some downhill technical skills, so make sure you are 100% able to ride this kind of trails. If not, keep following the gravel road and go downhill for the next 1.5 kms by a wide gravel road, the section is steep, so make sure you don’t overspeed. Then, you will arrive at the “Capuchos” intersection, named after the stone carved convent from the 15 th century that you'll find there, once habited by Franciscan monks. The convent will be on on your left, so if you have time go there for a visit. Back at the intersection, after the last downhill, you will get back on the main asphalted road towards the centre of the village for the next 7 km’s, that'll take you towards the famous Pena Palace and Moorish castle of Sintra. On the 4th km of the section, after passing the Condessa D’Edla chalet, take a break and enjoy the unique view over the Pena Palace, you will only have that chance to enjoy this incredible view over it. On the last 3 km’s, you'll be climbing on a cobble stone road - some sections are steep but short and you might find more traffic here than usual. First, you'll pass by the main entrance to the Pena Palace and a few meters away is the entrance to the Castle - both are truly recommended places to visit but each one take no less than 1.30 hours to visit.
Leaving the monument area, you will face a steep downhill and cobble stoned road for the next 400 meters - be very cautious on this section. You'll then arrive at São Pedro de Sintra, turn left and face the last steep section of your ride, just one last climb, to be followed by a short and fast downhill by the asphalted road until you get into a cross, where you should take a right turn and follow the road that will take you back to the village centre. Once there you are just a km away from the finish, so if you have some time available, take a break in the historical center to enjoy it’s monuments, gardens or pastry. At the end of the ride, follow the “Volta do Duche” road back to the Town Hall building, make a turn right and the train station is right ahead of you.
Hope you enjoy riding this loop as much as I do!
If you are in Lisbon and would like to go on a ride with Ricardo towards Sintra or Arrábida, be sure to check out our half or full-day Lisbon Mountain Bike Tour.