Eighteen miles and a world away from Lisbon, it is easy to see why Sintra – with its rippling mountains, dewy forests thick with ferns and lichen, exotic gardens and glittering palaces – is where Portuguese royals used to spend their summers. Like a page torn from a fairy tale the Unesco World Heritage-listed center, Sintra-Vila is dotted with pastel-hued manors folded into luxuriant hills that roll down to the blue Atlantic.
The Celts and the Romans worshipped their moon gods in Sintra, the Moors built a dizzying castle, and 18th-century Portuguese royals swanned around its dreamy gardens. Even Lord Byron waxed lyrical about Sintra’s charms: ‘Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes, in a variegated maze of mount and glen’, which inspired his epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.