Natural Heritage - National Park Sintra-Cascais
Come for nature. Stay for the walks in the nature reserves.
The first thing that amazes us about the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is the way that the whole area has been so well preserved in such close proximity to a metropolis as large as Lisbon and the beautiful Cascais coast, where numerous top tourist attractions exist.
Covering about a third of the Cascais region, it seems to be one of those rare examples of how man and nature manage to coexist, something very uncommon these days but judging by the park’s immense beauty, not altogether impossible.
The park has a great variety of scenery and landscapes including sand-dunes, forests, lagoons, the imposing Cabo da Roca (mainland Europe’s most westerly point) and a rugged stretch of coastline where high cliffs are interspersed with picturesque beaches. Right in the middle of it all lies the magnificent Serra da Sintra, the entirety of which is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Cultural Landscape.
Visitors can still feel the magic of this mountain the way its inhabitants did thousands of years ago. They called it Monte da Lua (Moon Mountain), a name that evokes forces as powerful as the stars themselves.
With regards to fauna, flora and geomorphology, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is particularly rich and varied. Right across the Serra da Sintra’s volcanic outcrop, on land composed of basalt, granite and limestone, grow a wide variety of trees and shrubs amongst which some rare examples of primitive flora can be found, such as the ‘cerquinho’ oak, holm-oak, Sintra carnation (dianthus cintranus) and the very characteristic ‘saudade’ (armeria pseudarmeria), a species endemic to Portugal.
Among the park’s most commonly seen animals are wild rabbits, foxes, kestrels, badgers, weasels, rat-eating snakes, horse-shoe, bats (rhinolophus hiposideros) and dozens of species of birds, most notably the rarely spotted Bonelli eagle and peregrine falcon.
Besides the many must-see attractions mentioned in all the tourist guides, visitors shouldn’t miss the chance of a ride on the little red tram that winds its way through the strikingly beautiful valley between Sintra and Colares.