A 45-minute bus ride from Lisbon on the butter-smooth IC19 highway brings us to the UNESCO world heritage town of Sintra. A fairytale landscape of wooded hills, turreted castles and romantic ruins, the town seems a world away from the heat and hubbub of the Portuguese capital. The glistening blue Atlantic coast opens expansively before us as we near the town fringed by rugged cliffs, crashing waves and sandy beaches, and then veers into the view of Sintra rising from the majestic Serra Mountains, which is studded with honey-hued villas, churches and quirky architecture.
Cosseted along Portugal’s western coastline, Sintra’s ocean-cooled climes enticed the Portuguese royalty in the medieval ages to spend their summers here. They got so enamoured with the region that they ended up building a putative architectural legacy here – exquisite palaces, extravagant residences, decorative gardens – that endures to this day.