The Sintra-Cascais Natural Park featuring the small mountain range of Serra de Sintra lies approximately 25 km northwest of Lisbon and is a relatively unknown biking paradise with a special mystic charm. Firstly, medieval castles and ostentatious cathedrals and palaces are scattered in the jungle-like hilly forest – no wonder the region was honoured with a UNESCO World Heritage title; the colourful and ornate buildings certainly add a magical atmosphere to each bike tour. Secondly, very committed local enduro and downhill riders have built around 25 trails into the forest of Sintra, uncovering overgrown farm tracks in the process to add to the growing network.

Travel-Story-Portugal-Sintra-1 Travel-Story-Portugal-Sintra-2

The result is a playful mix of natural trails with roots, switchbacks and rocks, garnished with drops, jumps, berms and even some North Shore elements. In Sintra you feel like you are in a big freeride park for all skill levels – but without chairlifts and in the midst of lush nature. Here renowned Colombian downhiller Marcelo Gutiérrez baptised the crisp descent “11th level”, creating a famous “Strava challenge” where downhillers from all over the world can come and try to beat Marcelo’s fastest time.

Travel-Story-Portugal-Sintra-11 Travel-Story-Portugal-Sintra-12

The region also offers less adrenalin-pumped biking experiences, including endless flow trails with panoramic views over the entire coast, finishing directly at the sea and beaches. Sintra also has other trump cards up its sleeve distinguishing the region from other European mountain biking spots – most notably the never-sleeping metropolis of Lisbon, just 38 minutes away by regional train from Sintra Railway Station.

Travel-Story-Portugal-Sintra-9 Travel-Story-Portugal-Sintra-Lissabon-1

Whether in daytime by foot, or on a night ride by bike, you can spend hours drifting through the narrow streets with charming faded facades to eventually stand in one of the many famous Fado bars, where you can look forward to typical dishes (for example one of the many variations of “Bacalhau”, Portuguese codfish), regional wines and of course some live Fado singers, the traditional melancholic Portuguese music. If you want to stay longer in Sintra and not just go biking, the Natural Park SintraCascais also offers a large collection of rock faces for bouldering and rock climbing and beaches for surfing, all within a one-hour drive.

Helpful information at a glance

Best time to visit: Sintra is a year-round biking destination, but the most pleasant times for riding are spring and autumn. In September and October, the Atlantic is also warmer than in spring for those wanting to enjoy the ocean.

Good to have: Tubeless tires or many spare tubes, thorns and spines are commonplace on the trails. Good to know: Even in Lisbon you can find bike trails, just head to the city park Monsanto. To help you chat with the mountain biking locals: the Portuguese abbreviation for “MTB” is “BTT”: “Bicicleta Todo Terreno”.

Accommodation: “The Lodge” located a 10 minute walk from the beach “Praia Grande” has a large garden with cozy hammock spots, sauna, Jacuzzi, a great breakfast buffet and a self-catering kitchen. “The Lodge” is run by manager Ralph, a German immigrant and passionate surfer. Female bike travellers and couples will especially like “The Lodge” for its spacious garden, relaxed atmosphere and daily yoga classes ( Next door, also run by Ralph, is the slightly cheaper and just recently opened: Starpine Lodge ( For both accommodation options you can book weekly packages with climbing courses, surf lessons or bike tours. If you want to stay closer to the bike trails and the train station and go to the beach by bus or car, you will be better accommodated directly in Sintra town (located roughly halfway between the main beaches and Lisbon.) where there are plenty of cheap guesthouses and hostels to choose from.

Bars in Lisbon:
“Marcelino Pão e Vinho” (Rua do Salvador, 62, Lisbon): A cute little restaurant in the Alfama district serving very good food on old records. Live music can also be enjoyed here on some evenings. Drink Tip: Try Ginjinha, a cherry liqueur, served in a wine glass, with a taste similar to Port wine. “A Tasca do Chico” (Rua do Diário de Notícias 39, Lisbon): Small cozy Fado bar in Bairro Alto district. Arrive early, it gets crowded quickly!

Guides, shuttles and excellent rental bikes via: