Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Running and biking experiences in Cascais and Sintra
My affinity for Portugal is probably apparent from my previous featured post, with a particular appreciation for the Lisbon coast. This affinity stems from my good fortune of having lived and worked there in the early 1990s. I am also fortunate to be able to return frequently to experience great food and wine, as well as embrace outdoor activities, especially biking and running in the area encompassing Cascais and Sintra.
During my time in the Lisbon area, I participated in some very interesting organized races. The most dramatic of these was the Lisbon Half Marathon, which begins on the other side of the Tagus River with a two-kilometer crossing of the 25thof April bridge, a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The most grueling was the Sintra to Cabo da Roca run, involving a 500 meter climb and descent, and referred to as the “End of Euope” run because Cabo da Roca is the western-most point of Europe. The most interesting was probably the “bonfire run” in the coastal town of Peniche, which is held during an evening in June with bonfires marking the route. Runners are treated to sardines – a Portuguese favorite – at the end of the race.
Now when I visit, the former fishing village of Cascais is my base. The town of Cascais is situated at the end of the Lisbon coast, where the estuary of the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The coast here is dramatic and wild, with fabulous views of the Sintra mountains (Serra de Sintra) to the north, and is anchored by the Guincho Beach, which hosts world-class windsurfing events. A running and biking lane extends approximately 6 miles along the coast road from the Guincho Beach to the center of Cascais that facilitates a very enjoyable running experience. There are two routes that I recommend for easy running.
The first begins at the southernmost point of the Guincho Beach. There is ample parking at restaurants and a public lot at this point to begin an out and back run to the Cabo Raso lighthouse. The round trip extends approximately 3.5 miles and affords spectacular views of crashing Atlantic waves on the rocky coastline, as well as the Pena Palace and Peninha Sanctuary in the Sintra Mountains.
The second begins at the Boca do Inferno (mouth of hell), a chasm in the seaside cliffs of the coastline. There is street side parking at this point all the way into the center of Cascais (some of it free). The out and back into the center is approximately 3 miles and traverses the Santa Marta lighthouse and Cascais Citadel before descending into the picturesque, bayfront village of Cascais.
On recent visits I have taken to renting a road bike for extended coastal rides and mountain climbs. The latter can be tortuous as the ascent to Peninha from Guincho beach contemplates 2,500 feet of elevation change over approximately 5 miles. Less taxing is the climb to Cabo da Roca followed by a descent to the Sintra beaches of Praia Grande and Praia das Maças. The views from the route to Cabo da Roca down to the Cascais coast are dramatic, as is the 270-degree vista across the Atlantic from Cabo da Roca.
The easier, recreational ride involves traversing the coastal road from Gunicho to Boca do Inferno and circling back through the villages of Birre and Areia to start again on an eight-mile loop that is very enjoyable. The route is generally flat and fast, except when high winds are present, which is not unusual. Wind speed and direction will also likely dictate whether you ride in the direction of Guincho to the Boca do Inferno or vice versa.
I have had excellent service renting my road bike from Funbike Sintra. The shop is situated on the road to Sintra in Linhó and is run by João and Rafael, who couldn’t be nicer people. They rent mountain and road bikes – mine was a Pinarello carbon road bike that was perfect for the type of riding. The shop sells bikes and accessories and also provides tune up and repair services.
Note: I am not being compensated for this mention. I am simply a happy client.
You can find me on Strava and Garmin Connect as Gregg Rockett