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Countryside Pleasures

Penha Longa Resort and the town of Sintra are nestled amid a forest preserve peppered with castles and convents that once served as home to Portuguese royalty, hermitical monks and even Neolithic communities. In 1992, UNESCO established a World Heritage Cultural Landscape category to reflect an area’s bounty of cultural and public goods, and bestowed its first such classification upon Sintra. On this three-day adventure, you’ll explore and examine some of the sites that made this area so worthy of the honor.

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  • Peruse the Past.

    The Penha Longa Resort, site of what was once a getaway for Portuguese royalty, sits amid the eponymous “long rocks” of a 545-acre national park. Guests can explore the resort’s sights, including a 14th century monastery, with a trainer-led Historical Circuit tour. If the views don’t get your heart racing, the agreed-upon pace of your 60-minute walk will.

  • Heighten Your Senses.

    After King Ferdinand II purchased the ruins of a medieval chapel and monastery atop Mount Sintra in 1838, he not only repaired and refurbished the cloister and its outbuildings but also constructed a new wing and tower. The eclectic, extravagant Palácio da Pena became a summer getaway for Portuguese royals, filled with abundant art and architecture, gardens and pathways, and terraces and courtyards.

  • Moor to See.

     Gaze out onto the town of Sintra, the vast plains beyond and even the Atlantic coastline from atop the battlements and walkways of Castelo dos Mouros. The stone-walled testament to the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century continues to reveal new information about its previous residents; archaeological digs have revealed artifacts dating to 5,000 B.C.

  • Sit at the Kitchen Table.

    Reserve the Chef’s Table Experience at Arola to discover the skills and techniques that go into preparing such an acclaimed menu of modern Portuguese cuisine. You’ll watch chefs create special courses that aim to surprise and delight their guests — including you, of course.

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  • Fore Play.

    The world-class golf courses at Penha Longa Resort are ranked among the top 30 in continental Europe and take players on a journey through challenging hills and past picturesque lakes, medieval walls and castle towers.

  • Roll with It.

    After your game, recover at Penha Longa Spa with a round of Quiro Golf Massage by Natura Bissé. During the hour long, head-to-toe treatment, therapists roll and knead golf balls across muscles to relieve stress, reduce inflammation, improve flexibility and restore energy.

  • A Passage to Greatness.

    For the most fascinating experience at Quinta da Regaleira, you’ll need to sink to new lows. Subterranean passageways connect the ornate five-story palace with a nearby chapel. Likewise, the path at the bottom of an eight-story deep “initiation well” leads to grottoes, caves and the elaborate 9-acre gardens. (Visitors can always traverse the property aboveground, too.)

  • Spartan Seclusion.

    The Convento dos Capuchos offers a stark study in contrasts from the previous stop’s splendor. The only comfort offered in the tiny cells of this convent, carved out of stone and the granite mountainside during the 16th century, was a cork lining, embodying the Franciscan principles of austerity its friars lived by.

  • Coastal Cuisine.

    Watch the sun sink into the Atlantic as you dine at Villa Tamariz Utopia. The contemporary Mediterranean menu and laid-back coastal glamour of this renovated 19th century villa make it a top spot on the Portuguese Riviera.

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  • Learn Some Moor.

    The history of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra begins more than a thousand years ago, when Moorish craftsmen constructed a fortress during the Muslim occupation of the region. Today its twin chimneys are the symbol of Sintra, and its walls are the world’s greatest showcase of azulejos Mudéjar (colored glazed tiles).

  • Go West.

    The solitary, unspoiled nature of Ursa Beach is why it’s considered among Portugal’s most beautiful — as long as you’re game for the hour long hike back up the cliff when it’s time to leave. If not, consider Cabo da Roca, the western most point of continental Europe. These massive wind-battered bluffs are home to a lighthouse and unfettered sunset views of the Atlantic.

  • Star-Quality Cuisine.

    Enjoy a true culinary experience at Lab by Sergi Arola, the Michelin Star restaurant that combines an intimate environment with inventive gastronomy. The dining room seats only 22 guests, who can choose from three tasting menus, à la carte options and an impressive 550-bottle wine selection.