• Pena Palace


For centuries, Portugal's aristocracy considered Sintra the perfect place to escape from Lisbon. Now tourists do, too. Sintra is a mix of natural and man-made beauty: fantasy castles set amid exotic tropical plants, lush green valleys, and craggy hilltops with hazy views of the Atlantic and Lisbon. For centuries, Sintra — just 15 miles northwest of Lisbon — was the summer escape of Portugal's kings. Those with money and a desire to be close to royalty built their palaces amid luxuriant gardens in the same neighborhood. Lord Byron called this bundle of royal fancies and aristocratic dreams a "glorious Eden," and even though it's mobbed with tourists today, it's still magnificent. Also consider checking out Europe's westernmost tip (at Cabo da Roca) and nearby resort towns.