The Sintra bouldering area is near Lisbon on the west coast of Portugal. A mist-shrouded granite massif dubbed the Mountains of the Moon overshadows the town of Sintra (incidentally, the town is twinned with Fontainebleau), and throughout this range is scattered over 1,000 boulder problems in a jungle paradise. The rock is golden and spiky, sometimes brutal on the hands but sharp enough that protective taping allows a few extra climbs. Intrusions of limestone and sandstone into the granite give a few softer holds and a different style in places.
We visited in early February and found the conditions pretty perfect for us, warm and sunny but cool in the shade. Sintra does, however, have a higher than average rainfall, the wet weather moved in on our last day in a permanent sort of way, so it could be a risky time of year to visit. At this time the countryside was splashed sulphurous yellow by the blooming of a particular flower across the hillsides, and the warmth in the forest brought out the smell of eucalyptus. The national park was beautiful to walk through and spend time in, quiet and mostly empty other than birds, frogs, and the odd mountain biker.
The area seemed quite difficult to navigate from an initial scout out so we bought a topo online from Boulder Sintra, who also gave us some recommendations for good areas to climb in on a first visit. We began with an afternoon in Dinossauros, getting the hang of the style and persuading our hands that they could pull on the sharp rock. The following day we climbed at Meca in sector Albarrasintra, which is densely populated with boulders and kept us busy. Highlights were a tall 6B, 'Tudo se parte, nada se Transforma' and a fingerey 7A prow, 'Incha-lá'.
By chance some friends were out at the same time and we had a great day together exploring Mito, another smaller part of Albarrasintra. There were two main boulders here; we climbed a number of mid-grade routes on one behemoth and then worked the classic namesake of the area on another, 'Mito', a really quality line. The next day rain threatened, and we toured the coast for bouldering to escape the incoming weather, unsuccessfully, finally settling for a drizzly climb in Satâ-Satâ. This area is a bit more spread out than some of the others with rough rock, but some fun problems scattered across a hillside where we found them.
The magnificent 'Mito'
There is plenty of good accommodation in Sintra and the surrounding villages, and a hire car would probably be a good investment to get the best out of the area. We were staying in our camper van; it is not permitted to stay within the national park area overnight so we would drive a little further to the coast, sleeping in a parking area between a couple of restaurants where we watched surfers and pink sunsets in the evenings. It was a short drive to the crags and we would often stop en route in Malveira de Serra for an espresso at the pasteleria (essential experience). Occasionally we added a 'pastel de belem', the local name for the amazingly tasty national egg pastry which was originally made by monks in the area.
Sintra is a really special bouldering area with a huge amount to do and potential for more. In general there is a really good variety of grades and styles, much more than we expected and any mental images we (I) may have had of endless huge, slappy, compression eggs were totally unfounded. The surrounding countryside is stunning, from golden beaches, through green hillsides to the cool mountains, and the town has some incredible historical monuments to explore. We're looking forward to our next trip already...