When we headed out to Sintra early on a December morning, we were very unprepared. However, I can easily say this was one of the most incredible, awe-inspiring places I’ve ever visited. Imagine a place were people can build whatever they imagine and you get to explore it….
We drove. If I can offer you any advice about visiting Sintra is you do not want a car there. Sintra can be incredibly crowded and the streets are very, very narrow and hilly. The attractions can be quite far apart – and so even if you do drive there and are lucky enough to get a parking space like us, you’ll just end up ditching your car for the whole day and paying for public transportation.
The other advise I would give is to pick 2-3 of the attractions, purchase tickets online the night before, and save pictures of the bar code tickets to your phone. This will save you money and loads of time if it is crowded as it was when we were there. There is also very bad cell reception in the area, so you are unlikely to be able to buy them online in Sintra.
We choose to visit Quinta da Regaleira, Pena Palace, and Castle of the Moors.
This is the main house at Quinta da Regaleira. It is stunning and imposing…and yet it is the least interesting thing here by far. We chose to visit this house first as it is the dark horse of the places to visit in Sintra. We walked to the front gate and bought tickets and got a map and just started exploring…. I’ll share a few of our discoveries here and leave the rest for you to find on your own.
As we entered the property we saw this cove to the right. We were tempted to walk right by it as it was not obvious and there was no clear path but the stepping-stones and handrails intrigued us. So we explored. What we found was the entrance to a man-made cave network that started the amazing experience of uncovering the strange creations of this estate’s previous owner.
A cleverly disguised entrance at Quinta da Regaleira.
Initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira.
After visiting Quinta we walked to downtown Sintra to try to figure out how to get to our next destination. What we found was Tuk-tuks. You should bring cash with you as this was a relatively cheap, albeit slightly terrifying way to get around the slick, hilly roads between sights in Sintra.
Next stop was the Palace of Pena.
This castle, once home to Portuguese royalty, is an example of 19th century romanticism. In short, this castle is something out of a Disney movie. We bought tickets for both the interior and garden. It was a foggy day, which added to the mystic of the exaggerated architecture and enjoyed the walk around the castle wall. Entry into the interior required long lines and though very interesting was not my favorite part of the castle.
We found the fog continued through the gardens which were breathtaking and mind-bogglingly expansive. We only visited a portion of the gardens and spent over an hour walking through them. They varied from forests to ponds, which buildings interspersed. Give yourself time to explore these grounds and you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to wear “grippy shoes,” the light rain and fog made parts of the stone walkways very slippery.
Castle of the Moors.
Do not miss this Castle. We ended up here late in the day and on the last of our stamina. As we entered the walls of this castle, we were welcomed with some sun and this view of the castle’s silhouette (above). At first we thought no way we could make it to the top with the little engery we had left, but what a terrible mistake that would have been!
This castle is mainly restored walls from the 14th century, but offers epic views of both inside and outside the castle. View of Sintra from the Castle of the Moors.
With heavy legs, we tuk-tuk’d back to our car filled with the wonders of Sintra. There are loads more places to visit in Sintra. I will definitely be back to explore more.