1 day is not enough time to explore Sintra.
We hope to return to Portugal if only for a few more days to deepen our exploration of Sintra, the entire city itself being a protected UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape. Located only one hour by train from Lisbon, Sintra sits on the coast within its own microclimate and National Park, Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. A sub-tropical rainforest covers the ground in Sintra, with canopied trees, draped in vines and moss, towering overhead. There is so much to experience within this town, I could easily spend two days alone spleunking on the grounds of Quinta da Regaleria without ever feeling I’ve seen the same thing twice.
My Mochila Bag was the perfect accessory for my adventuring in Europe. While either walking up hills or on cobble stone streets, this handcrafted bag remained comfortable while carrying plenty of necessities, including a bottle of water, a sweater, a camera and gadget chargers! Plus, when you buy from Guacamaya, you directly support the women of Wayuu who created them. Learn more and get your own, here: https://www.guacamayatribal.com
Unfortunately we had a time limit, needing to return to Lisbon by 5:00pm for our 8:00 dinner reservations. Yes, we could have forgone our reservations for an extended day of beauty in Sintra, but Sean felt our dinner was going to be worth it (and it was! Little did I know what he had in store!)
Sean looking up in the Initiation Well ~ Quinta da Regaleria
I admit, I was drawn to Sintra and Quinta da Regaleria for the Initiation Well: a 17th century subterranean tower that was used for secretive masonry meetings and initiation rites. Maybe because I was a 90s teenage goth girl (that loved The Craft and too much black eyeliner), but knowing that the two subterranean towers found on the property at Quinta da Regaleria are rumored to also hold sacred tarot secrets was just too enticing.
Once we arrived at the top of the well, we returned to the Portal of Guardians to follow another tunnel to the Lake Waterfall and Grottos. Moss and algae coat the water, but it isn't murky or septic. This is the kind of playground my imagination runs wild in! I was pleading to return for a fairyland photoshoot, a princess and her knight in the forest, guided by mysterious powers... and the grounds are huge!
Normally we wouldn't bother to keep our dinner reservations when we find ourselves somewhere as breathtaking as Sintra, but the dinner was worth it! So unfortunately, in the mean time, we were on a time crunch and there was so much more for us to see!
A short tuk-tuk ride away was the Castelo dos Mouros, a Moorish fortress sitting on top of a hill with views of the Atlantic. Built between the 8th and 9th century, Castelo dos Mouros has been restored over the millennia by various rulers, and today caters to historical tourism with well-maintained walkways, restrooms, and a snack shop. Despite the Disney-like conveniences, taking a short walk from the entrance brings you wide vistas of the sprawling hillside and ocean below. It isn’t hard to imagine the Moors battling the Reconquista in that very spot, 1000 years ago.
We have Ferdinand II of Portugal to thank for some of the most recent renovations of the Castelo. The young King who erected the Palácio da Peña creatively “restored” many parts of the Castelo dos Mouros, and other areas of Sintra, in an effort to preserve the ruins. His own Palace is a colorful behemoth that resembles the gaudiest of Disneyland castles, with its mixture of Egyptian, Moorish, Gothic, and other styles of architecture to represent the various influences of the country.
Skip the Palácio if you are limited on time, and choose another spot to explore in Sintra, hopefully one less saturated with tourists. Anyway, the best photos of the Palácio are from far away! We hiked our way back to the train station, disappointed that we weren't staying longer to explore the rest that Sintra had to offer.
Here is a list of all the places in Sintra we didn’t see but want to return for:
Nacional Palacio da Sintra
Palacio de Monserrate
Sao Pedro de Penaferrim
Convento dos Capuchos
Palacio de Seteais
Azenhas do Mar
Next time, Portugal! I promise we'll be back!
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