If you are planning on visiting Portugal, Sintra is probably already on your list, if it is not, you should add it right away. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, this charming town located in the Portuguese Riviera, is surreal.
A beautiful, 45 minute train ride takes you from Lisbon to Sintra. I left at around noon, so after having my lunch, I headed for sightseeing.
Quinta da Regaliera
Entrance ticket: € 6
The premises comprise of a palace with an adjoining chapel and a mystical garden surrounding it. Built in the Romantic style, it borrows elements from Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architecture. The Italian architect, Luigi Manini added symbols of alchemy to structures in the palace and the garden that give it the undeniable mystical quality.
While the design features of the main building are quite capturing, it is the garden that truly enchants the visitors. The turret and the Panoramic terrace offer beautiful views of the garden underneath.
The garden is replete with underground pathways and tunnels. There are two initiatic wells, one unfinished. The initiatic well is a ‘subterranean tower’ that sinks 27 metres into the earth and is made accessible by a spiral staircase and underground pathway that connects it to the waterfall. The pamphlet describes it as, ‘the hallowed space, full of esoteric and alchemical associations, makes the relation between heaven and earth intensely felt’, whatever that means, it was pretty cool anyway.
Pedestrian route via Vila Sassetti to the Palace of Pena nd the Moorish castle
You can either take a bus or tuktuk for the above mentioned destinations or walk along the road or you can take a stunning path via Vila Sassetti. There are few tourists on this beautiful path and should not be missed if you are visiting Sintra. There are some steep steps along the way if you start the climb from the old town. You can also take the trail from the gardens of Pena Palace. I took this trail to the Moorish castle. I then visited the Pena Palace and gardens and took the trail back to the old town.
Park of Pena: 1850 metres (45 minutes)
Palace of Pena: 2550 metres (60 minutes)
Moorish Castle: 1850 metres (45 minutes)
Castelo Mouros/ Moorish Castle
Entrance ticket: € 8
The castle was established and was administratively dependent on the Caliphate of Cordoba. in the 11th century. After the conquest of Lisbon by King Afonso Henriques, the castle’s Muslim rule ended in the 12th century. The castle was restored and renovated in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II in free, romantic style. You can visit the museum and granaries on the way for free, however, if you want to visit the Arm’s square, the largest area of the castle and an aerial view of town from the towers, you will need to purchase the ticket. If you know of another location from where you can see the views, which you shouldn’t really miss, you can skip going to the top.
Palácio da Pena/ Pena Palace
Entrance ticket: Pena Palace: € 7
Pena Gardens: € 7
Pena Palace and gardens: € 14
This palace was initially the site of a monastery since the 15th century. Located on one of the hills in the Sintra mountains, it was greatly damaged during the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. King Ferdinand, mentioned before, had a palace built on the site, in the romantic style. The architecture is a mixture of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo- Renaissance styles. Painted in red and yellow and featuring designer blue tiles, this palace does stand out because of its unique design, and play of colours. The interiors house the furniture of the royalty.
The gardens too are definitely worth a visit as exotic trees and ferns from around the world are planted in these gardens. The walk through these serene gardens, surrounded by trees, is calming and peaceful. On the way, you will also pass by stables, lake with a castle and fort for ducks and several other interesting structures.
Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla
Entrance fee for seeing the interiors: € 1 or € 2(can’t remember as I skipped it)
Situated on the Western side of the Pena Park, however I reached there by accident, is this beautiful chalet which looks like it is straight out of some fairytale. The chalet was built for Countess of Edla, the second wife of King Ferdinand. The original structure was built in wood, however it got burnt down and the structure there now is identical to the original, but it is built by bricks and painted in a way that it looks like wood.
I didn’t watch the sunset from Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, but from a place close to my hostel and it was beautiful.