We have been doing a fifteen day tour of Portugal. After five days in Lisbon, we went to to Sintra for two days. The Vila de Sintra is a city in the municipality of Sintra, located in the Sintra Mountains on the west coast. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical importance. This area just north of Lisbon is also known as the Portuguese Riviera.
We stayed in a small b&b in the town of Sintra, and spent the first day exploring the area on foot. We hiked through the town past the municipal administration building, some large gardens, the National Palace Of Sintra (which served as the summer palace for royalty for a couple of centuries until the end of the 1600’s), and the Quinta da Regaleira (which unfortunately had just closed to visitors by the time we made our way there). The photo above shows a small alcove along the main roadway.
Near the Quinta da Regaleira, we took in the view over the Vila de Sintra. Looking in the other direction, through the arch behind us you can see the Palace of Pena on a nearby mountaintop.
Throughout Sintra, there were many stores catering to tourists. For example, these iron items looked interesting, although a little heavy to transport home via airplane in a suitcase.
Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors)
On the second day, we bought tickets for the “hop-on-hop-off” bus, and boarded it to take us to the Castle of the Moors on one mountaintop above the city, and the Palace of Pena on another nearby peak. It is also possible to hike up to the castle via a walking trail and then over to the palace, although it would be a long, steep route. The road was very narrow with many switchbacks to get to the top. We were amazed to see how the well the bus driver negotiated the narrow twisty road, and were glad we had left the rental car parked down below.
The Castelo dos Mouros was a military fort built in the tenth century during the time that the Moors occupied the Iberian peninsula. In this photo, you can see the keep.
From the castle, you get a good view of the Palace of Pena.
The views in all directions from the castle are amazing.
We climbed up and down many stairs as we hiked around the castle.
This photo shows the castle wall going from the keep to a second high point. I walked all along the castle wall, even though the ground fell away below in a rather breathtaking way. Rob took an alternative route to the far side. After exploring the castle, we hiked back out the road and hopped on the bus again, which dropped us off at the wall around Pena Palace.
Palacio Nacional de Pena (Pena National Palace)
Pena Palace is built upon the foundation of a former monastery on the site, and it incorporates many elements of the former building. It was built under the initiative of King-Consort Ferdinand and Queen Maria II in the mid-1800’s. It is considered to be the preeminent example of Portuguese Romantic architecture.
From the wall around the palace to the palace itself there was another long hike up a hill through the Pena Gardens. If we had been so inclined, we could have paid 3€ each and ridden up in a shuttle bus. But we walked, needing to balance some of the eating we had been doing with some vigorous exercise. We certainly achieved more than our 10,000 steps on this day.
Pena Palace is like a fairytale palace, and it is equally beautiful on the inside.
From the palace, there are fabulous views over Sintra and the mountains nearby.
The photo above is of a small niche in the interior. The wall mosaic dates from Moorish times. If you look closely, you can see that seashells were used in the mosaic pattern. Later, this space was used as a storeroom for the palace.
Some brave souls were doing the exterior wall walk. Not I.
There were elaborate carved details throughout the palace. Above you can see a representation of Triton, god of the sea. He was located on the exterior, just above the main entrance.
We were astounded and delighted with the beauty and history in Sintra. We are glad that we made it to this area during our time in Portugal.