On an Unplanned Journey

When we started our trip, Sintra (SEEN tra) wasn’t on our radar – not even a thought. While on a free walking tour in Barcelona, a couple from New Zealand highly recommended it for our stop in Lisbon.

The cruise ship had tours to Sintra, which several of our dinner-table mates took, but we love to explore on our own. Fortunately, we had American travel guru Rick Steves’ Lisbon book along, which included Sintra – so we followed his suggestions, thus saw sights our fabulous dinner friends didn’t – so this post is for them. (Can you believe I didn’t tell them on the cruise that I was a blogger? … but I have sent them an email about this post.)

Back in the day, the aristocracy loved to retreat to Sintra. The vegetation, hilltop views, the narrow-valley setting turned the area into a collection of palaces and mansions. Lord Byron described Sintra as “glorious Eden”.

It was a 20-minute walk from the ship to Rosario station, where we caught the train to Sintra (11 Euros round-trip for two). After the nice 40-minute ride to the end of the line, we searched for bus #434 that Rick told us to find (10 Euros for 2 on the entire loop) – so up the mountain we went to the first stop. Again, following Rick’s suggestion, we purchased the combo ticket in order to avoid the lines at the next stop – and it worked!

The Castle of the Moors is a Portuguese national treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Moors constructed the castle in the 8th century, and remained in control until the 12th century.

It’s location atop the Sintra mountain provides wonderful views in multiple directions, including the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The town of Sintra is directly below (with the National Palace), plus one can see various palaces and mansions.

From this location, we could see our next stop sitting atop a nearby mountain – the Pena National Palace – another UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Pena started as a chapel in the late 15th century, and eventually became a monastery. In the 19th century, Portuguese royalty expanded it into a palace of multiple designs and color.

The inside was predictably opulent.

… and we could easily see the Castle of the Moors.


Before ending this post, here’s a quick tour of town. Sintra quaint with many shops. The National Palace (the coned towers) is from the 15th century , was active for 500 years, and is still used today for ceremonial occasions. That palace is in the center of town (see the views from the castle.) Can you spot the Castle of the Moors in a pic?

69 thoughts on “On an Unplanned Journey

    • George,
      I try to capsulate these posts (as opposed to droning on and on with many words and countless images … so I’m glad that I’ve captured it for you. … and yes, we were glad to include Sintra – but at the expense of Lisbon.


  1. Oh wow, what an amazing view that must have been. Absolutely gorgeous. How do you return to Cincinnati after that? 😉 Actually, Ohio has a beauty of its own, doesn’t it? The colors are so vibrant right now, it’s a treat every time I go outside.


    • Jim,
      Absolutely … and the places I will never will far outnumber those that I will … but that’s OK … at least I’m trying. After all, knowing that you enjoy travel, thus appreciate others who do. As for remarkable sights, see the post before this one.


  2. I love these ancient walled cities where buildings are built on top of each other and voices from a thousand years echo through the narrow streets…………. Pure magic! I haven’t been here either , but it reminds me of other sites I have visited. What a fortuitous meeting it was that sent you there!


    • Merril,
      Interesting how is was a small set of mountains … and I saw some plains (which didn’t extend forever) … but I’m sure Portugal has more mountainous areas. Gotta love Rick Steves – his shows and his tour books.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anytime you can reference something from the 8th century you have a winner in my book! I love the added colorful touches. Informed, independent investigating was an excellent use of your time and resources. Sintra is a beautiful old city!


    • Debra,
      As everyone knows, finding something old in Europe isn’t difficult … especially compared to want we have in the US … Gotta love the exterior color at Pena. Meanwhile, make sure your eyes see the previous post. It’s a must for you.


  4. YO! rogue travel warrior. Obviously not following the herd paid huge dividends, evident in the accompanying spectacular photographs. The Castle of the Moors, absolutely for me, Pièce De Résistance.


  5. I wonder, do Europeans take for granted all that wonderful architecture? I mean, not purposely of course, but it’s so abundant. I’m always jealous. And not for nothing but you scored big time when you decided to take that couple’s advice during your walking tour in Barcelona.


    • Cayman,
      I don’t know … to one extent, probably so. After all, many (if not most) Americans don’t embrace the beauty and offerings of their own area – so I wonder how that applies to Europeans. Nonetheless, a great question – and cheers to the Kiwis who gave us the recommendation!


  6. is it the air, pollution, or just the boldness of architecture that causes colorful buildings in europe to look so much more colorful than they do in the US? that’s not a well-written question, but i’m too lazy to edit it. welcome back.


  7. Opulent is hardly enough. A real feast for the eyes. That blue sky and those white buildings do frame the images so well. (Can’t beat Rick’s books and shows to get you ready – and keep you from missing stuff you’d really regret overlooking.
    What a wonderful trip!


  8. Pingback: On the Rest of the Journey | A Frank Angle

  9. That’s one of the joys of cruising. You get to see little snippets of beautiful areas and, once your interest has been piqued, you know you can return and stay for a much longer time! Gorgeous and yet another place to add to my ever-expanding list!


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