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.

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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.

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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?