Sintra Travel Blog

 › entry 38 of 42 › view all entries

sitting on the train waiting to pull out of lisbon, i'm already in love with sintra.  well who wouldn't be at 3.40 euro round trip ticket?!  initially i was excited to visit sintra because absolutely every one that found out i would be in lisbon told me that i had to make it to sintra.  then add to that it turns out to be a 3.40 euro ticket?? score!  PLUS it was only a quick 30-45 minutes away!

once arriving at sintra's train station i headed to the tourist desk for a map and the employee there was taking surveys of the english speakers regarding where they were from.  right away he said to me 'US right?', which i of course confirmed and he immediately smiled and said 'congratulations on your new president!'  that of course made me smile because i've heard that so many times now while here, but it never gets old!  it's so awesome and just really cool to see other's enthusiasm, and it's just an all around great feeling and vibe, and definitely much different than what i felt when i was here in 2006 and especially 2005 during katrina.

  but anyways that was my welcome into sintra, which made me love it for a 3rd time before i had ever really seen any of it!

upon exiting the train station it only got better.  as i walked the short distance to the city center my surroundings went from small town charm to greenery - parks, forests, mini lakes.  and then you round a corner and through some tress there's this palace!

the palace turned out to be Palacio Nacional de Sintra in the historic city center.  i took photos but didn't go in because i realized i had limited time to see what i wanted to see since the employee there made everything sound so tempting!  i ended up having to narrow it down and come up with a must see list, which i'm glad i did because although i didn't go into that palace or the toy museum (which funny enough were the 2 original things i had planned on doing), i did go into the Quinta da Regaleira - which is something i'll never forget.

first off, the walk there was great in it of itself.  it very much reminded me of a hike to cinque terre from biassa  years ago, right down to the spray painted path-markers on random rocks, trees, and posts.  when i finally reached the destination i was stopped dead in my tracks.  it's this... mansion surrounded by amazing gardens full of wells, lakes, waterfalls, spiraling towers, an aquarium, underground tunnels, grottos - all for you to play in and hike through!  the site has been named a unesco world heritage sight and rightfully so as it's just like a completely different universe in there.  it actually reminded me of when i was a kid and would build forts out of boxes and the couch cushions and crawl around in it pretending i was in my own little world.

  well this place is that world!!  it's like a playground for adults!  complete w/castle looking chapels and a palace like mansion! 

so there's a very detailed and efficient map for you to follow but it's very hard to do so because each way you turn there's a different path to take or an underground tunnel you want to crawl into with something amazing on the other end!  of course it took me a while to discover the other ends of these tunnels because i was too scared to go in!!  they were dark!  i mean at first i was all gung ho because i had my little blue flashlight and my book light which i figured were plenty so i pulled them out and charged in!  mistake!!  i walked about 4 feet in before i was engulfed in darkness, freaked out, turned around, and walked right back out!  i said no way, not happening.

  but then as i sat on a little bench outside the entrance to the cave/tunnel, i thought this is ridiculous!  you're in an attraction technically so it's not like i'm going to fall off the face of the earth or they're going to make me do anything dangerous, so i pulled out my map and tried to gauge just how long this death trap was going to have me underground, figured it didn't look that far/long, so pulled out my light and went back in to the dark hole!

i got about...4 feet further than i did the first time.  i ran into a stairwell climbing up (only visible by the flash of my camera when i took a picture mind you), couldn't see anything further than 2 steps in front of me, then turned around and backed out!!  yes, i am a wimp.

  *sigh*  i don't even really know what i was afraid of - actually it was probably just of running into someone else in there and them scaring the beejeebus out of me.

well, eventually i made it through one of the scary underground caves/tunnels a bit later... after i followed 4 other people through one!  i happened to be walking a little bit of ahead of this group when i came upon another cave, waited a while near the entrance hoping they would find it too, and then when they did i let them go ahead of me and once i heard them come out safely on the other side shortly after, i charged right on through!!  heck after that first one i was plowing through those suckers like nothing!  and even stopping to take photos!  i was very proud of myself.

:0) i finally came upon a looong tunnel that ended up stretching across the entire length of the gardens but someone had the good sense to put a light rope in that one which made me slightly relieved, but really by that point my eyes had pretty much adjusted and i felt like i had total...bat vision.

i ended up wandering through the maze of gardens, and tunnels, and statues, and fountains... for a good 2 or 3 hours before finally making it to the mansion portion.  it was a small mansion, but hey who i am to judge?!  i woudln't turn it down!

when i finally tore myself away from the Quinta da Regaleira i realized i only had time to make one more stop, so i chose the Palacio da Pena and caught a bus up the mountain to get there.

  like everything else in sintra, it was gorgeous - a multi-colored palace that sits up in the mountainside surrounded by lush greenery and more gardens.  the cool thing about this palace is that it's fully furnished and decorated on the inside.  so many of these places are empty or in partial ruins that it's nice to see one all decked out inside with 17th and 18th century furnishings. 

however this was also kind of a downside because upon entering you're told no photos or video allowed - understandable.  then you're told you have to carry your backpack in your hand or on your front - also understandable because i definitely don't want to be the one to turn around and swing my bag knocking over some ancient vase.  but then as you enter the first room the first thing you see are 3 signs that say no photos or videos.

palacio nacional de sintra
  from there you see several more signs that say don't touch or don't sit.  if there were four surfaces, there were four signs - one on each surface.  this was all in addition to the employee standing in the room keeping watch, and if those weren't enough there were also velvet ropes that kept you confined to teh red carpeted path they wanted you to follow.  and just in case the signs, employees, and ropes weren't enough, there was also glass paneling throughout most of it.  we get it!  we're not going to touch or sit on or photograph or videotape anything!  it was just overkill.  but still beautiful! 

all in all sintra was just...wonderful.  had i known it was such a great little spot i would have planned to spend more time there, probably a couple nights or so.

  i have to say, sintra is pretty much my cinque terre of portugal.  and that's saying a lot!!!

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
palacio nacional de sintra
palacio nacional de sintra
quinta da regaleira - palace
quinta da regaleira - palace
one of the scary dark tunnels!!!
one of the scary dark tunnels!!!
the staircase could only be seen w…
the staircase could only be seen …
finally inside one of the tunnels!
finally inside one of the tunnels!
Sintra Sights & Attractions review
Sintra itself is a can't miss type of a city, and the Quinta de Regaleira is icing on the cake. Coming up the road and around the corner, I was stopp… read entire review
photo by: Vikram