Kiara’s flight was cancelled which gave us the time to do a side trip to weird and wonderful wonderland Sintra. A UNESCO-heritage site set in the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, this town is like a fairytale. Or rather, many fairytales because there are seemingly endless palaces, castles, ruins, hikes, and secret places to explore in a day here.
We chose three different areas though I could have stayed for days. Sintra has all the things I love: rocks, viewpoints and nature, with some palaces to boot. If I was worried that this might be a tourist trap I was urged by my Portugese friend that it was worth the trip. If a Portugese person told me to do it I was going to do it!
The Castle of the Moors
Constructed in the 8th (!!) century. Talk about views.
The Pena Palace
As we entered Sintra we first came upon the Nacional Palace where we overheard a group of tourists say, “Oh don’t go to that palace, that’s just an ordinary palace.” Can you imagine?! Jaded by palaces, jeesh European problems. But I suppose in comparison to the Pena Palace, any palace really is just an ordinary palace. Probably the most famous landmark of Sintra, this whimsical palace was commissioned by King Ferdinand II and built so that it could be seen from anywhere in the park.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira was last on our list but I am so glad we made it here! I could spend days exploring this mystical place. Built as the summer residence of a wealthy family it holds a dark yet romantic allure. The grounds are expansive, full of lush vegetation, lakes, waterfalls grottoes and stone bridges. We clambered through pitch-black caves and discovered little pockets of enchantment that we could well imagine had never been explored before.
Probably the most stunning part was the Initiation Well, a spiraling tunnel that was used for ceremonial Tarot initiation rites. I had goosebumps as I walked up the tower- it exudes mystery and magic.
I was thoroughly enchanted by Sintra!