Greetings from Sintra! This visit was part of an epic road trip that happened during my amazing first month in Portugal. The country is small but it lends itself well to roadtrippin’ due to the fact that many parts of Portugal are so unique. This first post documents our stops in Sintra, Cabo da Roca, and Guincho Beach.
Prior to coming to Portugal my aunt and uncle (who are very well traveled) told me to come to Sintra and check it out. They said it was beautiful and they weren’t wrong. Yes, Sintra is beautiful. Yes, Sintra has incredible forests, castles, and gardens. In all respects, Sintra is a must-see destination for those traveling or living in Portugal…So why did I leave Sintra feeling like a piece of tourist meat? Read on.
The two main attractions in Sintra are the Castelo Mouros and the Palacio de Pena. We went to the Castelo Mouros first. A ticket that includes entrance to both costs 14 Euros. That’s a bit pricey in my opinion. Visiting these attractions in Sintra is for me, a one and done situation. Yes the views are spectacular and the gardens are pretty, but the whole thing feels like a tourist trap. The next time I go to Sintra it will be to check out the town of Sintra and not the attractions. But I think you’re here to see pictures of Castelo Mouros and the Palacio da Pena. So here we go.
I’ll start off by saying that Castelo Mouros is BY FAR my favorite attraction of the two. The Palacio de Pena being my unfavorite of the two. The castle is way more open and you can see breathtaking views of Portugal for miles and miles around.
I almost felt like I was touring the Great Wall of China for a second. It was a clear day and you could see practically all the way to Lisbon. I was able to barely make out the 25 Ponte de Abril in the distance.
It was a bit hard to breathe because of the wind and the altitude. But I managed to still keep snapping pictures.
One of the things that I adore about Portugal is how mountainous and hilly it is. Coming from Florida, I’m used to the whole living on a pancake thing. There are advantages and disadvantages of lumpy terrain. One of the advantages are breathtaking views. In my previous posts about the city of Lisbon you can see that the city is set atop seven hills, affording incredible views. Well Sintra is set atop a mountain so there are some great views here too!
From the Castelo Mouros you can see the Palacio de Pena.
Here is the part where I started to feel like tourist chattel. I guess the management is very particular about perhaps one of the nicest edifices in all of Portugal. There were several reasons why after leaving the Palacio de Pena I had kind of a sour taste in my mouth: Pricey entrance, crowded, and being shuffled along by white gloved TSA look alikes. BUT, the thing that really made me angry was the fact that you are not allowed to take photos inside the palace. Wow. Really?
Ok, I understand that flash photography does damage old works of art and whatnot. I understand that setting up tripods and things would probably impede the flow of tourist sheeps, etc. But if you are going to charge people twelve Euros to see the inside of the palace you should let them take photos without flash. Come on!
You are allowed to take photos of the outside of the building however.
And now we are right next to the gift shop.
So, I have no photos of the inside of Palacio de Pena, because it wasn’t allowed. I wasn’t sure if I should sneak some photos but I decided against it. I didn’t want to be hassled by the TSA lookalikes inside. They really should get them blue gloves to make the look complete. We left Palacio de Pena and Sintra after visiting this landmark.
For sure the Castelo Mouros and the Palacio de Pena are not the only two things to see in Sintra. Honestly, I wish we could have stayed a few days in Sintra and stayed with a local who could show us around. Sintra has beautiful gardens and lush forests with many flowers and hidden springs. It is a place of incredible natural beauty and spiritual power. We just didn’t get a chance to experience this side of Sintra because we fell into the standard tourist traps. You have been warned!
After leaving Sintra we piled into the minivan and drove down the Portuguese coast until we hit this little gem: Cabo da Roca. The Westernmost Point in Continental Europe.
So it’s really windy here. And bright. And slippery. There was a little guard rail thing that was more of a suggestion to where you should stay. There was a very worn man-made path under and beyond this guard rail that we took to the very edge of the continent.
After getting whipped by the wind for a while we decided to check out another beach that is near and dear to my heart: Guincho.
We got slapped around by the strong winds for a while and then decided to call it. Our stomachs signaled that we needed some strong food and drink. Back to the minivan and onto some grub. Stay tuned for part 2!