Portugal – Sintra
Sintra is a famous resort town a forty-minute train ride from the centre of Lisbon. It has long been used as a royal getaway and thus has some of the finest palaces and castles in all of Portugal. It is possible to see most of these as part of a day trip from Lisbon provided you get an early start.
We managed to visit the Quinta da Regaleira, Pena Palace and the Castelo do Mouros all by foot from Sintra, however this involved a decent bit of hiking. Therefore if you want an easier day, it will worth picking up a ticket for the circuit bus which stops at all the main tourist sites. The beauty and solitude of the hike between Quinta de Regaleira and Pena Palace was well worth the effort in our opinion, so if you have the energy I think this is the nicer option.
The easiest way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by far the train. Regular trains leave from Rossio and Oriente train stations. We used Rossio as this is closest to the town centre of Lisbon. Note that queues can be quite long at the ticket machines, so get there early.
The train will deposit you a fifteen minute walk from the centre of Sintra town, but it is an easy walk and from that point you can decide to either buy a bus ticket, pay for a rickshaw, or hike to the three main tourist sites (Quinta de Regleira, Pena Palace and Castelo do Mouros).
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta de Regaleira consists of a palace and accompanying grounds which were largely constructed between 1904 and 1910 by Carvalho Monteiro, an eccentric millionaire, who hired an Italian architect to construct grottoes, lakes, tunnels and wells, most of which contained hidden symbology. Today, the bizarre result of their work can be seen throughout the grounds of Quinta de Regaleira, the highlight of which has to be the five-storey deep Initiation Well.
Hike from Quinta da Regaleira to Pena Palace
Instead of taking a bus up to Pena Palace, if you have the weather (and the legs) I would recommend hiking through the woods all the way up to Pena Palace. The walks starts here and follows a series of tracks all the way to the Pena Palace car park. Unfortunately, I do not have a .gpx file of the walk. However, the path should be quite clear if you have Maps.Me or a similar OpenStreetMaps app on your phone. At one point you will need to navigate some hair pins along the main road, but after this you can take the first turn off into the woods again and continue off road all the way to Pena Palace.
Pena Palace and Cruz Alta Viewpoint
Pena Palace is one of the greatest remaining examples of 19th Century Romanticism architecture, and is exemplified even further by its striking location situated on the pinnacle of a lone mountain top.
The interior of the palace is apparently exquisite, but we decided to just enjoy a walk through the grounds of the palace and a hike to the cross at the Cruz Alta viewpoint to take in the wonderful view of the palace from afar.
Castelo dos Mouros
By the time we reached Castelo dos Mouros, our stomachs were rumbling and we were eager to rest our weary feet. However, if you have the energy this 10th century Moorish castle can also be visited on the return hike from Pena Palace down into Sintra.