“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlock Elysium’s gates?”
~Lord Byron stated in “Childe Harolds Pilgrimage”
You really should not be spending time in Lisbon without taking a day trip to Sintra, Portugal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is worth so much more than the 5 Euro train ticket from Lisbon.
I was pleased that the train station not only had tourist information, but also plenty tour options. Normally I try not to do tours, but as I looked at the map I realized how much of Sintra we could see if we did a sightseeing tour. It would take a long time for us to hike to all the places we wanted to go. Plus, Sintra has a lot of hills to climb. After debating our situation over a coffee, we decided to pay the 20 Euros a person and hitch a ride on the City Sightseeing Tour bus. The bus took a circular route around the city, including the coast and all the highlights. If you just stay on the bus, the ride is approximately 2 hours. (Just a note that if you want to just do certain nearby sights like Pena Palace, you can take local buses for cheaper.)
On the bus, we enjoyed the audio description of all the sights and especially the information on the production of unique wines in the area. When we reached Cabo da Roca, the western most point on the European mainland, the bus driver waited for 20 minutes, giving us time to explore the area without having to wait for the next bus. The lighthouse (pictured on the right) and the cliffs dipping down into the Atlantic Ocean (pictured at the bottom of this page) are worth the visit.
We continued on the bus to the Moorish Castle stop. We got off and bought our tickets to Pena National Palace and the Moorish Castle. (This turned out to be a great plan – even though the hike up to Pena was a bit steep – the line of people trying to get tickets outside of Pena was very lengthy.) We actually enjoyed the hike uphill to the Pena Palace (pictured above and at the top), which is located on top of a hill overlooking Sintra. This palace is colorfully painted and tiled. You can spend hours just wandering around this palace and admiring the design. When we arrived there, we were a bit hungry, so we ate at the restaurant at the Palace and really enjoyed it. One of the workers behind the counter at the restaurant was more than happy to give us extra information regarding wines, which we loved. Also, the cheesecake was amazing! After lunch, we explored the palace a while and enjoyed the wonderful views of Sintra from the highest points of the palace.
We then walked to the Moorish Castle (pictured above). It is actually a wonderful walk on a trail through a wooded area with bright greenery everywhere. The Moorish Castle is a fort built by the Moors. There is a stairway along the fort walls to connect the towers of the castle, where you can enjoy 360 degree scenic views. On your way to exit the castle, make sure the check out the cistern.
If you have more time in Sintra than we did, you can also explore sights like Monserrate Palace, Sintra National Palace, Seteais Palace, Capuchos Convent and more. Sintra’s City Center also has some adorable cafes and ceramic and antique shops.
Basically if you love amazing walks and amazing sights, you will fall in love with Lord Byron’s “Eden.”