On Thursday we hopped on the train for Sintra. Sintra is roughly a 30 minute train ride to the Northwest of Lisbon. Most of the online and offline travel advice claim this to be an easy and swift mode of travel. What they don’t seem to tell you is that while it is indeed easy to obtain your tickets and board the train, the train in late August is a million degrees and there are THIRTEEN stops between Lisbon and Sintra. We would suggest renting a car or Uber.
Sintra is famous for its fairytale castles and palaces. It is also famous for being notoriously difficult to navigate. Most of the sites are significantly spread apart with narrow winding roads and significant elevations. Here, the travel guides were right, DON’T attempt to walk/hike to the sites. If you do not prearrange an alternative, such as bus, tuk tuk, private car, etc…you need not worry. Upon arrival you will be bombarded with available options. We chose a private car with tour guide. The tour lasted the majority of the day and included more information than anyone could possibly digest. Given all that, the price was very reasonable (80€). So in the capable hands of Bruno we set off for the city center!
After leaving the city center we began to climb our way towards the Pena Palace. Atop the ragged hilltops sits the spectacular palace, a prime example of 19th-century Romanticism. The palace itself sits within a much larger complex of gardens, walking paths, and buildings. You can tour the inside of the palace, which we did, but as Bruno stated, “it’s just furniture”. The real attraction is the natural beauty and views from the elevated site.
After leaving the Palace, Bruno set course for the Quinta da Regaleira, also known as the Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire. The site includes a main house, but the real attraction is outside amongst the grounds. Here you find a bizarre network of passages, waterfalls, giant staircase laden wells, all believed to be used by the Freemasons for initiation rituals and represents the various levels of hell. If you enter through the well, it is said that you are descending into hell. If you enter through the waterfall and then ascend the stairways within the well, you are reaching heaven. We of course went straight to hell. You feel like you’re walking through the pages of an Angels and Demons novel.
Bruno offered to whisk us off to the coast, but the evening sun was quickly beginning to set, so we traversed our way back to the train station for our return trip Lisbon and prepare for our evening.