Sintra is like a fairytale or a movie set. It’s a place that belongs in Alice In Wonderland where wacky architecture, bright colours and playful gardens are standard. But in fact Sintra is just a town in Portugal, 30km from Lisbon, which was a favourite summer retreat of Portugal’s royal families.
My first stop in the “historical theme park”, as Lonely Planet calls it, was the National
Palace. It was built and inhabited from the 14th to the 19th century and its most standout feature is the two chimneys which can be seen from kilometres away. The interior is beautiful with old, original furniture and geometric designed tiles giving an Islamic or Moorish feel to the rooms.
I walked ten minutes down the road and came to the Quinta da Regaleira. An estate built in 20th century which consists of an intricate romantic palace and weird and wonderful gardens with tunnels, caves, waterfalls and wells.
I saw a road sign that said ‘Monserrate Palace 2km’ so I decided to walk. It was a nice walk along a one lane road winding through the forest avoiding the occasional cyclist or vehicle. Monserrate Palace also had a huge garden, which was full of different plants from all over the world. It’s paths eventually led up to the relatively small but beautiful palace. It was built in the 19th century and is a blend of Moorish, Gothic and Indian influences. I thought, ‘if I ever had a palace this would be it’.
I then took a bus in the afternoon up to the Castle of the Moors which was a fortress built in the 8th and 9th century perched on top of the hill overlooking the town and the surrounding area. It reminded me a lot of the Great Wall of China as the wall snaked along the undulating hills, parts of it overgrown by the forest. It had fantastic views of the region and the Pena Palace only a kilometre further up the hill.
The grand finale was the most outlandish of them all, the Pena Palace. This totally unique and colourful complex was built in the 19th century as a summer residence for the royal family. The exterior is truly amazing and is even better up close when you can see the detail and the views from the balconies which were incredible. The interior, however, I found a little disappointing. It was more traditional in what you would imagine a palace to be and didn’t have the vibrant and unique creativity that the exterior had. Saying that, it was still beautiful and was similar to the National Palace in having lots of geometric designed tiles decorating the walls.
I’d had a jam packed day, the sun was setting and I’d walked countless kilometres covering the whimsical landscape. I had to take a second to sit back and look up at the bright hues of the Pena Palace to take it all in. It’s kind of iconic of what Portugal has been like as a country; unique, beautiful and vibrant.
*post adapted from my trip here in September 2015 and from my previous blog elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com