Sintra, Portugal: A Royal Sanctuary

Chances are if you’ve ever spent time researching Portugal on Pinterest, the town of Sintra has been pinned a few times to say the least. This national park is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is a popular day trip from Lisbon.

There is SO much to see in Sintra, and it is huge, so you really have to start early, and pick and choose what you are going to see. During my first visit in April, our group of five rented a driver for 20€ per person, who took us all around to the hottest destinations, as well as a few off the beaten track places including street vendors and deserted parts of the forest (these dudes are usually lingering around the exit of the train station, anxiously awaiting curious tourists.) When I went with my friend in June, we opted to take an Uber to our first destination (20 minutes for 5€, a steal!), as the public city bus line was over an hour wait. From there, we used the trail maps to hit the next few destinations on foot.


Quinta da Regaleira

This 19th century mansion was constructed by the richest man of Portugal. Equipped with a chapel, library, and breathtaking grounds, the most impressive part of the estate is the impressive tunnel system, which leads to the Initiation Well.


Pena National Palace

Built by King Ferdinand II in 1842, this gorgeous, multi-colored exterior gives fantastic views of the national park. The palace is a mix of gothic medieval and North African Islamic. Although we opted not to pay to go inside, the views and exteriors were gorgeous.


A view of Sintra from Pena Palace


One of my favorite moments of the day was hiking to the top of the cross in a dress and sandals. 

Moors Castle

The Moors Castle is was built by the North Africa Moors in the 9th Century. Although a bit destroyed and forgotten, it offers spectacular views of Sintra, and reminded me partially of the Great Wall of China. We were able to walk here from Pena Palace.

Cabo da Roca

Also known as the Westernmost point in continental Europe, the views are spectacular. We had abundant sunshine after three days of rain!

When heading to Sintra, I recommend good, sturdy walking shoes and packing your own food. There are also fountains along the forest at which you can refill your water bottles. Do not dismiss Uber as a means of going from one end of the forest to the other, especially if you are with a larger group, as well as a group tour. Use your student ID when possible and save money by buying entry tickets in bulk (there is usually a discounted price). Pick two or three must-sees and then explore them in depth. Upon arrival back to Lisbon, indulge in a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset.

Have you ever been to Sintra?




12 thoughts on “Sintra, Portugal: A Royal Sanctuary

  1. Wish I’d have had more time to explore Sintra, but we had SO much fun running around like little kids!!! I felt like I really got to fulfill all of my Nancy Drew fantasies exploring the tunnels at Quinta de Regaleira 🙂

  2. Sintra was one of my most favorite places that I traveled to! Absolutely beautiful! The day I went there wasn’t a cloud in sight, and if it was as though the sun was smiling down on us. Can’t wait to go back!

  3. Yes, Sintra! Interesting that you took an Uber; when I went, I opted for a round trip, hop-on hop-off bus shuttle that stopped at the main sights (Moor Castle, Pena Palace, and so forth). Total cost was 5€. I didn’t go inside many of the places, but agree that the outside are gorgeous anyway!

  4. Fantastic and informative post! I will be going to Lisbon at the start of November, and I have been researching various day trips. Based on your post, spending time in Sintra sounds like a must! Thank for also sharing the Uber tip!

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