Daytrip from Lisbon to the mystical Sintra
To be completely honest, I didn’t really research that much about Portugal and Lisbon before coming here. The main goal was to go surfing in Peniche and spend a few days sightseeing in Lisbon. It was Fabio who told me to go to Sintra for sure eventhough he didn’t see all of the sights himself. Sintra and its surrounding mountains (Serra de Sintra) are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular destination for day-trippers, and can be easily explored while staying in Lisbon. I myself took the train straight from Lisbon Oriente railway station and took only 45 minutes or so. The “start” of the Sintra day trip took me to the Palácio Nacional (National palace. From a distance it didn’t look that impressive and judging from what I read on the internet, it’s not that big of a deal either. I took a quick look around and had some lunch nearby before heading up to Quinta da Regaleira. I walked all the way up to Quinta , but if you’re not up for the walk you can take one of the tourist buses that go from the trainstation to the different main sights in the mountains. Easy enough and decently cheap. The distance from the National palace wasn’t all too bad and the walk in the mountains was actually pretty nice. However, I did miss the entrance of Quinta as it wasn’t exactly clearly marked. I walked all the way up to Hotel Tivoli at the top of Sintra.Anyway, I backtracked again towards the entrance was immediately in awe of the architecture of the entire park and castle. The entire park was designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini. Influenced on the one hand by a sum of artistic currents (Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance) and, on the other hand, by mythic and esoteric traditions. The park had an obscure, mystical and fantasy like feeling to it. There were underground mazes, tunnels, secret passages under mini-waterfalls, watch towers, earie sculptures. It was like disneyland! I felt like a kid to be honest. Discovering tunnels and hopping over rocks across a pond with a waterfall, to go under it and find a hidden tunnel. The underground tunnel lead to different exits. Eventhough I had a map, I just followed my adventurious gut to the infamous Poço Iniciático (Initiation Well). You might have seen the pictures online, as have I, but I never could have guessed it was here! I kinda love being suprised when I’m being unprepared. I truely enjoyed walking around the park and discovering the hidden treasures. Be sure to check out the underground maze!
At this point I got a message from Christophe asking me to meet up at Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace). So I took the tourist bus and made my way there. The palace was much more touristic than Quinta and I’m not sure if I liked it. The Pena Palace is a truly unique building though, that looks like it may have been the inspiration for both Gaudí’s creations in Barcelona, as well as for Disneyland. It kind of resembles wedding cake. Like it came straight out of an anime show. Inside the palace there was a pretty standard tour throughout the history and relics of the palace throughout the years. To be honest, I rushed a bit through the building looking for Christophe and Marion. There were some nice rooms and decorations to see, but nothing spectacular. If you’re interested in history you should take a bit more time here. The park grounds around the palace are equally worth seeing. They are beautifully laid out, with many exotic plants, quaint features and beautiful viewpoints, with a myriad of trails leading through it all. I found a nice little viewpoint a bit off the beaten path, through some bushes. Had a great view of the Palace with its surroundings. Afterwards I walked back to the entrance and caught the bus back to the National Palace where I met Christophe and Marion. All-in-all it was a great one day trip and most likely the highlight of my Lisbon experience. Quinta da Regaleira was simply amazing and Sintra and it’s surroundings were magical. Next time I’ll be sure to spend more time discovering the other sights. One more day in the city and then to Peniche to surf!