Sintra is known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, which has resulted in its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sintra as its own individuality, that which can’t be compared to nearby cities, like Lisbon and Cascais. It has become a major tourist center, visited by many day-trippers who travel from the center and suburbs of the capital Lisbon.
The common day trip route of Sintra visits the historic town center, the National Palace, the Moors Castle and the Pena Palace. However, I chose the path less taken and explored the beautiful palace and grounds of the Quinta da Regaleira.
Quinta da Regaleira
The Quinta da Regaleira is a decorative estate built in 1697, but brought to life in 1892 by a wealthy Brazilian capitalist. The estate that stands today was constructed by Italian architect, Luigi Manini and combines Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance themes. With all the varying aesthetic elements, the main attraction are the elaborately landscaped grounds. A great variety of Masonic symbols is present in Regaleira Palace and Gardens. The gardens are filled with mystic symbolism and hidden features which include secret tunnels, Gothic towers and stone fortified walls.
The main attraction seems to be the magnificent “Poço Iniciático” (Initiation Well). It looks like an upside down tower, where at every 15 steps a plateau is reached. In a total of nine leading to the depths of the earth. The entrance fee to the palace is €6 for adults.
Sintra City Center
After touring the Regaleira palace, I went for a stroll in the city center, walking into the markets, looking for the perfect souvenir. Sintra is a tourist trap like any other, with many shops claiming that their crafts are “locally made” or “made in Portugal.”Don’t be misled. The outrageous prices will soon reveal their authenticity. I did, however, buy a custom piece of artwork from a street merchant. He even signed the date and place for me.
Cabo da Roca
Next, I hopped on public transport bus to Cabo da Roca, the most western point in continental Europe. The Scotturb bus #403 operates between Sintra and Cascais year-round. Travel time to Cabo da Roca is about 45 minutes from the Sintra railway station or 25 minutes from the Cascais station. Be sure to tell the driver you want a return ticket to/from Cabo da Roca. If leaving from Sintra, the bus route will go to Cabo da Roca, then Cascais station. And vice versa.
I couldn’t imagine the beauty, that is Cabo da Roca. The most western point of Europe you feel like you are at the end of the Earth. Towering cliffs, with thundering waves breaking against them. For some reason, I was feeling a bit audacious and decided to walk down the path and climb over some rocks to get the perfect click. Anything for the ‘Gram, right? I met a fellow solo traveler, who snapped some great photos for me. Because there’s a fine line between a Camera Roll full of selfies and narcissism.
A long day of walking and exploring around Sintra and Cabo da Roca was worthwhile. I can’t wait to visit again! I took the bus and railway back to Lisbon, where I spent my last night before heading back to Barcelona.