I know it might take some time before we get to enjoy the liberating feeling of traveling fully again. We were lucky enough to escape the cold weather here in Finland to Portugal, where we had our long-desired road trip. I’ve always dreamed of going on a road trip to Portugal, and little did I expect it to happen in 2021. But it did, for which I am so grateful.
Portugal has so many great places to discover. We started from Lisbon, where we stayed one night after arriving. We didn’t want to spend more time there. After all, we wanted to avoid the big city because we’d been there already before. From Lisbon, we continued to explore the famous town – Sintra. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit all the sites and castles there. We decided to make a day trip and explore as much as we could. However, if possible, I recommend sparing at least two days in the area; it will be worth it.
How to get there?
Sintra is less than one hour away from Lisbon. The easiest way to get there is by train. There are two main trains to go to Sintra, with up to three departures an hour from Rossio station and Estação do Oriente. The price for a roundtrip starts at 4,10€. Not bad! Another option is to take a re-arranged bus trip where you get a prescheduled day and don’t have to worry about anything. Now, we chose to drive to Sintra ourselves since we continued straight to Algarve from there. Keep in mind that during peak seasons, there might be difficulties in finding a parking spot. We traveled during January and didn’t have any problem with parking. That was also because of the lack of tourists overall and other ongoing travel restrictions.
Portugal has excellent roads, also the ones leading to Sintra. In the summertime, or peak times there might be some delays with traffic. Since Sintra is a popular destination, it is advised to avoid coming by car. We didn’t have any issues with this. However, it’s not possible to drive all the way up to the castles. They closed the roads over a year ago due to heavy traffic caused by tourists coming over. You have to leave your car along the roads and walk the rest of the way up to the National Palace. Keep in mind that locals are doing this, too, so finding a spot nearby might not be an easy thing. Once you get to the Palace, you can ask the local Tuk-tuk drivers to take you up to the places you want to visit and arrange a pickup. We paid 20€ altogether, but you can bargain depending on how many places you want to see. In the summer season, there is also a bus going up to Pena Palace for a 6,90€ roundtrip.
What to do?
There are several places to see in Sintra. Still, the highlights include the old town of Sintra, Palacio Nacional de Pena (Pena Palace), Quinta da Regaleira, Palácio National de Sintra (Sintra National Palace), and Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors). Spend a morning strolling around the old town and interacting with locals. Then head to some of these unique and picturesque spots. Tickets are 10-14€ per adult for each site, Pena Palace being 14€. Castles are open from 9 am to 8 pm in the summer and from 10 am to 6.30 pm in the winter season, with some variations. Please be sure to check the correct opening hours before going, especially now when the current restrictions take place until March 2021.
There are also hotels and accommodations if you want to spend the night and continue exploring the sites the next day. Most of these castles take quite some time to go around, especially Quinta da Regaleira. Full of secret spots and discoveries! Also, these places will get crowded because of the popularity, so it’s wise to add in a bit of extra time. We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a private-like visit with only a few other visitors.
Pena Palace is one of the most popular places that people go and see in Sintra, and for a good reason. I was speechless when seeing it. This 19th-century palace is just absolutely magnificent. Its full bright colors and breathtaking Romanticism architecture is one the reason that makes Pena Palace worth the visit. Go around the castle, see the Queen’s terrace and admire the entrance with some incredible details! Within just an hour away from the city buzz, you’ll be almost transferred back in time to these unique settings.
Quinta da Regaleira, on the other hand, represents quite a contrasting atmosphere. The estate changed owners from the noble Viscountess of Regaleira to a Portuguese-Brazilian millionaire António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro in 1892, who then did major reconstructions and added building on the estate together with architect Luigi Manini whose genius, along with, created this magical place. Quinta da Regaleira is a mysterious, intriguing glimpse of Gothic Architecture, offering sites from secret underground pathways to prominent buildings. There is a lot of history beyond what the eye can see and what is known. It takes 2 hours minimum to visit this place since it’s enormous. So, get lost, delve into, and relish the extravagant castle and its surroundings.
Sintra has genuinely one of the most beautiful castles I’ve ever seen, and it is worth planning a trip there if you are going to Portugal. I could have easily spent more than one day there, seeing everything the cute town has to offer. Make sure to plan your trip, and make the most out of it! Renting a car was the best choice for us and, if you decide to do so, I recommend checking this rental company: https://www.amoita.com/ We had the best experience with their services and being super helpful with everything.
Have you been to Sintra? Let me know in the comments and share your best tips! 🙂