The small village perched high up in the verdant green Sintra Hills has a magical quality to it. Crowning the village high up on the mountain, the ruins from a Medieval Moorish castle and a brightly coloured fairytale castle which sparks anyones imagination. Sintra is a town of mysterious forests and romantic palaces, a place that even enchanted Lord Byron, not to mention it’s easy to get lost here for a while.
Quinta da Regaleira
While the house in Quinta da Regaleira, even in its gothic and neo-Manualine splendour, appears to be outshone by its more eccentric neighbours, nothing can compete with its garden. Filled with figures from mythology and slight nods to alchemy and the occult for those who have the eyes to spot them, this garden is more than just a peaceful retreat – it’s a poem set to landscape.
Underground tunnels that take you from pone place to the other, a 30 metres Well that is revealed when you push a stone slab. Wait, but this is not an ordinary well… It’s an inverted tower whose spiralling staircase tumbled down into moss-covered arches and trickling water that culminated in a pool below. From here, the only way out was to continue through a subterranean labyrinth, a pitch-black grotto lit up by a single string of fairy lights that came out at a waterfall.
Palacio da Pena
Set at 1640 feet above sea-level and painted in an intense palette of reds, yellows and purples, this eclectic palace is the perfect example of Moorish romanticism.
This gorgeous castle has existed in some form or another for many centuries, although the current incarnation is built in a Romanticist style like the town it towers over. It is a castle straight our of a fairy tale. It’s quite well preserved with many original and restored furnitures. With all the towers and passages, it will give you a nostalgic flashback of your favorite princesses.
The palace also has an extensive forested park with exotic trees and plants, a fern valley, follies, and a lake with black swans from Australia. There’s even a castle for the ducks to live in. It’s a peaceful escape from the crowds at the palace but allow plenty of time to explore as it is huge. You can walk up to Cruz Alta for views of the palace from afar. From the bastion you can even see Lisbon.
Castelo dos Mouros
One of the other popular places to go outside of Lisbon is ‘The Castle of the Moors’. This slightly older castle was built in the 8th century and was captured by the Christians as the fought the Moors. Despite being nothing more than ‘slightly better than normal’ ruins, they still have a fantastic beauty about them, and of course, those views over the area are also stunning when you head here. You really will not find elegance and beauty anything like this anywhere else around Lisbon.
Parque de Monserrate
Parque de Monserate, a labour of love by English millionaire Francis Cook is furthest from the village itself, and will need to be reached by bus or car. The highlight was the indo-saracenic palace at the heart of it that captured a Moorish-Indian style, where even an arched gateway had been bought over from India. The grounds around the palace offer a variety of botanical gardens from different part of the world.