A quick 30 min train ride from Lisbon, Sintra is a village surrounded by Hills, a Castle and several palaces. Tourists are greeted by the many tour operators in Sintra village, escorted in modified beach buggies, up and down the steep and rocky cobble streets to the hilltop Pena Palace and Castillo de Mouros.
Avoiding the tourist trap, I started walking into the village. Small foot path signs are clearly posted along the main road. I thought I’d catch the local bus up the hill after the Vila de Sintra – that never happened. I enjoy going off the beaten path, discovering little houses, fountains and doors. Seeing where the locals live, eat and shop. I’m used to being the only one walking down enchanted village street and frankly like it that way.
Several cobble stone streets head up the hill, full of quaint casas and villas, some for sale. Eventually only one lane is open for one-way traffic to the palace and another for foot traffic, only a 14% inline most of the way. 🙂
The Castillo de Mouros was enclosed by a stone wall and surrounded by a lower forest-like garden, with ample vistas and stone benches. At mid day, it was incredibly windy, making it difficult to climb up the stairs to the highest point. Low sidewalls, (with a steep drop on the other side) made it impossible to walk up-right, which didn’t help my fear of heights. I was determined to see Pena from the castle so I held on to what little stone I could and inched my way up. Getting a glimpse of the colorful palace, I called it good and used the toddler-scoot-method to make my way back to solid ground.
Another 20 minute walk, lands you at the lower guard house for Pena National Palace, which is surrounded by lush forest gardens and grounds. The last stretch of 14% incline guides you to the entrance, alternatively, you can take the ϵ3 shuttle. Not wanting to wait for the next one, I started walking and glad I did. I found a beautiful moss covered fountain and some doors built into the ground.
Islamic, medieval and romantic influences are evident in the both the castle and Pena Palace. Beautiful tile work, colorful domes, chapel and arches credited over several decades, have classified it as a UNESCO World Heritage site. My favorite is the black and white chevron steeple outside the chapel.
On my walk back down to the village, I was topped by 2 bus drivers offering a ride back to the village, I graciously refused and opted for a long walk back, where I discovered a set of Escaleras largas (Long stairs) which connect upper and lower parts of the village. Much more fun than a bus full of loud tourists.
Thanks to my phone, it recorded 19752 steps and the equivalent of 864 stairs from the train station to Castillo de Mouros and then on to Pena National Palace. That’s like walking up to the top of one of the towers at Sagrada Familia, twice, at 400 steps. I think I earned the calories of a whole pizza, but settled for soup and a cheesey portuguese roll.