A quick breakfast (Pena Palace was the order of the day) of an almond pastry in the new part of Sintra town and double espresso had me going strong. After the day before I walked up the hill to the historic town with haste, well sign-posted were the signs for Castelo dos Mouros/Castle of the Moors but for some inexplicable reason I wanted to go another route which on the map seemed much shorter – theoretically it is shorter but I underestimated how steep the route would be. Don’t get me wrong it was fantastic way to go from a scenic perspective, most scenic routes conversely are longer too! It was like going up a hill with a stair master, it reminded me of doing the Grouse Grind in Vancouver just longer and with wonky stone paths, I did enjoy it.
Castle of the Moors
With its double ringed circumference walls looks like it has grown organically out of the mountain and visible from the Atlantic Sea. All the while you climb you get a closer glimpse of it stature and what would have been a vast compound. The location has been inhabited for well over 1000 years, before the Moors build their fortress the inhabitants go as far back as the Neolithic period.
Much of what is left today has very little to do with the original Moorish fortress in part to do with the Christians not wanting any reminder of their conquerors.
Some extensive archaeological excavation has been conducted in the area and below the surface is some fantastic examples of Moorish day to day living and layout planning of the area with plenty of silos for storage, water storage and drainage. Perched where it is you get a perfect birds-eye view of the area including the sea, they say on a good day Lisbon can be seen too and from the many turrets Pena Palace sticks out like a peacock in full mating plumage.
The castle is surrounded by dense woods and huge light grey rocks scattered everywhere like giants had discarded massive boulders to create the hill, where there are no tree the walls of the castle rise to create sheer cliff drops from the edge.
A nice walk to the Palace
The walk from the castle to the palace is quite quick but you have a few options when you arrive, you can either explore its expansive gardens or go straight to the Palace, I decided to start off with the former.
The gardens cover an immense area tailored to hikers, walkers or joggers but boy oh boy you sure do build up a sweet! I don’t know how it’s possible but you always seem to be going uphill, even on the way back! I walked around for about 2 hours then headed to a cross on top of one of the hilltops, I would highly recommend going there, yes, the walk is a bit long but certainly well worth the views, after that I head to the Palace. Like Quinta da Regaleira gardens the palace’s gardens are filled with intriguing structures, grottoes, look out points and many lakes – like Quinta da Regaleira just on a much grander scale.
The pictures of Pena Palace makes me imagine a juvenile Prince or Princess wanting to build a palace and get give carte blanche to go ahead, as they got older they added on to it but keeping their childish dream alive no matter what. It’s a mix match of colour, style, ideas with a spark of magic and fantasy you would find in a Disney film. The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance and the interior is as eclectic as the exterior – quite a bit of it was under restoration, pity for me but good to see they are taking care of it.
In the 16th Century a monastery was the main building on the location, by the mid-19th Century the palace was completed and used as a retreat palace by the royal family for around 50-60 years eventually becoming a national monument. The last Queen of Portugal, Queen Amelia spent her last night at the palace before leaving the country in exile.
Before leaving the palace, I made my way to the lakes in the garden, a great way to end the visit before making my way back to the hotel taking my time ambling down the hill and taking in the views.
Sintra is the second most visit tourist location in Portugal and it is easy to understand why, considering I didn’t even see everything like Monserrate Palace and Seteais Palace……I might just have to go back.
For part 1 of my time in Sintra take a look: