By Flávia Amaral.
Found between hills of a picturesque mountain range, Sintra is a village that, due to its mild climate, seduced the Portuguese nobility in the past. The elite chose it to build sophisticated palaces and beautiful and inspiring gardens.
Pena Park deserves the spotlight, with a 200-hectare area around the Pena Palace. A verdant park that was planted and forested under the supervision and commitment of Ferdinand II. Its harmonious naturalness is what strikes us the most when we look at this outstanding landscape effort. It shattered the strictness of the classical gardens of its era.
One of the exotic traits of this marvelous garden, amid lakes and waterfalls, is the Camellia Garden, created by Queen Maria II herself. The camellias have in this place the perfect climatic and soil conditions for their development. The result is the dazzlement felt by every visitor, when they encounter the vast and picture-perfect array of colors and textures!
A must-see, the Pena Palace stands at the second highest point of the Sintra mountain range. Only Cruz Alta surpasses it, at an altitude of 528m. To get there, one has to go through the aforementioned Pena Park. The palace has two distinct wings, the monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome built in 1511 and the area edified by Ferdinand II in the 19th century. Both wings are surrounded by watchtowers that provide absolutely striking sightseeing, an access tunnel and even a drawbridge!
The original eye-catching colors of the palace’s exterior reemerged with the 1994 restoration. Something that made the building’s red and yellow stand out in the lush green surroundings. The palace’s interior, as well as its façade, is covered with details, from intricate frescoes to sophisticated furnishings.
Sintra is one of the best destinations in Portugal
The vast number of historical buildings in Sintra, located next to mesmerizing landscapes, in addition to its proximity to Lisbon, turns this village into one of the best tourist destinations in Portugal. As you take a placid stroll, you have the opportunity to visit ancient ruins, historical monuments and exuberating palaces. All of them found scattered through the region’s steep hills. The historical center has several shops, cafes, restaurants and friendly and pleasant people to talk to and exchange opinions.
How to get to Sintra if you are staying in Lisbon:
If you stay in Lisbon, you can easily get a driver who will take you to Sintra to spend the day, you just need to contact the hotel’s concierge services and ask for one. Once you get there, having a private driver, who can take you everywhere you need, is quite comfortable and handy. This will make your tour much better, allowing you to know even more attractions. And Sintra has plenty of them and they are totally worth it. A tailor-made tour just makes your adventure even better!
Sintra National Palace
With its millennial history, the Sintra National Palace is yet another attraction with its Moorish roots, a direct consequence of the Islamic rule, in the arched windows and the wall tiles with intricate geometric patterns. Its Coat of Arms Room houses displays, in its remarkable dome paintings, the coats of arms and insignia of the 72 most influential noble families of the kingdom of Manuel I. This 16th-century imprint is still a point of reference for Portuguese people and the nation’s diaspora from all over the world, who come here in the hope of having a blue-blooded aristocratic name. It can be a fun and revealing experience.
The kitchen of Sintra National Palace is another point of interest, for some even more than the Coat of Arms Room. It has the two conical chimneys measuring 33 meters high, a
trademark of the village of Sintra. The kitchen was designed to serve large-scale banquets and its wide area is precisely what strikes the visitor at first! Another dazzling element, in addition to the white tiles that cover every surface and wall, is the different furnaces and the two enormous ovens. On wall brackets, or arranged in shelves, several pots, pans and casseroles in coppery shades, complete the iconic universe of this old-time kitchen…
But Sintra is not just breathtaking landscapes and historical monuments. The confectionary Casa Piriquita was found 160 years ago by a couple who made the famous Queijadas for King Carlos I. Many things have changed since then, but not the quality of their products. The most recent Piriquita diamond was born in the hands of the founder’s daughter. She created the Travesseiro. And that is such a wonderful delicacy! It is a dessert made of puff pastry with a filling of sweet egg and almond cream. But the recipe has a twist! It remains a family secret. The flavor is just tremendous, the best option is to go there and taste the Travesseiro from Sintra’s Piriquita!
The unique Quinta da Regaleira
Some think that Quinta da Regaleira alone is worth the trip to Sintra. And they are absolutely right, Regaleira is amazing! Particularly for tourists who are willing to uncover its secrets and mysteries, in a place filled with hidden meanings related to the Freemasonry, the Templars and the Rosicrucianism.
The recommendation is to buy tickets in advance to avoid waiting in the queue, which may undermine the joy of the tour. Upon arrival, you need to get a map. It will be extremely useful because the estate is extremely vast, with plenty of gardens, caves, lakes and enigmatic edifications.
The tour is just outstanding, the scenery is marvelous and magical! All constructions and groves have their particular meaning. Many of them are related to the beliefs and ideologies of the Brazilian, son of Portuguese parents, Carvalho Monteiro. He was the estate’s very first owner. He established a splendid and mystical place, drenched in esoteric symbols.
The Initiation Well
The massiveness of the statues of Greek and Roman gods on the Promenade of the Gods cannot surpass the impact of the Initiation Well. It is a mandatory stop during the visit. It was a stage for Freemasonry’s rituals of initiation, hence its name. An endless array of hidden meanings are presented to us when we encounter this well. It is an underground gallery with a spiral staircase
divided into nine levels. The legend says that it is a reference to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. These levels represent the nine circles of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Amazing, isn’t it?
The enigmas are everywhere, which makes everything even more exciting. According to some occultists, the Rosicrucian Order was first encountered in Divine Comedy. The bottom of the well has a wind rose set on a Templar cross made of marble, which, besides being Carvalho Monteiro’s coat of arms, illustrates the mysteries surrounding Quinta of Regaleira.
The Initiation Well is connected with other areas of the state through subterranean tunnels. These plunge us into a different kind of world, a breathtaking one!
Luxury hotels in Sintra:
If a longer stay in Sintra is preferred, some hotels are recommended for those who enjoy luxury, comfort and bliss.
– Penha Longa Resort:
Located in a deluxe palatial property in the hills, Penha Longa Resort features a 27-hole golf course. It also comprises a top-level spa and the LAB restaurant, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2016. Seven other restaurants provide enough gastronomic diversity in different spaces where you can enjoy every meal. MIDORI is one of them, Portugal’s oldest Japanese restaurant. Perfect for those traveling with family, the hotel has many facilities devoted to recreational activities. Pools, tennis and squash courts, horse riding, a fitness center and a spa with tempting treatments.
– Tivoli Palácio de Seteais:
Located on the hillside of Sintra’s mountain range, it provides an outstanding view. More than a just hotel, Tivoli Palácio de Seteais is a luxurious palace, with an architecture that takes its visitors to the 18th century. The sophisticated Seteais restaurant, lined with frescoes and beautiful paintings is a godlike experience! Romantic, with delicious cocktails, surrounded by Sintra’s magnificent landscape and the palace gardens, it is perfect for couples in love. The enoteca Seven colares DOC allows its visitors to taste the wines of Colares. What about creating a harmonious combination with tapas and degustation menus? But if you want to surrender yourself to a relaxing moment to properly enjoy therapeutic treatments, then Anantara spa is your place. It is one of the reasons to relish your stay at this hotel.
It does not matter if you are going to spend a long time in Sintra. The whole experience will certainly be remarkable, fun and unique!