Yesterday I joined a small group of 8 for a tour of Sintra in the Serra de Sintra Mountains near Lisbon. It was a 9-hour outing including an uphill hike through lush spring gardens. Named for a Princess, Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historically the climate and beauty of the area attracted Portuguese nobility who built “palaces, extravagant residences, and lush decorative gardens”.
We hiked through sumptuously beautiful Pena National Park and at the top, toured the Palais de Pena. The palace and park are creations of wealthy, extravagant Dom Ferdinand II, a German prince who married Portugal’s Queen Maria II.
Pena Park and Palace are examples of the extreme Romanticism of 19th century Portugal. Ferdinand built the Palace “to be observed from any point in the park, forest, and gardens”. The park has over five hundred tree species from the four corners of the world!
We took a lunch break in Sintra with free time to explore. I found a small tapas restaurant full of rowdy Portuguese. They welcomed me and I enjoyed laughing and spending time with them. To be honest, not sure what Portuguese dish I ate for lunch but it was uniquely delicious!
Our next stop was Quinta da Regaleira near central Sintra. Within Sintra’s Cultural Landscape, the estate is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, and fountains. The palace is also known as ‘The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire’, based on the nickname of its best known former owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.”
Other imposing palaces in the area include Quinta do Relógio, Monserrate, and Seteais. It was a wonderful day exploring – so much history and information. Portugal is a fascinating country! I only have a few more days in Lisbon and wish I were staying longer….