Anyone who visits Lisbon MUST do a day trip to Sintra.
Lying in the cloudy, forested foothills of the Sintra mountains, it is an area that looks as if it has been plucked straight out of a children’s fairytale, filled with sugar coloured palaces and hidden stone passageways hiding amongst the trees.
During our long weekend in Lisbon, Marc and I hopped on the hour-long train to spend a day there, with my hands-down favourite spot in Sintra being the incredible Quinta da Regaleira palace.
This small, gothic palace is near Sintra town but is almost entirely hidden by trees. And in the trees is where the magic happens.
The map that you collect after paying the 6 Euros entry (what a bargain) will help direct you to a large rock in the forested grounds which looks fairly nondescript, until you venture inside it and discover a huge well with a winding staircase built into the walls. So Indiana Jones.
Wind your way down these stairs and when you reach the bottom, you will be faced with a maze of tunnels leading off into the darkness. Using the lights on our mobiles, we explored the labrynth of tunnels and eventually came to stepping stones stretching out from a waterfall across into another section of the caves. I felt like a big kid on an adventure as I hopped my way across the murky water.
The rest of the map led to a chapel, stone turrets and grottoes which were all so atmospheric, especially as they were quite empty, with most tourists heading up to the more famous and colourful Pena Palace.
Pena Palace, or its full title the Palacio Nacional da Pena, was our next stop after lunch (at a great wine bar in the heart of Sintra town).
This is a well-known grand, colourful palace high in the mountains with sweeping panoramic views across Sintra.
As it was misty and too far to hike up to the palace, we paid 5Euros each for a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the entrance, which was great as he told us about some of the other old buildings as we raced upwards through the damp air.
After paying another entry fee, we walked up tree-lined landscaped gardens and headed to the paintbox turrets for stunning, uninterrupted views where you could see old Moorish castles peeking out amongst the clouds.
We spent the afternoon looking around the ornate rooms which were dressed as it would have been used in the 1800s.
Before it was time to leave this magical world and catch the train back into Lisbon for dinner. Not a bad trip at all for under 10Euros.