Our EPIC Lisbon Day Trip

Sintra, Portugal

Our EPIC Lisbon Day Trip

Sintra, Portugal

BLUF: This was one of my favorite days abroad.

Since returning from Lisbon 3 weeks ago I’ve been absolutely dying to share the images and video you’re about to see. I can’t find the words to articulate just how absolutely WOWED Dan and I were during our day trip from Lisbon to Sintra and the coastal region near Cascais.

One thing is for certain, our socks were knocked right off unlike anywhere else we’ve visited during our time in Europe.

Sintra, Portugal

Having spotted Sintra on Pinterest awhile back, I knew we needed to set aside time for a visit. We joined Lisbon Riders on their day tour of the area including a stop for lunch. On the day of the tour our guide, Nuno, picked us up at our airbnb apartment and we scooted out of the city into the misty morning.

The quick one hour drive flew by as we arrived in the magical (I’ll explain soon) town of Sintra.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Upon arrival we ducked into Piriquita, Sintra’s famous pastry and coffee spot. With a whooping score of 4.5 stars and 730 reviews on TripAdvisor their popular almond and egg-based pastries, “Travesseiros of Sintra”, are melt-in-your-mouth-AMAZING.

Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Yes, I know, they don’t photograph well so you’re just going to have to trust me. K?

While we munched down these tasty treats and sipped our coffees, Nuno chatted with us about the history of Sintra and it’s relevance today. The rolling hillsides around the town of Sintra are filled with beautiful estates that have served as summer residences for Lisbon’s elite. Lucky for us, in 1995 UNESCO deemed the region a Cultural Landscape and therefore forever preserved the mystical landscape.

Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal

After a short stroll around the small town, we followed the road on foot to the nearby estate of Quinta da Regaleira.

The air was warm and from the outside we could see the grounds of the estate were lush and full of vegetation.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Nuno gave us a map along with suggestions on the spots he thought we’d be most keen on seeing (there are many!).

Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal

Upon entering the estate we knew we were in for something special. Set on a gently slooping hillside the grounds are full of palms, flowers, stone towers, hidden paths and a beautiful mansion.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

 Sintra, Portugal

We felt like kids, exploring an ancient playground. I couldn’t help but comment (excessively) how much I felt like Indiana Jones.

Sintra, Portugal

Following Nuno’s guidance we curiously made our way to a marvelous semicircular structure with 3 inconspicuous openings. We followed our Lara Croft instincts and cautiously walked through the largest opening in the center (behind the stone statue in the center below).

Sintra, Portugal

Instead of looping us back outside or dead-ending, the entrance quickly evaporated into cave walls.

As we moved forward and looked back we could see the entrances converging.

Sintra, Portugal

The darkness of the tunnel ahead slowly gave way to an exotic gate.

Sintra, Portugal

It was silent now, just Dan and I quietly breathing. Crossing under the gate, our wildest fantasies transformed into reality.

We found ourselves standing at the base of an inverted tower.

Sintra, Portugal

Long ago, this was a site for Tarot rituals. During initiation members descended into the depths of the Earth. With architectural nods to Dante’s Inferno, the Masons and alchemy, I slowly began climbing skyward. Now I really felt like Indiana Jones.

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

After the ‘tower experience’ (there has to be a better name for it!) I could have very well had my passport burned before my eyes. Portugal, holy monkeys, you’re amazing.

Sintra, Portugal

The rest of our time at the estate was spent meandering around a pond-slash-cave with secret stepping stones and a floating bridge,

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

climbing winding tower stairs,

Sintra, Portugal

gazing at nearby castles and villages from afar,

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal

and trying (in vain) to capture the beautiful doorways of the mansion.

(Which door is your favorite? #1, #2 or #3? I think it’s #2 for me.)

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

After my door-shooting spree, I found Dan and forced him into a chair to stare at the ceiling poetically. Look how beautiful it is though!

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

I should just end this post now, shouldn’t I? Can you see why I said it was magical in the beginning? Never in my wildest dreams could I have believed a place like this existed.

“But wait, there’s more!” (now I’m just hamming it up, aren’t I?)

After a few hours at the estate, we joined Nuno back at the car. Not far from Sintra is the gorgeous little seaside town of Azenhas do Mar. We paid a quick visit en route to our lunch spot.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

 

A photo posted by Margo (@overseasescape) on

While Dan and I rattled on about how astounded we were by the sights that morning, Nuno pulled up to Adega Do Coelho, a local dive run by a sweet family.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal
 Sintra, Portugal

A rustic wooden table, platters of marinated fresh fish (they love cod here!) and lively chat with Nuno – lunch buzzed by in a flavorful hurry.

Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal

We hopped back in the van and set out for Cabo da Roca, mainland Europe’s westernmost point. The face of Europe, she’s got a craggy profile with an exotic complexion.

Sintra, Portugal  Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal

Nuno was all smiles (all day!) as he shared his ‘office’ with us. Interesting, entertaining and laid-back, we honestly we felt like we were traveling with a friend.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

After exploring the point, we moved on to Boca de Inferno, ‘The Devil’s Mouth’. At this rocky coastline closer to Lisbon the waves crashed loudly against the cliff faces.

Sintra, Portugal

Saltwater projected into the air by the force of the wave action, made for an astounding sight.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal

After a full day, many sights and one seriously awesome inverted tower, we made our way back to Lisbon with Nuno. With the Portuguese coastline buzzing by outside the window, we vowed to ourselves to return, we just had to.

Sintra, Portugal

Note: I’ve been lucky to work with a number of tour operators throughout our travels. Sometimes my experiences are lackluster (to which they are not shared here) and other times they are great. This time though was absolutely exceptional. I’d like to thank Lisbon Riders for hosting us, but more importantly, I’d like to thank them for one of the most memorable days we’ve ever had in Europe.

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  • I love the colors in these pictures! Boca de Inferno is definitely my favorite set of pictures. What a beautiful sight!

    • Boca de Inferno is pretty spectacular and definitely did the best at smiling pretty for the shots, didn’t it? 😀 I love the energy of the waves and vibrance of the sea. So beautiful! xo

  • The slow pace

    Reading your post (beautiful pictures and lovely content by the way) I couldn’t stop thinking that you should visit Galicia, in Spain. If you loved that coast you’d love Galicia. It’s not a very famous region but it’s stunning. The architecture is amazing, the food is THE BEST in Spain and the landscape are quite similar to the ones in your pictures today. You’d love it!
    xx,
    E.
    http://www.theslowpace.com

    • I REALLY appreciate the suggestion. Galicia is noted. I adore Spain already so I’m sure it’d be a winner. If/when I can make it happen I’ll be sure to pester you for details, k? ;D

      • The slow pace

        But of course!!! Oh, and another suggestion: come to Bremen! We will be happy to prepare a nice little tour for you and show you around!

        • Woohoo! Yes, please! I’ll let you know if I can swing it! 😀

  • Sold!! Sign me up!! If we ever make it to Portugal I am heading straight for Sintra….it doesn’t even look real! By the way, I am loving those door shots and you really did a great job of getting the exterior beyond the doors to show through! <3

    • thanks so much lovey! i actually just posted one of those shots on IG! 😀

  • Wow, I never knew Lisbon was this beautiful, I definitely need to book a trip asap! 🙂

    http://www.mintnotion.com

    • When you go, feel free to pack me along with you! I swear I won’t both you too much! 😀

  • Wow! What a beautiful town! And that tower?! And secret stepping stones and floating bridge?! C’mon now! This can’t all be real! ha!

    • that’s what I’m saying! It’s absolutely nuts, isn’t it?! Geh! ;D

  • Beautiful! I love the inverted castle tower!! Ah, everything looks so pretty, and the pastry from Piriquita looks very photogenic, hehe.

    • ha, well I’m glad you think so! I looked at those pastry pictures for so long thinking that folks would just think it was a squashed donut or something! 😀

  • I keep hearing more and more people say how awesome Lisbon is 🙂

    • honestly, of all the places I’ve visited in europe, it’s easily one of my favorites. not only is there beautiful scenery, awesome people, and great food – it’s cheap!

  • Kayla Horning

    This is such a great post! Sintra looks stunning. Love all 3 doors but I have to go with #1! It seems like you have really good luck with all of the tours you take. Do you find the companies through your own research or word of mouth?

    • I like door #1 too! ;D

      I am pretty relentless when it comes to reading TripAdvisor reviews. Not to mention, sometimes my tours are a bust so I just don’t share them at all. I don’t want to paint the story that my life is perfect or something, but I just don’t feel like recounting days that aren’t so great, if that makes sense.

      • Kayla Horning

        Yes, that totally makes sense. Gotta love TripAdvisor, right?! Well keep up the good work… your posts are extemely helpful! 😉

  • I have been debating if we should venture to Sintra while in Lisbon on our trip and you might have made the decision for me… now to see how we can make this work 🙂

    • Do it! do it! do it!

      I heard there was a direct train from Lisbon to Sintra so that makes the transit a breeze, just need some time! 🙂

      • We’re totally going to do it… looks like the trains run every 15-30 minutes and only costs 5 euros round trip! 🙂

  • Dude, the day we went to Sintra it was negative 100 degrees and I was dressed to be in the Bahamas and so I was miserable and whiney and over-dramatic the whole time. Of course after Sintra we drove to the beach and the weather cleared right up, sun came out, and we were covered in sweat. But in my memory I sort of shake a fist at Sintra and curse it, but after these pictures… I wanna go back!!! Well done! GORGEOUS shots!

    • haha! I had a similar take on a visit to Naples – I was hot and my stomach hurt because I ate too much. Poor Naples bares the brunt of my annoyance.

      So yeah, here’s the plan – dress appropriately, go back to Sintra, and take me with you when you do. K? I just need a few more of those pastry things. 😉

  • Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    WOW…this looks like an AMAZING place! You’ve totally convinced me to visit Portugal. I’ll be in Madrid for about a month soon and it’s just right next door! The flights to Lisbon look pretty cheap too. I’d love to visit Porto as well! Thanks so much for sharing. As always, beautiful photos.

    Happy travels 🙂

    • happy to help, dear! so when you go to Porto let me know what you think! there’s a cheap RyanAir flight there so I’ve been pushing Dan to try and get out there for a long weekend or something. to be honest, I just love the Portuguese friendliness/hospitality so that’s the driving factor – I’m sure there’s a ton to see too! 😀 Safe travels, dear!

  • It is absolutely beautiful there! I’m so glad you had a great time 🙂

  • This is so stunning!!! Now I want to go back to Portugal so badly!!! There’s a super cheap flight from Hahn to Porto!

  • I’m like basically crying right now bc these photos bring back such great memories! Happy tears! When I visited Lisbon, we spent an afternoon in Sintra and visited the Quinta da Regaleria too! I really think its one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. It was like a dreamy, magical wonderland, right?!

    We went during the summer, so we didn’t have any of that moody fog and overcast that really make your photos amazing! But I think Sintra’s beauty speaks for itself!

    One day I’m going to get my thoughts organized and share my experience there. For now, I’ll just drool over these photos. Gosh, I have GOT to go back to Portugal! Seriously soooo underrated! So cool that you got to have a tour guide too, to really learn history and get local recommendations for restaurants!

  • Em

    All that in a DAY trip? That really is epic! You packed in so many amazing things, and am dying over those doors; good shots!

  • Katarina May

    I absolutely loved Lisbon – couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the beautiful tiled houses when I was there! This post makes me want to go back 🙂

  • Wow what an amazing day trip! I absolutely adored Sintra, and that estate looks beyond gorgeous – what a fabulous adventure 🙂

  • I’m going to Portugal in April and was keen to book with Lisbon Riders after seeing this post. Unluckily for me, I’m traveling solo and they require two people to book.

    • Oh dagger! Sorry that didn’t work out!

  • Wow, so epic!!! Loved the pics and your words describing it all!

    • Thanks so much Mere! 😀

  • Gonçalo Dias

    Olá Margo!

    Sim, escrevo em português! 🙂

    Devo dizer que fiquei extremamente orgulhoso pela reportagem que fizeste da minha pequena vila “Sintra”! Muito, muito obrigado!

    É de facto um local mágico, com muito para dar e ver! Acho que o Nuno fez um bom percurso para o tempo que tinha disponível (suponho), porém, deixa-me dizer-te que, ficou imenso para ver e fazer…

    Portugal é um pequeno país à beira mar plantado…com uma história magnifica e com tudo para quem gosta de viajar, praia (algarve e costa alentejada), rios fantásticos (douro e tejo), serras com neve (Estrela), campo (Alentejo), ilhas (açores e madeira)…temos algumas das melhores praias da europa (700 km de costa do Minho ao Algarve), temos uma gastronomia fantástica (com vinhos maravilhosos), temos um povo extraordinário (simpático e afável), e uma das melhores noites da europa para quem gosta de sair e beber um copo (bairro alto) onde podem ouvir o Fado pela primeira vez…e garanto que nunca mais se esqueceram…

    Despeço-me deixando aqui um pequeno video promocional do meu país! Visitem…não se vão arrepender de certeza absoluta!

    ps: não acreditem em tudo o que dizem na imprensa internacional…somos um país de pessoas trabalhadoras e honestas! Contudo…o português é a 4ª lingua mais falada e escrita do mundo…se não souberem ler…peçam ajuda ao “google translate” 🙂

  • Megan Vlach

    We’re so excited — we just booked Lisbon Riders for a tour to Sintra next weekend. Thank you for the tip, Margo! (Fun that we’ll be there almost the same weekend as you were last year).

    • Margo

      that’s wild! make sure you tell them that I sent you! those guys are the absolute BEST! 😀

  • Sara Gomes

    Absolutely love your posts about Portugal so glad you enjoyed my country 🙂 Are you thinking of coming back any time soon? You should really visit Porto,the Algarve or one of the archipelagos like Madeira or the Azores

  • Great post! I’m trying to decide if I should do the same tour with Lisbon Riders this weekend- I think I just made up my mind to do it after reading this and seeing your beautiful photos 🙂

  • Brittani Texeira

    Amazing post!! Added nearly all these places to my trip wish list!
    Thank you!!

  • Maddie

    Headed to Lisbon/Sintra in a few weeks. This tour looks amazing but unfortunately it’s all booked up for the day we want to go. Any other suggestion for tour groups?

    Thanks!

  • SHEZEEN ALI

    I came across this blogpost on Pinterest, and I booked the tour with Lisbon Riders after reading this. Thank you so much for sharing your photos and the thorough overview of your trip. My boyfriend and I were wanting to do a daytrip to Sintra/Cascais or both, and this sounds like a dream.