Our EPIC Lisbon Day Trip
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nuno gave us a map along with suggestions on the spots he thought we’d be most keen on seeing (there are many!).
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.
We felt like kids, exploring an ancient playground. I couldn’t help but comment (excessively) how much I felt like Indiana Jones.
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).
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.
The darkness of the tunnel ahead slowly gave way to an exotic gate.
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.
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.
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.
The rest of our time at the estate was spent meandering around a pond-slash-cave with secret stepping stones and a floating bridge,
climbing winding tower stairs,
gazing at nearby castles and villages from afar,
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saltwater projected into the air by the force of the wave action, made for an astounding sight.
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.
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.