Sintra,The Land of Fairy Tales and Spectacular Sunsets

Covered by mists,  Sintra welcomed me with its eerie atmosphere. I thought I entered the strange world of fairy tales..but it was only Sintra. Beautiful and mysterious, rising from the mists…

I could have covered Sintra when I wrote my article about Lisbon and surroundings, but Sintra for me is “the place“ to see while in Portugal. It is also true that Portugal is beautiful no matter where one might choose to go but Sintra has that special something which might keep you hooked forever.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Took me a lot of time to think how should I begin my article about Sintra and the more I was thinking the more I was realising that no introductory phrase was good enough.

Sintra is a magical place and my words were failing to describe the depths of my feelings while I was walking on the streets of Sintra, or when I was walking in the forest surrounded by fog and accompanied by rain or when I was walking through the ruins of the Moors Castle. Sintra is a fairy tale and takes a darn good narrator to be able to capture the exotic atmosphere of that place.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

But maybe I should start with the beginning. It is not very far from Lisbon, only 30 km, so most of the people will recommend taking the train also because the municipality of Sintra is trying to limit the number of cars due to the lack of parking spaces. In a full season, this is a real problem. I say, go off season, take a car and follow the coastline road heading West from Lisbon. Sintra being situated in the heart of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park will give you the opportunity to make acquaintance with Estoril and Cascais, also the rugged western coastline, picturesque villages, some impressive beaches, like Guincho Beach and the breathtaking view from Cabo da Roca.

Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

But the most important, by taking that road you will be able to enter Sintra through the back-door, passing first through the surrounding forest of Serra de Sintra mountain range.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Personally, I found this back door while trying to get a closer look at the peaks of Sintra. Since the mists were covering the peaks I was thinking that if I will go around I can find a different perspective over the peaks. When I found this road I was feeling like a kid in a candy shop, I just love it!!!

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

The sun was shining from behind the clouds which was a big change to the rain and fog I had till then. It felt like entering a world of fantasy, I was so excited…When the scenery changed again and mists were standing beside me I was sure that lots of surprises will be waiting for me.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

It was an eerie atmosphere and that very moment I was thinking that I would not change it for the world that soft rain and the veil of  mists because everything was like taken from a fairy tales book.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I start walking through the forest following the path which was taking me to the Moors Castle. Deepened into the luscious green forest with its tree tops covered by mist and the entire forest seemed like it was sleeping. I was wondering if this is the forest of Hansel and Gretel? If at the end of this path I will find the witch`s house made out gingerbread? I think I was feeling a bit hungry or it was just a plain sugar craving.

Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

It was a castle that I found at the end of the path. Castle of the Moors was built in the 8th century by the Arabs meant to surveil the roads and the Atlantic Ocean waters. Having a panoramic view it had a strategic importance during the Reconquista.

Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I could have chosen to see Pena Palace but I felt that these ruins covered by ferns and moss looking so desolate being forgotten by time are more interesting to me. The wail if the barren walls were capturing my attention.

Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

There were so much sadness and peacefulness around that I almost felt like being an intruder, that somehow my presence was disturbing the ghosts of the past. I left the castle hidden behind the mists and returned to my forest path, this time returning to Sintra.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I was mesmerised by this place the moment I laid my eyes on it. I could have taken 1000 thousand pictures easily.  My phone though said no. My phone memory was full. Every little detail of that city was captivating for me. There is a reason was Sintra was declared UNESCO World Heritage because this little town so charming, so picture perfect is the true gem of Portugal.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Maybe I should add that running away from the heat the royal family of Portugal and the nobility of Lisbon find shelter in Sintra over the centuries. Surrounded by forest and being so close to the see it has a microclimate more humid and lower temperatures. That’s why for me it was like being in England. So much green and the forest with the hanging ivy and ferns covering the ground were giving me the impression I was walking through a rainforest.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

But the green and the gardens were not the only things which I found appealing. The architecture, the narrow streets and houses and every window were for me pure delight

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I could have added an entire gallery of pictures but I was thinking that maybe these pictures should be enough to make you the reader interested in knowing more about Sintra and even adding it on your “Places to see before I die“ list.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

And if you do decide to go to Sintra make sure is not going to be just for one day. Sintra must be lived, felt and understood. You have to breathe the air, to see the sunrise and then go to Cabo da Roca and see the sunset, to try the food and walk the streets. To take as many pictures as possible and walk the nearby forests. To walk on the streets when is raining and when it is sunny.

Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sintra, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

To discover the little gardens and the small shops hidden on the back streets. To admire the tiles made by the local artists which are superb. I even bought a small tile from Casa des Aquarelas to have it as a souvenir. The owner was so old and I was admiring his patience while was wrapping a very small tile and I admit it impressed me a lot. I even returned the next day to buy some more but it was too late and the shop was closed. I felt sorry because I really wanted to thank that man for his patience and care for customers.

Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Another thing to do is to leave Sintra and go west to Cabo da Roca and watch the sunset. If it is cloudy in Sintra at Cabo da Roca is less likely to be the same. Go there and wait for the sun to go down. It is the westernmost point of Portugal and Europe. The Romans use to call it Poromontrium Magnum. To be there on those tall cliffs heavily eroded by winds and rains offers you the setting for a magnificent sunset.

Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I can’t describe my feelings when I took these pictures. It was the last day, I found Cabo da Roca by mistake. On my way to Sintra, I saw a sign indicating Cabo da Roca. Instantly I turned around and followed the sign because I knew where there is a cabo there is a lighthouse and where there is a lighthouse must be some impressive landscape…and…I was right!!!!

Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Cabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I stood there watching the sun go down. There was so much happiness inside me and I could feel it pouring out. flowing toward the ocean, trying to reach for the sun. Another travel was over and I was so grateful. I wanted to see Portugal and here I was. I wanted to discover Sintra and I was carrying with me so many memories from there. I haven`t asked myself where would I be next because I knew very well that I do not choose the places I see, the places I see are choosing me.  Apparently I was right because my next travel to Rome wasn`t because I wanted but because life`s circumstances took me there.

I do not know if I will ever be back to Portugal. It was a unique country and will always remain in my mind as the fortress facing the Atlantic Ocean`s armies of waves…