Of all the sights that people recommend we visit while in Portugal, Sintra was mentioned the most often. After doing some research online including Pinterest, I could not wait to discover this magical place. We had a bit of a challenge planning our tour of Sintra as the train transportation system was on strike during part of the time we were in Lisbon.
We decided that doing a group tour might be a good option but weren’t too keen on being stuck on a big bus with a bunch of other tourists. Luckily, we found We Hate Tourism Tours, a company that takes small groups (we were six in total) in a van and visits less tourist packed spots in Sintra. As you can tell by their name and the quote on their van below, they have a great sense of humour which was felt during the entire trip.
As soon as you arrive in Sintra, you feel like you are in a fairy tale that has come to life. The sights you see here are like nothing else in the world.
The tour began in the center of Sintra where Marcos dropped us off and let us explore the quaint streets and shops for about half an hour.
After wandering the winding little streets, we headed to Monserrate Park, or as I like to call it, the Enchanted Forest.
Have to share the soundtrack that goes with the beauty of this little pond:
And then, just when you think that you have seen some of the most gorgeous sights of your life, you walk up to the Monserrate Palace.
The beauty of the interior almost surpasses its exterior.
After Monserrate Park and Palace, Marcos brought us to a lookout point that was like none I have ever seen. We were lucky enough that the clouds had come in so low we were literally walking in them!
At one point, the clouds were so dense, you couldn’t even see the water at the foot of the cliff. You just heard the waves crashing. Such a beautiful and dramatic moment.
On our route back to Lisbon, we did a quick pit stop at Praia Do Guincho, a popular surfer destination.
Nothing beats the ocean in motion so here is a quick clip I shot to give you the surfer vibe of the place:
As if one beautiful beach wasn’t enough, we visited Cascais for the second time that week. Marcos knew exactly what place to recommend for our afternoon snack: Santini’s! Yup, the ice cream heaven has multiple locations in Portugal (lucky us). As we savoured our tasty treat we watched the stand up paddleboarders go by once again in awe of the regalness of this town.
After stuffing our face with gelato, we were totally full…. Or were we? Marcos had more treats waiting for us just a few stops later:
Our tour finished back in Lisbon in the most unexpected places: a cemetery. At first, I thought to myself “What the heck are we doing here?” but by then, we knew that if Marcos was bringing us here it was because there was something special to experience. It was actually a super peaceful stroll and the point of bringing us there was to show us a great lookout point where we could admire the river Tagus.
The cemetery was feline central! Happy #catlady.
Yup, the view was everything he said it would be. This is one of the reasons we loved this tour. A typical company would have never brought us to a place like this and yet it was truly a memorable experience.
I have to finish my commentary of this tour by giving our guide Marcos a big shout out. He was the friendliest, funniest and most generous person. Passionate about his job and the country he allowed us to explore. He really went above and beyond the call of duty, was very informative and quite entertaining (he is also a super talented travel photographer: details below post)!
I also give props to We Hate Tourism Tours for offering this kind of package. The price of the tour was about half of the other ones with the big buses and it included lunch (with wine!), multiple scenic stops as you’ve seen and the most delicious pastel de nata. What more could a foodie ask for?!
There are definitely sights in Sintra I still want to go back and see like Pena Palace, Moorish Castle and Quinta da Regaleira but we would go on our own and leave ourselves plenty of time to explore each and try to go when it’s not overflowing with tourists. Speaking of overflowing, we were due for our 5 o’clock cocktail by the time our tour ended and Marcos was nice enough to recommend a really cool rooftop bar aptly named Park because you have to get to it through an indoor parking lot.
After enjoying our last Caipirinha of the trip, we walked back to the apartment and took in the beauty of the city one final time (love those tile covered buildings so much). One week in Portugal goes by really quickly and we savoured every moment. I don’t like comparing countries or cities or even choosing favourites but Lisbon definitely holds a special place in my heart. As much as I adored Barcelona and Spain, there is something even more charming and romantic about Portugal. The old streets, historical buildings, waterfront sights, typical Portuguese restaurants and their non English speaking owners are just so warm and welcoming.
It’s also less expensive than most big cities I’ve visited in Europe (from the food, to cabs and more). I hope my Portugal travel logs have inspired you to see this amazing country for yourself. And if you have done so already and want to tell us about some of your favourite spots, I would love for you to share them in the comments section below!
Also, being the globe-trotter that I am, I already have my next trip booked and it will be a special one: I’m spending two months in Switzerland with my man in July and August! Saying that I am excited is an understatement. Expect LOTS of great posts and pics and of course some great goat videos. ;)
P.S. Marcos our tour guide is also a SUPER talented photographer. He’s done work for National Geographic and more. You can see his inspiring work here.