019 – Top things to do in Sintra – PT – Pena Palace

Here stood a sacred ground and on it a beautiful chapel, to whom, kings of the old, would go in pilgrimage. After many many years, lightnings and a devastating earthquakes, a new king decided to do something.

A great palace in romantic symbols, with colorful walls, exotic plants from new lands and endless alleys to walk and discover.

Whatever book, or magazine about Portugal should you buy you will find one of there: a beach, a football player or Pena Palace:

019.1 Pena Palace

See the map in another window.

In this article I propose to continue from where we left off in the previous article, and that is from the Moors Castle.

019.2 Moors Castle as seen from Pena Gardens

To get to Pena Palace you could either:

  1. Walk from Sintra town;
  2. Get a cab/minibus from one of the many stations;
  3. Get a very loud ATV from special places;
  4. Or descend from the Moors Castle.

What I did was obviously the 4th option, and that is because my Moors visit was in the morning, and Pena was for the afternoon, thinking I might get a sunset.

From the Moors Castle, I used the Maps.me application, handy, offline, filled with routes for travelers, mostly on foot/bike/car. So most of the time I went on trails/alleys in the Sintra Mountains Forests, along with many other tourists.

019.3 Chopped trees somewhere between Moors and Pena.

019.4 Oriental ornaments.

While walking and enjoying the beautiful, refreshing air, I found a big opening in the forest where there were a bunch of trees trunks chopped. Much like you can see in Paris (Les Deux Plateaux, next to Louvre Palace).

But the weirdest find, was a Buddha like motif on a concrete wall, and many, many lines on the ground. But since nobody was doing Yoga there, I don’t know why they exist in the first place.

Moving on, you reach the road, and most likely you either go south (where most people go with the ATV/bus/taxi) or north where less people go, so you get in much faster (at least in 2017 it was like that)

Here you will find the Lake Entry, and you recognize it by the lakes (of course) and the horse carriages that I bet can make the discovery of the place much more authentic.

019.5 Horse carriage at the Lake Entrance

But that’s not what is unique about the Lake Entrance:

The ducks:

019.6 The Duck-House.

They have their own towers, one in a more ruin type, and another one that looks like in theme with Pena Palace.

019.7 Lake Entrance, reflected on the lake

From here you basically watch the map they gave you, at the entrance. so yeah, you are free to discover the area!

Now, after visiting Regaleira Estate (Quinta) I thought it can’t get better, even if Pena is the Symbol of the Country. Well I was right, in my opinion.

Pena Gardens are huge and if you are a botanist then yeah, it is the place to be*. But Quinta de Regaleira is smaller, more intimate, more magic… If I had to choose by some luck, my home, I would go with the latter. (*more on that next article)

019.8 Water Lily

019.9 Sequoia tree from California USA

019.10 Lush vegetation on both sides of the alleys just like in Temple Run

I will not share all my findings (mostly because I am not that good as others on Google on getting photos of the trees and plants) but there are many, many exotic plants, from Africa, Asia and even America. There is one tree very odd that has the branches grow parallel to the ground and at some point, they go 90deg up to the sky. He is also featured on the main website of Pena Palace.

019.11 Western Red Cedar (also USA)

I get that I was most amazed by the American trees, because they are the most famous in cinemas… well lately most iconic landscapes come from New Zeeland, but before Lord of the Rings, the trend was in California.

There are places in the garden, you kind of hope that Dinosaurs will come out, as that vegetation is very much like what they used to draw on books (on Cretaceous era).

019.12 Eurasian Jay

And if you are quiet (and in these parts is pretty much quiet) then birds show up. And for me it was the first time I saw this Eurasian Jay (me coming from Romania, is very hard to spot one. I never did before).

Ok so on with the road, we are here to see Pena Palace also!

019.13 Pena Palace from the street level

This Palace is something… no wonder the kings and queens stood here until the last moment. Now with UNESCO and all, we get to visit it also 😊

019.14 View from the Moors Castle

Like I said in the previous article, to get a complete view of the palace, without a drone, one way is to get to the Moors Castle and see that red tower from there. For the other side, a fish eye lens would do, so just get inside the Palace and snap a photo.

Portuguese people say that Pena can also be seen from Lisbon.

I did not see it (while in Lisbon), and to be fare, did not look much after it.

Lisbon is at 37km from here, and the mountain on which Pena Palace sits is not that unimportant. So yeah, on a clear day you could see the colorful edifice. But the Ocean has his own climate so you think there are no clouds but there is the mist 🙂 And if there are no clouds/mist then maybe is pollution?

019.15 Entrance to the Palace

I said that here used to be a sacred place, then a chapel and then a palace. Then the palace got grey and forgotten and not that long ago, it got his colors back!

019.16 Inside the court

And boy it has romantic written all over it. Then some German inspiration (given that it is actually inspired by Rhine Castles) and to make it even better than already was, added oriental ornaments, doors frames, domes. Actually is like Germany met Oriental and made this castle with the help of Azulejos (traditional blue ceramic tiles that ornate Portugal and also this palace)

Speaking of Oriental spirit, look at this beautiful fountain that is hidden in the garden (together with others like it)

019.17 The fountain of small birds

This fountain was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s discoveries (you know, the route to India by water, that at the time was the longest route ever). I forgot to mention about it, because the gardens mostly are: the lakes, the lush vegetation, the alleys and intimate corners to sit and tell what really is on your heart, without the fear of eavesdropping and the wow of nature when left to grow.

So, back to Pena Palace!

You can walk on the edge of the cliffs (but please get a sweater or a jacket as wind is really powerful here, just like at the Moors Castle), climb on the terraces, visit the interiors, get scared of the gothic like creatures:

019.18 The Triton

But remember, this place needs a minimum of 3 hours. And that is if running through the garden and not visiting the Palace inside. I had a bit more than half a day and it was barely enough… But it got me tired good.

So when I was finishing the tour outside, it was also the time to get out. If you come on summer here, don’t bet on getting a sunset photo, as it closes early, by comparison with the hour in which the sun goes down. And is not necessarily a bad thing… but imagine for some people going at night through the forest, back to Sintra.

I will share a picture of a Palace I want to see some day, when I will return for the third time:

019.19 Seteais Palace, also UNESCO

I found it while going back to the hotel, from Pena Palace.

So Moors Castle was built by the Moors and looks pretty basic for a fortress. Then Pena was built by Portuguese people, and thus somehow it is not white with white ceramic tiles painted in blue (azulejos). But instead it looks part oriental, part Germanic, part Portuguese. And it is a national symbol also. Interesting no?

Well it was interesting for me too, as I never saw such an edifice before, and also because of its high importance for the economy of Portugal, I decided to give it extra attention when making it in Blender.

I think that when I will have children, this is the Palace I will draw to them on paper. It has towers, domes, creatures, arches, gardens. It sits on top of the mountain!

Hope you like this article and that I made you curious about it and see you in the next one!



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