Rare Epic Travel Fail To See Sintra Portugal

Jul 22, 2019 @

rare epic travel fail to see sintra
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A view of Sintra. Wikipedia Image

I fully admit that this epic fail is partially, if not completely my fault. First, we were traveling in August. Can you say the height of summer? Foolish l know, but l was on a high. We were at the tail end of a 31 day trip that had seen us in Madrid, Rome, Stockholm, then Bologna, back to Rome, and finally Lagos in Portugal. Everything had gone pretty smoothly, even with the summer crowds. Sintra however was a total disaster from the start.

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Had l not been such a stubborn ass, we could have avoided this tale of woe. I had read up on Sintra and was really anxious to visit this supposedly charming place. Mention Sintra to anyone and you will get nothing but glowing accolades. I saw travel websites and bloggers throwing around words like charming, fantastic, picturesque, majestic and my favorite “Sintra exudes a romantic aura that left a deep impression on the soul of writers since the 18th and 19th centuries.”. Is it any wonder that l had big dreams for this place?

****Make sure to check out the comment section and read Prot’s advice on things to do in and around Sintra, especially for nature lovers. As a former resident, he has a lot of places for you to discover apart from the usual suspects****

rare epic fail to see sintra castle of moors
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What we were supposed to see.

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Rare Epic Travel Fail : How it all went down

The guide books say it’s best to arrive early in Sintra. As in 8AM! What??? I’m on vacation, and certainly not going to get up at 6 or earlier for anything. We set out at 10AM which l still considered early.  The AirBnB that we stayed at was centrally located in Baixa, the old center. It took us only 10 minutes to walk to the Rossio Station.

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Looking back, we should have turned back. The sea of people waiting to get tickets to Sintra was insane. All the windows were open and the lines like 40 deep, no kidding! Almost as long for the self ticketing machines, which had helpers too. We decided to divide and conquer, he waited at one of the windows line and me at one of the machines line. He got to the counter first after about half hour. It was madness. We had about 15 minutes before the next train departed once we got our tickets. By the time the train left, there was not a seat available and people were sitting on the floor.

Wine in the evening made everything better :-)
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Wine in the evening made everything better 🙂

It was a 40 minute ride to Sintra. Once we got to the little quaint station at the other end, we had to get in line to scan our tickets to exit, just like we do here in Spain.  Imagine a train with at least 9 cars if not more filled to the brim and there were 3 scanners from which to exit. Yep! It was a long time before we got out. Next was the line for the bus. The streets are super narrow so the bus only does a loop one way and stops at the three main tourist sites.

Each bus seats 48 people it said. The line was very long and the sun was unforgiving. The bus also wouldn’t leave unless there were at least 200 people on it or so it seemed. So, you’re thinking it’s a 20 minute loop, it won’t be so bad standing crushed like sardines. Over 45 minutes in line, we finally get shoved into a bus and the journey took just under 75 minutes. Why??? Sintra becomes a parking lot, at least in the summer. I am 100% sure that the residents don’t care for tourist dollars and just want their town back. Insane! One of those taxi things died on the hill and it took forever before others helped push it to the side, even though l wished they had just let it fly down the hill as the driver was a jerk.

rare epic fail to see sintra pena palace
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This is the Pena Palace, the crown jewel of Sintra. Certainly very pretty, no argument from me.

We get to the first stop and l’m hoping people get out so l can stop sweating like a pig and have enough space to fan myself. No such luck. All it took was for the other riders to see the super long line of people wanting to get on the bus to decide they wouldn’t get off. He waited and waited till 2 people finally got off, and of course 2 people were squeezed in from the line. Same for the second site.

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The whole way up, all I’m thinking is  “l don’t find this place romantic at all, l don’t even find it charming”. It reminded me of driving through the Hollywood Hills, complete with hidden houses behind big gates, only with better views in LaLaLand. We finally arrived at the palace and most people got off.  My feet were tired from standing for so long. I wondered why people were standing in line when the machines had shorter lines.We split up again and l went to the machines.

My wait this time was shorter so l called him over. It became clear why the line was shorter when l tried to pay for the tickets. Something was wrong and they could only accept Portuguese cards. No sign..Nothing!!! Zip!!!  At this point Federico wanted to leave, but again l said no, not me. After coming all that way, l was determined to see the damn place. So we went back to one of the 3 lines.

I think it was 5 or 6 shots for €3
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I think it was 5 or 6 shots for €3 and worth it after the disastrous day we had.

Believe it or not, after waiting in line for what seemed forever but was actually 20 minutes and we only had 4 more people ahead of us, l was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That happiness was short-lived, because the line didn’t move for at least ten more minutes when finally a guy from the next window comes out and tells our line that the ticket guy won’t be back for an hour, so we had to go to the back of the other 2 lines (which at this time was even longer since another bus had come through!).

Is Sintra worth visiting?

That was the final straw and l  said “screw this!”. Federico let out  a big Hallelujah!! and we went back to the bus,  leaving the people arguing with the poor guy. The bus of course was full and we had to stand all the way back down too :-(. You can see this two ways. One, we were at the home stretch..one more long line, and we could have gotten in. At that point though, l had soured on Sintra completely. It was almost $20 per person to get in (ticket plus a fee to take you up the hill on a trolley instead of walking) I was just over it and felt why the heck should l hand over any money to them? To us, Sintra was not worth visiting, at least not in summer season.

Rare epic travel fail to see sintra sign
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This was the only picture we took. On our way back to Lisbon.

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The other way to look at it was Federico’s way. We had just seen one of the most beautiful palaces ever in Stockholm. We have seen the palaces in Seville, Cordoba, Istanbul, Versailles and some more that l can’t even remember. What exactly could be even more special about this one? The answer was nothing, and to tell the truth, l thought the palace was like Disney Land’s “It’s a small world” castle, just more colorful, plus a chunk of it was closed for remodelling.

So, put it another way, l was not impressed with Sintra as much as l wanted to be. It might be completely different in winter time when there are not a lot of tourists, but l don’t think so. At least for me. Climb up to the Gibralfaro in Malaga and you see some of the most stunning views, so we’ve had similar enough that we don’t feel a need to go back.

Still able to smile after a disastrous day.
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Still able to smile after a disastrous day in Sintra.

So, is a visit to Sintra worth it you ask? Probably not for a seasoned traveler. If you’re a novice and have time on your hands, then it’s worth it, especially when it’s not summer time. Adding up the fees for all three sites, l calculated roughly $49 a person. Kind of steep in my opinion. That might be why you never see interior pictures of these sights except for stock photos, just Wikipedia images like the ones here :-). That was what got me made enough to write about my pet peeves. We were too squished for space to reach for the camera and snap pictures while at a standstill. Really, it was that packed. I can laugh now, but it sure wasn’t funny then!

rare epic fail to see sintra #sintra #epicfail #sintracastle #daytripsintra #portugal #lisbon #wine
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We salvaged the day by going to a pretty good Chinese restaurant right across from the station and dining on yummy food. We then took the train back to our beloved Lisbon and went wine tasting with friends. I so wished we had just stayed in Lisbon for the day as we loved the city. It was a lost travel day but those things happen, at least it wasn’t as sucky as the Cordoba incident. There you have it, our rare epic travel fail to see Sintra the way it should be seen. I feel that Sintra is one of the worst tourist traps in Portugal.

Have you ever had such a disastrous day that totally sucked the life out of you? Were you able to salvage the day?

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53 thoughts on “Rare Epic Travel Fail To See Sintra Portugal”

  1. Ugh that sounds terrible! I hate when giant crowds of people ruin perfectly good trips. We’re visiting Europe in the dead of winter this year and I’m loving the idea of it being nice and empty 🙂

    Reply
    • Good. Empty is good :-). We have been on such a good streak that l thought it would last, especially the last leg, but oh well. I hope you have a wonderful time in Europe, sure you’ll have a blast.

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  2. Ha! Oh, I know allll about that exit line at the Sintra station! We actually miscalculated our fare and we got locked in that station. Yep. Locked in. Our tickets wouldn’t let us out and there was no way to add money to them – and no one to help. By they time we escaped and got into town, everything was closed. We walked around for about 45 minutes and then headed back to Lisbon. We didn’t fare well on our first trip to Lisbon…thankfully, we’ve returned and now are quite smitten by it all!

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    • Oh my God! That must have been horrible, especially the being locked in part. I hope you can laugh about it now, but l would have been so frustrated at that point. I’m glad you had a better experience the second time around. We halfway thought about getting off at the Benfica stop on the way to and check out the stadium instead. In hindsight, we should have :-). We’ll definitely visit again, maybe not to Sintra though, and definitely not in the summer.

      Reply
  3. Sorry that you had bad experience, but this happens in touristic places. I didn’t like Paris because of the crowd and lines everywhere. That was so annoying.

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    • It kind of sucks doesn’t it? Being part of the problem. Ironic, we are tourists, but don’t like places crowded with tourists.. 🙂 . I hope you get to give Paris another chance. I haven’t traveled in high season for such a long time that it came as a shock. Lisbon was crowded too, but we liked that..probably because it was so spacious.

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  4. Hey Kemkem that sounds like a pretty frustrating day. Glad that the wine helped out at the end of the day. You’d love it here this time of year. There are just enough people to make it lively but no big crowds. We’re going to head out to Sintra next week and we’ll let you know how we make out. We’re loving Lisbon – we love it for not being pretentious at all. Tim & Anne

    Reply
    • Wine always helps.. haha! As soon as we’re done with the immediate travels (till Jan), we’ll probably head out there again before the summer. We really enjoyed Lisbon, and want to revisit. I still think we will give Sintra a miss though, unless my sourness about it goes away. I hope it’s much less crowded for you next week. Yep! I want to hear all about it, maybe it might help change our minds 🙂

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  5. I visited Sintra in May, and I think that helped in putting the whole experience in a different perspective. There were no crowds, and yes, entree fees were expensive, but I simply made a selection of places I wanted to see inside and which I didn’t. Then, I took the – very touristy but effective – hop on hop off sightseeing bus and stopped and looked around at the places that appealed to me. Can’t say it was my best travel experience ever, but it certainly didn’t dissapoint. But I’m sure it would have been different if it was as crazy busy as I’m sure it is in summer.

    Reply
    • I have made a solemn promise not to visit anywhere during high season again. Ever 🙂 . It’s nice to know it has quiet times. If we ever make it back there, l think we would do the hop-on hop-off too. I read about the bus, and it make it seem so convenient and quick, but of course that was without the crowds factored in.I’m glad to hear that it didn’t disappoint as l know you’ve traveled quite a bit. We would reconsider, but Lisbon and Lagos were definitely awesome and we can’t wait to revisit. Thanks for the perspective.

      Reply
  6. Doesn’t it suck when you go somewhere and you have to resort to using wikipedia images to use on your post? What a horrible, sucky day.
    I went to Sintra 25 years ago and found it spectacular. But with all the tourists and high prices I think that’ll be it – not worth the hassle. Commercialism.
    Was nice meeting you guys after for wine tasting though!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    Reply
    • It sure does suck! I keep wondering if my shoulder hurting actually started from the bus and being squished and shoved trying to find somewhere to place my hand. Still hurts often :-(. Maybe it’s worth it in winter time, but knowing some of the places that you guys have been, l don’t think a return visit is worth it. It sure was good the wine tasting with you to. We liked that part a lot and it salvaged the day :-).

      Reply
  7. I’m sorry that the experience didn’t turn out to be how you expected, but as a reader, I appreciate your honesty. From the wikipedia pages, the place really does look like a fairy tale and I would have probably set out with the same expectations as you. I’m making a mental note to visit during the off-season!

    Reply
    • It really does look like a fairy tale from the pictures. The problem with high expectations. I think if you go, do it off-season and be in the forward cars on the train so you can get out quickly and scan to get out. It would probably be a much better experience.

      Reply
  8. That’s a bummer, Kemkem. We went in May and had a lovely day. That’s the way it goes sometimes, I guess. It’s probably hard to predict if others will or won’t like it.

    Don’t you hate the way the Europeans built all these castles to look like the one in Disney World? ????

    Reply
    • Yep! We just had to suck it up and call it a waste of 9 hours. I just wish we had turned away as soon as we saw the crowd at the train station. If we ever attempt ti again, for sure it would be before school lets out. Yeah, they do look a lot like Disney World. I guess he wanted to bring the taste of l think Germany to America 🙂 .

      Reply
  9. So sorry about your experience. Mine went well.
    At Sintra be it any season it is always wise to reach early.
    About ticket prices I agree they are steep.

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    • Glad to hear it went well when you visited. The wonderful thing is that 99% of the time everything goes right, but that 1% makes you forget the good times. Oh wow! any season? I just can’t get up and out early enough when l go on vacation. Happy that you agree about the prices, separate for the castle, the gardens, the little trolley etc..etc

      Reply
  10. Welcome to Europe and peak of summer travel! We have crowds and if you don’t know it, it’s gonna be hell :))
    Sorry you went through that but, as a major rule of thumb, do not attempt to visit anything during August in Europe. Personally , I avoid July-August for any travel. On one thing is the heat (summer!) and on the other, what you went through. March, May, September, October are amazing to travel here 😉

    Reply
    • You know l had forgotten. We haven’t traveled in the summer time for so long that l truly forgot the experience. I hear it was even worse this summer because more people were in Portugal as a whole because of all the attacks in Paris etc. The previous countries, even with the crowds were enjoyable and l just thought it would continue :-). I will take your advice and stick with our off-season travels.

      Reply
  11. Sorry to hear about your horrible experience. I have developed a sort of a phobia for crowded buses or trains since I lived in Bucharest and everything was packed, with no room to breathe, so I would’ve taken Federico’s part here and say pass to everything. At least you were able to smile at the end of the day (I’m sure that all the wine helped!) so it was not all lost 🙂

    Reply
    • Yep! The wine really helped that evening and the Chinese food was also good, and even nice views from the restaurant. I am just stubborn sometimes :-). I should have listened to him, or at least gotten off at Benfica station. We had wanted to see their football station. I’m sure we would have enjoyed that a lot. No summer travel for us :-).

      Reply
  12. I feel sorry for the people who have to live there throughout the summer months, it must be madness. Such a shame it was a hellish experience for you, but at least you made the right decision at the end and left to enjoy a fully deserved glass of wine????

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  13. Crazy. This sounds like a really ridiculous experience. Glad there was wine after all of that!

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    • It really was ridiculous! Wine always helps. In any situation 🙂

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  14. Sintra looks amazing! I wish I visited it when I was in Portugal!! So pretty and colorful!

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  15. I hate crowds too and can’t imagine how awful it was. I love it when trips are scheduled in off-peak times to avoid such ickiness. At least you got some brilliant photos and know when to travel to Europe next time 🙂

    Reply
    • All thanks to Wikipedia. We only got the train station sign.

      Reply
  16. No. No. No. Not for me. No matter how sightful. No. I hate inefficiency. I hate traffic. I hate lines. But gorgeous photos! Maybe another month in off-season!!!——–Terri

    Reply
    • Haha! You’re like Federico. He was pissed when the guy came out and said to get in the other two lines. He was already pissed because the machines were broken… sigh.. I am just stubborn :-). Definitely off season from now on.

      Reply
  17. HaHa! LMAO since our Sintra trip was also a major travel fail but without the massive crowds as it was the end of April. We also got a late start and arrived in Sintra with 2 friends about lunch time. After a leisurely lunch we toured the Palace of Sintra and then boarded the Hop-on Hop-Off bus for another leisurely ride (we got to sit, though!). By the time we reached the castle we had only about half an hour left for the tour which would have been a huge waste of money so we bagged the whole thing. Aw well… lesson learned! We do plan to go back but, next time we’ll spend a night or 2 during off-season!

    Reply
    • Glad that you were at least able to sit 🙂 . Yeah, a half an hour would have been silly to spend in such a massive place. Now, you have a better idea of when to go, and definitely without the crowds. I am still undecided as to if we want to go back, but you never know. I suppose it’s inevitable that days like this happen. It can’t always be rosy all the time :-).

      Reply
  18. Aargh that sounded so frustrating! I would have been really pissed off, crowds are a bugbear of mine.
    Not that many places are worth that much of a hassle frankly; much less the expensive fees they charge!
    At least the wine & delicious food made up for it and I agree travel during summer (school!) holidays is for the brave.

    Reply
    • It had been so long since we did summer travel that l just forgot. We had been on a good streak with the places before Sintra and l think l just thought it would be the same. I agree with you, not that many places are worth the hassle, and the prices are indeed steep. The least they could have done was offer the shuttle free up the hill instead of gouging. The food and wine definitely made up for it that evening. I wish l hadn’t been stubborn and just stayed on in Lisbon. 🙂

      Reply
  19. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear this. It must have been a right disaster!

    I have actually been to Sintra, it was the first time that I had visited Portugal back in 2007, I went with a girlfriend who knew Portugal well, and it was off-season, ‘cos we were wearing scarves! We took the train, and walked. We didn’t take the bus as it was hourly I think at the time. Since it was off-season, the castle was closed for renovations but we were able to see the outside, which was nice enough. But the real reason we were there was to go to the edge of the world. Or Europe!

    That was great. It was quiet. It was windy. It was serene, and I have a cerificate to prove it lol!

    We went to Lisbon a few months ago, but we decided to just spend our time in Lisbon relaxing, eating more custard tarts, and drinking more very good wine…!

    p.s. I have travelled a lot and as a result, I have had a few disaster days. Think Scotland, where our paid- for B&B disappeared! Think India, where sleeping in the Indian train brought me to tears. Think Egypt, where I got mugged by little children in the souk…!

    Reply
    • I remember your getting mugged by the little kids 🙁 and of course you Barcelona disaster last year. You’ve definitely had your share :-). You did the right thing by just relaxing in Lisbon this time around. You’ve seen some of the best, so really, there is no great need to see this one, especially because part of it is closed. I am leaning towards not giving it a try next time..haha..unless we go to Benfica stadium and then keep going. Off season of course! 😉

      Reply
  20. Lol! Actually, it’s the other way around. Sleeping Beauty’s most charming castle (built in 1955) was made to look like the lovely Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany (built in 1886..)!

    Reply
    • Yeah.. I know, that’s what l was trying to get across, especially since Disney is so young compared to the European castles 🙂

      Reply
  21. Wow, for a seasoned traveller you really screwed this up 😉 You went at the worst possible time of the year, ignored the guide book’s recommendation to go early, then headed straight for the biggest tourist trap and never once stepped off the rails. You could have fixed this so easily!

    I’ve previously lived in Sintra for 25 years. Yes, I want the town to be off limits for tourist car traffic. It will never happen, but it would be great. Also, the true reason why the lines are short in the ticket machines at the palace is because you can only buy maximum price (full) tickets there.

    Here are a few tips for your next visit to Sintra (which you really should make), even in a warm-ish month – or for anyone who stumbles into this article and mistakenly thinks Sintra is horrible:

    1. Plan to stay a few days. Realize that Sintra is a entire mountain range and natural park with dozens of incredible things to see, not just a couple of palaces in the middle of town. Also some of the best pastries in the country and many incredible restaurants. Don’t travel from Lisbon every day; Actually *sleep* there. There, you avoided the commute!

    2. Rent a car. You are visiting a sprawling location. Even the town is sprawling (but don’t take your car in there unless arriving at or leaving your hotel; if you’re staying in town, travel on foot). Hey, you avoided the bus!

    3. Geocache. I’m putting this here at the top so you know to keep an eye out everywhere you go.

    4. Do you want to visit the Pena Palace? No. You don’t. You think you do, but you don’t. The palace is an overly expensive tourist trap. It’s a really cool palace, but most of it cannot be visited. You get access to a narrow corridor where you stay in a line with the other tourists the whole time. If you really want to do this, do it only in the off season (at least you can walk at your own pace).

    5. You do however, want to visit the palace GROUNDS. The ticket for this is cheaper and you can still photograph the outside of the palace. The grounds are huge and once you step off the paths from the gates to the palace, the crowd magically disappears and you will be almost alone in a really cool forest with lots of nooks and crannies created for the king and his court. WAKE UP EARLY to avoid the lines at the gate! You’re already in town, so you can be there in no time and snag a parking spot for your rental car. (You can also visit the Castle grounds from here for a different viewpoint, including a great view of the town itself, but there will be more tourists there.)

    6. The same advice applies to Quinta da Regaleira. Ignore the palace itself. The grounds, designed by a famous architect for masonic rituals, are incredible, and you probably want to see them. They have nooks and crannies too! Now, any photos you may see of this won’t do it justice. You really have to experience it, and you want to experience it in a day as foggy and deserted as possible. Don’t go on a weekend. It’s harder to get it deserted since it’s in town and most people really do go for the grounds.

    7. Next, the Monserrate palace. This is 10 minutes into the mountains with your rental car. There is parking. Once there, you’re going to want to ignore the palace and just buy a ticket for the grounds. Are you starting to see the pattern here? You can still photograph the palace’s incredible exterior, and visit the beautiful park, which contains many rare plant/tree species from all over the world (with plaques so you know what each one is). And also more nooks and crannies.

    8. The Capuchin convent is a small, humble convent half-carved, half-built-under a cluster of boulders in the heart of the forest. It’s really worth seeing. Unfortunately I believe you must take the guided tour here, so don’t go on a weekend. It’s just a 10 minute drive from town. The nooks and crannies are kinda small.

    Reply
    • WOW!!! This is why l love blogging! Firstly, let me thank you for reading and for taking the time to write a very lengthy response that is chuck full of the good stuff. It does my heart good because you’re not doing what most would have done which would have been to say “you don’t know what you’re talking about” and be rude in their delivery. That of course offers no help. Yours actually tells us what other things one is able to do in Sintra. I totally and fully admitted, and still admit that l couldn’t have been more responsible for the whole fiasco. I think l just got too comfortable and we had been on a good streak, I just thought it was slam dunk. We should have skipped going once we got on the train or gotten off at Benfica to check out the stadium. We are still kicking ourselves for that one. Lisbon was super crowded as well, but we didn’t mind it one bit, perhaps because it’s more wide open. It’s probably too late for me to enjoy the Sintra you describe because even though we don’t have a list of sorts, it has moved some spaces down because there are more places we would like to see before returning. We definitely want to revisit Lisbon at some point though, so not totally ruling it out. Porto is calling me first :-). I have added an update to the post saying to look for your comments so they can enjoy parts Sintra that we never got to experience. Thanks again for adding your voice to the conversation. I hope more people stumble onto the post and check out some of your awesome suggestions :-).

      Reply
  22. 9. At the other end of the range lies the Peninha sanctuary. It’s not open to the public, but you can walk right up to it and then take in the views of the mountain range and sea. This is free. There are neither nooks nor crannies.

    10. Hike in the forest. This is also free. The forest is beautiful, and there are gorgeous views in several locations, as well as hidden chapels, fountains, ruins and more rock mounds. Cars aren’t allowed, you really must walk (or you can rent a bycicle, but be prepared to ride uphill). The paths are usually in good condition though. Please do not litter and do not leave any bottles behind. Do not light a fire under any circumstance 😉 If you find a door on a rock in the middle of the forest, NEVER try go in! Those are water mines – dark tunnels that end in a vertical drop under the mountain. There are no ogres but you will still die. The door should usually be locked.

    11. Remember the previously mentioned rock mounds? If you like climbing, find and climb the one called Mount Rodel. This climb is possible without any auxiliary equipment from the correct side, although you should wear appropriate clothing. For this one you want a day with *no* fog or haze whatsoever. The view from the top is amazing (you’ll get a full view of the mountain range and northern surroundings, including the palace and castle, and you will see the sea). Not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. By the way, some of this stuff really isn’t in guidebooks, but you can easily google it for pictures and whatnot.

    12. Visit Cape Roca, the westernmost end of the eurasian continent. That’s really no big deal, but the coastal cliffs are nice and you can get some nice pictures if you get off the car and walk (there will be tourists at the cape itself). By the way, if you want to eat some hearty traditional portuguese food, you want to dine on this side of the mountains. You’re still only 20 minutes or so away from town going by the main road (there’s a lot less trafic at night).

    13. Sintra also has several fairly good beaches. However, some of these will be crammed full of people in the warm season. Definitely don’t visit them in August. The Ursa Beach (north of Cape Roca) is a beautiful beach with very difficult access, which keeps most tourists out (only go if you’re in shape, climbing out of it is quite exhausting). Note, there may be nudists there. After September 15 or before July 15 you can also go through the village of Almoçageme to Adraga beach. There are at least three good restaurants on this road off the top of my head, and also what is in my opinion the best ice cream place in the country and one of the best in the world (and yes, I’ve been to Rome!) Another alternative is just driving north along the coast until you find an empty-ish beach. The entire portuguese coast has beaches at regular intervals.

    14. Visit the picturesque seaside village of Azenhas do Mar (just google it!) There are also good restaurants here.

    15. On your way back to town, instead of always taking the (main) valley road, if it’s the middle of the day, you may want to take the roads on the hills north of Sintra (that is, east from Azenhas). You can’t sea the Sintra mountains from the Sintra mountains. But you can see them from here! If the weather is good you’ll get some awesome photos. Also, this area is pretty nice too, in a countryside sort of way. It’s still part of the natural park, so construction permits are difficult to get.

    16. Back in town, don’t forget to visit the world famous pastry shops: Periquita, Gregório and Casa do Preto. Each of them has its own unique specialities (and some regular goodies too). Expect a ton of tourists at Periquita in the high season – since you’re staying in town, wink wink, try to go at the opening or closing hours!

    17. I haven’t yet mentioned the National Palace (or Town Palace). This is a tough one. This palace is actually awesome but it’s very difficult to find it tourist-free. This is an obvious thing to see if you’re visiting in the winter; If it’s the high season, I suggest you leave some time for it at the very end, check it out, and if there are too many people just go for a walk around old own instead. There are many great traditional houses *not* entirely hidden behind gates 😉

    There’s more stuff, but I hope this is enough for you to see your mistake here. You virtually went to Disneyland, beelined for the most popular ride, then quit because the line was too long. You should have just switched rides!

    Reply
    • More suggestions on what to do in Sintra. I still wouldn’t rent a car though ;-). I would be all over point #16. Bring on the pastries!!!!

      Reply
  23. Not sure you’ve ever attempted this, but avoid Cadaqués, Spain, in August too! I was in Begur outside Girona on vacation, and we tried a drive over to see Dalí’s home and museum. What should have been an hour drive turned into three. There are no traffic lights on the roads, only roundabouts that no one knows how to use (if people in the roundabout would use their turn signals for exiting, you could figure out whether to enter the roundabout yourself!). The traffic backed up for miles, and there was no shoulder to make it possible to turn around once we reached the mountain road, which was also bumper-to-bumper. These beautiful landmarks are best seen in the off season, though the joy of coastal areas is lingering all day, sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying all the sights and sounds along the beaches and promenades when it’s warm!

    Reply
    • OMG! That sounds like a nightmare!!!! I’m so glad you commented. We are planning on doing more discovery of Spain in the near future and even though I’ve been to Girona, he hasn’t been there and it’s one of the places l am considering so ..yeah.. I would not welcome another trip like that. We will save that for off season for sure. Truthfully, I think my blood pressure would have shot through the roof in your shoes. Nothing like being stuck and unable to get out. Don’t you just love travel stories though? Makes you tougher l think. Thanks so much for the comment :-).

      Reply
  24. It sounds like a pretty exasperating day. Giant crowds of people indeed ruin perfectly good trips. Glad that wine came to the rescue at the end! For counties renowned for architectural beauty, spectacular views & amazing signature tipples, incidents like this come as no surprise.Portugal has always held that special place in my heart. I have applied for a Portugal visa. I am extremely excited for this trip. Eager to relish the charismatic beauty of this seraphic destination!

    Reply
    • Congratulations on your decision to apply for a visa for Portugal. The country is lovely and l am partial to Porto of all three places we have been to there. That day was like a car wreck that you knew was coming and yet kept going. I should have just sucked it in and headed straight for the wine :-). It’ll be a long time before l make the mistake of attempting something like that again in the middle of summer and tourist season. Good luck with the plans and l hope you love it there, whichever part of Portugal you decide on :-). Thanks for reading and for the comment.

      Reply
  25. Well, a seasoned traveller would know not to go there in summer…

    Reply

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