As our time in the Algarve came to a close we realised that we had a slight problem. Our plane wasn’t due to fly out of Lisbon for three more days and we needed a place to stay. Unfortunately all the hotels in and around Lisbon were booked up. Luckily though, I suggested we head over to the town of Sintra, which lies just on the outskirts of Lisbon. It was close enough that we wouldn’t have to make a long drive to the airport but most importantly it wasn’t too close that every hotel was booked. Thankfully my tactful reasoning worked and we were able to get a hotel in the centre of Sintra. Though secretly the only reason I wanted to go there at all was because my guide book said that the Pena National Palace was one the top five sights of Portugal.
Our first evening in Portugal was really pleasant. The town is a beautiful place, filled with romantic monuments and architecture. We stopped off at a little restaurant for dinner but unfortunately none of the staff on duty spoke English and we spoke only a little Portuguese. Nevertheless we ordered our food and hoped it came out right, and we considered it to all part of the fun. Sadly my order wasn’t correct and I got saddled with squid. Lacking the language skills to get it exchanged, I resolutely dug it. Never again…ergh..squid. Luckily though, the chocolate mousse we had for pudding was incredible and it more than made up for the squid. We then wandered through the town and my ears quickly picked up music from the Lord of the Rings. I love movie soundtracks, so I hurriedly sought out the location of where this music was originating from. It turned out that the local school orchestra were preforming in the town square that evening. So we settled down and listened to some lovely renditions of Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as some more local Portuguese music.
The next day we drove into the Sintra Mountains to see the spectacular Pena Palace. But first, we stopped off at the Castelo dos Mouros (The Castle of the Moors), a medieval Moorish castle which dominates the Sintra skyline.
The castle was founded between 8th-9th centuries after the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsular and the castle was designed to provide protection for the local farming communities. In 1147, following the conquest of Lisbon, the castle voluntarily surrendered to the Christian army of Alfonso Henriques. Afterwards, the castle slowly fell into disuse and in the reign of King Manuel, the castle’s last inhabitants (a Jewish community) were expelled from its walls.
Like most of Portugal, the castle was heavily damaged during the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and by 1838 the castle was in ruins. Since then there have several efforts to preserve the castle which remains in stunning condition.
Castelo dos Mouros itself is situated high in the Sintra Mountains, and from is ramparts audiences are greeted with an expansive sight of Sintra, Lisbon area, with stretching as far down as Cabo da Roca. It you want a castle with a view, this definitely is one for you, as long as you don’t mind the uphill walk to reach it.
I hope you enjoyed this fifth part of my trip to Portugal. If you did enjoy it feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.