AirToob Lightning
Sintra, Portugal, June 2017

Last month we returned to Portugal, one of our favourite countries. The people are so nice, the cost of living is low, and the Portuguese really care about their environment, with almost 100% of their energy needs coming from renewables (as we learnt last year on a wonderful cruise on the Douro river).

Our visit last year included a too-short day trip to Sintra, so we returned this year to see it properly, staying in a wonderful Airbnb property (see below) very close to its centre.

Sintra (map link) is a 40-minute commuter train ride from Lisbon (costing less than 3€), a UNESCO World Heritage site with an interesting history, and has been among other things a place for aristocracy and royalty to escape to in hot weather.

I took this picture of Sintra's centre on a walk down from the Castle of the Moors - see later.
The building with the conical white roofs is the National Palace of Sintra, which we greatly enjoyed visiting last year.
Our Airbnb place (see next photos) is just outside the left edge of the shot.

The terrace of our Airbnb place (click the picture if you want to see the property details)

A great view from the terrace

and beautiful gardens (from which we were supplied with juicing oranges and PYO salad vegetables)...

containing a great warm swimming pool...

and many other nice features!
This was one of the best self-catering places we have ever stayed in, with mega-helpful owners.

On our day trip to Sintra last year, we saw the Castle of the Moors perched high above the town, although we didn't have time to visit then. We assumed that it was the highest site of interest in Sintra, but (as we were shortly to find out) that wasn't the case!

Even if you get the bus up to the castle (recommended!), there is still something of a climb before you reach the real entrance

Inside, the castle is not the bleak rocky expanse we had been expecting, but now a very pleasant park enclosed by ramparts

...and from here we could see the palace in the vast Quinta da Regaleira (see later), which looks down on the Castle of the Moors

Although the 5.5€ bus ticket for the Castle of the Moors (and the Quinta da Regaleira) is a round trip, we decided to take the 40-minute walk back down to Sintra...

...on a path which descends steeply, in the upper stages crossing to and fro across a ravine...

...passing other properties which are sometimes open to the public

A couple of days later we took the bus again up to the Quinta da Regaleira, heading for the roof the the (local) world

The Quinta is a vast hilly estate where you can spend a whole day walking, containing many architectural features
Only a tiny part of the estate features in these photos - we will have to return one day!

The Iniciatic (Masonic Initiation) Well is not a well but one of two “inverted towers”, this one 27m deep. A network of tunnels and grottos leads from the bottoms of the wells to each other and to outlets lower down in the estate - see here
(not my photo, click the image for its source)

We climbed higher, heading for the very top... this section was a very atmospheric forest with several rocky outcrops

Still climbing, looking down on the Palace (which we didn't have time to visit, except for the restaurant which we declined to eat in, not being up to normal Portugal standards)

As on many days, sea mist was capping the hills with clouds...

.. and when we finally reached the Cruz Alta (High Cross), the highest point above Sintra, the hidden horizon made it look as if the ships in the distance were floating in the sky!

This photo of the Cruz Alta on a sunny day was taken by National Geographic photographer Ricardo M L Alves da Silva who lives in nearby Carcavelos, and whose other work is well worth exploring

[Portugal visit continues in Part 2]