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Tag: Sintra

2023 Europe Trip Report Recap

Toledo at Night

Toledo at Night

Looking back on our summer vacation, it was a wonderful, whirlwind trip where we got to see many unique locations. We didn’t have much time at any of the stops and so many places have been added to me “must return” list.

The trip started with 12 days at sea on a cruise ship and it was a great, relaxing way to get to Europe. If you have the time and you enjoy being out at sea, I highly recommend it. And we really enjoyed our time on the Norwegian Getaway. It is a big ship with a lot of different places to eat and things to do. I really think Norwegian’s Breakaway class ships are my favorite cruise ships.


Furnas on Saõ Miguel Island

Our first taste of Europe was in Ponta Delgada, Azores which is a place many people have never heard of. The landscape was anything I had ever seen before and one day just wasn’t enough time. We saw beautiful coastlines and steaming hot springs. We had food cooked in the ground. We bought some tea that was grown on the island. It was an incredible experience and we have been watching flight prices to Ponta Delgada since we got home.

Madeira was a place that has been on my list for a while and the one day just wasn’t enough to see everything. There were beautiful vistas and delicious food. We barely scratched the surface. We will be back to ride the toboggan in Monte!

Shadows as the sun set at Ponto Final

We arrived at mainland Europe in Lisbon and it was hot (it got up to 90°F) and our Airbnb did not have air conditioning, but this didn’t stop us from exploring the city! We had three full days in Lisbon but I would love to go back and dig deeper. We did a wonderful food tour where we tried all the food of the city. I celebrated my birthday with one of the most amazing dinners on the water that I think about all the time (above). And we explored the unique city of Sintra and its colorful castle.

We took a train from Lisbon to Porto where it was much cooler. Our Airbnb was in a great location that was just steps from one of the city’s famous bridges. We took the most amazing tour of the Duoro Valley where we learned so much about the history of the region and got to try some amazing wines. I feel like we barely scratched the surface on Porto. We will have to return and take another trip to the Duoro as well!

Toledo (top) was probably the most historically and architecturally interesting place that we visited on this trip. Walking through the streets was like walking back to the 11th century. The cathedral was breathtaking and one of the most ornate churches I have ever seen. If you are planning time in Madrid, take a day trip to Toledo. It is worth it.

Royal Palace of Madrid

I complained about the heat in Lisbon, but it only got worse in Madrid. I feel like the heat (highs above 100° F) and the difficulty escaping it really color my memories of Madrid. Of all the places we visited on this trip, I don’t feel a draw to return to Madrid. Other places in Spain (Andalucia, Asturias, Barcelona, etc) are still on my list, though.

From one temperature extreme to the other, we barely scratched the surface of Iceland but what we saw really makes me want to go back. It was an amazing landscape, in some ways very similar to the Azores, and I would love the time (and money) to properly explore it.

Overall, this trip was very long but went by very quickly. It was amazing and life-changing and I want to do it again next summer! You will have to wait and see where we are off to next!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wenesday: City Hall

Sintra City Hall

Wordless Wednesday: Pena Palace

Pena Palace

One Day in Sintra

Pena Palace

Sintra is a popular day trip from Lisbon and is known for its picturesque buildings and royal history. There are many private tour options that include round-trip transportation from Lisbon and there is also a train that runs to Sintra from Lisbon throughout the day. The train is included with the purchase of the Lisboa Card and the Lisboa Card offers discounts at several of Sintra’s monuments. Like many tourist destinations, Sintra gets busy during the day so it is important to get there early to avoid crowds. We decided to take an early train from Lisbon to Sintra. We used Bolt (Portugal’s version of Uber) to get around town.

Pena Palace is probably the most popular attraction in Sintra. As soon as we had our itinerary nailed down, I bought my tickets to Pena Palace online so I could get the earliest entry time and beat the crowds. For less than 3€ a person, I added a transfer from the gate to the palace to avoid a 30-minute uphill hike first thing in the morning. Lisboa Card offers a discount for entry to Pena Palace. I really enjoyed the view of the Palace from the terraces and exploring the surrounding Pena Park. If you are interested in historic furnishings and royal history, you may have appreciated the interior more than I did.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace started out as a monastery but was severely damaged by lightning and then destroyed during the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. In 1838, King Consort Ferdinand II set out to acquire the old monastery and other nearby estates and turn it into a summer home for the royal family. Construction of the palace was completed in 1854 in the Romantic style and it includes Medieval and Islamic elements. The Portuguese State purchased the palace in the late 1880’s and it was converted into a museum. In 1995 the Palace and the Cultural Landscape of Sintra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Quinta de Regaleira's Initiation Well From Pena Palace, we took another Bolt to Quinta de Regaleira. We did not pre-purchase tickets to the Quinta, but the line was short by the time we arrived and we were able to use our Lisboa Card for a discount. Quinta de Regaleira is famous for its Initiation Well (left). The Initiation Well is mysterious because it is a circular stairwell into the ground with no known purpose. It is recommended that if you want to walk down the Initiation Well you get there early because a line forms later in the day. We arrived around noon and had to wait a bit but it was worth it.

Quinta de Regaleira sits on more than nine acres so there is a lot to explore besides the Initiation Well. There are towers near the entrance that can be climbed, and a small chapel that be visited. Parts of the Romantic, five-floor Palace known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” can be toured (below).

Quinta de Regaleira

After we got our fill of Quinta de Regaleira we found a little cafe for a late lunch before exploring some of the shops in Sintra. Then, we did the downhill walk to the train station for our return to Lisbon. There were so many more monuments we didn’t have time to explore. I really wished we had stayed one night in Sintra to really get a feel for the place when all the day visitors leave. As I always say, I guess we will have to go back another time!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as we take the train from Lisbon to Porto! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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