Portugal’s West Coast – Sintra and Obidos

Leaving Lisbon, we picked up a rental car and set off for our two-week road trip.  We started our trip by traveling up Portugal’s west coast, but we didn’t make it very far before stopping in Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site just thirty minutes from Portugal’s capital city.  We spent the day at the Castle of the Moors and the Pena National Palace.  Afterwards, we continued north, stopping for the night in the beautiful walled city of Óbidos.

I think I forgot to mention in my last post that Bobby forgot his driver’s license, so I took on the driving duties for this road trip.  It really isn’t a big deal, until you get stuck on a one-way road so small you can’t turn around and you have to back down a hill with giant boulders lining each side.  We would have been fine had an old lady not come out of her house shaking her cane at us indicating that we couldn’t drive that way.  Actually, we could have gone that way and reached the main road in about 2.2 seconds, but instead, we spent 30 minutes backing back down the hill with a guy waiting on us to pass.  European driving in really small old towns is awesome.  Needless to say, after that ordeal, we were just happy to park in the first parking spot we found and get out of the car.  The parking spot happened to be all the way at the bottom of the town, so we hiked up to the castle and palace.  We hiked so far up that we found ourselves in a misty, foggy cloud with really low viability.

Paper mache animals

We stopped in the garden on the way up to hang out with the paper mache animals

Elephant

Ellie and me

View of the town of Sintra at the base of the mountain

View of the town of Sintra at the base of the mountain

At the Castle of the Moors, we could have had a great view of the town of Sintra below, had it not been for the weather.  We did walk around on the castle walls for a while though, which were pretty impressive.  The castle itself has a long and storied history.  It was constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries during the Arab occupation of the Iberian peninsula for protection of its people and land (Sintra is a lush area, great for agriculture).  In the 1100s, it was taken over by Christian forces and because much of the fortress’ structure was damaged over the years, the walls were rebuilt in the 1300s.  Much of what you see today is from that period.

Castle of the Moors

Castle of the Moors

View of the castle walls

View of the castle walls

Bobby and the castle walls

Bobby and the castle walls

If the castle’s visibility was less than ideal, then the visibility at the Pena National Palace, which sits even further up the mountain, was downright horrible.  It’s really unfortunate because what makes this place so special is its colorful exterior.  I pretty much gave up on trying to photograph it, but I’ll include a photo from the internet to show you what it should have looked like.

The Pena National Palace on a sunny day

The Pena National Palace on a sunny day

My poor photo :(

My poor photo :(

First a monastery (although the chapel is the only original piece that remains), the Pena National Palace is now one of the best examples of 19th-century Romanticism in the world.  It was built between 1842–1854 over the old monastery ruins and has elements of both its Christian and Moorish roots.  The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

Entry archway to the palace

Entry archway to the palace

Up close, the palace has amazing lavish details made from both sculpted rock and tiles.

Demon man (I'm not sure what he is) and sculpted coral arch

Man of the sea (I’m not sure what he is) and sculpted coral arch

Coral tiles

Coral tiles

Celebrating its Arab roots

Celebrating its Arab roots

Next up: Óbidos!  Apparently the name of the city “Óbidos” is derived from a Latin word meaning “citadel” or “fortified city.”  What a fitting name.  The small town of just over 3,000 people is walled in and flanked on one side by a castle.  It was built sometime after the year 711 as a Moorish settlement, but like the castle in Sintra, it was taken over by Christians in the 1100s.

We were so excited to see the city that upon arriving, even with the rain, we decided to walk the city walls.  It ended up being a little dangerous, since the stones were pretty slippery and the walls lack railings, so we made it halfway around and abandoned our trek for the next morning, when had much better weather.

Walking the walls in the rain

Walking the walls in the rain

Obidos Castle

Obidos Castle

Obidos Castle

Obidos Castle

View of the Obidos Castle from the walls

View of the Obidos Castle from the walls

Obidos walls

Obidos walls

I love the simple white-washed houses

I love the simple white-washed houses

Mom and Dad on the walls

Mom and Dad on the walls

Outside of the walls

Outside of the walls

Excellent view of the walls

Excellent view of the walls

The town itself reminded us of our travels to Greece with the whitewashed walls and simple blue and yellow outlines.  You can tell Óbidos relies heavily on tourism, but we didn’t find it overly tourist-y.  In fact, the town was having a local chocolate festival while we were visiting and many “locals” were out and about.  We saw chocolate cakes and sculptures and tried the local cherry liqueur (ginja) in edible chocolate cups.

The city of Obidos in the morning sun

The city of Obidos in the morning sun

Cherry + chocolate, a good combination

Cherry + chocolate, a good combination. You drink the liqueur and eat the “cup”

Next, we’re off to Porto for some site-seeing and port tasting!

Comments

  1. West coast is the best coast!

Trackbacks

  1. […] the Girona cake was the ability to climb on the city’s walls.  Italy has Lucca, Portugal has Obidos and Spain has Girona.  The beauty of the walls here is that that they are useful.  Unlike many […]

  2. […] take long to topple our “best walled cities” ranking.  We walked the walls in Obidos and Girona, and Avila’s were pretty impressive too, but Dubrovnik’s take the cake.  […]