Our Visit to the Castelo dos Mouros - Sintra.
Early in December 2019, on a gorgeous blue sky day we drove from Lisbon to Sintra to visit the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) hoping to encounter less tourists than one would meet there during peak season.
We parked in one of the large free town car-parks (which was an event in itself) and set off walking up to the Castelo dos Mouros. On our way up, just outside the town centre we met a very persistent tuk-tuk driver who told us it would take 2.5 hours to walk to the Castle and wanted us to pay him to bring us there instead. I, having done my research online knew that his time suggestion was grossly inaccurate so we politely declined his offer. The approximately 2.3km long hike to the Castle took us about 35 minutes and it was a very enjoyable quiet hike. Here is a photo of one section of the path within the forest:
The Castelo dos Mouros!
The Castelo dos Mouros is a:
“… fortification built around the 10th century after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, being expanded after the Christian reconquest.” (Source here).
As was written on the information signs inside the Castle, the Castle acted as:
“… a watchtower over the Atlantic Coast and the northern territories, functioning as an observation post of the city of Lisbon.”
The gate through which we entered was unlocked/unmanned and the ticket office and shop there were closed due to the time of year. We were only in the outer area of the Castle, you can see where we entered below (No. 3):
We took our time checking out the view and followed the signs up through the grounds to the main ticket office.
We passed some massive boulders resting on each other making a cave behind:
Catching a glimpse of Pena Palace:
At the main entrance there was a bit more life and a small queue to purchase tickets. Our tickets were €8 pp. For more information on opening hours and ticket prices see here.
We were given a map of the Castle with our tickets but there are signposts too so it is easy to navigate around. We followed the path into the inner castle area.
Once inside the castle walls properly, having shown our tickets to enter, we climbed up some steps to our right, to one of the look out towers (the Alcáçova/Arab Alcove/Castle Keep) and then made our way around the circumference (anti-clockwise) of the walls. The walk around the walls would be very slow if it was busy, as it is narrow and you can only go as fast (or slow) as the person in front of you. The view was really stunning from the top of the walls of the Castle though, well worth a visit on a clear day.
From the top of the Alcáçova/Arab Alcove/Castle Keep we could see the higher part of the Castle (the Royal Tower) where we were headed, it is the part that is the closest to Pena Palace:
In the photo below you can see Pena Palace on the left and the highest part of Castelo dos Mouros on the right:
Zoomed in on Pena Palace with the position of the sun making for some not so great shots!
Some photos next showing the view of the surrounding landscape, as we walked anti-clockwise towards the Royal Tower:
In the next photo, the arrow is pointing to the Palácio Nacional de Sintra (Sintra National Palace) which we hope to another time.
Climbing up the many stone steps to the Royal Tower and looking back to where we came from and also towards the Traitors Gate:
Up and up we go!
We made it to the Royal Tower where there is the best view of Pena Palace (pictured below) but again with the sun position affecting the images!
On the very left of this next photo you can see people walking on the path up to/down from Pena Palace:
You can get a better idea of the path up to Pena Palace in the next few images and the gorgeous forest setting:
The view of the rest of the Castle from the Royal Tower. The tower furthest to the right in the image below is where we started, the Alcáçova/Arab Alcove/Castle Keep:
Once we had finished enjoying the view from the Royal Tower we made our way down to the lower/inner Castle area and spent some time looking around there. We then sat and ate our picnic lunch in the sunshine before heading back to our car.
We both really enjoyed our visit to the Castelo dos Mouros and we will definitely be going back to do some more hiking in that area. It was great to be able to visit on a not so busy day, I think it would be a real headache to visit if it was peak tourist season where you would have to be fighting for space and photo opportunities.
The town of Sintra is really gorgeous too although during peak season it is too busy to be enjoyable. We have tried to visit Quinta da Regaleira on two occasions but both times it was so crowded we bailed! But we will get there one day and finally get to see it’s famous Torre Invertida which you might recognise from the following image which I took from here - pretty cool!