Hiking Sintra Castles – Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors

Hiking Sintra Castles was the highlight, for me, of our trip to Portugal.

Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors, high above the town of Sintra, are two highlights of any visit.  Most people take a cab, tuk-tuk or the local bus (€4.60).  We wanted to hike, but couldn’t find much information online, so I decided to write a more detailed post on how to get to the castles on foot.

How to get to Sintra

We took the metro to Rossio (€1.50). From there we bought a train ticket for €2.25 (€4.50 return) and took the 40 minute train ride to the last stop.

When we exited the train station there were dozens of people trying to get us to book a ride or tour, but no signs saying which way to go if you wanted to walk. 

Follow these directions to hike to the Sintra castles.  We eventually walked down this street, which was about one o’clock after exiting the station.

Soon we saw the Sintra Municipal building on the right.

We kept it to our right and followed the road as it curved to the left around a roundabout.

We were soon on Volta Duche, winding its way up to the historic center of Sintra.

You know you are in the historic center when you see the National Palace of Sintra.  

From the train station, the walk is about 10 to 15 minutes to the historic center.

Hiking Sintra Castles

We were anxious to get to the castles so we decided to save wandering the historic center until later.  We went straight to the Tourist Information Center (the building with the big black and yellow sign that says SINTRA).

We asked for directions at the TI, but they just gave us a map and pointed us back out the door.  We looked at the map and realized that it didn’t help us at all (hence the need for this post).

Hiking Sintra Castles

We took the road to the left of the Tourist Information Center.  In less than 5 minutes the road came to a T.

Quinta de Regaleira

The castles are to the left.  However, before going to the castles, we took a right at the T and in about 5 minutes came to Quinta de Regaleira.  This is actually a really unique place and, in the end, I liked it better than either of the castles.  Admission recently went up to €8.

We headed down the road another 5 minutes or so, and came to Palacio de Seteais on the right. It’s worth a brief stop (it’s free to roam the grounds) simply for the views.

Across the road from Palacio de Seteais, we saw this trail.  This is one of the ways to get to the Pena Palace.  We did NOT go this way, so can’t provide any details.

Hiking Sintra Castles - Rampa da Pena

The Trek to Castle of the Moors

We turned around and went back to where the T was in the road

Hiking Sintra Castles

and this time went what would be left at the T (technically coming from Quinta de Regaleira we just went straight).  Soon after, the road came to a T again.

Hiking Sintra Castles

At this point there were a number of people who stopped us and explained how hard the climb was and tried to talk us into taking a tour with them or at least a ride to the top.  We politely declined and continued past them and to the right.  We followed the sign to Vila Sassetti.

Hiking Sintra Castles - Signs

Pass through Vila Sassetti

We got to this point and, with the iron gates, didn’t know if we were allowed to enter.  Well, you can.  We went through the gate on the left that says Vila Sassetti.

Hiking Sintra Castles

Once inside, we followed the well manicured, cobbled path.

Hiking Sintra Castles - Trail

It was all uphill but the walk was so nice we barely noticed the climb.

Hiking Sintra Castles

After maybe 10 minutes, we came to Vila Sassetti.  The building is closed, but we stopped to look around the grounds for a few minutes.

From here we got a view of the Castle of the Moors.  Yes, it’s still pretty far away.

Hiking Sintra Castles

We found some restrooms.  These rest rooms were some of the cleanest public rest rooms I have ever been in.  And they are free (not so common in Europe).

Hiking Sintra Castles

After a bathroom break we continued along the path, which is, again, all uphill, but pretty easy to follow.

Hiking Sintra Castles

We came to a wall (forgot to take a picture) with a door in it and climbed through.  Apparently we left Vila Sassetti as, from this point on, it was a simple dirt path.

Hiking Sintra Castles

The path was easy to follow as, when there were questions as to which way to go, there was always a sign pointing the way.

Hiking Sintra Castles - more signs

Castle of the Moors

Finally we got close enough to get a great view of the Castle of the Moors.  From this view, you have about 5 more minutes of walking to the ticket booth.

The Castles - Hiking Sintra Castles

After the ticket booth, we had another 5 minute walk along this path to get to the main entrance.

Hiking Sintra Castles

We eventually came to the inner wall.  To get past this point, you need a ticket (€10).  We chose not to buy the ticket and turned around after having lunch on a bench.

Hiking Sintra Castles

Pena Palace

We walked the 5 minutes back along the path to the Castle of the Moors ticket booth and turned left and followed the road, along with a jillion cars and busses.

Hiking Sintra Castles

About 5 minutes later we came to the entrance of the Pena Palace.  
Admission:  €14.

Hiking Sintra Castles

Summary: Hiking Sintra Castles

We much preferred to walk to the castles instead of getting a ride up. We were alone most of the time and the scenery was great.

It took about 15 minutes from the train station to the historic center.

From the historic center to the Castle of the Moors took us another 45 minutes or so. We took our time and looked around, so you could probably make it up faster if you wanted to.

8 Comments

  1. I have done this hike before and found the exit from the train to be the most confusing part. The bus is an immediate right turn down the street that runs parallel to the train tracks if you choose to get a ride to the top.

    To make the hike, go a tiny bit straight and it’s like a T on the road. Follow it to the right. (Not the immediate right as described to the bus, but the other right that heads almost straight from where you exited the station). You’ll soon hit a small roundabout- take the left on that and keep following the road until you end up in the historic Old Town.

    I am older and out of shape. I thought it was a pleasant 45 minute hike after leaving town. Don’t listen to people saying it’ll take an hour or hour-and-half to do the hike or how strenuous it is. It’s a very nice hike. Not easy, but not difficult either. I saw a woman in her 60s having no trouble as well as a very heavy gentleman. So, it is a hike that a lot of regular folks can do. I did this hike in January. Don’t think it would be as nice in the middle of the summer.

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    1. Dee, thanks for the additional insight. Yes, I found exiting the train to be very confusing. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this post and a reason I used a lot of pictures.
      Additionally, we were told how long and hard the climb was, but we too did not find it that difficult, though it was uphill most of the way.
      Finally, we went in January also, and the weather was nice and cool, so yes, in the middle of the summer it may be much different.
      Thanks for reading.

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  2. Thank you so much for the detailed description of the town and the hike. My wife and I went there in early March 2020 and it was a piece of cake following the direction as described.
    We did take the trail across the road from Palacio de Seteais (Seteais Trail). It was a rugged narrow trail through thick vegetation. We did not encounter any other hikers until after we got to the main road leading up to Pena Palace. It was an interesting, strenuous hike and we enjoyed the solitude among different types of trees/flowers.

    Thanks again for sharing!

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    1. Hoang, I am glad you found the post useful. I wanted others to have an easier time than I had. Was the Seteais Trail easy to follow?

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      1. I got an error on the initial reply so my apologies if this is a duplicate.

        The first 1/3 part of the trail was easy to follow. After getting to the main road, you can either follow the road (having to dodge traffic), or cut across the road to head straight up and bypass some of the switchbacks. We did a little of each. There were markings, but they were difficult to see.
        We enjoyed the adventure, but would recommend staying on the road after coming out of the woods.

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      2. Thanks Hoang. Between the two of us hopefully we can help others do the hikes more easily.

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