From Batalha it wasn’t far to Alcobaça, yet another monastery, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. After so many monasteries, churches, cathedrals, cloisters, one might begin to wonder if it was really possible to see something new in Alcobaça, another building started hundreds of years ago and continued for hundreds of years with a mix of architectural styles that we’re getting used to seeing in Portugal — Gothic, Manueline, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque.
With a ticket you can get in to see the cloisters. Sure, it’s nice, but if you just want cloisters, well, the Convent of Christ in Tomar and Batalha are kind of hard to beat.
A visit to Alcobaça is absolutely worth it just to see the tombs of King Pedro and his lover, Ines. Before he was king and going against his father’s wishes, Pedro fell in love with Ines. His father had Ines killed, but when Pedro became king, he had (dead) Ines crowned Queen of Portugal and ordered the construction of these incredible tombs for Ines and himself — quite the love story!
The internet convinced me that on the way south we shouldn’t miss the hilltop village of Óbidos. Along the way we stopped at Caldas da Rainha (the Queen’s baths), famous for its curative mineral water. We enjoyed the Sunday morning fruit and vegetable market at one of the plazas.
After so many beautiful villages in Alentejo and Beira, Óbidos felt a little too much like Disneyland with its picturesque cobblestone streets so crowded with tourists. We managed a couple tourist-free photographs but didn’t stay long in the village.
We pushed on that day with our tailwind and made it to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time since leaving Faro six weeks earlier. I must say overall we had a fair bit of wind during our riding in Portugal. From Coimbra to Lisbon it was almost always a tailwind, often very strong.
Our next destination was Mafra National Palace. Since we missed the day to see the inside of the Ducal Palace in Vila Viçosa, I was excited to visit the palace in Mafra. I knew the palace was closed on Tuesdays so we dilly-dallied a little and spent a casual day visiting the surfing beaches of Santa Cruz, São Lourenço, Ribeira d’Ilhas, and Ericeira. Locals brag about this area being designated a “World Surfing Reserve”, a designation I had never heard of before.
We found a comfortable campsite just 4km from the Mafra National Palace, excited to visit it the following morning, Wednesday, when we knew they’d be open — unless of course it happens to be one of the five annual holidays like New Year, Easter, Christmas, May 1. Hahaha, it was Wednesday, May 1! Here’s what Mafra National Palace looks like from the outside:
After six weeks on the road with lots of climbing and especially hard climbing the final two weeks, Ferda in particular was getting pretty tired. Our last UNESCO World Heritage Site before Lisbon was the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, but Ferda was ready to throw the towel in and head straight to Lisbon. After walking the bikes down the steep rocky path into Carvalhal, Ferda said enough is enough. However, at that point skipping Sintra only saved us a couple kms so we pushed on. The thing that really saved Ferda was coming upon the Kadampa Buddhist Temple in the small village of Varzea de Sintra, a bit north of Sintra itself. The calming effect of the temple complex rejuvenated Ferda. We also really enjoyed chatting about Buddhist philosophy with Meski, an Eritrean volunteer at the temple.
Sintra is full of palaces, gardens, fountains, castles. We had a view of the Sintra National Palace (with two conical white towers) on the way into town,
and I liked this fountain as well:
There’s a ton to see in Sintra, and we only had one morning. Having struck out on palaces before, I considered visiting perhaps the Sintra National Palace or Sintra’s most iconic landmark, Pena Palace. In the end, however, we were thrilled with our choice to spend a few hours at Quinta da Regadeira. The estate was purchased at an auction in 1893 by a rich Brazilian. He spent 14 years working closely with Luigi Manini, an architect already famous in Portugal at the time, to finish the garden and palace.
It’s difficult to describe what they created at Quinta da Regaleira. Does magical realism only exist in Colombia? I told Ferda it was a cross between Olite Castle and a Japanese garden, but who besides me (and Kurt) has any idea what that means? There were fountains, caves, towers, a small palace, a waterfall, a couple impressive wells, including the most popular attraction (judging by the number of photos on social media), the Poço Iniciático. Quinta da Regadeira was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
I’ll start with the palace:
and continue with some garden photos:
Here’s the Poço Imperfeito (the Imperfect Well):
and finally the Poço Iniciático:
You exit the Poço Iniciático via a long cave-like tunnel to end up behind a waterfall and then carefully continue along previously submerged stepping stones to cross a pond (so it used to look like you were walking on water). A fun and crazy place.
Between Sintra and Lisbon we found a great campsite, our last of the trip, and finished the bicycle touring portion of our Portugal tour the following day in Lisbon.
Stayed turned, however, ’cause there’s still much more to visit in Portugal — what about Lisbon and the entire north of the country??!!
At one point I think I said one couldn’t have a post about Portugal without an azulejo photo.