Where We Be
Quinta da Regaleira -- Sintra, Portugal
If you’re looking for a fun day in Sintra, look no
further than Quinta da Regaleira. Quinta means
villa or country house in Portuguese, and this
villa, just a 15-minute walk from Sintra, offers
an unusual and whimsical property to explore
that's full of delightfully eccentric nooks and
crannies. It's extensive enough to include a
maze of underground tunnels -- as well as
grottoes, towers, fountains, gardens, cisterns,
a lake, a chapel, and statues galore. It often
feels as if you've stumbled upon a curious
sight by chance and are only seeing a fraction
of all there is to see as you wander the tree-  
covered property on meandering paths.

The undoubted highlight for us was entering
the dragon-defended Portal of the Guardians,
picking our way (sans flashlight) through a dark
twisting tunnel, and unexpectedly coming out
at the bottom of a deep well. It was disorienting
but in a good way! A stone stairway spiraled up
the walls of the well towards the light. Known
as the "Initiatic Well," it's a magical spot at the
center of a fantastically offbeat property.
Quinta da Regaleira offers adventure on three levels with its maze of underground
tunnels, winding paths, and climbable towers, making it a fascinating place to explore
We don't like touring with crowds, so we arrived early before the
place opened at 10 am. It's just a 15-minute walk outside of town.
The facade of the palace is appropriately
ornate for a place as fanciful as this
The property surrounding the palace is extensive --
and the grounds are where the real exploring begins
It didn't take us long to find this charming castle turret to climb
Eventually we stumbled upon this majestic
entryway -- The Portal of the Guardians
The two dragons seem more interested in each other
than in guard duty, so we were able to sneak past
They only have eyes for each other
After picking our way through an extremely dark and twisting
tunnel, we ended up here, at the bottom of a deep well
This is the Initiatic Well. Think “Initiate,” since the whole maze of sights that constitutes
Quinta da Regaleira has overtones of a quest for paradise or exploration of the cosmos.
Per the brochure: “A subterranean tower...sinks some 27 meters into the earth,
made accessible by a monumental spiral stairway; this hallowed space, full of esoteric
and alchemical associations, makes the relation between Heaven and Earth intensely felt”
We retraced our steps to the bottom of the well to explore a second, even longer tunnel
system leading off in yet another direction. It emerged at these cute stepping stones.
Much of the property is covered with trees, but
occasional glades appear that are full of flowers
Dark, mysterious, watery -- absent a boat it's impossible
to explore some of the caverns on the property
No Sintra palace would be complete without azulejo -- the
distinctive blue and white painted tiles that are uniquely Portuguese
The brochure says, “Between 1898 and 1912 Carvalho Monteiro dedicated all his attention to the transformation of his
favorite place to its present day form.” He worked closely with his architect, Luigi Manini, to make the place what it is.
The chapel is small but charming, filled with imagery
associated with Christianity, the Knights Templar, and Masonry
After touring the grounds, we paused for coffee at the
on-premises cafe before exploring the palace's interior
The mansion's interior is worth seeing but
frankly not as intriguing as the property itself
But don't miss the panoramic views of
Sintra from the top of the tallest turret
Doesn't this seem like the kind of
place a kid at heart would design?