Portugal and Quinta Da Regularia

We finally got back from our 2 weeks in Portugal. We had an excellent time but I am still catching up on sleep. We spent time in Lisboa, Sintra, Ericerea, Evaro, Coimbra and Porto — not enough time in any one place, but we only had two weeks. There was so much to do, but I think my favorite thing was visiting Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra. All of Portugal is great — the people are great, the food is great, and there is a castle on every hill and a fantastic looking church down every narrow, crooked street, but the Quinta Da Regularia was really weird and fun.

The Quinta was built in the early 1900s by some millionaires with all sorts of strange ideas about alchemy, the masons, astrology and I don’t know what else. They were also probably pretty devout Catholics since they built a really fancy chapel on the property. The property is fairly large and wooded, but filled with small paths, gardens, caves, grottoes, amphitheaters, etc. I get the impression that the place was constructed as a ‘symbolic artwork’ that you were supposed to walk through, by passing through certain passages and tunnels, you were suppose to symbolize the transmutation of lead into gold via alchemy (or something like that). There were tunnels and grottoes everywhere, and a really elaborate ‘palace’ house, extensive gardens and even some secret stone doors.

Typical tower

Typical tower

There are towers like this one (above) scattered all over the property. While they provide negligible defensive value, you can climb up ’em and look around. The place is such a maze it’s really hard to get a sense of how big it is.

spiral stairs

spiral stairs

You can climb up the towers via tiny little staircases that might be a problem if you are a ginormous fatty — while walking the whole Quinta is not particularly hard exercise, if you can’t walk 100 paces without stopping for a rest, it will kill you and they will have a really hard time getting your body out because some of the places are pretty tight.


Once you climb up one of these many towers that are dotted all over the landscape, you will probably see something like this (above). Like all of Sintra, it’s on a hillside and the builders added paths, streams, walls, statues, gardens, etc. You can walk 10 or 20 feet and discover a new grotto or path or statue. It’s fun to just explore.

Annie opens a secret door

Annie opens a secret door

Here Annie is opening one of the three different stone ‘secret doors’ we found (above photo). You have to be pretty strong to open them; Annie keeps herself fit and is up to the task. The stone doors lead to tunnels, staircases and passages (which are pretty fantastic but I didn’t get a lot of photos because they are really dark inside). Some of the tunnels terminate in one of two ‘wells’ that are deep pits with spiral stairs that curl around the shaft so you can climb up and look down or down and look up. Like this:

Down inside one of the wells looking up

Down inside one of the wells looking up

There’s really so much more, and these crappy photos don’t do it justice — after a while I just stopped bothering to take pictures because they really didn’t give a good sense of the place and I just wanted to keep looking and experiencing it rather than trying to figure out how to take pictures of it. But a lot of Portugal was like that.

This map probably give a better idea of how elaborate and fantastic this place is:


4 Comments on “Portugal and Quinta Da Regularia”

  1. mikemonaco says:

    amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Stephan says:

    There are a couple better pics by someone else here: http://www.luuux.com/places/mystical-place-portugal
    We visited in mid to late August when Portugal is fairly hot and dry; the photographer at the above site must have visited in spring — the well and the shore of the pool in his pictures are covered in beautiful green moss.
    There is also a part where you exit a cave from the bottom of one of the wells and cross a small pool by stepping on very small stepping stones about 1/2 the size of my foot (and my foot isn’t particularly big). People apparently fall in regularly. I know I took pictures of the stepping stone pool but have to sort my photos to find it.

  3. ClawCarver says:

    Wow. I’ve never heard of the place. It kind of looks like a cross between Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona and Clough Williams-Ellis’s Portmeirion in Wales. Only more… Portuguese, I suppose. I’ve long wanted to return to Portugal (I was five years old the last time) and this is an added incentive. Thanks!

  4. Stephan says:

    I’ve always wanted to go see the Gaudi work in Barcelona — I don’t know ‘Portmeiron’ but will have to look it up… I also want to go see the ‘Palace of the Ideal’ in France that was built by a postman named Cheval. I love these types of artworks/monuments.
    If I only had time to visit just one place in Portugal, I might make Sintra my destination of choice. In addition to the Quinta, you have a ~12th century Moorish castle on a mountain overlooking the town (the walls are in fairly good shape and you can walk the battlements but the interior buildings are mostly gone — very impressive fortification that takes great advantage of the terrain), the ‘Pena’ palace which was a summer residence of nobles (it’s a palace that looks like a cross between a castle and a Cecil B. Demille movie set in an ‘Oriental’ style with onion domes, elaborate gates and carvings, etc. The famous “Triton Gate” that portrays a monstrous merman with a tree growing out of his head is worth the price of admission… this place gives Neuschwanstein a run for it’s money if you like crazy elaborate noble palaces). Sintra also has The National Palace (much more reserved than Pena, but much older and filled with history and art… plus I’m betting that Gaudi would have loved the chimneys in the National Palace’s kitchen that are just gigantic cones that you can stand in and look upwards out the flue — really amazing) and, nearby, a palace called ‘Monserrate’ built in the 19th century in the style of what an English architect would imagine for a Turkish palace. Monserrate has recently been re-opened after having been closed for decades. Restoration is not complete, but the place is a marvel of conspicuous consumption.
    The town of Sintra is also beautiful; unfortunately, it is really crowded with all of the other people who are there to admire it and there are lots of shops selling things like souvenirs and fancy desserts but few selling the things we really wanted (batteries and a handkerchief). But while Lisboa was really hot, Sintra (which is less than 2 hours away) is cooler and surrounded by lush green rugged hills. The town is pretty touristy, with all sorts of souvenir shops and what not and the crowds were a bit out of hand, but we were there at the same time that all of Spain seemed to be taking their vacation; perhaps if one came at another time you wouldn’t have to share the place with so many other visitors. That’s the irony of travel — I want to go to places that are interesting, but when I get there I resent all of the other people who showed up for the same reason.

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