Sintra: Exploring Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira was the first place we headed to in Sintra (after lunch, obviously) and I knew we had to visit because it looks like a fairytale. Trust me, it really is that dreamy. Like the National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira is located in the old town of Sintra, so if you're in already in town there's no need to take a bus, taxi or tuk-tuk.

This was the one place in Sintra I was unable to book tickets online in advance (you can book a guided tour online) but even though we were there on a Saturday, we were able to walk straight into the ticket office to buy our tickets. COVID-19, I guess. Adult tickets cost €10. (UPDATE: You can now also buy non-guided tour tickets online - hurrah!)

Quinta means "estate" so Quinta da Regaleira is basically a palace in Sintra with extensive gardens to explore where you'll discover grottoes, lakes, a chapel, greenhouses, fountains and two initiation wells. What's an initiation well, you may wonder. It's certainly a strange thing - it's basically an inverted tower. Instead of the tower going up into the sky, it goes down into the ground. No one's quite sure exactly what they were used for, but some sort of ritual is likely. 

We only explored the larger initiation well which spirals down into the ground - the other one is known as the unfinished well and has straight stairs. At the bottom of this initiation well is a network of tunnels leading off to various grottoes dotted around the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira. Again, we didn't get to see everything as we could only spend around two hours there. I reckon you'd need to spend at least three hours there to explore fully. 

We did explore the Labyrinthic grotto by the unnamed lake - thank goodness smartphones have lights on them! - which was slightly creepy, but also kind of cool (lake pictured from the entrance of the grotto below). If you're also visiting Quinta da Regaleira you'll spend most of your time in the gardens. Beware though that the grounds are very hilly - that's the story of Sintra, really - and you will have to queue for the initiation well (at least whilst COVID-19 is still impacting daily life as they're, rightly, limiting crowds from forming).


The other queue you might face at Quinta da Regaleira is to get into the palace, though the line moves quite quickly as only the ground floor is currently accessible to the public (as of September 2020). The palace itself was designed by Luigi Manini and is nicknamed "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire" based on the nickname of its owner, Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. Monteiro bought the land from the Viscountess of Regaleira, so that's why it's known as Quinta da Regaleira and not Quinta da Monteiro. 

Quinta da Regaleira is definitely worth visiting, and I'd prioritise this second if you only have limited time in Sintra - number one on your visit list should be Pena Palace, which I'll share about next time! What do you think to Quinta da Regaleira? x

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