Getting Cultish at Quinta da Regaleira
Come for the mystical symbols, stay for the Gothic-palace-growing-out-of-nature magic.
Quinta da Regaleria is located in Sintra, forty minutes outside of Lisbon. Trains run frequently from Lisbon's Rossio Train Station to Sintra Train Station.
From the train station, the easiest way to reach the palace is by taking the number 434 Circuito da Pena bus to Sintra Turismo stop. From there, it is a fairly short and beautiful uphill walk to the entrance to the palace's grounds. Conversely, from the Sintra Turismo stop, you can take the Villaexpress 435 bus directly to the palace grounds.
Plan to get to Quinta da Regaleria as early as possible. The grounds are stunning — full of obscure cultish symbols, underground grottos, an amazing multi-story initiation well, among other sites — but quickly become crowded, which does detract from the experience.
If you are seeing Quinta da Regaleria as part of seeing the rest of Sintra, this palace makes either a good first or last stop, as it is not serviced by the 434 Circuito da Pena bus, which makes stops at most of the other major sites.
It was at the bottom of the Initiation Well that the magical grandeur of Quinta da Regaleira fully struck. At its base — reachable through a network of grottos spanning across the entirety of the palace's estate — was a perfectly rounded marble slab decorated with the symbols of the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. After the darkness of the caves, the well's base radiated brightness as sunlight poured down from an opening 88 feet above.
From the base, a moss-covered spiral staircase led the ten stories up to the surface where the well's exit suddenly transformed into a turret overlooking Quinta da Regaleira's grounds. Far below the turret lay visible the carefully manicured Waterfall Lake, the paving stones across it, and the entrance to the grotto network; above us, the palatial grounds sloped uphill to become more thickly forested and primal.
Outside of the Initiation Well, the grounds of Quinta de Regaleira sprawled out in a dense array of mystical structures that seemed to sprout of the park's own natural outgrowths. Largely designed and built in the early 1900s, the palace includes a wide array of cultic symbols and styles; throughout the palace and its grounds are alleged symbolic callbacks to alchemy, the Masons, the Knights Templar, and the mystical Rosicrucian movement.
Then again, this isn't all that surprising when you consider that one of the main draws of the palace is literally called "the Initiation Well," which was used for Tarot initiation ceremonies.
Arriving early in the morning and entering the ground's as some of the first guests of the day, the park's mixture of extreme Gothic grandeur, primal natural beauty, and (the early morning) emptiness, made me feel as if I had stumbled into the castle grounds from Beauty and the Beast. Point being, if you have the good fortune of beating other tourists to the palace, it feels like one of the most magical places on earth.