Wanna See the Quinta da Regaleira Well?
“Hey there’s this well in Portugal I want us to go to while we’re there.” I said into the phone.
“What do you mean? Like a wishing well? Angie asked.
“No…it’s called an Initiation Well, you can go down in it.” I pulled up pictures on my phone and pushed send.
“So what…Like on a rope? Or lowered down in a bucket?” Angie laughed.
“No not like that.” I giggled. “Like steps.”
“Woah that is really cool.” Angie opened the photo. “Yes, absolutely add it to the list…Wait, this isn’t one of those secretly haunted places, is it?”
“I’m pretty sure no, but I can’t guarantee it.”
I had stopped trying to lure Angie into haunted places without her knowledge a while back, but she has remained vigilant and suspicious.
I Was in Sintra in Portugal – My Luggage Was Still in Chicago
It was June 2019 and our 1st full day in Sintra Portugal. We had flown in the previous day and visited the Cabo Roca sea cliffs and bought a few essentials at a local store. (I had arrived in Lisbon, but my luggage apparently opted for another day in Chicago.) After an amazing dinner we had an early night at Chalet O Amorzinho, the seaside hotel where we were staying.
Fortunately I had my pillow and tooth guard stashed in my carry on. Though I was a bit nervous that all of my pain tools and implements for my Tmj headaches were in my lost luggage.
In the morning, I was rocking my newly acquired grocery store t-shirt and we were on our way. After a stop at the Palacio de Monserrate, it was only a 6 minute drive to Quinta da Regaleira.
Where Do You Park for Quinta da Regaleira?
The roads in Sintra were narrow and at times we were uncertain if we were driving on a road or a walkway. The crowd increased around the castle and despite our eagle eyes, we were unable to locate a parking spot. There was no designated parking lot, only street side options.
“Ok…we could keep going straight to see if there’s parking.” I stared at the GPS. “If we turn off, we have to circle back through town.”
Is This Even a Road?
“I don’t think that’s a road.” Angie leaned forward in the driver’s seat to gauge the width of the area ahead of us.
“It’s hard to tell. All the streets are so narrow. I can’t tell what is a road and what isn’t.” I reasoned.
We inched forward.
“I’m thinking…definitely not a road.” Angie began to carefully back up the path we had started down.
There looked to be about an inch on either side of the car between us and the concrete walls lining the road. We successfully backed out and took the turn.
The road routed us around a series of one way streets away from the castle and it took over 20 minutes to wind back around.
The Beautiful Fonte dos Pisoes
A couple blocks before Quinta da Regaleira we found a side of the road parking space and walked the rest of the way up the hilly cobblestone sidewalk. Along the way, we stopped to admire Fonte dos Pisoes, a 1931 public fountain with carved statues and mosaic work.
Getting our Quinta da Regaleira Tickets
We paid the 8 euros to enter the castle grounds and were given a map. The Initiation Well was not the only attraction on the almost 10 acre UNESCO Heritage Site. We approached a platform with a Mesopotamian style tower called a Ziggurat.
Climb That Ziggurat!
“I’m going to run up to the top of the tower. Take my picture.” Angie took off towards the steps.
I stood at the ready waiting for her head to appear from the various vantage points.
“Rapunzel…throw down your hair.” I called up to her.
We consulted the map and continued up the path.
Is This the Quinta da Regaleira Well?
“I think that’s it.” Angie half jogged towards a rail with several people peering over.
I appeared at her side and we both stared down into the dark stone shadows.
“It looks different than the photos…smaller.” I aimed my camera down into the mossy stone structure. “I don’t think this is it.”
“Are you sure?” Angie inquired. “It’s a well.”
Into the Inferno – Inititiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
We consulted the map again to discover there were in fact, two wells. This one was called the Unfinished Well. A short way up the path was the Initiation Well.
“Wow.” I stared down at the compass rose on the Templar cross at the bottom. “This does have kind of an eerie vibe, doesn’t it?”
“Check it out.” Angie pointed. “There’s the steps…let’s walk down.”
We began to descend the 27 meters down into the cool stone well. It smelled of dampness and earth.
“I read that everything on the property has some kind of symbolism.” I leaned over the rail to take a photo. “This well was never actually used as a well. This inverted tower was used for Masonic Initiation rituals.” My low voice echoed strangely off the mossy stone walls. I continued, “The nine levels of descending stairs are thought to represent the 9 circles of Dante’s Inferno.”
“Ok that’s enough…tell me later.” Angie interrupted. “You’re creeping me out.”
We inched forward into the darkness, the only light was from the circular opening above. It got cooler and darker with each step down. Arched stone windows spiraled down the length of the steps.
Tunnels and Caves Beneath the Initiation Well
At the bottom, I gazed up through the tunnel to the top. The small opening of light was covered by trees.
A path at the bottom led us through a dark tunnel. The side was lined with low yellow lights that made the cave look as if it were illuminated with fire. There was no way to know where we were headed. There were several paths to choose, grottos and small caves along the way which we excitedly explored.
“This is so cool. I had no idea this was all here.” Angie called back to me.
I know…me neither. I love this.”
We stepped carefully on the uneven dirt path, ducking in areas where the ceiling was low. The stone walls glowed an eerie shade of yellow and there were several cave-like rock columns running floor to ceiling.
Lake of the Waterfall
The tunnels opened to a window in the stone overlooking a small pond. A waterfall rained from above and tropical plants surrounded the pond.
“Hey look.” Angie peered into an opening up ahead. “We’re at the bottom of the Unfinished Well.”
I caught up to her and peeked up into the dark mossy well to the circle of light from above.
“This is creepy and cool.” I whispered.
The end of the path emerged at the pond. There were small stone steps sticking out of the water.
“I think we have to jump rock to rock to get across.” Angie stepped out onto the first stone step.
“Maybe there’s another way out.” I looked around, not spotting an alternate exit.
“Come on.” Angie encouraged, arm outstretched. “I’ll hold your hand.”
I stepped cautiously out over the water.
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” My hand skimmed the length of the rock wall alongside the water path as I shakily made my way across.
The Castle at Quinta da Regaleira
We took a short breather and headed towards the huge Quinta da Regaleira castle. The castle’s façade is done in the Neo-Manueline style and it was surrounded by colorful flowers.
Inside was every bit as ornate as the details outside. The castle had been preserved and restored to it’s original decor. I felt like I had stepped out of a time machine into the 19th century castle. The ceiling moldings and doorways were carved into ropes, statues and long vines covered columns. Paintings were hung from the walls and some rooms were covered in full wall murals. An entire battle scene was intricately carved onto the fireplace mantle.
We peeked in rooms and off of the iron tailed balconies. The Moorish Castle was visible on a distant hill.
Chapel of the Holy Trinity
Not far from the castle was the small elegant Chapel of the Holy Trinity. We peeked inside at the high ceilings, floral motifs, gold leaf and stained glass.
“I heard there’s an underground tunnel from the chapel to the castle.” I leaned over the rail for a better view inside.
“I don’t doubt it for a minute.” Angie answered while gazing at a statue of angels perched above our heads.
On the way towards the exit, we passed statues of Venus and Hermes in the Promenade of the Gods. We discovered the towers we explored earlier were part of the Portal of the Guardians…two Tritons clinging to a snail, guarding one of the cave entrances.
Near the gate was a stairwell out that was covered in traditional Portuguese blue tiles.
Grilled Cheese and a Stout at Fonte da Pipa Sintra
Afterwards, we walked down a nearby winding cobblestone street down to Fonte da Pipa, a small pub. Hungry after all the exploring, we split a grilled cheese sandwich and I enjoyed a nice stout.
Pena Palace or Bust
We had no time for relaxing. It was almost 7 pm and we were 30 minutes away from our next destination for the day, Pena Palace. It was a race for the clock. We knew they closed at 8…but we had a packed agenda the next day. It was now or never and we figured…there is still plenty of time for a quick peek.