After seeing a photo of the famous Initiation Well a few years ago, I knew that it was a place I had to see in person! When an opportunity came up to visit the Quinta de Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal, I absolutely jumped on it. To be honest, the only things I knew about the place in advance were that we would see the well, and that it was on a green looking hill in the Google Maps app. When we got there, however, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was so much going on! There was a lot to see, it felt worth the €6 entry fee, and in the words of Josh, it was “old and green,” which is a winning recommendation if I’ve ever heard one.
The Quinta de Regaleira sits on the mountain just outside of Sintra, and is easily walkable from the center of old town (just follow the sign posts from Sintra National Palace). For the €6 admission, you can visit the grounds, the house, and the chapel. There is also an on-site cafe and multiple public restrooms making it easy to spend 2 or 3 hours wandering the palace and grounds.
As I mentioned before, the Initiation Well is one of the big tourist draws. It sits in the middle of the grounds, and the in-ground “tower” used to be used for rituals. In and of itself, it’s impressive, but another cool part is that it is attached to other areas of the grounds by way of underground tunnels. The tunnels were fun, and both kids and adults seemed to be enjoying themselves. When visiting the well, be sure to head down it, as opposed to up; it becomes a tight squeeze in both directions, and staff will get sent out to usher everyone in the right direction and maintain order if flow becomes a problem.
While in general, this is an outdoor activity, there is a chapel and an old palace that you can visit. The chapel in the gardens is very pretty, with an upstairs balcony for a better photo, and a tunnel exit down stairs. The palace is currently under renovations (July 2017), so only the lower floor is accessible to tourists, but the fully restored home is a great way to get a taste for the way that the Portuguese elite used to live.
While I loved having the chance to check the Initiation Well off of my bucket list, the entirety of the Quinta de Regaleira was worth the visit and provided an awesome way to spend a few hours of our time in Sintra. The architecture, opportunity to run around, jump across stepping stones, and walk through caves makes it a great stop for both adults and children alike to spend time in nature and take in a piece of Portuguese history.