Quinta da Regaleira might not be the most famous of all Sintra's palaces and castles, but for myself and many others who have visited, it is the most magical and wondrous. This UNESCO World Heritage Site isn't accessible by the same Scotturb bus that transports tourists to Palacio da Pena or the Palacio Nacional. You'll have to catch the 435, called the Vila Express 4 Palácios, from Sintra's train station heading for the village and on to Regaleira, Seteais, and Monserrate (€5 currently). Save your ticket stub, because you'll need it to catch the bus heading back to town. The last bus leaves early in the evening, so check the schedule or ask at the information window before heading out.
Quinta da Regaleira isn't just a palace, although its Neo-Manueline palace with its soaring gothic pinnacles and monstrous gargoyles is impressive. What makes this landmark so spectacular are the lush gardens, ancient stone sculptures, dark grottoes leading into caves, underground tunnels hidden below waterfalls, and mysterious secret passageways. Had I known about this place as a kid, I would have never wanted to go anywhere else. It's like something from out of a fairy tale.
Quinta da Regaleira's magical and mysterious airs are reflective of the interests of the man who commissioned its creation, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. Monteiro dos Milhões (Monteiro the Millionaire) as he was known, was an educated and eccentric millionaire who used his wealth to create Quinta da Regaleira with the help of the architect, Luigi Manini. Carvalho Monteiro was deeply fascinated by alchemy, temple masonry, mythology, and numerology. Manini shared his interests and incorporated many mystical symbols and numbers into the buildings and on the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira.
Probably the most well recognized place on the grounds of Regaleira is the Poço Iniciático below (Initiation Well). The spiral staircase leading down to the bowels of the well starts above ground and winds its way around to the dark bottom where the points of a compass are tiled into the circular floor. From the base of the well, tunnels lead away to underground caves.
If you visit Quinta de Reguleira and you end up liking it as much as I did, you can easily spend 4 or 5 hours there (though 2 is about average). There is a cafe on the grounds so if you need to eat, you don't have to leave the Quinta. The hours are here and the prices are here, although currently admission runs €6 for adults, €4 for children and seniors, and completely free for folks over 80 and kids under 5.
Enjoy your visit! It will likely be the first of many more.