Portugal offers unique locations, including an unusual spillway that looks like a portal to another dimension and two schizophrenic palaces.
Portugal’s monumental cities, lush and green wine areas and gorgeous beaches are well known. However, the country has several unique locations that are must-see options on a trip to Portugal.
1. Covão dos Conchos – Lagoa da Serra da Estrela – Guarda – Sabugueiro
This view of an unusual sinkhole in the Lagoa da Serra da Estrela looks truly bizarre and surreal. However, the portal is, in fact, a man-made funnel, which lets overflow water down into a long tunnel under the lake.
A true wonder of engineering, the spillway was created when engineers were working on a way to channel water from the Lagoa Serra da Estrela and Lagoa Comprida. Their plan was to provide fresh water for a number of nearby communities. The following is a close-up of the spillway:
Due to the fact that plants are growing around the edge of the spillway, which is rimmed with concrete, this truly looks like a natural wonder. The lake is in a secluded area and is not easy to directly visit. However, hikers can start at Lake Comprida and take a 7.21-mi (11.6 -km) stroll to the Covão dos Conchos. As there are no communities in the direct area, hikers are recommended to wear good, comfortable walking shoes and to carry plenty of water. Find the full details of the hike here.
2. Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra
Next on our remarkable tour of Portugal, Quinta da Regaleira has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is for the remarkable design by Italian architect Luigi Manini. The site consists of an eccentric-looking palace, surrounded by gardens, with fountains, grottos, caves, statues and unusual underground tunnels.
The pictured underground tunnel at Quinta da Regaleira looks for all the world like a reverse tower, burrowing into the earth with stairways circling around it. All underground tunnels are lit with strings of Christmas lights.
Construction began on this ambitious project in 1904 and it was completed by 1910. The palace architecture is loosely based on Gothic, Roman, Manueline and Roman architectural styles.
It is believed that various symbols relating to alchemy, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians and Masonry are hidden within the architecture. There is also an aquarium, which looks as though it exists naturally in the rock, and a chapel.
3. Pena National Palace, Sintra
Staying in Sintra, Pena National Palace is another UNESCO World Heritage Site worth visiting. Due to its unusual and varied styling and color, the castle looks like a hodge-podge of several different castles, all put together like a Lego toy.
This incredible palace was built by King Ferdinand II in São Pedro de Penaferrim during the 19th century and was intended to be a royal summer home. It was Ferdinand’s wild and opulent tastes that led to the designers creating such an almost schizophrenic building.
The palace consists of an Islamic tower dome and a medieval-looking section with ornate parapets. Each facade is in a varying color, including purple, red, yellow, grey and more. Some say Ferdinand has intended that his palace look like an opera, but now it stands as a grand examples of Romantic architecture.
The interior continues the trend, with European Baroque and Middle Eastern features. Regrettably visitors are not allowed to take photos of this unique interior. The palace fell into disrepair in 1910, but was restored later in the 20th century to its current splendor.
Visit the quirkier and fascinating side of Portugal this year – there are wonders around virtually every corner!