Parque Nacional da Pena is full of visitors. It’s art deco, medievalist-revivalist palace was built as a summer house for the Portuguese royalty and is now home to Instagram royalty. You’ve probably seen countless photos of pretty girls with long hair in bright, flow-y dresses contrasting beautifully with the vibrant red and yellow walls of the palace.
But I went to Portugal in the first week of January, and the low-hanging fog had other plans. Instead of gorgeous, sun-saturated bright hues, there was a white haze and constant drizzle that made it impossible to get an ‘Gram-worthy shots, but instead made the whole place feel like a magical forest of mystery and wonder.
Have you ever seen Pan’s Labyrinth? That’s what it felt like: like strange, surrealist creatures were lurking down every footpath, behind every tree, in every alcove of the palace. Like a portal to a long-lost magical kingdom.
It was peaceful with just a hint of spooky, just a little bit of malice waiting beneath the tranquil surface. A warning that the universe is more strange and magical then we could every comprehend.
Note: The Palacio Nacional da Pena, the thing you always see on Instagram, is actually just one small part of the park. It’s well worth it to wander around the park itself, which is very beautiful and has some good hiking points where you can see all the way to the Atlantic on a clear day. Obviously not on the day that I went.