What is the relationship between a sculpture garden, a billionaire, and the Taliban? When you visit Bacalhôa Buddha Eden in Portugal, you’ll learn about this unique connection. Billionaire José Barardo was so disturbed by the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of ancient Buddha sculptures in Afghanistan that he vowed to give back some art to the world. The result of that intention is the beautiful Buddha Eden Garden sculpture park in the village of Bombarral, about 20 kilometres from Obidos. The park is huge – one of the largest Oriental gardens in Europe – and it is still being developed. Thousands of statues may be found throughout the park, and they aren’t only representations of Buddha, as it is filled with modern art as well. We’ll tell you more about this hidden gem in Portugal and hope to inspire you to include this hidden gem in your Portugal road trip itinerary.
Read more: 10 unique places to visit in Portugal.
A sculpture garden of 35 hectares
José Barardo has been acquiring the most beautiful Buddha sculptures and contemporary art since 2001, when he bought an estate, the Quinta dos Loridos, to be able to put it all on display. He produces wine there, but he also created a spectacularly gorgeous walking park. The sculpture garden, which is 35 hectares in size, is located in the estate’s middle of 100 hectares of vineyards and olive trees. Buddha Eden Garden contains approximately 6,000 tons of marble and granite statues. It is Europe’s biggest Oriental sculpture garden.
Although the park opened in 2010, construction is still ongoing. A major portion of the garden was being added during our visit. The map at the entrance was already outdated and didn’t include one of our favorite features of the park, as it didn’t show a new animal art section. When the park first opened, admission was free. Later, an entry fee of €2 was put in place, and we paid €5 each person for entrance. If you wish to travel on the train through the park, you must pay for it separately. This is not necessary because the park is huge but easily accessible.
The Buddha Park is more than just Buddha’s
The park’s beginning can be traced back to the Buddhas, which you’ll find in abundance. The billionaire, on the other hand, is an avid art collector who has also placed sculptures from his collection in the park. There’s a large area of African art, a pond with a red pagoda, and an entire zoo of metal animal sculptures. Nowadays, you’ll even find catering businesses as well as a railway that transports visitors through the park.
The park is made up of the following sections:
- Palm Lake, a vast palm-fringed lake with caged carp
- Modern Art Sculpture Garden, which showcases contemporary sculptures
- Bamboo maze, where there are fewer statues and you may explore bamboo avenues
- African Sculpture Garden with hundreds of African statues under hundreds of palm trees
- 700 hand-painted sculptures in blue terracotta displayed at two separate sites
- A monumental staircase with golden Buddhas, a reclining Buddha and a giant Buddha 21 meters high
- Hills with Buddha and Pagodas covered in trees
- Thirteen meter high Buddha sculptures along a lake
- Pagoda Lake with dragons and a pagoda in the middle
Every detail of this site knows how to appeal to you as a guest. The massive staircase is not to be missed, and the huge Buddha sculptures that stand here are definitely worth seeing. You find yourself transported to another continent. We’ve never seen Buddhas of this magnitude so close to home in Europe. The terracotta army is also reminiscent of its famous counterpart in China, but it’s painted in a unique blue color that you’ll see throughout the sculpture garden. We enjoyed the metal animal zoo the most. Each statue is distinct, and it depicts the animal beautifully in metal, but it also has an unreal feel to it.
One of the best things about Bacalhôa Buddha Eden is that it’s a place where you can come to find inner peace. It’s easy to spend a few hours wandering around and taking everything in, but it’s also a place where you can sit down and take it all in. There are benches located throughout the park, or you could find a spot on the grass. We sat by the lake and let the sounds of the water fill our ears. It was so peaceful, and we felt like we could’ve stayed there for hours if we’d allowed ourselves to.
Practical information for your visit
- Buddha Eden Garden is in the center of Portugal, roughly an hour’s drive above Lisbon.
- You may easily combine a trip to the Buddha Garden Park with the well-known Óbidos, which is only a few kilometers from here.
- Have you heard that admission is free? Those sources, unfortunately, are no longer accurate. We were charged € 5 per adult to visit the park, which we consider to be a bargain for this beautiful park.
- Although there are some stairs in the park, a stroller can be used to explore the rest.
- The sculpture park, unfortunately, does not have its own website, but there is a page on the winery of José Barardo dedicated to it.