Monsanto is a very small village high on a mountain built between rocks. When we started our road trip through Portugal we never heard about Monsanto but after our visit, we can tell you that it is awesome to visit. The entire village is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as you will not find a rock village anywhere else in the world. Discover the 5 best things to do in Monsanto, how to visit it and which accommodation is the best to stay in Monsanto, Portugal.
What exactly is Monsanto in Portugal?
Monsanto is a medieval village located in the province of Castelo Branco which is in the interior of Portugal not far from the Spanish border. The village had many conquerors such as the Romans, Arabs, and Spaniards. This used to be an important defense line because of its location. During the Middle Ages, the Portuguese built it till the point we can see it today. The houses of Monsanto are built between huge rocks, which is why it is also called the rock village of Portugal. In the last century, the most beautiful village was awarded in each province and Monsanto is the most beautiful village in the province of Castelo Branco. Because the government wants to preserve this, the inhabitants can’t make adjustments so that the medieval character and traditional culture are preserved. This makes it a charming village where about 800 people live and where you can get to see an authentic village, something you don’t come across much in the world.
Things to do in Monsanto
Monsanto is a small village that because of its medieval character and beautiful views, is visited by travelers from all over Portugal and beyond, partly because it is so unique. You can do various fun things here. We recommend following 5 activities:
Tip: try to arrive in Monsanto in the afternoon to avoid the busloads of tourists that come in the morning. In the afternoon there is hardly anyone there, which makes your visit to Monsanto much more fun. For this reason, it is best to spend the night in Monsanto so that you have plenty of time and wake up in the morning in peace.
Tip: use the map of Monsanto below to see where the best things in Monsanto can be found. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title you can save this map in your Google Maps account. In the folder, you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you are at your destination.
Walk through Monsanto
The most fun and best way to discover Monsanto is to walk through its various streets. While walking you will come across houses built against huge rocks, churches built with large stones, and cute narrow streets decorated with beautiful plants in pots. When you walk through Monsanto many signposts indicate where all the main attractions can be found. It will take you about 45 minutes to 1 hour to visit all these points. In any case, we recommend that you visit the following sights:
- Igreja Matriz de São Salvador: when you walk into Monsanto and follow the road you will see a church on your left, this is an iconic church dating back to the Middle Ages. Pay special attention to the details such as the window.
- Torre de Lucano: when you arrive you will see a high tower with a clock, this is Torre de Lucano.
- Portas de Santo António: these are the only city gates you can still find in Monsanto, these are in front of the Monsanto cemetery in the west.
On the higher part of the mountain, you can find the castle of Monsanto. This walk is fun to do because you walk along giant rocks. You can also enjoy impressive views during the walk. The walk starts at Taverna Lusitana and takes a maximum of 10 minutes. The walk is steep, you have to ascend 60 meters in 10 minutes.
The castle is unfortunately no longer intact but the ruin nevertheless is still worth visiting because there is still a lot to see. You can walk around the complex and climb the various ancient walls. Then, when you walk back to the village, don’t forget to turn right at the first fork and take a look at the old church ruins.
Admire the sunset
Because Monsanto is built on a mountain and the rest of the area is flat, you can see very far into the horizon from here. When the moment comes when the sun goes down you will be enchanted, for us, this was one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen. Because you can look so far away you see all the colors in the sky changing which is beautiful. Once the sun has set you can take a nice evening walk in Monsanto, all the old lanterns are then lit, which gives a completely different atmosphere than during the day.
Enjoy the different viewpoints
As mentioned, when you walk through Monsanto you always have beautiful views, but there are a few viewpoints that you definitely should visit, these are:
- At the castle: the castle is the highest point in the area, so you can overlook the entire region and Monsanto.
- Miradouro Do Forno: if you want to see Monsanto’s most iconic residence, you must visit this miradouro. If you stand here and look to the right you will see a huge rock under which a house has been built.
- Miradouro de Monsanto: on arrival at Monsanto you have the official viewpoint on Monsanto. The great thing about this viewpoint is that you can see the entire skyline of Monsanto at a glance.
- Miradouro towards Capela de São Pedro de Vir: this viewpoint is a bit more difficult to find, the easiest is to check out our map. Walk from R. da Sarça street towards the chapel and during this walk, you will come across several viewpoints that are worth stopping. If you continue walking you will eventually arrive at the foot of the mountain where the chapel Capela de São Pedro de Vir is located.
Tip: we visited all these viewpoints in the afternoon and then visited all these viewpoints again during the sunset because we wanted to see how they looked during sunset. If like us, you have a long sunset, you can easily do this, also because the viewpoints are close to each other.
Old Roman Chapel
The buildings you can see in Monsanto date mainly from medieval times, if you like you can also visit a Roman chapel that is located at the foot of the mountain called Capela de São Pedro de Vir. From Monsanto, you can walk to the chapel via the street R. da Sarça in 15/20 minutes. We liked the views during this walk. Keep in mind that when you walk down you also have to go back, if you don’t have a good condition it’s better to skip this.
How much time do you need for Monsanto?
Monsanto is a very small village, you don’t need a lot of time to see everything. However, if you want to experience Monsanto at its best you should arrive in the afternoon and stay the night. When you do this you walk almost with nobody else in the village in the evening and you have plenty of time to enjoy the peace. Our best tip is therefore to arrive in Monsanto around 03:00 pm and continue your journey the next morning around 09:00 am.
If you are not able to stay in Monsanto when you have a tight travel schedule, then you need +/- 3 hours to see the most important things in Monsanto.
Where to stay in Monsanto?
Monsanto is extremely small, there are only 17 properties with some only having one room. The advantage of this is that there can only stay a few people in the evening, only you have to reserve a room months in advance. If it is full, you have to find something nearby, but we do not recommend doing this because in the evening when it is dark you still have to drive down from the mountain. The travel experience is also very different, you don’t wake up in Monsanto and you can’t go for a morning walk.
Keep in mind that a night costs on average between €80 / $80 and €100 / $100 per night. We stayed at Casa Do Castello Monsanto and loved it. See our two recommended accommodations below.
We stayed at Casa Do Castello Monsanto and recommend it 100%. The rooms are neat, the bed is fantastic, the bathroom is nice, and you have a private terrace where you are served a delicious breakfast in the morning with an impressive view. A super place to stay!
Casa de David is located in the center of Monsanto, so you can enjoy breakfast on the terrace between all the historic buildings. The rooms are spacious and fully equipped. If Casa Do Castello Monsanto is fully booked, Casa de David is an excellent alternative.
Where to eat in Monsanto?
In Monsanto there is not much choice in terms of food and there are only a few places where you can do this. We had lunch at Tasca do Povo Sandes & Bocadillos and ate at Petiscos & Granitos in the evening. The prices of all food places are quite similar. You pay €10 / $10 per person for lunch and €20 / $20 per person for dinner. This is quite expensive for Portuguese standards, but this is because Monsanto is so remote.
Tasca do Povo Sandes & Bocadillos is run by the woman who owns Casa Do Castello Monsanto, which is a small bakery that sells various products. You can go here to get a sandwich with cheese or sausage. Don’t expect spectacular food, just normal food. The homemade empanadas are nice to try.
Petiscos & Granitos is a nice place where you can get good fish dishes. The rice pudding is also recommended. When the weather is good you can eat on the terrace. Please note that you do not eat too late, on the internet it says that it closes at 10:00 pm only when we arrived at 08:00 pm the kitchen was already closed. They then made a potato stew dish with fish that we could take with us, this was tasty and very friendly. Our tip is to eat in Monsanto no later than 6:00 pm in general.
If both places are full, Taverna Lusitana is also a good option for lunch or dinner. Here too they have a terrace where you have a view of all of Monsanto.
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Transportation in Monsanto
In Monsanto it is forbidden to drive, this may only be done by locals. Because of this, you have to explore everything on foot in Monsanto. Monsanto is very small you walk in 5 minutes from the parking lot to the other side of the village.
How do you get to Monsanto?
Monsanto is a nice place to visit if you are doing a road trip through Portugal. Many travelers don’t visit Monsanto because they often only discover the coastline of Portugal. For travelers who do visit the interior, it is worth visiting Monsanto. You can visit Monsanto if you come from the north such as the Douro wine region, the south Elvas, or from the west such as Coimbra. Monsanto was a nice stop for us as we traveled from Elvas to the Douro wine region.
We recommend traveling to Monsanto by car or camper, as there are no buses to Monsanto. If you want to travel by bus to Monsanto you have to travel to Castelo Branco which is the largest surrounding village and take a taxi from there to reach Monsanto.
The easiest way to travel to Monsanto is by car, this saves you a lot of time. Below you can see how long it takes to arrive from different places in Monsanto:
- Lisbon to Monsanto: 3 hours and 30 minutes | 330 km / 205 miles
- Porto to Monsanto: 3 hours 10 minutes | 290 km / 180 miles
- Elvas to Monsanto: 2 hours 40 minutes | 202 km / 125 miles
- Douro valley to Monsanto: 2 hours 45 minutes | 230 km / 142 miles
- Coimbra to Monsanto: 2 hours 15 minutes | 190 km / 118 miles
If you travel to Portugal by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.
Parking in Monsanto
When you arrive at the gate of Monsanto you will see a view of Monsanto on the right side where there is room for 9 cars to park. If these are occupied you can drive back and park the car on the right side in one of the parking spaces. Most of the time it is free to park because the parking meters rarely work. If this is also full then you have to park at Relva the village that lies at the foot of the mountain. In the center, you can find a large parking lot. From here it is a 20-minute walk to Monsanto. On this map, you can see where all the parking lots can be found.
When is the best time to visit Monsanto?
Monsanto is an excellent place to visit all year round because of the pleasant temperature. This is because it is inland and therefore little rain falls. If you do not tolerate heat well, it is better to skip the summer months of June, July and August. The best period is spring from March till May.
The spring period is pleasant because the average temperature is then 20°C / 68°F, which is also during the autumn period. in winter it is an average of 13°C / 55°F and in summer it can reach an average of 30°C / 86°F.
We were in Monsanto at the beginning of June and loved the weather. The nice thing was that the temperature was around 25°C / 77°F, the days were long and it was not crowded. In summary, you can easily visit Monsanto from March to November.
Monsanto Portugal FAQs
1. Is Monsanto worth a visit if you are short on time?
Yes, it certainly is, because you don’t necessarily need a lot of time. If you have 3 hours you can visit all the highlights of Monsanto. The disadvantage of Monsanto is that it is far away from other interesting destinations. That’s why we recommend visiting Monsanto when it is on the route when you travel between other destinations that you want to visit. To be honest, you should not drive to Monsanto from Porto for example, this is way too much driving compared to what you are going to see. So see if you can combine it into your itinerary. If you are looking for inspiration for a Portugal itinerary you can check out ours.
Want to see more in Portugal?
After your visit to Monsanto, you have several options to travel to. You can head north to visit the Douro wine region. Or south towards Elvas and Évora, these are historic towns where you can discover churches, cathedrals, and more history. You can also head west to the coast to visit places such as Coimbra, Obidos, or Nazaré. At Coimbra, you can visit Portugal’s oldest library, often used in movies. Obidos is a small town surrounded by medieval walls and Nazaré is the coastal village where Portugal’s biggest waves can be seen.
We traveled through Portugal for 3 weeks and made a 3-week itinerary Portugal. You can use this itinerary to create your itinerary. In our itinerary, you can read that we traveled from Monsanto to the Douro wine region.
What do you think of Monsanto? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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