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Perched on a hilltop, overlooking the rolling hills of eastern Portugal, sits Monsanto. This tiny town is famous for its colossal boulders. Stone houses are sandwiched between and under these boulders, making this one of the most unique villages to visit in Europe.

Interesting Facts about Monsanto

Monsanto is a medieval village that is located in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, District of Castelo Branco, Portugal. It is located in eastern Portugal, not far from the border with Spain, giving it a strategic location in medieval times. A Knights Templar fortress was constructed on the highest point of the town, but this was destroyed in an explosion in the 19th century.

In 1938, Monsanto was given the distinction of being “the most Portuguese village of Portugal,” during a government sponsored competition.

Monsanto is famous for its boulders. The first settlers built small houses on the hilltop, wedging them between and under the boulders that were far too heavy to be moved. These small stone houses remain, creating one of Portugal’s most unique and charming towns to visit.

Monsanto is also a filming location for Season 1 of the HBO House of the Dragon series.

Monsanto Castle Photo

Monsanto Castle

Best Things to Do in Monsanto

Castle of Monsanto

Sitting on the highest point in Monsanto is the castle, also called Castelo de Monsanto.

This castle was constructed by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. In the 19th century, much of the castle was destroyed following an explosion in the ammunition depot in the castle.

Since the castle sits on the highest point of Monsanto, it is an uphill walk to get here. But it’s worth it. From the castle and its walls, you get extraordinary views, not only over Monsanto but also of the surrounding Portuguese countryside.

In the castle, there are a few notable things to see.

You’ll enter the castle through an archway on the outer walls. Once inside the castle grounds you’ll see a stone staircase that leads up onto the walls. These steps are huge and there’s no guardrail, so it’s not for everyone, but you get a great view once on the walls. However, there are safer viewpoints to visit in the castle.

Monsanto Castle Steps

As you walk deeper into the castle, you will see the fortress walls built atop the enormous boulders. Along the perimeter of the walls, there are several staircases that take you up onto the walls, for different vantage points of Monsanto.

Our favorite castle wall viewpoint is on the front of the castle (the north walls), where you get the best view of Monsanto.

View from the Monsanto Castle

The view of Monsanto from the north walls of the castle


Monsanto Castle

Monsanto Castle

 Monsanto Castle Walls

Tim walking the castle walls

There is another great viewpoint on the western walls, near the white stone pillar, which is called the citadel.

Monsanto Castle Citadela

View from the Monsanto Castle Citadela

The view from the citadel (next to the white pillar)


How to Visit Monsanto Castle

The view of the castle from the citadel

For one of the most unique views of the castle, walk through the entrance on the southern walls and out towards the giant pile of boulders. From this point, look back towards the castle. Below is a view of the boulder pile and the castle view.

Boulder Pile Monsanto

Here is the pile of boulders


Unique Monsanto View

And this is the view of the castle from the pile of boulders

Planning Your Visit: The castle is free to visit and always open.

Chapel of St. Michael (Capela de Sao Miguel)

This small, stone chapel is located just a short walk from the castle entrance. Before you head back downhill into town, it’s worth exploring the cluster of archaeological sites that sit in the rocky hills next to the castle.

The Chapel of St. Michael is the most intact building, but there are also other ruins marked with signs and the necropolis of Sao Miguel to see.

Chapel of St Michael Monsanto

Chapel of St. Michael


Monsanto Hilltop

Chapel of St. Michael and the castle

Monsanto Viewpoint

For a somewhat distant view of Monsanto, there is an unnamed viewpoint to visit. As you walk back into town from the castle, look for a dirt trail breaking off to the left. You only have to walk about 15 meters to get to the viewpoint. Here’s the view.

Distant Monsanto View

Miradouro – Penedo do Pe Calvo

As you continue the walk into town, you may see signs pointing towards Penedo do Pe Calvo, one of several marked viewpoints in Monsanto. We thought this view was just OK but I’m mentioning it, so you know what to expect.

Miradouro – Penedo do Pe Calvo

Miradouro – Penedo do Pe Calvo

The Pigpens (Furdas)

In medieval times, pigs were raised in pigpens throughout Monsanto. They were an important source of meat, which could be preserved as sausage. These pigpens are remnants of those used centuries ago.

Pigpens Furdas

Gruta (the Grotto)

This small cave like structure was once a pigpen and then later became a shelter. It sits on the main thoroughfare in Monsanto so there’s a very good chance that you will pass by it as you walk through town.

Gruta Monsanto

Miradouro do Forno

For the best view of Monsanto, be sure to visit this viewpoint. It is located just a few steps from Gruta.

How to Visit Monsanto

Miradouro do Forno

Torre de Lucano

This tower sits on the west side of town. It is not open to visitors, but it is a picturesque spot and we liked climbing onto the boulders at the base of the tower for the view from Monsanto.

Torre de Lucano Monsanto

Torre de Lucano and Igreja da Misericordia


Tower View

The view from the base of Torre de Lucano

Miradouro de Monsanto

This viewpoint sits on Avenue Fernando Ramos Rocha. There is a small parking lot here (if you arrive early in the day, it’s possible to get a space here, one of the best places to park in Monsanto). From here, you get a view looking out over the Portuguese countryside, not of the town.

Monsanto Parking

Parking at Miradouro do Monsanto


First View from Monsanto

The view from Miradouro do Monsanto

Tourism Office

The Tourism Office is located on Rua Marques da Graciosa. You can learn more about Monsanto, view the very small exhibit about the town, and pick up a brochure with a walking tour of Monsanto. We found this brochure hard to follow (at least the one given out in 2023) so we ended up wandering through town, following the numerous signs pointing to Monsanto’s most important sites.

Portugal Travel Guide

Things to Do in Monsanto: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How Much Time Do You Need in Monsanto?

A few hours are really all you need in Monsanto. This town is small and it only takes about 15 minutes to walk from the parking areas to the castle. Plan on spending 3 to 4 hours here, which gives you enough time to see the places listed above and have lunch or dinner.

Helpful Tips for Visiting Monsanto

Monsanto is very hilly. From the parking areas, which sit on one of the lowest spots in town, it will be an uphill walk to get to the viewpoints, the castle, the restaurants, and shops. I recommend heading to the castle first and then working your way downhill to the viewpoints and restaurants.

The earlier you get here, the closer you can park in town. This will save you some extra steps and less time walking uphill.

Monsanto is busiest from 11 am to 3 pm, when day trippers flood the town. For the best experience, get here early or stay late, to be able to walk the streets with fewer crowds.

Where to Eat in Monsanto

Taverna Lusitana. This small tavern has an indoor table or two and a small outdoor terrace with four tables. The terrace has a great view of town making this one of the best places in Monsanto to dine with a view. We had lunch here and highly recommend it.

Taverna Lusitania

Tavern View

The view from Taverna Lusitana

Casa da Velha Fonte Unip Lda. This restaurant is located outside of town (about a 7-minute drive) but it gets rave reviews for its outdoor setting, service, and food. If you are looking for a great meal before or after your visit to Monsanto, this is a restaurant to consider.

How to Get to Monsanto

Monsanto is located in central Portugal, near the border with Spain. It seems as if it is far from everything, but that makes it less crowded than many other towns in Portugal, such as Óbidos and Guimarães.

The best way to get to Monsanto is to drive. This is a wonderful road trip destination, if you plan to drive down the east side of Portugal, visiting its hilltop medieval towns.

PARKING IN MONSANTO. We parked at Miradouro de Monsanto but there is only enough space here for about eight vehicles. If you can’t get a space here, there is parking along Avenue Fernando Ramos Rocha. The earlier you get to Monsanto, the closer you can park to the city center, which gives you a shorter walk. Only local traffic is permitted to drive past Miradouro de Monsanto.

Things to Do Near Monsanto

Sortelha. This is another hilltop town. It’s even smaller than Monsanto and it features a fortress, castle walls to walk, and picturesque streets to explore. If you like Monsanto, there’s a very good chance you’ll also love the visit to this town. By car, it takes an hour to drive here from Monsanto.

Sortelha Walls

Walking the Sortelha castle walls


Sortelha Castle

Sortelha Castle

Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela. This was the first natural park in Portugal and it is the largest in the country. It is also the site of the highest point in mainland Portugal. Go on a scenic drive to the highest viewpoint or spend more time here, visiting the mountain villages or going for a hike. It’s about an hour and a half drive to the highest point in the park.

Serra da Estrela Road

Driving through Serra da Estrela Nature Park

Castelo de Belmonte. This medieval castle sits in the town of Belmonte, about an hour drive from Monsanto.

Belmonte Castle

Belmonte Castle

Where to Stay in and around Monsanto

Old House. Stay in a stone house in the town of Monsanto. This property gets exceptional reviews. It has two bedrooms, a living room, and a fully equipped kitchen.

Sun Set House. This small stone house is also located in Monsanto. This one just has one bedroom, but it also gets exceptional reviews and comes with a kitchen and washing machine.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you plan to stay in Monsanto, be aware that you may have to transport your luggage from the parking areas outside of the city center to the hotel. Before booking any hotel in Monsanto, be sure to check if the property offers parking or help getting your luggage to your hotel.

Taverna Lusitana. Mentioned earlier as the best spot in town to dine with a view, Taverna Lusitania also offers twin rooms. They get fantastic reviews.

Bode Country House. If you want to stay in a highly rated place but not have the hassle of parking and transporting luggage on the hilly streets of Monsanto, this property is located just outside of town. They offer double rooms, some with terraces, and also get exceptional reviews.

TheVagar Countryhouse. This is where we stayed and absolutely loved it. Located in Belmonte, an hour from Monsanto, this small country house has several rooms available. It gets exceptional reviews on Booking.com and we have to agree. The staff are friendly and helpful, the rooms are clean and comfortable, and the food is fantastic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Monsanto, Portugal known for?

Monsanto is famous for its enormous boulders. The buildings of this medieval town are built under and between the boulders, making this one of the most unique villages to visit in Europe.

Is a visit to Monsanto worth it?

For those who enjoy visiting medieval towns, walking on ancient fortress walls, and taking in the view of the surrounding countryside, Monsanto is well worth the visit. The icing on the cake is seeing the small stone houses built in, under, and between the colossal boulders that make Monsanto famous.

How do I get to Monsanto?

The best way to get to Monsanto is by car. This town is located in central Portugal, near the border with Spain, and it is not easily accessible by public transportation.

If you have any questions about the best things to do in Monsanto or how to plan a visit to Monsanto, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Portugal

BEST OF PORTUGAL: In our article Best Things to Do in Portugal, we list 25 amazing things to see and do in Portugal.

PORTUGAL ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Portugal itinerary, take a look at our 10 Day Portugal Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Portugal. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve.

DOURO VALLEY: Get started with our Douro Valley Travel Guide, which covers the essential things to know when planning a trip to this wine region. We also have a guide to the Best Way to Day Trip to the Douro Valley from Porto and 8 Wineries to Visit in the Douro Valley.

ALGARVE: Get started with our Algarve Bucket List, which lists the best things to do in the Algarve and learn how to plan your time with our Algarve Itinerary Planner. Learn how to hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, one of the most beautiful walks in Europe. Don’t miss our guides to Benagil Cave and the best beaches in the Algarve. Find out where to stay in our Algarve Hotel Guide, get a list of the best restaurants in Albufeira, and learn why October is the perfect time to visit the Algarve.

LISBON: In our Lisbon Bucket List, we list 40 highlights and hidden gems to visit in Lisbon. Plan your time with our one day in Lisbon itinerary and 2 day Lisbon itinerary. Here are 14 amazing day trips to take from Lisbon. Find the perfect place to stay in our Lisbon Hotel Guide.

We have TONS more information about Portugal in our Portugal Travel Guide, including Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, the Algarve, and the Douro Valley.


Things to Do in Monsanto Portugal


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