What is Monsanto Rock Village, Portugal?
Monsanto is named the ‘most Portuguese village of Portugal’. It was awarded this official title because the village has preserved its special medieval character and the culture of Portugal.
However, visitors expecting to discover a quaint village will instead be blown away by rock houses sandwiched between giant boulders! Its position, close to Spain’s border and high up above the valley, made it a great defense against sieges. Because of this, its history is fascinating, with many interesting legends and tales that have been passed down through generations.
What to See in Monsanto
The medieval village and the accompanying views are what attract visitors from all over Portugal. Half a day, or even a whole day, is perfect for exploring the meandering cobbled streets and marveling at the weird and wonderful rock houses. Some of the houses even appear to grow out the side or the bottom of the boulders!
There is a 4.5-kilometer walking trail that leads away from the village and takes you on a circuit high up on the hill. Along the walk, discover more of the unique boulders and breathtaking views across the valley as far as Spain! There are plenty of signposts throughout the village, which will take you to various ‘must-see’ locations.
Castle of Monsanto
The incredible fortress of Monsanto sits at the highest point above the village. The hike is steep but short and well worth it for the breathtaking views from the top, as well as seeing the old walls of the castle and the ruins of the Roman Chapel. This is an absolute must-see while in Monsanto rock village, Portugal.
Sunset over Monsanto
Experience the sunset from Monsanto, an absolutely magical moment to have the orange glow over the rooftops. Once the sun is down, lights are lit, transforming Monsanto into a movie set.
Dinner at Taverna Lusitana
There are a few restaurants to enjoy dinner or lunch while in Monsanto. One of the restaurants, Taverna Lusitana, has a boulder as its roof! Take the steps that lead up to a panoramic rooftop terrace, where you can enjoy dinner by candlelight, looking out over the valley and the sparkling lights of the towns below.
How to get to Monsanto
Monsanto’s stunning remote location does mean it’s quite off the regular Portugal travel route. However, it’s well worth it! It’s easiest to visit by rental car or campervan, as it’s a 3-hour drive from Lisbon or a 4-hour drive from Porto. Because of this, there are limited public transport options; usually, buses or trains go only once a day to the main village of Monsanto Relva.
It is not possible to drive to the village itself because of its narrow streets and steep lanes. Instead, drive as far as you can up the hill until you’re at this small parking lot. From here, it’s just a short walk to the village.
Depending on the season/time of the week, this parking lot can get very busy and tight for space (especially if you have a campervan!). If that’s the case, you might want to park further down at this location and walk up 10 minutes to the village or 20 minutes to the castle.
Where to Stay
One day or half a day is plenty of time to explore this unique rock village. However, if you want the opportunity to see the village at both sunset and sunrise, it’s well worth spending the night here. Additionally, spending the night here under the stars is truly magical, something we can only liken to a movie set!