Why the historic village of Monsanto in Portugal is worth visiting this summer

The Portuguese countryside is full of charming historic villages and Monsanto is particularly special.

Photo by Monica Andre - Flickr, CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Monica Andre - Flickr, CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons
2 July 2020, Emma Donaldson

This summer 2020 sees more unique circumstances than most years, but fear not, the holidays aren’t cancelled and Portugal is open for tourist business this summer. If you’re planning to spend the summer in Portugal, either on holidays, on a trip to your second home or even as a resident spending the holidays at home, then perhaps a trip off the beaten track and away from the usual tourist destinations is just what you’re looking for. Portugal’s historic villages may just tick all the boxes to avoid the post-corona crowds and enjoy some crowd-free tourism, and one particular village, Monsanto, is especially worth visiting this summer. Let’s see what all the fuss is about!

What is special about the historic village on Monsanto?

Monsanto, a former civil parish in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova in the interior region of the country, was once voted “the most Portuguese village in Portugal” and still holds the title, however, it’s so much more than just that. The village is unique, with rich history as one of twelve official “Historical Villages of Portugal” and stands out for its impressive boulders which the village is effectively built around. This wonderful sight can be fully appreciated by taking a relaxing wander through the cobbled streets where you’ll find tiny shops and restaurants, a great place to get to know the locals.

The impressive village boulders / Photo by Rafael Tello, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons
The impressive village boulders / Photo by Rafael Tello, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Things to do in Monsanto, Portugal

Although it is small, Monsanto is full of activities from historic churches to hiking. The village towers above the surrounding countryside, something that is best appreciated by climbing the shepherds’ paths to an abandoned castle at the top of the hill and here, the best of the views can be enjoyed. The village is ideal for walkers who are looking for peace and quiet, as the isolated village offers a large network of hiking trails in the surrounding area, including a boulder trail where the best of the unique rock formations can be seen. Other must-see things in the village include the local church, Igreja Matriz de São Salvador Igreja, and Capela de São Miguel or Saint Michael’s Chapel.

Saint Michael's Chapel / Photo by Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons
Saint Michael's Chapel / Photo by Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

What’s the best way to see the historic village of Monsanto?

As one of Portugal’s twelve historic villages, Monsanto has a great story to tell. If you want to find out about the history of the village in great detail, there are many historic tours of the village available with local guides who will give you a real insight into the village’s past. There are various options available online and booking beforehand is recommended to avoid disappointment. If you would prefer to see the village at your own pace, then take a wander through the cobbled streets, observe the wonder of the impressive boulders and granite structures, and enjoy a relaxing copa de vinho (glass of wine) on the terrace of Monsanto’s best restaurant, Petiscos e Granitos. This is also the perfect spot to try some of the local delicacies such as dried salt-cod (bacalhau).

The spectacular views from the village / Photo by Monica Andre - Flickr, CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons
The spectacular views from the village / Photo by Monica Andre - Flickr, CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Monsanto, Portugal

As we mentioned, this village is off the beaten track and this means getting there requires a little bit of hard work. The easiest way is by car: Monsanto is located about 3 hours from Lisbon, 3 hours from Porto and 1 hour from Castelo Branco. If you don’t have a car and hiring a car isn’t an option, then it is possible to get to Monsanto by public transport: there is one bus route from Lisbon per day which takes around 5 hours. This does however mean that a day trip isn’t an option, but will give you more time to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the amazing  Monsanto, Portugal by staying in one of the local hotels or apartments where the locals will welcome you with open arms.  

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