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Monsanto, A Unique, Quiet Town in Portugal

  • Monsanto is a village dubbed as ‘the most Portuguese town in Portugal’ in 1938.
  • This amazing tourist spot is famous for the houses built on, between, in, and around huge boulders.
  • Remnants of an old castle built by Templars Grand Master sits at the top of the mountain.

Monsanto is a quiet, medieval town twelve kilometers from Idanha-a-Nova and three hours away from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital. It was dubbed ‘the most Portuguese town in Portugal’ in 1938.

However, the houses from the rest country are not like the ones in Monsanto. Here, many of the granite houses are built on, in, under, or between massive boulders.

The boulders form part of the homes, either as walls or steps.
Also, the narrow, cobbled streets, just broad enough for a donkey, are carved from rocks.
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The town is situated on a 758 meter high mountain, and so it offers a breathtaking view of the countryside.
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There were evidences that prove people inhabited Monsanto since the Paleolithic era.
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Likewise, proof of Roman, Visigoth, and Arabian occupation have been found.
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In 1165, King Afonso Henriques seized Monsanto from the Moors and handed it over to the Templar monks.
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The Order of the Knights Templar then built a castle on the summit, which survived several battles including the Napoleonic invasions.

In 1815, however, a magazine powder keg exploded and partially destroyed the castle. Tourists can still visit the castle with its many intact walls and towers to this day.

Furthermore, the view from the castle, which stretches as far as the Serra da Estrela and the Spanish border, is even more remarkable than the view from the village.
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During festivals, particularly on the Festival of the Holy Cross, dancers use the plaza below the castle entrance. Women climb the hill carrying marafonas (rag dolls) and throw clay jars with flowers from the castle walls.

Monsanto’s charm has not changed much. In fact, they are not allowed to make changes in the village since it is considered a living museum.

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