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Monsanto: The most traditional village in Portugal

Monsanto is part of the historical villages of Portugal. These villages are places where, over the years, the culture and traditions of the people who live there have been preserved.

Almeida, Belmonte, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, Idanha-a-Velha, Linhares da Beira, Marialva, Monsanto, Piódão, Sortelha, and Trancoso are today places full of charm, nature, gastronomy, and culture, that make us think of stories and adventures from other times.

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The 12 Historical Villages of Portugal

In times these villages served as support to combat the enemy but, today, the enemy is the desertification. Therefore, Turismo de Portugal (Portuguese official tourism office) has a program of promotion, development, and valorization of these places, so that they can continue to tell the history of the lives of those who have lived there in other times.

Monsanto, often referred to as the most typical Portuguese village, is a village that sits atop a mountain. This village, where the construction of the houses is made in symbiosis with the rocks set there, is the ideal place to spend a day exploring its points of interest.

How to Get to Monsanto

Monsanto is located in the eastern-center of Portugal, close to the Spanish border, about 280 km from Lisbon and Porto. There is no train service, but there are some buses that allow you to reach the village, however, the best way to get to the village is by car or motorbike.

Rede Expressos has buses that allow you to get from Lisbon or Porto to Castelo Branco. To get to Monsanto, you will have to take a local bus to Monsanto-Relva (04501 and 04503). The total journey takes about 4 hours and the ticket costs € 17.

Check here buses prices and timetables

The A23 motorway, part of Portugal’s highway network, passes close to Monsanto and will allow you to get there from anywhere in the country.

There are some visits organized by tour operators, however, not being the type of trip that we normally do, we will not go into detail.

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What to Do in Monsanto

Monsanto is a village where you can spend a whole day exploring every nook, every historical place or every viewpoint. If you like to walk, there are some trails that you can do that will take you through several places to visit in Monsanto. This is our proposal for places to visit:

  • Visit the castle, one of the most impressive military structures in the area. For the more adventurous there is a trail towards the castle and, alternatively, you can climb the more regular path
  • Enjoy the surrounding view of Monsanto (the view of the castle is impressive. If the weather is clear you can see in the distance the reservoir of the Marechal Carmona dam)
  • See the Chapel of São Miguel do Castelo
  • See the community oven, the fountains and the towers
  • Visit the “one-tile house” with a granite rock cover
  • See the Clock Tower
  • Visit the Romanesque chapel of São Pedro de Vir à Corça

Where to Eat in Monsanto

  • 2 Pinheiros Restaurant – traditional food (Penamacor)
  • Taverna Lusitana (Monsanto)
  • Adega Típica o Cruzeiro (Monsanto)

Where to Stay

With the rise in tourism in Portugal, the offer in the region is increasing. There are many local accommodation units. These are the perfect places to stay in the interior of the country. The friendliness and the art of well receiving of the inhabitants of the interior of Portugal make it worth to opt for one of these units.

When we visited the area, we received an invitation from Moinho do Maneio, in Penamacor, to know the space. We were very excited about their experience, unique in Portugal: sleeping in an inflatable bubble, overlooking the stars. The place is not in Monsanto but is very close and access is convenient which allows you to diversify your visit to the region.

You can book your stay in Moinho do Maneio here.

Moinho do Maneio History

Moinho do Maneio was a small complex of support to a horizontal water mill in the zone of Penamacor. This riverside property has been in the family for over 200 years. In 2002, without knowing it, Anabela and Rui started the path of what would become their current project of life. Since then they have been recovering the place, and what at the beginning was just a house of their own use for holidays and weekends, came to become their permanent home.

Since 2009 they have moved to the area, leaving behind Lisbon and their former jobs.

So far the reconstruction of the mill has not yet begun, but it is part of Rui’s plans to start this endeavor soon.

The Area

Moinho do Maneio is a green space by the river. The houses, completely integrated into the landscape, create a peaceful place where you can disconnect from the world and connect with nature and the people who are with you. There is no mobile network or Wi-Fi in this location, so be prepared to disconnect from the world.

The friendliness of the owners, Anabela and Rui, make the place even more special. You can see that it is a personalized place and that there is much care to keep the place pleasant and esteemed.

In the outdoor space, in addition to plenty of natural shade of vegetation by the river, there is a swimming pool with a relaxation area and a breakfast room by the river. Each corner has a special detail, such as the existence of an old iron bed under a tree, where you can read a book or take a nap.

Breakfast is served until 11:00, because there is no hurry in Moinho do Maneio, and you have to take advantage of every detail. The meal is buffet style with traditional products such as regional bread, homemade jams, seasonal fruits, and homemade cake. You can also count on a selection of juices, cereals, and cheeses. On good weather days, it is possible to use the outside tables for breakfast.

The Houses of Moinho do Maneio

The houses of Moinho do Maneio end up representing the history of that place. The oldest was once the holiday home of Anabela and Rui, it was once the breakfast room and is now one of the accommodation options. The growth of Moinho do Maneio was partially and sustainably done, so the style of the houses also represents the time when they were restored, with the latest houses being more modern. However, they continue to bet on some traditional details.

There are 5 houses of different types. Some of them have a kitchen and others are only composed of the bedroom and a living area, however, all of them have a private bathroom.

For larger families, there are two of the houses that are connected by an interior door, allowing the extension of the space.

The Bubble of Moinho do Maneio

The main novelty in Moinho do Maneio, and what aroused us the most attention on this place, is the possibility of sleeping in an inflatable bubble. Unique in Portugal, this sleeping experience overlooking a star-filled sky, away from the light pollution of urban centers, is truly distinctive.

The bubble is on a raised platform by the river, isolated from other houses, giving priority to the privacy of those inside.

The place, fully integrated with nature, has an outdoor seating area with two chairs where it is possible to relax during the day, and an ecological bathroom outside only for use in case of need. The bathroom and shower area are adjacent to the other houses and is for the exclusive use of guests of the bubble.

Inside the bubble, the decor is simple and minimalist, but very cozy, because after all, what we need there is a clear sky to appreciate the stars.

There is a heater inside since in winter, the nights get very cold in that area and the bubble is still a tent that does not isolate the outside temperature. There are even a few games to entertain you when you’re relaxing in the bubble.

At the entrance of the tent, there is also a liquor, which is produced by the owners as part of their agricultural project.

For us it was, without doubt, a unique experience, surrounded by nature, in a very romantic place and able to sleep under the stars. We liked it very much and we recommend everyone to try to stay in this bubble at least once.


In Moinho do Maneio, besides being able to enjoy the swimming pool, you can also dive in the transparent waters of the river and use the boat or the canoe. At the peak of the summer the river dries, so at this time, you can enjoy the pool more. In the space, there are also bicycles, a trampoline, hammocks for relaxing and table-football.

Visiting Monsanto was something we wanted to do for quite some time. In that place, one can feel the traditions and the culture of old Portugal. The stone houses and the medieval paths create a very welcoming atmosphere that we adored.

Having the opportunity to explore a more secluded area of the country, enjoy the calm of that place and the clean air and sleep under the stars in a unique experience in Portugal, have created the perfect conditions for a great weekend getaway.

If you still have time…

  • Visit Penha Garcia
  • Visit Penamacor

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