Useful Information

Location: Monsanto (Idanha-a-Nova).
(40.03782646054604, -7.114486490155683)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Houses
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1165 site donated to the King of Portugal who ordered the construction of the Monsanto Castle.
1239 "castle, of robust construction, was built by Dom Gualdim Paes de Marecos, Grand Master of the Templars"
1815 lightning caused the explosion of the ammunition magazine which destroyed the castle.
1938 town wins the title of "Most Portuguese Village in Portugal".


Monsanto is a small rural town located at the foot of a hill with the ruins of Castillo de Monsanto (castle of Monsanto). Such towns exist in abundance in Portugal and Spain. But this town is different, because the hill is actually a heap of huge boulders. And so the houses were built using the boulders as walls, there are houses built at the wall, houses built between two boulders, and even houses build under a boulder. The result is a town where many houses are actually cave houses.

There is no museum or exhibition, but when walking around the town you will see numerous examples of houses built on rocks. If you stay at Taverna Lusitana there might be one wall of your toilet made of massive granite, and their beer is alo quite good. The same with Cantinho da Coxixa, Castelo Cottages II, Casas da Villa and other hotels in town. However, the most spectacular rock houses are unfortunately closed, you can see them only from outside.

The top of the hill with the castle ruins is almost 800 m asl. The view is extraordinary, and of great strategic importance. As a result this place was inhabited since prehistoric times. The ruins are from a Templar castle which was destroyed by an explosion in the 19th century.

The summit of the hill also contains the Necropolis of São Miguel. It is located below and around the tiny chapel Capela de São Miguel from the 12th century. But the necropolis is at least 1,000 years older than the chapel. Some graves are now inside the chapel, other can be found around, all of them are sarcophagi cut into the massive rock of the hilltop. Additionally, there are some freestanding sarcophagi flanking the chapel door. The human shapes carved into the boulders were originally lidded with stone slabs, but nearly all the lids are long gone. And the bodies, obviously. There is a total of some 80 known graves.