Known as a village within stones and once titled “the most typical Portuguese village of all” in a 1938 contest during the Estado Novo regime, Monsanto is a special place. Monsanto is on the official route of Portuguese historical villages. Its history dates back to the country’s foundation, later on belonging to the Order of the Knights Templar.
Located in the interior of Portugal, the village of Monsanto was not known to most people, despite the Portuguese. However, in late 2022, it was announced that the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon was filmed in the iconic village of Monsanto!
While during filming, tourism decreased due to restrictions, Monsanto is ready to welcome tourists back. If you are near the area or fancy a road trip, we recommend visiting the village.
Many argue one sees the whole village in less than three hours, making it the perfect morning for sightseeing before enjoying some traditional lunch. However, others opt for staying the night in what feels like an enchanted village – straight out of House of the Dragon.
Let’s take a look at our full Travel Guide to Monsanto, including the best things to do in Monsanto, top restaurants, and more.
5 Best Things To Do in Monsanto
1. Monsanto castle
As seen on HBO’s House of the Dragon, Monsanto castle is the key feature of the village of Monsanto. Sitting on top of the hill, this fortified castle was built in 1165 by Gualdim Pais, master of the Knights Templar.
Before that, Monsanto belonged to the Moors. However, Portugal’s first King, D. Afonso Henriques, took Monsanto from the Moors and donated it to the Templar monks, who then built the castle.
The Monsanto ruins can be visited at the top of the hill, where you will find views that stretch as far as the Serra da Estrela and Spain. Next to the castle, you will find unique ruins of a Roman chapel.
2. Lucano Tower
The building that most represents Monsanto village is the Lucano tower, also known as the watch tower. This building features the famous “Galo de Prato” which is a symbol of its achievement during the Estado Novo. In 1938, Monsanto village received the award “of the most Portuguese village in Portugal” in the Galo de Prata awards, given by the dictator Salazar himself.
3. Find the best viewpoints
Monsanto has incredible spots to enjoy the best views. In Portugal, these are called miradouros, translating to viewpoints. Our favorites in Monsanto are Miradouro da Praca dos Canhoes and Miradouro do Toucinho.
Miradouro da Praca dos Canhoes, in particular, is the most beautiful one. Make sure to take some photos as you get a view of the whole village. It is on the way up the hill toward the castle. This is also the last point where driving is allowed, so from now on, it’s time for a hike.
4. House of the Dragon filming location
If you are a House of the Dragon fan, you can actually find the exact spot where most of the scenes were filmed. The iconic scenery of the large rocks and greenery that is seen on the show is a once-in-a-lifetime view. Snap some shots of the spot where your favorite characters acted out the story of the House of the Dragon.
5. Monsanto, Idanha-a-Velha & Penha Garcia Tour
One of the best ways to see Monsanto is through a full-day tour with a guide. Not only does this resolve any transportation issues, but this way, you get to learn all the interesting facts about the area.
This tour from the city of Castelo Branco lasts around 8 hours, stopping in the historic village of Idanha-a-Velha on the way to Monsanto.
You can then enjoy a walking tour through the historic area of the village, stopping at the most important points, including the Lucano Tower, the Monsanto Castle, and beautiful churches.
The end of your trip stops at Penha Garcia, where you will see the windmills and the waterfall of the river beach.
Transportation in Monsanto, Idanha-a-Nova
Forget transportation within the village of Monsanto, as it is literally in the middle of nowhere. You will surely have to arrive in a vehicle, either in your own car or through a tour. There are guided tours, including transportation coming from Castelo Branco, a one-hour drive away.
Monsanto is a three-hour drive away from both Lisbon and Porto. If you are driving, we recommend coming as early as possible to find a parking space close to the top of the hill.
Top Restaurants in Monsanto
Adega Tipica O Cruzeiro
- Taverna Lusitana
- Casa da Velha Fonte