The Medieval Portugal Village Built Inside, Around, and On Top of Giant Boulders
Monsanto sits on the edge of a mountain not far from Serra da Estrela, and in this mountaintop village, homes are sandwiched between, under and even in the 200-tonne rocks.
Monsanto is a beautiful, living example of how people have adapted to preserve the integrity of their environment for hundreds of years.
The ancient people of Monsanto built their houses to accommodate the natural shapes of the boulders. Many residences squeeze and contort to the shape of the rocks. They carved dozens of narrow streets and passageways right through the center of the boulders, and those passages (just wide enough for a donkey to pass through) lead the residents upwards and downwards over the rocks and through the village.
The region was first populated in the 6th century BC by the Lusitanians as a walled settlement. Ruins from a Lusitanian castle from that era still stand in the town. Many of the homes still bear Manueline, or late Portuguese Gothic doorways from the late 16th century.