Ancient MONSANTO jealously guards its title of the “most Portuguese” village in the country, an award originally bestowed in 1948. Sited high on a hill above the plain, its houses huddle between giant granite outcrops, their walls moulded around enormous grey boulders – in the case of the Casa de Uma Só Telha (“the house with only one tile”), the entire roof is formed from a single rock. A few houses lie abandoned, but on the whole Monsanto seems to be doing well from Spanish day-trippers and from tourists still searching for the “real” Portugal. Gift shops aside, facilities are limited to a couple of cafés and a small mercearia (grocer’s), but there’s enough to do if you decided to stay the night and it certainly is an experience.
A fine driving circuit east and south of Monsanto leads to some fascinating border outposts, each with a well-marked walking trail. You can do it easily in a day, with time for a walk or two, before returning to Monsanto via Idanha-a-Velha (90km total trip).