The village of Monsaraz, Portugal is one of the most beautiful in the country.
Located in the Alentejo region, its white houses and the Monsaraz Castle are nestled on top a hill with magnificent views of the surroundings.
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with photos, map and tips.
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Why visit the white village of Monsaraz in Portugal ?
Is Monsaraz worth a visit?
Yes, the white village of Monsaraz is worth the detour.
Located on a hilltop, this is one of the most charming villages in Portugal with:
- white houses,
- the Monsaraz castle and its keep, with reddish roofs,
- and magnificent views over the Great Alqueva Lake
Video - Virtual tour
Below is a short video that will give you an idea of what it is like to visit Monsaraz.
One of the best places to visit in Portugal!
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning tips & Map - Monsaraz Portugal
Where is Monsaraz located ? Map
- East of Portugal
- in the Alentejo Region, East of Evora, near the border with Spain.
- Lisbon to Monsaraz - 2h15 drive
- Evora to Monsaraz - 50min drive
- Below is a map to help you get oriented:
This location with its GPS coordinates and planning info is included in my eBook to help you easily plan your Portugal road trip:
Plan your ideal road trip around Portugal
How to get to Monsaraz Portugal?
- Monsaraz is quite far from most touristic towns.
- It is mostly accessible by car
- The drive is easy
Need to rent a car in Portugal?
- Compare car rental prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com - one of the best rated sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (remember the villages narrow streets)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
See all my 36 tips in my Portugal car rental article.
- Plan 1 to 2 hours to tour the village and fort
- 2 public toilets
- Several restaurants
- Easy walking, some steps to climb the walls of the Monsaraz Castle
- Not far you can see traces of Prehistoric settlements such as the Menhir of Outeiro or the Megalithic monument of the Cromlech of Xerez
If you want to step back in time, there are 5 accommodations in the heart of Monsaraz. The colors at sunset and sunrise must be amazing. I wish I had spent the night here rather than in Evora... For example, in:
Or you can stay outside the village and enjoy the whole region for cheaper. For example, in:
Driving in the Alentejo to the village
Monsaraz is quite out of the way, in an area close to the border with Spain. There are other sights to enjoy right in the vicinity, but between Evora and the village of Monsaraz Portugal, you will enjoy miles and miles of farming land and trees.
As you approach the area of the Great lake (artificial lake), you can spot Monsaraz on top of a hill with its castle at one end.
Carpark, Entrance and Village Map
You have to park before entering the fortifications.
There is a large carpark on the hill on the way to the fortifications.
Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.
The village has 4 big doors.
You will enter via the gate 'Porta da Vila'. The arch is protected by 2 round towers.
But before that, enjoy the magnificent views of the Alentejo region and the Great lake. The intense blue has a good contrast against the dry land.
Then you can explore the village. Don't worry you won't get lost; it is not big!
And you can stop at the visitor center close to the gate to get a map of Monsaraz. With it you can learn a few Monsaraz facts:
- Due to its strategic location, Monsaraz has been occupied since the prehistoric times
- It has a rich history and was fought over many times
- Some of its fortifications are straight and tall from the 12th to 14th centuries while others are Vauban style defenses from the 17th century
Below is the tourist map of the Monsaraz village your can get at the visitor center:
History & Facts
Monsaraz dates back to prehistoric times. It was once called Saris or Sarish.
It has always been a strategic location and hard strong military and religious influences.
- 1167 - Geraldo Sem Pavor takes Monsaraz from the Muslims
- The Moors retook control of it
- 1232, King Sancho II took it back
- The village is later donated to the Templar Order
Today it is a museum village. But it used to be the head of the municipality.
A village with typical white houses
Like many other Portuguese villages, Monsaraz has white houses and cobbled streets. However, there is definitively a very different atmosphere in that village. I can't tell you exactly what it is, maybe the shapes or the fact that it was a rich area, but it does not feel the same as visiting Obidos or Marvao. I was pleasantly surprised.
Of course, it is very touristy with souvenir shops and restaurants in those white houses, but when I visited it was not too crowded.
I love trees growing on walls! How about you?
Monsaraz Castle (Castelo de Monsaraz)
The other highlight of visiting the village of Monsaraz Portugal, it the fort at one end. The Monsaraz Castle is tiny, but once again, it looks quite different from the castles of the other villages such as Marvao or Obidos.
It looks more like an arena with some towers around it.
You can enter it at the ground level or climb to the walls and towers.
There is a tall keep in the center of the castle. Thanks to the village's strategic position, it was easy to detect the presence of the enemy well in advance. Especially as watchtowers had been built around the area and could communicate with this main tower.
As you will see in the next paragraph, it is worth making the effort to climb on the tower to admire the views of both the village and the region.
- Built by King Dinis in the 14th century,
- it is classified as a National Monument of Portugal.
- its military use stopped around 1830,
- it was then used as a bullfighting ring.
- today, it is used during the annual festivities for Nosso Senhor Jesus dos Passos (our Lord Jesus Christ).
Views over the Great Alqueva lake and the village
And here are the magnificent views from the walls of the Monsaraz Castle. I could have stayed hours just observing. When I visited, some artists had set up there and were doing great work!
This is the view over the Great Alqueva lake, which is the largest artificial lake in Europe. It covers 250km2 and has 1100km of shoreline!!!!.
Thanks to its reservoir, it can supply 200,000 people with water. If you want a break from your road trip, you can enjoy water activities there.
See, it is so big, that there is even a bridge to cross it!
From the other side of the castle walls, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Monsaraz village and its white houses.
Monsaraz Church - Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora da Lagoa
In the center of the village is the church: Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora da Lagoa. Not so easy to say!!!
There was an early Gothic building from the 13th century. The current church is of Renaissance style from the 16th century.
It can be visited from 9:30am to 1pm and 2pm to 5:30pm
Want to see more of the best Portugal has to offer?
- 30 Most beautiful landscapes in Portugal - read article
- Best things to do in Portugal - read article
- The best beaches in Portugal - read article
- The best villages in Portugal - read article
- Lisbon vs Porto - where to go? - read article
- Driving in Portugal - read article
- The best of the Algarve region - read article
- The highlights of Sintra and the Sintra-Cascais Nature park - read article
Planning a trip to Portugal?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Plan your ideal road trip around Portugal
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