Monchique: My Journey In The Hidden Town In The Mountains
Discovering Monchique: A Gem in Northern Algarve
Having lived in this hidden gem nestled within the enchanting Serra de Monchique mountain range, I can attest to its breathtaking views. Monchique is embraced by unspoiled nature: vibrant green forests, towering peaks, and tranquil streams define its surroundings.
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For those on a tight schedule, embark on a journey through Monchique with the Small-Group Day Tour of Silves and Monchique with Wine Tasting, boasting a perfect 5-star rating.
To fully experience Monchique and its environs, a car is essential, given the limited public transport options. Monchique itself is accessible via winding roads.
Located approximately 30 minutes from Portimão and about a 1-hour drive from Faro airport, ensure your fuel tank is topped up, as gas stations are sparse along the route.
If you wish to explore the Algarve, consider renting a car for the most convenient means of traversing the region. Use comparison platforms like Rentalcars or Discovercars to explore options and compare rental prices.
Insights into Monchique
Monchique, a municipality in the Algarve boasting a modest population of around 6,000, is enveloped by the Serra de Monchique mountain range, acting as a natural boundary between the Algarve and Alentejo regions.
Situated at 450 meters above sea level, this town nestled between the two highest peaks in the Algarve offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with its mountains and forests, ideal for hiking, biking, and climbing.
The picturesque town of Monchique paints a scene of white houses cascading down hills, narrow yet steep streets, and artisan shops showcasing exquisite handmade wares like pottery and soaps, rooted in Monchique’s centuries-old craft traditions.
Picking the Right Time
Monchique’s climate, cooler than the coastal areas of the Algarve, can shift from sunny to cloudy throughout the day.
For those envisioning a blend of Monchique’s charm with a beach retreat on the south coast, the summer months are optimal. However, choosing the ideal time to visit Monchique depends on your preferences and planned activities.
Spring and autumn emerge as prime seasons for delving into Monchique and its surrounding natural wonders, offering temperatures neither too hot nor too cold.
Unveiling Monchique’s Treasures
Monchique, a haven of tranquility, showcases its beauty through the inviting main square and the warm ambiance of Velochique cafe.
The charming cobblestone streets and boutique shops offer a delightful shopping experience for unique souvenirs.
1. Serra Da Picota
Having ascended to 774m, Serra da Picota claims the title of the second-highest peak in Serra de Monchique. The sweeping panorama and serene ambiance make it an ideal spot for bird watching and observing wildlife. Accessible by car or a rewarding hike, the mountain offers a captivating experience.
2. Igreja Matriz De Monchique
Nestled in Monchique’s heart, the Igreja Matriz de Monchique church stands as a testament to 16th-century architecture, featuring an imposing entrance with grand pillars. Explore the church and its museum, home to a captivating collection of liturgical artifacts.
3. Mina Park
Embark on a captivating journey through Parque da Mina, the region’s largest living museum, seamlessly blending culture and entertainment. This immersive experience includes a visit to a century-old manor house, cultural traditions of Serra de Monchique, and a recreation of a medronho distillery. Featuring farm animals, historic transportation, viewpoints, and a suspended bridge over a waterfall, the park promises a delightful adventure.
4. Caldas De Monchique
Just beyond Monchique lies Caldas de Monchique, a renowned spa boasting waterfalls and springs. Revered for having the cleanest water in the Algarve, the spa’s waters are believed to possess healing properties. Used for both relaxation and treating respiratory ailments, these thermal baths have a rich history dating back to Roman times.
Caldas de Monchique stands as the sole thermal spa in the Algarve, and the town is home to the Monchique Thermal Resort, offering a serene natural retreat.
5. Convento De Nossa Senhora Do Desterro (Convent Of Our Lady Of Exile)
This enchanting Franciscan convent, constructed in the 17th century, under the patronage of Pêro da Silva, a viceroy of India, offers a captivating glimpse into history. Though ravaged by an earthquake in 1755, the Convent retains its scenic allure, providing panoramic views of the town and its surroundings.
6. Mountain Fóia
Standing tall at 902m above sea level, Mountain Fóia is the Algarve’s highest peak and a must-visit. Accessible by foot, bike, or car, Fóia offers a mesmerizing 360-degree panoramic view that includes Monchique’s colorful buildings, narrow streets, and the sprawling hills of Serra de Monchique adorned with trees and wildflowers.
Ensure you visit on a clear day to fully appreciate the vistas. As you ascend, temperatures drop, so pack accordingly with warm clothes and a swimsuit if you plan to explore this natural gem.
3 Day Trips To Monchique
For those without a car or seeking a day trip, various tours offer access to Monchique’s key attractions.
1. Monchique And Fóia: Half Day Tour
Rating: 4.7 out of 5 Stars | Tour time: 4 hours | Check rates and availability
Embark on a picturesque journey to Monchique with the Monchique and Fóia: Half Day Tour, scenic exploration of evergreen landscapes and the charm of Monchique’s mountain town. From the small streets to the majestic views atop Fóia, standing at 902 meters, this tour promises a delightful experience.
Check rates & availability: Monchique and Fóia: Half Day Tour
2. Medronho Tasting Tour
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars | Tour time: 10-13 hours | Check rates and availability
Embark on a journey through the serene landscapes of the Monchique Mountains. This morning expedition revolves around the famed local spirit, medronho, crafted from the distinctive medronho fruit. Visit two local distilleries to witness the medronho-making process.
Indulge in medronho and melosa tastings, and consider taking some home along with locally produced honey. Amid the tranquil atmosphere, don’t miss the visit to Fóia Viewpoint, the Algarve’s highest peak, providing breathtaking vistas.
This tour offers a delightful glimpse into local culture and traditions, all within the convenience of inclusive hotel transportation.
Check rates & availability: Medronho Tasting Tour
3. Small-Group Day Tour Of Silves And Monchique With Wine Tasting
Escape the tourist crowds and uncover the treasures of the Algarve with a unique day trip to the medieval towns of Silves and Monchique. Perched on one of Portugal’s highest peaks, these charming locations reveal the rich tapestry of history and natural beauty.
Perfect for history enthusiasts and nature admirers alike, this tour invites you to fully immerse yourself in the cultural and scenic wonders of the Algarve. The best part? Relinquish the driving responsibilities and relax, enabling you to soak in the stunning panoramas without any stress.
Check rates & availability: Small-Group Day Tour of Silves and Monchique
Where To Stay
In Monchique, various accommodation options are available, many of which offer spa and wellness treatments.
Splurge: Monchique Resort And Spa (Activities Included)
Rating: 8.7 out of 10| Price: $$$$ | View on Booking.com
The Monchique Resort and Spa, a luxurious 5-star establishment, offers a range of amenities, including a spa, restaurant, three pools (including a waterfall pool), a fitness center, and a kids’ club.
The hotel organizes activities under six distinct categories – wellness, sport, nature/sustainability, healthy eating, families, and featured workshops.
Check rates & availability: Monchique Resport and Spa
Rating: 9.2 out of 10 | Price: $$$ | View on Booking.com
Perched on a mountaintop in Monchique, Vilafoia is a modern guesthouse providing spacious accommodations, panoramic mountain views, and an outdoor swimming pool.
Noteworthy amenities include a jacuzzi on the top deck with stunning views, a hammock, and fiber optic WiFi, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Budget: Casa Dos Batalim
Rating: 8.7 out of 10| Price: $$ |View on Booking.com
Looking for diverse accommodation? Monchique offers a variety of options. For a comprehensive list, simply click here.
Where To Eat
Discover the rich gastronomy of the region, embracing traditional culinary techniques. Indulge in local delicacies such as black pork sausages, cured hams, and honey sourced from the aromatic wildflowers of the region. Don’t miss a sip of the potent medronho liqueur, crafted from the fruit of strawberry trees.
Start your culinary journey with the region’s renowned meat offerings. Monchique takes pride in its pig farming tradition, presenting an array of pork sausages (molho, morcela de farinha or farinheira, and chouriça) and hams.
The annual Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais de Serra de Monchique celebrates this ancient sausage-making tradition every March, while the Feira do Presunto in June showcases local hams.
If You Aren’t A Fan Of Meat, Don’t Worry, There Should Be A Lot Of Fish Options Available Too, Including Bacalhau, A Portuguese Favorite.
Delight in Mel da Serra de Monchique, a wildflower honey derived from lavender, heather, eucalyptus, citrus, and plum blossoms.
For a refreshing drink, Monchique is renowned for its production of Medronho, a spirit crafted from the fruits of the Arbutus Unedo tree.
Explore liquors made with regional ingredients, including the famed Melosa derived from arbutus brandy (medronho). The picking of small red arbutus, known as the strawberry tree, takes place from October to November.
After fermentation and distillation, the medronho ages in barrels for approximately eight years, resulting in a bottled spirit with an alcohol content ranging from 40% to 50%.
While in Monchique, a visit to “Casa do Medronho” is a must for an in-depth exploration of this remarkable product.
Indulge in local sweets, particularly Bolo de Tacho, a traditional treat made with cocoa, honey, and fennel.
Experience these culinary delights at various restaurants.
Luar Da Foia specializes in regional dishes, focusing on black pork, with panoramic views of Monchique mountains and the sea. A Charrette offers a traditional menu in a cozy setting. Another option is Tasca do Petrol, serving authentic “serrana algarvia” cuisine—booking a table in advance is advisable for weekend visits.
Monchique is also renowned for its pure spring water, available in supermarkets across Portugal.
Explore the Loja do Mel e do Medronho, where local producers showcase their offerings. To immerse yourself in the authentic experience, consider the Monchique Hills and Flavours tour by Algarve Food Experience. This tour allows guests to wander through Monchique’s cork and medronho forest, savor its gastronomy, and learn about local farmers’ expertise in crafting the finest cured meat in the Algarve.
Should You Visit Monchique?
Monchique offers a perfect blend for a joyful and rejuvenating holiday. Whether you seek tranquility on the mountains Fóia and Picota, explore the charming streets of Monchique, benefit from the healing properties of Caldas de Monchique, or crave the urban buzz—Portimao is just a 30-minute drive away. Moreover, the vibrant city of Lisbon is a mere few hours’ journey!
For a unique experience, consider visiting on market day—the second Monday of the month—held in the town square. Here, traditional fares mentioned in this article abound. You’ll also encounter distinctive “scissor” chairs, small wooden X-shaped chairs that fold flat, rumored to be Roman inventions.