For a complete change of scenery, take a drive up the narrow winding road to the mountain village of Monchique, situated just north of Portimao. Here you will find Algarve’s highest peak, Foia (900mts), having extensive views of the western coastline. This excursion will make you believe that you are no longer in the Algarve, but instead in a tropical jungle amidst flourishing mountain valleys. Half the fun is soaking in the scenery along the way. The mountain sides are covered with lush vegetation and terraces of orange and lemon groves. You may see a farmer busy at work picking oranges or selling them at his roadside stand. Notice the scent of the towering lean eucalyptus trees that grace your route in abundance.
Monchique has some great little cafés with tasty pastries and snacks, some of which are only found here. Try the chicken piri-piri (BBQ chicken with a flavourful slightly spicy sauce), or smoked ham (presunto), specialities of this area served up in the little restaurants. On a Sunday afternoon you can observe families strolling down the paths of the beautifully manicured and terraced public garden.
A couple of good sized shops in the town of Monchique have a great selection of cork and leather goods in addition to the pottery. These shops are nestled within the tiny streets, so take a good walk through the town and you will surely stumble upon them. Take a moment to stop into the old church as you roam up and down the hills of this old town.
If it is a clear day, drive up past the town of Monchique for about 10 minutes and you will reach the top of the mountain for some unbelievable views all the way to the coast. The terrain at the top is rugged, so bring comfy walking shoes.
Caldas de Monchique, (the Spa) which is well known for its spring waters, used for the treatment of rheumatism and chronic illness of the respiratory tract. With its crystal clear streams and gurgling waters Caldas de Monchiqie is a must for all nature lovers and a major point of interest in the region.
How to get there –
Allow about 50 mins from Praia da Luz.
Go onto the motorway and drive east and take Exit 5 for Portimão/Monchique. Look for signs for the N124 and take the N124 north to a split in the road, then go left and your ascent to Monchique begins. Drive past “Caldas de Monchique”, which is a small town that many people confuse with the town of Monchique. Keep driving and until you reach Monchique a few minutes later.
** In Monchique there are many parking spots in the main square. If you cannot find a place there, just drive up towards the top of the mountain and there will be spots where you can park and walk back down to the town centre.