Around Monchique and the mountains
The Serra de Monchique begins about 20 kilometres inland from both the south and the west coast. The mountains are largely covered in eucalyptus trees but there are also cork oaks, pine trees and medronho (wild strawberry bushes - the fruit is used to make the local firewater). In spring, there is an abundance of lavender, rosemary and other wild herbs and flowers. There are two peaks, Foia (902m) and Picota (774m). Sadly, the Foia peak is spiked with telecommunication antennas and the dealings of a NATO base but the views to both sides of the coast are spectacular.
Monchique itself is a mountain town - a far cry from the development of the coast. As happened across the Algarve, the 1755 earthquake claimed many buildings in Monchique. Perched high above the town is one of its victims, the ruined Franciscan monastery, Nossa Senhora do Desterro, which is still well worth a visit (see below left). The views are beautiful and the old monastery has a decayed charm to it. Another victim, one of the churches in the town, Igreja Matriz, was rebuilt after the earthquake but still has the original Manueline door (a very decorative style of architecture, dating back to the 16th century). In the centre of Monchique there is a water wheel and dotted around the town are small sculptures (below right).
During the summer there is a free open air swimming pool. Internet access is available from the library (near the Post Office or 'Correio') and at the Internet Space in the main square.
Market days are on the 2nd Friday (food) and 4th Sunday (flea market) of the month.
Caldas de Monchique is an old
Roman spa town 6km south of Monchique. It is a beautiful spot to visit and there
are some nice restaurants and a bar but the spa itself is quite clinical.
Just past the Caldas on the way from Monchique to Portimao there is a zoo, Omega Park, dedicated to endangered species and also nearby Parque da Mina is an 18th century ancestral house where you can learn about the flora of Monchiqe and how medronho (the local firewater) is made.
The nearest beach is Praia de Amoreira on the West Coast (about 25 mins). Arrifana is also a beautiful and wild beach - great for surfers - and Monte Clerico has a pleasant cafe open most of the year. In the spring (April) the whole of the west coast is a postcard of wild flowers. The south coast is more built up, but there is an excellent selection of restaurants and nightlife in Portimao and Lagos. To get to Praia da Rocha in Portimao and the beaches around Alvor takes about 40 mins.
There is also the new race track, the Algarve Motor Park, Autódromo International Algarve which is only 20 mins drive from Casa Mira Montanha. There is also a go-karting track.
For more information about Monchique, including things to do, places, to stay, where to try medronho and walks around the mountains, please see the new website Veredas Monchique.
Restaurants & bars in and around Monchique
Restaurants in and around Monchique tend to be traditional. Wild boar, local sausage, suckling pig, rabbit and chicken piri-piri are specialities. The Bica Boa on the edge of Monchique does vegetarian food - as well as a range of meat and fish dishes. There is also a restaurant in the Caldas de Monchique, 1692, that offers a good selection of healthy vegetarian and traditional dishes. On the Monchique to Foia road there are many restaurants. Jardim das Oliveiras is particular good and has a cosy atmosphere.
There are a couple of restaurants/bars about 6 km from Mira Montanha, 'Abrigo de Serra' and 'Petrol' - both offering traditional food (no vegetarian options).
The Barlefante in the centre of Monchique has great mirrors on painted and flaking walls creating a decadent ambience. Fricky's Bar is similarly dark, atmospheric and open late.
Veredas Monchique has recently developed five trails around the Monchique mountains which can be downloaded from the website. There is also information about things to do, where to stay and places to visit - including where to try medronho!
Lucio Feio offers a range of activities including guided walks and downhill around the Monchique area (Tel: 965004337). Outdoor Tours also offers guided walks around Monchique (September - June every Wednesday 10.00am - 4.00pm) canoeing on the Ria de Alvor and downhill mountain biking from the top of Fóia.
There are also regular guided 2-3 hour walks throughout the Algarve with Julie Statham of Portugal Walks. Please see website for dates. Or call +351 965753033.
The recently opened Via Algarviana is a 240 km footpath which traverses the Algarve from Alcoutim to Cape Saint Vincent.
There are several riding centres in the Algarve although, unfortunately, not in Monchique. The nearest is Quinta Paraiso Alto in Bensafrim. This friendly, mainly English speaking, riding centre offers hour-long rides through the countryside for 25 euros, or restaurant rides for half a day - or longer rides to the coast and up to the mountains. Tel +351 282687507.
Also near Lagos is Tiffany's Riding Centre. Tel +351 282697395.
In the other direction www.algarvetrail.com offer a unique riding experience (Western) in the remote Alentejo (near São Teotonio). They offer hourly, half day and full day rides, as well as full-moon rides. Tel 919575579
In Aljezur, it is also possible to go donkey trekking. There are group treks on Fridays 2.30pm - 5.30pm for up to 10 people or you can make up your own groups and times. The cost is 9 euros for 1½ hours or 17 euros for 3 hours. There are also special events, day treks, week-long treks and rides for children. Please contact Sofia for more details 967145306 (English, German, Portuguese) or email email@example.com or see burros-artes.blogspot.com
Jerome Gay and Yvonne Slough offer workshops on tile painting (Thurs 10.30 - 4.30) and silk painting (Tues 10.30 - 4.30). For more information call 282911519.
Liz Allen also offers workshops on painting and has an exhibition of her work at her home in Chilrão. For more details see www.lizallenart.com
There is a literary event, the Alfa Literature Salon, on the first Monday of every month in the old convent in Lagoa at 7.30pm. Each month, the organiser, Barbar Fellgiebel, invites two or three writers and/or lecturers to talk about their work or a particular aspect of literature. The cost is 5 euros.
See also www.algarvecreativewriting.blogspot.com for more information on creative writing in the Algarve, workshops and events.
The following are short stories about Monchique written during a writing holiday in April 2007.
If you have any short stories of Monchique or the Algarve, please contact Lisa
The following report was sent in by Dawn and Malcolm Roberts who stayed at Mira Montanha in May 2007. The birds in red are the species which are perhaps of most interest to British birdwatchers. Thirty eight different species were spotted in and around Chilrão, including booted eagle, buzzard, red-rumped swallow, nightingale, blue rock thrush, melodious warbler, crested tit, firecrest, short-toed treecreeper and rock buntin.
If you would like me to add anything, please email the details.
Last updated 5 January 2012