Located between the two highest peaks in the Algarve, Monchique is a small peaceful town with remarkable views, surrounded by lush green forests, mountain peaks, and small streams. Her’s what you should see
Igreja Matriz de Monchique
The main church with its impressive pillars is a beautiful example of Manueline architecture from the 16th century although, somewhat unusually, it demonstrates a nautical theme despite its relative distance from the coast. Check out the tops of its columns in the main nave to see a pattern of twisted ropes carved out of the stone. Do visit the church’s museum with its collection of liturgical objects that were used over the years. It is open Monday to Friday between 08:30 and 17:30, with free entry.
The Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro
A 15-minute uphill walk from the cobbled streets of central Monchique, this 17th-century monastery was used by the Franciscan monks until the earthquake of 1755. It was partially rebuilt, and then eventually abandoned creating an eerie atmosphere that has seen the natural surroundings slowly creep among the ancient stones. It has what is reputed to be Europe’s largest magnolia tree.
The convent is situated on private land, but the owner welcomes visitors free of charge. The view from there of Monchique and the surrounding area makes it worth the visit. Open daily, 09:00–16:00. 282 910 200
Parque da Mina is currently the largest living museum in the region and includes a small theme park. Surrounding an old iron ore mine, there are fun activities that explain the workings of the mine, and in the basement you can see how the liquor medronho is made. There is also a nature trail through the landscaped surroundings of the Sierra de Monchique with plenty of picnic spots amongst the trees. The park is also home also to a small petting zoo that is home to dwarf goats, Vietnamese pigs, and others. For younger visitors, there is a playground while for those a little older seeking an adrenaline fix there’s a rope slide. Open daily, 09:00–16:00. Closed Moday. Tickets around €8. 282 096 657
This art gallery and sculpture garden created by artists Tara and Sylvain Bongard in the heart of Monchique is open to the public and by appointment. Stepping through the door of the old carriage house is an adventure in itself takig you through rooms with the sound of streaming water wjere they are sculptures and plants to discover. There is an extensive garden, more like a wonderland, with a magical mix of animal life and fauna captured in sculpture. Open 10:00–17:00. 968 362 930 | studiobongard.com
Caldas de Monchique
This famous spa with waterfalls and springs is one of the most beautiful places in the region and known for having the cleanest and the best water in the whole of the Algarve. The natural hot springs that rise up out of the ground typically have a temperature of 30°C. Caldas de Monchique is the only thermal spa in the Algarve. The area itself is a treasure trove of glorious architecture.
At 902 meters above sea level, Mountain Fóia is the highest mountain in the Algarve and shouldn’t be missed. You can reach the peak of Fóia on foot, by bike, or by car. The panoramic view from there is breathtaking. You can see the town of Monchique with its colourful buildings and narrow streets as well as all the hills of Serra de Monchique which stretch for miles and miles and are covered with trees and wildflowers. Make sure to visit on a clear day, otherwise, you won’t be able to see much. The higher you go, the colder it gets, so be prepared and dress accordingly; if you find yourself in need of refreshment, there’s a café and restaurant, as well as a small gallery up there.
At the top, you’ll discover a statue cyclist Remco Evenepoel at the peak. Monchique is an important cycling destination, not only in Portugal but internationally.
The varied nature of its on-road and off-road bike routes offers a challenge that has drawn many cyclists to the area.
Barranco de Pisões
One of many natural attractions locally, the Barranco de Pisões – named after a prominent family that once owned the land – offers shady woodland walks past hundred-year-old plane trees and wonderful spots for a picnic. On the same site you’ll come across the Moinho do Poucochinho, a water-powered mill used for decades by the people of Monchique. First used to prepare their raw wool into useable material, it was later converted to grind the grain they had grown in their fields during the long summer months.
Taste the local flavours Monchique is known for pig farming and produces a wide selection of pork sausages that are made following a century-old tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation by locals. The town holds an annual three-day traditional sausage fair (Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais de Serra de Monchique) during the first week of March and also stages an annual ham fair (Feira do Presunto) in June.
Then there is the Mel da Serra de Monchique, which is wildflower honey made from several local floral varieties, such as lavender, heather, eucalyptus, citrus, and plum.
When it comes to local desserts and cakes, Monchique has a traditional sweet that is called Bolo de Tacho which is made with cocoa, honey, and fennel. It is one you have to try.
And there is the famous Medronho, a spirit made from the fruits of the Arbutus Unedo (strawberry tree). The small red berries are picked in October and November, fermented in containers for at least a month, and then distilled in copper stills. After aging in barrels, for more or less eight years, the medronho – with an alcohol content between 40% and 50% – is bottled and ready to consume.
Discover more, including local restaurants, in our February issue.
Words: Lívia Mokri
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