Monchique: A Charming Mountain Town

Monchique is a small Portuguese town located in the North-Western Algarve mountain range of the Serra de Monchique.

From these lush, green mountains the view is breathtaking and it is the perfect setting for a hike or a relaxing spa weekend. Monchique is a nature lover’s dream come true!

If you are in the Algarve and need a break from the golden sand and surf, Monchique is your refuge.

Here’s what you need to know about the town to make the most of your visit.


How to Get to Monchique

The best way to get to the Monchique hills is by car.

If heading to Monchique from Lisbon, follow the A2 to the IP2/N123 and take exit 12 at Castro Verde. Then, you will follow the IC1 and N267 all the way to your destination. This is the most direct route and will take you about 3 hours.

If you have a little time and would like something more scenic that allows you to roll down the windows and smell the eucalyptus trees, there are many options for you to explore. One, you can start on the highway for about an hour and then turn off at Grandola. From there, pick up the N120 to Odemira, take the M522 to the N266 and then follow the N266 to Monchique. It will take a little longer, closer to 4 hours, but it will be worth it!

Traveling to Monchique from anywhere in the Algarve is very easy. From Faro, the drive takes a little over an hour and there are a few different routes, some more scenic than others. From other Algarve hotspots like Portimao and Lagos, the drive is only 30-40 minutes.

If you are not planning to rent a car, it is also possible to take a train from Lisbon to Messines-Alte and then take a taxi from there. However, this can be a costly way to get there.


What to Do in Monchique

Monchique is a quiet mountain town but beyond the views and relaxed vibe, there are lots of things you can do to occupy your time.

There are just a few of our favorites:


Visit Caldas de Monchique

Located just outside of Monchique is Caldas de Monchique where you can get a little rest, relaxation, and pampering. Here you will find the only thermal spa in the Algarve!

The spring waters that flow here can reach temperatures of 32℃ and are believed to have medicinal properties. In fact, these very waters have been celebrated since Roman times, where they were believed to be sacred.


Have a massage, soak in a thermal pool, or simply take in the scenery. Whatever you decide, you are sure to experience a little peace and quiet, and emerge on the other side feeling revived and refreshed.



Stop in at Parque da Mina

Close to Caldas de Monchique, you will find Parque da Mina. This is a theme park centered around an old iron ore mine.

Visitors are able to not only see the workings of the mine, but they can also visit the medronho distillery. Medronho is a traditional Portuguese brandy that is made from the fruit of the Arbutus tree, which is commonly known as the “strawberry tree.” This type of brandy is referred to as “firewater” by non-Portuguese speakers; it is a sweet and potent beverage almost exclusively found in the inner Algarve. This is a definite must-try when in the region.

On the grounds of the park is an 18th-century manor house which can be explored as well. If you’d rather stay outside, there is a mountain nature trail that offers many great views and quiet spots for a picnic amongst the pine trees.

Be sure to stop off at the petting zoo to feed the dwarf goats and Vietnamese pigs! There is a playground available for children and if you are looking for something adventurous, take a trip on the rope slide!


Celebrate at a Fair or Festival

Depending on the timing of your visit, there are a few fairs and festivals that might be worth checking out.


Festival das Camelias

If you are visiting Monchique in February or March, you must attend the Festival das Camelias. This festival celebrates the camellia flower and provides some of the most incredible visuals imaginable. The festival format evolves and changes year to year but you can expect stunning arrangements and floral displays mixed in with music and performances throughout the town.



Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais

Also in March, usually the first week, is the Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais. Located in the town square, you’d be hard-pressed to miss this celebration of the sausage!

While seafood is the most common and celebrated type of fare in other parts of the Algarve, in Monchique, pork is the prized ingredient. Head to the town square to sample traditional pork sausages, prepared from age-old recipes, take in the folklore performances, and browse the handmade crafts sold from stalls that line the streets.


Feira do Presunto

When we said that pork was a prized ingredient, we meant it. The Feira do Presunto is a festival centered around the cured ham that comes from Monchique.

Taking place in July, this festival is a great way to spend a summer evening. Be inspired with the creative festival events and performances that go into the wee hours of the morning.


Artechique

Monchique was once a large producer of textiles and that skill is still evident today in the crafts and handmade goods that are produced here.

Every September, Monchique holds a crafts fair known as Artechique. Here traditional artisans mix with younger artists to display some truly unique and incredible pieces. From traditional textiles to more modern creations, you’ll be amazed by what you can see and buy. Want a unique piece to take home, you’re sure to find it here!


Hike the Mountains

Monchique is a popular destination for mountain biking and birdwatching. The Monchique mountains and their tree-line landscapes make for some great outdoor adventures.

For the best view in the entire Algarve, hike up Foia, the highest mountain peak in the region. At 902 meters above sea level, you will be able to see all the way from Monchique to Cabo Sao Vicente to the west and Faro to the east.

774 meters up you will find the Picota viewpoint. Take a rest here and take in the views it provides of the southern Algarve coastline.


Explore the Town

There are lots of things worth exploring in the town itself! Human activity in this area actually dates back to the neolithic period, making Monchique a truly special place.

Wander the square and visit the many craft shops that line the cobbled streets. Here, you can purchase anything from a wicker basket to wooden sculptures and utensils.

With a history that dates back to the 16th century, Igreja de São Sebastião is a church located near the entrance to the village. Its building was commissioned by King D. Sebastião and was inaugurated by the king in 1573. The exterior is understated but there are several ornamental pieces inside that are worth a look.


Just outside of town is Nossa Senhora do Desterro Convent, a convent that was founded in 1631. It was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 but eventually, it was restored. Unfortunately, today, the convent stands in a state of disrepair. But the walk up to the convent is totally worth it.

To get to the convent, go up the stairs in Monchique and walk along the road. When the road ends, follow the winding path until you reach the gate. As you pass the cork trees, you’ll see signs that say it is private property and to keep out, but you can continue through the wire gate to the next door. If that door is open, the gentlemen who live in the space are home and will take you on a tour of the property. You can still explore some remnants of the convent’s ornate history.

Once you are done looking at the ruins, have a walk through the gardens and the fruit trees that grow there. The land is host to abundant avocado trees and wonderfully-smelling orange trees, which overlook a beautiful view.

Where to Stay in Monchique

An area this beautiful has many incredible places to stay. Here are some of our top suggestions:


Monchique Resort & Spa

This 5-star resort is located just 5 minutes from Caldas de Monchique. This place has all the amenities you can expect from a top tier hotel, including an outdoor swimming pool. There are many workshop experiences available in 6 different categories: wellness, sport, nature/sustainability, healthy eating, families and featured workshops. Each of these experiences works together to help you make the most of the natural surroundings and relax your body and soul.

Rooms are modern with floor to ceiling windows that provide clear views over the mountains and the coast.


Quinta do Tempo Turismo Rural

To escape the ordinary, stay at Quinta do Tempo Turismo Rural. This old country home has been transformed into cozy apartments where you can catch some R&R in a natural, country setting. Surrounded by green and the running spring water, these accommodations put the best of the Monchique region on display. Whether you choose to lounge in the beautifully manicured garden or take the 2km hike into town, you’ll be glad you based your stay here!

Monchique is a unique little mountain town that offers an escape from the common beach and resort experiences that are popular in the Algarve. For a truly relaxing vacation, book our Wellness Body Balance Retreat or give us a call and we will help you create your own perfect package!