By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]
In this monthly travel feature, Paulo Silvestre takes readers on a guided tour of the best places to visit in Portugal. Paulo provides inside information and useful tips to assist you in planning relaxing trips and enjoyable days out. You’ll discover the best of Portugal and enjoy celebrating its unique culture! Paulo holds a degree in Media Studies and his hobbies include playing in a band.
MONCHIQUE IS one of the most attractive places in the Algarve, situated in the Serra de Monchique hills and best known for its spa and bottled water. Although near the beach, it is very unlike locations on the tourist coast.
Surrounded by gardens, offering incredible views and a gentle ambience, those who choose to visit Monchique will find the tranquillity and character of a different Algarve.
The air is very fresh and many activities take place in the hills, for example: guided walks, horse riding, flower and plant observation, bird watching, mountain biking, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and crystal therapy.
The Serra de Monchique boasts the highest point of the Algarve, the Fóia, with an altitude of 902 metres. Its proximity to the ocean gives it a subtropical wet climate, associated with agreeable temperatures that allow the existence of rich and diverse vegetation, which includes the rare Carvalho-de-Monchique, the gorgeous adelfeira (oleander), as well as the castanheiro (chestnut tree) and rare trees in the Algarve, such as the carvalho-cerquinho and the carvalho-roble.
Fóia is an impressive natural viewpoint where you can look out over the Algarve and to the Alentejo, offering a horizon of sea and mountain.
There is an important thermal complex set within these hills called Caldas de Monchique surrounded by lush green vegetation that is home to Europe’s largest magnolia. The ground’s fertility is not only due to the humidity, but also because of the foíte (rock of volcanic origin).
The geology is composed of two different formations: chalk up to 300 to 400 metres and syenite up to 902 metres of altitude. A form of granite is extracted from this mountain, which has been given the name Fóiaite due to its characteristics. The water of Caldas de Monchique is very much appreciated for its therapeutic qualities and has a history dating back to the times of the Romans.
As a result of these conditions, the Serra de Monchique is home to a botanical garden boasting more than 1,000 different plant species. On the way to Serra de Monchique, which is often called the Sintra of the Algarve, you can take in the beautiful scenery. Fountains and streams are discovered at every corner with light and shadows playing between the trees.
You can take a rest underneath the trees and have an enjoyable picnic with your friends, family, boyfriend or girlfriend, accompanied by the sound of running water and the chanting of the birds. Delight yourself with local specialities, such as cured sausage, meats, honey and brandy.
Discover peaks and hills on foot that will lead you into welcoming valleys and exuberant, gorgeous flower fields with camellias and acacias or the rosa albardeira.
Leaving from Portimão or Silves for Monchique, after a curve you will begin to see the typical colouring of the houses. The distinctiveness of this village is closely associated with the wealth of its waters and its healing properties.
In 1495, D. João II, King of Portugal at that time, came to Monchique’s health resorts to recover from an illness. The spas offer treatment for digestive, respiratory and muscular problems. Whether you are looking for a cure for your ailments or simply for a relaxing break, you will enjoy yourself in Monchique.
Boasting rare plants and trees – Monchique brings you into contact with nature, offering a place where you can enjoy calm and feel revitalised. The outstanding Serra de Monchique is a place you can discover alone or enjoy with your friends.
Don’t miss Monchique’s gastronomy festival this weekend, March 3 and 4 and enjoy some of the traditional delicacies from this village. Open from 11am on March 3 and 10am on March 4, taking place alongside the heliport. Call (00351) 282 910 200 for further details.
Paulo Silvestre can be contacted by emailing [email protected]