Walk 4 – Caldas de Monchique

By Paul McKay [email protected]

In his bimonthly column, Paul McKay will be taking readers along some of the routes less travelled in the Algarve as well as well-trodden but still enjoyable paths.

The route – circular

Start/Finish – Miradouro above Caldas.

Moderate (some steep steps).

Time – approximately 1 hour.

I awoke with a start this morning to a loud thud outside, followed immediately by frantic barking.

Bleary-eyed, I opened the front door and vaguely noticed something black and white taking off from the patio.

Two dogs went in hot pursuit whilst Bruno, the oldest, relieved himself over my hydrangea cuttings.

Finally waking-up a little I called the dogs back and Ela, our new bitch, returned enthusiastically, proudly holding a Muscovy Duck in her jaws.

She deposited this at my feet and sat waiting for praise, as if this were the normal start to a Saturday morning.

This rude awakening led to a car drive to various duck-keeping neighbours, to offer our find to them.

We arrived at a farmhouse a couple of kilometres away to find the occupants in a killing frenzy surrounded by twitching hens.

We offered the young duck to her, which she gratefully received, telling us it was hers to begin with having flown off a few hours earlier.

This little escapade ended well (or badly depending upon your point of view) and left us out of the house and in the car much earlier than anticipated.

With the sun shining, we set off for a little tour of Caldas de Monchique, a place we know extremely well and have visited on numerous occasions over the years, usually with friends or relatives in tow.

As so often happens, it is easy to overlook the beauty of familiar locations, simply because they are on our doorstep. Today I forced myself to look at Caldas through the eyes of a first time visitor; I found beauty, tranquillity and peace.

Below I have outlined a rather sketchy walking route, so be prepared to be flexible. Paths shoot off into the woodland from all directions, take a chance to follow a few to see where they take you.

If you think of Caldas as a large basin with the village at its base and the main road at its rim, you can’t really get lost.

To get to the start of this walk take the EN 266 from Portimão to Monchique. Keep driving up towards Monchique ignoring the left turn for Caldas de Monchique.

After a bend to the left there is a parking spot on the left(opposite Restaurante Panoramico Algarvio), with a viewing platform and, on sunny days, locals selling fruit, honey etc.

Park the car here and continue uphill for about a minute until you reach a calçada road going downhill to your left, just after a zebra-crossing.

This road is seldom used by cars and meanders peacefully down to the village of Caldas. On the way down through breaks in the forest there are many stunning views to the coast and over the village of Caldas.

You are surrounded by lush woodland of cork oak, arbutus, mimosa, pine and eucalyptus. The fresh crystal clear air smells beautiful and you pass a number of charming old villas with semi-tropical gardens.

When you arrive in the village, take time to explore the squares, cafés and courtyards. The waters of Caldas have been reputed to have curative properties for many years and the town’s history goes back to Roman times.

There is a thermal hospital here and a spa hotel. You can pay to use the facilities as a day visitor.

From the village you can head through the car park, then follow the calçada path up past the old chapel where one of the rivers feeding Caldas passes under the Monchique road via a granite tunnel.

The alternative, and superior route, is to take the steps up past the old bread oven and into the forest. Here there are lots of picnic tables and stone paths leading off in all directions to huge granite tanks, bubbling springs, centuries old stone waterways, refreshing waterfalls, rivers and ponds.

The canopy is incredibly dense giving the air a magical sense of greenness and tranquillity. Each turn and bend opens up a new arboreal delight, one has the feeling of having slipped into a secret botanical garden for free.

It really is worth following small tracks and paths, discovering clearings and springs that can’t be seen from the main paths.

The stone steps to the right of the main water channel carve a zig-zag route back up to the Portimão road, eventually emerging at the side of a small unassuming restaurant.

This is one of Caldas’ oldest restaurants and is popular far and wide for its chicken piri-piri.

From here you follow the road on foot up and around the bend back to the viewing point where you started.