Many people are reluctant to walk in Monchique because they associate the area with the two mountains of Fóia and Picota, which means uphill walking.
While this is indeed true, there are paths and tracks that will take you through the valleys to the east of Monchique town that will offer a glimpse of rural, mountain life.
In the summer of 2018, the Monchique countryside was totally devastated by a large fire which reached almost as far as the A22. Walking in the area became virtually impossible and, in truth, unpleasant with little vegetation and charred remains. But nature is very resilient and, four years on, the mountain slopes are once again green with new growth.
Before the fire, there were several waymarked walks in the area. One of the first things the Monchique Council did after the fire was to replace burnt signage to try and encourage walkers to the area. For some, these walks would be too long and difficult; for others they are just perfect.
Details of the walks on offer can be found at the Tourist Information Office in the centre of the town and include the PR2 Caldas–Picota (18km with an elevation gain of 570m), PR3 Trilho da Fóia (6.8km with an elevation gain of 308m) and the PR4 Trilho dos Moinhos (10.3km with an elevation gain of 400m).
The first walk that was officially waymarked was the PR1 (Percurso das Árvores Monumentais), but this is now not available as the route passed through private land which the owner has fenced off. However, there is a short alternative of just 4km that takes you through the valleys to the east of the town as mentioned above. The walk is circular, with an overall climb of just 92m. It’s relatively easy and should take no more than one hour.
Park in the town carpark just beyond the Bombeiros on the right-hand side; the Café Descansa Pernas is in the corner. Walk past the café and head quite steeply downhill. Soon you arrive at a typical washhouse on your left (still used by some locals). You continue down the road; to your left you will notice a single-storey farmhouse which, although now abandoned, the owners are actively growing crops on the land surrounding it; 100m further on, you turn left onto a wide track that leads gently uphill before levelling off. Ignore tracks off to you left, continue straight ahead, you are now passing by old cork oak trees and the occasional small field.
Your track will bend around to the right before a gentle rise to pass in front of another abandoned mountain home. A slight descent and then your track bends around to the left and becomes surfaced. Here it climbs again passing burnt tree stumps (remnants of the 2018 fire) before passing through eucalyptus trees and medronho bushes.
You arrive at another small, surfaced road where you turn left, continue for 100m before meeting another road where you turn left again. Here you have large old cork trees and rounded stone boulders (typical of the Monchique area). The road passes by a house on the left before bending to the right. You are now very gently climbing. You pass another house on the left and, immediately after, you will notice a track off to your left. Turn here.
This is a good track that leads you around the hillside. As you walk along, you should be able to see the slopes of Picota (774m) to your left and, if visibility is good, the mountain top. On the right, there are cork oaks and also chestnut trees.
After about 1km, the track will become cobbled, remnants of an old donkey trail. This climbs up before levelling off and then rising to meet a main road. Here you turn left, and then you follow the road around a sharp left bend and continue straight on back to the carpark.
Julie and her team lead walks every Tuesday morning and every other Friday. All are welcome. There is a nominal charge of €5 per person and this includes a donation to charity. Full details www.portugalwalks.com or in the diary section of the Portugal Resident.
October 25: Let’s Walk along the cliff tops and through the wetlands near Burgau
October 28: Let’s Walk from Monchique
Julie Statham has been walking throughout Portugal for more than 20 years and now acts as a walking advisor and guide for various companies in both Portugal and Europe. She has a background in earthsciences and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from Bristol University, UK.