Head to the mountains and explore Monchique

To add a dose of greenery to your holiday in the Algarve, Monchique is a good place to aim for.  It’s high up in the forest-covered mountain range that stretches across the south of Portugal so you’ll get great views as well as shade. I set off to explore and saw enough to make me want to go back for more.

Caldas de Monchique.

Caldas de Monchique. Photo by Julie Dawn Fox

Before you even reach the town of Monchique, you’ll see signs for Caldas de Monchique. Caldas means hot springs which is why this little village has been a popular spa resort since Roman times. The warm waters are believed to have curative and restorative properties, and the cold spring water is deliciously pure.

There are a couple of places here where you can book a spa treatment or massage as a day guest and make use of the pools. Longevity Medical Spa has a good reputation and the complex also does a great Sunday brunch. Only the Villa Thermal das Caldas de Monchique has naturally heated pools, however. They also run the 1692 restaurant where you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner in a leafy cobbled outdoor area if the weather is nice.

You don’t need to pay for spa treatments to enjoy the fresh spring water though – you can drink it directly from one of the fountains or buy the bottled version from a local shop.

Another free option is to wander through the woods along the many footpaths where you’ll see the filtration system of stone water tanks on the hillside. If you bring a picnic, there are plenty of cool stone benches in the shade of the forest.

Before you leave Caldas de Monchique just walk a bit further uphill from the main ‘square’ to find the cute little chapel of Santa Teresa if you didn’t spot it on your walk in the woods. It’s also worth having a look in the local craft shops to see some ingenious usage of seeds and wood.

View over Monchique park and town

View over Monchique park and town. Photo by Julie Dawn Fox

A few kilometres further uphill is the town of Monchique. Being so high up, it naturally has some fantastic viewpoints over the green hills and valleys. The best is probably the one from São Sebastião miradouro (viewpoint) although if you’re feeling energetic, you could walk up to the ruins of Convento Nossa Senhora de Desterro (Our Lady of Exile Convent).  Be warned, it’s a steep climb!

I was happy enough with an aimless exploration of the cobbled streets of the town centre. As well as encountering lots of bronze sculptures, I also found a lovely, shaded courtyard full of ceramics. Award-winning ceramist Leonel Telo’s workshop is in the building behind it and you can watch him at work or just admire or buy one the many pieces on display.

Ceramics by Leonel Telo in Monchique.

Ceramics by Leonel Telo in Monchique. Photo by Julie Dawn Fox

The main square by the tourist information office is a pleasant spot for a drink. As well as some colourful hand painted tiles opposite the cafés, there’s a Moorish water wheel to look at. Across the road and spreading downhill, you’ll find Monchique’s park with open air swimming pools, shaded paths and picnic tables just in case you haven’t had lunch yet.

Have you been to Monchique? Please share any tips in the comments.

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About Julie Dawn Fox

Julie Dawn Fox is a British freelance writer who moved to central Portugal in 2007. She loves exploring Portugal and uses this insider knowledge to blog about travelling there. Connect with her on twitter @juliedawnfox

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