Monchique is a spa town in the Algarve.
Monchique is the main town of the Serra de Monchique, the mountain range that separates the Algarve from Alentejo and the rest of Portugal to the north. It is a region with its own micro climate and produces cherries, chestnuts, oranges, lemons, peaches and olives. Rugs, pottery, chestnut scissor chairs, honey, cork, timber, bottled mineral water, Sienito granite, black pork and smoked sausages are some of the crafts and industries in Monchique.
Unspoiled by mass tourism, the area still has the yesteryear charm. It is a magnet however on weekends for the many Portuguese that live on the coast, they visit to eat traditional food in first class restaurants, fill bottles with water from the many roadside springs and take in the air and views.
Many Northern Europeans including the British have settled in reasonable numbers here, giving the town a distinct cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as the "Garden of the Algarve" or the "Algarves best kept secret", it is a nature lovers' paradise and heaven for cyclists and hikers.
From the southern Algarve coastal strip, Monchique is a 20- to 30-minute drive from Portimao, following the EN266 road which winds its way up into the hills. This road is served by a regular bus service.
There is also a helipad to the north-west of the town centre on Estrada de Saboia.
Walking is a great way to get around the narrow, cobbled streets of Monchique and see all it has to offer. Visit the Turismo for a free street plan.
- Foia, highest mountain in Algarve and Picota the 2nd highest. The views from both peaks are spectacular, one can drive to the viewpoint on Foia, there is a short and easy walk to the top of Picota from a car park a short distance away. On the hillside above Monchique is the ruin of a 17th-century convent (Nossa Senhora de Desterro - our Lady of Exile). There are many narrow cobbled streets with a variety of craft shops, restaurants and bars.
- Caldas de Monchique, where the Romans built baths using the natural spring waters, is still in use and open to the public. In 1495 King João II visited the spa seeking treatments.
Try the traditional food, Black Pork, Wild Boar, Chicken Piri Piri and the local firewater, Medronho, or for the ladies, Melosa, which is Medronho mixed with Honey. Drive many of the contour roads around the mountains and take in the views. Visit the health spa at Caldas de Monchique. Hike many of the trails, you will find a map at the tourist information.
Bird watching: The Serra da Monchique is an excellent place to observe birds as it is on one of Europe's major migratory routes. Over 200 species have been observed and some of the best bird watching locations can be found here.
- Atelier Leonel Telo, Walnut Tree House, Monchique (on a small, pedestrian lane behind the main church, Igreja Matriz N Sra da Conceicao). Artisan ceramicist, selling his own handmade goods for the home and garden. Beautiful hand-painted tiles and pots. Surprisingly inexpensive. Worth a visit just to marvel at his talent in the gallery.
There are about 40 restaurants in the parish of Monchique, which also includes the villages of Marmalete and Alferce.
- Ochala, 14 Rua Dr Zamora Gil, Monchique. Lovely tea house serving a great range of gourmet teas, along with an imaginative menu of sandwiches, cakes, salads and more. Works by local artists on the walls and a relaxing jazzy soundtrack. Excellent value too!
- O Luar da Foia, Estrada de Foia, Ceiceira (About 1km out of Monchique on the Foia Road). This is a first class restaurant serving typical Portuguese food. It has an extensive menu but dishes of note are the Wild boar with Chestnuts or Plums and various wood fired oven roasts. The restaurant has a terrace with spectacular views to the coast. Closed on Mondays.
- A Rampa, On the foia Road (take the Foia road out of Monchique for about 5 km). A restaurant with stunning coastal views from its terrace. It is famous for its Chicken Piri Piri and rated as one of the best in the Algarve.
- Foz do Banho, On the EN266 just south of Caldas de Monchique. A lovely restaurant that also has a local Artesnato shop attached which has an extensive range of locally made crafts. The restaurants signature dish has to be the Pork and Prawn Cataplana, (for two).
- Jardim das Oliveiras. Perhaps one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in the Algarve. Particularly a destination for visitors from the North of Portugal. The menu is traditional Monchique fair with wild boar, kid and black pork as its main dishes. It has a nice cottage feel with two log fires which is very cosy in the winter time. The ruined convent can be seen from the garden.
- A Paraiso da Montanha (about 5 km out of Monchique on the Foia Road next to A Rampa Restaurant). Another restaurant with awesome views with an interesting menu. Chicken with cherries and the Kid Stew are to die for!
- O Castelo Just north of Caldas de Monchique on the EN266. Under new ownership since February 2018. Excellent dishes, great prices, awesome views from the terrace.
There are dozens of small bars, usually attached to restaurants or cafes. The square in Monchique is very popular and has several cafes and bars with outside seating to relax and people watch. Bar Elephante is up a small alley way just up from the square and caters for the younger crowd in the evenings, also does Tapas.
- [dead link] VillaTermal das Caldas de Monchique Hotel and Spa, Caldas de Monchique. This is by far Monchique's best Hotel complex. It's in the small historic village of Caldas de Monchique, famous for its thermal spas. It has several different hotels and apartments in the complex, a restaurant and bar.
- Albergaria do Lageado, Caldas de Monchique. A small guest house with restaurant in the village of Caldas de Monchique.
- Vila Foia. An upmarket guesthouse/hotel in a quiet rural location just outside the town of Monchique. Within walking distance of the town and restaurants.
- Villa Vida Nova. An upmarket luxury villa for weekly rental in a quiet rural location just outside the town of Monchique. Within walking distance of the town and restaurants.
- [formerly dead link] Abrigo da Montanha. A small hotel with restaurant on the Foia Road a few km out of Monchique.
- Casa Rosa Branca. A private bed and breakfast retreat, about 7 km out of Monchique just off the Foia Road
The very helpful Turismo (Tourist information office) is at the top of Rua Eng. Duarte Pacheco, south of the main square Largo dos Charoes (follow signs towards Foia). There's a useful and free multi-storey car park underneath it. There are many craft and local food fairs in Monchique, the tourist information can help with dates and brochures. There is also a gypsy market every 2nd Friday.