Serra de Monchique Attractions
The Serra de Monchique extends from east to west along the north side of the coastal plateau of the western Algarve, forming a protective barrier against cold air from the Atlantic and thus helping to give this area its almost North African climate. Geologically the range is a much brokenup mass of volcanic rock overlying the basement schists of the region, divided up into a western and an eastern half by the Ribeira de Odelouca. Because of the impermeability of the ground the abundant rainfall is channelled into innumerable rivers and streams (some of them dammed to form lakes), running down to the coastal plain, thus rendering it well watered and suitable even for rice. The volcanic nature of the region is also reflected in the presence of a number of hot springs.TopographyThe pleasant upland landscape of the Serra de Monchique reaches its highest point in the peaks of Fóia and Picota, 902m/2,959ft and 774m/2,538ft respectively. The varied and lush vegetation is somewhat unusual. The lower slopes are clothed with extensive forests of eucalyptus, cork oaks, spruce and mimosa, while higher up are shrubs and rhododendrons. In the foothills to the south will be found some lovely fruit gardens in which lemons, figs, almonds and olives flourish.
Serra de Monchique, Monchique, Portugal
The chief place in the Serra de Monchique is the little hill town of Monchique (458km/1,503ft). Steep streets and alleys bisect the town center, and there are fine views of the surrounding mountains. There are cafes on Largo 5 de Outubre, and the square is adorned by a modern fountain representing a "nora", which was a part of the irrigation system introduced into the Algarve by the Moors.From the square narrow streets lead up to the Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro (15minute climb). The ruins of the convent are surrounded by corkoaks, and there is a wonderful view of Monchique. The Monchique region is known for the production of "medronho", derived from the fruit of the arbutus or strawberry tree.
Serra de Monchique, Caldas de Monchique, Portugal
Monchique owes its fame to the Caldas de Monchique (warm springs), 6km/4mi further south. They are recommended for the treatment of rheumatism, liver and bladder complaints and problems of the digestive system. Bottles of its waters are on sale all over Portugal. Caldas de Monchique is one of the most idyllic places in the Algarve hinterland, with a turn of the century charm which seems unbelievable a few miles further along the coast. The tiny little spa lies in a narrow valley under tall, shady trees, and a quiet square invites the visitor to linger awhile.
From Monchique a picturesque little road winds its way for 6km/4mi up to the highest peak of the Serra de Monchique, the Fóia (902m/295ft), passing decorated houses and several cafes on the way. Gradually the vegetation becomes more sparse, and after taking a bend the visitor suddenly finds himself looking north into Alentejo. On arriving at the peak the scenery will be found to be inhospitable; Portuguese Telecom have installed a forest of masts here. There is a cafe and a souvenir shop.