Finding Our Mountain Resort
Our first stop in the Algarve was high in the Algarve mountains at Monchique. We left Lisbon and meandered our way south. After we visited the beaches close to Lisbon, we chose to take the highway most of the way south rather then head into the mountains early. The sky was dark and the rain kept showing up. The highway route made it a quite easy drive to the MacDonald Monchique Resort and Spa.
Some cell phone apps are worth their weight in gold. I had not yet turned on cell connectivity in Portugal. Wifi had been serving us ok. Our offline maps app (CityMapsToGo) was more helpful than either the GPS we brought from home or the car GPS. None of the options actually showed the MacDonald resort by name but I had put a pin in the location on my app. There were enough wifi signals along the way to let the app get us directly to the resort.
Many times as we drove through the Algarve, we stopped to see the large bird nests on the poles. As we took the road to Monchique we stopped when we saw there were actually birds and chicks at home.
A Room With A View
We checked in to the almost empty resort. As we wandered we saw only about a dozen people in a resort with 190 rooms. While we found Lisbon to be quite packed with tourists, in the Algarve things were still pretty quiet in May.
The resort had a full spa facility. We did not enjoy the spa treatments but we did take advantage of the pool. A long convoluted path led us to our suite. We had full kitchen facilities although we did not stay long enough to really use them.
Going out onto the patio we had a great view back towards the sea. This was one of the reasons we planned to visit the Algarve mountains at Monchique!
Driving Up To The Foia
In the morning, we headed high in the Algarve mountains at Monchique. The road was a twisty mountain road. On the trip up we bypassed the small village of Monchique to go directly to the Foia. The sky was still grey and we wanted to get our view in case the rain moved in. The Foia is the highest point in the Algarve at 902m (3000 feet). It was a navigation point for sailors.
As we went up the mountain, we stopped several times to get pictures of the vista. The first stop gave us a great view down to the limestone quarry in the hills. At this stop we were also amazed by the trees full of oranges.
The next stop was at the “Mirador” (the official viewpoint). We could look down over the valley and see much of the Algarve coast. Unfortunately the clouds covered most of the sky and the valley below was quite dark.
Head up the Algarve mountains at Monchique for great views along the way! We looked up and could see our next stop.
The View From The Top
We kept driving up until we hit the summit. There was an information booth and a shop with local goods. Antennas dotted the sky. A portion of the summit was behind a wire fence and marked as military property.
We wandered to the viewpoint and looked out from this slightly higher perspective.
The signs at the summit indicated a whole series of hiking trails. If you are looking to do something a little more active in the Algarve, a trip up into the hills might be something you want to do. We also saw many people biking up to the summit.
On the way down from the Algarve mountains at Monchique we made one more stop. This point gave us a view out over the Atlantic. At this elevation we were close to the clouds.
The Village of Monchique
Heading back down from the Algarve mountains at Monchique we passed a few restaurants. We contemplated stopping at a place with a view. But thought we would find more more options in the small village of Monchique. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
We found a parking spot and looked everywhere to see if this was a pay parking spot. We had experience in Europe with badly marked parking spots and did not want a parking ticket. As we walked about this little square, we found interesting artwork. A colourful mural mixed bright colours with the traditional Portuguese tiles we saw everywhere.
There were two local restaurants on the square. We picked the one with more people and learned a lesson. More people does not alway mean the better or faster. It was soon obvious that most of the people were from a bus tour that had been dropped in the village. We finally got our mediocre lunch. Certainly not the local treat we had hoped for.
On our way back down to the shores of the Algarve, we passed the signs for the Caldas da Monchique. The healing waters of this region have been a draw since the time Romans occupied the region. There is a small town and a spa hotel. If you hike in this area, you may find fresh spring water bubbling from the ground. This would be worth a return visit when in the Algarve next.
High In the Algarve Mountains at Monchique
If you want to do something different on your visit south, head high in the Algarve mountains at Monchique. If you like to hike or challenge yourself with a bike ride in the mountains, this might be the destination for you. And may even find thermal spa waters to round out your visit.
You will get great views down over the Algarve as you climb higher and higher. We found this a great way to get our birds eye view before we plunged to the shores of the Algarve.
Have you been high in the Algarve mountains at Monchique? Did you hike when you visited Monchique? Try the thermal waters?