If you’re looking for an inland town to visit in the Algarve, you’ll find several things to do in Monchique that more than justify the journey into the hills.
Monchique is a gorgeous little town in the Serra de Monchique mountain range and is surrounded by forested slopes.
Although it receives some tourists, it’s nowhere near as busy as the coastal towns and remains green year-round. It’s still very much a local place for local people so if you like to hang out with Portuguese people, simply pop into a café or a shop.
I’ve visited Monchique a few times over the years, most recently in April 2023 when I was pleased to see that much remains the same but that there are some relative newcomers to the creative scene that make it an even more attractive destination.
This time around, we chose to stay just outside Monchique at Vilafoia, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a place surrounded by nature with amazing views and great customer service. I’ll mention other possible places to stay towards the end of the article but this is also a great base if you’re planning to do any hiking in the area.
For now, let’s get stuck into what there is to see and do in Monchique and its surrounding area.
Things to do in Monchique town
Be amazed by the ceramic sculptures by Studio Bongard
Tara and Sylvain Bongard moved their studio from the coastal Algarve to the hills of Monchique in 2020 and haven’t looked back. Both of the husband and wife team are ceramic sculptors although they have different styles.
As you walk into their space, you’ll see fanciful nature-inspired pieces of differing sizes, from flowers to rabbits, to a giant seahorse.
The garden gallery, next to their workshop, is filled with more amazing pieces. I’d seen some of their work online before visiting and they are so much better in real life, where you can appreciate the texture, colours and glaze effects.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 7 pm.
Visit Leonel Telo’s ceramic studio
Leonel Telo’s work is generally speaking more practical in style and he too has some lovely ceramic homeware and decorative pieces for sale at his studio.
He’s open every day from 11 am to 5 pm. Ring the bell if the door is shut during opening hours.
Check out his Facebook page for up to date information.
Buy a scissor chair or basket from a local craft store
Not far from the Miradouro (viewpoint) and tourist information office, you’ll find an unassuming shop that is full of goodies. Casa J A Maio – Herdeiros craft shop sells woven wool blankets, wooden chairs that fold up like scissors, wicker baskets, cork bowls, wool slippers and more besides.
Taste the local liquor
Another craft shop I liked is mainly a liquor store, selling a variety of home made tipples made from local plants, honey, ornamental glass and other crafts.
Licores e Doces do Convento is on Rua do Porto Fundo.
Another place to buy locally produced licor and honey is the Loja do Mel e do Medronho just off Largo de Monchique. Medronho is the local “firewater”, made from the fruit of strawberry trees.
Read more about medronho and other Portuguese drinks in this article.
See artwork by local artist Liz Allen
In another gift/craft shop, this time in the centre of the town called A Casa Amarela (The Yellow House, for obvious reasons), we found some beautiful, colourful prints of paintings by Liz Allen, a British artist who has made Monchique her home.
Her love for the town and surrounds shines through in her work. We were fortunate to catch the last day of her exhibition at Galería de Santo António to see her latest original pieces.
Check out the latest temporary exhibition at Galeria de Santo António
This small gallery is near the parish church and worth popping along to in case there is an exhibition on while you’re there. As I said, we definitely got lucky!
Open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm.
Visit the Religious Art (Arte Sacra) Museum
If you’re interested, there is a small museum dedicated to this type of art but you’ll have to let me know what it’s like – I was pushed for time and have seen a LOT of religious art over the years so I decided to skip it.
Admire the views from Miradouro de Monchique
While the concrete structure of Monchique’s viewing terrace is not the prettiest, it does offer great views over the old town and surrounding countryside. It’s next to the tourist information office and a free car park.
Tip: There’s a great pastelaria (cake shop and café) just across the roundabout called Doce e Arte.
Marvel at the doorway of the parish church
A beautiful church from the beginning of the 16th century, which was partially rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. The intruiging Manueline portico catches the eye and inside you’ll find decorated naves and a small museum.
Go on a sculpture hunt
One of the most intriguing things to do in Monchique as you wander through the streets is to spot various bronze figures. I’m not sure how many there are in total but I counted at least four sets of sculptures, including a young man with a bowl on the wall above the public gardens.
Look out for a set of five figures, one of whom is a celebrated local surgeon, Dr Humberto Messias, who refused to have his statue just on a plinth but chose instead to be portrayed interacting with local people, i.e. the other four statues.
Hang out in the main squares
Largo de Monchique and the adjacent Largo dos Chorões are ideal spots for sitting in an outdoor café soaking up the atmosphere and watching the world go by.
Largo de Monchique has a replica waterwheel fountain and colourful murals to brighten it up.
Take a stroll through the gardens
When the flowers are in bloom, the terraced beds of pretty municipal gardens, also called Jardim do Largo dos Chorões, are a pleasure to walk around. Or simply admire from above if you don’t fancy going down and then up the hill!
Things to do near Monchique
Visit the spa village of Caldas de Monchique
If you’re approaching Monchique from the coast on the N266, you’ll first come to a hamlet called Caldas de Monchique.
This tiny spa village is worth a detour. The Termas de Monchique (healing waters) have been popular since Roman times and there is now a 5-star hotel where you can get spa or therapeutic treatments using this mineral-rich water.
If you don’t have the time, money or inclination to get wet, you can take a drink from the Fonte os Amores (Fount of Loves) then follow the water channels and the stream through the woods to find a small chapel dedicated to Saint Teresa.
There are also cafés, restaurants and a couple of craft and gift stores here, as well as Número Limitado, a gallery/shop that has changing exhibitions.
If you’re based in a coastal Algarve town, you can take this small group tour that includes Caldas de Monchique as well as Silves, Mount Foia and a visit to Quinta Do Frances Winery.
Enjoy local fare with amazing views
I had the most amazing wild boar and chestnut stew at Luar da Foia restaurant. The location is stunning too so it’s best to go during the day or before sunset so that you can fully appreciate the views.
Gaze at the views from Foia Mountain and viewpoint
The top of mount Foia is the highest peak in the Algarve, standing proud at 902 metres. As you might expect, it is blessed with some of the best views in the region, overlooking Portimao and Lagos to the south, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Cabo de São Vicente in Sagres to the west.
You can see the views from the top of the mountain and discover the nature around Caldas de Monchique on this WOW Algarve from above tour. If you’d like to witness the sunset from the mountain, choose the afternoon tour.
You can experience the highest point in the Algarve on this half day tour which also includes Monchique.
Ornothologists may be interested in this birdwatching day in the Monchique hills experience where it’s possible to see different species than the ones found on the coast.
Note: The infrastructure at the top of Foia includes a military base that detracts from the natural beauty somewhat. That said, there’s a food truck just below the car park and viewing platform that’s away from the buildings and offers unblemished views. To be honest, we enjoyed the views on the drive up and down more than the viewpoint itself.
Following the 2018 fires the latest hiking trail to be back on its feet is the Passadiço do Barranco do Demo Alferce walkway, part of which passes through the heartland of Monchique. You can see a video of the walkway here.
Go for a hike near Monchique
There are several hiking trails that incorporate Foia but I haven’t done any of them yet. There’s a “difficult” 17 km Waterfalls Trail (PR5 MCQ Percurso das Cascatas) and a 6.5 km Foia loop that’s graded “somewhat challenging” (PR3 MCQ).
If you wanted to walk from Monchique to Foia, you could follow the red and white trail markers of the Via Algarviana then join the Trilho da Foia (PR3 MCQ) at Fontinha da Foia.
To avoid getting lost, and learn about the area, I suggest this guided hike as a day trip from Lagos. It takes you on a walk through the streets of Monchique and then some beautiful forest trails. A medronho tasting is included.
See here for more walking options.
Where to stay in Monchique
5 star hotels in Monchique
4 star hotels in Monchique
We stayed at Vilafoia, just outside Monchique, and we loved it. It has panoramic mountain views, a solar-heated garden pool and free onsite parking. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. Book your room.
3 star hotels in Monchique
Vinha do Gaio is a farm stay set in a historic building near Monchique, with a garden and views of the sea. The hosts are very friendly and it’s a great place to enjoy nature and a little tranquility. Check dates.
To really connect with nature try Wild Oasis – Algarve. It’s located in a beautiful country house with gorgeous views and there is a wide choice of wellness activities you can try, from breathwork techniques to singing circles. See possibilities.
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