Serra da Monchique the “Upper Algarve”
From either the EN125 or the A22 you will find an intersection with the EN266 just north of the coastal city of Portimao. Following this road you will pass through Rasmalho (Stork City), one of the largest colonies of White Storks in Portugal. You will be gradually climbing the wooded foothills of the Serra and will come across a famous Spa village, Caldas de Monchique, turn off here and walk this tiny but fascinating village, you may get to see bread being made in the communal ovens, walk the shaded pathways to the thermal streams, or indulge in rituals at the spa itself.
Continue upwards to the town of Monchique, cobbled streets and artisan shops, a ruined convent and wonderful gardens are well worth a visit. Monchique is famous for it’s cork oak forests, wild boar and black pork cuisine, if you intend to eat out in the Algarve then Monchique would be a great choice.
Foia, Algarve’s Highest Point
From the town centre continue upwards along the EN266-3 to Foia, the highest point in the Algarve at 902m above sea level. Here you will have spectacular 360 deg views. An unforgettable experience. You can retrace your steps to Monchique or take any of two other roads that descend, one to the east and one to the north, both will bring you back town.
Picota Contour Route
There is a gorgeous contour drive that you can take from Monchique: Head to the roundabout that you first encountered when you arrived at Monchique, next to the petrol stations, and take the exit marked Alferce EN267. Take a right 20 meters (literally) after entering this road, which goes behind the bar on the corner, (local labour exchange). You are now on the contour road that circumnavigates the smaller mountain of Picota. Again the coastal views are spectacular, you will also look down on the Oudelouca dam wall. Stay on this road until you hit a T junction, turn left in the direction of Alferce. Take a drive through the village, just a typical sleepy mountain village where sleeping dogs will not raise an eyebrow as you pass by. Follow signs back to Monchique.
Side trip to Silves
Leave Monchique by the way you came on the EN266, if you still have a few hours, at Porto de Lagos roundabout turn left on the EN124 in the direction of Silves. You can have a taste of this historic walled town with Moorish castle, archaeological museum and Roman bridge, though this could be a full half day trip in its own right.