Serra de Monchique (published by Algarve Property Magazine)
Traffic lights have recently been sprinkled liberally where previously there were none along the main road between Portimao and the hillside town of
The Serra de Monchique is still the old Algarve, touched but not overtaken as elsewhere by modernity, tourism and spreading development. Its robust old-fashionedness is the very thing that draws expatriates to visit and to settle.
It is the peace and quiet, the pervasiveness of the evergreen environment, the airy spaciousness, the friendliness of the people, the social simplicity and the slow pace of life, with or without traffic lights, that is so appealing. Even the climate is milder and more equable than down by the coast, and it is not as cloudy or wet as the plain-dwellers sometimes make out. Frost in low lying areas, particularly coastal areas make for some slippery early mornings, not so in the Serra de Monchique, winters are frost free save for a few areas in the valleys ell to the north.
The Serra de Monchique is a fairly broad range of steep, wooded hills and valleys stretching from Sao Marcos de Serra to Aljezur across north of the
Great swathes of the indigenous forests were felled in late medieval times for material to construct boats and buildings and provide fuel. Chestnut, walnut and a few other deciduous species still grow alongside plantations of evergreen pines and cork oaks, but much of the area has been planted with fast-growing antipodean eucalyptus destined to become pulp and paper.
The town of
For those who can only survive by being on the doorstep of crowded beaches, golf courses, hypermarkets, night clubs and Karaoke then this is not a first choice location. The Serra de Monchique is for self-contained souls content to buy and dine out in typical local shops and restaurants, enjoy country pursuits and make only occasional forays down into the glitz and bustle of the towns and resorts below.
That´s not to say a home in the hills is akin to living on Mars. There are good tarmac roads leading in and out of Monchique to the north, south, east and west. You can be down onto the trans-Algarve A22 motorway just north of Portimao, in 20 minutes. It takes about the same time to drive over to the pristine west coast beaches and villages, or in the opposite direction to the
There are villas and cottages to rent for holidays in almost every location. Similarly there are properties for sale scattered over the whole area and the choice is surprisingly wide, ranging from total ruins to magnificent modern homes.
Ruins suitable only for demolishing and rebuilding are now scarce anywhere on the
Local estate agent Susana Barreira of First Reality has sold about 200 ruins and says it is a myth that they nearly always come with complications – not in the Monchique district anyway. She says that ruins and building plots in the hills have generally doubled in value, or even trebled in select places, over the last five years.
Every ruin can be demolished and rebuilt and the right to do this does not diminish with time. “To make an investment now and build later secures the land at today´s prices,” says Susana “I can´t tell you how many times we have heard the words “we wish we had bought a plot or ruin years ago”. If you invest in the
The quicker though more costly option is to buy an existing good quality home. Prices of these are influenced not only by size and condition but by the view. The most desirable properties occupy prime sites on the south-facing slopes between Monchique and Marmelete below Foia, and in the vicinity of Alferce and Fornalha below Picota. On clear days they look down over a broad stretch of distant shimmering sea. On hazy days, layers of foothills fall away into the blue and purple yonder as in a Chinese painting.
Monchique expatriates, who have seen what is happening on the mountain slopes outside places like
However, the Serra de Monchique is not yet deemed to be sufficiently posh to warrant prices as high as those being asked along the coast. Up-market properties with three or four bedrooms are mostly in the 300,000 – 700,00 euros bracket, but you can pick up an old ruin for as little as 50,000 euros or a modern mansion for as much as 1.5 million euros or more.
Few expatriates who move into the hills move out again, except in dire personal circumstances.
Of the future, there is talk – and that is all it is at present – of creating golf resorts in the hills. That´s when some of the Monchique purists may start campaigning not just for a sprinkling of irritating traffic lights, but for stop and diversion signs galore.
Monchique (published in Welcome magazine )
The pace of life is slower in the Monchique hills, and the climate more friendly.
The EN266 road up to the town of
Part way up to Monchique, the spa
The entire village was renovated a few years ago and it is well worth a break for a stroll in the peaceful woods (where nightingales sing in early summer) and to sample the spring water.
Alternatively, take in the atmosphere over a coffee or beer in the picturesque square and perhaps try a fresh roll with spiced sausage (pao com chourico) baked in a nearby old-fashioned oven and sold in the adjacent café.
Its only a few more kilometers up to Monchique town, where there´s ample free parking, including an underground facility.
An interesting sign-posted walk through the narrow cobbled streets of the town takes in the parish church with its Manueline doorway and
The Monchique area is a handicrafts centre; artisans can be seen producing knitwear, cane work, pottery, tiles and sculptures, for example, all on sale at reasonable prices. Several cobblers still make shoes by hand, and such diverse homemade products as honey and soap are available locally.
Take a drive up to Foia for the best views of all. Like the EN266, this road is dotted with typical chicken piri-piri restaurants for which the area is famous. Although piri-piri is Monchique´s signature dish, there are also many restaurants specializing in other local delicacies including kid, game and wild boar. Choose a clear day to make the most of the panoramic views. Your Foia visit may well be one of the lasting memories of your holiday.
Get the Lowdown on Monchique – The Upper Algarve, Natures Paradise (extracts of interview) published in Get Real newspaper
Why did you choose to live in Monchique?
We have lived in a number of locations in the
Monchique has a quaint town centre with cobbled streets and alleys to explore. If descending from the town there are well tended gardens leading down to a stream – an ideal place to chill out on those hot summer days!
The town has three swimming pools, one indoor and two outdoor (one for kids). The outdoor pools are free.
There is an abundance of water in Monchique all year round and so the mains water is of particularly good quality. Many properties have their own supply from natural springs, we have two on our land giving us a constant supply, definitely a bonus if global warming is to have its way!
Monchique plays host to several car rallies, and cycle races each year, is ideal for pony trekking, forest walks, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, bird and nature watching. There is an abundance of natural picnic sites which attract people from all over the
Summer and winter comparison?
A bonus for us is that Monchique does not get too congested in summer with tourists, there are only day coach trips and safari jeeps certainly not enough to bother us.
Some people have the idea that Monchique, in winter, is colder than elsewhere but we have compared the temperatures and the difference, if anything at all, is minimal, a very small price to pay for magnificent views and to enjoy nature at its best.
Availability of local schools?
We hear very good reports about the local state school educating children of many nationalities all seeming to be happy there. In the summer holidays they have a great activity programme visiting all sorts of places including Zoomarine, Crazy Golf and activities like kayaking and swimming.
We have the privilege of having both the west and south coast beaches to choose from and particularly love to visit the unspoilt beaches on the west coast especially at Arrifana to watch the surfers.
House prices vary greatly depending on location and views but in general reflect excellent value for money compared with other areas of the
Nearest supermarket and shops?
O Padeiro da Serra Alisuper next to the roundabout on the Foia road has its own excellent bakery, good fresh fruit and vegetables plus more unusual items not normally available. Carlos the owner is very friendly and helpful and will even carry your heavy bags to your car. The supermarket Mini Preco has a very good butchers and also sells ready cooked food to take away, a different meal every day. Intermarche where you can buy anything from groceries to washing machines and TV's opened in 2012.
Nearest main hospital?
We have also heard excellent reports about the local health centre and if required the nearest hospital is Barlavanto in Portimao, just 20 minutes drive away.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of places to stay in and around Monchique, from luxury hotels to country cottages. Here are some that have been recommended by our clients;
Villa Vida Nova A luxurious private villa available on a weekly basis from April to October. Walking distance to town and restaurants. Infinity pool, BBQ, alfresco dining, http://www.algarvevillaforrent.com
Termas de Monchique situated between the green of the mountain and the blue of the sky with guest accommodation ranging from a four star hotel, three star hotel and tourist apartments. http://www.monchiquetermas.com/
Albergaria do Lageado Enjoy a stay in the restful environment of this hotel situated in the spa town of
Hotel/Restaurant Bica Boa Decorated in the traditional style this small hotel is situated a short distance from the town of
Quinta das Oliveiras Monchique www.a-gites.com/siteweb11813/ Cottages set in picturesque gardens within walking distance of restaurants and the town of