WARNING: in order to reconcile the passage of walkers and the presence of livestock, it is necessary to temporarily close the swing gates that allow you to cross a property near Fóia. Click this link to see the image: we have marked with orange circles the points of interruption, which affects sector 11 and PR5 MCQ - Percurso Pedestre das Cascatas (Waterfalls Walkin Path). The alternative route (orange dotted line) coincides with the road (red on the map) and does not involve a significant diversions. We will update this notice as soon as the crossing is re-established. Thank you and enjoy your walks!
(notice updated on 8 September 2022)
From the Tourist Information Office, head down towards Largo dos Chorões. This is where a 3km-long uphill stretch begins, setting off through the narrow streets of the town, past hidden nooks, until you head into the forest.
Carry on to the Nossa Senhora do Desterro Convent, one of the town’s best-known landmarks, which lies abandoned and is very rundown, so it’s best not to visit as it may not be safe.
Around the convent you will also find a beautiful cork oak forest, from which there’s a superb view over the pretty town of Monchique. If you look closely, you’ll even be able to spot Picota.
The route then becomes a narrow trail that plunges into a dense eucalyptus grove, taking you all the way to the municipal road to the north. Once you’ve crossed this road, your journey continues through more eucalyptus trees and, little by little, the typical mountain landscape begins to reveal itself: sparse tree cover, dense undergrowth and numerous rocky outcrops.
The route will take you along a paved road until you reach Fóia, which provides a magnificent panoramic view to the north. The vegetation is dominated by dense rockrose, gorse, juniper and, occasionally, rhododendrons (Rhododendron ponticum subsp. baeticum), one of the rare plant species found in the Monchique Hills. The antennas on top of Fóia mark the highest point of the Monchique Hills and of the Algarve (902 m), and although the route doesn’t take you directly there, a detour to the spot is a must.
From this point, the itinerary takes you to Penedo do Buraco, a remarkable escarpment north of Fóia, where the vegetation can sometimes be very dense, with lots of gorse, until you reach a small dam. If you are adventuring through this sector in the spring, be aware that at this point you’ll usually be able to spot a herbaceous species of Western Iberian Peony (Paeonia broteri) in bloom. The route carries on along a beautiful valley, where old farming terraces can still be seen and where animals can usually be found grazing; an idyllic setting that is sure to etch itself into your memory, and which certainly deserves a photo.
Terraces such as these are the most common type of farmland in hilly areas (which are steeper), resulting from narrow steps of arable land being staggered along the slope, held up by stone walls which, here, are mostly made up of nepheline syenite. These are a visible sign of the impact humans have had on the natural landscape, and how we have changed it over many years in order to shape it to the needs of the population, leading to it having become valuable historical, cultural and agricultural heritage.
The small mountain villages of Vale da Moita, Barbelote and Porta da Horta spring up along the route, which soon arrives at Madrinha, which is also the location of a wind farm.
The route will take you back into a eucalyptus forest next, through Pardieiro, until you reach national road 1087 further on. The Via Algarviana crosses this road, heading down the path ahead towards Picos, a steep hill which is clearly visible in the distance, and which provides beautiful views. If you feel like you have enough energy, make a small detour to see the views from there. Cork oak forests dominate the landscape in this area, notable for their beauty as well as the rich diversity of plants and animals they attract.
You’re approaching Marmelete now. This is one of the three civil parishes in the municipality of Monchique and lies deep in the hills. Here, like in other areas throughout the region, silviculture, with a specific focus on cultivating cork and wood, along with pig farming, beekeeping, the production of “medronho” brandy and some types of horticulture, are all particularly important activities for the local economy.
And so the 11th sector of the Via Algarviana comes to an end. We dare you to order a shot of “medronho” as a digestif – enthusiasts say it really does help with your digestion! If you find “medronho” to be a bit too strong for your taste, or you have a bit of a sweet tooth, “melosa” may be more to your liking. They’re sure to be flavours you won’t forget in a hurry!
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
OUR LADY OF EXILE CONVENT
The convent was founded in 1631 by Pero da Silva, “O Mole” (the limp), who later became Viceroy of India. Legend has it that this Franciscan convent was built as a result of a promise made by two sailors while on the high seas, as they thought they were in danger. They promised that, if they were saved, they would build a church on the first piece of land they saw from the sea.
The legend also tells that the founder had brought a small ivory statue of Mary with him, from India. After his death, the friars revered the statue as a relic, until, to save it from a gale in 1834, one of them hid it under his habit, asking a lady to take possession of it. The image of Our Lady of Exile, in honour of whom the convent was built, is currently in Saint Sebastian’s Chapel.
The climate in Monchique is characterised by high rainfall and low temperatures in winter, and low humidity and high temperatures in summer. The area’s proximity to the ocean and the relief of the land explain the frequency of fog and hail, occasional snowfall, very high levels of cloud cover, relative humidity and rainfall.
The area has its own very specific characteristics, which include a combination of micro-climates containing specific habitats determined by different combinations of various biophysical factors. These features make the area a pedological and climatic “island” which is extremely rich from a botanical point of view. Monchique is therefore affectionately nicknamed “The Garden of the Algarve”.
Shrubs and undergrowth are excellent sources of shelter and food for various animals, especially mammals such as foxes, wild boar, genets and Egyptian mongooses. The Monchique uplands are home to various species of birds, including passerines such as great spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), rock buntings (Emberiza cia), Iberian chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus ibericus), Dartford warblers (Sylvia undata) and several species of tits. In terms of birds of prey, the short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) are of particular note.
As you approach Marmelete, the “Picos Viewpoint”, which is located on the highest hill in Marmelete – Cerro dos Picos –, affords a privileged view over the Algarve coast.
» REST STOPS AND SUPPORT SERVICES ALONG THE ROUTE
» CASH MACHINE