When you arrive in Monchique, you may get the idea that you’ve fallen into the picture on a postcard, as this rustic little town of 10,000 people has remained relatively unchanged despite the ever-growing influx of tourists looking for fun in the sun. Monchique’s chief businesses revolve around agricultural products such as grains, oranges, olive oil and a liqueur called medronho, distilled from the berries of the strawberry tree.
The town itself is settled between to large hills, Foia and Picota. And fitting with the postcard-perfect, European-seaside surroundings, Monchique is essentially a maze of rolling cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses and colorful shops where local artisans peddle their wares. Overlooking the town is a 17th century Franciscan monastery, and from this vantage point, visitors can get panoramic views of the entire countryside and the Atlantic coast (possibly for their own postcard pictures).
Monchique is also near some hot springs; one is found in the village of Caldas de Monchique and two more bubble south of Picota Hill. These are known as Fonte Santa and are believed to have mystical healing properties. The Romans used these springs as spas, as did royalty from Southern Europe.
Monchique is typical of the communities in this area. The neighboring villages of Alferce and Casais reflect traditional Portuguese mountain life, and Marmelete is a small fishing village. Though this last is a gateway to the sandy beaches of the western Atlantic coast, it is largely unaffected (you might say nonplussed) by tourist incursions.