We’re all familiar with the sun, sea and sand image of the Algarve. But head west from the coast and a whole other world awaits, filled with sunny mountainous woodlands, detox retreats and quiet places to escape the stresses of daily life. Recently I spent a weekend in Caldas de Monchique and discovered the ultimate chill out spot, high in the hills, but only a short drive away from golden beaches.
You can almost hear a pin drop in this peaceful spa village. Cobbled streets shaded by trees line the mountainside, surrounded by tiny nineteenth century buildings that are picture perfect. But it’s the waterfalls and streams that take centre stage in Caldas de Monchique. The water here is something special, pumped from a source 900m underground.
Rich in minerals with an alkaline level of 9.5 – a much higher ph than the water we drink in other parts of Europe – it’s proven to have many health benefits; neutralising acid in your bloodstream, increasing metabolism and aiding digestive health.
Some even say it can help to delay the ageing process – I noticed plenty of agile folk bottling the ‘miracle juice’ under the waterfalls. They could be onto something.
There is only a handful of restaurants to choose from in Caldas de Monchique, but generally speaking, the food is good. Expect authentic Portuguese cuisine and fresh bread, baked the traditional way outside in clay ovens. You’ll usually find the friendly locals socialising outside too.
Less than an hour from Faro airport, the village is best reached by taxi, or hire a car. Take the opportunity to explore more of the local area and visit the beaches on the Algarve coast.
Praia da Rocha beach is located by Portimao marina. Stroll the long stretch of wooden walkway by the golden sandy beach, and grab refreshments in the cafes, bars and restaurants.
If that’s not enough to tempt you, wander to the eastern end of the beach and you’ll discover a fort –Fortaleza da Santa Caterina – built in the 1600s. Climb to the top and admire the coastal views and colours of the marina. Visit at sunset for spectacular views.
Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa: Located mid-way up the Monchique mountain, it’s the only resort in this undiscovered area of Portugal to offer five star facilities and breathtaking panoramic views.
While the hotel has a choice of four restaurants – from a traditional tapas bar to a pizzeria, food market and fine dining restaurant, there is also a detox package designed to revitalise your body from head to toe. They let you choose from a three or five night detox – a carefully controlled diet designed to flush out toxins and boost your immune system, while improving your overall wellbeing.
You can also take advantage of daily access to the high-end spa; featuring a hydro pool, sauna with Himalayan salt wall, mountain steam cabin, relaxation pool, themed tropical showers, igloo ice cave and foot baths.
It’s not all lounging around though, there’s also an on-site gym where you can book a one-to-one workout with a personal trainer, or you can visit the zen room for a stretching class, yoga, pilates or you can join guided nature walks and explore the local area.
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- Jessica Fogarty