Cool Spot on a Hot Sunny Day
Caldas de Monchique is one of my favourite spots in the Algarve. A revitalized Victorian Roman spa village nestled in a tiny mountain valley about half-way up to the town of Monchique, the Caldas offers a calming, cooling break on a hot and busy day.
As you pull off the main highway and head down the cobbled street into the Caldas, it is immediately apparent that you are in a special place. Well restored Victorian townhouses, hotels and summer homes nestled in lush greenery greet you. This is a place to take a couple of hours and ramble about, taking in the sights and smells. You’ll quickly discover the huge outdoor wood burning oven where they bake bread stuffed with chouriço sausage. If you’re lucky the cafe next door to the oven will still have some of these tasty treats for sale and you can sit outside under the trees while you savour the ambience and your snack.
Take a walk uphill from the cafe and you’ll follow a walled stream with smaller, natural streams flowing in from the woods surrounding the area. There are rustic stone picnic tables and benches, plus lots of trails to follow. Take your time and enjoy this delightful break. On one Sunday morning trip to the Caldas I discovered a local woman with her hand embroidered linens for sale. One huge change that I’ve seen in Portuguese crafts over the many years I’ve been visiting is the loss of the great quality linens that once were on sale everywhere. These days most embroidered tableware is machine done. Not so with this lady. I happily bought a raw linen tablecloth embroidered in white flowers, along with 12 dinner napkins. Cost me a small fortune but I know it’ll become a family heirloom. You just never know what you’re going to discover when you get off-the-beaten-track.
Downhill from the cafe and gift shop area you’ll discover the ‘workings’ of the spa. Lovely small buildings, a swimming pool and incredible gardens. This area is much more open and won’t provide the break from the sun’s heat that the up-hill woodsy areas offer. But beautiful nonetheless.
You can easily spend two or three hours wandering around the Caldas. There are restaurants, although I find them pricey. The cafe and gift shop are worth a visit, though. So if you are in the Algarve and find the bright sunshine and heat of its glorious beaches are starting to get to be a bit much, take a short ride north of Portimão and experience the cool, shady glade known as Caldas de Monchique.