Jenny Proudfoot jets off to a luxurious mountaintop resort in Portugal.
It’s easy to see why the Algarve is one of Portugal’s most popular holiday destinations. With golden sandy beaches, blue skies, excellent food and an enviable climate – Portugal’s sunshine region has it all, but venture a little further up the mountains to the highest point in the region to discover the Algarve’s real gem, the hidden town of Monchique.
Located in the heart of the mountains, Monchique is not your typical beach holiday destination, but if you want a tranquil getaway, there’s nowhere better. Famous for its natural springs and rejuvenating thermal water, Monchique promises total relaxation, not to mention breathtaking views. Get ready for orange groves, elegant villages and beautiful sunsets. Just breathing the fresh alpine air will leave you restored.
It might not be a go-to spot for nightlife, but buzzing restaurants and bars further down the summit are just a short taxi ride away, and you can drive to the coast in under 20 minutes.
Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa of course, a five star luxury in rural Portugal’s unspoilt mountainous surroundings.
Lounge by the pool on lazy days or if you’re feeling energetic take advantage of the range of other activities from dolphin watching and boat trips to surfing lessons and hikes in the beautiful mountain town featuring natural springs.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spa trip, or action-packed adventure holiday you’ll get it here, complete with high-end dining options, multiple pools and a state-of-the-art gym (if you’ve got the energy after all the other stuff on offer!).
The hotel is pure luxury, but what really sets it apart is the staff: kind, genuine, welcoming and helpful, bending over backwards to make sure that you have the best possible stay. The Portuguese people are a special bunch.
Anytime – May to August are the ideal months for the hot, holiday season (we’re talking mid 30 degrees bliss), but September and October are gorgeous too and with the winters being generally mild, it could be an idyllic winter/ spring getaway. With so many great in-house facilities from the Sensorial Spa, fitness centre and gourmet restaurants to the day trips and outdoor excursions, the hotel is a go-to at any season.
YOU REALLY MUST:
Spend at least a day in the Sensorial Spa. Inspired by Monchique’s valuable natural resources, the spa incorporates regional essences and the restorative thermal water into its treatments – everything from massages and body wraps to manicures, pedicures and five star facials.
The treatments and products available are also true to the spa’s surroundings, the resort championing both luxury brand ESPA and local brand Monchique Cosmetics, which uses the local thermal water in its products, proven to give you radiant skin.
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Steam cabins, marble heated loungers, tropical showers, foot spas – even an igloo, an aroma grotto, a hydra pool and a Himalayan rock salt sauna – the spa is the perfect place to pad around in your hotel robe after a pool-side tanning session.
Any one of the four of its restaurants (not including the cocktail lounge and pool-side bars). Visit O Mercado Culinário for breakfast (fry ups, pancakes, smoked salmon and eggs – even Portuguese custard tarts) and the occasional dinner (its specialities: the swordfish and the steak). The Pizzaria de Serra offers delicious Italian dishes and wine pairings from its spacious terrace with beautiful mountain views and evening sun, and make sure you head to A Petiscaria, the laid back tapas bar, for some sharing platters and Portuguese beers.
For something really special though, head to Mon-Chic and indulge in a first-class fine dining experience. Sit outside for breath-taking views of the Monchique mountains and treat yourself to the five-course tasting menu featuring local specialities, fresh fish, quality meat and gourmet surprises along the way (including a cornetto of quail’s eggs and tuna tartare) – all paired with Portuguese fine wines.
Mementos at A Mercearia, the hotel shop. The in-house market souvenirs range from bottles of Medronho (a liqueur made from the fruits of the arbutus tree, growing in the surrounding hills) and regional olive oils to locally sourced ceramics and pottery.
If souvenirs aren’t your thing, head down to the Sensorial Spa and stock up at their shop, selling all sort of oils, creams and lotions that they can personally recommend for you from ESPA and Monchique cosmetics.
Top tip: book an extra bag on the plane, because the liquids that you are going to want to bring back from Macdonald Monchique will far exceed the airport carry-on restrictions – whether it’s the complimentary bottle of port, luxurious hotel beauty products or the local thermal water. (This sorry traveller had to leave half of her loot with airport security.)
Easyjet has daily flights to Faro from Gatwick, Luton and Southend, with prices starting at just £188. The resort & spa is a 40 minute drive from Faro airport with taxis and transfers readily available to take you.
A classic king suite for two starts at €189 euros per night, but there are a range of suite options available – all air-conditioned and immaculately furnished in modern decor.
Lugar do Montinho 8550-232 Monchique,