We eventually reached the Algarve, the southern part of Portugal and although we did spend some time on the coast, we also explored the inland area of the Algarve and continued to find some good walking options, particularly in the Serra de Monchique, the wooded chain of hills in the south-western tip of Portugal. The highest point of the Serra de Monchique is Foia at 902 metres above sea level. This isn’t the prettiest summit, with telecommunication masts and a radar station dotted around the plateau but turn your back on the masts and it is a great viewpoint over the Algarve. We wild camped here overnight and it is a peaceful spot once the cafe and gift shops have closed and we watched a spectacular sunset from our lofty spot. At the summit there is an information board with details for the Trilho da Foia PR3 path which is 6.5 kms long and follows stone tracks beside well constructed terraces and ruined barns with shady stretches under chestnut and walnut trees. The path winds steeply downhill, traverses along the road [and passes a couple of cafe stops] and ends with a knee-trembling climb back up to the summit.
The second highest summit in the Serra de Monchique is Picota at 774 metres high. By contrast this is a more attractive summit than Foia with just a rickety look-out tower on the granite top. The well-marked walk up to the hilltop is cool and shady through orange groves, cork oak and eucalyptus trees and is a perfect half-day excursion. From the top the view across the town of Monchique to the wooded slopes of Foia is worth the climb.
We moved on to the lively and charming town of Silves, staying on one of the many aires in the town which has long been popular with motorhomers. Here we followed a walk from the Sunflower Walking in the Algarve guide book that takes in the old windmill above the town. This is an excellent view point back to Silves and its castle and over the green Arade river valley.
We don’t make repeat visits to many places when we are in continental Europe but we made an exception for Serpa and headed there as we moved back north away from the Algarve. Serpa proved you can go back to places you love; I still think this small town in the Alentejo punches well above its weight. The municipal campsite is very good, the local sheep’s cheese is sharp, fresh-tasting and excellent, the local pastries, Queijadas de Serpa are delicious and the pretty town has a relaxed atmosphere that easily detained us for a few days.
But our time in lovely Portugal is running out …