Located about 40 kilometers inland from our home in Lagos, Fóia is the highest point in the Algarve. It has an elevation of 902 m and is part of the Serra de Monchique range. We can see it from our back yard and seemed like an ideal place to begin our explorations of this part of the Algarve. This drive is about 100 kms return and you should allow plenty of time to fully enjoy the scenery and for stops along the way.
We chose to take the less traveled M532 north from Portimão to the village of Casais. Initially driving through orchards, vineyards and villages you soon enter the foothills of the Serra de Monchique.
Once you pass the village of Alcalar this is a picturesque and quiet drive with few vehicles and scattered quintas (farms) nestled among the rolling hills. Charred trees contrast with new growth, evidence of the damage of past forest fires.
You soon meet the N267 which crosses from Alzejur in the west to Monchique, at the sleepy but scenic village of Casais. This winding stretch of road has many scenic vistas as it snakes its way past traditional villas and modest homes perched on the hillside.
We chose not to stop in the historic town of Monchique this time, but will definitely return for a longer visit. After passing through Monchique there is a well-marked road to the left that is the start of a very scenic loop that takes you to the top of Fóia. Several hiking trails and small lanes invite you to slow down and walk along the terraced hillsides. Another reason to return.
At the summit there are several telecommunications antennas, a military radar installation as well as a gift shop, restaurant and a craft gallery. It was a beautiful day when we were there with a light westerly breeze and bright sunshine. Perfect for a picnic.
The views to the south and west are spectacular and expansive, reaching to the Atlantic in both directions. As you start the drive down from the summit there is an attractive picnic area with a spring-fed fountain. The vendor selling snacks and drinks looks as if he is there every day.
As we are quickly discovering, the back roads of this part of the country hold many hidden treasures and offer an excellent opportunity for us to learn more about our new home.