Monchique information

The Algarve , Portugal
Getting there
Bus: from Portimão
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A fiercely beautiful, lilting landscape surrounds this small, bustling hill town in the forested Serra de Monchique, Algarve's mountain range. It's a crisp-aired contrast to the coast, and a great region for biking, walking or horse riding. If you're not feeling energetic, there's a spa hidden in woodland and a wonderful private zoo for endangered species.

You can find commercial brands of medronho (a locally made firewater) everywhere in Portugal, but according to those who have suffered enough hangovers to know, the best of all is the Monchique privately made brew.

The Serra de Monchique is thick with medronho's raw material - the arbutus, or strawberry tree. Its berries are collected in late autumn, fermented and then left for months before being distilled in large copper stills.

Home-made medronho is usually clear and drunk neat, like schnapps. Early spring, when distilling is underway, is the best time to track down some of this brew in Monchique.