Travel down the A2 freeway from Lisbon, passing through the beautiful cork groves of the Alentejo, and in about two hours time you will climb the interior mountain range of Serra de Monchique. The changes of the beautiful Portuguese landscape are quite noticeable, even within that short time span.
Chasing the last rays of sunlight around each twisting bend, dim headlights managed to find our ultimate path to MacDonald Monchique Resort & Spa. Needless to say, we were excited to begin three days of relaxation in the hills.
Entering the lobby in an exhausted and disheveled state, we were greeted by a surprisingly monolithic structure, monotone in color, and devoid of what one thinks of classical elegant touches at a 5 star resort. Fine by us, we actually enjoy a modern design aesthetic with clean lines!
The resort’s outer shell holds onto its original design heritage – it was once a medical wellness facility, now transformed into a mountain spa retreat.
Although tired from a long drive, we were happy to indulge the enthusiastic bellman, Figaro, as he escorted us to our room and described the intricate layout of the hotel. It’s a sprawling complex seemingly built into the mountain side. Hide and go seek anyone?
The hotel is broken up into 3 connected blocks. To enter one block from the next, you must traverse using either the stairs or elevator. Needless to say, using two elevators, passing through two foyers, and five stories later, we reached our room. It sounds like a giant labrynth, but only takes a few laps of the hotel to become acquainted and get a sense for where each amenity is located.
December in the Algarve means relatively empty hotels and resorts. Unfortunate for us, as the electric lock to our door had run out of batteries and we were locked out of our room! The staff dealt with the problem very efficiently, and the mishap turned a planned night of ‘rest from a long day driving’ into an enjoyable evening of drinking MON-jito cocktails in the Mezzanine bar with the night manager.
We’ve always held the philosophy: to get a true sense of any hotel one must chat with all levels of employees from management on down.
Outdoor nature enthusiasts seeking the tranquility of a mountain resort will find solace at MacDonald Monchique. Accessible hiking trails along with stunning Algarve beaches a short 20 minute drive south means you have the best of both worlds – sun & sand along with stunning views. Monchique is about relaxation and indulgence rather than trying to cram as much busy tourist activities as possible into your vacation.
Each suite is outfitted with a fridge, kettle and coffee machine, making it feel more like a well equipped apartment than a typical hotel room. We think its the perfect opportunity to head down to the nearby town of Monchique, and hit up their local market for some olives, bread, cheese, and a bottle of wine! Take in the panoramic views from your suite while soaking in the Algarve sun.
Overall, time spent at MacDonald Monchique Resort & Spa was relaxing, and we found few faults at this mountain spa retreat in Portugal.
Monjito - A Must Try!
One specialty from the bar is the Monjito, an obvious play on words from mojito. They use local Monchique water, known for its higher 9.5 pH level compared to normal tap water and said to have healing properties.
About the Hotel
Set amongst the Serra de Monchique mountains in the western part of the Algarve region, you may stumble across a hotel by the name of Macdonald Monchique Resort and Spa. A 5 star resort that offers modern design, outdoor activities, an indulgent spa with a beautiful indoor pool area, and breathtaking views of the rolling mountains stretching out to the ocean.
We love that every room in the resort is a suite. Moreso, relaxing on a private furnished balcony or terrace, many of which have uninterrupted views of the mountains and ocean, is right up our alley. Each room has floor-to-ceiling windows to ensure the beautiful Algarve sunlight shines through. With an average of 300+ days of sun per year, chances are you’ll get to use the remote controlled shutters to block out the sun in case it gets a little too warm. A separate living room with access to a balcony comes in handy, in case one of you is a napper and would like to catch a few zzz’s during the afternoon.
We spent 3 nights in a Classic Accessible Suite. As a honeymooner, we would highly suggest booking the same.
The room was spacious and felt like a small apartment. Modern furnishings and comforts of home mean you’ll settle in quickly – two HD flat screen TVs, 2 bathrooms, a Nespesso coffee machine with fresh coffee replaced every morning, daily room cleaning, and turn down service at night … chocolate treats included!
Laying out on the semi-private terrace looking out at a view that stretches to the sea was certainly relaxing. Even though it was winter, we hit a day where the sky was clear blue. It was beautiful to spend a few hours just soaking it all up.
The hotel subscribes to an app called PressReader, which is an All-you-can-read digital newsstand housing thousands of the world’s most popular newspapers and magazines. A great perk for guests who love to read while on vacation, and it was a lot of fun perusing the available digital copies of home decor, fashion, gardening, and even wedding magazines.
Macdonald Monchique Resort and Spa features six distinct areas to enjoy a gastronomic/cocktail treat:
A Petiscaria – A Portuguese tapas bar, serving a range of hot and cold dishes that are made for sharing.
O Mercado Culinario – Open for breakfast and dinner, and offers a variety of national and international dishes, to suit every taste.
Mon-Chic – A refined restaurant offering a seasonally changing menu of local specialities, fresh fish and meats, along with a carefully chosen selection of Portuguese fine wines.
A Mercearia – A mini gourmet market where you can find a large selection of Portuguese food and wines.
Cascata Pool Bar
Dining at the Mon-Chic restaurant, we spent an evening with guest relations manager Anastatia Takield, sampling an out of this world chefs menu. It became quickly evident why executive chef Louis Anjos, won Chef of the Year (2012) in one of the most prestigious cooking competitions in Portugal.
Our 5 course meal included delightful creations such as whipped parsnip, the subtle flavors of cured mackerel, drizzled beetroot relish, along with pork cheek and braised beef. Each dishes was paired with a glass of Portuguese wine that only served to bring out the local flavors and enhance the taste sensations.
Although we are not a food blog, we can easily tell that Chef Louis Anjos is one to watch in the culinary world. Go sample his cuisine, you won’t be disappointed.
Breakfast in the O Mercado Culinárioa offers a spread of standard foods including fresh fruit, cheese and meats, bakery goods, yogurt and cereal, hot buffet breakfast items, as well as made to order omelettes.
Book yourself a visit to the spa and spend the afternoon in utter relaxation – we did, and love every minute!
A one hour VIP Relax Room, one hour couples full body massage, a delightful session in the Sensorial Thermal Spa circuit, and a refreshing dip in the indoor pool was just what the vacation doctor ordered.
The VIP Relax Room makes for a wonderful experience right before a couples massage. Jump into your exclusive use hot tub situated in a semi-private outdoor space, or warm up in your own personal indoor sauna. Take it easy on the posh couch, while sipping chilled champagne upon your arrival. The hour will fly by, but will definitely prepare you for the tranquility of a couples massage.
Go easy on the champagne!! One of us (Andrew) had to take an intermission during the one hour massage that slightly dampened the tranquil mood. The nature break did, however, make for a good laugh and memory.
The massage room offers a wonderful balance of dimly lit ambiance, lavender scent filling the room (we had to choose lavender!), and soothing music. The skilled masseuses’ touch had us easily drift into a sleepy state of relaxation.
In our opionion, the Sensorial Thermal Spa circuit is a must visit. We loved the Aroma Cabin that offers aroma therapy scents mixed with waves of hot misty showers. A themed tropical shower, sauna with Himalayan rock salt, and even an igloo, leaves one with the sensation of carefree relaxation. The hardest part is leaving – you’ll want ‘just one more hit of jasmine or lavender slapping you inthe face.’
The spa carries a luxury spa product line called ESPA as well as their own Monchique Cosmetic brand. We like that Monchique Cosmetics utilize pure natural mineral water, extracted from deep sources in the mountains of Monchique.
The resort offers daily activities, even in the duldrums of winter. We had the opportunity to join a nature walking tour to the quiet village of ‘Caldas de Monchique’. Other classes that you can also partake include a yoga, pilates, or meditation class. They have multiple indoor and outdoor pools and even a small food shop selling local goods.
The resort is situated near the municipality of Monchique – a tourist attraction known for its historic town center, bird watching, biking and hiking. Down the road from the resort lies ‘Caldas de Monchique’ (Spring of Monchique), a small village that attracts guests to its hot sulfur springs baths and health spas.