Also worth a brief exploration is the town of Monchique, 6km to the north of Caldas de Monchique and 300m higher up the range. The sizeable hill town’s market is held on the second Monday of each month (by the helipad) and is famous for smoked hams and locally made furniture – especially the distinctive x-shaped wooden chairs. There’s also a weekly Sunday market on the main square, Largo 5 de Outubro, though the town is liveliest during the March Traditional Sausage Fair, when restaurants lay on special menus. The old town is dotted with beautifully crafted metal sculptures of local characters made by a contemporary Lisbon artist, which you can spot on the waymarked route to the ruined seventeenth-century monastery of Nossa Senhora do Desterro, signed uphill from the bus station. Only a rickety shell of this Franciscan foundation survives, but it’s a lovely fifteen-minute walk up here through ancient woods.
From Monchique it is a short drive (there is no public transport) to Fóia, 8km away – at nearly 900m, this is the highest of the serra’s peaks. It’s a beautiful winding drive, though bristling with radio masts, and capped by an ungainly modern complex sheltering a café-restaurant and shop; the summit itself can be an anticlimax, especially if clouds obscure the views. Get here on a clear day, though, and the panoramic view takes in the south coast and west across to Cabo de São Vicente.