Monchique ‘revitalised’ five years after major fire

Five new hiking trails created as part of ‘Revitalising Monchique’ project

A project to ‘revitalise’ Monchique after the major wildfire in 2018 has come to a close, with its crowning achievement being the creation of five new hiking trails.

‘Revitalizar Monchique – o turismo como catalizador’ (Revitalising Monchique – tourism as a catalyst) was launched in 2019 by the Algarve tourism board (RTA), tourism association (ATA), environmental association Almargem and Monchique council.

Its goal was to help Monchique recover from the devastating wildfire that broke out in the area in the summer of 2018. The blaze was one of the Algarve’s worst wildfires in years, having destroyed around 27,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land and come dangerously close to the town.

With nearly €480,000 in funding from national tourism authority Turismo de Portugal,  ‘Revitalising Monchique’ led to the creation of five new hiking trails, a hiking festival and guide, a new promotional website, a catalogue of touristic experiences and a brochure promoting a network of smaller walking routes.

Among the five new hiking trails are three smaller routes: PR7 MCQ – Percurso das Hortas (Vegetable Garden Path), an 8.2km circular trail that explores gardens, woods and orchards; PR8 MCQ – Pelos caminhos de Alferce (Along the Alferce Trails), a 7.8 km route starting in the village of Alferce, passing through valleys with “dense riverine woods, streams, agricultural fields and a medieval footpath”; and PR9 MCQ – Entre o vale e o castelo (Between the valley and the castle), a 7.2km route boasting superb views from mountain peaks which provides access to the ruins of the Islamic castle of Alferce.

The other two are connections to the Via Algarviana network: Connection 10, a 11.7km route which retraces the journey once made by people travelling between Monchique and Alferce; and Connection 11, an 11.5km forest trail, with cork oaks, pine trees, chestnut trees and oaks scattered along the slopes.

The goal of the project was to give the municipality’s tourism sector some structure and visibility, but also encourage local entrepreneurs to learn more about how to promote their businesses effectively. Five training sessions were held and attended by 20 local hotels and accommodation units and 10 entertainment businesses.

A campaign entitled ‘Try Monchique’ was also promoted between October 2022 and January 2023 in Portugal, Spain, France, UK, Germany and Netherlands in a bid to attract more tourists to Monchique, especially during the low season. The campaign was promoted mostly on social media as well as specialised websites, newspapers and magazines.

The project was also responsible for bringing 13 reporters and 12 tour operators from the same countries to Monchique to see for themselves what the borough has to offer.

Revitalising Monchique is a clear example of success: five months after the fire, there was already a plan of action, partners had already been identified and the first steps were already being taken to revitalise Monchique and boost its natural assets,” said Algarve tourism chief João Fernandes, praising the work carried out by Almargem and Monchique council.

“They were tireless in this project which turned a tragedy into an opportunity for growth by developing local tourism,” he added.

Almargem president Luís Palma believes the project has proven how “the protection and preservation of the environment and natural resources are important to local sustainability.”

“Almargem, as an environmental association and managing entity of the Via Algarviana walking network, was proud to demonstrate once again that there is an alternative to mass tourism. We need to value the richness of our inland landscapes and balance it with human activity. Monchique is an example of this potential and of the benefits we reap from working together,” he said.

The success of the project has also been hailed by local mayor Paulo Alves, who believes that Monchique has strengthened its position as a destination for cultural and nature tourism.

Our network of trails is more complete,” he said, adding that the borough has become more attractive and has more to offer.

The promotional campaign has also “achieved excellent results,” Alves said.

“I believe Monchique has gained a new potential and new touristic path, which has reinvigorated and revitalised the municipality,” he added.

For more information on Monchique’s hiking trails, visit Almargem’s website. For further information about what to visit in Monchique, visit the borough’s new promotional website.

‘Revitalising Monchique’ is not the be confused with ‘Renature Monchique’, a separate endeavour backed by Irish low-cost airline Ryanair which has already planted over 200,000 trees in fire-ravaged areas of Monchique with another 75,000 due to be planted by the end of this month.

By Michael Bruxo

[email protected]

Portugal Resident