Quinta de Odelouca
Let’s get the Algarve elephant out of the room: Portugal’s popular holiday destination sold its soul to the tourist devil 50 years ago and never looked back. Brash resorts clutter parts of the sandy south coast, attracting swarms of bucket-and-spade-wielding Brits every summer. However, the forested Serra de Monchique, the Algarve’s mountain range, is a totally different story – more about charming castle towns and chestnut woods than beach bars and holiday villas. High above the coastal crowds, Quinta de Odelouca overlooks a tranquil river basin, and is a serene base for exploring the unspoiled Algarvian countryside.
Almost all of the 25 pitches come shaded by olive trees, but from May to September campers are advised to pack some extra gear to ensure a spot of shadow (tarpaulin will do). The basic but clean sanitary facilities offer something for everyone – there’s a baby-changing room, disabled friendly showers and a chemical disposal point for the caravanning community. There’s even a saltwater swimming pool, perfect for cooling off on those scorching summer afternoons.
But those are the details. The big picture is Quinta de Odelouca has an outstanding mountain vista, with high peaks puncturing the blue skies all around. Given this rural location, the site is a perfect base to do some serious hiking, mountain biking or canoeing. The sloping mountains of the Serra de Monchique are made up of chestnut woods and fleeting oaks, and it’s one of the few areas of Portugal that displays dazzling colours in autumn. However, if operating an accelerator pedal is more your idea of a work-out, then the winding mountain roads are a tempting prospect too.
With so many interesting pursuits on your doorstep, it might be a struggle to stand still long enough to achieve some all-important rest and relaxation. But as the sun sinks behind distant hills, zip up those tent-flaps, snuggle into your sleeping bag and join Quinta de Odelouca’s version of the Mile-High Club – snoozing above sea level in the freshest of mountain air. After spending a few days camping in this lofty spot, most outdoor enthusiasts will find it difficult to say goodbye. But don’t worry, you’re welcome back any time.
25 pitches (all with electric hook-ups), showers, washbasins (with hot & cold water), saltwater pool (12x6m), Wi-Fi, disabled facilities, baby changing, washing machine, chemical toilet disposal, BBQ and tourist information centre.
Tents, caravans, campervans and well-behaved dogs – yes. Large groups – no.
The lovely town of Silves makes for a pleasant day trip if you fancy experiencing the less hectic, non-coastal Algarvian way of life. Boasting one of the best-preserved castles in the region, sleepy Silves is a town of winding backstreets and cluttered orange rooftops, rising above the banks of the Rio Arade. Head for Monchique in early March if you want to get a taste of country cooking at the town's famous sausage festival. You’ll also find handcrafts for sale. Operating in the Marina de Vilamoura, Algarve Cruises Seafaris (00351 289 302 318) offer programs for sport fishing, including deep sea fishing. All equipment and bait is provided. Caldas de Monchique is an interesting place, situated by a narrow gorge with dramatic rock cliffs. A charming little spa town, it’s now become more popular due to its healing waters.
Food & Drink
From February until June the site serves twice-weekly meals for its guests. There are four authentic Portuguese restaurants within walking distance, serving local favourites like Mel da Serra honey, Medronho (a fiery Algarvian liqueur) and figs with almonds. Further afield in Monchique (40 km), Restaurante O Luar da Foia (00351 282 911 149) offers plenty of fresh, well-presented food with a spectacular hillside view. The large serving of wild boar with plums is a great choice for hungry hikers. Directly opposite Monchique’s tourist office, Restaurante O Parque (00351 282 912 022) is a cosy eatery serving down-to-earth dishes. Many local nine-to-fivers’ head here for lunch.
OpenFebruary – October.
From the north: pass São Marcos da Serra and the viaduct over the IC1. After 200m you see a small road on your right. Follow that road and the campsite signs.
From the south: don't stop on the IC1, drive 200m further to the exit São Marcos da Serra. Cross the viaduct to the other side of the IC1. Then take the right (Portimão/Albufeira) and after 200m there is a small road on your right which you need to follow.
When you are with a caravan or carcaravan please use the road description from the website of Quinta de Odelouca.
Nearest train station: São Bartolomeus de Messines, 15 km.
Nearest bus station: 2 km away on the IC1. Buses leave twice a day.
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Rated ★★★★★ over 1 reviews
Just to say we had a wonderful weekend in 2010