Alto do Mahão

An excursion to the Buddhist meditation centre in the Serra de Caldeirão (Serra de Mú)
Sunday, 24 January 2016 | Excursion

We had already heard about the so called Buddhist monastery in the Serra north of Loulé, but never been there before. When we learned that the Alto do Malhão would be the finish of the Volta do Algarve 2016 we decided to explore this area. Our way went from Loulé to Salir and from there along the plateau of Rocha da Pena to the north.  

The last section of that road, a popular cycling route, winds 2,5 km steeply uphill to an altitude of 536m with an average slope of 9%. On our way we only met a few bikers – maybe due to the election of the new President that same day.

From the plateau on hilltop you have a marvellous view to the mountains of the Serra until the neighbouring Alentejo. The Mosteiro de Mú, a small Buddhist centre of meditation and recreation, is situated on the highest elevation adjacent to an old white wind mill. You can hear the colourful flags fluttering in the wind already from afar. Below the centre a Stupa has been erected in 2008, an impressive Buddhist monument of rose granite symbolizing the enlightened being. Walking around it clockwise in a good and positive spirit is said to have healing and beneficial effects.

To learn more about the Stupa and its spiritual background visit the website Stupa – Associação para a Paz no Mundo.

On the way back we passed Salir again direction east to the EN2, the old national road from Faro to Lisbon. Now in January we are almost alone on the road, winding through the hills of the Serra lined with old cork oaks and eucalyptus trees. The schistose rocks gleam like copper in the light of the January sun. We pass by the hamlet of Querença and turn to northern direction on the EN2 at Barranco do Velho.

After a few kilometres we arrive at Cortelha. The inn Casa de Campo Cantinho de Serra, widely known for its typical regional cuisine, is a busy place. After a short waiting time we luckily get the last available table, in the middle of locals. A plate with regional specialties of the Serra: raw ham, Churizo, cheese together with homemade olives and farmhouse bread is already awaiting us. The menu list is dominated by game dishes (wild boar, partridge, rabbit and deer), we go for a Leitão da Casa (sucking-pig with delicious chips) and Veado Estufado (a kind of deer stew with potatoes), accompanied by house wine on tap. For afters you have the choice of more than a dozen homemade desserts.