Autonomous Region of Madeira

Here you’ll find travel reports about Autonomous Region of Madeira. Discover travel destinations in Portugal of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

126 travelers at this place:

  • Mar6

    A Road Trip West of Funchal

    March 6 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    The area west of Funchal is quite dramatic with its high sea cliffs and terraced banana gardens on the side of the mountains. It is so different than the area we were just in, on the east side.

    We did the quick drive to Funchal from Canico and continued on, much slower, on the smaller roads near the coast. The first town we went through was called Camera de Lobos.

    This town is a fishing village where most of Madeira’s 800 fishermen live and work. Every night they leave their houses near the harbour and work at night to catch boneless fish called Espada which is eaten with bananas.
    As I mentioned earlier, every spare bit of land is filled with banana trees.

    Just outside of Camara de Lobos are the high cliffs of Cabo Girao. The driving was slow and windy but the roads were actually in great condition. The views were amazing and as we weren’t in a rush, we stopped whenever we could. Chris was forced not to look around when he drove!

    Bananas grow in the mountains up to 300m and then there are vineyards. It is Spring here so plants are just starting to green up. There are a lot of colourful flowers out though.

    We followed our google maps to the Cabo Girao. A times we wondered if we were going in the right direction as we couldn’t really see where we were going and we kept going up and up. We find it hard to believe that people live up so high on the side of the cliffs with their gardens. Houses are hanging over the cliffs. Pretty scary.

    At last we arrived at the miradouro (mirador). This lookout is known for its glass-floored platform that extends over the cliff more than 1/2 kilometre above the ocean. Pretty daunting as you will see in the photos!

    Looking down through the floor, (in some places the glass is cracked!), you see a sheer drop of 580 m. with some terraces covered in little gardens directly on the cliff face. There are narrow paths leading to these gardens. The cliffs shelter the plants and keep them warm.

    By the way, Cabo Girao is supposedly the second highest sea cliff in Europe. Not sure what the highest one is. Maybe one in Ireland?

    West of Girao, the scenery changes a bit with papayas and avocados. The drive had lots more curves and bends as we made our way westward. A new road full of tunnels has been built that makes the trip much faster but we were not in a hurry.

    We stopped in the little village of Punta do Sol. They say that it gets sun all day because it is not in the shade of any mountains. It was sunny when we got there.

    Punta de Sol is located in a valley and we had to take a somewhat scary tunnel, more like a dripping cave, to get to our next stop in Calheta. I think that the sign on the tunnel said to beware of falling rocks.

    This seems to be a town that people who like to get off the tourist track would like to stay in. There are several hotels but in general it is quiet. The area was originally known for its sugar cane production. A sugar mill was built here too. Today the sugar cane syrup is distilled to make rum.

    We walked around the vIllage and had a coffee and pastry in a cafe beside a dark grey pebbly beach. The sand on the beach was apparently brought in from the Sahara Desert!

    On we went. Last night it rained a lot so water was pouring down from the cliffs above. Most was controlled but coming around a corner, there was a waterfall falling right on the road!! A waterfall!!! One car actually stopped right under it. A lazy and cheap man’s car wash! We buzzed through though with some trepidation.

    Now, our last stop for the day was in a beautiful village called Jardim do Mar, Garden of the Sea. What a lovely place!

    The whole village was a maze of narrow walkways. Cars wouldn’t fit so a parking lot was the first place we got to. Cars had to be left outside the village.

    We walked down to the seafront where a wide promenade has been built. Exercise equipment and benches for sitting on were interspersed between hedges and flowering bushes. The white-capped waves were noisy but what a beautiful spot. There were lots of trails going up into the mountains as well as a tunnelled one to the next village, Paul do Mar.

    This pretty little town was the perfect place to eat our picnic so we found a table with benches and people watched for a bit. When the bells on the clock tower announced 1 o’clock, everyone disappeared. Except the few tourists.

    By the time we wandered around Jardim do Mar, we felt that we were on sensory overload so we decided to head home again. It had been a great day. This time we took the quick route, through all the tunnels! One tunnel after another. Some were several hundred meters long and others 2 to 3 km long. Every time we entered a tunnel we lost our gps signal. We surfaced for just enough time to get a new signal and then it was gone again. I think that we went through at least a dozen tunnels on the way home.
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  • Mar8

    Madeira's Hidden Valley

    March 8 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    It’s hard to believe that such a small island can be so full of amazing views and yet once again, we were slack-jawed by the sight we saw today, in the middle (bellybutton) of the island.

    Before we came to Madeira I had read an interesting story about a hidden valley in the mountains just north of Funchal. In 1566, a group of nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled from Moorish pirates who were attacking Funchal over an extended time, and hid in this valley with other women and children. The nuns also brought their convent treasure here and lived in this area in isolation. The only connection to the outer world was a winding footpath along the steep mountain face. Eventually the nuns left but the village remained remote until a road was built to it in 1959.

    The valley that they lived in is called the Curral das Freiras, or Corral of the Nuns and we heard that it was pretty spectacular.

    Since today is our last full day on Madeira Island, we decided to take a drive to this valley to see for ourselves how spectacular it is.

    The road to the valley is a bit of a nail biter. It is very windy, very narrow and the sides drop off steeply. At points we saw guard rails that had been run into. On our way up to a viewing point, a bus came around a corner and Chris had to back up. We both didn’t fit. The road builders had wisely added a few fatter sections in the road for this purpose. It was pretty hard for Chris to keep his eyes on the road because of the out of the world views but he kindly did, as a favour to me.

    It was a beautiful drive though through giant eucalyptus trees, chestnut trees and spring flowers. But the best was yet to come - the amazing view of the village from the mirador, Eira do Serrado, 1094 m above sea level!

    Note - None of the photos we took, were taken from a plane. We were on a walkway on the side of the mountain.
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  • Mar5

    Funchal Cable Car and Wicker Toboggans

    March 5 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    On the news today...

    “The Funchal procession that was due to take place today at 4pm has now been postponed to Saturday.

    Considering the forecasts that points to the great instability of the weather, with the possibility of showers but, especially with a strong wind, on the afternoon of this Tuesday of Carnival, the Regional Secretary of Tourism and Culture opted to postpone the Traditional Trapalhão, and it is expected to take place next Saturday, March 9, at the same time, that is, at 4:00 pm.”.

    So today, we will see what it is like to be on an island with heavy winds and rain.

    The morning was windy and cloudy but not too bad so we decided to go into the capital city of Funchal where we could run for shelter if it rained. No hikes in the mountains today. We are staying in Canico, a nearby suburb so it was a short drive.

    Our goal was to take a ride on the cable car (Teleférico do Jardim Botânico) up to a small town called Monte that had wonderful views of Funchal and the surrounding areas. Initially this mountaintop town, that is about 6 km away from Funchal, was a health resort for the high society of Europe. Monte means mount in Portuguese and it is high above sea level. The cable car ride is quite thrilling, especially for people with any sense of vertigo.

    The ticket lady would only sell us a one way ticket up as the winds and rain were coming up and she said that the cable car may be shut down. If that happened, we would have to take a taxi or bus back down. We really only wanted to go up and down and as it wasn’t too bad, we took the chance.

    As we rose above Funchal, we could look down and get glimpses into private gardens and mini farms and see dramatic views down through steep gorges. The 3,200-metre ride itself takes 15-20 minutes and sometimes reaches a speed of 48 km/hr. Once everyone relaxed a bit, it was quite exciting.

    At the top, it was raining though. There is a beautiful garden there but we decided to skip that as it cost 12.50 euros ($37.50 cdn) each for entry and we had been in some lovely gardens recently.

    There are other points youof interest on the Monte and that’s the "descent in a basket car". Originally, around 1850, the basket cars/sleds were a fast way to get to Funchal. Currently and still in use, they attract hundreds of tourists every year to experience this exciting descent down the steep road to Funchal.

    These wicker baskets, carros de cestos, sit on wooden bars for better gliding. They are guided and pushed by two men traditionally dressed in white cotton clothing and a felt hat and wear their rubber boots as a brake. The ride is 2 km downhill and taxis wait down there to bring you up. It was raining pretty hard at this time and the roads must have been slick. We passed on the ride but it would have been fun.

    It started to get pretty foggy and the sky was getting darker so we took the cable car back down again, for 1/2 price, and had a nice chat with our fellow passengers from England.
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  • Mar4

    Madeira Island

    March 4 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    We were excited to leave the busy-ness of Lisbon and head to the lovely Portuguese island of Madeira for one week of hikes and sightseeing in nature. We had heard that the island had a lot of beautiful natural places to visit and the weather is pleasant.

    Our taxi from our Rossio area apartment to the airport, terminal 2, cost €11, which we thought was a good price. We got to the airport a little earlier than required for an inter-country flight but didn’t mind waiting a bit. Of course, the plane was an hour late due to high winds in Madeira. Oh, well. We are not on a tight schedule.

    The flight was a fairly short one - an hour and a half. Madeira is actually the largest of a group of small islands, two of which are inhabited and two are not. They are located in the Atlantic Ocean about 560 km (350 mi) off the coast of Morocco. I read somewhere that they are roughly at the same latitude as Bermuda.

    Anyways, we landed safely and everyone on the plane started clapping. Well, we learned why.

    This airport on Madeira’s east coast is known for being one of the world’s most challenging airstrips for approaches and landings. The airport’s runway is often buffeted by Atlantic winds, while its proximity to the mountains and ocean present yet more difficulties. Pilots scheduled to arrive here must undergo additional training, studying the approach in detail. The Madeira Airport is the only airport in the world to have wind limits which vary according to its direction. This means that the airport is closed if the wind is at 21 knots.

    The airport’s runway, supported by columns that lift it 70 metres above the ocean, extends out over what was once a beach. The highway runs under the runway. The airport is named after Madeiran football player Cristiano Ronaldo.

    When we exited the airport, a rep from the car rental company, FunchalCarHire, was there to meet us. We got an upgraded Opel Corsa diesel car for a great pre-negotiated price with all the insurance included. They had been highly recommended and the car is great.

    A few stats. Madeira Island is 34 miles (55 km) long, has a maximum width of 14 miles (22 km) and a coastline of about 90 miles (144 km). It rises in the centre to Ruivo Peak which is 6,106 feet (1,861 metres) above sea level. The population was 254,876 in 2017.

    We are staying in an apartment in the small seaside city of Canico, 6 km from the capital city of Funchal. We can see the ocean from our balcony and it is in a good location for exploring.

    For our ukulele friends - In the 1880s, the ukulele was created, based on two small guitar-like instruments of Madeiran origin, the cavaquinho and the rajao. The ukulele was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde. Three immigrants in particular, Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers.
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  • Mar7

    A Hike to the Highest Point in Madeira

    March 7 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Today, we have come to the conclusion that Madeira Island is a ’hiker’s haven’. The island is absolutely full of trails running up and down mountains, into ravines, to waterfalls and along stunning coasts. The trails go from being quite easy to extremely challenging. Some are short and others quite long. With so many choices it is hard to choose which trails to go on. The one thing in common though, is that there will be amazing views and the walk will be up and down.

    We had heard from a local shop keeper that the hike to the top of Pico Ruivo is a fairly short medium-level hike of around 6 km return, with spectacular views. Pico Ruivo is the highest mountain on the island at 1862m high. We could drive to a parking lot and start the hike at 1592 m. It would take around 3 hours. We were cautioned to take warm clothing and a waterproof jacket due to the drizzly weather in the clouds. At some points, it could be very windy. Since we tend to take shop keepers’ advice, we decided to go.

    The drive to the nearest town to the mountain, Santana, didn’t take very long - in and out of tunnels through the mountains - about 40 minutes.
    Then we started our ascent along an extremely windy road from sea level to the parking lot at Achado do Teixeira at 1592m. Before we got there though, we saw a sign for a mirador and decided to have a look. Well, if that mirador was anything similar to the hike we were going to take, we knew we were in for a great adventure. The short trail was not for the faint of heart! But the views were spectacular.

    On we went. We parked the car just as the clouds rolled onto the mountain top. Almost from the start of our hike, we were enveloped in a dense fog and blowing, wet winds. The trail was a flagstone-like trail so the walking wasn’t too bad. In fact, because we were in a fog, it wasn’t even too scary considering the height we were at and the steep drops on either side of us at times. We were so happy that we had taken warm clothing with us. It was cold, wet and windy!

    When we reached the top, we really couldn’t see anything but that was okay. We did it! Chris is an old hand at mountain climbing and gave me lots of encouragement as we neared the top. There was a moment when I thought, ‘No more mountain hiking for me’ but maybe...

    The walk to the peak was around 3 km long with 800 steps as well as lots of steps in flatter areas. Coming back added another 800 steps. It was good that we took a dose of Vitamin I (ibuprofin) before we started.

    Along the way, there were 3 shelters just in case the weather got really bad. We ate our egg salad sandwiches in one of them on the way back down as it was raining pretty hard.

    So funny. When we reached the base of the mountain, it was warm and sunny. No wonder it is difficult to forecast or tell the weather here. Within a few km, and depending where you are, the weather is completely different. It’s crazy!
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  • Mar5

    Funchal's Funky Doors

    March 5 in Portugal ⋅ 🌬 18 °C

    After our cable ride up to Monte, we decided that while we were in Funchal, we would do a little exploring. We walked down a narrow street called Rua de Santa Maria. It’s not wide enough for cars and, even if it was, tables and chairs from the many restaurants and cafes were taking up most of the space. This road is in the old part of the city, not far from the water’s edge and it was filling up with tourists from the cruise ship that was in the harbour.

    What is cool about this street is that in an effort to revitalise the area, the local council organized an art project in the street that involves the doors of the old buildings.

    About 200 doors of houses, restaurants, businesses, galleries, were handed over to artists and designers who were asked to ‘do something with them’. The idea was to create a piece of work that invites people in to something deeper. And it works!

    We think that it changed a potentially gloomy street into a colourful art gallery that motivated lots of conversation with fellow travellers and shopkeepers, as well. Loved it.
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  • Mar4

    A Hike to Ponta de Sao Lourenco

    March 4 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    We are staying in Canico, a little resort area between Funchal and the airport. It isn’t very far to the very easterly part of the island and this is where we decided to go for a hike, on a long, thin peninsula that ends in a few deserted islands.

    What is special about this hike is that you can see fabulous seascapes of both the north and south sides of the Island. The water on the south side is tranquil and on the north side it is rough.

    We walked on a calm sunny day. Quite often it is very windy and can be quite dangerous. The trails are okay but can be quite slippery and they are narrow with steep drops. Some people walk it without proper shoes or clothes. There is no way anyone should go out there in flip flops, or without a hat.

    There are no trees in this gorgeous but windy zone but the fauna and flora are quite unique. Also there are curious rock formations, formed as a result of the volcanic origin of the island.

    We walked 8 km and it took us about 3 hours. At the point, there was a welcome little snack bar in the shade with coffee, cold drinks and pastries. The perfect little place to relax a bit before retracing our steps.

    We were pleasantly surprised to see hikers of all ages doing this trail, including very young children and babies in backpacks, as well as seniors. People went as far as they felt comfortable and could turn back at any time. It was great to see this.

    For us, it was a spectacular introduction to the beautiful island of Madeira. For sure, there will be more hikes on the horizon!
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  • Mar5

    Old Town Funchal

    March 5 in Portugal ⋅ 🌬 18 °C

    Oh the town of Funchal was hopping today. The cruise ships were in the harbour and it was the last day of Carnival. A big crazy parade had been planned and lots of people were in town to see it, but due to the windy and rainy weather forecast for later today, it was cancelled. But the people were there!

    Funchal, the capital city of Madeira Island, has a history that goes back over 5 centuries. The early Portuguese settlers colonised the coast in a picturesque bay surrounded by mountains where fennel (funcho) grew in abundance, this giving its name to the new town of Funchal. Over the years the population grew, with international trade attracting the attention of all of Europe. Nowadays, Funchal is a very modern city with over 112.000 inhabitants. It is one of the safest and cleanest cities in Europe. The pretty cobbled streets in the centre mixed with the modern shopping areas, cafes, bars, restaurants and tourists make Funchal an interesting and busy city.

    We walked around the area that is close to the harbour and happened to come upon the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers' Market) which opened in 1940. Huge panels of painted tiles, showing ladies carrying flowers to sell at the market, adorn the facade, the main entrance and the fish market.
    Inside, the colourful and open space is organised into small “Plazas”, “Squares”, “Streets” and “Little Stairways”, where all types of products are sold.
    It is actually a lovely market and building, and trust me, we have seen a lot of markets!

    Everywhere we have been so far, we have seen the word Poncha - on menus, on ads, on flyers. Today was the day we found out what Poncha was.

    We heard that some of the oldest grocery stores of Madeira are called ‘ Vendas or mercearias’ . These stores were around when life moved slowly.
    At those times, products were sold by weight, without pre-packaging or pallets. The ‘Vendas’, or general stores, sold pretty much everything - creams, potatoes, brooms, shovels, chewing gum, candies and even string. Right beside the groceries selling area, there was always a bar, selling wine with fizzy orange juice ‘ laranjada’ and Poncha.

    So, Poncha, we found out, is a regional drink made of rum ( known as sugar cane brandy), honey and lemon. Sometimes other fruits are put into the drink. Today was the day that we tried it. Yum!

    We returned to our car via the beautiful, harbour-front gardens just as the winds were starting to blow and the skies were getting pretty dark.

    Everything about Funchal shows that there is a lot of pride in the city. The cobblestones are carefully laid and taken care of, the squares are lovely, the parks are well-planned, the parking is organized and the city is clean. We can see why the cruise ships stop in this lovely city.
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  • Day17

    Frohes Neues

    January 1 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Frohes Neues Jahr aus Madeira! 🎉

    Ich hatte einen richtig tollen Silvester Abend mit dem Team. Nach der Sektausgabe waren wir selbst noch ein wenig auf der Silvesterparty und konnten anstoßen 🥂

    Ich hoffe ihr seid alle gut ins neue Jahr gerutscht. 😊✨

You might also know this place by the following names:

Madeira, Autonomous Region of Madeira, Madère

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