Madeira, the island of contrasts...
A few days before reaching the age of majority and while I was thinking about plans to celebrate the date, I was gifted with a trip to Madeira. I had no idea that the beauty of this island would mark me so much...
We left Lisbon very early, still at night, from terminal 2 with EasyJet, by the way, my first flight with a low-cost airline. Everything went very smoothly, the plane wasn't full so we were able to take some pictures and enjoy the sunrise under the Atlantic skies! :)
We arrived in the morning so we could enjoy the whole day. As we had done the "homework" we already had an idea of what we wanted to visit. For that, we rented a car for the three days, which turned out to be an excellent option to be able to visit all the points we had chosen at our own pace.
"Pico do Facho"
The first destination was the "Pico do Facho" viewpoint, a place at almost 300 meters of altitude, which surprises me with its unobstructed view of the Atlantic and the town of Machico.
The area is also close to the airport and allows you to contemplate the Desertas Islands from afar. Here we already have an idea that we are on a special island!
"Ponta de São Lourenço"
From here we went to Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost part of the island. There are quite a few trails that caught my attention, but this time they weren't part of our route. They will remain for the next visit, it's promised! In this area, we feel a microclimate that is perfectly different from the rest of the island. Something drier and similar to North Africa, but very pleasant.
The vegetation is short and the outline of the hills in green and brown stands out in the blue immensity.
The beauty of the landscape is truly incredible and made me feel an enormous inner peace...
It becomes difficult to choose the best photograph, but here are some ...
Then we head west towards Santana, where we visit the famous typical houses that appear on all Madeira postcards!
Here we take the opportunity to taste the famous Madeira bananas...
The entire north coast of the island is extremely green and impressively beautiful. Sometimes I thought I was in Hawaii due to the profile of the mountains with their tropical vegetation wedged between the clouds. In other areas, it seems that we are in Switzerland with the houses painting the landscape at the bottom of the valleys.
We continue along the coast towards São Vicente, passing by the small town of Arco de São Jorge where we can enjoy the view from the "Cabo Aéreo" viewpoint.
Véu da Noiva Viewpoint
Between São Vicente and Seixal, there is this viewpoint that I recommend. Its waterfall gives rise to the name and the entire surrounding area is incredible!
Talking about the waterfalls, they appear when we least expect them and also contribute to the fascination of this place. All over the island, we find scenes of beauty that words sometimes lack to describe...
It was another very nice spot we visited. Here it seems that time has stopped and a pleasant sense of isolation invites you to relax.
Already on the south coast at almost 600 meters of altitude is Cabo Girão. Not recommended for those with vertigo, but the view is phenomenal. Below you can see a "fajã" that can be visited using a cable car.
It's worth staying for the sunset...
From this viewpoint, we can see Câmara de Lobos and Funchal. Sunset is an almost obligatory moment.
Funchal at night
This visit took place during the Christmas period, more precisely at the time of Kings' Day. So the city was with the typical decorations of the time which made the visit even more pleasant.
The bay of Funchal at this time of year resembles a giant nativity scene. Watching it live is impressive.
All streets and gardens are magnificently decorated and locals and tourists mingle in the streets making the atmosphere very welcoming.
Funchal can and should be appreciated from different places, each place always presenting different details and perspectives. But I highlight one viewpoint in particular. Located in the parish of Santo António, Pico dos Barcelos viewpoint is located at an altitude of 355 meters and provides a very complete panoramic view of the entire bay of Funchal.
"Curral das Freiras"
It doesn't need many introductions because it is another well-known tourist spot. The road to get there is narrow and requires a lot of attention but in the end comes the reward with a landscape that takes your breath away... How is it possible on such a small island that there are so many contrasts?
Eira do Cerrado viewpoint
It is from Eira do Serrado viewpoint, located at 1096 meters above sea level, that we can enjoy the best panoramic view over Curral das Freiras and the great pointed mountains of the central massif that surround it.
This isolation had an explanation... tradition tells that here nuns hid from pirate attacks...
Areeiro PeakThe second highest peak on the island offers us a 360º view where we can appreciate the surrounding mountains and the sea against a blue background. I feel like a "sponge" absorbing and savoring the beauty of the area that only the clouds insist on hiding. Truly an area that deserves a visit to do one of the trails that follow Ruivo Peak.
I am sure that Madeira hides in this area many places that deserve to be visited with more time. See you soon!
"Riberia da Janela"
Returning to the north face of the island, we adapted our initial route according to what the landscape offered us. We visited several places that almost went unnoticed... because they weren't part of the initial plan... fortunately!
"Ribeira da Janela" was one of those hotspots that I will never forget...
Famous for its natural pools, it hosted my first "bolo do caco"! This location is almost at the west end of the island. The contrast of the volcanic rocks and the color of the water in the oceanic pools combine perfectly.
From Santa Viewpoint we could see the village of Porto Moniz with its natural pools and the Mole Islanded.
West End, Ponta do Pargo
At the westernmost point of the island is Ponta do Pargo and its lighthouse. The surrounding fields are very green and some cows are grazing here. The contrast with Ponta de São Lourenço could not be more evident as the humidity here makes the vegetation more exuberant.
Fio's viewpoint provided a more imposing view of this area of the coast.
Tradition dictates that around here the many inhabitants make small cribs with all the details outside their homes, which leads to appreciating these small treasures.
Paul do Mar
Another small town is hidden on the western side of the island which impressed me. Its pebble beach is known as "Ribeira das Galinhas" beach. Its harbor ends abruptly at the vertical wall of the mountain. A waterfall into the sea ends up giving the place a magic touch.
The trip along the west coast to Funchal was coming to an end and it was taking place with the January sunset painting the island in orange tones that made us forget the winter on the mainland...
I also highlight a special place, Casa Viola Restaurant in Câmara de Lobos, where I was able to try a real tangerine poncha and the most delicious meat kebabs I have ever tasted. The place is typical and the service TOP. (Thanks Luísa for the tip!)
Alto Lido Hotel
This hotel, as the name implies, is located in the Lido area and has spacious and very comfortable rooms. Service is very professional and friendly. Breakfast is varied and adequate with excellent quality.
It has a car park (paid) which helps a lot as parking in the area is difficult.
I leave a special word of thanks to all the staff for remembering that we were visiting Madeira Island to celebrate my birthday.
Sunrise seen from the Alto Lido hotel.
Finally, the visit to downtown Funchal during the day allowed you to walk around and feel the soul of the city.
Another place not to be missed in Funchal is this market. Although nowadays it is geared towards tourists, it is a must to discover the richness of the island of Madeira. We can taste and buy exotic fruits and appreciate the beauty of flowers and fruits of all colors and shapes and other endemic plants such as spices that I didn't even imagine existed! Swordfish and tuna are also present. This market dates back to 1940!
The flowers that are the queens of the market!
On the way to the cable car, it is worth visiting the old part of Funchal where we can see the port and through the old alleys, we can appreciate magnificent paintings that contrast with the old and typical houses.
In Funchal, we take the cable car that allows a panoramic view of the city and its bay and ends at the mount, where we can visit the Botanical Garden and the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte.
To go back down to Funchal, there are always available "basket cars" that delight tourists who line up to experience the feeling of adrenaline through the sloping alleys.
The story goes that it was here that the discoverers of the island disembarked. One year after the accidental discovery of Porto Santo, precisely 600 years ago the first Portuguese arrived in Madeira.
And finally, it was time to leave but I will certainly be back because there was still a lot to visit. This visit was a pleasant surprise that I highly recommend! See you soon Madeira!