Madeira, Portugal

by | Aug 26, 2018

DANI CIUCA

The Madeira Island, 970km southwest of Lisbon, Portugal, is one of Europe’s most beautiful travel locations with many thousands of tourists returning year after year. The island is a summits of mountains that have their bases on an abyssal ocean floor. The springtime temperature, felt all year round, cries out for open air activities. The island is 55 km long, has a maximum width of 22 km and a coastline of 144 km, and rises in the centre to Ruivo Peak – 1,861 meters above sea level. I have visited this gorgeous island for only 2 days and I fell in love for ever  with this Heavenly island. I will surely go back to explore it deeply some other time.

I hope that by reading this post I will inspire you to visit this gorgeous island.

One of the main reasons for falling in love with Madeira is that I could see gassy cliffs rising out of the blue ocean. The mountains rise up to around 1200 metres dropping straight into ravines which radiate out to the coast.  Ponta do Pargo’s name came from its location on the extreme coastal west point (Ponta) and for being rich in a species of fish called ‘pargo’. Due to its plane terrain this is a very distinguished area on Madeira Island. Tranquil and peculiar, this parish maintains its charm almost all year round, becoming especially alive when religious festivals occur.

Ilheu da Ribeira da Janela or Neptune Finger Cliffs. The legend tells that the god Neptune created these cliffs. I loved the wild dramatic look of these windswept cliffs and the rough northern shore of Madeira around them. The hole in one of the rocks is similar to a window (Janela in Portuguese). These 2 rocky cliffs can be seen from both Porto Moniz and from the small rocky beach east of Porto Moniz, where the river called after them (Ribeira da Janela) meets the ocean.

Another natural wonder discovered in Madeira are the Natural Pools.

The Natural Pools of Seixal (Piscinas Naturais do Seixal) are natural salt water pools, comprised of rocks of volcanic origin, filled naturally by incoming seawater. They are located on the island of Madeira’s northern coast, with a superb view of the Atlantic and the entire coastline. Here, you can admire lush landscapes overlooking deep blue ocean waters, and appreciate something truly special. These pools are great examples of the magnificence of nature on the island of Madeira. The perfect combination to spend a great day at the beach.

A memorable experience was when I witnessed the sunset in Paul do Mar.

Another natural wonder discovered in Madeira are the Natural Pools.

A memorable experience was when I witnessed the sunset in Paul do Mar.

An unforgettable coastal Paradise hugged by commanding cliffs are just a few words to describe the ancient fishing village of Paul do Mar. It is one of the most important centers of the archipelago, the ocean providing an incredibly rich variety of fish.

                                      PORTO MONIZ

Porto Moniz is a charming little town that is perched on the dramatic north western tip of Madeira, a region comprised of towering mountains and views over endless deep blues of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is also known due to the seawater lava pools that are naturally filled by the ocean’s high tide, offering a dramatic setting for swimming or paddling in.

PORTO MONIZ

Porto Moniz is a charming little town that is perched on the dramatic north western tip of Madeira, a region comprised of towering mountains and views over endless deep blues of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is also known due to the seawater lava pools that are naturally filled by the ocean’s high tide, offering a dramatic setting for swimming or paddling in.

In Madeira I had one of my most impressive rides with a cable car! The trip on the Achadas da Cruz cable car, leads from the top view point (450 m altitude) to the sea level, in a dizzying, almost vertical, but well worth it way! The 4 minutes trip offers excellent panoramic views over the green hills and the blue ocean. Many tourists (including me) were in doubt if they have the courage to take this ride, because of the steep altitude difference. a not to miss experience when you will visit Madeira.

If you think of Madeira as a classic island, with sand beaches and sun umbrellas, you are wrong. Madeira is a perfect island for adventure lovers, for hikers and for landscape hunters. I knew before I went to Madeira that I can’t miss the opportunity to hike to the highest point in Madeira, Pico Ruivo (1862 m). The climb to the top of Pico Ruivo provides a challenging hike. There are two excellent routes of varying degrees of difficulty. I choosed the most popular and more challenging course – from the summit of Pico do Arieiro, which is easily accessible by car and is the third highest peak of Madeira. This route traverses steep ridges, passes through tunnels and steep slopes. But as you will see from the photos, it was worthed every step of the hike. The round trip takes around 5-6 hours and covers 14 km.

The most impressive part of the hike to Pico Ruivo is without a doubt a 50 meters narrow path built on a ridge of a mountain peak, with deep gorges to the left and right sides of the path. I saw some YouTube videos before I went to Madeira from this place and I said to myself that I have to visit this place (even if I am scared of heights).

Miradouro (viewpoint) Ninho da Manta (1720 m) offered one of the most memorable and breathtaking views from the hike to Pico Ruivo. Not far from the starting point of the hike from Pico Arieiro, the platform is located on an adventurous cliff, overlooking the deep valley of the Ribeira da Fajã da Nogueira and the surrounding peaks, such as Pico das Torres or Pico Arieiro. The platform is secured by a wooden fence, but only the one who are not afraid of heights should venture so far.

As I approached to the Pico Ruivo, the vegetation on the mountains became denser. There are a lot of different plants and flowers that are found within Madeira. The peaks in this archipelago are usually where the different types of flowers and plants are able to flourish even more. The richness of the environment in Madeira is the main reason why numerous species, even the endangered ones, find a conducive habitat in this archipelago. Approximately two thirds of Madeira consists of protected nature and that says a lot. Madeira has an unique and diverse flora and fauna thanks to its mild climate. The laurel (laura silva), which once covered almost the entire island and gave Madeira (meaning wood) her name, is now on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

After a challenging 2h hike, full of amazing views, I reached the Pico Ruivo – the highest point on the Madeira mountainous. Standing at 1,862m above sea level the summit provides spectacular views over the entire island. I was lucky to have an amazing clear sunny day, being able to see from the top even the Atlantic Ocean.

After a challenging 2h hike, full of amazing views, I reached the Pico Ruivo – the highest point on the Madeira mountainous.  Standing at 1,862m above sea level the summit provides spectacular views over the entire island. I was lucky to have an amazing clear sunny day, being able to see from the top even the Atlantic Ocean.

As I approached to the Pico Ruivo, the vegetation on the mountains became denser. There are a lot of different plants and flowers that are found within Madeira. The peaks in this archipelago are usually where the different types of flowers and plants are able to flourish even more. The richness of the environment in Madeira is the main reason why numerous species, even the endangered ones, find a conducive habitat in this archipelago. Approximately two thirds of Madeira consists of protected nature and that says a lot. Madeira has an unique and diverse flora and fauna thanks to its mild climate. The laurel (laura silva), which once covered almost the entire island and gave Madeira (meaning wood) her name, is now on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

My last stop in my short 2 days trip in Madeira was in Santana, a beautiful town on the north coast of the island. Here you can find the “Casas de Santana” or “Casinhas de Santana” – the typical thatched houses found only in this little town. These small adorable colored houses, are built of natural stone and thatched with straw. The houses have served the locals for centuries as stables and dwellings. It can be found in Santana´s town centre, near the City Hall.

Not to miss.

1. Pico Ruivo;

Standing at 1,862m above sea level, Pico Ruivo is the highest point in Madeira. The summit provides spectacular views over the entire island. The most popular and more challenging course is from the summit of Pico do Arieiro (1818), which is easily accessible by car and is the third highest peak of Madeira. The round trip takes around 5-6 hours and covers around 14 km. I recommend to start the trail early in the morning. You have 2 advantages for that: you can catch the sunrise there and start the trail early in the day when the sun light is perfect for photographing the breathtaking landscapes.

2. Achadas da Cruz cable car;

This place deserves to be named between the best attractions of the whole Madeira Island, but it’s a true hidden gem not mentioned in most travel guides and overlooked by most tourists, and I guess it’s better if it stays that way. The cable car in Achadas da Cruz takes visitors to the Calhau das Achadas from a several hundred meters cliff Achadas in a dizzying, almost vertical, but well worth it ride. The ride is emotionally intense and exhilarating – perfect for those seeking adventure and not so perfect for those afraid of heights.

3.Seixal Natural Pools and Porto Moniz;

Seixal Natural Pools Or Piscinas Naturais do Seixal in Portuguese are a number of natural pools with volcanic origin, located close to the Praia do Porto do Seixal Beach, beside the village of Seixal. Even if the weather is cool and you can’t go to swim, they are still an impressive place to see.

Not far from Seixal is Porto Moniz – a charming little town perched on the dramatic north western tip of Madeira. You can find there the natural swimming pools which are also formed by volcanic lava, naturally filled with crystal-clear sea water. The natural salt water swimming pools offer a surface area of 3800 m², including children’s swimming pool, a children’s play area and disabled access.

4. Garajau;

Garajau is a small coastal village close to Caniço, east of Funchal. Local attractions include the imposing Cristo Rei statue, from where you have an excellent partial view over Funchal bay, the Garajau Reserve, Caniço de Baixo and the Atlantic Ocean.

You can enjoy also a modern cable car at Garajau, that descends 200 metres to the pebbled shores of Garajau beach, situated in a pleasant bay. The beach is quiet and offers wonderful crystal-clear waters for swimming.

5. Santana;

Located in northeastern Madeira Island in Santana, “Casas de Santana” are typical thatched houses found only here. These small adorable colored houses, whose roof are made of straw can be found in Santana´s town centre, near the City Hall.  The name Santana derived from a small chapel in the sixteenth century, the Chapel of Santa Ana.

How to get there.

By plane:

The most convenient way to get to Madeira is by air. From Lisbon and Porto the flights are regular. There are also other accessible flights from most European capitals: 3h00 from London and 4h30  from Berlin. The main entrance door is the Madeira International Airport. On the island of Porto Santo there is also an airport that receives mainly flights from Madeira but also many direct flights, mainly from Northern Europe. To explore the island, you can rent a car, use a taxi or use the public transport. I recommend to rent a car.

By boat:

Choosing a cruise ship to reach Funchal is another possibility. However, the service follows a timetable which must be taken into account when planning your trip. The region also has a regular ferry service between Funchal and Vila Baleira on the island of Porto Santo.

Due to its location, the port of Funchal is part of the cruise circuits between Madeira, the Canaries and North Africa, and the Western Mediterranean. The port of Funchal is also important in transoceanic travel between USA and Europe.

So, that was my short experience with Madeira. Have you ever been there? Would you like to go? What other beautiful islands have you visited and reccomend?

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