Madeira, the Portuguese island about 800 km west of Casablanca, is well known for its overwhelming flowerage. Despite the flowers having been imported from all over the world some hundred years ago, it is a spectacular sight. And goes well together with the steep cliffs, volcanic mountains and misty rainforests. Overall, Madeira feels a bit like Hawaii. Only the great beaches are missing. This is the third part of our Madeira trip – it covers tplaces and walks in the eastern area, in particular: Funchal, Cabo Girao, the area around Queimadas and the Sao Lourenco peninsula.
|Arco de Calheta, Madeira, Portugal
|How I got there
|direct flights from Duesseldorf.
|Where I stayed and Hotel recommendations
|We stayed at a nice flat near Calheta beach: https://www.quinta-golfinho.com/en/
There are hundreds of houses and hotels available on Madeira, and most of them offer sea view. We particularly liked the small apartment complex, as it was very close to the shore (just about 50 meters above) and we could watch dolphins and whales right from our breakfast table on the balcony.
|Restaurant A Poita, Madalena do Mar (https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Portuguese-Restaurant/Restaurante-A-Poita-1461344890780511/)
Restaurant La Parreira (https://www.tripadvisor.de/Restaurant_Review-g676335-d8008280-Reviews-La_Parreira-Ribeira_Brava_Madeira_Madeira_Islands.html), Rua Comandante Camacho de Freitas 517, Ribeira Brava / Campanario
Akua by Chefe Julio Pereira (in funchal Old Town)(https://www.tripadvisor.de/Restaurant_Review-g189167-d17706466-Reviews-Akua_by_Chefe_Julio_Pereira-Funchal_Madeira_Madeira_Islands.html)
Moinho at Fajã da Ovelha: Poncha bar
|Things to do
|Watch whales and dolphins – we actually saw sperm whales!
Walk along the unique “levadas”, the water channels with (mostly) comfortable walkways alongside
Or for more sporty natures: there are hiking trails of every slope level. And I figures out: hiking downhill can be more strenuous than climbing up.
Enjoy great sea views from almost everywhere.
Visit Funchal, the capital of Madeira, and try the famous Madeira wine, e.g. at Blandy’s (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g189167-d271927-Reviews-Blandy_s_Wine_Lodge-Funchal_Madeira_Madeira_Islands.html).
And if you’re in the area of Calheta and would like to taste the local Rum, which is still produced during April and May at the local plant from local sugar cane, then you should visit this sugar factory, which is a museum during the rest of the year and have a small, nice rum tasting area, whre you can try new and old ones. (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1178726-d4289769-Reviews-Sociedade_dos_Engenhos_da_Calheta-Calheta_Madeira_Madeira_Islands.html). Just down the road, there’s a small bar that also offers the local rum.
|Recommendations in a nutshell
|Prepare to climb steep hills up and down – Madeira obviously is of volcanic origin. If you book a car (and you certainly will need it to get around), invest money into a bit more horsepower. As mentioned – the mountains really are rampant, and so are the streets.
|Poncha: a cocktail of white rum, honey, orange and lemon juice, and maybe a little bit of passion fruit.
Funchal – the Capital
The most popular touristic destination is certainly Funchal, the capital of Madeira. With a population of approx. 110.000 it is a vivid city, featuring a picturesque old town.
Many nice small shops offer ample opportunity to search for gifts; we chose to take the famous Madeira wine home, and bought it at the most famous local cellar: “Blandy’s”. You can try wines of different ages, depending on your wallet…
If you come to Funchal by car, the best place to leave it is the car park next to the Monte Cable car – from there the cable car as well as the old town are easily accessible in walking distance. A place visited by most tourists is the market hall “Mercado dos Lavradores”, about 5 minutes walk from the car park.
Mercado dos Lavradores
The fish market hall is spectacular, the vegetables and fruits are a colorful photo theme. However, the sellers are quite agressive and try to force you into buying overpriced fruits.
Another major attraction of Funchal are the botanical gardens and parks, e.g. of Monte and the botanical garden. Both are easily accessible by two cable cars: one from the harbor area to the district of Monte,
and the second one from Monte to the botanical garden:
Botanical Garden of Funchal
The botanical garden features plants from all over the world – here’s a small selection:
Particularly impressive is the cactus collection – many specimen are several meters high:
And many specimen show interesting features in close-up, like nasty thorns, or beautiful blossoms.
Quite spectacular are also the flower beds below the cafeteria, which offers a nice view of Funchal and the coast:
Completely different from this ordered plant collection is the mystical garden of the “Monte Palace”. This garden features a museum for African art and a collection of precious stones:
Monte Palace’s history goes back to the 18th century, when the English Consul Charles Murray bought the property high above the city of Funchal and converted it into a beautiful estate called “the pleasure estate” at that time.
In 1897, Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues bought the estate and added a castle-like building that became later the famous “Monte Palace Hotel”. In the middle of the last century, the Hotel was closed and started to deteriorate, until 1987, when the estate was acquired by Jose Manuel Rodrigues Berardo.
He revitalized the garden with both exotic plants from all over the world, like Cycads and Protea from South Africa and indigenous plants from the Madeira forest namely, “Laurissilva”, such as ferns, cedars, laurels, Canary Laurels, etc.
The garden features several fish ponds with lots of Koi:
The entire garden has received an exotic tough. Several pagodas and Buddhas contribute to the Asian atmosphere.
In addition, there’s a famous ceramic tile collection dating from 15th – 20th centuries. Overall, this garden is very special and definitely a “must-see”!
Prainha and Sao Lourenco peninsula
As mentioned, Madeira does not feature many natural sandy beaches. In fact, the only one we saw during our stay was the small, but beautiful bay of Prainha, on the way to the parking lot at the popular Sao Lourenco peninsula. As the street runs high above the bay, you need to leave the car there and walk down to the bay. We were told, that the beach is very crowded during high season – during our stay there were a mere handful people there.
A very popular hiking trail leads through the quite untypical desert-like rocky landscape of the Sao Lourenco peninsula (Rother Hiking Guide version 2020, Hike No. 14). The trail goes a bit up and down, but with rewarding views around every corner:
the rocks exhibit colorful formations:
You’ll have to calculate with about four hours just forth and back, but you should spend some time on the “summit” of the Pico de Furado – the view is great:
And the local animals are pretty sociable:
On the way back the “Casa do Sardinha” is worth a stay. It is a small palm grove with a stunning view of the south coast of Madeira.
Several walks and hikes are available in the greater Funchal area. We chose two, and the first one wasa definitely more rewarding than the second one.
The first one, Rother Hiking Guide version 2020, Hike No. 27, is more an easy walk than a real hike, it takes about 1,5 hours as a round-trip, and goes through thick, wet “jungle” near Quemadas.
The trail starts at a small group of so-called “Santana” houses – small houses with roofs that stretch to the ground:
From there the path leads into the woods…
and takes you to the “Casa de Quemadas”
The path is prepared to be accessible for visibly impaired people, thus it is broad and flanked by wooden rails on both sides:
…and is called “Caminho para Todos” – a path for all.
The second trail near Funchal is located on the south side of the island, close to the small, beautiful town of Ponta do Sol. It is part of the Hiking trail no. 11 (Rother Hiking Guide version 2020), but we went only part of it – just the path along the “Levada Nova” from its eastern end to the village of Sitio da Ribeira da Tabua and back.
The path follows the Levada Nova, but quite unpectacular, beside the passing of a tunnel full of spider webs:
The most rewarding part of this walk was the nice Poncha, that was served at the turning point of our walk, at the “Cafe Sitio da Ribeira”…
…and some beautiful butterflies, plants and flowers on the way:
However, the walk is nice and easy, and could be extended along the Levada Nova for many kilometers more.
Finally here’s another highlight of Madeira, that should not be missed: the “Cabo Girao”.
This cliff strechtes over 580 spectacular meters above sea and provides best views of Funchal and the entire southern coast.
It features a glass floor that needs a certain vertigo resistance to stand upon.
With these final pictures I fully recommend Madeira – and refer to my recommendations above, like being prepared for VERY steep hills, and booking a car with a lot of horsepower!
Madeira – our Trip in three Parts:
|This is part Part 3; eastern areas and Funchal; you’ll find Parts 1 and 2 here:
|Part 1: western area & Poncha recipe
|Part 2: northern and central areas & “Picado Traditional” recipe
Greetings from Madeira!
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