Madeira Islands 2021 Insights

Madeira Islands 2021 Insights

Portugal
Portugal

When Is the Best Time

Newly updated Tuesday, June 22, not finished yet.

We relocated our home office for more than a month to Madeira. Living in a mild climate, eating out in local restaurants, buying veggies and fresh-caught fish on markets. This was truly a completely different way to experience this exceptional island in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Sunrise at Bica da Cana
Where to spot such a breathtaking sunrise? Check out may sunrise and sunset spots!

Honestly, Madeira is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Europe. IMO one of the 10 MUST-SEE places in the world. This island can even compete with Kauai, Hawaii. The sky is always in motion; the sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, all different. You never get bored here. The sea is crystal blue. The residents are lovely and attentive, and life is affordable in Madeira.

A field of blue flowers the Pride of Madeira
The Pride of Madeira is in full bloom in May and June

Madeira is a popular destination for holidaymakers, with an estimated 1.5 million visitors annually. The driest season is the busiest season, from May to September.

Madeira Weather and Crowds

View from Levada do Caldeirao Verde PR9 to the sea and Sao Jorge
View from Levada do Caldeirao Verde PR9 to Sao Jorge and Ilha in the north.

Madeira is situated north of the Canary Islands. It is always a few degrees colder here. The climate is similar; the north experiences more clouds, mist, and rain than the south because of the primarily existing northeasterly winds. These winds cause a high swell in the north, the reason for natural and human-made pools. However, the north is rich in lush vegetation, old grown trees on steep hills which were not burnt down by the first settlers. We love the dramatic wild coast of the north with its sheer cliffs; it reminds me of Kauai, a Hawaiian Island. The south is drier, even pleasant in the winter.

Miradouro das Cabanas
Miradouro das Cabanas in the north close to Sao Vicente

It is a pleasantly mild climate throughout the year, close to the coast. It rarely gets hot here. During winter, snow occurs on the highest mountains like Pico Ruivo, the highest mountain, and Pico do Arieiro, the third-highest on more than 1800m elevations. Overall, Madeira experiences a microclimate almost everywhere. Our house is on 600m elevation located. 

Lower and higher clouds in Madeira caused by microclimate
These lower clouds appeared just in this canyon on higher elevation.

It is a little colder here, sometimes cloudier even the wind is different compared to the coast. I read in several guides that Funchal is the driest place on this island because of the high mountain range. I can't entirely agree. After two long term stays on Madeira, I can definitely say the sunniest area lies southwest from Ribeira Brava to Paul do Mar. Madeira is rich in water; therefore, always bring a rain jacket or an umbrella to explore the inland.

Crystal clear water at Ponta do Sol
Crystal clear water at Ponta do Sol

The sea is a bit colder for swimming in spring and end of winter around 18°C, pleasant in summer and autumn around 23°C. So bring your goggles for snorkelling the sea is full of big and colourful fish.

Spring (March-May)

Yellow gorse in the Paul da Serra in spring
Paul da Serra - yellow gorse in bloom and Levada da Serra

There are slight differences in the temperature in spring ranging from 16-21°C during the day. April is one of the wettest months, but overall, rarely for days. It also depends on the area you are in. March and April are less busy except Eastern. The sea temperature in March and April is between 18-19°C and reaches 20°C in May. The entire island is in bloom in the mountains until June. The yellow gorse and the “Proud of Madeira” are in bloom on the slopes. 

Summer (June-September)

Seawater pool in Porto Moniz in summer
Seawater Pool in Porto Moniz

Summer is the peak season, especially in July and August, like elsewhere due to the school holidays. Temperatures range from 22-27°C throughout the summer and can top 30°C with easterly winds along the south coast.

Spectacular pink sunset in Madeira caused by sand from the Sahara

These winds transport the heat and sand from the Sahara. This Sahara sand causes such spectacular sunsets, as you can see above. Usually, it is dry, but rain can still occur in the mountains. However, the weather is unpredictable; we experienced rain showers and rainbows in mid-June. First rain showers mid to end of September. The sea is pleasant on average below 24°C.

Autumn (October-November) 

Porta da Cruz in the north of Madeira
Porto da Cruz and Faial in the north

Autumn is much warmer than the spring day temps range from 19-24°C. Increasing rainfall, especially in November. However, it rarely rains for days. It is more likely for half a day or a shower. Sea temperature still around 20°C. Autumn is less busy; popular hikes are a bit quieter now.

Winter (December-February)

Sao Lourenco Peninsula and Lighthouse
Sao Lourenco Peninsula Hike PR 8

Temperatures remain pleasant, ranging on average between 16-20°C. The weather is a little more unpredictable, with a higher chance of rain. In our favourite tavern, I got told that the winter can be as nice as the summer, but quieter. Sea temps drop below 20°C. Fewer sunshine hours in the winter, roughly from 8 am to 6 pm. The winter is quite popular for visitors from the colder parts of Europe to enjoy the pleasant “eternal spring”.
 

Donate to Micha

    

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

Madeira
Portugal
Portugal

Madeira is our home until the end of June 2021; join us next weeks! Madeira is a volcanic island; the top of a shield volcano located northwest of Africa. It is an autonomous region of Portugal. It takes 1.5  hours to get from Lisbon on a direct flight to the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport (FNC) in Funchal, Madeira.

Madeira view from Cabo Girao
View from Cabo Girao 580 m above sea level

It was difficult to inhabit and cultivate the island in former times, and you know why after your arrival on this blooming, beautiful, green island. The sheer cliffs made a landing by boat almost impossible. The reason Porto Santo the little sister island was inhabited first. Madeira translated means wood, timber which grows here in abundance, especially laurel forests and eucalyptus. The island is steep up and down, almost not flat. It is fertile soil the reason for excellent food and wine. 

Tunnels are an important part on Madeira - old and new R101 in the north

The infrastructure, especially the tunnel constructions, are amazing. On my first visit to this island, it took much more time to get from Funchal to the south or west. Nowadays you can always drive straight forward through many tunnels reaching all places between half an hour and an hour. On the picture above are the old R101 and the new road with kilometres of long tunnels in the back. 

Special sign in Madeira - Speed limit plus 10km/h during good weather conditions

I never saw this sign before. It allows to drive 10 km/h faster than the existing speed limit during good weather conditions. 

Rental Cars on Narrow Streets or Taxi Service

My small car on a steep street

Our house was further up, but parking in front means driving up to the end before you can turn the car. My rental car was a Fiat Panda; excellent to drive through the narrow, winding roads. Driving was challenging the first day, but I adjusted to the steep roads quickly, often more than a 30% incline. Now it is really fun to speed up to get to the top. Overall I drove almost 3.000 km in five weeks. 

Taxi Service in Madeira

For a more relaxed vacation chose a location where restaurants and the sea are within walking distance. Lots of taxis are available in Madeira offering all sights and locations in a round trip for fixed prices. I met several couples on my hikes who used the taxi service during their stay. You frequently find taxi business cards at the end of a trail. To get an idea I added a picture below where you can see all available places and prices from Calheta. I recommend choosing one service for the entire time to negotiate a better price for your holidays. 

Where to Stay - Rental Houses

If you prefer a greener, wilder coast which is less busy stay in the north. The south is drier, warmer, and sunnier but not as spectacular. We chose the south for swimming in the evening on our workcation. 

Our rental house in Arco da Calheta
Rental Houses to Stay

We rented a house in Arco da Calheta 600 m above sea level for more than a month. The sunsets from this elevation are breathtaking almost every evening. 

Sunset from Arco da Calheta

All houses and gardens were connected to the Levada channel next to our house. I loved the sound of the thundering water on our steep street. One of the neighbours explained they all grow their own veggies and potatoes.

The water channel - levada in front of our house
The water is diverted to the garden of our neighbour to water the plants.

He was so kindly brought us salad, veggies, potatoes, and eggs from his garden. What they do not need gets sold on the farmers market in Prazeres and elsewhere on weekends. Opposite our house was an apple tree plantation. The farmer explained their watering technique in detail.

The water tecnique, getting the fresh water from the Levada to the gardens

The local community is taking care of the Levada. Twice a month, he waters his plantation; the annual fee is 20€ which is a fair price he mentioned.

Levadas

Levada do Arco do Calheta
Levada do Arco do Calheta just 200m away from our house

Most fascinating are the “Levadas”. It is a water channel system spread across the entire island with more than 800km. The water runs in a gentle flow with a slight incline from the mountains and sources down to the residents. According to UNESCO, this system was introduced by the first settlers in the first quarter of the 15th century.

The farmers plant on terraced fields

With the Levada system, the farmers could cultivate the land, which is terraced until today. In former times Madeira became the capital for sugar cane in Europe. Sugar cane plantations still exist, and sugar influences the culture of Madeira. It is used for the national drink “Poncha”.

Madeira is most famous for the many walks along these so-called “Levadas”. Most of these trails are on higher elevation leading through lush forests rather jungle. The forests reminded me of Tasmania and New Zealand with huge fern trees.

A huge fern tree on higher elevation in Madeira

Due to the high elevation and the proximity to the mountains, it frequently rains. I added some of my favourite “Levada Hikes” and the location in this article. Our wonderful house here in Madeira was our home from home which we miss already.

5 Fantastic Levada Hikes

Thick bush and forest along Levada 25 Fontes
Levada 25 Fontes (Sources)

The vegetation along the Levadas on higher elevations in the National Park of Madeira are remnant laurel forests or laurisilva. These forests have a huge impact on the entire ecosystem. Most of the laurel in Madeira is primary forest, and Madeira has the largest concentration worldwide, the reason for its protection by UNESCO. You can find such type of forests only in Madeira, in the Azores, and the Canary Islands.

  1. Levada das 25 Fontes PR6 & Levada do Risco PR6.1
    Return hike 10km – 4h included lunch break – roughly 500m altitude difference.

    Levada das 25 Fontes Trail
    The most famous view of the Levada das 25 Fontes

    This is the most popular hike on Madeira located in the Paul da Serra. I agree these two water channel hikes are breathtaking. Start early latest at 9.30, to enjoy the trail, especially the 25 sources in the end and the spectacular scenery for yourselves or with very few people.

    The highlight of the 25 Fontes Levada Hike
    Only my mobile could capture the entire scenery. A Must-Do in Madeira!

    I arrived shortly after 9 am. My car was the fifth in the parking area. When I returned, roughly one hundred cars, busses, taxis, and shuttles were standing there. 

    Trees full of lichens along the levada path

    The beginning of the trail is a bit boring; a paved road is leading down to Casa Rabacal for roughly 25 minutes. Here starts the real trailhead. Both Levada tracks are well marked with signs. The lichens at the trees are evidence of the occurring rain and clouds.

    Levada do Risco Waterfall
    Waterfall at Levada do Risco

    The waterfall at the end of Levada do Risco is just another 1.2 km hike one way. In former times the Levada trail continued leading behind the waterfall. You can see the former path to the left. Nowadays, the trail is closed with a grid. This Levada path is wide and easy to walk even with a buggy.

    Steep descent along Levada 25 Fontes

    The descent continues on steps to the 25 sources. It takes 2.5 km to get to the stunning highlight. The trail narrows, lots of sources and streams are leading into this Levada. It is a mystic atmosphere walking through the thick forest.

    Narrow path to 25 Fontes
    A family with a toddler in front did the hike

    When you reach the end of this track, you see an incredible pool and dripping water from everywhere. None of my pictures can show the real magic and beauty of this place.  

    A couple admiring the 25 Fontes
    Adam and Natalia were as fascinated as I was

    More tips soon in my additional article with tips to avoid the crowds, for whom this Levada is suitable, and how to get a shuttle to the trailhead. 
    Parking for Levada 25 Fontes and Risco Google Maps Link
  2. Levada dos Cedros PR 14
    One way 7 km – 2h – 250m altitude difference

    Levada dos Cedros - very well maintained
    Levada dos Cedros is well maintained.

    It is a breathtaking Levada trail leading through fascinating nature, lush forest with trees full of lichens. Lichens are the first sign of a high amount of mist and rain. We started the trail at the highest point on 1.090 m elevation. First, the trail leads down for more than a kilometre, mostly on steps. When we reached the Levada, a waterfall to the left in the distance got my attention.

    The waterfall at the beginning-end of Levada dos Cedros

    Of course, I wanted a closer view and started climbing over wet and slippery rocks. My left foot with hiking boot ended up in the water. This was the beginning of an exceptional wet day. From now on, the Levada makes a slight incline only, and the trail is easy to walk. However, some parts are exposed, nothing for people with vertigo. After half of the trail, it started raining and later pouring. I can’t remember; I was that much soaked from the rain in my entire life before. Nevertheless, we enjoyed this fantastic hike and the spectacular nature.

    Hiking Map Levada Dos Cedros

    Parking on higher elevation: Fanal (Google Maps Link)
    Parking on lower elevation: Curral Falso (Google Maps Link)

    You like to experience at least one fantastic Levada but you can't manage the longer return hikes? An alternative is to organize a taxi shuttle, park your car at the end of the Levada and take a taxi to the beginning.

    Damaged part of Levada dos Cedros

    Officially the Levada is closed for safety reason. One of the safety fences is damaged at an exposed part of the trail. We saw several hikers on this Levada trail. Anyway, I don't want to encourage you to hike here.
  3. Levada do Caldeirao Verde PR 9 + Caldeirao do Inferno
    Return hike to Caldeirao waterfall 13 km plus Inferno 17.5 km - 3.5-4h/5-6h - 4+7tunnels torch essential!

    200 m long tunnel on the Levado do Caldeirao Verde Hike

    I highly recommend this Levada Hike and the Caldeirao do Inferno especially when staying in the north. It took me 1.20 hours from Arco do Calheta to get here  This is definitely a wet day hike with 11 tunnels, plenty of waterfalls, spectacular views, a real adventure. It starts in the Queimadas Forst Park which is already worth a visit with its ancient huge trees. 

    The first waterfall along Levada do Caldeirao Verde

    The first waterfall along the Levada trail is already promising and it gets better all the time.

    More soon this June 2021 in detail in an additional article. Here the Google Maps Link for parking.
  4. Levada do Rei PR 18
    Return Hike 10.5 km - 3 h - no elevation gain

    Huge fern trees at the beginning of the trail

    This is an easy hike through gorgeous lush forest. The entire trail offers beautiful wild scenery with fern rees at the beginning. The walk is almost flat, just some steps to reach the Levada suitable also for families with children.

    Levada do Rei steps to reach the water channel

    The dense vegetation provides lots of shade and spectacular views of the tree-covered hills. Laurel trees grow next to the Levada. The scent of laurel and eucalyptus is in the air. 

    Lush laurel forest along the trail

    Some parts of the Levada are exposed therefore equipped with safety fences. It is a small track, but luckily remote located, not overrun even during Sundays.

    Small exposed  levada track

    After roughly three kilometres, there is a little overgrown trail to the right, some 200 m long This not marked and maintained track requires climbing to get to the hidden waterfall. 

    Not marked waterfall at Levada do Rei

    This short detour is great fun but a bit challenging. You definitely get dirty during the climb. Soon after reaching the Levada again, a short tunnel appears. A torch is not needed.

    Waterfal to pass on Levada do Rei

    Shortly before you reach the endpoint Ribeiro Bonito you come across this waterfall. A rain jacket or umbrella and waterproof shoes are essential to pass this stunning part of the track. Overall a fantastic Levada hike in fascinating nature, which you share with few other people even during weekends.
  5. Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova
    Circular Trail - 9 km - 2.5 h - 230m altitude difference - tunnel 205m

    Ribeiro Frio Waterfall and River - Highlight along Levada Nova
    The most famous scenery of this hike almost at the end of Levada Nova - Ribeiro Frio River and waterfall

    This is more a beginner tour very easy to walk. It took us just 2 hours in the evening. If you have plenty of time available or the forecast for the island of Madeira is rainy this circular trail is an alternative located in the drier south between Ponta do Sol and Ribeira Brava. 

    View from the lower Levada Moinho to the higher located Levada Nova
    View from the lower Levada Moinho to the higher located Levada Nova

    We combined these two Levadas, but we liked the landscape of Levada Nova on higher elevation much more. We chose Levada Moinho in Lombada for our start. It is a flat mostly open track with a little shade only. for almost one hour. Shortly before the staircase, the trail changes to more wilderness.

    Levada Nova with dripping water
    Levada Moinho

    These steep steps to the right leading up to Levada Nova. This Levada part is a little wetter and more spectacular. The circular Levada trail leads through thick laurel forest especially on the way back.

    Laurel Forest along Levada Nova

    The laurel cent accompanies you on this hike. Despite the poor weather forecast for Madeira, we had pleasant weather. Some parts are fenced for safety reason like here, but some aren't.

    Almost at the end of Levada Nova shortly before the village

    As on most of the Levada trails you have to deal with exposed and narrow parts. Shortly after the curve we already reached Lombada village on higher elevation. Attached is a map from the circular trail at the end of my article. There isn't any hiking map or information board provided at the trailheads.
     

Best Sunrise - Sunset - Outlook Spots

I go more for the sunsets because I am not an early riser, especially not late spring and early summer. However, some are worth getting up in the middle of the night.

Sunset from the Vermelho Outlook
Pico Vermelho Outlook more than 400m above sea level - Google Maps 

This is a short hike of 15 minutes to the outlook and Pico Vermelho from the trailhead and narrow parking in the village. Google Maps Link for Caminho Pico Vermelho e Capela

Sunset in front of our rental house
Sunset in front of our rental house

Many of the "Miradouros" outlooks offer spectacular sunrises or sunsets. Of course, there are more than mentioned here. These are the ones that are worth doing IMO. I checked out more than I added; some spots in the south offer a breathtaking sunset in the winter only. We experienced some of the most stunning sunsets in the southwest and west on higher elevation. Check out the sunrise/sunset time and arrive at least 10 minutes before. Bear in mind up in the mountains rather earlier.

Sunrise from Bica da Cana

Sunrise from Bica da Cana with view to Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo

This is the most spectacular sunrise of all and utterly worth getting up early even in June. Bica da Cana is located in the Paúl da Serra at 1.620 m elevation. It is a 5-10 minutes walk to the outlook and picnic area. We had the entire scenery for ourselves. Temperatures are significantly lower than at the coast. It was 8°C in the morning at 6.30 am in summer. Next to the gate and sign are a few parking spots, but rarely full. Combine the magical sunrise with the most popular and beautiful Levada das 25 Fontes.

Outlook Bica da Cana to Pico Ruivo and Pico Arieiro
Outlook Bica da Cana to Pico das Torres, Pico Ruivo, and Pico Arieiro.

However, this outlook offers spectacular views of the highest mountains of Madeira; Pico das Torres, Pico Arieiro, and Pico Ruivo throughout the day, but weather, means cloud depending. It is frequently cloudy in the heart of Madiera. The clouds roll in already before midday. Nevertheless, we experienced twice stable weather for a couple of days with very few clouds. Check the weather forecast and Pico Arieiro webcam before you drive up to Bica da Cana. Parking: Google Maps Link

Sunrise on Pico Arieiro

Sunrise above the clouds on Pico Arieiro

To watch this breathtaking sunrise you have to stay close to Funchal. It is half an hour drive from the capital city to 1.800 m elevation. This sunrise is breathtaking often above the clouds. I got this picture provided by Oskar. He'd shown me his time-laps to convince me to get up early. However, the sunset from here is the most spectacular of all!

Sunset on Pico Arieiro

Spectacular sunset on Pico Arieiro

This is the most breathtaking sunset of all in Madeira. To watch such a stunning sunset there has to be a clear blue sky during the day. It wasn't busy at all still not much known to most of the visitors.

Watching the sunset from Pico Arieiro with the spectacular mountain scenery.

What an awesome sundowner in such an impressive landscape. Don't think twice and give it a try. Very well done is the access to this fantastic view even wheelchair accessible! Check out the Webcam at Pico Arieiro to get an indication, if the mountains are covered in clouds or if you may get a chance for such a breathtaking sunset.

Sunset from the Miradouro do Fio (Google Maps Link)

Sunset and Lighthouse from Miradouro do Fio

This outlook close to Lighthouse Ponta do Pargo is breathtaking during the day and evening. From here you can see the waterfall and the hike "Vereda do Pesqueiro". Next to the "Miradouro" is a very nice restaurant. 

Sunset from Miradouro das Cabanas (Google Maps Link)

Miradouro das Cabanas excellent picnic area

The outlook is located in the north. It is quite a right from the south, but worth the effort. Combine the sunset with one of the Levada Hikes like Levada do Rei. There are lots of excellent restaurants like the Aereo Cafe. The view from here is spectacular. We came here twice and we were utterly amazed by the beauty of this place.

Miradouro das Cabanas during sunset

Miradouro Trigo de Negreiros ou Moledos (Google Maps)

Sunset Miradouro Trigo de Negreiros ou Moledos

On our way back to our rental house the sky turned to amazing colours and we just checked out Google for the next outlook. This was one of the most breathtaking sunsets here in Madeira. Unfortunately, the tripod was not in the trunk of the car. However, if you stay in the south watch some of the most stunning sunsets from higher elevations.

Cabo Girao Skywalk in the south

Cabo Girao Skywalk

Cabo Girao is located in the south 20 minutes drive from Funchal. It may not suit people with a fear of heights walking above the glass floor with a 580 meters deep view of the tall vertical cliff and the sea. Cabo Girao is 589 m high and the skywalk a little below. It is utterly safe to walk here.

Glass floor at Cabo Girao view deep down

You get an amazing view of Funchal and the surroundings. There is a cafe and souvenir shop. Plenty of parking for buses but not for cars during the day. We came shortly before they close in the evening when most day visitors already left this highlight on their tour. Opening Hours: 8 am until 7 pm. Free admission, but it looks like a fee will be requested in the future. Gates are installed to enter the area.

Miradouro de São Cristovão in the north (Google Maps)

Miradouro de São Cristovão

This is a privately owned outlook by the restaurant São Cristovão. The landscape is breathtaking here and on the opposite is a steep trail and the wild coast. It takes just 10 minutes by car to get to the other side. We had an excellent lunch at the restaurant. The portions are too big. Take a starter and share one meal. 

Miradouro Lombo do Mouro - Paul da Serra (Google Maps)

Miradouro Lombo do Mouro . Paul da Serra

You can't miss this outstanding outlook to the highest mountains in the Paul da Serra along ER 105. The sunlight in the morning is terrible for a good shot, but the clouds roll in before midday. It is rare and it would be boring to experience the mountain range without these clouds.

Madeiran wall lizard climbing to the hand

Usually, the Madeiran wall lizard is shy. This guy was licking the fingers, biting, and climbing. 

3 Sunny Beaches in the South

  1. Calheta Beaches

    Calheta Beach and protected bay
    I swim here at least for 15 minutes each evening due to the pleasant sea temp.

    Calheta in the south is famous for its sandy beach and the breakwater, which protects the bay from powerful waves and currents. The sea temperature in this protected bay is at least three degrees warmer than elsewhere. The reason we are heading down for swimming almost daily.

    Calheta Beach Resort perfectly located
    The Calheta Beach Resort is perfectly located next to Calheta Beach.

    There is plenty of parking available; nevertheless, the parking fills up quickly during the day and weekends. It is a popular beach, one of the very few sand beaches.

    Savoy Hotel

    Another excellent hotel for Calheta is the Saccharum Savoy Hotel with its own pebble beach and breakwater in front. Restaurants and the Pingo Doce supermarket are within walking distance. 

  2. Ponta do Sol

    Ponta do Sol Promenade and protected bay
    The breakwater protects the bay

    This town is located in the south and it is one of the sunniest places. There is an interesting historic town centre, lovely restaurants, and one of our favourite spots for swimming. The protected bay is well laid out.

    The so called natural pool area and ladder at Ponta do Sol

    A staircase is leading down to the water and a ladder is also available, depending on the tides very helpful. There is plenty of parking available not only next to the beach also in tunnels on either side. On the opposite of the bay to the eastern side is the pier located. It was the largest pier on the southwest coast until the mid-20th century. A staircase is leading down to the pier for boat trips starting here.

    Promenade and Hotels in Ponta do Sol

    There are lots of highly-rated hotels in Ponta do Sol. These hotels are opposite the awesome sunny bay. Click on the picture above to get a list of the best-rated hotels via booking.com.

  3. Faja dos Padres (Google Maps Link)

    Faja dos Padres cable car and beach

    You like to escape the crowds? This is your beach and the perfect place to relax! Taking the cable car 300 m down the cliffs is a unique experience. Usually operating from 10 am to 6 pm, summer longer. It is pricey 10€ the round trip but worth it. They have an excellent restaurant offering their own fruits, veggies, wine, and fresh-caught fish out of the sea. It is all grown on their property.

    Faja dos Padres cable car and beach

    This place is secluded from the island an utterly memorable place to spend an entire day or a couple of days. Go for a swim and enjoy their garden. Escape the hassle and bustle for a couple of days; stay in their hotel and enjoy the sound of the ocean during the night. A link to the hotel is added to the pictures above. 

3 Natural Pools in the North

  1. Porto Moniz - Natural Swimming Pools (Google Maps)

    Porto Moniz from the top
    You find the natural pools to the left and right.

    Another fantastic spot for swimming is located in Porto Moniz in the northwest of Madeira. Natural and human-made seawater pools protect swimmers from the rough sea and the strong currents.

    Seawater pool in Porto Moniz with swimmers
    Markus enjoys crystal clear seawater.

    The pools are open to the public in summer from 9 am-7 pm and in winter from 10 am-5 pm. A small entrance fee of 1.50 € for adults is requested.

    The Aqua Natura Hotel is located next to this awesome seawater pools
    The Aqua Natura Hotel is spectacularly located next to the lava pools.

    The water was cold at 19°C in May though Rodrigo, our nephew, would call it warm. Porto Moniz is a nice town with a slow pace. 

  2. Piscinas Natural in Seixal (Google Maps)

    Piscana Natural in Seixal
    We always went to the pool to the left

    These natural pools are spectacular for swimming in front of the untamed Atlantic Ocean in the north. They are always accessible, but safest during low tide. Check the tide times first. These pools are still a hidden gem hardly overrun.

    Piscina Natural in Seixal very view swimmer

    To the left powerful waves can crash into the pool. Visitors got already injured. Entrance and parking for free. In front of the pool is another small pool almost in a shape of an eight. This one is sharp at low tide accessible on a calm day. 

    Seixal pool - me taking honeymoon pictures
    I took honeymoon pictures for Dariusz and Klara in the small pool 

    These pools are spectacularly located in front of the sheer cliffs of Seixal always not crowded. Parking on top and close to the pools. A narrow and steep road is leading down close to the pools, but almost terrifying to drive down and especially up in the car.

    Seixal Natural pools in front of the sheer cliffs

    Check the weather forecast before you drive for a swim in the north. We came here once on a cloudy day defenetely to cold for swimming.

  3. Piscinas Calamar (Google Maps)

    Piscinas Calamar

    The view from this seawater swimming pool is spectacular. The coast looks similar to Kauai, Hawaii. Also, these pools are safest during low tide. Trust me I know what I am talking about.

    Piscinas Calamar I got hit by a wave
    That's me before I got hit by a wave

    this swimming pool is spectacular. The coast looks similar to Kauai, Hawaii. Also, these pools are safest during low tide. Trust me I know what I am talking about. It is an excellent place to spend hours with family and kids. If you are concerned about the occurring high waves there is a pool on a higher level. 

    Calamar pool and hotel

    What an exceptional location for this hotel and pool. No entrance fee neither for the pool nor the seawater natural pools. On top is also a restaurant located. Plenty of parking, but definitely fat too few in summer and on Sundays. Unfortunately, this hotel is still not open for guests because of COVID19.

5 Things to Do in Funchal

Funchal, the capital city of Madeira is a vibrant city built at the slopes with a steep incline. The historic part of Funchal is on sea level and Monte more than 1000 meters above. Roughly 45% of the residents live in Funchal. The entire population in Madeira is less than 300.000.

  1. Funchal Farmers and Fish Market

    Three big tuna in the fish market in Funchal

    First I start with my Top Tip where to park the car. There are several garages around most of them small, narrow, and hot. Just one gets fresh air and is a little bigger. I add the Google Maps Link to this convenient parking garage within 150 m walking distance. The market is called in Portuguese "Mercado dos Lavradores" which means farmers market. The fishmonger described this tuna small; the price 300 € for each. The fish market has much more on offer on Fridays and Saturdays. It is busier during these days, but worth seeing.

    Big Tuna on the fish market in Funchal

    I always buy my tuna at it this guy. He already knows me pretty well. He is having excellent quality. I also bought a parrotfish prepared for the oven. I can't say it aloud, but it was delicious 10€ for two adults.

    Black scabbard fish on the fish market in Funchal

    The black scabbard fish "peixe espada preto" is a speciality in Madeira. This deep-sea fish is found in a depth of 800-1200 m. The average length is 90 cm. A must-visit is the fish and farmers market in Funchal.

    Traditional Funchal tile of the farmers and fish market
    Traditional Funchal Market tiles at the walls

    Most of the walls are covered with the traditional market tile in blue and yellow. There are souvenirs - magnets - sold in this colour but also in several blue shades. This blue doesn't exist it is produced for tourists only.

    Fruits on the Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal

    The available exotic fruits are awesome. My tip for the farmers and fruit market: It is always busy at the ground level, if you want to watch, try fruits, and photograph the market with fewer people take the stairs to the upper floor. There are also clean restrooms available. 

    Top Tip: These fruits are all fantastic and you can try almost all of them. However, some cost a fortune. Ask for the price first! Also, check the quality of the passion fruits when you want to take them back home. At my last shopping on the ground floor, I also got rotten fruits sold.

  2. Take the Cable Car to Monte

    Cable Car Funchal to Monte


    Enjoy the fantastic panorama of entire Funchal from the cable car. You start on sea level and the top is on 1.025m elevation. The ride takes 12-15 minutes to the top. I definitely recommend this tour on a sunny day. The return ticket is 16€ for adults and 8€ for children, one way 11€ and 5,50€. You will definitely look down all the time admiring how the houses were built on steep hills and edges. Visit the Monte Palace Garden when you arrive. What most people do is, take the cable car up to catch the "Carreiros do Monte" toboggan sledge ride back down. The cable car is not operating during strong winds. Open from 10 am to 6 pm.

    There is a second cable car ride from there to the Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden is a must and one of my "places to go" in Funchal.

  3. Carreiros do Monte - Toboggan Ride

    Carreiros do Monte - Toboggan Ride


    That is a unique experience with an old tradition dating back to the early 19th century. The sledges were introduced for public transport from Monte 1000 m above sea level down to Funchal. Take the cable car up to Monte and the thrilling ride down halfway to Funchal with the two "Carreiros" in the back. For the rest of the drive, walk back or simply take a taxi already waiting for guests. Just negotiate the price before. The price of 10 € for two pictures of the Toboggan Ride is a bit pricy IMO. Booking the Toboggan Ride

  4. Botanical Garden in Funchal

    Botanical Garden in Funchal


    You get to this exceptional Botanical Garden either by car, bus or take two cable cars, first to Monte and then a second one. There are only a few parking spaces next to the entrance. Despite the season, it is always worth visiting the garden with more than 3000 different plant species from all over the world. Like entire Madeira also the Botanical Garden is steep in sections. Visiting the park may be challenging for people with mobility issues. There are restrooms and a Cafe inside the garden.
    Opening Hours: 9 am - 6 pm   

  5. Miradouro Pico dos Barcelos

    View from Pico dos Barcelos to Funchal

    Enjoy the amazing view from Pico dos Barcelos to Funchal. Usually, the sunlight is best in the afternoon. The outlook is located in the parish of Santo Antonio 355 m above sea level. 

    View from Pico dos Barcelos to Funchal

    Opening Hours always from 8 am in the morning.
    Closure at 10 pm in winter, 12 pm in summer, but always at 8 pm on Sundays.

 

Sightseeing tour with a tuk tuk in Funchal

Exploring Funchal by car is challenging and parking, too. I met Fabio and his Tuk Tuk. This is a convenient way to see all the interesting sights of Funchal in one day. He knows a lot about his hometown. Learn all you want to know about Funchal and Madeira during a ride with Fabio. Get in contact with Fabio either via Instagram, link is added at the picture or send him a message. +351 933 771 892

This is my top tip for an excellent day in Funchal from my own experience. 
 

Highest Mountains on Madeira

Pico Arieiro in Madeira with a blue sunny sky
Pico Arieiro awesome for sunrises above the clouds

It is frequently cloudy or even rainy in higher elevations on Madeira. We were fortunate enjoying a blue sky without any clouds for almost a week. The most popular and spectacular hike is leading from Pico do Arieiro (1816m) to Pico Ruivo (1862m). The return hike is 12.2 km long. There was another hike, a circular option, a bit longer, but it doesn’t exist any longer.

Steep hike already in the beginning from Arieiro to Ruivo
What a spectacular view and hike already in the beginning

This hiking trail is challenging for those who are not used to climb mountains. The entire track took me less than 4 hours, but I live in the mountains. I climb to the summits weekly. If you don't have any knee issues, you should do this exceptional hike. It is a leg burner but worth the effort. Calculate roughly 6 hours, including several breaks.

Step part with hundred of steps from Arieiro to Ruivo and back
Demanding steps on the entire trail from Arieiro to Ruivo and back

I would describe this trail strenuous, climbing down for 3.5 km then up until you reach Pico Ruivo and back vice versa. It is brutal, and even I had aching calves the next day. Although we travelled to Madeira during Covid19, this trail was busy during mid-week. It must be crazy in the peak season in summer.

Protected but exposed narrow trail with tunnel in front
This is Oskar, my "model" on the way back.

Many hikers came from Poland. It is one of the easiest destinations to travel to at the moment and affordable as well. I met Oskar from Warsaw on this track. We had the same pace and walked back together. What you definitely need for this hike is a torch. Madeira is fascinating with its tunnels not only on the roads on hiking trails as well.

View out of the tunnel on the hiking trail from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

The hike leads through several long and dark tunnels. You climb lots of steps and staircases. This demanding trail offers everything in one day. Even if you stay here for a week only, this trail is a must-do! If you do this hike with a clear blue sky; watch the sunset afterwards. You won't regret it. Overall one of the most spectacular ones. 

The Stairway to Heaven between Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo
The "Stairway to Heaven" roughly 30 minutes hike from Pico Arieiro

Top Tip for Pico Arieiro: You never know how the weather will be 1800 m above sea level. Check the webcam of Pico Arieiro first and drive the long and steep road to the summit on a less cloudy day. Webcam Pico Arieiro

Sao Lourenco Peninsula PR 8 in the East

Sao Lourenco Peninsula Hike

This is another Must-Do hike through geological history. The trail takes roughly 3 hours, is 8 km long offering breathtaking views. There are several beaches and swim spots along the trail. However, it is often windy and a jacket needed. More soon!

6 Waterfalls

Madeira is not a dry island like Gran Canaria. Water is everywhere, so it does not surprise to find lots of waterfalls on the entire island. Some of these waterfalls exist in the wetter season between October to May only.

  1. Vereda do Pesqueiro

    Waterfall plunges down from the cliffs at Vereda do Pesqueiro in Madeira

    When exploring the island by car, try to stop at the outlooks; “Miradouro”. Usually, you get a spectacular view. Our first outlook was the “Miradouro do Fio” close to the lighthouse at Ponta do Pargo in the west of Madeira. The view from here to the sheer cliffs is breathtaking.

    Miradouro do Fio offers spectacular views to the coast

    We saw a waterfall in the distance, and after a delicious lunch at the restaurant next to the “miradouro”, I hiked down to the bottom. This hike is not busy also not during weekends. The waterfall occurs in the wetter season just now in spring. The track to the beach and the bottom of the waterfall is called “Vereda do Pesqueiro”.

    Vereda do Pesqueiro trail on cobbled stone, but exposed
    The trail is always zigzagging.

    The return trail is roughly 4 km long.  It took me 1.15h down and just 45 minutes up. Shortly before I reached the beach, I became wet from the spray. Water is dropping down the entire cliff. 

    It looks like the cobbled stone path is leading into the sea - “Vereda do Pesqueiro”
    The cobbled stone path is leading into the sea ;)

    If you prefer circular trails, you can start nearby the outlook Miradouro do Fio to get down to the beach and waterfall when you reach the beach walk to the east (left). Shortly before the waterfall, the trail is leading up. This trail is exposed and not suitable for people with vertigo in some parts. We always use Locus Map Pro for hiking. More about this mapping app in my tips and gear section.

    Vereda do Pesqueiro Hiking Map

    There are caves at the beach, and it seems some guys are living in this secluded place. Google Maps Trailhead link
  2. Garganta Funda

    Garganta Fund - Waterfall in the north of Madeira

    This waterfall is just a 5 minutes drive north of Miradouro do Fio or Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse in the western part. The parking can be found easily signs are indicating how to get there. The car park is small maximum space for three cars. From here, it is a nice short walk less than 10 minutes to the outlook.
  3. Anjos Ponta do Sol

    Anjos Ponta de Sol famous Instagram spot on the old R101

    This is a famous Instagram spot and car wash for the locals on the old R101 in the south. It gets crazy here during the day; people are queuing for their best shot under the waterfall in a bikini or short trouser.

    Car wash under the waterfall Anjos Ponta do Sol on the old R101

    However, for your perfect shot, visit Anjos which means Angel Waterfall after midday for the perfect sunlight. The waterfall is in shade in the morning. Google Maps Link Anjos
  4. Cascata da Agua D'Alto

    Waterfall Cascata da Agua D'Alto close to Santana

    Actually, an old Levada hike that does not exist officially any longer. It is a short return hike of 3 km almost without incline. At the end of this little overgrown path, plunges one of the most stunning waterfalls down to your feet.

    Bottom and Pool of Waterfall Agua D'Alto

    This is one of the hidden gems, and not much frequented in the north close to Santana.

    Parking (Google Maps Links)
    We parked our car to the right and walked for roughly 200m around one curve until we reached this house. Walk down the steps and turn right.

    Beginning of Levada and Waterfall Hike Cascata Agua D'Alto

    You immediately reach the old path and Levada. Follow the path next to the water channel. Only once, there is a short descent and ascent.

    The exceptional Levada and waterfall hike Agua D'Alto

    The trail is a bit muddy in some parts, a bit exposed but overall easy to hike.

    Huge Fern Trees along the Levada

    The vegetation and forest along the trail with huge fern trees is amazing. Also, fruits grow here along the trail from the gardens.

    Pineapple-Banana fruit - Philodendron Plant
    Pineapple-Banana Fruit - Philodendron Plant

    When we got the first glimpse of this tall waterfall, we were already fascinated. At the bottom of the fall is a pool great for a bath. Usually, the waterfall exists in the wetter season only. 
  5. Agua D'Alto and the old R101 in the north

    Agua D'Alto Sao Vicente

    This waterfall has the same name as the one before, but less spectacular. Many cars stop here coming from Sao Vicente. The reason I mention this waterfall is the old R101 to the right in the back of the picture. This old R101 is not accessible for cars any longer because of rockfalls. I don't want to encourage you to walk here. It is at your own risk! We couldn't resist getting a glimpse of the wild coast.

    Old tunnel from former times on the R101 close to Sao Vicente

    The road leads through several tunnels. The vegetation in the tunnels because of the dripping water everywhere is fascinating also on the rock walls outside. Colourful epiphytes are spread on the rocks. 

    Epiphytes growing on the walls

    There was a hiking trail leading up to Encuemeda but not maintained any longer. However, lots of rocks smaller and bigger laying around.
  6. Miradouro Veu da Noiva

    View to Waterfall from Miradouro Veu da Noiva

    In former times the old R101 was leading behind the waterfall. Nowadays the road is closed for safety reasons and a tunnel was built instead. There is plenty of parking just 100 m up, a snack bar, and restrooms. It is a picturesque stop on the road in the north. Depending on the season it is a trickle in the summer and much bigger in the winter. 
     

Food Specialities in Madeira

Polvo Dish in Madeira
Markus loves to eat Polvo.

We are foodies, the reason we usually try to choose destinations with delicious food. On Madeira Island, the quality of meals, the fruits, the fish, everything is excellent. IMO prices are low for the quality you get.

Bacalhau or cod fish with red peppers, sweet potatoes, and potatoes
Bacalhau or codfish with red peppers, sweet potatoes, and potatoes

At weekends we are eating out trying local dishes. Common is is the bacalhau, swordfish, and mussels which you get in most restaurants. A typical meat dish that originates from Madeira is the "Espetadas" meat (beef, pork, or chicken) skewers. Markus already tried lots of beef skewers.

Espetadas - Meat Skewers typical for Madeira

In the north, we got the very best Beef Espetada provided. We were the last guests late on a Sunday. Nevertheless, the chef explained to us how typical Espetadas have to be done. He did not use just the laurel leaves, it is a laurel skewer. The meat got salted with sea salt.

Salted Beef Espetada

This was the best and tastiest. We definitely have to eat this together again. The entire location and view were spectacular. The staff is super friendly and lots of parking is available, and you can also pass by on a short hike at the coast. You get these awesome Espetadas at the "Aereo Cafe" close to Santana. Google Maps Link This is not an ad just my recommendation!

Aereo Cafe with an excellent view

The typical Madeiran starter is "Bolo do Caco". This is pita bread coated with butter and garlic fresh out of the oven or pan. We always order this starter.

Bolo do Caco a typical starter in Madeira

Our favourite restaurant is called "A Taberna Madalena Do Mar" (Google Maps Link) located next to the sea. The small village Madalena Do Mar is a short drive from Ponta do Sol and Calheta.

Taberna Madalena Do Mar next to the sea

We ate here already several times and left the tavern always satisfied. We tried a lot from the menu. However, Markus often ends up with the "polvo" (octopus) sandwich. I recommend the typical mussels called "ameijoas" prepared à la Maison.

Polvo Sandwich and Ameijoas a la Taberna Madalena do Mar

Another Portuguese speciality are the "lapas" or limpets in English. You eat them with lemon similar to oysters. I am already addicted to lapas. They are excellent here.

Bolo de Caco and Lapas at Taberna Madalena do Mar
Lapas branca e preta - Limpets in white and black

Shortly before we left Madeira we visited Paul do Mar situated at the sea. A steep winding road and several old tunnels are leading to this laid back fishermen village. We enjoyed the sea breeze and probably found the best bar of all for grilled Lapas.

Paul do Mar - Bar O Ideal

As always we checked the Google recommendation rating; 4.8 and famous for white sangria convinced us immediately. 

Lapa for two at Bar O Ideal

The lemon slices on top of the lapas are essential, otherwise not as tasty. To give you an idea of the meal prices in Madeira; 8 € for two for the Lapas, Bole de Caco 2,5 - 3 € and 1 l Sangria for 8-10 €. This was the only restaurant we found offering polvo salad - octopus salad. Common is "Polvo a Lagareiro"; octopus with vegetables, garlic, potatoes, and lots of olive oil.

Veggie Soup and Cho Cho

A very typical starter in Portugal and Madeira is the "Sopa de Legumes". It is thicker and tastes completely different. The reason is the Cho Cho; a green fruit actually. It tastes between cucumber and potatoes. My aunt married a Portuguese. She is living in Lisbon for 60 years already. She told me the trick for vegetable soups.

Typical Portuguese and Madeiran cakes

Typical for Portugal and so for Madeira is the "Pastel de Nata" to the left. It is a flaky pastry filled with custard made of cream (nata), egg yolks, sugar, flour, and lemon zest. In Portugal, you frequently get cinnamon for it offered. Most people heat them up for a few seconds. To the right is a passionfruit tart. Due to the availability of these fruits many desserts from passion fruit pudding, to cake, or liqueur are on offer on the menu.

Poncha in Madeira with lemon and orange juice

In most restaurants, you can order a cocktail called Nikita. We shared one and I would rather call it a desert if ordered without alcohol. The ingredients for Nikita are pineapple juice smashed with vanilla ice cream, fresh pineapple, and sugar. For the Portuguese, it has to be sweet. If it comes with alcohol it is either white wine or beer or both. Another speciality on Madeira is "Poncha", made from white rum, honey, and lemon juice. Some restaurants offer Poncha with lemon and orange juice some with passionfruit what we like most.  

I don't earn anything with the restaurant recommendations in this guide nor was any of our meals for free. This is simply my opinion after several visits. Of course, there are more excellent restaurants in Madeira.

Madeira Wine

Madeira Wine Tasting - Glasses filled with different Madeira Wines

Due to the fertile soil and mild climate excellent grapes are grown here on the island. Madeira is well-known for exceptional wine for more than 500 years already. Growing grapes on the terraced slopes is challenging and all manual labour. If you want to know more about this typical wine from Madeira and you like to try some of the best Madeira wines you definitely should make a booking.

Stored wine barrels

We had an excellent tour and tasting at Barbeito Madeira Wine More to come soon in an extra article.

7 Must Things to Do and Instagram Spots in Madeira

Coming soon this June 2021!

For a better understanding, I added descriptions for all pictures below.

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Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I love adventurous trips and my husband…