Madeira's subtropical climate and dramatic volcanic origin make it the perfect combination of a relaxing and adventurous destination. Here is a summary of my top 5 locations to visit on the Island that showcase the variety of landscapes on offer.
North West Madeira
A drive in the North West of Madeira will see you zipping through tunnels to reach beautiful coastal villages. Looking along the coastline and up to the giant cliffs you soon realise it's a wonder just to travel along this coastline, where the island drops into the ocean.
- Take time to view the old roads which used to cling to the outside of the cliff faces and are now crumbling and concealed under waterfalls.
- Visit the swimming areas at Seixal (The Beach of Slabs) and the natural pools at Porto Moniz to sample a swim in the beautiful blue waters.
- Relax on the seafront with incredible seafood in Sao Vicente. We'd recommend Taberna de S. Vicente for a sample of local dining.
- Unwind in the town of Sao Vicente and stare up at the towering mountains of central Madeira from beside the pool. A Casa Estrelícia-Dourada Garcês is the perfect traditional farmhouse accommodation. Sample the Madeira Wine!
Ponta Do Pargo
The Western Tip
At the very Western Tip of Madeira you will find the village of Ponta Do Pargo with incredible views out into the wide open Atlantic Ocean. From the stunning lighthouse there is nothing between here and Central America. Watch as the weather rolls toward the island and climbs over the vertical cliffs inland.
- Take time to walk the Levada's which are much quieter at this end of the island.
- Visit the incredible lighthouse and cliffs for sunset and to wait the weather roll by.
- Enjoy local hospitality in Restaurante O Farolim and watch the locals come and go.
- Stay in a rural farmhouse along the route of a levada at Casas da Levada.
The High Mountains
Pico Ruin and the surrounding high mountains of Madeira are the perfect place to add in some hiking to your Madeira visit. The steep winding drive up to Pico De Arieiro is an adventure in itself and thats before you trek through tunnels and alongside 1000m drops to reach the highest point on the island. It can be crowded but it's an adventure that will last a lifetime especially in your legs as you climb and descend the many thousands of steps en route.
- Drive to Pico do Arieiro where you will find the start of several trails into the mountains.
- Find a love for dramatic narrow walkways and tunnels as you weave through the mountains.
- Climb to the summit of the Pico Ruivo at 1862m and enjoy the view all around the island
The Inner Valleys
The stunning woodland around Ribeiro Frio proved to us that Madeira does have it all. We visited on a misty damp day as the clouds swirled around the steep valley sides occasionally revealing the views in this tropical paradise. While the mountains and cliffs provide a sense of scale, here you find a real natural beauty where the trees twist in greens and autumnal colours and lichen hangs from every branch.
- Visit the trout farm and restaurant at Ribeiro Frio for lunch.
- Take an easy walk to Mirador de Balcões to soak in the woodland atmosphere and be rewarded with dramatic views into the valleys.
- Stay in a traditional Santana House where you can walk straight from the front door deep into the most beautiful Levadas.
The South East
A short drive from the airport and Funchal you can be taken into a whole new planet as the island winds it's way out to it's south eastern tip. The cliffs at Sao Lourenco contain a whole spectrum of new colours and crumble down in all manner of stacks and shapes towards the sea. Around every corner of the trail your senses are overloaded with a new understanding of what this landscape is.
- Walk the trail to Ponta do Sao Lourenco and be spellbound. Here you can weave a way through the strange shapes of the peninsula until you are out into the ocean looking back at the island.
- Watch the ocean for it's split personality. The inner bay provides a calm spot for snorkelling and diving, while only a few hundred meters across the open ocean beats down the cliffs faces along the peninsula while you stand between the two worlds.
- Watch the cruise liners come and go and the planes glide in just above the top of the cliffs above your head.