One of the highest volcanoes in the world surrounded by one of the deepest seas. That’s Ilha da Madeira.
This beautifully green island, with peaks upto 1900m, forms just the upper part of a volcanic system. Beneath the waves of the sea, the cliffs of Madeira plunge to the bottom of the ocean to a depth of more than 4000m. The various eruptions that created the Island of Madeira have added time after time different layers of solid rocks. All over the island you can see the rolling hills of basalt, lava, boulders and compressed ashes. A really rough scenery, especially at the eastern tip.
The inner part of the island is extremely green and has large woods of loureiro (laurel, bayleaf), eucalyptus and mimosa. The soil is rich and produces a large variety of tropical fruits and vegetables.
Madeira is a fascinating island of high mountains (over 1800m) and deep valleys, flat plateaus at both sides of the central mountain massif, a crystalclear blue ocean and steep black cliffs.
Eastern Madeira in one day:
We started in Funchal and drove over the Via Rapida to Santa Cruz where we tried to visit the church (which was closed, like most churches in Madeira). We walked along the rocky beach for a while instead.
Then further to Machico where, again, the church & the Capela dos Milagres were closed! We went to a sunny terrace instead and had a glass of madeira wine.
From Machico we drove further to Caniçal. We drove by because we knew we would come back for lunch. So, further it went to Ponta de São Lourenço. Spectacular scenery! There is a possibility of hiking all the way to the end of the island but, first of all, we’re not trained hikers and, second, the condition of the paths can be very bad due to the heavy rainfall. After looking at the bare cliffs and admiring the colors of the various layers of lava we drove back to Caniçal for lunch.
From Caniçal we drove to Santana, known for its triangular houses (which are now in fact all set up for tourist). The scenic drive however is well worth your time. Sometimes you can smell the eucalyptus woods. And there were lots of blooming mimosa forests.
From Santana we drove back to Funchal over mountains and through valleys, through laurel forests and very nice landscapes.
Western Madeira in one day:
We started in Funchal and drove along the winding mountain roads to Câmara de Lobos where we stopped for some sight-seeing. Normally our next stop would have been Cabo Girão, but the weather was so extremely bad that we decided to continue our drive.
In Câmara de Lobos we took the Via Rapida to Ribeira Brava and from thereone we drove north in the direction of São Vicente. We took the old road to Boca da Encumeada (1007m) and walked up to the miradouro for what should have been a splendid view on the southcoast as well as on the northcoast if there wouldn’t have been these thick low hanging clouds…
From Boca da Encumeada we drove in the direction of Porto Moniz and crossed the high plateau of Paúl da Serra (1500m) where, again, we didn’t see anything at all because of the mist.
Rabaçal would be our next stop and our aim was to make a levada walk. But again the bad weather interfered.
Further to Porto Moniz then. The weather got a little better and it’s in this area that we saw some very nice wild flowers (calla lilies, arums, and other unknown species). We walked around Porto Moniz and had lunch. After lunch we drove in eastern direction. The high cliffs between Porto Moniz and Seixal are spectacular with lots of waterfalls coming from the mountains. If you drive the old road (Antiga 101 – in the other direction: from Seixal to Porto Moniz) you can drive under the waterfalls. Our last stop was in São Vicente that we visited in the pouring rain. Then back to Funchal (through the tunnels) which takes only an hour.
Walking along levadas:
Levada’s are small irrigation canals that ‘transport’ the rain water from the north to the south of the island. There are some 1600 levada’s on the island and along each levada there’s a walking path – difficulty degree 1 upto 4. The levada walks have been mapped out in the guidebook “Landscapes of Madeira” by Sunflower Books. There are easy and short walks but also long and difficult walks that go through long tunnels (don’t forget a torch!), waterfalls and along deep gorges.
Have some madeira, m’dear.
What would a visit to Madeira mean without getting to know their national drink, madeira wine?! Madeira wine ows its rich taste to the variety of grapes that is used.
The four important varieties of madeira wine have been named after their grape variety:
SERCIAL: amber colored dry madeira wine (seco)
VERDELHO: yellow-brown medium dry madeira wine (meio seco)
BOAL: reddish-brown medium sweet madeira wine (meio doce), my personal favourite
MALMSEY: sweet madeira wine (doce).