welcome back to another travel blog. We just came back from an amazing trip to the Portuguese island Madeira, and long story short, we absolutely loved it. For everyone living in Europe it’s the ideal summer fix all year round. The flight from London took about 4 hours and takes you to directly to Funchal, the biggest city on the island. From there we rented a car to freely roam the island at our own pace.
Madeira is located just off the African coast, a little higher up north than the Spanish Canary Islands. Nevertheless the weather is generally very pleasant the whole year. We came here in May which was absolutely lovely as the whole island was literally in full bloom.
After landing and picking up the rental car we headed into Funchal to check out the farmers market for some lunch and coffee. The old-town is quite lovely and picturesque and well worth a visit. There are plenty of shops and cafes, so we strolled the streets for a little while and bought some food and supplies before moving on.
After leaving Funchal we headed west along the coast. It’s a beautiful drive along the coastline, and we stopped quite often to take pictures. Definitely stop at the Piscinas Naturais just outside of Funchal. The natural pools are really pretty and also quite safe to swim in. There’s a small admission fee but it’s totally worth it.
The first day was coming to an end quickly so we decided to watch the sunset from the hotel pool. We stayed at the Savoy Saccharum Hotel on the west side of Madeira. The infinity pool on the roof is a really nice gimmick, but also the bar on the top floor is great for food and watching the sunset.
The next day we continued the route around the island. Definitely worth a stop are the Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz in the North of Madeira. They’re free to visit and definitely quite picturesque. There are also a few cafes nearby so it’s a good place to sit, relax and watch the ocean.
Not much further away are the Piscina natural do Seixal, which is a natural pool as well but also safe to swim. It’s quite fun to swim around the natural stone arch and watch the waves from the sea swash over the edge of the pool.
Back in the car hunger started to kick in. Luckily there the was a cafe nearby called São Cristóvão Café, also in the North. And while sitting on the terrace of the cafe we spotted a little path on the opposite site of the valley, as well as a small car park. A quick look on the map revealed that there was in fact a road going down to that path (just off the ER101). The short hike from the car down to the sea was just so pretty, we were constantly surrounded by fields of flowers.
For the next day the plan was to catch the sunset on top of Pico do Arieiro, one of the highest mountains on Madeira just over 1800m above sea level. So we got up at around 5am to drive all the way almost to the top. The summit is very easy to access, there’s a spacious car park and paths are very well signed.
From the car park it’s a 20min walk to the first lookout point. And all I can say it that it’s absolutely worth getting up that early.
After we watched the sunrise we continued the path to Pico Ruivo, which is slightly higher at about 1880m. The distance for one way is about 4.5km but you’ll need to overcome about 850m elevation, it took us about 5 hours there and back. Also temperatures in the morning can be as low as 5°C and go up to about 20°C during the day, so be prepared. Once you’re at Pico Ruivo there’s a small cafe and fresh water fountains just a few meters from the summit.
It’s an incredibly beautiful hike but also quite tiring and exhausting, particularly the way back. So definitely bring enough water and supplies, and as you’re walking at high altitude don’t forget suncream.
Thankfully there is a restaurant at the carpark that sells coffee, cool drinks and snacks. After a little break and resting our feet we definitely had enough of walking, coincidentally there was a cable car not to far away. For a small admission (5£pp) it takes you all the way down to the ocean and back up.
Back at the car it was already quite late in the afternoon and we were still quite tired from the hike in the morning. So we went to our hotel for the night, Quinta Do Lorde in the far east of the island. Turned out the hotel had a really beautiful seawater pool, so we went for a quick swim and photoshoot.
Right next to the hotel is Prainha Beach. If you follow the path down from the street and keep right instead of left you will find a beautiful stone arch. All the natural pools are quite rough and and there’s definitely quite a few sea urchins around so this spot is only accessible on calm and quiet days. I’d also recommend some sort of water shoes as these will make walking on the slippery rocks a lot safer. But swimming through the stone arch was an absolutely amazing experience.
The next morning started early again at around 6am. The goal was sunrise at Ponta de São Lourenço, the most eastern point of Madeira. The hike from the carpark is about 4km to the sunrise point. Thankfully we brought flashlights as the path was still in complete darkness when we arrived. It’s a really beautiful hike, particularly in the morning, well worth getting up early. Also later in the day this route gets pretty busy as it’s quite a popular hike. When we were there at sunrise we were pretty much all alone.
The whole hike took about 4 hours, so we just made it back in time to the hotel to get breakfast. After about 4 coffees and an unreasonable amount of waffles we packed our bags and headed to the last hotel, Galo Do Mar not to far from Funchal Airport. For the last hike of the day we wanted to do the quite famous Levada Walk, a path that follows the ancient water channels along the very steep cliffs and sometimes even vertical rock faces. The hike has a reputation for being Madeira’s most picturesque hikes and I can confirm it is quite spectacular. It’s important to mention that there are a few tunnels that are not illuminated so torches or headlights are essential. Also on a warm day there are a few ponds where you can go for a refreshing swim.
That pretty much sums up our trip to Madeira. All in all we really loved it, there are tons more hikes to do and things to discover, so we really want to come back some day. Also going off season turned out to be a really affordable trip, the quality of our accommodations was constantly really fabulous.