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Madeira - Wandering above the clouds

Hello,

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.

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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.

If you have any questions please send me a message or get in touch in Instagram or Twitter.

See you soon!

California Road Trip III - Yosemite to San Francisco

Hello,

welcome back to the last part of our California road trip. We started almost two weeks ago in Los Angeles, drove along the coast on the famous Highway One all the way up to Nevada, danced in the desert at Burning Man and jumped into the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Before heading back to San Francisco there was one last stop we were really looking forward to: Yosemite National Park.

 

Driving down from the North we first passed Washoe Lake and Mono Lake shortly after. The land was still very dry and the water was pretty low. We stopped at the lake for a quick lunch-break, but water levels were way to low to swim and we still had a long way ahead of us so we decided to move on.

Our entry point for Yosemite was Tioga Pass in the east of the Valley. It’s California’s highest highway peaking at almost 10.000ft. The road went on for about 30 miles along steep cliffs and cold and black lakes, until we finally reached Tenaya Lake. The sun was already starting to set so we set up camp for the night.

Next morning we got up early to watch the sunrise at Olmsted Point. From Olmsted Point you have a fantastic view over the slightly less frequently seen east side of Half Dome. As the sun slowly started to rise the cold of the night quickly vanished. Since we were so early we pretty much were the only people around, very peaceful start of the day.

Before heading down into Yosemite Valley we took a detour to Smith Peak and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Hetch Hetchy is sometimes referred to as the “Small Yosemite”, however it doesn’t lack any of its beauty. The scale of the dam that divides the valley is quite impressive, surrounded by sharp cliffs and forests.

Even though the nights were pretty cold with temperatures dropping to less than 10°C the days were still very hot. So after the trip to the reservoir we took a break at the creek, went swimming and had some lunch. Most of the surround area of Yosemite was surprisingly empty, for most of the day we didn’t encounter a lot of people.

In the late afternoon we finally arrived at Yosemite Valley. The sight when driving the winding roads down into the valley is quite spectacular. The beauty of the whole place is simply unimaginable. Particularly at sunrise and sunset the entire valley gets covered a very magical warm orange light. The way the light wraps around the cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome is an unbelievable sight unlike any other place I’ve seen.

We wanted to spend sunset at the famous Half Dome View. But after dinner and seeing the sun set behind the mountains we were quite tired so we stayed there for the night. The next morning turned out to be even better, also far less people. We were pretty much the only one around, having our morning coffee overlooking the whole valley.

After pancakes down at the creek we wanted to hike to Vernal Fall in the west of the valley. In our travel guide this was supposed to be one of the easier hikes, however it turned out to be more challenging than expected. The last half mile of the 2.5 miles in total was pretty steep and the ground very slippery. Nevertheless the view was absolutely worth it. Returning to the valley in the late afternoon we went for another swim before driving to Tunnel View, another famous Yosemite viewpoint that can be seen on many postcards.

For our last day we had booked quite a treat for ourself: A flight over Yosemite Valley. We took of in a small Cessna from Mariposa Airport at 7:30am. The light was just perfect, the sun just creeping over the mountain tops of Half Dome and El Capitan and the morning haze gently covering the valley into a blue glow. Only from up there you can get a sense of the true scale of Yosemite, an absolutely incredible and humbling experience. We flew with Airborrn Aviation, which I can highly recommend. Our pilot was super helpful, showed us all the good spots and steered the plane so we could get the best possible angle for the photos. It was also just the three of us in the plane so we had plenty of space. Fantastic experience, highly recommended!

Sadly every great trip has to come to an end eventually. Our journey though California ended quite sunny in San Francisco. After returning our RV we took a cab into the city centre to our hotel. We didn’t have a lot of time to do this great city justice, just about 24 hours. So we quickly rented some e-bikes from Jump and cycled down to docks and the pier. The sun was almost setting and we had to learn the hard way that San Francisco is a lot cooler than the rest of California. Shorts and shirts were definitely far to cold so we decided to call it a day and returned to our hotel.

The next day started typically wet and foggy. We took our chances and headed to Twin Peaks, but the sight was completely zero so went back down, had breakfast and jumped back on the e-bikes. Electric bikes work like a charm on the hilly streets of San Francisco. We had them for about 6 hours and we almost cycled 25 miles all the way and back to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s been an absolutely incredible two weeks, so many experiences far outside of our comfort zones. We’ve met so many incredible welcoming and helpful people, seen so many beautiful places. RV road trips definitely moved up a lot of my bucket list. America is big and there’s lots more to see. We will be back, promise.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post, if you like to read more about our road trip through California check out our trip along the Highway One, Burning Man and Lake Tahoe. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates.

See you soon!