Posted by: Author | January 9, 2013

Madeira’s Points of Interest

Around Madeira Points Of Interest
Western Madeira The valley road linking Ribeira Brava and Sao Vicente via the Encumeada Pass forms the boundary between the high peaks of central Madeira and the flat, treeless moorland of the Paúl da Serra plateau to the west. Scores of ridges and ravines run down the plateau escarpment, like pleats in a skirt. Those to the north plunge almost sheer to the sea, with waterfalls that cascade for hundreds of feet. Farming villages cling to the gentler slopes to the south and west, where new roads are beginning to open up beautiful parts of the island which few visitors have yet explored.
Ribeira Brava Ribeira Brava is one of the island’s oldest towns, well established as a centre of sugar production by the 1440s. The large parish church has sculpture dating from the 1480s. At the other end of the village is the Museu Etnográfico da Madeira, with a small shop selling Madeiran crafts.
Boca da Encumeada The Encumeada Pass is a saddle of rock forming the watershed between the north and south of the island. Clouds from the north often spill over the lip of the mountains, like dry ice pouring from a flask. Wherever you look, there are majestic peaks, from Pico Grande in the east to cone-shaped Crista de Galo in the west. Just south of the pass is the Levada do Norte (signposted “Folhadel”), which offers a lovely 15-minute walk to the point where it enters a tunnel.
São Vicente This pretty village on the northern side of the Encumeada Pass demands to be captured in paint; deep-green shutters, doors and balconies, with stone lintels and frames of ox-blood red, are set in white-walled houses along the grey basalt streets.
Seixal Most of the coastal road now runs through tunnels, but Seixal is one of the few places where you can still get a sense of the north coast’s visual splendour. Tall cliffs stretching into the distance are pounded by powerful waves that swell and break at their feet. Vineyards cling to the rock on almost vertical terraces. Waterfalls plunge from the wooded heights on either side of the village.
Porto Moniz Porto Moniz, the most north-westerly conurbation on the island, combines a bustling agricultural town set high up around its church, with a lower town devoted to food and bathing. Natural rock pools have been turned into a bathing complex offering a safe environment in which to enjoy the exhilarating experience of being showered by spray from waves breaking on the offshore rocks. The newly landscaped seafront is lined with restaurants selling some of the island’s best seafood.
Jardim do Mar This pretty village sits at the meeting-point of several ancient cobbled footpaths, which climb up the cliffs to either side. In the village itself, a maze of alleys winds down to a pebble beach, where surfing competitions are held during the winter months. A new seafront road and a large sea-wall were completed in 2004. Opinions vary as to how this has affected the quality of the surfing here.
Calheta Calheta’s fine parish church, a scaled-down version of Funchal cathedral, stands on a terrace halfway up the hill leading west out of the village. It has a precious 16th-century ebony-and-silver tabernacle, and a richly decorated knotwork ceiling above the high altar. Next door to the church is the Engenho da Calheta, one of Madeira’s two surviving sugar mills; the other is in Porto da Cruz. As well as producing mel (honey), used in making the island’s unique bolo de mel (honey cake), the mill also makes aguardente (rum) from distilled cane syrup.
Paúl da Serra The undulating plateau of Paúl da Serra is the gathering point for the waters that feed many of the island’s rivers and levadas . It serves as a sponge for the abundant rains which fall when clouds reach the island, rise, then cool. Free-range horned cattle graze the lush grass. People from the surrounding villages come here in summer to pick wild bilberries and blackberries, which they turn into delicious conserves. Many of them also depend on the plateau’s forest of wind turbines to supply them with electricity.
Ponta do Pargo Madeira’s westernmost point, Ponta do Pargo is the best place on the island to watch the setting sun or to gaze down at the waves breaking along the tall cliffs of the island’s southern and western coasts. The lighthouse on the headland (built in 1896) has a small exhibition of maps and photographs charting the history of lighthouses on every island in the Madeiran archipelago. The ceiling of the parish church is covered with colourful paintings of sunsets, terraced hills, and the scenic spots of the western part of the island, all painted in the 1990s by a Belgian artist who has settled in the village.
Rabaçal Washed by centuries of rain running from the flat, monotonous surface of the Paúl da Serra, Rabaçal is a magical green cleft in the moorland. A brisk 2-km walk down a winding tarmac path takes you through stands of heather and broom to a forest house with picnic tables. Rabaçal marks the start of two popular walks. One follows the Levada do Risco to the Risco Waterfall; the other follows the next terrace down to 25 Fontes, a cauldron-like pool fed by numerous cascades.
Ribeira da
Janela
This wild, uninhabited valley 18 km long, joins the sea beside a rocky islet with a window-like hole. The road descends through a misty world of ancient trees kept moist by the condensation of clouds.
Fanal This forest house halfway up the Ribeira de Janela is the starting point for walks that lead through an alpine landscape of herb-rich meadows, filled with ancient laurel trees.
Ponta do Sol The American novelist John dos Passos (1896–1970) visited this sun-trap village in 1960 to see his grandparents’ house – now being turned into a cultural centre.
Lombada On a ridge above Ponta do Sol is one of Madeira’s oldest houses – the 15th-century mansion of Columbus’s friend João Esmeraldo (see p65) . The watermill opposite is fed by one of the island’s oldest levadas . A pretty church of 1722 is lined with tile pictures of the Virtues.
Arco da Calheta Another early church survives at the heart of this sprawling vil -lage – the mid-15th-century Capela do Loreto, founded by the wife of Zarco’s grandson.
Lombo dos
Reis
The “Ridge of the Kings” is named after the tiny, rustic Capela dos Reis Magos, which has a rare early 16th-century Flemish altar carving of the Nativity.
Lugar de
Baixo
Above the tiny freshwater lagoon at Lugar de Baixo is a visitor centre with pictures of the wild birds that frequent this rocky shore, though you are more likely to see domesticated ducks and moorhens.
Prazeres The priest at Prazeres has established a small children’s farm opposite the church, but the main attraction is the flowerlined path along the Levada Nova, which can be followed east or west.
Paúl do Mar The best approach to this fishing and surfing village is down the twisting road from Fajã de Orvela. On the way, look out for a glimpse of the stunning Galinas Gorge.
Cristo Rei This statue of Christ is reminiscent of the famous one in Rio de Janeiro. It is also the starting point for easy levada walks – west to the Paúl da Serra, east to the waterfalls at Cascalho.

Eastern Madeira Most visitors catch a glimpse of eastern Madeira they arrive, flying in over Machico, the island’s second biggest town, and driving from the airport to Funchal along the south coast highway. Away from these areas, there are wide expanses of untamed nature where no roads go. These include the whole north coast, with its exhilarating paths and vertigo-inducing cliffs. Also worth seeking out are the historic whaling village of Caniçal, the charming town of Santa Cruz and the gentle, pastoral landscape of the Santo da Serra plateau, source of the island’s wicker products.
Garajau A miniature version of Rio de Janeiro’s statue of Christ the Redeemer was erected on the wild and rocky headland at the southern end of the village in 1927. The terns ( garajau in Portuguese) that gave their name to the village can still be seen from the zigzag path that winds down the cliff face to a pebble beach below the headland. Underwater caves and reefs rich in marine life extend for 2 km to either side, and are protected as a marine reserve.
Caniço de Baixo Along Rua Baden Powell, the main street of this clifftop holiday village, you will find Inn and Art, a charming villa hotel that mounts exhibitions of modern art. The tiny Praia da Canavieira public beach is reached down an easily-missed alley near the junction with Rua da Falésia. For a small sum you can also use the Galomar Lido. The lido is the base for the Manta Diving Centre, which organizes trips to the Garajau Marine Reserve
Santa Cruz Santa Cruz is a town of great character, and surprisingly peaceful, given that the airport runway is right next door. The focal point is the beach, lined with cafés and pastelarias, as well as the Art Deco-style Palm Beach Lido, painted azure and cream. Back from the coast and down winding alleys is a 15th-century Gothic church as splendid as the cathedral in Funchal, and perhaps designed by the same architect.
Machico Machico is where Captain Zarco and his crew first set foot on Madeira in 1420. The chapel they founded is on the eastern side of the harbour, shaded by giant Indian fig trees. A statue of Machico’s first gover-nor, Tristão Vaz Teixeira, stands in front of the fine 15th-century parish church on the main square. A grid of cobbled alleys leads from here down to the seafront fortress.
Caniçal Caniçal holds the dubious honour of being a former whaling port. In 1956, John Huston came here to shoot the opening scenes of Moby Dick , but its star, Gregory Peck, became so seasick that they had to shoot the rest in a studio. The Museu da Baleia explains how conservation has replaced whaling. Tuna fishing now plays a vital role in the local economy.
Ponta de
São Lourenço
The long, narrow chain of eroded volcanic cliffs and ravines at the eastern tip of Madeira is an exciting and dramatic wilderness, protected as a nature reserve because of its coastal plants. The rocky peninsula can be explored from the much-used path that starts from the car park located at the end of the south coast road.
Portela The viewing point at Portela has more than its fair share of roadside cafés because it was once the transport hub for the east of the island. New tunnels linking São Roque do Faial with Machico have changed all that, but Portela is still an important landmark for walkers. You can walk south from here to Porto da Cruz along a trail once used by wine carriers, or west along the Levada do Portela through dense primeval woodland and mountain scenery to Ribeiro Frio.
Santo António da Serra The village of Santo António da Serra (known to Madeirans simply as Santo da Serra), sits in the middle of a plateau flat enough for golf courses and fields of grazing cows. Despite its frequent cloud cover, wealthy English merchants once built rural homes here: one of the former homes of the Blandy family is now a public park with camellias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons, and viewing points that look out toward Ponta de São Lourenço.
Camacha A monument in the centre of Camacha proudly declares that Portugal’s first ever game of football was played in the town in 1875, organized by an English schoolboy. However, it is the O Relógio wicker factory opposite that draws people here, rather than its soccer history. You can see demonstrations of wicker-making in the workshop. If you explore the back streets of the village, you can spot the raw material: stacks of freshly cut willow canes. These are steeped in water and stripped of their bark, before being boiled to make them pliable enough to weave.

Central Madeira Central Madeira consists almost entirely of high volcanic peaks and deep ravines. To experience this scenic grandeur to the full you really do have to walk, but thanks to some well-placed miradouros (scenic viewing points), you can come away with some memorable photographs and gain a sense of the immense visual appeal of the central mountain range even when travelling by road. Between the north and the south there are great contrasts. Soaked in sunshine, the southern slopes are densely populated, with red-tiled farmhouses lost in a sea of vines and bananas. The northern slopes are densely wooded; along the coastal strip, tiny terraces cling to the steep valley sides making a colourful patchwork of many different hues of green.
Monte Take the cable car from Funchal’s Zona Velha up to Monte, and you will sail 600 m up the southern face of Madeira to a place that seems more garden than village, shaded by veteran trees and watered by natural springs.
Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro Thanks to a period spent in exile in England during the early 19th century, the first owner of this estate, the Count of Carvalhal, developed a love of meadows, woods and streams, and laid the foundations for today’s richly varied garden.
Câmara de Lobos The lobos (“wolves”) in the name of this pretty village refer to the monk seals that once basked on the pebbly beach. This is now used as an open-air boatyard, where traditional craft are repaired or given a fresh coat of blue, red and yellow paint, laid on in bold stripes. Down among the noisy bars is the Fishermen’s Chapel, where villagers give thanks for the safe return of their men after a long night at sea, fishing for espada (scabbard fish), most of which  ends up on the tables of Madeira’s many restaurants.
Curral das Freiras A new road-tunnel now links the valley village of Curral das Freiras with the wider world, but for breathtaking views, travel along the old road via Eira do Serrado. By taking this route, you will also gain a sense of just how isolated this community once was.
Santana Santana has Madeira’s best examples of the traditional timber-and-thatch dwellings known as palheiros. These brightly-painted triangular houses are comforable but compact, and many now have modern extensions to accommodate the kitchens and bathrooms that the originals lacked. You can visit and take photographs of a row of tourist-board houses next to the church, but wander the lanes of the village and you will see plenty more, with immaculate gardens.
Jardim Botânico Come here to satisfy your curiosity about the names and origins of all the flowering trees, palms, succulents and scented climbers that grow everywhere in Madeira – in front gardens, in public parks and along country roads.
Cabo Girão Madeira’s highest sea cliff, 580 m above the ocean, also claims to be the second highest in the world, but opinions differ over the location of the highest. From the viewing point perched on the summit, you gaze down to a fajã, a rock platform created when part of the cliff face fell into the sea millennia ago. Local farmers cultivate crops here in neat terraces. If you want a closer look, you can take the cable car from Caldeira Rancho, on the western side of Câmara de Lobos, down to the base of the cliff.
Ribeiro Frio The “Cold River” of this valley clearing tumbles down the mountainside to bring clear water to a trout farm set in a pretty garden planted with Madeira’s native flowers.
Pico do Arieiro In the colourful landscape of Madeira’s third highest peak you can read the story of the volcanic forces that created the island, and the elemental battles between wind, rock and rain that eroded it into jagged peaks and plunging ravines.
Pico Ruivo Madeira’s highest peak is reached from the road next to the petrol station on the eastern side of Santana. This leads to the car park at Achada do Teixeira, from where a well-paved path climbs to the summit (1,862 m). To the south, the views look over the high peaks and jagged ridges of an arid volcanic landscape; to the north, clouds hang around the lush, forested slopes. Back at the car park, look for the eroded rocks called Homem em Pé (“Standing Man”) in a hollow behind the rest house.
Terreiro da Luta Pious Madeirans believe that the Virgin appeared to a young shepherd girl on this spot and gave her the statue now in Monte church. The present memorial was erected after Ger-man U-boats attacked ships in Funchal Harbour in 1916; the Virgin’s help was sought and the bombardment stopped.
Queimadas From western Santana, a road signposted to “Queimadas” gives way to a track leading to a house with gardens, ponds and picnic tables deep in the green-wooded heart of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage forest.
Caldeirão
Verde
From Queimadas, take a scenic levada walk to the “Green Cauldron”, a waterfall cascading down a rock hollow. Sturdy footwear, torches and waterproofs essential.
Ponta
Delgada
At Ponta Delgada’s church, see the miraculous statue, found floating at sea in the 16th century. When the church burned down in 1908, it was found charred but intact in the embers.
Boaventura Boaventura makes a great base for exploring the orchards watered by the Levada de Cima.
São Jorge São Jorge has a Baroque church from 1761. A 19th-century lighthouse sits on Ponta de São Jorge, with views of the coast. A side road east of the village leads to a small, sheltered beach.
Faial The Fortím do Faial is a toy-town fort built in the 18th century to fend off pirates. South of the village are views of Penha de Águia and the newly formed rock platform (fajã) where part of the cliff fell into the sea.
Penha de
Águi
a
“Eagle Rock” rises 590 m from the sea, casting its shadow over neighbouring villages. Young Madeirans regard the climb from Penha de Águia de Baixo to the top as a test of strength and endurance.
São Roque
de Faial
Several valleys meet at São Roque, so walkers can start at the church and choose one of the paths that go west up the Ribeiro Frio or east up the Tem te Não Caias.
Porto da
Cruz
The Old Town is a maze of cobbled alleys and old wine warehouses. A sugar mill stands by the harbour, where visitors can buy the aged, locally distilled spirit aguardente.
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