Madeira Island in November is the dream – warm, sunny weather averaging 25 degrees celsius. It was a nice way to escape the colder temperatures in London!
Madeira is off the north western coast of Africa and is still relatively untouched. It is known for it’s stunning rocky coastline (don’t expect white sand beaches), mountains (perfect for hiking) and their culture and culinary scene (think seafood and exotic fruits).
We spent four days on the island and based ourselves in Funchal and had a car to drive to the other parts of the island.
I arrived on Thursday morning and Helena and her two friends, Isabel and Catarina, picked me up at the airport and we headed to Porto Moniz.
Porto Moniz is known for their natural salt water pools which are made out of volcanic rock. We had lunch here and then swam around and enjoyed being in the water.
Afterwards, we went to São Vicente Caves and Volcanism Centre. I have been to a lot of caves in my time but it was interesting to see one that was formed by a volcanic eruption. The guided cave tour lasted around 30 minutes then we spent another 30 minutes in the volcano centre which was fairly interactive. Entry is €8 per person.
Serra De Agua
After the caves, we stopped by at Taberna da Poncha for one of Madeira’s traditional drinks, poncha. There are many different flavours but the classic is lemon. I really enjoyed the maracuja (passionfruit) and the tangerine. This place is pretty famous and is identified by all the peanut peelings on the floor.
For dinner, we went to Restaurante Casa De Abrigo Do Poiso. We shared the traditional soup with bread or corn bread with egg which was super hearty and delicious.
Pico Ruivo Hike
The next morning, we drove around an hour to the start of the Pico Ruivo hike. On the way, we stopped by a mirador for some stunning views across the island.
Pico Ruivo stands at 1,861m high and is Madeira’s highest mountain.
The hike is starts at Achada do Teixeira and there a few trails you can take but we took the PR 1.2 Vereda do Pico Ruivo trail. It is 2.8km one way and it took me approximately 35 minutes to get to the top. The trail is relatively easy with minimal inclines so this hike suits everyone with a general level of fitness.
The views from the top were stunning. I spent a fair amount of time just taking in the scenery. Going back down to the car park was easy and took me around 25 minutes.
I took my hiking shoes so decided to wear them but as it was good weather, normal runners would have been fine. If the weather is bad or wet, I’d recommend wearing hiking shoes, just to have better grip.
After the hike, we stopped by at Santana to visit the cute traditional houses of Madeira. A must see when in Madeira Island!
Afterwards, we drove to Canical and went to Muralha’s Bar for a seafood feast. We shared the lapa, prawns, octopus, 2 different fried fish, tuna and fried corn meal (milho frito) and everything was on point!
Ponta de São Lourenço
Afterwards, we went on a short walk around the Ponta de São Lourenço area. The area is on the coast but looks super arid and is very beautiful.
If we had more time, I would love to have explored the hiking trails around here.
We stopped by at Machico where we went for a walk and where I got some gelato.
For dinner, we went to Helena’s aunt’s house in Funchal and we had a feast! It was so kind of her and her family to welcome us into their home and we got to try different traditional Madeira foods such as the bolo do caco (traditional sweet potato bread served with garlic and butter), meat, fish, cheese and variety of vegetables and salad. It was absolutely delicious and we were spoilt!
Afterwards, we went to the Casa Zona Velha area to check out the nightlife in Funchal. The area was heaving with people drinking outside the bars and it was a good vibe to experience. Of course, we drank more poncha!
Levada das 25 Fontes Hike
The next morning, we drove out to do the Levada das 25 Fontes hike. It took just over an hour to drive up to the car park. It is best to park here to avoid having to walk extra uphill from the end of the hike.
The word “levada” in Portuguese is derived from the word “levar” which means carry. It refers to the mini canals or aqueducts and it was traditionally used to transport water. Majority of the walk was passing through these “levadas” – it was something I’ve not seen before which made it really interesting to me.
Around the 1km mark from the car park, there is a tunnel which is approximately 700m in length. It’s pitch black so we were using our phone flash lights to guide us but if you have one, I’d highly recommend bringing a hand torch. I wouldn’t suggest this for anyone who has claustrophia.
After coming out of the tunnel, it is approximately 2km to 25 Fontes.
Upon finally reaching 25 Fontes, it felt a little underwhelming as there were crowds of people. Nevertheless, it was still nice to see and to relax with a snack.
From here, we walked to Risco and I was super impressed with the waterfall here. There was no one in the area when we arrived which was a nice change.
We had great weather and the whole hike was around 13km (but mostly flat so very easy) and took us around 3.5 hours all up including breaks.
We stopped by at Helena’s grandma’s house to pick some fruit (including apple custard and avocado) which was really fun.
Ponta Do Sol
We drove down to Ponta Do Sol for some well earned beers and food with the views of the sea.
We went to Maré Alta which was right on the water and we shared the squid, mussels and milho frito (my favourite!) – they were all very good!
We came back to Funchal in the evening and then headed to dinner at Restaurante Tipico A Parreira. The restaurant is known for the traditional food and dancing.
It was only €17.50 for a soup, bolo do caco, grilled meats on the skewer, fish, salad, milho frito and dessert. It also includes a drink to start (we had poncha) and a bottle of wine to share so it’s very good value!
It was great that the dancers were getting everyone involved which meant we also went up on the stage and danced.
The food was good, staff were super friendly and it was good to see something different so I would highly recommend visiting!
We had a sleep in and headed out to explore Funchal.
We went up the cable car in Funchal (costs €11 one way) and the views going up looking across the city and sea were stunning.
We strolled around the area and then got a ride on the “toboggans” (cost €30 for 2 people). The “carros de cestos” are famous here and two men push the wood toboggans down the hills and use their boots as breaks. The 2km stretch was a really fun experience with great views along the way!
Afterwards, we walked down to the city centre and visited the Mercado dos Lavradores which was colourful, vibrant and great to walk around. Madeira is known for their exotic fruits like their small bananas, apple custards and maracuja. I bought a maracuja to eat as a snack which was so delicious!
For lunch, we went to Restaurante Londres but this was my least favourite meal of the whole trip. The bread and duck rice was good but the calamari was a huge disappointment.
We strolled around and headed to The Ritz for our last drink. I tried the Madeira 15 year wine which was really nice.
It was a really lovely trip to spend with Helena and meet and hang out with her two friends, Isabel and Catarina.
Madeira Island is still so underrated and if you like hiking, scenery, adventure and good food, I highly recommend you visit!