We have already seen Funchal, the beautiful São Lourenço peninsula, walked along the levadas and seen the eastern part of the island. Now it’s time to head west to Madeira!
Today we’re taking you on a tour of the western part of Madeira – we’ll drive through the center of the island to Sao Vicente, and from there embark on a scenic journey along the western shore.
In the morning, we set off from Funchal towards the ER104 road, which winds through the center to the north of the island. We initially drove on the expressway, which turned into a narrower and steeper road.
Later, driving west along the southern coast, we admired the towns one after another, perched on steep hillsides, with tiny fields of crops almost one on top of the other. It is truly fascinating how much use can be made of these miniature pieces of land.
What’s more, there are houses just above the cliffs, cars are parked on rooftops, and it really takes a lot of horsepower under the hood or healthy knees to reach some of them.
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But let’s go back to the beginning of the trip…. As we began to make our way through the middle of the island, the urban landscape began to give way to a more natural one. To our eyes appeared more and more intense green hills, numerous serpentines, fabulous valleys – nothing but to stop every now and then and take pictures.
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The first place we stopped for a while was São Vicente. It is a small, quiet village, located on the southern part of the island, on the coast. First we wanted to see the town itself, and then drive towards the “beach”.
We parked in the center, right next to the Igreja Matriz de São Vicente – a 17th century temple with a wooden altar. Right next door are neat, narrow streets – just in time for a morning coffee. People on the streets as scarce – maybe a matter of the time of day, or maybe it’s just the charm of this village. You can wander the streets in peace and quiet, and the only noises are those coming from small cafes and restaurants.
The closer you get to the shore, the more tourists, although it’s certainly not the sandy beaches that attract them, as there are none here. There is one and it’s rocky – we recommend listening to the sound of waves and stones hitting each other :)
So what brings a lot of tourists to São Vicente? There are, for example, volcanic caves that can be visited with a guide (Grutas de São Vicente e Centro de Vulcanismo), or more high cliffs.
We didn’t stay long in this village and continued on towards Porto Moniz, driving along a road full of waterfalls with a waterfall famous throughout Madeira called the“bride’s veil” – located behind the village of Seixal. A road that is no longer in use leads to it, so getting to the waterfall itself can be forgotten. Fortunately, the veil can be admired from a distance. However, other lesser-known yet high waterfalls are also worth looking out for.
Madeira’s natural swimming pools
The village of Seixal was also the site of our two “Madeira firsts.” It was here that we finally saw the famous natural pools filled with water from the Atlantic. Yes, that icy Atlantic, so a horse’s row to the brave who will at least get into the waist. And we recorded zero brave ones ;) In front of the entrance to the area of these pools there is a booth where you presumably buy tickets for a few symbolic euros, but it was locked with four triggers, so we do not know if at other times this place is also free.
The second “first time” involved more pleasant things, namely tasting the local wine. Somewhat by chance, we ended up at a family winery, where we tasted the local liquor, and those who couldn’t taste it because they were driving took a supply with them ;)
The next point was Ribeira de Janela, but it wasn’t the village itself that was our destination (although the road junction knocked our socks off), but the estuary and the rock formations Ilheus da Rib and Ilheus de Janela. And if we are to be completely honest, 5 minutes of looking at these rocks is enough. Apparently, the rocky beach is popular during the season, and the safety of bathers is even guarded by a lifeguard ;)
Along the way, as in the eastern part of the island, we passed many stretches of roads no longer in use.
You can also read about driving on winding mountain roads here, among other things.
We quickly, or even very quickly, drove to Porto Moniz, a local resort, one would even like to say the equivalent of Costa Brava, Saint Tropez or the Makarska Riviera. Common features? Little, let’s limit ourselves to the lack of parking spaces ;)
Tourists are not attracted to the beaches here, but there is something more unique here – these are natural pools originally formed by volcanic lava and then rebuilt by man. Here we have a whole, large swimming pool complex, and although the water is icy, here the daredevils have found each other. The complex is larger than the one in Seixal, more commercialized, we have changing rooms, toilets, safer descent to the water – if you prefer secluded places, peace and quiet, however, we recommend Seixal.
Of the other attractions, we are left with a walk between more natural pools in the eastern part of the village, an aquarium and a “living art” museum.
Porto Moniz is not one of the deserted cities. It is a typical tourist destination and despite the low season, there were quite a few vacationers. And I dread to think what happens here during the season :)
Ponto Moniz is a destination for excursions from Funchal. We decided to continue driving along the west coast and climbed into the mountains. The views were beautiful, and we could see from above what Porto Moniz looks like.
Teleferico and the farthest point
We then arrived at Teleferico Achadas da Cruz. There will be a separate post about the teleferico itself, but we emphasize right now that here is a queue worth your attention :) A two-way trip costs a dizzying 3 Euros, and it’s money well spent, as long as you don’t have a fear of heights.
The next place where we wanted to stop was the westernmost point – Ponta do Pargo. There is a lighthouse here, with a good vantage point on the cliffs. Parking is right next door, so you can safely leave your car and walk almost to the edge of the cliff.
If we had to choose one place to stop in on the way from Ponta do Pargo to Funchal, it would be the village of Calheta – Here we experienced a beach with light sand :) Of course, this is an artificially mounded, built-up beach, giving only the illusion that the in Madeira You can also go beaching and frying (it was established in 2004, and the sand was transported from Morocco). Nevertheless, it was the only place where we got our feet wet in the Atlantic during our entire stay in Madeira.
Definitely yes! A trip to the west of Madeira is a full-day excursion, during which we can get to know a slightly different face of the island, which is in perpetual spring.
And to think that just a few years ago (without highways and tunnels) it took almost a full day to drive to Porto Moniz from Funchal. Today it is only slightly more than an hour, so we can realize such trips :)
See also our post on the TOP 10 attractions of Madeira.