Madeira – the island of eternal spring (part 1)

5 days of winter holidays. Too much free time when there are only 5,5 hours of light per day. A good opportunity to dig old photos and publish them here :) I hope that you will enjoy with me this multitude of colours in the middle of the winter.

First I will tell about Madeira. One of my work colleagues has been there recently and brought me a Madeira cake. When I tasted it, I remembered so clearly this beautiful trip, our escape from the winter for a week.

Day 1, Funchal

5:00, we are running through the deep snow to the bus stop. The bus and the airport are full of sleepy zombie like us.

It was the longest air trip in my life, 6 hours. Fortunately, there were no intermediate landings. Madeira airport was one of the scariest in the world before, so I was a little bit nervous.

I knew that taking the winter jacket off on arrival would be a good idea, but next time I would have my shorts and sandals ready as well. There was +19 in Funchal, the capital of Madeira.

Our hotel was not in the center of Funchal, but it was reachable by walking. Just before the center, a beautiful park is located.

The town center is there, near the water.

Let’s walk! After waking up at 4, flying across the globe, I was still full of energy and excited to explore this beautiful place.

While somewhere can be perfect weather, somewhere nearby you can see fog and rain. This was the first time for us to notice, but the same phenomenon continued all other days in different places of the island.

Another thing, which can be noticed quite easily, is the fact that everything in Madeira looks like a layered cake. How many layers you see in this picture?

Funchal is nice, but definitely not the first-class attraction of Madeira. It’s small and everything closes around 9. We walked a little bit and went to sleep early, full of hopes for the next great day.

Day 2, Monte and Levada Dos Tornos

Why not to start the day with a cable car trip? It took us from the center of Funchal to Monte, where a tropical park is located.

Beside different plants, you can see in the tropical garden a woman with fennel bouquet…

…and an old tourist attraction: toboggan run.

After middday, there is a time for another great thing: to see what the famous levada of Madeira is.

Well, basically it’s just an irrigation channel, bringing water from the wet North of the island to the dry South. There are dozens of such channels in Madeira. The thing, which make them special, is of course the altitude. While normal iggigation channel is build on the flat, levada goes on the edge of the hill. Because there is a need for maitenance, levadas have service trails along them, which are perfect for hiking.

Because levadas are build on altitude, they are a little bit scary places to walk.

Sometimes levada can be damaged and hiking becomes even more scary. I didn’t have time to make a better shot (convincing Elena to go on), but if you fall in this place, you fall all the way down to the valley.

Fortunately, levadas were scary for us only on the first day. On subsequent days we were already jumping there like mountain goats :)

If you overcome all obstacles, the reward is just around the corner. You can’t see such a beauty from a car or during guided tour. You have to walk on levada by your own.

At some point it was time to say “good bye” to levada and to go down to the town. A beautiful sunset serves as a bonus for those who wake up late :)

Day 3, Cabo Girão and rural Madeira

We started the day by walking down to the ocean. There is a huge hotel conglomeration just west from Funchal and a beautiful promenade there.

The only bicycle lane of Madeira is going along Estrada Monumental, from nowhere to nowhere. It seems that local people are not cycling at all and amongst tourists only few do cycle.

Not much better is the situation with public transport. The farther you go from Funchal, the scarcer are available options.

Walking is also not popular amongst locals. There are plenty of streets without sidewalk at all and if there are sidewalks, they are occupied by illegally parked cars.

Of course all mentioned above was not a very big problem for us during one week. But I woudn’t consider Madeira as a place for a winter stay. It’s a pity, because everything else seems to be ok and the nature is superb.

In the afternoon we walked on the Levada do Norte. The guidebook promised us leisurely levada throught wineyards. It was exactly as described.

The western part of Funchal can be seen from this place. The agglomeration of hotels, mentioned above, is in the upper right corner, on peninsula.

Layered cake again :)

It’s not easy to be a builder in this layered cake.

Now you believe me about heights? Some places have no fence or it’s damaged.

Beautiful island, isn’t it?

And now the tonnels come! Some levadas have them and some tonnels can be quite long, up to 1200 m. This one was short and relatively easy, but we understood that for the next day we need a torch.

After a long walk we reached Cabo Girão viewing point – a place definitely worth visiting.

It you happen to be there, consider a long but rewarding walk down to Câmara de Lobos and then across the ocean to Funchal. I can’t find words to describe how beautiful this walk can be on sunset, so just try it out!

To be continued…

Update: part 2 is here



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