North Madeira’s geography means this part of the island has a different pace of life. Difficult roads, a more rugged coastline and turbulent waters than in the south make it a far wilder Madeira. However, this harder to reach Madeira is also a highly attractive part of the island that shouldn’t be missed. Welcome to the north of Madeira!
Fortunately, the area’s infrastructure has improved and it’s now possible to travel around the northern side of the island on easier roads than before. Read on to find out about the main attractions in this part of the island, between Porta da Cruz in the north-east, to Porto Moniz in the north-west.
If the north of Madeira is famous for one thing, it’s its cliffs, and they can be found along the whole coastline. This area is sparsely populated, proving how vertiginous the geography on this side of the island is.
Travelling along the north coast from east to west, your first stop is Porto da Cruz, a lovely village with an important historical legacy, such as the ruins of its citadel and the old sugar factory, today a rum distillery.
History is also a major feature of Santana, a small town that is famous for its traditional thatched houses (known as palhoças or casinhas). Santana has wonderful views of the coast.
The winding road takes you to new viewpoints such as the Miradouro da Vigia and Ponta de São Jorge, which is reached along a spectacular road that runs across basalt cliffs and leads to a hidden swimming area.
Following the road westwards, you come to two of the main cities in northern Madeira, Ponta Delgada and São Vicente. São Vicente is a charming village that is home to the São Vicente Caves and Vulcanism Centre, an essential stop on your trip. The caves were formed 890,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption and were opened for the first time in 1885; the route inside is over a kilometre long.
The coast from São Vicente to Seixal has some of the area’s most impressive points and the journey by car is truly spectacular. It’s well worth stopping and walking along the old road (the new road passes through a long tunnel) to discover ravines such as the Ribeira do Inferno, Água d’Alto Waterfall and Véu da Noiva Viewpoint. Next, you’ll reach Seixal, a small city that has several beaches and natural pools where you can relax after your exciting journey.
But for the best natural pools, wait until the next and final town on your journey through northern Madeira: Porto Moniz. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean flood the volcanic rocks along its coastline, creating one of the island’s most famous natural pools.
The north of Madeira is the starting point for climb the highest mountain on the island, Pico Ruivo, which has an altitude of 1,862 m. Take the road from Santana that leads to the Achada do Teixeira car park; the short trail that leads to the summit starts here. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy a sea of clouds, or incredible views of sunrise or sunset on a clear day.
Pico Ruivo aside, northern Madeira is also an excellent place for setting off on many other inland trails that are definitely worth exploring if you have time.
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