Long days, magical sunsets, views of an endless sea that leads to America… The west of Madeira is a different island. From green laurel forests to the blue Atlantic in just a few kilometres. Far from Funchal and the developed east side of the island, the west of Madeira gives you a chance to breathe and will recharge your batteries after a couple of days spent exploring the area.
To visit the west of Madeira, you can take one road that runs along the coast and two others that travel inland, joining the north and south sides in the mountains. There are no cities here, only small villages that are dotted along your way.
Leaving from Ponta do Sol in the south, you pass Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Ribeira Brava. The coastline starts to head northwards as it forms the west side of Madeira. Behind you, the high inland mountains slowly become lower, with gorges and valleys that are increasingly less dramatic and peaks that barely reach 1,200 m in altitude.
The Cascata dos Anjos, a lovely waterfall that falls right onto the old road, is very close to Ponta do Sol. If you’d like a take a natural shower, just stand on the tarmac under the water. A bit further on, the coast opens onto a large beach: Madalena do Mar.
The next stop in the south-west of Madeira is Calheta, where an artificial dyke protects two small beaches with sand brought here from the Sahara Desert. The town is home to the Madeira Museum of Contemporary Art, which is housed in a building that stands like a watchtower over the sea.
Following the coast northwards, the next stop is Ponta do Pargo, the far westernmost point of Madeira, its Finisterra. A hundred-year-old lighthouse sits atop this remarkable cape with fantastic views of the impressive Atlantic.
Travelling northeast from Ponta do Pargo the coast increases in altitude and cliffs become the main feature of the coastline. There are several viewpoints where it’s well worth stopping: Garganta Funda, Pico Vermelho, Boa Morte, Achadas da Cruz, Ponta da Ladeira… Next, you’ll reach Porto Moniz on the north coast of Madeira, one of the island’s oldest villages which is famous for its natural volcanic pools by the sea.
One of Madeira’s main attractions is its levadas, irrigation channels that transport water from the high parts of the island to land used for crops, like Roman aqueducts. There are over 2,000 km of levadas and they are a wonderful feature because they can be used for hiking around the island through its laurel forests.
Many of the levadas are found in the west of Madeira. One of the most famous is the Levada das 25 Fontes, inland from Calheta, which is popular thanks to the springs and waterfalls you’ll encounter along the route. The Dos Moinhos, Da Ponta do Pargo, Da Ribeira da Janela and Rocha Vermelha levadas are also worth exploring. Hiking fans who visit Madeira should make time to follow a levada or two and discover the beautiful interior of the island and its laurel forests. Just pick one that best suits your fitness level and holiday plans, and off you go!
Excursions in Madeira: day-trips around the island
The best way to discover Madeira is by going on day trips, which help to paint a clearer picture of all the attractions that this beautiful island has to offer. Get ready to discover its gorgeous villages and stunning natural surroundings.
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