Machico: history and nature in the east of Madeira
Protected from the north winds and waves by the long, narrow peninsula formed by Ponta de São Lourenço, and nestled between the mountains in the east of the island, the municipality of Machico encapsulates the charm of this Portuguese archipelago. Its five parishes include: Água de Pena, Caniçal, Machico, Porto da Cruz and Santo António da Serra, which offer all kinds of experiences to enjoy together with family, friends or your partner, from beautiful beaches and hiking trails to historical sites and monuments.
In particular, the town of Machico, located at the end of the wide valley that slopes down gently from Santo António da Serra to the sea, is the heart of the municipality, a place where two of the island’s sides come together: its more modern side, linked to leisure, nature and tourism, and its side linked to deep-rooted traditions and the unique historical and cultural heritage of Madeira. In any case, Machico is a place that is well worth a visit.
- Historia de Machico, el km0 de Madeira
- Monumentos de Machico
- Playas de Machico
- Rutas de Senderismo de Machico
- Dónde comer en Machico
- Dónde dormir cerca de Machico
History of Machico: the origins of Madeira
In 1419, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and João Gonçalves Zarco disembarked on the site now known as Machico, and thus began the Portuguese colonisation of the island. By 1440, the village had already become the first Captaincy of Madeira and, thanks to the abundance of water and its excellent climate, an important centre for sugar production. Since then, Machico has played an important role in the development of the island, evidence of which comes in the form of various traces of its past, which make up its rich cultural heritage.
In this regard, the town is not only home to various architectural gems but also, for example, the Quinhentista Market, a fun and interesting festival that recreates, every year, on the first weekend of June, the town’s medieval traditions, some of which are more than 500 years old. Machico Gastronomic Week, the Art and Fishing Festival and the Immaculate Conception festivities are also occasions, among many others, where the rich traditions linked to Machico’s deep historical roots come to the fore.
In the neighbouring parish of Caniçal, the Whale Museum is an interesting place to learn about the different species of cetaceans that frequent the waters of the archipelago, as well as information about the island’s whaling past, which in the mid-twentieth century (and until 1986, when its waters were declared a protected area) became an important hunting ground for these incredible marine mammals.
The history of this town in Madeira has given rise to important historical sites and monuments that are well worth a visit. Most of them are found in the historical centre of the town, but there are also important examples of heritage in the rest of the municipality.
Matriz de Machico church (Nossa Senhora da Conceição church) – Dating from the late fifteenth century, built in Manueline Gothic, Mannerist and Baroque style, this beautiful church is perhaps the most important example of Machico’s religious heritage.
Senhor dos Milagres chapel – A Baroque church built on the site of an ancient fifteenth-century hermitage destroyed by the great flood of 1803, home to one of the city’s most important festivals, the Festa do Senhor dos Milagres (Fesitval of the Lord of Miracles).
Nossa Senhora do Amparo fort – Located behind São Roque beach, this defensive bastion was erected in the early eighteenth century to defend the city from pirate and corsair attacks.
São João Baptista fort – Dating from the eighteenth century and classified as a cultural heritage site of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, this ancient fort is located at the northern end of the bay, above the Machico quay, and its history is linked to the site of the first Portuguese landing on the island.
Paços do Concelho – Home to the management and administrative services of the municipality of Machico, this beautiful neoclassical-style building is a great example of the town’s finest civil architecture.
Ponta de São Lourenço lighthouse, in Caniçal; the Companhia Engenhos do Norte, in Porto da Cruz; the Matriz de Santa Beatriz church, in Água de Pena; the São Roque and Nossa Senhora de Graças chapels, and the Solar do Riberinho, a seventeenth-century archaeological site, all in Machico, also make up the extensive list of historical sites and monuments in the municipality.
Beaches are naturally one of the great attractions of the area, and in particular the two beaches located in the town centre, São Roque and Praia da Banda Além. The former, to the right of the mouth of the stream that divides the town in two, is a pebble beach with some black sand that occupies most of the bay of Machico. It has a small pier and is flanked by the large esplanade that connects the Forum Machico and Nossa Senhora do Amparo fort, as well as various tourist services and facilities, from restaurants and bars to a children’s playground.
Banda Além beach, to the left of the mouth of the stream, is about 125 metres long and 70 metres wide, and, oddly enough, has yellow sand imported from Morocco. It is protected by the breakwaters of Machico’s small marina and offers all necessary services (showers, parking, restaurants, lifeguards, etc.) – a perfect place to have a nice swim and enjoy a pleasant day at the beach.
In addition to its beaches, Machico is also a good place to do different water activities, from windsurfing and SUP to sport fishing, diving and boat trips to discover the area’s fascinating coastline.
Machico’s hiking routes
Like the whole island of Madeira, which is a true paradise for hikers, Machico offers a series of routes, for different levels, that allow you to discover all its scenic charm.
Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço – This itinerary spanning about eight kilometres (there and back) is probably the most visited trail on the island of Madeira. Its route includes a large part of Ponta de São Lourenço, a place of unusual scenic beauty and part of the Natura 2000 Network.
Vereda das Funduras – About eight kilometres through the largest laurel forest in the municipality of Machico and the eastern part of the island of Madeira; the most emblematic route in terms of flora and fauna.
Vereda da Ribeira do Natal – This coastal route, which starts at the spectacular Pico do Facho viewpoint, runs between the parishes of Machico and Caniçal, with breathtaking sea and mountain scenery.
Levada dos Maroços – 12 kilometres of gentle trail along one of the most famous levadas (typical Madeira irrigation channels), from Santo António to Machico; a journey through the inexhaustible rural charm of the area.
Vereda da Boca do Risco, Levada do Caniçal, Vereda do Pico Castanho, Levada da Serra do Faial, Levada do Furado… Over 200 km of interaction with nature, from large swathes of laurel forest to stunning viewpoints and dreamlike landscapes.
Where to eat in Machico
Traditional food, with all the flavour of the sea and the mountains, and some cosmopolitan touches brought to the island from overseas, such as ancient sailors – this is how to describe the food of Machico, and here are some suggestions to prove it:
Lily’s – Situated in Machico valley, this establishment offers the best of the sea and mountains, from the peppered tuna loin to the rack of lamb, and magical views.
Blue – On the way to the coast, but still in the middle of the valley, the speciality of this restaurant is its grill, which serves up octopus, fish, veal and Portuguese skewers, among others, as well as an extensive selection of wines.
O Galã – On the coast, with its back to São Roque beach, this restaurant serves homemade Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine including tomato soup, sardines, cod, calamari… and excellent desserts.
Mercado Velho – A stone’s throw from the previous restaurant, right in the centre of Machico, this establishment offers Mediterranean and Portuguese specialities in a beautiful setting, with a large terrace.
Where to sleep close to Machico
After visiting Machico, there is nothing better than enjoying an exceptional stay at the Allegro Madeira Adults Only (https://www.barcelo.com/es-es/allegro-madeira/). Situated in the Lido area, very close to the main attractions in Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, this modern four-star adults only hotel belongs to the Barceló Hotel Group and offers everything you need for a unique experience: 124 fully-equipped rooms, a swimming pool, a gym, a wellness centre, the finest gastronomy…
Frequently Asked Questions
How to get to Machico?
Madeira International Airport is around four kilometres from the centre of Machico, a journey that takes less than four minutes by car. What’s more, the town is connected to Funchal and the rest of the island by the VR1 road.
What are the best hiking routes in Machico?
Levada dos Maroços, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço and Vereda das Funduras are just a small example of the different, and incredible, hiking trails that cover the municipality of Machico.
What are the must-see sights in Machico?
Its beaches, its historical landmarks (such as Nossa Senhora do Amparo fort and Nossa Senhora da Conceição church) and its natural gems (such as Ponta de São Lourenço and Pico do Facho) are just some of the places that make Machico a magical place.