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Review: Tour of West Madeira

Escorted Tour - Coach

Madeira, Portugal

A popular day trip from Funchal

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2469 reviews

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  • May 2019
  • Solo

122 people found this review helpful

Most tourist itineraries feature a day trip exploring Western Madeira. We were no exception. It is a long day and only possible after all the improvements to the roads and new tunnels.

We followed the new road out of Funchal which took us high above sea level and through a lot of tunnels. The road wound round the side of the mountains with a lot of bends. There was quite a bit of settlement along the coast especially at the bottom of the steep valleys. Valley sides were terraced to increase the amount of cultivatable land and bananas were growing everywhere.

The first stop was Ribeira Brava which translates as angry river, and is one of the oldest settlements on the island. We had an hour to explore here and most people headed to the small lighthouse at the end of the promenade where there are good views of the bay and the town. The small market is near here as well as very nice free toilets. Others headed to the cafes lining the sea front.

I had time to visit Igreja de Sao Bento which is is late C15th and considered to be one of the best preserved and oldest churches on the island. It is a typical Madeiran black and white church with chandeliers and baroque altars. Unfortunately i didn’t have time to visit the Ethnographic Museum.

After Ribeira Brava we continued along the coast. Much of the road was through tunnels, so we just got brief glimpses of the scenery. Our next stop was Madelena do Mar which is one of the largest banana growing areas on the island and the main reason for stopping was to go for a short walk through one of the family worked plantations.

From Madalena do Mar, the main road climbs up through a steep tree lined valley into the interior of the island. We climbed up through the cloud caught on the side of the mountains and onto open hillside, with a lot of broom which was in full flower and carpeting the landscape in gold.

We made a brief stop at a "viewpoint ": on the Paul da Serra plateau. At an altitude of 5000’, there were wonderful views across the mountains with their deeply dissected valleys and to the sea.

From Paul da Serra, the road drops quickly down a steep valley to the coast at the north west tip of the island. There is a small parking area above Porto Moniz with views down to the village with its natural sea water pools formed when volcanic lava flowed into the sea and hardened. This was our lunch spot and we had just over an hour here either for lunch or to sit and enjoy the sunshine.

After Porto Moniz, we drove east along the coast past Seixal with its houses climbing up the side of the hill above the harbour. A bit further beyond Seixal is the Véu da Noiva Viewpoint with a small parking area, large and inexpensive tourist shop and views along the cliffs to the Bridal Veil Waterfall. In late May there wasn’t a lot of water but the views were good.

From here, it was a short drive along the coast to Sao Vicente. We drove through the town, only stopping to visit Igreja Matriz de São Vicentein the centre of the village, with a large and impressive graveyard. Built in 1692, this is an attractive black and white building next to the grave yard. Again it is a typical Madeiran church with start black and white exterior and very impressive Baroque interior with lots of gilding.

After leaving Sao Vicente, the main road cuts south through a pass between the mountains back towards Ribiera Brava. Compared with many valleys, this is much wider with more cultivatable land in the bottom.

We did a detour to the viewpoint at Cabo Girao The road climbs and winds its way up the side of the mountain through impressive hair pin bends. This is one of the most popular viewpoints in Madeira and the sea cliffs are some of the highest in Europe. Most tours of Western Madeira visit Cabo Girao in the morning and it can get very busy. You are also looking directly into the sun for views of Funchal. Late afternoon it was relatively quiet.
After thirty minutes here, it was back to Funchal and our hotel.

This had been a good day. The walk through the banana plantation was fun and Porto Moniz is very attractive and a lovely spot to drop out. I would have appreciated a bot longer in Sao Vicente to see some of the now pedestrianised old town with its narrow cobbled streets.

There is more information and pictures here.

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