A Madeira Island Tour

A Madeira Island Tour

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There is a good reason why we chose to do a Madeira Island Tour with MJ Tours of Madeira. Have you seen the roads in Madeira?  They are not for the faint-hearted as you travel up into the mountains, they are windy, narrow and in some parts very steep and you do have to have your wits about you when driving.

A Madeira Island Tour

The old road

Madeira has now a new road system with tunnels that replaces the old roads which would take hours to get from one side of the island to the other. Why not let someone else do the driving and then you can sit back and enjoy your time gazing out the window and enjoying the stunning scenery this island has to offer. In this case, it was Bruno, our driver from MJ Tours, and our guide for the day.

A Madeira Island Tour – West Coast with MJ Tours

Madeira Map

Madeira Island Tours

Madeira Map courtesy from M J Tours West Coast Tour

Camara de Lobos

A Madeira Island Tour

Fishing Village of Camara de Lobos

After leaving the bustling capital city of Funchal we traveled through many banana plantations clinging to the hillsides to the traditional fishing village of Camara de Lobos.  We were not the only mini bus or tourist bus in Camara de Lobos that morning – it is a popular spot for many of the Madeira Island Tours.  The small fishing village is situated in a small bay dotted with traditional colorful painted fishing boats.  The small village is cobblestoned and quaint with traditional bars and restaurants.

A Madeira Island Tour

Churchill’s Place in Camara de Lobos

In the 1950s Winston Churchill came to paint here, there is a bar with his name as well as a viewing point over the village.

The strong Madeiran alcoholic drink ‘poncha’ was invented here in Camara de Lobos.  Poncha is made from lemon, honey, sugar, and Aguardiente.  Believe me, it is an acquired taste.  You should try it so that you can make up your own mind, but I would probably advise to only have the one.

The Madeira wine from this area is famous.  If you visit in September your timing coincides with the harvest season and the very popular Wine Festival of Madeira.

Cabo Girao

The highest sea cliff skywalk in Europe is Cabo Girao at 580m.  It is a popular destination receiving up to 1800 visitors per day. Currently, it is still free to visit, but authorities are planning to charge an admission fee.  It will cost you Euros 0.50 just to visit the toilets there.

 A Madeira Island Tour

Looking through the transparent glass of the Skywalk

Through the transparent glass walkway, the views are stunning, the ocean below all the different shades of blue and green that you can imagine.  The area reminds me of Australia, with the smell of the Eucalyptus trees and France with the lavender bushes when in full bloom.

Be brave and walk the skywalk!

Village of Ribeira Brava

On the way to Ribeira Brava, Bruno pointed out to us the steep banana tree terraces where the bananas are cultivated by hand.  It was interesting to learn that most fruit on the island is imported from Spain or mainland Portugal.  70% of the bananas grown are exported to mainland Portugal.

Sugar Cane Plantations are still a thriving industry in Madeira.  Harvest takes place during the months of February to May, 3 mills work between 5 and 6 months and the rest of the year they are museums.  Rum and molasses are the products from the sugar cane on the island.

A Madeira Island Tour

Coffee and Pasteis de Nata

A well-deserved coffee stop and a chance to try out again the Pasteis de Nata from the coffee shop near the church.  2 coffees and 2 Pasteis de Nata – Euros 4, not bad for a morning tea snack.

The name Ribeira (river)  Brava (wild) comes from ‘wild river’ where a river used to flow in the area down to the sea. Others say it means ‘angry river’ and at times of great rain it used to cause havoc to the surrounding area.

A Madeira Island Tour

Saint Benedict Church

The pretty Saint Benedict Church dominates the small village of Ribeira Brava.  You will not miss this 16th-century church, one of the oldest rural churches on the island as it is located in the main square.

Paul de Serra

 A Madeira Island Tour

The Levada Walk

Time to head up to 1400m and the plateau of Paul de Serra, one of Madeira’s largest.  Here is the starting point for many of the Levadas Madeira hikes.  Levadas are similar to canals or aqueducts.  Back in the 16th century, the Portuguese started to construct the Levadas to channel water from the west and north-west parts of the island to the drier coastal regions of the south-east.  Today they still channel water to the south-east but they also provide hydro electricity to the island.  The Levadas are a network of over 2,170 km of pathways.  Some are easy to walk others not so.  Our walk on the Levada do Paul took around 20 minutes from where the mini bus dropped us to where it collected us.  It was an easy walk, but the walk is frequently canceled due to heavy mist and fog in this area.

Porto Moniz and its Natural Pools

 A Madeira Island Tour

View over looking Porto Moniz

Heading down the steep mountain roads we stop for a photo opportunity high above Porto Moniz which is famous for its natural seawater pools.

A Madeira Island Tour

Natural pools

The popular pools are made from volcanic lava and the temperature of the water ranges from 18 – 22 degrees.  The seas are rough around this part of the island compared to the southern areas.  The town of Porto Moniz is pleasant to visit with souvenir shops and restaurants.

Lunch at Grise Mare in Seixal

Included in the West Coast Madeira Island Tours was a 3-course lunch with wine in the seaside port village of Seixal.  The restaurant was a popular choice for locals and visitors to the island.

 A Madeira Island Tours

Local fish

The starter was a vegetable soup followed by a choice of beef or fish and then a dessert.  Local bottles of Red and white wines were placed on the table and coffee followed. We were impressed with the quality and quantity of the food provided as well as the good service.  It was a popular choice for many of the tour operators running tours around this area, so it does tend to be busy.

A dry wine is produced here from the vines that cling to the cliff faces. How on earth do they harvest them?

San Vicente

 A Madeira Island Tour

Church and Graveyard

In the middle of San Vicente is a beautiful 17th-century church and beside it is an interesting grave yard. Some of the streets are car-free and it is worth wandering through them to enjoy the 18th-century houses.

The village is a tourist destination for the underground lava channels and caves which are a result of an eruption over 400,000 years ago.  They were discovered in 1885.  The town is becoming popular for surfers from all over Europe.

Encumeada – Our Last Stop

Chilly windy Encumeada our last stop on the tour.  If you are lucky on a clear day you can see both the North and the South of the island.  This is also the last toilet stop before arriving back into Funchal.

A great tour was had by all, we saw a lot, we learned a lot and we ate a lot.

Our thanks go to Bruno and MJ Tours for a great 1-day adventure to the West coast of Madeira.

A Madeira Island Tour Details

Company:  MJ Tours

Address: Rua Estados Unidos da America #5, Funchal Madeira

MJ Tours operate several other Madeira Island Tours.

General Information to help plan your Madeira Holidays

Madeira Hotels

Tripadvisor Madeira has a recommended range of accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes with the latest reviews. Here are some other recommendations:

Cliff Bay Hotel

Hotel Madeira

Madeira All Inclusive Hotels 

Where to eat in Madeira Portugal

We enjoy eating out in new places that we visit and we always check first with Tripadvisor on their top recommendations according to other traveler reviews. We do have a favorite though – Restaurante do Forte.

Madeira Airport

Flights to Madeira are available from all over Europe. Madeira Airport is approximately 25 minutes from Funchal. There is an airport bus available.

You can organize a rental car from the airport on arrival.

Madeira Weather

Madeira has a sub-tropical climate.  Summer temperatures hover around 25 degrees with cooling winds, it is a pleasant time to visit Madeira.

Winter temperatures are also mild around 18 – 20 degree during the day, making it a great destination to visit during the European winter months.

Things to do in Madeira

You may enjoy the following tours that we did:

Yellow Bus Tour Madeira

Walking Tour of Funchal Madeira

 

Want to know more about Madeira:

 


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