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Madeira - Unique Things to do and See
Madeira is a great holiday destination with a variety sights and activities, many of which are unique to the island. What Madeira may lack with in beaches it makes up for with stunning scenery and tourist attractions. This guide will provide an overview of some of the best or unique sights and activities of a holiday to Madeira.
Attraction for the Brave - The Skywalk at Cabo Girao
The cliffs of Cabo Girao are some of Europe’s highest and what better tourist attraction could be constructed than a glass floored skywalk, which extends out over the 590m drop. Interesting at the base of the cliffs are a series of small terraced fields that up until 50 years ago were only accessible by boat – today they is a cable car.
The cliffs offer stunning views over the surrounding coastline and into the pretty village of Camara de Lobos 3 km downhill. The Cabo Girao cliffs and Camara de Lobos make for an enjoyable day trip from Funchal.
The massive cliffs of Cabo Girao
Place to Unwind – the Lava Pools of Porto Moniz
These salt-water swimming pools in Porto Moniz are set amongst the stunning scenery of jagged rock formations with views westwards over the Atlantic Ocean.
The lava pools of Porto Moniz
The setting for the tidal filled pool could not be any more dramatic with black basalt rocks and crystal clear waters that fill the pools. The entire complex is meretriciously maintained and is one of the highlights on the western side of Madeira. For a guide to Porto Moniz Please click here.
Porto Moniz is a very scenic town
Challenging hike - Pico Ruivo Summit
Pico Ruivo is the highest point of Madeira at an elevation of 1862m and there are two challenging hikes up to the summit. The first and more strenuous route is from the Pico do Arieiro (the third highest point of Madeira) and is accessed from the southern side of Madeira.
The stunning view from Pico do Arieiro over the cloud line
The second slightly easier route is from the village of Achada do Teixeira and is the route to hike if from the north of the island. From the summit of Pico Ruivo there are amazing view all over the island but only attempt if fit, weather is suitable and be sensibly prepared.
Best Beach – Praia da Calheta
There are no natural beaches on the island of Madeira and the largest sandy beach at Calheta has been artificially constructed. The beach is surprisingly good with Moroccan imported sands and two sea walls that create a central lagoon. The beach is family friendly with lifeguard supervision and clean waters but it can get busy during the height of the tourist season. The village of Calheta lies on the southern side of Madeira and makes for a pleasant stay of a couple of days.
The Praia da Calheta beach
Bizarre Activity - Monte Wicker Toboggan Sled Ride
The toboggan run rushes down the hill roads from the village of Monte to the outskirts of Funchal. Riders sit in traditional wicker carts that once carried goods up to the village and the drivers run along the side of the carts slowing it with their specially designed shoes. Monte itself is a pleasant excursion from Funchal with tropical gardens, charming buildings and is reached via the cable car.
Being pulled down the hill in a wicker toboggan
Stunning Trails – The Rabacal Walks
The little village of Rabacal contains many short walks through the lush forests that follow manmade canals (Levadas) that carried water to the fertile sugar plantations on the west of Madeira. Two notable features of the short hikes that follow the canals is the Cascada de Risco, a 50 meter waterfall and the 25 Fontes (25 fountains) a series of small waterfalls that descend into the valley floor. The whole region is characterised by lush dense forest with steep hills and deep valleys.
Going Under Ground - Sao Vicente Caves
The Madeira archipelago was formed from volcanic eruptions and a unique set of caves lie to the north of island. Normally caves are formed by erosions from water over eons but these caves where formed almost instantaneously as high pressures volcanic gases were blasted out through the cooling lava flows. Inside the cave network are beautifully illuminated subterranean lakes and strange formations due to the novel formation of the system. The visit to the caves is via a group tour of approximatly 1 hour and the caves are close to the pretty village of Sao Vicente.