Conventional tourist highlights and our (much nicer) alternatives
The lava pools in Porto Moniz
Porto Moniz is located in the northwest of the island. The small town has a harbor from which whaling and fishing used to be done - today tourism and viticulture is the main source of income in this region. Porto Moniz is known for its naturally formed bathing pools in volcanic rock. The different pools of volcanic rock are filled with seawater by the natural waves, so that there is always fresh and clear water in the pools.
In recent years, this small town has been commercially developed, so that on days with good weather, tourists flock there to take the best picture of the lava pools or to get a free spot at or in the lava pools.
Our alternative: The hidden lava pools of Seixal
However, only very few people know that there are comparable lava pools (Piscinas Naturais do Seixal) only 10 minutes by car from Porto Moniz, in the beautiful coastal town of Seixal. These are far less known and less visited, but at least as beautiful, if not more so!
If you drive to Seixal via São Vicente, a stop on the road at the viewpoint Miradouro do Véu da Noiva is worthwhile. From here you have a breathtaking view of a large waterfall that plunges from a steep cliff into the more.
https://experitour.comdelistingsskywalk-porto-moniz-volcanic -pools- in-open-roof-4x4-jeep-tour
The black sand beach Praia Formosa in Lido
Praia Formosa beach in the capital Funchal is only 10 minutes by car from the city center and offers three small sandy beaches and a large pebble beach. Especially in summer, the beach attracts many people for sunbathing, swimming or sports activities. Due to the proximity to the numerous hotel complexes of the capital, mainly international vacationers can be found here.
Our alternative: the black sand beach in Seixal
In addition to the picturesque lava pools, Seixal also has two beautiful black sand beaches to offer. Praia do Porto do Seixal, with its waterfall and panoramic view of the rugged north coast, is an absolute (photo) highlight and invites you to linger. A bit more hidden there is a second beach called Praia da Laje.
So Seixal with its lava pools and black sand beaches is worth a trip and for us an absolute MUST! No matter if you want to jump into the cool water, surf, relax in the lava pools or just enjoy the beauty of the place...
Levada das 25 Fontes
The "25 Springs" Levada above the Posto Florestal Rabaçal is a very popular hiking tour, because it is very diverse in landscape and therefore very charming and very well developed, so that it can be walked by everybody without any problems. That is why the Levada of the 25 Springs, as well as the one of the Risco Waterfall, is one of the most frequented levadas in Madeira. The name "25 Springs" comes from the number of springs that flow throughout the year as small waterfalls into the lagoon at the end of the walk. The trails along the two levadas run in protected nature, natural tunnels of heather as well as breathtaking views into the deep valleys of the Ribeira da Janela valley.
Our alternative: Levada do Alecrim & Lagoa do Vento
A comparable alternative is the hike to Lagoa do Vento, which leads along the Levada do Alecrim. The vegetation is similar to that of the 25 Springs & Risco hike with lots of tree heath, laurel trees and impressive views into deep valleys. At the end of the levada is the tranquil Lagoa do Vento (Wind Lake). The water of the lake feeds the Risco waterfall below.
It can be reached by the same access as the Levada das 25 Fontes (or Risco). This alternative is an absolute insider tip, since only rarely hikers "get lost" here. For this hike, it is recommended to be an experienced hiker, since the path is not continuously maintained and therefore, unfortunately, despite its beauty, is not one of the paths recommended by the Forestry Commission.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde
This tour is an absolute classic in Madeira. The starting point of this levada hiking tour is in Queimadas Forestry Park and leads past some breathtaking steep slopes, along various tunnels and ends with the stunning waterfall Caldeirão Verde ("Green Cauldron"). Along this levada, the water created impressive gorges. During the hike, spectacular views of Santana and Pico Ruivo open up every now and then. Due to the high humidity, moss grows everywhere and various mushrooms poke their heads out of the soft soil, which is why a jungle-like vegetation prevails. Large ferns and old trees covered with lichens dominate the picture.
Most people turn around at Caldeirão Verde and start the way back, although the path continues for about three kilometers to another rock basin, Caldeirão do Inferno - perhaps because this second section is often described as adventurous and more difficult to walk on. Further and further, the path leads along steep slopes, through various tunnels and along the Levada do Pico Ruivo. Finally, at Caldeirão do Inferno, the final end of the trail is reached.
The tour is described in many guidebooks as demanding: This is somewhat exaggerated and refers at most to the length of the tour and the steep slopes in some places, which are, however, secured by wire. Since this trail is relatively easy to walk, there are many hikers here at peak times, which often leads to obstructions at the narrow levadal runs and can become annoying on a trail lasting several hours.
Our alternative: Fajã da Nogueira
The circular hike Fajã da Nogueira is a spectacular trail that starts and ends at the electricity plant in the center of the island (note: the last four kilometers to the electricity plant are on a gravel road that is difficult to navigate after heavy rains!). The route leads high above a gorge along a levada on narrow paths through tunnels and under waterfalls. Against the backdrop of the highest peaks on the island, it is a captivating sight. With a length of almost 11 km and a height difference of 400 m, this tour is relatively relaxed within 2-3 hours to run.
However, one must be a safe and experienced hiker, as the levadas and paths here are not regularly maintained. In addition, there is a relatively high risk of landslides in this region, so that the fences of the paths are often damaged or even missing. Thus, utmost caution is advised during this hike!
Teleférico do Funchal - Funchal Cable Car
The Funchal cable car takes you from the old town up to the village of Monte, where sights such as the tropical garden (Jardim Tropical Monte Palace) and a spectacular view of the Madeira coast await you. Optionally, you can take another cable car to Funchal's Botanical Garden. The steep, 15-minute ride measures more than 3 km in length and overcomes a height difference of 560 meters. The ride gives you a unique view of Funchal, the bluffs with houses and gardens, and the harbor, which is visited almost daily by large cruise ships.
The prices for the cable car (have it all): The round trip to Monte costs 16,50€ p. p. The round trip to the Botanical Garden + entrance to the Botanical Garden cost 31,40€ p. p. (discounts possible)
Our alternative: Cable car Achada da Cruz
If you love spectacular cable car rides and want to get away from the normal tourism, the cable car of Achadas da Cruz in the Porto Moniz region is a wonderful alternative. Here you can take the cable car down to the Calhau of Achadas da Cruz and enjoy a spectacular view of the seemingly boundless ocean and the cliffs of the island during the ride. Once at the bottom, you can walk the circuit of Vereda do Calhau and Vereda da Ladeira, enjoying the tranquil and beautiful landscape and atmosphere. The Fajã da Quebrada Nova have a direct connection to the sea, which is why they have been landscaped for many years, which was also the reason for the cable car construction. Different varieties of regional bananas, grapes, mangos and many other local products are grown here. Due to the special climate & vegetation conditions, the agricultural yields are particularly high and tasty, as they are exposed to permanent sun and humidity and are always enveloped by a salty sea breeze.
The round trip prices here are 5€ (discounts available).
Mercado dos Lavradores - Funchal's Market Hall
In the heart of the capital you will find Funchal's time-honored market hall, which is open almost daily (except Sundays). Here you can find on two floors almost everything that the island has to offer in culinary, floral and cultural specialties. Already in the entrance area you can admire and buy several regional flowers and plants. Behind it, farmers' stalls present all kinds of fruits and vegetables that grow on the island. In the back of the market hall is the fish hall, where fishermen offer their catch of the last night. The smell takes some getting used to, of course, but the selection of fresh fish and seafood is worth a visit. On the roof terrace of the hall there is also a nice café, which invites you to delicious coffee variations or drinks.
Especially on Friday and Sunday mornings, the merchants offer the most goods, which is why the market presents itself especially lush and colorful at these times of the day & clock.
But beware! The vendors in the market hall can be very pushy and intrusive. Be careful not to accept every offer to try something, as you will often be directly encouraged to buy. Also, the prices are often much higher than at local stalls on the street or in stores that offer the same goods of the same quality.
Our alternative: Local weekly market in Santo da Serra
If you want to experience a typical Madeiran market, you might be disappointed by the market hall in Funchal, as it has been very developed and optimized for tourism.
THE local weekly market in Madeira is located in the small village of Santo da Serra in the east of the island. Daily village life is turned upside down here every Sunday - then it's market day and all of Madeira makes its way to Santo da Serra to buy the freshest fruits & vegetables, local plants and to consume the most delicious Bolo do Caco and homemade Poncha. Locals offer home grown or produced products at countless stalls in the streets and marketplace.
If you want to experience Madeira authentically, this is the place to be! The products and their typical low prices make the curiosity for regional delicacies rise continuously and guarantees an unforgettable market experience.