Our second to last stay in Portugal was on the beautiful island of Madeira. Madeira is off the southern coast of Portugal, so you have to fly there. For that reason, we almost didn’t go – but Ian did some research and thought it looked amazing, so we did. And I’m sooo glad we did; Madeira was definitely my favourite part of the trip. Honestly, it’s a fairy tale tropical island. We stayed there for four days, but I wish we could have stayed a lot longer.
Madeira has some interesting landmarks, including a ride where you sit on a bench, and slide down a few blocks of steep hills with only two guys holding on to you to keep you from crashing into everything! They also have some interesting dishes, such as scabbard fish with passionfruit sauce and banana (the sauce was amazing paired with potatoes, ahhh I miss it), as well as beef cubes served on a hanger (Ian said it was amazing).
On our first day, we walked around and got a feel of the town, as well as went on a hike to the north-eastern peninsula, which features Ponta Sao Lourenco hike. This is an untouched piece of land that follows a trek right along the coast, which is just gorgeous.
Along the walk, there are a few small beaches that you can go off the path to.
The views along the hike are gorgeous, I would go back in a heartbeat.
That night, we walked around and took in the city a little bit.
On our second day in Madeira, we planned to go see the sights by cable car, which is a trahedemark of Madeira – they’re all over the island. However, on our way there, we were stopped by a taxi driver who offered to drive us all over the city for much cheaper – so we decided to do that!
First, he took us to a couple of view points that offered beautiful views of Madeira.
Next, we went to a hidden beach, that even cab a small cable car ride to get there! So we didn’t completely miss out of the cable car ride.
Sadly, while we were walking along the edge of the ocean, I dropped my phone in it – so when he took us to the botanical gardens next, we couldn’t get any pictures, which is a shame, because they were absolutely beautiful. 😦
Lastly, he took us to Madeira’s historical church, followed by their island activity: you sit on a bench, and get pushed down a hill super fast, with only two guys holding you back from crashing into everything.
You can read about it here: http://www.madeira-web.com/PagesUK/monte-toboggan.html
On our last day, we went on the hike that attracted us to Madeira in the first place – Pico de Aireiro to Pico Ruivo. Now, we didn’t have a plan for how to get there – and there are no buses that go there. We visited a few four agencies that told us they could take us at 70 euros a person (wow), but they didn’t go the say of. So we decided to take our chances and take a cab up there, and figure out the way back (if worse came to worse, we’d have a four hour walk ahead of us.) The cab there cost us 25, and the drive was about 40 minutes. Once you’re at the top of Pico de Aireiro, there’s a centre with restaurants and such – and the beginning of the trail! When we started, it was cloudy – because we were so high up, we were actually in the clouds, so it was cold and misty. A lot colder than expected!
Here’s what it looked like at the beginning:
But once we got to the top, the clouds cleared up like magic – and the views were amazing!
The hike was extremely tiring, but the views were sooo worth it. (And the uphills weren’t nearly as bad as Hellbrooke, in Vermont).
So on the way back, we had these amazing views to see.
On the way back, we decided to take our chances hitchhiking – and we were lucky enough to find a sweet young couple in less than ten minutes! The driver turned out to be a Madeira native, visiting the island with his girlfriend, so we got the inside scoop on some nice Madeira spots. He told us about Beerhouse, and we decided to have dinner there. Here’s the view it gave:
The hike and lovely dinner were the perfect ways to end our trip to Madeira, and I wish we could have stayed longer!
Stay tuned for next week, where I’ll show some photos from Lisbon!
TOP THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA
Hike: Madeira is known for its nature and scenery; the best way to take it all in is to go on the beautiful hikes it offers. We opted for the Ponta Sao Lourenco hike and the hike to Pico Ruivo.
To get to Ponta Sao Lourenco…. We took a bus to the peninsula, which cost us about 7 euros each round. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes to get there – the last but back is shortly after 7PM.
To get to Pico de Arieiro…. Many tour companies will offer you a day tour for about 70 euros per person – we decided to take a cab up to the top, at 25 euros, and take our chances hitchhiking back. We were lucky enough to find a ride within 10 minutes with a very nice couple! (We offered them 20 euros but they wouldn’t accept it – the guy was a native to Madeira, and he said he’d prefer if we spent it having fun on the island.) Total cost: 12.50 euros per person. There are always lots of people at the top, and Portugal is full of friendly people, so I’d say your chances of hitchhiking are very good.
Take a basket ride: There’s a famous street in Madeira where you can ride baskets down the steep hills – to get there, either take a cab, walk, or take one of the cable cars. I believe the basket rides are 20 euros a person – kind of pricey, yes, but it’s the only place in the world you can do it!
Visit the botanical gardens: Madeira’s special climate is able to host an abundance of flora, and the botanical gardens has them all on display! They had ever. They had everything from African trees, to American cacti, and Asian flowers. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the stray cat that guards the gardens. He’s so cute, I swear he was a forest spirit! The cost is 5 euros per person.
How to get there: Madeira is off the coast of Portugal, so flying is the only way in. We got our tickets at about 300$ roundtrip with EasyJet, but I’m confident you could find better deals if you tried.
Food: Madeira has some really cool local dishes (none of which are vegan, but I’m sure you could make variations of them. ) These include scabbard fish with passion fruit sauce and banana, and beef served in cubes on a hanger! Ian vouches for it. The local markets also sell really cool variations of passion fruit like pineapple passion fruit, banana passion fruit, and so many others! The stall keeper let us try all of them, and honestly, it was so cool. We bought some of the traditional ones and had them at the top of Pico Ruivo.
Accommodation: Madeira is popular, but not overly touristy, since you have to fly to it. We stayed in a hostel that was about 30 euros a night, in a really central location.
Check out the very last Portugal destinations, Lisbon and Cascais.