Welcome to the second part of my photo hiking week on Madeira Island. Three more photographic highlights await you, which could hardly be more varied and spectacular. As far as I am concerned, Madeira is an absolute fantastic island! A paradise for hikers and photographers alike. I would travel there again at any time. Have a look at my recommendations for the following three-day trips. If you haven’t already read the first part of the travel report, click here.
Day 4: Alpine tour to the highest peak of Madeira
Today’s photo-hiking tour combines two of the highest elevations in Madeira and the whole of Portugal. It starts at Pico do Arieiro (1818 m above sea level), goes to Pico Ruivo (1862 m above sea level), and back again. If you consider that these mountain massifs rise almost directly from sea level, their height is already immense! Fortunately, Pico do Arieiro is accessible by car. Right at the summit, there is a big parking lot, a restaurant, and a huge, spherical radar station of the Portuguese Air Force.
The footpaths in these airy heights are in perfect condition and well secured so that no special mountaineering skills are required. Nevertheless, the hike is a real challenge! On a total of 11 kilometers, 1500 meters of altitude have to be mastered up and down. It goes over narrow mountain ridges, along steep rock faces, and through long tunnels (a headlamp is quite useful).
From a photographic point of view, it is advisable to be at Pico do Arieiro well before sunrise. Because of the easy access, the peaks are frequented by many tourists. Therefore, it is worthwhile to already stand at one of the many viewpoints when the sun rises above the cloud cover. The sight of the rugged valleys and volcanic rocks being slowly illuminated with golden sunlight is truly breathtaking.
The hiking trail is also extremely spectacular! At Pico Ruivo, just below the summit, there is a mountain hut where you can enjoy a cool beer. From the highest point, you actually have a 360-degree panoramic view over the island of Madeira. Amazing! You can see Ponta de São Lourenço, the neighboring islands of Porto Santo and Ilhas Desertas, and some of the beautiful coastal towns in the north of Madeira. There is also a small campsite near the mountain hut Casa do Ruivo.
Day off in Funchal
After four wonderful but also exhausting photo-hiking days on Madeira, I also enjoyed a nice day of rest in Funchal. I must admit that I really like the city! After a long relaxing sleep, I recommend a late breakfast, for example at the Praça do Carmo, in the Confeitaria [na.praça]. Along with coffee, you usually eat Queijadas (small cheesecakes) or Pastel de Nata (puff pastry tartlets with pudding filling).
For a refreshing swim in the sea, I recommend Praia São Tiago, a small stretch of beach right next to the São Tiago fortress. Refreshing drinks, snacks, and live football broadcasts are available right at the Santiago Beach Bar. Speaking of football: fans of Cristiano Ronaldo will certainly be interested in the Museu CR7. It is located at the harbour, in the west of the city.
For dinner, I recommend the restaurants A Bica, Restaurante Londres, and Hamburgueria do Mercado. The traditional fish dish of the island is Espada com Banana (black scabbardfish with banana) and tastes delicious! If it is to be a picnic on the beach promenade instead, I would buy one of the traditional Bolo do Caco: A flatbread – filled with cheese, chorizo, bacon, or garlic butter.
Day 5: On waterfall hunt at Levada das 25 Fontes
A Levada is an artificial watercourse that transports water from the island’s rainy areas to the agricultural areas. In South Tyrol, there are such channels known as “Waal”. In addition to transporting water, the levadas today also serve as particularly idyllic hiking trails.
Although there are dozens of them, the Levada das 25 Fontes is one of the most popular levadas in Madeira. It is therefore again worthwhile to arrive as early as possible to be one step ahead of the tourist flows. The parking lot is in Rabaçal, on road ER-105. From there it is two kilometers to the Rabaçal Forester’s House, where there are a small restaurant and toilets. The first thing to do is to visit the Risco waterfall, which is 100 meters deep. The hike along the levadas offers the first atmospheric photo motifs as the ornate tree heaths form tunnel roofs over the path. Ferns, moss, and water channels simply create a very moody scene.
From the Risco Waterfall, we now continue to the 25 Fontes. On a semi-circular steep rock face, the waterfalls flow from 25 springs into a small lagoon. An extremely impressive backdrop for all kinds of photographs. I especially recommend the use of grey filters for beautiful long-time exposures here. This gives the different cascades that typical silky effect and the surface of the lagoon becomes smooth.
Afterward, I walked back to the Rabaçal Forester’s House, where I had a cold beer. Instead of returning directly to the parking lot, I made a very worthwhile detour to Lagoa do Vento. This is a lagoon that is located directly above the Risco waterfall (and feeds it with water). There is also a big waterfall to admire and take pictures of. Finally, a steep ascent to Levada do Alecrim follows, which leads us back to the parking lot.
Day 6: The Monte Palace Tropical Garden
It does not always have to be a long hike in remote landscapes. If you are spending your holiday on the “Island of Flowers”, then you might want to go in search of beautiful flower motifs. According to Condé Nast Traveler magazine, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is one of the 13 most beautiful botanical gardens in the world and presents dozens of different flowers in an area of 70,000 m². It is located in Monte, a suburb, on the steep slopes above Funchal. You can get there either by car or by cable car.
The garden is very steep and incredibly artistically designed. Flora, fauna, and various artworks are so beautifully arranged that it really is a great pleasure to just let yourself drift. As a bonus, there is also a breath-taking view over the city of Funchal.
Alberto, the host of my hostel in Funchal, gave me so many tips and recommendations that I will definitely travel to Madeira again. I was so overwhelmed by the diversity and variety of this island. The combination of sea, mountains, green vegetation, and beautiful villages is just great from a photographic perspective! I hope I was able to give you some good clues for your own trip to Madeira.
This is the second part of my travel report on Madeira. If you haven’t read the first part yet, have a look here: All you need for a fantastic photo hiking week on Madeira – Part 1.
And here I leave you with some more pictures from my last three days on Madeira.