Day 1 / Travelling from Switzerland to Madeira
We flew from Geneva to Funchal, the capital of Madeira. This was the first flight for the kids, who were 2 ½ years old at the time of travel. The flight was only 3 ½ hours but for the children this proved to be 3 hours too long….
I think if the flight had lasted half an hour longer, the flight attendant would have given us 4 parachutes and shown us the exit. We had a bit of an excuse as we had to leave the house at 3am for our 7am flight. In the end it was family videos on the Phone which saved us from having to jump out of the plane.
Somehow we managed and finally arrived in Funchal before lunch.
Thanks to a technology failure collecting the rental car took forever but finally we had the keys and headed for Calheta, situated on the south-west side of the island.
Our first impression was good, even very good. Madeira reminds us a bit of Hawaii. Think of verdant volcanic-mountains, surrounded by Azure deep waters and decorated with colourful flowers.
We arrived at our amazing accommodation with uninterrupted sea views, a nice garden for the kids to run around, but most importantly comfortable beds. We unloaded the car made a quick shop in Calheta, ate and then bed for the whole family. I seem to recall it was before 6pm.
Day 2 / Admired the beautiful scenery at Miradouro da Ponto do Pargo/ viewpoint with lighthouse. And got lost at Jardim do Mar
We planned an easy day to get to know the island and see what’s around. We drove to the most westerly point of the island to the view point Miradouro da Ponto do Pargo. Not a single car or person to be seen, only a few cows basking in the morning sun. It felt like we’re all alone on this most beautiful island.
At this stage the children were still too small to make some longer walks, so we decided to visit as many view points as possible to see the most the island has to offer. And believe me Madeira has plenty of viewpoints, and best of all, they can be reached by car.
A little stroll down to the lighthouse, a picnic and the whole family was happy. We even tried to spot some dolphins playing in the waves below the viewpoint. According to my husband, there were many. But only he could spot them.
We had lunch at the Calheta beach and the kids were happy playing on the man-made beach. Despite the water temperature, which was very fresh, some people were brave enough to do their daily exercise in swimming to the protected see walls and back. Needless to say, we stayed on the beach.
There is also a great secured playground overlooking the beach. The younger children have their own section apart from the big Pirate-ship which is great for the older children.
A late afternoon stroll at the promenade of Jardim do Mar made us realise how lucky we are to be able to travel out of season. Again, it was empty, the whole promenade for us.
Jardim do Mar is a tiny village built on a steep cliff and lying below is a beautiful promenade next the sea. You have to walk down through tiny alleys, walkways and people’s front yards.
It is a labyrinth and we were wondering whilst walking down to the promenade if we wouldbever find the way back to the car. No, was the answer. We had to do a few u-turns, ended up in local gardens and even asked a little old lady to show us the way.
It was very beautiful though and beside that you could see people are really proud to live here because there were so many flowers and decorations around windows and doors.
For sure not a touristy place, so if you have time, head down to Jardim do Mar.
Day 3 / City break at Funchal and meeting Ronaldo
A bit of a shock to enter Funchal after not having seen people for nearly 2 days.
We parked right at the Porto of Funchal in an underground parking lot, headed up to street level and there he was, larger than life and in copper. Christiano Ronaldo, apparently from Madeira.
We’re not really a football family but still, when it was our turn, we posed for some photos and were glad to have learned another fact about Madeira.
Directly opposite the port is the Santa Catarina Park which affords views over most of Funchal, the Port and the surrounding mountains. Along the pathway there are many flowers and the aroma of the herb garden reached our noses before we could even see it.
To the delight of the children there is a little pond with different ducks, swans and other birds eager to be fed by the tourists. And not to forget to mention, a playground which was spotted by my little girl.
We left the park to get a feel of the city of Funchal and wandered through the middle of the city. The choice of which restaurant to pick is endless. In the end we chose one where some musicians had installed themselves on the piazza outside. This certainly amused our kids, but also the locals and other tourists seemed to enjoy seeing our kids dancing to the pleasant music these three musicians produced.
On the way back home we stopped at the Cabo Girao view point. To get the best views you need to head out onto a glass skywalk with a near vertical drop of 590meters.
By making the brave step out on to the glass floor, you are rewarded with amazing views along the coast and down to the town of Camara de Lobos.
There is a cable car down to the face of the cliffs, certainly an attraction not to be missed if you have time. We had to skip the cable car as our son was deep asleep in the car, so we visited this viewpoint separately whilst one of us stayed by the car.
This is another thing you need to be prepared for when travelling with young children, one of them might be sleeping in the car just as you arrive at a viewpoint.
Day 4 / Dancing clouds at Eira do Serrado
Today we headed into the mountainous interior of Madeira island to an elevation of 1095m where the Eira do Serrado viewpoint is located. We were presented with fantastic panoramic views over the picturesque parish where Curral das Freiras lies (Nuns Valley), and the majestic mountains of the central massif that surround it. The weather was not particularly nice. Lots of cloud and fog constantly changing the panorama allowing previously hidden landscapes to come into view. We had the impression of sitting in the front row of a famous dancing spectacle. It was absolutely great.
Day 5 / Fresh air at the Pico do Arieiro, and picnic at the mesmerising Ponta de São Lourenço.
The Pico do Arieiro viewpoint is situated at the third highest point in the centre on Madeira Island. Standing at 1,862m above sea level the summit provides spectacular views over the entire island and its central mountain range.
This is also the start of an excellently built path that leads to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island.
I am not able to tell you as of which age this hike would be possible and how challenging it is. But if you are serious about it, contact Madeira tourism who should be able to give you an answer.
Even without taking this hike into consideration, the landscape is beautiful as is its surrounding area. Walk over to the east of viewpoint to witness a different view.
We drove down through the east central part of the island where the fauna changed completely. It was like we had entered a different Island. The forest was really autumnal and large ferns which we had not seen suddenly popped up by the side of the road.
Ponta de São Lourenço located in the eastern part of the island, put a smile on our faces when we arrived. Nature at its best. A fantastic combination of rocks, sea and nature created one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces. The view is 360 degrees and is just outstanding. As the kids where both asleep we stopped at the parking near a picnic table and just enjoyed this beautiful scenery.
You can also hike in this area out to the most easterly point of Madeira, but again we obviously did not explore it with the kids, but you will find information at Madeira Tourism.
Day 6 / Bathed at Porto Moniz and were totally impressed with Achadas de Cruz !
I don’t think you can come to Madeira and not visit Porto Moniz. This charming little town is perched on the dramatic north western tip of Madeira, a region comprised of towering mountains and views over endless deep blues of the Atlantic Ocean. It is quite secluded and in earlier days was cut off from the rest of the island and survived only by fishing.
The seawater lava pools that are naturally filled by the ocean’s high tide offer a dramatic setting for swimming or paddling, and lure in the tourists from Funchal and the cruise ships. Good to know is that the pools on the far right of the town are free of charge and as nice if not nicer as the main payable pools. We arrived about 10h00 and the whole area was empty yet all the restaurants where open, so we asked ourselves the question; why is everything open when nobody is here? Approximately 2 hours later the place was packed with tour busses from the cruise ships, and our question was answered. So, I would suggest to visit Porto Moniz early in the morning.
On the front promenade between the two naturals pools you will also find an amazing playground and an outside fitness station which kept us occupied for a while. The sun got really strong by the afternoon and so we decided to try out the free pools. Still quite chilly for a proper swim, the kids had fun dipping their feet in the cold Atlantic water.
On our way back, we made the split decision to check out the cable car at Achadas de Cruz which brings you down to the most beautiful secluded and unique place ; Fajã da Quebrada Nova, I am so glad we did.
Don’t miss “Achadas de Cruz!”
Nobody really talks about this place, but it is so worth a visit. Probably our favorite place during our stay in Madeira.
It is one of the most scenic beauty spots on the northern coast of the island, not far from the famous Porto Moniz
Tourist overlooking this place completely, which is good, as I really hope this area can keep its roughness and untouched nature, and will not be victim to the mass tourism.
You access the area by a very steep cable car from the top. Again, we do live in an area with lots of cable cars, some small ones, some bigger ones, but the cable car in Achadas de Cruz is exceptionally steep and small. I think it is also because when you’re standing on the top and looking down the sheer cliffs to where the cable car is terminating, it becomes a rather daunting excursion.
The cable car is operated by a funny old local character who keeps repeating “be careful be careful, don’t miss the last one up, don’t miss the last one up. Be careful.”
The kids wanted to go in the cabin and down, so we did. There was just about place of the 4 of us. Heck it was steep…Down at the bottom we realised that there is nobody operating the cabin to come back up. Ok, no problem we will manage.
Many small uninhabited houses or beach huts is probably the better description, seem to have been left for nature to reclaim. There is a nice path along the narrow strip with amazing flowers left and right. Not quite sure what to make out of this deserted area, but it was beautiful in its own right. And again, we had the place to ourselves.
We found out later from a fisherman that way back this was solely fishing village. This has long stopped and now only a few local fishermen use the area.
We suddenly remembered the old man at the top saying not to miss the last cabin up, and so we made our way back to the cable car. As it was already nearly 5pm the sun was low and the colours on the high rising cliffs stretching up from the sea became more intense as the sun sunk lower on the horizon.
It was just simply beautiful and mesmerising.
Back up with the very last cable car and one last look down to this bizarre but most importantly, very impressive “Inhabitat village of Fajã da Quebrada Nova”
Never forget to travel!
Thank you, Corina
You may also like
I hope you enjoyed reading our travel itinerary to Madeira. Feel free to share it with friends and if you have any questions get in touch and maybe we can help.