Sunsets and Waterfalls in Madeira, Portugal
I saw a picture of Madeira on Pinterest almost a year ago, and have been looking forward to visiting the famed levada walks since then! I finally made it there last week, and found the island to be just as stunning and unique as I imagined! Madeira is traditionally a winter retreat for retired Brits and Germans, a stereotype observed at our first hotel, but it offers so much more than temperate weather and fortified wine!
We spent two nights in Funchal, Madeira’s main city, and two nights in Ponta do Sol, a small waterfront town west of Funchal. This worked out perfectly for our itinerary as it allowed for easy access to Funchal’s many restaurants, sites and services, then two days of dramatic sunsets and oceanfront relaxation in Ponta do Sol.
- Quinta da Casa Branca is a dramatic design hotel set in botanical gardens an easy 25 minute walk from Funchal’s old town.
- Everything about this Small Luxury Hotel was perfect – the staff was cheerful and helpful in booking levada walks at the last minute, and accommodating regarding check out and the upgraded room was impeccable.
- We enjoyed breakfast full of fresh tropical fruits in the Garden Pavilion and room service lunch on our private deck!
- The pool and spa facilities were beautiful and quiet!
- The dramatic views make this Ponta do Sol Design Hotel worth a visit!
Levada Walks – an extensive system of levadas, or water canals, dating back to the 1600’s cover the high peaks of Madeira. They are still in use today supplying water to lower parts of the island, and hiking trails to enthusiastic visitors! There are many options for levada walks, which I wrote about in detail here.
- Ribeiro Frio to Portela Levada Walk – wayyy up in the mountains in central Madeira, this walk is one of the most famous, although we only saw about 20 other people our entire hike! The hike follows the crystal clear water of the Ribeiro Frio levada. There are a few waterfalls and so many stunning scenic overlook points that you can’t even take pictures of all of them!
- Rabacal and the 25 Fountains levada Walk – this is actually a walk along two different levadas in the same part of south western Madeira. The Racacal walk ends at a dramatic waterfall, then you can loop back the the 25 Fountains walk, which has some narrow bridges and curves along cliff edges – of course there are cables/railings so it is safe! The 25 Fountains walk ends with an 800 meter walk through a dark tunnel (seriously, bring your flashlight!) then an amazing view of the forest leading down to the south coast of Madeira!
- O Tasco – a cute little family run Portuguese bistro and my favorite Funchal restaurant! O Tasco doesn’t have a menu, the friendly, enthusiastic waiters simply bring you to the counter to show you the appetizers, mains and sides available for the day, and you pick! We had 4 appetizers including octopus, shark and scabbard nuggets. My main course was impeccably prepared tuna. Everything about O Tasco from the atmosphere to the service to the wine and food was perfect!
- Beef and Wines – a Brazilian steakhouse in Funchal! At first I was a bit worried because from the outside this restaurant looks like it could be in any strip mall in Florida, but it is actually quite fantastic. Like a traditional Brazilian steakhouse you order endless sliced picanha with sides and starters. The steak is perfectly rare and all the starters and sides were tasty. The helpful waiters also recommended nice Portugese wines.
- Restaurante Sol Poente – if this Ponta do Sol restaurant was on the cape I’d call it a clam shack. Go here at sunset for wine and fried seafood on the deck! The views are simply amazing and the scabbard fish with a banana on top is weirdly really good. FYI the address on google and Trip Advisor is wrong.
- Botanical Gardens – there are many botanical gardens in Madeira, the most famous and largest is in Monte, a small town in the hills above Funchal. It is really pretty and if you have time worth a visit. If not, the flowers at Quinta da Casa Branca and along the levadas are almost as pretty!
- Gondola – its strange taking a gondola down a mountain, especially when there is no snow but the Madeira gondola is actually a very convenient form of transportation and offers amazing views of the island!
- Business Insider – Best Island in Europe
- New York Times – Madeira
- Casa Velha – Info about Levada Walks
- Travel and Leisure – Madeira
- CN Traveller – Madeira
- Telegraph – Madeira