About the Region
Madeira is a beautiful gem of an island. Its attractive and historic capital Funchal provides a bustling contrast to the island's isolated stretches of coastline and surfer-friendly beaches. Driving through Madeira's interior provides photo opportunities around every bend from picturesque whitewashed villages to volcanic lava pools.
The dramatic West coast of Madeira
The opening of the Via Rapida with its tunnels that burrow through mountains has made the West coast of Madeira much more accessible but it still remains a tranquil part of the island. Pick up your car hire in Funchal and start your road trip by heading to the pretty fishing village of Camara de Lobos. Here fishermen head out every night, coming back laden with swordfish. Continue driving on roads lined with banana plantations until you reach Cabo Girao where a glass-bottomed viewpoint overlooks the beach half a kilometre below you. Continue through a series of tunnels to Calheta whose beaches have been made with sand imported from the Sahara. Pass the Westernmost point of Madeira marked by the Ponta do Pargo lighthouse before ending your road trip at Porto Moniz with its steaming rock pools.
As you drive along this route of winding roads and high cliffs you will marvel at the sheer ingenuity of landowners and farmers as they make use of even the sheerest of slopes.
Tip: Although the distances on the route are not great, we recommend taking plenty of time to both navigate the mountainous roads and enjoy the breathtaking views.
The natural parks of Madeira
A short drive North from Funchal takes you to the Funchal Ecological Park a vast protected area rich in native flora and fauna. Keep driving North to the:
- Forests and waterfalls of the Ribeiro Frio Natural Park. Here fast-flowing cold rivers are a haven for wild trout.
- Next on your route is the picturesque village of Faial where every March the Festival of Anona, a local fruit, is celebrated.
- End your drive at the island's smallest village Arco de Sao Jorge with its Quinta do Arco Rosarium, a beautiful garden of Portuguese roses.