About Madeira Fly Drive 2 - Coast and History
Explore the varied coastal scenery of this charming island.
START / FINISH - Funchal.
Activity code: MADFD02
Duration: 8 Days
This fly drive itinerary is our most popular if you wish to spend a week exploring Madeira's rugged coastline. We include accommodation on the coast for you to drive around the island; although you can cross the island if you wish rather than staying on the coast roads - the route you choose is flexible. It is possible to do some levada walking as well as sightseeing.
How you spend your days is your choice but we make some recommendations of places to visit and things to do between locations to make the most of your time on Madeira. This particular suggested itinerary provides the opportunity to explore and experience three different aspects of this wonderful destination because not only are the north and south coasts very different from each other, the eastern tip of Ponta de Sao Lourenco is wild and windswept and definitely another fascinating landscape to admire.
Some of the more interesting places on this holiday are the famous old whaling village of Canical, Machico, the wine region of Seixal, the traditional houses in Santana, Porto Moniz, the Ponta do Pargo lighthouse, Jardim do Mar, Ponta do Sol, the quite incredible Cabo Girao which is the second highest sea cliff in the world (a dizzying 580m to the sea below you) and the pretty Câmara de Lobos. It is possible to include some delightful walks either on coastal paths or along levadas to get even better views and appreciate the lush nature of the island. Tourist attractions such as the Lava Caves, Folklore theme park and the cliff cable car are also possible and worth thinking about when planing your routes.
You may wish to round off your week by visiting Funchal, the capital of Madeira. Funchal is a suprisingly compact city and has an abundance of sights to entertain the visitor. We also recommend that you take the cable car up to the beautiful little village of Monte from where you can toboggan (in a wicker basket!) most of the way back down to Funchal.
We can tailor-make a holiday to suit your requirements (departure airport, budget, duration, activities, etc.) with our many years of experience putting together practical and interesting holidays for our customers.
Accommodation: The hotels in this itinerary are generally independent properties which add significantly to your travel experience; however, please do not hesitate to request alternative hotels.
Transport: Hire cars vary in size from the compact right up to a minibus with 9 seats. Generally, for 2 persons we include a Group B vehicle with air conditioning. Prices include insurance for unlimited coverage of public liability, cover for damage above the amount of the non waivable charge, government tax and CDW. Drivers must be 23 years old and have a minimum of one year driving experience.
All our holidays have a recommended route with suggestions for sightseeing; we will send you our own guidebook with your confirmation.
You could also choose to extend your stay with a mini-break in Funchal (where the car would not be needed) or perhaps pop across for a relaxing few days on the nearby island of Porto Santo.
Flights are available to book through us with a wide range of airlines, from various UK airports. All holidays which include flights booked through us include ATOL cover.
If this holiday is of interest please contact us for a quote. If you would like us to change the duration or number of stops we will happily make some suggestions for you.
Upon your arrival at Funchal airport you will be met by one of the representatives from the car rental company to take delivery of your car. It is then a short distance to your first hotel at Machico and a chance to freshen up and unload your luggage before exploring Madeira's countryside.
If you are short of time then spend a little of it exploring the charming town of Santa Cruz. Along the sea front there is a promenade, stretching from the marina to the runway of the airport.
Today head east to the wild and windswept Ponta de Sao Lourenço. If you are feeling energetic you might like to take a short walk around the headland - the views are spectacular.
From here it is a short drive to the pretty fishing village of Caniçal, once the most famous whaling village on the island. This practice was outlawed in 1981 - nowadays the only reminders lie in the Museum of Whaling (Museu da Balaia). Keen filmgoers might spot that the village was one of the locations for the film ‘Moby Dick’ half a century ago. You will certainly find some excellent fish restaurants here.
If you haven't already done so we suggest that, on the way back to your hotel, you explore Machico, one of the centres for boat building on the island.
You could start your day with a visit to Camacha, the wicker-work village. This has been a popular industry in this area for some time due to the abundance of willows nearby. One of the most popular tourist sights here is the modern style church ‘O Relogio’. This used to be the home of a British merchant and was so named after the clock which came from a church near Liverpool! Next to this church, is the Café Relógio with its fantastic exhibition of wicker-work articles ranging from small baskets up to complete furniture. This is the only place you can see wicker-work production on the island as it is a cottage industry. Should any larger items take your fancy the shop will ship them home for you!
Next stop is Poiso. This means ‘resting place’ and was a traditional stop for travellers when journeying from the north to the south coast. For stunning views ascend above the clouds to Pico do Arieiro (1810m), the second highest peak on the island.
Ribeiro Frio has a pretty setting in a wooded valley. You might like to do a short walk to the Balcões which affords spectacular views across ravines and hillsides to Madeira's peaks. Continue your journey past São Roque do Faial to Santana. Many consider Santana to be one of the most attractive villages on Madeira, due to its stunning location; you must also view the unusual houses, peculiar to this area. These are known in Portuguese as palheiros (‘haylofts’) and are tiny thatched houses shaped like the letter ‘A’.
Finally, head west along the north coast to Ponta Delgada.
We recommend that you continue to explore the north coast. Sao Vicente ’s old town, with its cobbled streets and beautiful church, is worth seeing. An unusual feature in this area are the Lava Caves. These caves were formed some 400,000 years ago thanks to a volcanic eruption but were only discovered in 1855 and opened in 1997.
Continuing along the north coast you will reach Seixal, the centre of the wine growing district. Then continue to Porto Moniz, well known for its natural sea pools formed in volcanic rock. You could perhaps take a swim here! Back to Ponta Delgada for the night.
Via Sao Vicente you go up to Encumeada, a pass from where you can see both the north and the south coast. Take the mountain road from Encumeada to Paul da Serra (‘high moorland’), a plateau measuring 11 miles by 4 miles. This is the only place in Madeira that is flat and is possibly the only place where you will see cattle. If you make a stop at Rabacal you will have a fantastic view over the mountains of Madeira.
We suggest you continue along the same road until you reach the crossroads and make your way to Ponta do Pargo. If you go down to the lighthouse (Farol) you will be at the westernmost point of the island. This is a part of the island, where you still do not find tunnels and new roads. We also recommend a visit to the village Jardim do Mar (you'll need to park your car at the entrance to the village as Jardim do Mar can only be visited on foot). Take a stroll around the village and down to the promenade – it is quite a charming place. You can then make your way to Paul do Mar.
In the morning you might like to visit a mini zoo and herb garden. This is Quinta Pedagogica, a garden in the village of Prazeres which has a well maintained mini zoo with llamas, Vietnamese pigs and more. Here you will also find flowers, fruits, a herb garden, teahouse and a playground for children. They also sell some of their products.
In Calheta there is a small artificial and protected sandy beach (the sand is imported from the Canary Islands). Calheta was once a customs post for sugar exports and the old sugar cane factory can still be visited. From Calheta you can either take the coast road or the older inland road to Ponta do Sol (the main centre for banana production on the island).
There are different possibilities for your penultimate day. You could go to Ribeira Brava. In the 15th century the town was an important stopping off point for those journeying to Funchal from the north – it still remains a pleasant place to spend a few hours. Another option is the quite incredible Cabo Girao, the second highest sea cliff in the world with fantastic views along the south coast and down to the sea a dizzying 580m below you. You could visit Câmara de Lobos, an attractive fishing village whose most famous visitor was Winston Churchill - he often visited to do some painting.
Later you could choose to visit the Nun’s Valley and/or Funchal, the capital. Back in the 16th century nuns fled here when their convent in Funchal came under attack from pirates. The location was hidden away from the outside world as it was surrounded by extinct volcanoes and dwarfed by high mountains on all sides. The wonderfully fertile soil allowed the nuns to be self sufficient. Today this agricultural area is renowned for its chestnut and cherry production. Chestnuts are used in cakes, soups and as a liqueur (licor de castanha). Every year on 1st November there is a chestnut festival in Curral das Freiras. At the festival you will also see plenty of Ginja - a popular drink made from cherries.
Funchal is a suprisingly compact city and has an abundance of sights to entertain the visitor -a wealth of museums, churches, markets, gardens and a characterful old town to explore. We also recommend that you take the cable car up to the beautiful little village of Monte from where you can toboggan (in a wicker basket!) most of the way back down to Funchal (check times of operation with our local office as they sometimes work mornings only).
Time to say farewell to Madeira or you may wish to extend your stay. Drop the car back at the airport. Driving time to the airport is approximately 45 – 50 minutes.