MADEIRA / by Dario Branco

Hello friends? All good since last time?

It’s been a while since I updated you guys about anything. You know how it goes. Working a bit more than usual, not a lot to share or talk about. But I do, sometimes have a life, and I do like to go on adventures.

As you probably guessed by the title, the island of Madeira was my latest adventure.

I wanted to edit and post process all the photos before I could share with you where to go, where to eat, what to explore, how to get around, but since I arrived in Lisbon, I had no time to focus on the photos. I also don’t want to wait too long so I am taking a few hours to inspire you guys to travel to Madeira.

First, how this trip came about?

Around four years ago, I applied for a miles program with TAP, and this year all the 20000 miles I accumulated were about to expire so naturally I started to look for a few destinations before i lost it all.

Madeira was not my first option.

I thought about Rome, Brussels, back to Switzerland and finally, I decided for Madeira. The reason was that after a while it was the only destination I could go.

Here is where it starts to get cool. Flying a round trip on first class for only 40€.

I had traveled before on first class but never had the full experience.

For starters, I had access to the lounge where I had a buffet for free and is much more comfortable waiting for the flight. The same goes for when I was on the air. It should not be a surprise, but it was a much more enjoyable, even on a quick flight. The food was much better, more options, more space, less time waiting in lines. Overall a much better travel experience.

I have to find a way to get more miles faster. It does make a huge difference.

Buffet breakfast in Lisbon Airport and on the flight. Smoked salmon, pumpkin with meat and smashed potatoes, sweet rice and some red wine on the way back.

Buffet breakfast in Lisbon Airport and on the flight. Smoked salmon, pumpkin with meat and smashed potatoes, sweet rice and some red wine on the way back.

Moving forward: Why, How and Where in Madeira.

At first, I wanted to go to a different location every day and do at least one photo in each of them. It was a doable idea but not very practical. The best way to travel in Madeira without a doubt is by car. But I think that even if you are an experienced driver is not an easy place to drive because of all the steep hills, narrow roads, and the crazy curves. But thanks to Alberto João Jardim, getting around via tunnels makes things easier. Also getting accommodation for every location wouldn't be cheap and once my friend Milton told me that I could stay at his mother apartment for 50€ all week, it was an easy decision. Sadly, after some planning, Milton had to come to Porto at the same time I went to Madeira so I couldn’t join him, see the island and make some photos with him. BTW don’t forget to follow Milton on Instagram.

Without the help and knowledge from Milton I had to start looking for alternatives how to get around, go where I wanted to go and where I should stay. The good thing is that Madeira has a decent public transportation and for the most part I went where I wanted to go. The bad part was that some of those places I had only two buses all day so if I wanted to do any photography I would have to stay there for the next day or book a tour.


So where did I want to go?

First stop, Ribeira da Janela which is on the opposite side from Funchal. After some thinking I did went there a few hours after landing. The hard part of going there was to contact the camping park. No one would answer so I called the town hall and they gave me the contact from one of the managers. He told me that it was available and even if there was no one there to receive me, once I got there I could camp either way. With that taken cared of, all I had to do was to take the 139 Bus with Rodoeste. The trip took around one hour and a half but it depends if it is a direct bus or not. A ticket both ways was 16€ and 5,7€ for one-night camping.

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In Ribeira da Janela, there is the camping park, a river, a bridge, and empty cafe and a cool pebble beach with three rock formations which have been photographed a bazillion times. If you want a little more to do in this area you have to go to Porto Moniz which is about a thirty minutes walk.

There are a few more things to do in Porto Moniz.

Believe it or not, I spent the most money here when Milton suggested i take a dive on the vulcanic natural pools. A towel and swimming shorts cost me 25€ which I will take with me no matter where I am going from now on. From now on will always expect the unexpected.

Going for a quick dive felt amazing after a bad night of sleep. The entrance for the full day to the pools was 1,5€ plus a fee of 7€ if you want a locker which you will get back after you give the key.

Should have done a photo with the drone.

Should have done a photo with the drone.

The next place I wanted to go was Pico do Arieiro.

For a few days, I had the tour booked to go hike all the way to Pico Ruivo. From photos and videos, I saw online this hike is beautiful and quite terrifying for people with vertigo, like me.

Sadly, because of the bad weather, I had to cancel. I was tracking the weather and it was not looking good. Later I found out that there were a few landslides on the path and some tours were canceled. I ended up doing a hike on Levada das 25 Fontes. Although not as exciting and thrilling, it was a very pleasant hike.

Some of Madeira’s amazing views.

Some of Madeira’s amazing views.

I ended up finding both tours via getyourguide website and was comparing it with the tours on Viator. Overall it was on more or less the same price and with the same kind of tours so you can’t go bad either way. The tour was 37€ from 9am to 16pm. This hike took us from Rabaçal, with stops on Risco and 25 Fontes waterfall and ending in Calheta.

Guided tour done with  Lido Tours

Guided tour done with Lido Tours

The Levadas are an irrigation system that takes the water from the west and north part of the islands to the southern part of it. It was built during slavery and there are around 2200km of walking paths.

This is a very popular hike. Even in October, it was hard not to pass by other groups. The tour guide told me that it is almost impossible to do the hike during summer.

Some precautions while doing any Levada Hike: Take good hiking shoes and hiking clothes. The weather in Madeira is very unstable and it can start rain at any moment. The paths are very slippery and narrow. Listen to your guide and pay attention to other people passing by. Don’t walk on the Levada itself. There is a specific path for a reason.


Next hike was to Ponta de São Lourenço. This is one hike that you MUST do when you visit Madeira. To get there take the bus N113 from Funchal with SAM company and exit on the last stop Baia d' Abra.

Panoramic view or Ponta de São Lourenço

Panoramic view or Ponta de São Lourenço

The hike is not very difficult but it does have a huge challenge. The wind.

Some parts of it the wind gusts are so strong that you can lose your balance.

For the most part, there is room for people pass by but by the end, there is a small path that is closer to the edge and a little narrow. The wind in this part felt much stronger and on the way back I had to get closer to the floor so I didn't fall.

My idea for this location was to stay during the night to photograph the sunrise. This part of the island is turned directly East which means sunrises here are a must for photographers.

It is possible to camp by the end of the path close to Casa do Sardinha. There is a small area protected from the wind and with the permission from IFCN anyone can do it. Once you get there if someone is there ask where you to camp and if necessary show the permission.

Enjoying the quiet

Enjoying the quiet

After a good night of sleep, even with the strong wind gusts, I started to hike back to the spot I scouted the day before. My first option was to photograph closer to the start of the path and get as high as possible. Not going to happen!!! As soon as I arrived the first thing I did was to go off the path and go to the location where a lot of photos are done. The walk is steep but easy however the final location is terrifying and extremely dangerous. There is no protection, high winds and almost no room for the tripod and me. On top of that, it meant that I had to do the hike back in the dark. It was not worth the risk.


I almost gave up on this location and I was happy doing just the hike but by the end, close to the camp, on the narrower part, there was a nice spot, more or less protected and for that reason, I stayed for the night and took the chance. Not only for the photo but enjoying the sunrise was worth all the effort.

Panoramic Photo done while hiking to the camp. Photo from the sunrise coming soon.

Panoramic Photo done while hiking to the camp. Photo from the sunrise coming soon.

The last day was spent mostly in Funchal. In the morning I went to Cabo Girão which was the most disappointing place I been. It takes almost one hour to get there, once you are there it takes ten minutes to see the view and then if you are unlucky wait one hour for the next bus and one hour back to Funchal.

This is what is called as a tourist trap

This is what is called as a tourist trap

In the afternoon I took the cable car to Monte to check the traditional Carreiros, watch the tourists screaming like crazy while they slide down the hill, hike all the way down, take a quick “tour” in the Market and try some weird fruits like Pineapple-Banana and Anona and finally enjoy a final Poncha.


The thing I love the most, maybe even more than photographing, is to enjoy the traditional food. Madeira did not let me down.

If you are on a budget and don’t want to eat on restaurants every time, a very good option is to go to La Vie shopping and go to Pingo Doce take away. There are several dishes you can choose from. You pay more, the more you want to eat. In average I paid 4€ for a full meal every time i went there.

Even eating out you can't go wrong in Madeira. One of their more traditional foods is Bolo do Caco. This is a kind of bread and it can be a simple appetizer or a full meal if you go, and you should, for Prego no Bolo do Caco with a Coral beer. Traditional and cheap. The best one I tried was at Sunny Bar in Funchal. In Porto Moniz, close to the pools, there is a restaurant with a very good one as well.

Also, there are a few places close to the center where you have meals for 5€. If you add the drinks and the desert, 10€ more or less and in the end, they give you a glass of Madeira wine and small broa de mel.

Of course, you can have a more fancy meal on a more fancy restaurant by the old town. On my last day, I took my tour guide suggestion and went to Le Jardin restaurant and had an amazing tomato soup and a skewered meat. Worth the 23€.

You haven’t visited Madeira if you haven’t tried Poncha which is aguardente/rum from Madeira mixed with orange juice and honey. The traditional one that is.

You also have passion fruit, blueberries, absinthe, etc. I think there is somewhat of a competition to find where the best Poncha is done. For me it was more about the place than the drink itself. I had a few and none beat the one in Pharmacia do Bento. The place looks and feels iconic.

From Pingo Doce to Bolo do Caco and Restaurant Le Jardin ending with Poncha.

From Pingo Doce to Bolo do Caco and Restaurant Le Jardin ending with Poncha.

It was a very good week with a lot to see, do and experience. Being honest I did more than I was expecting and was surprised how everything went so smoothly. I have to thanks again to Milton and his mother for providing me with the accommodation. I would not be able to have such an amazing time if it was not for them. Hopefully, next time Milton and I can travel around. There were places I wanted to go but there is only so much time and I had to make some decisions on what I wanted to do. My goal is always to make a few specific photographs but I am flexible enough to change plans and enjoy the moment. I just hope it doesn’t take me four years to accumulate 20000 miles to travel again to Madeira.