Fajã is the name given to the narrow strips of land adjacent to the sea, and created by the erosion of the slopes. One of the most famous "Fajãs" is "Fajã dos Padres", below Cape Girão, in Câmara de Lobos, and only accessible from the sea or by a lift.
There´s a restaurant down there, but the lift only operates during the day.
The most touristy area of Funchal is full of hotels, and prepared to receive and feed the tourists.
However, if you´re not interest in rich mansions, you need to walk a couple of kilometers out of it to see something really interesting.
Madeira is famous for its orchid gardens. There are some flowers in the Botanical Gardens and in the garden of Quinta dos Cruzes. But two main gardens are:
1. Boa Vista Garden (Quinta da Boa Vista, Lombo da Boa Vista Street, Funchal). It has a collection of South American bromeliads, Australian martinetes and African aloes.
2. Jardim Orquidea (Orchid Garden) - Rua Pita da Silva, 37, Funchal. http://www.madeiraorchid.com.
Both gardens have rich collection of orchids. Frankly speaking, I prefer Boa Vista, although to see it, you have to climb on foot (up, up and up the hill in hot weather… it was a real challenge for me).
Be careful: there are a lot of mosquitos: they share love to warmth and high humidity along with orchids )))
There are a lot of companies that offer such kind of a trip, but I made my choice and booked a full day trip with Windbirds Company.
I have to confess it was a good choice. Hugo and Catharina are very nice people who not only concentrate on tourist business; they are real enthusiasts.
Although I was the only one who booked a full day trip, Hugo spent eight hours showing me the best places of the island. Of course the main task was to see the places of bird nestling and feeding.
I took another trip, that lasted half a day, with another pair of amateur ornitologists, and that trip was very nice too. No stops for shopping - just Nature and amazing Madeirian landscapes.
The optical equipment was free and a good lunch in Porto Moniz was included into the price of a full day trip. I recommend it sincerely, although the prices are a bit higher than at usual tourist companies.
After those trips I continued birdwatching, so I was lucky to watch wild Trocaz pigeons and firecrests in a forest near Sao Vicente, robins and canaries in Funchal, as well as little egrets, etc))))
Encumeada is a famous location in Madeira, because it adds to a natural beauty the circumstance of being the only point in the island allowing to see the north ans south coasts. As a matter of fact, in most times clouds turn the views impossible, but even the clouds may be, sometimes a show for themselves.
More details in Serra d'Água
About 16 km from Funchal, this is one of the oldest settlements in Madeira, with the name coming from the stream that comes from the mountain. It may become furious under strong rain (brava means wild, or furious) and that happened a couple of years ago during the severe flooding.
The small pebble beach was invaded by tons of debris, but didn't spoil the beauty of the place.
More details in Ribeira Brava
Levada walking is very popular on Madeira and a fantastic way to explore the island.
The levadas were never actually made for the tourists but are used to transport water around the fields on the steep slopes of Madeira.
They were started way back in the 14th century where the portugese used slaves to build them and the last were build by prisoners in the 1950's.
They are still transporting water around the island and are of great use to the farmers, but they are also very useful as walking trails as long as you are not afraid of heights as they can be narrow with very steep drops at times.
If you want to go levada walking then you should consider doing the first trip with a certified levada guide so that you can get used to them and learn how to navigate them as they can be dangorous to walk.
But don´t let this scare you as they are in my opinion the best way to explore Madeira.
Porto Moniz is located on the north western part of the island and is a pretty little seaside town that used to be the center for whaling on Madeira until Portugal signed the anti whaling treaty in the 1980´s.
These days the town hosts a few good seaside restaurants and also has a nice aquarium in the old fortress that is right on the harbour front.
It´s a nice daytrip if you stay in Funchal and the views of the coastline is really spectacular.
Very good place to stop for lunch if you are doing a daytrip to the northn part of Madeira.
In the town Santana you still have a few of the traditional madeiran triangular houses that many people used to live in,in the past.
These days there are only a couple of families left in Santana that lives in them as they have straw roof that is hard to keep and expensive in insurance because of the fire risk and having a triangular house leaves little room for a second floor.
But they have kept a few houses in Santana that are now working as open air museums so that visitors can see how many people used to live.
The houses are very colorful and i am personally a little suprised that they don´t have more people chosing to live in them as they are very original.
The whole scene with the Santana houses can seem as a bit of a tourist trap, but they did afterall live in these houses in the past, so i think they still serve a purpose even if they have tourist shops in most of them these days.
they can be found around Santana, but the biggest collection of them are right next to the town hall.
The toboggan sledges is one of the ver well known and unique things from Madeira.
They were originally used to transport english upper class tourists down from the mountain in monte when they had been there for sunday picknick back in the early 20th century.
And it is still that way really, except that today most tourists can afford it and it´s not just confined to the upper class.
the toboggan sledges is a little over two kilometers from Monte and down and takes around 10 minutes.
The toboggan sledges are made from wood and steered by two men who have ropes attached to the sledges and they are quite skillful at navigating them.
At the time of writing (february 2012) the price for a ride is 25 euros if you are one in a sladge, 30 euros if you are two people and 45 if you are 3 people, so you better team up with one or two people if you want to take the ride unless you want to pay the extra cost of being alone.
Curral das Freiras, or nun's valley as it is also called in englis, is a secluded valley a little inland from Funchal.
It got it´s name after a group of nuns fled in to the valley in 1566 when french pirates attacked the island.
Today the valley is a hikers paradise but can also been seen by people who do not travel by foot as it is connected to the rest opf the island with good roads and there are many nice viewpoints overlooking the valley.
It´s only around around 15 kilometers from Funchal, but expect the drive to take around 45 minutes as the road to Curral das Freiras is very steep and winding.
Camara de Lobos is a small fishing village around 10 kilometers west og Funchal.
This is small town Madeira where they still have traditional fishermen going out in small boats fishing and they are still drying their fish by the little beach right in the middle of the town.
Camara de Lobos was also a favorite of Winston Churchill when he holidayed on Madeira island back in the day.
they have a little sign on the spot where he would sometimes sit and paint and if you talk to some of the old local guys then they will also tell you he was a very frequent visitor to the local bars and he probaply spend more time there than he did painting.
Camara de Lobos is actually one of the poorest towns on the ialsnd but that is probaply part of why this is still a place where you can get a feel of what Madeira is like before mass tourism arrived.
The place is certainly worth a visit and i personally consider it the gem of Madeira.
Funchal is the capital of Madeira and with it´s 100 000 inhabitants the biggest town on the island.
It´s a pleasant town that is big enough to have most of the things you need, but still small enough to retain a provinsial feel.
Funchal has a nice old part of town with small fishermans houses and funky art made by the young aspiring artists of the island and the old part of Funchal is by far my favorite.
The harbour area is quite pleasant too with a marina, a cruise terminal and quite a few cafes and a nice walkway where you can stroll.
Funchal will be where most people make their base when on holiday on Madeira and it´s for sure a good place to have as a base for a nice holiday.
I must confess that I would never go to Portela by my own - it was a new name for me, meaning nothing. Well, it was a very good surprise, with, maybe, the best views that I had in Madeira.
That's it - you will only know the island if you explore it in detail.
My Portela page is poor, but, it was a good moment
Porto Moniz is the place where the ocean made a natural pool out of rocks.
Very nice made, clean, with a teras, shallow water and deep water for good swimmers.Everything you need to swim and have a good day at the pool.The water is ocean water as the waves from ocean keeps the water pool fresh.
Entrance price 1.50€ per adult.