My next destination in Portugal was Madeira archipelago. I found out that not many people actually realise Madeira is an archipelago. It consist of the main island Madeira, Porto Santo Island and uninhabited Desertas Islands. I visited the largest of the islands Madeira and its capital Funchal. Unfortunately I only had three days to spend on this beautiful island but I decided to take the trip anyway and I don’t regret my decision. I took an Easyjet flight from Lisbon to Funchal. It was a challenge to pack all my things into one suitcase as I always travel with suitcase and backpack full of things but somehow I managed, I’m an expert in packing 😀
Fun fact about the Madeira airport: it is one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Only the pilots with special training can land there. It is due to its location next to the ocean and mountains and the special runway construction. The runway has been extended by 200 metres in the 1980s making it only 1800 metres long. The second runway extension happened in 2000 and was built on a platform partially over the ocean supported by 180 columns. There is a road going under the runway and it was a fascinating moment for me to be on this road and pass under the runway. The smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced has been actually on this airport so kudos to that Easyjet pilot, oh and I work(ed) in the aviation so I’ve had my fair share of landings 🙂
My first impressions on Madeira, as I left the airport, were: ”Wow, what a humid place.” I was lucky to catch the last bus to Funchal. The bus ride to the city centre was beautiful, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the mountains. I got off at the bus stop near the place where my cuchsurfing host was living. The exact address he gave me was not on my map so I was a bit worried 😀 I eventually found the place and it was a beautiful house under the mountain and the cable car. The view from there was fabulous. Nature everywhere! Every morning when I was taking a walk from there to the city centre I was singing the famous line ”The hills are alive with the sound of music” from ”The Sound of Music” song, I was lucky to be alone on the road as I can’t really sing 😀
The first day I took a walk around the city centre. To be honest it was the first time I was not really prepared for my travels and didn’t have any real plan what to see so I was just walking and walking. My only goal was to find a tour operator that would take me to Santana village (famous for its triangular houses). I booked a trip with Lido Tours for the following day. I chose their East tour for 20€, now it’s 25€. After completing my goal I continued to explore Funchal. I ended up at Miradouro da Quinta das Cruzes, nice place with a view over Funchal. On my way there I stopped at Igreja de São Pedro (St. Peter’s Church). Then I continued to Praça do Município where Câmara Municipal do Funchal (Funchal City Hall) and Igreja de São João Evangelista (The Church of Saint John the Evangelist) are located.
My next stop was Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market) because local markets are always a pleasure to visit (mostly to see all the exotic food we don’t have in my landlocked Central European country). Then I had lunch in one of the restaurants nearby and explored the streets near the market. The streets were full of amazing street art, I couldn’t take my eyes off all the painted doors and walls. After that I took a quick walk around the coast before going to cable car.
The cable car goes from downtown Funchal to the neighbourhood called Monte. The journey with the cable car lasts around 15 minutes and gives beautiful views over Funchal. I even saw my couchsurfer’s house I was staying in 🙂 On top of the mountain you can visit Monte Palace Tropical Gardens which I couldn’t miss. It’s also a great way how to get a bit of shade in the high summer temperatures. Next to the gardens there is Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte (Church of Our Lady of Monte). The church is the resting place for the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Charles I (except for his heart which is buried together with his wife’s in Switzerland). I don’t know how about you but I’ve always been interested in the Habsburgs. I still don’t understand how come there’s no tv series about them. Maybe I should finally start writing the script 😀 There is one very unique way how to get down from Monte, the wicker toboggans. If I hadn’t bought the return ticket for the cable car I would have used the toboggans 😦
I spent a beautiful day in Funchal. I’m a bit sad I didn’t have enough time to visit Madeira Botanical Garden or take the toboggan ride from Monte. That only means I have to come back again in the future and experience even more that Madeira has to offer.