Cable Cars, Toboggans, Steep Climbs and a Splash of Nature – A day in the life of a Madeira tourist

We returned from Porto Santo all rested out and ready for some sightseeing on  Madeira itself, though we only had two days to see the island as we would be leaving on Sunday (after arriving from Porto Santo on Thursday night). Even though I’ve been to Madeira more times than I care to remember, I do not know the island too well from tourist point of view, so this would be new too me as well.

The cable and the Monte

Friday morning we decided to stay in Funchal, the Island’s capital. I know Funchal relatively well, but there are certain things which I have never done and one of them is taking the teleférico to Monte, high above Funchal. For ten euros a pop we got on and took advantage of the great views leading up to Monte. Once there we made our way up to the Church of Our Lady of the Mount and the gardens of the church to escape the warm sun beating down on us.

Monte park

Raquel’s brothers decided to do the Monte toboggan rides, which is one of Funchal’s premier tourist attractions. The ride consists of two-seater wicker sledges which glide on wooden runners, pushed and steered by two men traditionally dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes while sliding down the steep roads. Even though this is a touristic activity today, it used to be a means of transport for the people living on the upper slopes of Funchal.

Carinhos do Monte (Monte’s toboggans)

While they did the ride down, Raquel, her sister Filipa and I walked down the steep slopes, which in retrospect was not our best idea (as the blisters on my feet would later testify), however wandering down along the villas and houses was quite nice as it was different side of Funchal which I had seen yet.

Walking down the steep hills

We finally down the city centre where we walked around for a little bit until having lunch. This was followed by some more walking through avenida Fernão Ornelas, the shopping avenue of the city and ending up at the city market which in another of the city’s major tourist attractions.

Snapshots from Funchal

Our plan for the rest of the day involved doing something else which madeira is famous for: Levada walks. A levada is an irrigation channel or aqueduct specific to the island but these days these channels are now also used as a network of nature walks. One of the easier and popular ones in the levada dos balcõeswhich has its end a great reward of stunning view over the green mountains. This was another of those things that despite my numerous times to Madeira, I had never done and was happy to finally have gotten under my belt.

The Balcoes levada

Fun on a levada walk

The great views at the end of the levada

Our final stop of the day was Madeira’s highest point, Pico do Arrieiro which sits at 1810m above sea level. Here we took in the spectacular view the cloudless sky afforded us. Ironically it is here at the Pico do Arreiro where I saw and played in snow for the first time in my life during my first ever trip to Madeira in a winter of the mid-nineties.

At the top of Madeira

Once we had our fix of great views, we packed into the car and made our way down the winding roads back to Funchal for dinner at the end of quite a light, but nonetheless exhausting day.

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