Exploring the Atlantic Paradise: Madeira by a Local and a Visitor

Madeira is a paradise island that goes beyond palm trees and sandy beaches. It keeps fascinating locals as well as visitors - so we're sharing some highlighs from both.

Madeira is a paradise island that goes beyond palm trees and sandy beaches. It keeps fascinating locals as well as visitors - so we're sharing some highlighs from both.

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. With an area of just 800 km2, the landscape varies wildly across the whole island. It is also home to Mapillary Ambassador Nuno. Nuno, in addition to promoting Mapillary in Madeira, has done an equally great job at promoting Madeira in Mapillary. That is why the past summer Kamil, our front-end developer, decided to visit this beautiful place.

Magnificent Madeira, the Atlantic paradise Kamil and Nuno exploring the paradise

Madeira is famous for many things: Madeira wine, its fauna and flora (e.g. laurel forests which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and levadas, a network of watering channels that deliver water across the whole island range and, well, make for perfect hiking trails! The island is said to have more than 20 micro-climates, where weather can vary significantly even across small travelling distances.

Kamil (and his girlfriend Kasia) visiting Nuno provided the perfect opportunity to explore Madeira from two different angles: the local's and the visitor's. They now share their favourite spots.

Enjoying the Madeira view

Kamil and Kasia enjoying the best balcony view out there

The local: Nuno’s top 3 picks

1. Balcões

An easy thirty-minute hike takes you to a stunning viewpoint on a balcony (in Portuguese: Balcões). From there you have a view that from one side allows to see the central mountains of the Madeira island along with the highest peaks (Pico Ruivo, 1,862 meters, Pico das Torres, 1,853 meters, and Pico do Arieiro, 1,818 meters), and on the other side the sea on the northern shore of the island.

2. From Pico do Arieiro to Achada do Teixeira

If you are a hiker, you should do the hike between the highest peaks on the island. The hike is demanding and takes about five hours if you decide to do a roundtrip, or three hours if you decide to head to Achada do Teixeira (visit Waymarked Trails for more info). Tip: bring your impermeable jacket just in case, weather conditions change fast in Madeira due to many micro-climates.

3. Fanal

Fanal is always a beautiful and magical place, whether on a sunny day or a foggy one. It's part of the laurel forest that's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a lovely place for a picnic or just to walk around the old stinkwood.

The visitor: Kamil’s top 3 Picks

1. Santana Thematic Park

Santana is a village in the northern part of Madeira, which is famous for the triangular houses with roofs made from reed.

Not only is it a beautiful place to experience a real Madeiran village, but it's also where an educational theme park is situated. This theme park is a great destination for those who'd like to learn more about the origins of Madeira, the history, traditions and cultural heritage. Expect to spend a good couple of hours here, as the exhibitions are very thoughtfully made and entertaining.

2. Caldeirão Verde levada walk

The "Green Stewpot" walk is one of the longer hikes Kamil did on Madeira - it is around 22 km. However, this hike rewards the brave one with a beautiful ~200-meter-high waterfall at the end of it. Unfortunately Kamil ran out of memory storage to capture the whole walk, so below are just a couple of shots. Maybe you should be the person to photo map this hike?

3. Day on Porto Santo

Porto Santo is an island with beautiful sand beaches and is relatively flat compared to Madeira. It’s around 2 hours away by boat. You should plan to spend the whole day here, as there is plenty of things to do besides sunbathing. Below is a sequence from a bike ride around Porto Santo.

Of course Madeira has much more to offer than fits in a blog post. Some of it you can explore on Mapillary, others you should go and check out yourself (you can take a look at visitmadeira.pt for more inspiration). If you want more tips or to share your own top picks, get in touch with us.

Happy exploring!

/Nuno and Kamil

P.S. As a bonus, here's one more pick. This time from Winston Churchill, to whom Madeira was a 'warm, bathable, comfortable and flowery' retreat. He painted it, we captured it!

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