5. From Funchal: East Coast of Madeira Tour
The tour heads first to Camacha for a visit to the largest outlet on the island for wicker products where demonstrations of wicker weaving can be seen. Continue uphill by heading for Pico do Arieiro for tremendous views over a succession of knife-edge ridges and sheer cliffs. At an altitude of 1,818 meters, it is the third-highest peak in Madeira.
Continue your journey downhill through small terraces lining the road before you reach the Laurissilva Forest, one of the most beautiful natural treasures of Madeira. This forest is about 20 million years old and was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
The next stop is at the charming village of Santana, a picture of domestic and agricultural prosperity known for its traditional stone houses with steep, triangular-shaped thatched roofs. Traditionally people lived in these ingenious structures and you can discover how spacious the A-frame buildings are when you visit one.
Next, drive down the north coast to the rural village of Porto da Cruz, home to the only functioning sugar mill in the north coast. This small village has a maze of alleys and, as well as a beautiful sea promenade, the former warehouses are being converted into cafes.
Lastly, take in Praia de Machico, a beautiful bay with an uncommonly shaped valley that looks as if a balcony overlooks the sea and the mountains. The sugar cane crops and its mills made it very important for Madeira’s economy until the 17th century. The eastern side of the bay is dominated by Pico do Facho’s 320 meter peak, named after the beacon that used to be lit here to warn residents of approaching pirates.
Heading home, enjoy views of the coast and enormous Madeira junipers trees which have become quite rare over the years.