Day 1: Arrival in Caniço
On Thursday, we woke up early to start our journey. To make things easier, we took a taxi to Salzburg station and then a train to Munich airport for our direct flight to Madeira. The flight was great, and landing at Cristiano-Ronaldo airport was the first memorable experience of our holiday.
The east coast of Madeira gave us a glimpse of the island's hilly topography, which we knew would be a challenge for our cycling tour. We spent the first evening at the Four Views Oasis Hotel in Caniço. We enjoyed an evening stroll along the promenade, indulged in the extensive hotel buffet, and savoured our first glass of Madeiran wine to round off our arrival day.
Day 2: Caniço – Porto da Cruz
Excitement filled the air as we wondered how hilly the tour would be. After breakfast, we packed the last few items in our day bags and at 10:15, we met the Eurobike team in the hotel lobby. Lucy and Nunu, our guides, gave us our bikes and provided some final pieces of information. We boarded a bus with our bikes on a trailer and headed to Camacha with eight other guests.
The bikes were quickly checked in the village square before we set off. The weather wasn't the best, with clouds enveloping the scenery at times, creating an enchanted forest-like atmosphere. However, we occasionally caught glimpses of the sea when the clouds cleared.
The colourful gardens along the road added dashes of colour to our journey. In the afternoon, we took a detour to Santo de Serra, a quaint village with a beautiful park and stunning views. We bought freshly baked Bolo do Caco (sweet potato bread) in the village centre, which made for a perfect snack on the way.
From Santo de Serra, it wasn't a long cycle until we began a breathtaking 6km descent to Porto da Cruz. The views were awe-inspiring, making it impossible not to stop and take them in. Once in Porto da Cruz, we headed straight to the sea, where the inviting and cosy promenade greeted us. We rewarded ourselves with cocktails, enjoying the small but fine promenade. We had some time before our pickup, but unfortunately, we couldn't stay in Porto da Cruz due to fully booked hotels.
Reluctantly, we bid farewell and moved on. We returned to the Four Views Oasis Hotel for another night. In the evening, we went to a restaurant along the promenade, sipped Sangria, and observed the locals' food choices. Intrigued, we decided to try a frequently served starter called Lapas, even though we weren't sure what it was. Surprisingly, we loved it. Later, when we Googled Lapas, we discovered they were limpets. We enjoyed them and vowed to call them Lapas and eat them again!
Day 3: Porto da Cruz – São Vicente
We set off earlier today, and the team picked us up promptly. After a stop in Porto da Cruz to pick up the other guests, we headed to Santana. This village is renowned for its traditional houses with thatched roofs, and I captured photos of them from all angles. Luckily, the weather was favourable today. The stage began with a cheerful 5km descent, reminding us to take breaks and enjoy the tremendous views. As we sped downhill, we realized that these descents would soon be followed by uphill cycling.
However, every challenge has its advantages. Uphill cycling gave us ample time to admire the flowers along the path and appreciate the breathtaking scenery. We conquered the day's first ascent and treated ourselves to shrimp soup and a refreshing Coral beer in São Jorge.
Coral beer is produced in Madeira, adding to the island's unique flavours. We continued our hilly journey along the coast towards São Vicente and our hotel, Estalagem do Mar. From our room, we had a fantastic view of the roaring sea. For dinner, we walked a short distance down the road and enjoyed swordfish with banana, accompanied by a good bottle of wine. This combination may sound unusual, but it is a delicious and typical dish on the island. It was a challenging yet wonderful day!
Day 4: São Vicente – Porto Moniz
This morning, we were once again picked up by Nunu. He drove us towards the Paul de Serra plateau, which involved a 12km ascent of about 1000m. We were grateful to be sitting on the bus rather than pedalling up those steep hills. However, even after getting off the bus, we still encountered many hills. The scenery of Madeira and the views from the high road were incredibly rewarding.
The combination of yellow gorse, lush greenery, and the deep blue sea in the distance created a stunning visual spectacle. Finally, when we reached the top of the plateau, it was surprisingly flat for the first time. The road stretched out like an endless highway leading straight to the sea, although we missed the opportunity to see the sea on both sides.
During the exhilarating descent, all thoughts of the plateau vanished. Back by the sea, we cycled on ancient roads clinging to the edge of cliffs. After a short while, we caught sight of Porto Moniz, and in the early afternoon, we arrived. Following a late lunch, we explored the area, known for its natural bathing pools made of volcanic rock.
The place was bustling with day visitors wandering the streets, and although the sea was too rough for swimming, we could imagine how the wild and rugged cliffs had been shaped over hundreds of years. We stayed at Hotel Moniz Sol, where we enjoyed half board and the opportunity to try various regional dishes. While taking an evening stroll through the village, we noticed that we were among the few people out and about, as the day visitors from Funchal had left. We relished the tranquillity and listened to the soothing sound of the sea once more.
Day 5: Porto Moniz – Calheta
A good night's sleep was necessary for the ascent awaiting us this morning. The weather was favourable again as we cycled up the twisty road behind Porto Moniz, surrounded by banana plants on both sides. Although our legs were tired, the incredible views made it all worthwhile. Ponta do Sol, located by the coast, caught our attention with its bustling streets, prompting us to take a walk through one of the small alleyways. To our surprise, we stumbled upon a village festival in full swing.
Continuing along the route, we sensed our approach to Funchal as the settlements grew closer together and the touristy atmosphere increased. After reaching Ribeira Brava, we faced a long and steady climb, but the destination was worth it. The viewpoint from the "Cabo Girao" cliffs, standing 600m high above the sea, was undeniably one of the tour's highlights. From the glass platform, we marvelled at the spectacular view. A speedy descent brought us closer to today's goal.
We had a late lunch in Câmara de Lobos, a wonderfully colourful village also hosting a village festival. However, as we had to reach Funchal, we continued our way. We stayed at the Four Views Monumental Hotel, surrounded by bustling tourism. Outside the hotel door was a wide range of restaurants and shops.
We toasted to a successful week. Upon returning to the hotel, my boyfriend and I enjoyed an evening at a restaurant. Tomorrow, we planned to explore Funchal's old town.
Day 6: Calheta – Funchal
Today's bike tour began with another ascent. As we cycled, banana plants lined our path on both sides. Despite our tired legs, the stunning views made it all worthwhile. Ponta do Sol, located by the coast, caught our attention with its bustling streets, prompting us to take a walk through one of the small alleyways.
To our surprise, we stumbled upon a village festival in full swing. Continuing along the route, we sensed our approach to Funchal as the settlements grew closer together and the touristy atmosphere increased. After reaching Ribeira Brava, we faced a long and steady climb, but the destination was worth it.
The viewpoint from the "Cabo Girao" cliffs, standing 600m high above the sea, was undeniably one of the tour's highlights. From the glass platform, we marvelled at the spectacular view. A speedy descent brought us closer to today's goal.
Day 7: Funchal
Today, we embarked on a tour of Funchal. Taking the bus, we quickly reached the harbour and then took the cable car from the valley station to Monte. Entering the cable car reminded us of home, as Doppelmayr cable cars were everywhere. Although we had a return ticket, we couldn't resist trying one of the wicker toboggan sledges for a thrilling descent.
The ride down the winding roads was exhilarating, but unfortunately, it ended too soon. Many taxis were waiting at the bottom, but we opted to walk. We headed straight into the old town, which was adorned with black and white cobblestones. Along the way, we took breaks to rest our feet.
Once there, we visited the famous market hall, which offered a delightful array of fresh fruit and lively market sales. It was easy to spend a few Euros here. In the evening, we planned to have dinner in the old town, so we took a little siesta and dressed up.
Upon returning to the old town, we discovered a new area with a cluster of enticing restaurants, making it challenging to decide where to eat. Eventually, we settled on an Espetada-Gill, where we savoured traditional meat dishes. We didn't stay out too late tonight, as our holiday was slowly coming to an end, and we had to depart early in the morning.
Day 8: Departure
As we travelled to the airport, it was still dark outside. We would have loved to stay a bit longer, but our holiday was over. At the airport, we returned our bikes to the team and checked in for our flight.
Reflecting on the past week, we were grateful for the unforgettable experiences and stunning landscapes Madeira had to offer. Our cycling tour had been challenging but rewarding, allowing us to discover the island's beauty at our own pace.