From Idea to the Beginning of the Journey
Along with my brother, we've had a long-standing fascination with a particular destination. It's a small island in the Eastern Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco, often referred to as the Hawaii of Europe. Both my brother and I have a deep love for nature, and a cycling holiday on Madeira seems to be the perfect fit! However, our plan this time is quite different. Madeira by bike? How is that even possible? Typically, we prefer hiking, BUT this time, we dared to be different!
Madeira, here we come!
We've arrived and are going to circle the island for 8 days. I could literally burst with excitement! But for now, let's take it slow and ease into it. Prior to our vacation, Eurobike sent us all the essential information, a roster of our reserved hotels through email, and provided online travel documents. Our first stop is Caniço, a popular destination on the east coast of Madeira. In the evening, we fall asleep to the sound of the waves and wake up to them the next morning. We have breakfast, pack our bags, and then we are to be at the hotel's reception at exactly 9 o'clock – that's what the documents say. We're certainly excited!
It's 9 o'clock and time to get started. A Eurobike representative greets us in the hotel lobby, no need to worry – they speak English and German so there's no need for a Portuguese crash-course beforehand! We receive a travel folder containing all the essential information, route maps, directions, and details about points of interest along the routes. The bikes are ready for us, complete with pannier bags. The best part of it all is that our luggage, each day, is transferred to the next accommodation. Cycling without luggage - what luxury! It's important to mention that we communicated in advance that we'd like to have e-bikes, which are now fully charged in the luggage compartment of the transfer bus. A quick check with the Eurobike staff to make sure everything is in order, and then we embark on an entirely new kind of journey: circling Madeira by bicycle.
After traveling several kilometers inland by bus, we arrive in Camacha, the starting point of our tour. So, we hoist the bikes out of the bus, bid farewell to the driver, and take a deep breath. Finally, we're on our way, and in a place steeped in history that simultaneously embodies the traditional spirit of Madeira. Camacha is famous for its basket weaving art, which has a long history here. Today, we have 25 kilometers on the agenda, a gentle start to get used to the bikes and, especially, the ascents. We cycle through dense laurel forests and alongside tall laurel trees. What stands out right from the first 7 kilometers is the remarkable number of viewpoints. There's certainly plenty to see here!
The beautiful Porto da Cruz
Today, our destination is the charming coastal town of Porto da Cruz, and it's already visible on the horizon. On your journey, be sure to make a stop at the 'Miradouro da Portela' viewpoint. Here, a breathtaking panorama of the sea and the stunning landscape unfurls before your eyes. The nearby mountain range seems tantalizingly close on your left. Shortly after, we are warmly embraced by the tranquil and hushed ambiance of the coastal town, where the only sounds are the waves rhythmically crashing against the shore. We check in, once again finding ourselves right by the sea – how cool is that! Our luggage has already been conveniently placed in our room. Porto da Cruz is a favored destination among surfers, and our accommodation, the Hotel Vila Bela, is owned by an enthusiastic surf instructor who offers a variety of beginner courses in the neighboring bay. Now, we'll savor the evening sun, occasionally getting lightly sprayed by the waves as they splash against the rocks at the cozy hotel café. I'm starting to feel the weariness, both from gazing at the sea and from the first 25 kilometers of cycling. Our inaugural day with Eurobike concludes on a gratifying note.
Sightseeing on the way to São Vicente
Early the following day, we kick off with a specific plan in mind: to cycle the initial stretch of today's route, which had initially been designated for a bus transfer. In essence, we're taking on more than originally scheduled for the second leg of our journey. Our goal for today is to cycle a 50-kilometer stretch along the northern coast, ultimately reaching São Vicente. The weather forecast hints at some wind, but it's expected to be sunny – I'm eagerly awaiting how it unfolds! The steep ascent greets us right from the beginning, making us catch our breath and tapping into our initial reserves of strength. In the charming town of Santana, we take a brief coffee break to replenish our energy. Throughout the route, you'll find small cafés and snack stations, a welcome sight for us at this moment. Even our e-bike's battery didn't quite anticipate the unexpected extension of the journey and are in need of a charge. Santana boasts its charming old cottages, each traditionally adorned with vibrant colors and thatched roofs. With the e-bikes now recharged and our Santana sightseeing tour concluded, we continue our adventure.
Along the roadside, lemon trees flourish, and here and there, Monstera plants gracefully extend their oversized leaves onto the asphalt. After a few kilometers of scarcely encountering any oncoming traffic, we reach the 'Miradouro Beira da Quinta'—a viewpoint that truly takes our breath away. To our left and right, the landscape plunges several hundred meters into the abyss. We gaze upon small coastal villages, which, in the background, are cast into shadow by the imposing, mist-shrouded ridges of the mountains. In no time, we have reached our destination: Unlike the other days of our journey, we check in at a small accommodation perched on a hill here. More precisely, we spend the night at a surf lodge, which turned out to be a real gem thanks to its beautifully landscaped garden, complete with a hammock, and its charming old country house style! We discuss the events of the first two days and all that we've seen in such a short time. As soon as my head touches the pillow, I drift off to sleep.
If it weren't for the peculiar sound that jolted me from my sleep, I would probably have stayed in bed for quite a while longer. The noise was coming from a parrot in the neighbor's garden, merrily dancing around and even letting out a squawky 'Hola!'. Like the past two days, we pack our bags early and are ready at 9 a.m. by the accommodation's gate. By the way, for those arriving in São Vicente a bit earlier than we did the previous evening, a visit to the famous church tower in this mountain village is a must. It's a highly photogenic subject, although that claim could probably be made for almost the entire island. The bus takes us deep into the mountains and onto the plateau of Sierra de Agua. Up here, we begin our journey and hop onto our bikes. The road itself, winding along the edge of the precipice, is already a highlight. The mountainsides are blanketed in yellow blossoms, and the fields of clouds seem to race across the sky.
The next destination is a few kilometers away from here: the Enchanted Forest. The forest's unique location also encourages the characteristic mist, creating a mystical, almost eerie ambiance. We're fortunate as the mist slithers through the treetops. Here, we take a brief breather. The Enchanted Forest is a must on every Madeira to-do list.Then, it's mostly downhill from here. At 24 degrees Celsius and a gentle breeze, we reach Porto Moniz, one of my highlights of the round trip. Here, you'll find natural lava pools right by the sea, which fill with seawater during high waves. In the evening, you can enjoy excellent fish in one of the many restaurants in Porto Moniz. It tastes exquisite, especially after this long day!
New Day = New Stage
Today's destination is the warmest place on the island: Calheta. We'll cover 44 kilometers by bike, once more following hidden roads and paths, away from the tourist crowds. I find myself stopping multiple times in the woods to simply stand still and take it all in. The essential oils of the laurel trees and the diverse natural surroundings create a fragrance that simply make you feel happy.
At the 21st kilometer, a short detour takes us to the highest lighthouse in Portugal. Here at 'Miradouro de Ponta do Pargo' (312 meters), it's worth taking in the view along the steep cliffs down to the stunning turquoise waters below. Shortly after, about halfway through today's journey, we make a stop in Prazeres. This place isn't frequented by too many tourists, so having lunch here is relatively inexpensive, and we enjoy it by the roadside in the sun. By the afternoon, we reach Calheta. Today, the thermometer reads 26 degrees, and we can hardly believe our eyes because here, is a sandy beach! It's the first sandy beach we've seen on Madeira. Thanks to several breakwaters, you can truly enjoy swimming in Calheta! In the evening, after dinner, I gaze contentedly at the setting sun and the colors it paints on the sea. I'll probably only fully grasp how much I've experienced on our bike journey later...
Stage Numero 5!
Our destination for the day is the capital city, which also marks the end of our tour. According to our travel planner, we have 45 kilometers ahead of us today as we set off towards Funchal following a relaxing time in Calheta. On the final leg of the Eurobike tour, we also come across a spot that has gained Instagram fame – the 'Anjos' waterfall. What makes it truly exceptional is that it intersects the road. Anyone driving through here gets a free natural car wash. And if cars can do it, then why not on my bike? With determination, I pedal through the waterfall and emerge drenched on the other side...
We're almost through kilometer 30 when the next sight appears: the 'Gabo Girão', renowned as one of Europe's highest sea cliffs. It can be admired from the skywalk, a glass-floored viewing platform perched over the abyss. All of this at a staggering 580 meters above the sea – incredible! One last deep breath, overlooking Madeira's capital city, which looks like a massive anthill from up here, and then we dive into the bustling city life of Funchal as the descent begins. We check in at our hotel - a room on the 8th floor with a view over the city that once again leaves us in awe! Tired but content, I need some time to process all that we've seen in such a short space of time.
After a hearty breakfast the next morning overlooking the rooftops of Funchal, today's suggested experience comes from Eurobike. In our travel guide, there are already vouchers for the well-known cable car in Funchal. This allows us to board the 3137m long cable car with ease. Since 2020, visitors have been transported from Funchal's promenade up to the 560m higher Monte in about 15 minutes. During the ride, there are spectacular views of Funchal and the old streets of the city, which is home to approximately 120,000 residents. Up here, the Monte Palace also awaits us, a botanical garden that seamlessly combines art, architecture, and culture, impressing us on many different levels. The cable car takes us back down to Funchal in the late afternoon. Here, we received a recommendation to visit the colorful doors in the old town, and we will definitely do that! In particular, the "Rua de Santa Maria" is a must-see. The dining options here are also excellent! For tonight's dinner, we've chosen "Espetadas." Famous in Portuguese cuisine, these laurel leaf-grilled beef skewers should certainly be tried in Madeira as well.
We decided to extend our stay through Eurobike before the trip, so we will be staying at the hotel for an additional two nights. This time, we won't have bikes, but we can explore the island in a completely individual way! What a wonderfully diverse experience this trip has been! The tour through the Sierra de Agua and across the wild plateau of the island will remain particularly memorable to me. With good physical fitness and a healthy self-assessment, everything was manageable, and there was always time for a break when needed. The interaction with the tour guide was particularly pleasant; they were always accessible to us and provided immediate assistance both on-site and over the phone in case of any problems!
My conclusion is: Madeira is a must-see, and with Eurobike, the journey transforms into a truly exceptional experience that allows you to navigate around the major tourist crowds effectively. Furthermore, you perceive the island much more intensely, uncover its lesser-known gems, and witness its unparalleled natural beauty in a way that few have experienced. Thank you for the remarkable shared journey on Madeira!
You can find more impressions and tips about this trip on Lucio's Instagram account. He is looking forward to your visit!