One day, at the beginning of our England adventure, Ryan was scrolling Instagram and said, “I want to go here.” He pointed on a map to a tiny island of the coast of North Africa. To which I responded, “where the hell is that?”
That tiny little island was Madeira - Portuguese owned known for its sub-tropical climate. What we would discover this past December 2018, however, was that it was so much more than that. It’s a completely underrated island with both mountains and sea. It is home of the most epic scenery I have ever seen in my entire life and home to the best Airbnb we have ever stayed in. Thus, it’s also the result of some of the best photos I’ve ever captured.
It’s cheap. It’s beautiful. There’s direct flights from London, and it’s tame, warm weather just about all year round. If my words aren’t enough to convince you to add this place to your bucket list, allow the visuals to do so.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, which is our Airbnb called Canto das Fontes in Ponta Do Sol, about 25 minutes from the capital city Funchal. I wish I could take credit for finding this myself, but my dear friend and near travel twin Anna beat me to it (and stayed in it one month before us). As Ryan said in his cute review on the place, we debated telling everyone about it or telling no one to ensure we can book it again. We stayed in the yurt, which is bigger and has its own facilities and kitchen. There are two other tipis on the property who share a bigger kitchen. The property is also a fruit and wild herb farm, cliffside ocean view paradise, and overall glamping magic. You can pick fresh fruit directly from the trees, swim in a natural (and very cold) infinity pool overlooking the horizon, lay in a hammock as you watch the sunset, and pick fresh herbs to use for cooking in your outdoor kitchen.
We met amazing friends in the community tipi while we built a fire under the fairy-lit roof. I took showers with the door open to see the ocean. It was nothing short of heaven and will always be sacred in our hearts. Only go if you appreciate the following:
a compost toilet
a very steep and narrow hike up to the property!
a very hippy vibe :)
A car is a must to get around the island. I highly recommend driving around the northeast part of island, namely through Seixal. We honestly didn’t get out of the car much except to stop for lunch in that area, and shoot some scenery in some of the random towns we passed through.. Some of the craziest scenery you can get from a car.
As if the trip couldn’t get any better, the absolute highlight was yet to come. The first day, we drove up to Pico Do Arieriro in the middle of the day to do some hiking. With some of the most jagged rocky mountain I’ve ever seen with insanely deep valleys throughout, I was sure we had to come back again before we left.
You can do the full hike (about 3 hours one way) from Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Do Ruivo. We opted for just going halfway and back, which was enough of a booty workout for us. What you absolutely must do though, is come back to Pico Do Arieiro at sunset.
The most epic quality about Madeira is how much elevation it gains for being an island. At our Airbnb, we were at 112ft. When you drive to Pico Do Arieiro, you’re at 5,964ft in about an hour drive. This significant altitude difference makes it real easy to get above the clouds. When we discovered that, we knew we had to catch sunset on our last night. I have no more words:
There’s nothing quite like witnessing the sky meeting the earth with a fire sunset. Hands down one of our most legendary moments.
We ended our trip with a sunrise mission to Ponta de São Lourenço, a rocky cliffside on the eastern part of the island just near the airport. Highly recommend sunrise here for obvious reasons: the sun rises in the east :)
We will forever remember this place as one of the most underrated, beautiful islands we’ve seen. My Instagram (below) always has saved highlight stories for behind the scenes, and I hope you take time to visit this place next time you’re in Europe.
Where to next?