A September 2007 trip
to Funchal by Koala_D
Quote: Our cruise ship stopped here for the day....a beautiful island! I took the bus tour, and my daughter chose the 4x4 off-road tour.
The highlights of my visit were:
(1) The awesome scenic views from the cliff "Cabo Girao." I especially liked the view looking back towards town. You could see way up into the mountains from here, and all the way down to the water...WAY DOWN! Many little towns are scattered here and there.
(2) The winery "Adega de Quinta." This was the perfect ending to our day-long tour. I will never forget that "jug of wine" spilling the burgundy plants out onto the hillside.
Overall...this was a wonderful place to visit. I wouldn't mind spending a couple of weeks there. The water is beautiful...there's lots of sunshine...and the pace seems relaxed. I found the people very friendly, and proud to share information about their island and its history.
Share a taxi...they aren't cheap! The euro is used here, but they gladly accept US money. Other currencies may not be accepted. They are proud to be independent now, but still retain ties to Portugal...and brochures will say Funchal, Portugal. This is nice to know, though...that they are independent. If possible...do take the walk around the harbor out to the breakwater...there's a lot to see on the way. They often get quick rain showers (especially higher up the hillsides), so keep an umbrella or rain poncho handy.
All the tours sounded great for Funchal, so it was very difficult to choose just one. I finally opted for comfort, and chose the air-conditioned motor coach! It began in town...driving along the waterfront. Then we began to wind our way out of town and uphill. Funchal is very mountainous, and houses are built on terraced hillsides all over the island. Roads are narrow with many tunnels, but our bus driver had no trouble with the twists and turns, and we felt safe!Our first stop was on the hill overlooking the harbor. A few vendors had tables with articles made in Portugal (not imported from China), and I bought some embroidered kitchen towels and a large wall hanging as gifts. We then drove away from town, steadily climbing the entire time. Our driver stopped again at a different viewpoint, and we looked down on a little fishing village...very picturesque. This was a quick stop. Next, we arrived at Cabo Giaro (alt. 580m), the highest cliff in Europe...and, I believe, the second highest in the world. The views from this cliff were awesome! A few vendors had their wares laid out on a stone wall for us to see. Yes, I did purchase a few more gifts!
It was soon time to start back towards town, but first we made a stop at one of the local wineries (also a restaurant)... Adega da Quinta. Their gardens were beautiful! A big clay pot on the hillside spilled out dark burgundy plants..... they lookes like spilled wine from a distance. (Definitely worth the time to take several pictures of that!) The (real) wine flowed freely... red or white...or both, if you liked! Fresh bread baked in an open oven was served, along with an array of cheeses. Yummy! (I smuggled a piece of bread back to the ship for my daughter to try...so good!) All this is included in your tour price, and I think this tour was under $50.
Happily full of wine, cheeses, and bread..... we all reluctantly boarded our bus which then began the trip down the hillside to town. We were then given the option of going back to the ship, or getting off to do some shopping. I got off the bus to search for souvenir treasures!Soon I found a mall with many little shops and restaurants. This was a great place to buy inexpensive souvenirs, and I bought some mini bottles of the famous Madeira wines.The taxi to your ship from here costs about $10, but I decided to walk along the beautiful waterfront. Halfway to the ship I found harbor rides being offered on a replica of Columbus's Santa Maria ship. I didn't have enough time for that...sniffle, sob.
Farther along the wharf you will see colorful graffitied walls done by visiting sailors from all countries. An array of colorful ships moored along the pier also provides great photo opportunities with Funchal in the background. When I reached the ship, I was tired, but happy... and also, sad to leave this beautiful island.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 27, 2007
(** My daughter related all this to me after taking her tour...I chose to try a different one. We were both very pleased with our tours.)The 4x4 Tour -- If you hate crowds and want to get off the beaten path...this tour is for you! Only a few people are allowed per vehicle, and you will get to ride high up in the hills, and then travel all the way down to the beach. You'll go where there are houses...and where there aren't! Cost is a little more than a bus tour, I think I paid about $75 for a tour of about 6-7 hours. It was worth it!
You will travel in a small group of jeep-like vehicles...it depends on how many people want to go, but there is a limit.Your driver will be happy to stop anywhere (briefly) for photos, or a bathroom... just ask. We began with a tour of the waterfront area of town, driving through the streets and just seeing what Funchal had to offer. Then we headed west, passing all the large beach resorts without stopping (thank goodness!). Almost immediately after leaving the waterfront we started to climb, and we kept climbing until we were far above the city. We drove along dirt roads amongst the trees, admiring the plants and just loving the "free" feeling the jeeps gave us...being out in the open air.We stopped at several viewpoints where the driver would point out features of the island, and also tell us a little of its history and ecology. All of the views were breathtaking! I didn't want to leave at any of the stops, but before I knew it we were at another awesome viewpoint and I would temporarily forget about the previous one.
Back in the mountains we found little groups of houses nestled on the hillsides. I just couldn't imagine feeling safe in one of those, but local people take the "hillside living" for granted. After all, this island is one hillside after another! The roads zig-zag up the hillside, so it takes a long time to travel what would be a short distance if you drove straight up the hill.
Eventually we left our lofty perch above the city and slowly wound our way back to the ocean beach below. We stopped in a quaint fishing village, and were left to wander on our own to sightsee, shop...anything we wanted to do. A few people just sat on the beach with their toes wriggling in the water. I wandered about taking pictures, and then grabbed a quick bite to eat. (No meal is included on this tour.)
Finally we had to leave, but the driver did take his time driving us back to the ship! This tour wouldn't be as much fun for me in the rainy season with the dirt mountain roads, but it was nice when I went in late September.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 28, 2007
Olympic Peninsula, Washington