"The South West Coast" Ribeira Brava by ghislain69
Ribeira Brava Travel Guide: 19 reviews and 39 photos
Madeira's southwest coast is a dramatic landscape of rugged cliffs and steep wooded slopes, punctuated by lush valleys where picturesque villages nestle and lush banana plantations and vineyards thrive. Until the fairly recent opening of the new highway from Funchal to Ribeira Brava – an impressive succession of tunnels and bridges – this region was remote and inaccessible; in fact villages such as Ponta do Sol, which is now just half-an-hour's drive from the capital, could only be reached by boat until just after the second world war.
Although the journey from the airport is now much easier, Madeira's south-western corner remains gloriously unspoilt and little visited, making it ideal for nature-lovers who will find stunning coastal paths and beautiful inland levada walks. Whilst there are no resorts to speak of, the former remoteness of the local villages makes them appealingly self-contained, with all the facilities needed for a relaxing, quiet holiday.
Travelling from Funchal or the airport, the highway brings you as far as Ribeira Brava, an attractive little town situated just west of the impressive Cabo Girão, the second-highest sea cliff in the world – vertigo-sufferers are well advised to stay clear!
From here, you follow the old road as it winds its way along the coast to arrive at Ponta do Sol, a picturesque village owing its affluence to a particularly suitable climate for cultivating bananas.
The next stretch of road is truly breathtaking, as the mountains dive into the sea almost vertically whilst occasional waterfalls give your car a free rinse as you continue towards Calheta, once an important trading post for sugar cane but now just a sleepy village with a picturesque centre, an interesting old rum distillery, and – something of a rarity on Madeira – a beach of dark volcanic sand.
Continuing along the coast you will find two further little fishing villages, Jardim do Mar and Paúl do Mar, beyond which the road starts climbing up into the mountains as it snakes its way around the island's western tip at Ponta do Pargo, which is marked by a lighthouse.
The whole region is a mecca for walkers, with numerous levadas and other footpaths criss-crossing the stunning countryside. The beautiful Rabaçal valley, the nearby waterfalls of Risco and 25 Fontes and the windswept high-plateau of Paúl da Serra are certainly all worth exploring.
Whilst there is much to discover in south-western Madeira, the area is equally suited to dedicated relaxation seekers, as its warm and sunny micro-climate makes it the perfect location for just sitting in the sun and admiring the splendid scenery.
Hidden in a narrow lane off the road to Ponto do Pargo on the far western tip of the island, these small detached... more travel advice
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