West of Funchal is where the Madeiran sun shines brightest, with long light-filled days, dramatic sunsets, and millions of the island’s sweet miniature bananas and Malvasia grapes ripening in the heat. Varied and scenically dramatic, there’s a lot to see and do off the slow road west, from the fishing traditions of Câmara de Lobos to the cutting-edge art of Calheta.

Cabo Girão

Viewpoint in West Madeira

Around 3km west of Câmara de Lobos, Madeira’s highest sea cliffs rise 580m to loom high over the village and the Atlantic’s sapphire expanse. The panorama from the viewing platform is nothing short of spectacular. Spectacular that is, unless you look down – the platform floor is made of glass and hangs over the cliff edge – a knee-weakening, toe-curling experience! Many Rodoeste services heading west now climb up here from Funchal.

Cabo Girão means Cape of Return – in the 15th century, captain João Gonçalves Zarco is said to have turned his ship around here on his first recce of the coast. He’d probably now turn back in the face of the tired souvenir stalls that have replaced what was once a peaceful, overgrown spot.

Recommended tours:


Paúl do Mar

Village in West Madeira

Perching precariously on a ledge under high cliffs, pretty Paúl do Mar is the surfing capital of the Atlantic and has even hosted a leg of the World Surfing Championships. Its narrow lanes are a joy to explore, with their pretty cottages and flower pots. Rodoeste buses 80, 142 and a couple of obscure services make the run here from Funchal.

Recommended tours:


Igreja de São Bento

Church in Ribeira Brava

Originally dating from the 15th century, one of the most attractive churches on Madeira occupies a pebble square in the very centre of Ribeira Brava. Almost as wide as it is long, the three-nave interior is divided by high Gothic arches, which reach up to a curved, embossed ceiling. From this hang the church’s most impressive feature: two giant crystal chandeliers. There are Manueline elements throughout, such as the carved stone font and the pulpit.

Recommended tours:


Museu Etnográfico da Madeira

Museum in Ribeira Brava

One of Madeira’s most interesting museums, the collections here look at every aspect of the island’s traditional life, from espada (scabbardfish) fishing to wicker weaving, wine production to toboggan transport. There’s an old shop complete with till nostalgically still taking escudos (Portugal’s currency before the euro), live weaving demonstrations and fascinating temporary exhibitions to inspect.

Recommended tours:


Henriques & Henriques

Winery in Câmara de Lobos

Widely regarded by those in the know as the island’s best wine producer, Henriques & Henriques only uses grapes from its own vineyards in Quinta Grande and Câmara de Lobos. The wine is finished off in huge barrels at its modern, specially designed headquarters. Visitors can try the four types of three-year-old wine for free. Anything older normally incurs a charge.

Recommended tours:


Casa das Mudas

Museum in Calheta

Housed in an almost Minecraft-like building high above Calheta, this contemporary arts space has a gallery, shop, cafe, auditorium and workshop area. The exhibitions here change every two months or so and Paulo David’s dramatic architectural achievement in basalt is admirable. It’s worth getting a taxi from the beach as it’s a hard slog on foot.

Recommended tours:


Praia da Calheta

Beach in Calheta

Two well-protected artificial beaches (created with sand from western Sahara) face each other off on Calheta’s seafront, one of the sunniest places on the island. A great place to swim on hot days and there are plenty of eating spots and a supermarket nearby.

Recommended tours:


Miradouro da Ponta do Pargo

Viewpoint in West Madeira

Madeira’s most westerly point is Ponta do Pargo (Red Snapper Point). From the village of the same name, a 2 km trail heads out to a lighthouse from where there are spectacular Atlantic vistas – an especially good spot to find yourself at sundown.

Recommended tours:


Madalena do Mar

Village in West Madeira

Wedged into the mouth of an impossibly deep creek, tiny Madalena do Mar has a long stony beach and a quiet, undisturbed atmosphere that feels a long way from Funchal.

Recommended tours:


Ponta do Sol

Village in West Madeira

This village is the island’s sunniest spot (hence the name) with a rocky beach and pretty, compact centre. Worth a stop on the way between Funchal and Calheta.

Recommended tours: