The seaside town of Câmara de Lobos was one of Madeira’s first settlements in the 15th century. There are two churches from that era, and a bay where sailboats were moored 600 years ago. Those have been replaced by humble fishing boats, and despite the influx of tourists, the town lives on the sea.
Whether it is a half-kilometer-high cliff on the coast or a deep ravine of a bowl of mountain peaks inland, the steep terrain is a highlight. There are heartbreaking views, remote beaches at the foot of towering cliffs, heroic “Levada” hikes, Madeira wineries and remote villages.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Kamala de Robles:
1. Capo Geelong
The cliffs west of Câmara de Lobos reach dizzying heights, and in 2012 a pedestrian bridge was added at Cabo Girão, 580 meters from the coast.
This is the highest cliff overpass in Europe and definitely not for anyone with vertigo.
If the darkness, sheer cliffs and vistas of Funchal don’t make your knees a little weak, you’re not human: you can look down on a small patch of farmland along the coast half a kilometer below you.
The only way for farmers to reach these plantations is by cable car!
Probably the most picturesque part of Câmara de Lobos is the bay that first attracted Portuguese settlers to this coast.
During the day, the waters are dotted with wooden fishing boats, and at night they go out to catch the bizarre-looking black scabbard fish, which inhabit the depths of the ocean and come closer to the surface after dark.
On the harbour wall, you can clearly see the inland mountains, which rise sharply from the coast, with terraces of plantations.
You can set your sights on the painted fleet that has been pulled to the foreshore and nurse a “poncha” (a kind of fist) in a bar on the cobblestone street behind.
3. Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião
There has been a religious building on the site since Portugal claimed Madeira for a decade.
The chapel before the current church was built in 1426, but the town’s growing population required expansion in the 17th and 18th centuries.
On the front you can find the coat of arms of the explorer and colonist João Gonçalves Zarco, who founded the Câmara de Lobos in 1419. Baroque is the dominant style in the interior, with the classic gilded wood main altar.
In the Santíssimo Sacramento you can marvel at the 18th century tiled panels reminiscent of Agnus Dei.
4. Capela de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
This chapel by the bay is even older, completed in 1420 on the orders of João Gonçalves Zarco.
It’s a moot point, but it’s probably the oldest church on the entire island.
Like the Church of San Sebastian, it was given a sumptuous Baroque style in the 18th century, when the Madeira painter Nicolau Ferreira decorated the walls and walls with marble and extravagant frescoes. ceiling.
These show scenes from the life of Saint Anthony, patron saint of Portuguese sailors and fishermen, as this is where the fishermen of Câmara de Lobos prayed before going to sea.
5. Levada do Norte
The levada walk is one of the indispensable experiences in Madeira.
Levadas are unique to the island, and canals are often cut from the side of the mountain, through the laurel forest, to irrigate the island’s plantations and settlements.
The one closest to Câmara de Lobos also happens to be one of the best.
The 12.5-kilometer walk from Ribeira Brava to Cabo Girão takes about three hours, and as long as you put on a good pair of shoes, the trail is easy to walk because of some tight ledges and a long drop below.
The access passes through several tunnels (flashlights are handy), and there are stunning views of dense forest and regulated plantations.
6. Fajã dos Padres
Along Cabo Girão is a stony beach with only hotels, restaurants and wine plantations.
This magical place cannot be reached by road because it sits at the foot of those huge cliffs that are over 250 meters high.
The only way is via the cable car that clings to the cliff face.
It is open from 10:00 to 18:00, but restaurant and hotel guests are open longer in the evenings.
During the quieter months, when only a few people come to this beach, you can meditate on the stone pier, sunbathe on the endless ocean or on the huge basalt walls behind.
7. Museu de Imprensa da Madeira
In a huge hall of the Câmara de Lobos library, there is a museum that tells the history of the media in Madeira.
This is a place that has only been around since 2013, a repository of printing and lithographic presses that store centuries of value, as well as 20th-century film projectors and typewriters.
There are 48 vintage machines in all, some huge, like the 19th century newspaper printing press.
Framed on the wall are some of the materials these machines produce, such as paper, posters and flyers.
If the weather isn’t cooperating or if you’re interested in industrial technology, it’s an engaging hour or so.
8. Curral das Freiras
You cannot miss the opportunity to visit this village just north of the city of Câmara de Lobos.
Curral das Freiras (Valley of the Nuns) is located at the bottom of a huge gorge, surrounded by cliffs and peaks up to 1,000 meters high.
It may seem impossible to see them from a distance, but the surrounding almost steep slopes grow vines and cherries on the narrowest of terraces.
Once upon a time it would take hours to reach this village from the coast, and Curral das Freiras developed in complete isolation. Until 1986, they could even receive TV signals here.
But with the advent of the road tunnel, the village opened up and could be reached in just 20 minutes.
9. Ella du Cerrado
From this vantage point, you can fully understand how far Curral das Freiras used to be.
It is located on the eastern edge and is almost 1,100 meters above sea level.
There is a car park at the foot of the stairs, with 145 steps leading you to this magnificent lookout.
Angular peaks, stepped slopes and sheer cliffs form a true dramatic setting.
If you can bear to look down Curral das Freiras is a small cluster of white buildings far below.
This fortified wine has an intriguing backstory, as it was first blended with spirits during fermentation in the Age of Navigation to help it last longer on epic voyages.
Since Madeira was an important stopover for Atlantic expeditions, they filled their barrels before continuing their journey.
With vineyards located on a south-facing slope above the Câmara de Lobos, the Barbeito winery will take you behind the scenes on this timeless process, showing you how to prepare, ferment, store, bottle and have the opportunity to try any of the 12 varieties .
11. Boca dos na Morados
There is an anther lookout at Jardim da Serra in the mountains north of Câmara de Lobos, which presents you with a different but equally stunning scene.
Surrounded by tall maritime pines, Boca dos Namorados has a long window sill where you can gaze down at the valley below, with soaring basalt peaks.
If you want the hike of a lifetime, you can lace up your boots and venture out to Curral das Freiras from here.
But a more enticing option might be to cook lunch at one of the grills and then have a picnic in this spectacular setting.
12. Playa Formosa
Walking to this beach a few kilometers east of Câmara de Lobos is an adventure.
The trail wraps around the coast, with sections going straight over cliffs.
There are caves on the way, hit by the waves, and after a while you will come to this sheltered beach.
With big cobblestones, it’s more of a place to stroll and enjoy the view, or head to the small promenade with several restaurants.
In calm weather, the beach is great for bathing, but it might be an everyday proposition.
In any case, the natural volcanic beauty of Doca do Cavacas is close enough for swimmers.
13. Picco d’A Torre
You’ve already seen the dazzling slopes behind the Câmara de Lobos from below, but you can swap positions for this viewpoint 205 meters up the hill.
On the slopes of terraced fields planted with vines, bananas and cherries, you can see the town and its bay almost vertically, and the boats flying in from here are just specks.
The cross commemorates the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which ended more than 40 years of dictatorship.
Despite all the things to do in Câmara de Lobos, the capital of Madeira is less than 10 minutes to the east.
It’s a city that’s adapted to those towering slopes, the gondola can take you to Monte’s botanical gardens, and the wicker tobogganing can get you started again in your career.
The old town of the port has a large street, paved with cheerful Portuguese sidewalks, leading to squares with restaurant terraces.
Timeless monuments in the area, such as the 16th-century cathedral and town hall, are made of that black volcanic stone, which makes them even grander.
15. Food and drink
At the bars around the bay, you have to order a poncho.
The drink’s name may be related to the English “punch”, and like punch, it may have been borrowed from India.
The base is aguardente (distilled sugar cane juice), which is mixed with lemon juice, honey and sugar, but other juices are sometimes added.
As for food, the scabbard fish hauled ashore by the town’s fishermen may not look pretty, but their fillets are delicious, usually served with crunchy fried corn and bananas.
It’s one of many fish and seafood products, but octopus, tuna, and shellfish such as herring and limpets are strong points.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Camara de Lobos, Portugal
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