Exploring East Madeira with Lido Tours

Travel, Tour, East Madeira, Madeira, Faial, Portugal
The first of many Madeira posts from our recent week away and this one isn’t in conjunction or affiliated with Lido Tours in any way, I just really wanted to share our experience. We booked our East tour prior to our holiday, through Expedia. It turned out that Lido Tours who were the operator actually had a shop on the same street as our hotel; it was just a few doors down. We paid £23 per adult on Expedia, but booking direct would have cost either 20 or 25, dependent on the offer. We actually visited the shop during our stay and booked our place on the West tour later in the week.

Our tour guide for the day was Roberto, who was really friendly and knowledgeable. He organised a booster seat for Alfie and his commentary as we went around was informative and never boring. He guided our bus in English, German and Portuguese. We set off at 8:45am and after a couple of hotel pick-ups, were on our way. We were the last to be dropped off in the evening at around 4:45pm, so it was an all-day tour. It was a long day too, but everyone on the bus was lovely and we socialised between stops and on the mini bus – and they all commented on how well-behaved and pleasant Alfie was.

On with the tour. We drove up the winding roads to Monte – familiar as we had previously visited the town and its botanical garden, but went up by cable car on that occasion. Once at the top, we were able to see the traditional carreiros, the men dressed in white who operate the wicker toboggans (or carro de cesto). That was one method of transport we didn’t try out during our time on the island, largely due to the cost and having Alfie with us.
Travel, Tour, East Madeira, Madeira, Portugal, Terreiro da Luta,
Terreiro da Luta was our first photo stop. Here, there was a little chapel and a monument dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Peace’. The views over Funchal were beautiful and the natural scenery was going to be a highlight of both this tour, and our next one.
Travel, Tour, East Madeira, Madeira, Portugal, Pico do Arieiro,
We continued up the mountains, to Madeira’s third-highest peak: Pico do Arieiro, at 1,818m high. We were lucky with the weather, which made the views breathtaking. As we ascended, the mist from the clouds and the dust from the North African winds engulfed us and as we wound up the cliff-side, we weren’t sure what would happen at the summit... thankfully it was clear, and so beautiful. Rocky footpaths, lush valleys and a first spot of nearby island, Porto Santo. We had enough time to stop for a coffee (juice for Alfie) and buy some souvenirs (traditional poncha, a regional drink containing rum, lemon and honey).

Ribeiro Frio (translated to Cold River) was next on the agenda. Another village perfect for hikers, you could walk through wetlands all the way to Portela (11km). We didn’t have time (and we weren’t well-equipped) for that; although we followed the path a short way, passing waterfalls and streams, before it became a little boggy. Instead, we visited the trout farm, which Alfie loved – pointing and shouting “fish” and “water”. The village itself was so serene, but for tourists (much like ourselves) arriving in their bus-loads.
Travel, Tour, East Madeira, Madeira, Portugal, Santana, Traditional Houses,
Santana was where our lunch stop was scheduled, but before we frequented the restaurant, there was enough time to explore the traditional houses. Beautiful triangular wooden houses with thatched roofs, they could have been mistaken for doll’s houses, but were picture-perfect, especially the ones on arrival with the rose gardens out front. Roberto told us that these houses were protected by law – in Santana and nearby São Jorge, there are 77 of them and there will never be any more, or any less. Some still house locals, while others are used as little galleries and artisan shops. We didn’t actually go inside them, but others on the tour commented on the size, in that they were a lot bigger than the exterior would suggest. Looks can be deceiving.

Lunch was at a traditional Madeiran restaurant, Caldeirão Verde (green cauldron). Here, we took advantage of the set menu: 15 per person for three courses, coffee, water and wine (or an alternative beverage). Again, we didn’t pay for Alfie – but needn’t with the amount of food on offer. The starter was traditional bolo do caco (garlic bread) to share; while the main course was either chicken or beef on the traditional skewer, tuna steak or breaded scabbard. Ash chose the chicken, while I went for tuna, to give Alfie a bit of everything. The main courses were served with chips, polenta, rice and salad – again to share amongst the table, but lots of food. Dessert was chocolate or coffee mousse. Oh, and the wine was half a bottle per person and we swapped our red for white, which was lovely. So cold and fruity – and went down too easily... although I felt tired for the rest of the afternoon! It was really nice to eat somewhere that was enjoyed by locals as well as tourists and not only was the food good value; it was good, homely food too. Portuguese portions are something else!
Travel, Tour, East Madeira, Madeira, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean,
It was then a half-an-hour drive to our final two stops. Our first was a photo stop at one of the island’s most easterly points: Ponta do Rosto. It was a little rocky here, but the views out on to the Atlantic were mesmerising. The water glistened in the sun and looked so blue. Another viewing of Porto Santo here, in addition to Madeira’s stunning coastline. En route to Pico do Facho, we were able to see a local fishery, with dried smoked fish simply hanging up from ropes. Caniçal is a small fishing village, famous for whaling and its whale museum. From our final viewpoint, we were able to see the airport and runway – although I didn’t see any planes taxiing.
Travel, Tour, East Madeira, Madeira, Portugal
From here, it was back into Funchal and the hotel drop-offs. I thoroughly recommend the East tour if you’re ever on the island. If you’re staying in the Lido district (which is famously touristy), be sure to book through Lido Tours – even though there are so many different operators. Lido put on a minibus for us, so our party was about 16 – the perfect size for a tour of this kind. There’s nothing worse than being on a big bus of 50+ and forever waiting for people that don’t stick to the schedule!

Love, Lucy xx

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Love, Lucy xx

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