Rota da Banana consists of three short walks: RB1, RB2 and RB3. In total it is an exotic walk of 1.5 km, where you walk directly through the densely vegetated banana plantations. The walk is easy and fun and takes you in about half an hour along narrow paths, levadas and lots of banana plants.
Along the way you have beautiful views over kilometers of banana plants, the surrounding cliffs, the authentic village of Madalena do Mar and the ocean. If you like tropical places, you will love it here.
If you just want to walk one short hike, we recommend to walk RB1. This one was our favorite and has the most variety. It was the only route where you can follow a levada, which are the winding irrigation channels of Madeira.
The locals often work on the plantations. This gives you a unique insight into the entire process of the banana production. You see bunches with pistils, which are manually removed at the right time and when the bananas are ripe enough, they are cut manually.
Although the banana production seems huge, the production is only intended for Madeira and a small part goes to mainland Portugal and some parts of Spain. Madeira once exported bananas throughout Europe. Until the bananas were declined at auctions because, according to the European Union, they must meet a certain length and curvature. Such a pity! Because the bananas have a great soft and sweet taste.
🍌 Madeira’s annual banana production is equal to what Europe consumes in 1 day.
🍌 Up to 200 bananas can grow on one truss.
🍌 A banana plant only produces one bunch of bananas, then the plant is partially cut down so that a new bunch of bananas can grow.
🍌 A typical dish on Madeira is Espada com banana. This is a surprising combination of the Madeiran banana with black swordfish, which is fished from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
There is an option to go from Funchal to Madalena do Mar by public transport. Take bus line 80 of the bus company Rodoeste towards Porto Moniz, the ride takes about an hour. Sometimes it can be a bit chaotic when traveling by public transport on Madeira. So keep the following things in mind and you will be fine:
🚌 You will be dropped off at a bus shelter in Madalena do Mar, right at the start of one of the trails of the Rota da Banana hike. If you are done hiking walk back to the bus shelter. There is no bus stop or bus shelter for the way back. Just wait on the other side of the road, opposite the bus shelter to be picked up.
🚌 Always give a signal or wave if you want to take that bus.
🚌 Pay attention to the departure times, because the bus only runs a limited number of times a day.
Stroll through the streets and city parks of Funchal
The city center of Funchal has many cozy streets, beautiful squares and special architecture. Visit the Sé Cathedral, stroll through the wide streets lined with purple trees and relax in one of Funchal’s parks. Our favorite parks are Parque de Santa Catarina and Jardim Municipal do Funchal.
Discover the vibrant vibes in Zona Velha, the old town of Funchal
The Old Zone, known as Zona Velha, is the historical and authentic part of Funchal. In the past this part of Funchal was dilapidated and it wasn’t a place for tourists to visit, but today it is the exact opposite. Through an art project and the many restaurants and bars, this part is lively and upcoming again.
Through the art project Arte de Portas Abertas, local and foreign artists have transformed the old part of the city into an open-air gallery. Be sure to stroll through the street of Rua de Santa Maria and its side streets, where the doors of the old houses are decorated with the most colorful works of art.
In Zona Velha you will find one of the oldest buildings in Madeira, the Corpo Santo chapel, built in the 15th century. A little further there is the outstanding yellow fortress of São Tiago, which protected Funchal from pirates and hijackers. You can visit the fortress for free. Note! The fortress is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Dolphin and Whale Watching from Funchal Harbor
Madeira is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and this is an ideal and safe habitat for many cetaceans. More than 25 species of dolphins and whales have been spotted around Madeira. All year round you have the opportunity to see these special animals in their natural environment, but it depends on the season which species you encounter.
Several trips depart daily from the port of Funchal to discover the wildlife of Madeira. In our opinion, this is an activity that should definitely be on your bucket list. Do you want to know what to expect from such an amazing trip, how your experience will be unforgettable and when is the best time to spot the dolphins and whales? Then read our extensive blog about dolphin and whale watching in the waters around Madeira.
Visit Monte by cable car and enjoy the beautiful views of Funchal
From sea level, the cable car takes you over the valley of João Gomes Ribeira to Monte, the higher part of Funchal. During the 10-15-minute ride you will enjoy the panoramic views of Funchal. Because of the many green city parks, terracotta-colored roofs and the deep blue Atlantic Ocean, the views are very colorful. You can buy your cable car tickets in advance to skip the line of the cash desk.
With the cable car you can make two stops, the first stop is at Monte Palace Tropical Garden. The second stop is at Jardim Botanico Madeira.
Get lost in the tropical gardens of Monte Palace
The end of the cable car to Monte, is the entrance to the tropical gardens of Monte Palace. On an area of 80,000 m2, you will find 2500 different plant species, various African stone exhibits and beautiful Japanese and Chinese influences such as bridges, flowing streams and stone sculptures. You can easily get lost in the gardens for a few hours! Check here the current opening times and ticket prices of the tropical gardens of Monte Palace.
There are several options to get back to Funchal from Monte, such as by cable car, by bus or by taxi. But you can also go down a part by a very special transport. Namely with a rush basket, also known as a toboggan. A toboggan is a traditional sled that is pushed by two carreiros. The sled can go up to 48 kilometers per hour and the carreiros wear special shoes with which they can steer and brake the sled. In the past, the sled was used to bring local products from higher places to Funchal. At first this was done by horse and cart, but this method was too slow as it was very heavy and the roads were steep.
Nowadays it is a fun attraction. A ride costs €25 per person, €30 per two persons and €40 per three persons. Note! The toboggan takes you down 2 kilometers in 10 minutes. After this it is a 25 minute walk to the center. Or you can continue by bus or taxi.
Drink Poncha! The traditional drink of Madeira
Poncha is probably the tastiest drink from Madeira. The original cocktails are made from lemon or orange juice, honey, sugar water and rum. These ingredients are mixed with a mexelote, a special kitchen utensil to mix the juice well. The end result is a deliciously sweet drink that you will probably like a little too much. The cutest bar to drink the tastiest Ponchas is at Rei Da Poncha in Funchal. Every Poncha is homemade and you can choose from different flavors. Saúde!
Look around at the local market Mercado dos Lavradores
Mercado dos Lavradores is the best place to discover the local specialties of Madeira. At the market, scents and colors come together and tourists mingle with the locals. Walk past the stalls full of exotic fruits and vegetables and admire the beautiful flowers of the island at the flower stalls. There is also a separate fish department.
If you want to buy something at the market, know that the products here are much (!) more expensive than at other local shops in Funchal.
How much time do I need to explore Funchal?
Funchal can be explored in 2-3 days. But the capital is certainly a nice base for your entire trip on Madeira. The island is not that big and Funchal has a central location. From here you can easily discover the beautiful places all over the island. Funchal is also the ideal place to stay if you want to travel a lot by public transport. Many buses depart from Funchal.
Another reason why we loved staying in Funchal is because of the many restaurants and bars and the bustling vibes in Funchal. If you have been out in nature all day, it is nice to be in a bustling place again.
Our favorite food and drink spots in Funchal
💛 At Casa do Bolo do Caco you can choose from several variations of the traditional bread Bolo do Caco. Originally it is eaten with herb butter and parsley. 💛 We ate the tastiest vegan quesadillas at Art food corner. It is also a super nice spot to bring your laptop to work here for a day. 💛 Prima Caju serves fruit bowls, scrambled eggs, pancakes, poke bowls, salads, wraps, toasts and more! 💛 For a delicious lunch go toBrunch Club Madeira. 💛 A Confeitaria, (location: na. Travessa) has plenty of vegan options for lunch. 💛 From Monday to Saturday, MadCuba-Villa Marista has happy hour with the best cocktails! You can also eat delicious Cuban meals here. 💛 Drink the tastiest traditional Ponchas at Rei da Poncha. 💛 Flair Spot Bar has an extensive cocktail list and plenty of typical Madeira drinks that you can try here. The bar is located in a cute street in Zona Velha.
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