Nestled in a rugged and wild landscape typically Atlantic but with a sub-tropical climate, a photographic trip to Madeira Island is a unique experience in Europe.
Towering nearly 2000m above sea level in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sculpted over thousands of years by massive volcanic activity, Madeira Island has earned the nickname the Hawaii of Europe.
A paradise for hikers and photographers, the scenery of the entire island consists of breathtaking cliffs lashed by waves, lush valleys, forests of ancient trees, rugged mountains and epic trekking routes.
Seemingly small in size, Madeira is full of spectacular locations for photography that make it stand out as a top destination in Europe.
The journey to Funchal is individual. After your arrival at the International Airport Christiano Ronaldo you will be personally welcomed by us. Once the tour group is complete, our drive to the island’s wild, secluded northwest tip begins. In Porto Moniz, which is also known for its unique, natural lava pools directly on the ocean, we check into our hotel. With an introduction to landscape photography and a short get-to-know-you round, we prepare for the next few days. We strengthen ourselves in a cozy atmosphere and talk about what awaits us in the next few days and how we can achieve our photographic goals. If the weather conditions are good, we will go to our first nearby sunset spot in the evening,
Our photographic journey of discovery begins in the early hours of the morning – the first destination is a spectacular vantage point on the north coast of the island. Located on an old road between Seixal and São Vicente, the “Véu da Noiva” awaits us – one of the most emblematic scenes of Madeira. The fascinating waterfall rises powerfully from the mountains and plunges thirty meters into the Atlantic Ocean. Seen from the vantage point, it resembles a perfect bridal veil, hence its name, Bridal Veil Waterfall. After an intensive photo session with the light effects of the soft morning sun between lush mountain valleys, we return to our hotel and fully enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the surroundings.
What would a visit to Madeira be without a dip in the natural pools of Porto Moniz, ranked among the top 10 most beautiful seawater pools in Europe according to The Guardian newspaper. Huge Atlantic waves pound the bizarre lava rock formations that frame the natural pools that are constantly filled with crystal clear water by the tide. A bizarrely designed wellness landscape made of turquoise-blue shimmering lava pools that no architect could dream up more impressively. After an extensive pampering bath, we devote ourselves intensively to the culinary part of the island. We spoil our palate with traditional espetada – beef skewer on laurel stick – or black scabbard fish with banana and passion fruit sauce with a glass of poncha.
At sunset, the Laurisilva forest in Fanal is on our tour plan, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The magical, mostly foggy “fairy forest” is located in a small volcanic crater. Like stubborn residents, the ancient laurel trees have rooted in this almost spooky forest for centuries. The gnarled 800-year-old trees are moss-covered, draped with lichen and harbor a mysterious magic. Thick wafts of mist pass through their branched crowns, which have been imaginatively shaped by the wind. The air is damp and cool – sometimes we can’t even see 5 meters away. Every now and then a few rays of light penetrate the smoke screen and provide some warmth. The raw beauty and tranquility of this landscape leave us speechless.
Our sunrise spot today is in the northwest of Madeira between the town of Seixal and Porto Moniz. As a greeting, we recognize the striking lava rocks Ilheus da Rib and Ilheus da Jenela from afar, which stick out of the water like needles. As soon as the horizon begins to glow from the rising sun, we photograph the bizarre rock formations in front of the rugged coastline with its violent waves, which let us literally feel the power of the ocean. In search of the best composition, we experiment with slow and slow shutter speeds, as well as aerial photography, to capture the atmosphere of this epic place on the wild north coast. After our return to the hotel, there is enough time to gather strength to start our next photo session freshly strengthened.
In the afternoon we start a very scenic drive on Madeira’s most spectacular mountain ridge, the Encumeada Pass, which takes the island up to 1,007 m above sea level. M. runs through. We admire indescribably beautiful views over deep valleys, gorges and the Pico’s from Ribeira Brava on the south coast to São Vicente on the north coast of the island. Weather permitting, we embark straight from the mountain pass on an extraordinary levada walk in the Rabacal Nature Reserve. Accompanied by the chirping of birds and the gentle murmur of the water on the rock faces, dense, original laurel forests, the smell of damp moss and fog, flowers and glittering sunlight that penetrates through the trees and conjures up a fabulously beautiful atmosphere await us. It is simply impossible to resist the beauty of this landscape. After a few curves, a canopy of leaves opens up and immediately behind it, the “25 springs”, framed by rock faces rich in vegetation, trickle into a picturesque lagoon. Despite the wetness – or perhaps because of it – the basin, which is overgrown with lots of moss and ferns, is one of the most exciting and idyllic places on Madeira.
In time for sunset we continue to Ponta do Pargo, the westernmost municipality of Madeira. Even from a distance we can see a lighthouse enthroned on the rugged Atlantic cliffs. We should be free from giddiness, because left and right there is a drop of 312 meters. This makes Ponta do Pargo the highest beacon in Portugal, which sends three white flashes of light about 80 miles out to sea every second. One could almost think that the lighthouse flirts a bit with the sea instead of warning the seafarers. In front of us lies a dream setting with breathtaking views of the ocean and at the same time great opportunities for aerial photography. So we wait for the magical moment when the soft evening light creates an enchanting scenery that we will capture in our pictures. After an eventful day we process all our photographic impressions over a delicious meal. Even today there is enough time to clarify questions and gain new insights for your photography.
After an epic sunrise session along the scenic north coast and a final breakfast at our hotel in Porto Moniz, it’s time to shift our base to Madeira’s south coast for the remaining days. Upon arrival in Caniço, we spend the day in the beautiful surroundings of our hotel, quietly contemplating our captured images and discussing them during a post-processing masterclass workshop.
The next highlight awaits us in good time before the evening golden hour – the picturesque Pico do Arieiro – at 1,818 meters it is the third highest mountain on the island. Once at the top, we have a deep need to just be there, to stand still and take a deep breath to enjoy the magical moment when the breathtaking view over all of Madeira is at our feet. With a clear view, we should be able to see the neighboring island of Porto Santo, about 50 km away, and the Ilhas Desertas on the horizon. The Pico do Arieiro is also the starting point of our subsequent photo hike. The so-called ‘King’s Tour’ connects the Pico do Arieiro with the Pico Ruivo (1,861 m above sea level), the highest peak on the island – so we are literally on the “roof of Madeira”. The picturesque path on the ridge is very well secured and requires a certain level of fitness, but we are repeatedly rewarded with incredibly beautiful panoramas and, with a bit of luck, a magnificent spectacle above the clouds. Depending on the weather and energy level, we decide on site whether we want to walk the entire long route to Pico do Ruivo or whether we want to concentrate on the most scenic points. This is how we ensure that we reach our perfect sunset spot on time and in the best light. After the drive to the hotel, we look forward to a relaxing evening. Depending on the weather and energy level, we decide on site whether we want to walk the entire long route to Pico do Ruivo or whether we want to concentrate on the most scenic points. This is how we ensure that we reach our perfect sunset spot on time and in the best light. After the drive to the hotel, we look forward to a relaxing evening. Depending on the weather and energy level, we decide on site whether we want to walk the entire long route to Pico do Ruivo or whether we want to concentrate on the most scenic points. This is how we ensure that we reach our perfect sunset spot on time and in the best light. After the drive to the hotel, we look forward to a relaxing evening.
We don’t want to miss the morning ‘blue hour’, so we get up very early so as not to miss the best light moods on the north-east coast. Faial is nestled in one of the most beautiful valleys on the island, between Santana and Porto da Cruz. Both places are separated by the so-called “Eagle Rock”, one of the symbols of Madeira. Overwhelmed, we look at the imposing coastal formations with the 600 meter high rock outcrop (Penha de Àguia), which juts out into the glittering Atlantic. Arrived at our shooting point, we let ourselves be spoiled by a unique panorama and the multitude of possible image compositions. We spend a lot of time in this place, experimenting with slow and fast shutter speeds to create moody visual effects with the sea breaking on the cliffs. After we have all the photos taken, we will visit Santana, one of the most enchanting places in Madeira, with its famous little thatched houses, the Casas de Colmo, which are more like little doll’s houses and very well preserved in memory of the local heritage. After returning to the hotel, we look forward to a relaxing, creative break and a well-deserved refreshment.
In the afternoon we will visit a charming town full of red-roofed houses, quaint cobbled streets and historic architecture. The meaning of Ponta do Sol is clear from its name: Sol – the sun, as the pleasant region of south-west Madeira receives more sunshine all year round than any other part of the island. However, the place does not owe its name to statistics, but to the former rocky peaks that shine impressively in the evening sun. Due to its perfect location in a gorge, just off the south coast between Claheta and Ribeira Brava, and its stunning views of the dramatic sea cliffs, we look forward to endless creative photo opportunities during the evening golden hour.
At sunset, one of the most extraordinary and well-known waterfalls in Madeira is waiting for us – the Cascata dos Anjos in Ponta do Sol. The waterfall falls over a rock face onto the coastal road and offers an absolutely brilliant natural spectacle and photo opportunity. Locals drive here to wash their cars, while tourists chill out in bikinis and swimming trunks for a refreshing dip. Especially in the soft light of the sunset, the waterfall looks unreal. So we have a lot of fun photographing the romantic scenery and take lots of pictures before we round off the evening with a meal of delicious regional specialties together.
And again today: “Get up early!” because we want to reach our spot, the summit of Ponta de São Lourenço, in time before sunrise. With headlamps on, we make our way towards the Eastern Cape to the most famous viewpoint on the island before the first rays of the sun squint at us. Our hiking trail winds its way along the rugged cliffs in the immediate vicinity. Again and again there are wide views of the roaring Atlantic and the offshore rocky islands on which the surf is breaking. As a reward, the 160 meter high summit has a breathtaking panorama in store for us. On one side, the coast drops hundreds of meters vertically into the sea, while on the other side, gentle hills invite you to linger. Here we are from the sound of the waves, surrounded by the rich reds of the mountains and the shimmering sea that appears brighter as the sun rises. Fascinated, we soak up the mood and capture it in our numerous photos before we return to the hotel.
After we have captured all facets of the fantastic coastal landscape in our pictures, we continue our journey to the island’s capital, Funchal. The Portuguese city is also known as “Little Lisbon”. Noble Mediterranean buildings and many sights stretch along the coast. Even Empress Sissi and the former English Prime Minister Winston Churchill loved the city and its extreme location: it begins at sea level and rises to 1,200 meters! The views that open up here are correspondingly exciting. Funchal’s old town invites us to linger – so in the morning we admire the alley labyrinth with its beautifully painted doors and experience the time-honored walls, such as the Sé Cathedral from 1514 or the market hall, on a leisurely stroll.
Today’s sunset is spent at the Miradouro da Raposeira viewpoint, an easy-to-reach viewpoint over the south coast. From there we have a magnificent view over Paul do Mar as well as Prazeres, Jardim do Mar and parts of Faja da Ovelha. After we have returned from our tour, we exchange our photographic experiences, challenges and questions in a relaxed atmosphere in the hotel.
Today our alarm clock rings at unchristian times – but the idea of what awaits us later helps us to quickly overcome the tiredness. We set course again for the Pico do Arieiro, which we want to capture at sunrise – surrounded by a morning sea of clouds. As soon as we reach the summit, the countdown begins to wait for the beautiful colors of the sunrise, which bathes the cloud cover in red and gold light. So we let ourselves be pampered by the sight of this grandiose backdrop and extensively photograph our desired motif before we return to the hotel for a warming breakfast.
After a well-deserved breather, we visit the picturesque villages on the south coast in the afternoon. Our destination, Câmara de Lobos, is one of the oldest fishing villages in Madeira, the place name ‘Monk Seal Cave’ deriving from the many sea lions that lived in the bay at that time. The village became famous thanks to the fishermen who specialized in catching black scabbard fish and colored the bay with their emblematic and so characteristic colorful boats – “xavelhas”. The picturesque bay is also very popular with painters; even the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, painted this unique sight when he visited the island in 1950. During our photo walk we stroll comfortably through the idyllic village with its well-known bars and restaurants, in which we typical drinks, such. You can try, for example, ‘poncha’ or ‘gata’ – a fish that is caught in the waters off Madeira and then later dried.
n the afternoon, the peninsula of Ponta de São Lourenço is on our tour plan – a bizarre nature reserve at the easternmost tip of the island. On our approx. 1-hour hike, one of the last landscapes in Europe that has remained almost untouched by human hands awaits us here. This is Madeira too: on Cape Ponta de São Lourenço we encounter dry, almost desert-like soil of volcanic origin made of trachyte and red tuff with steep cliffs that have formed so spectacularly over thousands of years through erosion and the power of nature. In contrast to the rest of the island, there are almost no trees here. Today, Ponta de São Lourenço is still a place where imposing rocky cliffs, the sea and unique vegetation come together in an overwhelming masterpiece created by Mother Nature. the seclusion wild bays and breathtaking views of the Atlantic and the offshore islands make our photo hike a unique experience. We can’t get enough of each other and expressively stage the silhouettes of the rugged rock structures in the soft evening light before returning to the car late after sunset – so headlamps are a must. After returning to the hotel, we review our photographic experiences over a meal together and end the evening comfortably. The perfect end to an unforgettable journey. We can’t get enough of each other and expressively stage the silhouettes of the rugged rock structures in the soft evening light before returning to the car late after sunset – so headlamps are a must. After returning to the hotel, we review our photographic experiences over a meal together and end the evening comfortably. The perfect end to an unforgettable journey. We can’t get enough of each other and expressively stage the silhouettes of the rugged rock structures in the soft evening light before returning to the car late after sunset – so headlamps are a must. After returning to the hotel, we review our photographic experiences over a meal together and end the evening comfortably. The perfect end to an unforgettable journey.
Unfortunately, the farewell is already imminent – with many new impressions and photos in the camera, we are heading home today. Unforgettable mornings, evenings and nights let us tell stories that we will remember for a long time through our pictures.
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