VEREDA DA PONTA DE SÃO LOURENÇO (PR8): ONE OF THE BEST HIKES IN MADEIRA
Hiking in Ponta da São Lourenço
If you love nature and hiking as much as we do, Madeirais the perfect place for you. This Portuguese archipelago offers plenty of options for any type of hikers, from short and easy trails to challenging multi-day treks, each through totally different landscapes and terrains.
One of the most popular hikes and also one of our favourites is the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço, located on the eastern side of Madeira. It is one of the few corners of the island that does not have lush vegetation all year round, but has a dry and desolate character with a lot of charm. Whether it is because of the strong winds in the area or because it is far from the rest of the island, Punta de São Lourenço has a very different atmosphere that contrasts completely with the tropical green of the rest of the island.
This trail is seven kilometres long with several viewpoints that offer a spectacular view of the cliffs, where you can observe the volcanic erosion that has taken place over millions of years.
The trail takes you along a narrow, steep stretch of land that goes into the Atlantic Ocean to the most easterly point of Madeira, and certainly the furthest point that can be reached on foot, Morro do Furado. From there you will find the best view of the Deserts Islands (in Portuguese: Ilhas Desertas).
It is definitely worth visiting the Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenço more than once to see the landscape at different times of the day, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Below, we give you all the details and practical information you need to follow this trail on your trip to Madeira.
Useful information and details of the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço hike
All you need to know about the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço:
Hike distance: The total distance of the trail is 7 kilometres.
Type of hike:Loop trail
Hike duration: The walk will take you around 2-3 hours, especially if you stop at some of the many scenic spots.
Difficulty of the hike:In general, it is a relatively easy route with a fairly steep final climb to get the best possible view of the small islands at the top.
This hike has several metres of elevation gain, but they are distributed along the entire trail. The path is dirt and quite rocky, so it is recommended to wear suitable footwear.
It also has some parts close to the cliff edge but there is plenty of space and it is well maintained with handrails for safety. What makes this route a little more demanding is the exposure to wind and sun during the whole journey.
Inclination:The total inclination of this route is around 450 m.
Tips for this hike:
- Download the WalkMe app (the local mobile app for hiking trails in Madeira), very useful especially for offline areas.
- It is highly recommended to bring an extra layer of clothing for areas with strong winds and sun protection, as you will not have any shade along the way.
- In case of hiking the route at sunrise or sunset, a torch is a must.
How to get to Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço
The Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço is located on the east end of Madeira Island, as you can see on the map, there are several rock formations that form this point.
The trail starts in Baia d’Abra, near Caniçal. In total, it takes about half an hour by car to get from Funchal to Ponta de Sao Lourenço.
After following the VR1 road in the direction of Caniçal, take the turn-off for the ER 109, which will take you directly to an esplanade with a small roundabout where you can park your car. You can’t get lost as the road ends at this point as you can see on Google maps. Once there, you will see a sign with the map and the start of the clearly signposted path.
Best time to visit the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço
Due to its popularity and accessibility, this route is often very busy, so the best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Sunrise and sunset
Both sunrise and sunset from this point of the island are worth it. And if you go at this time of day, you are likely to be able to enjoy the landscape without the crowds of tourists.
If you are lucky and the sky is clear, sunrise at Ponta do São Lourenço can be a magical experience. As you can see in some of the photos, we were on a very cloudy day so our expectations of the sunrise were quite low. However, we were still surprised and the spectacle of the sun filtering through the clouds was very beautiful.
Personally, we recommend you to startthis route 1 hour before the official sunrise time in order to arrive in time to the end point of the trail which is the Pico do Furado, from where you will have a unique panoramic view of the small islands at sunrise.
Note that to get to see the sunrise from the end you will have to walk in the dark on the way there, so it is crucial to bring a torch, and the same for the return trip at sunset.
If for whatever reason you can’t do the hike at these times, don’t worry as the views of the cliffs are incredible at any time of the day.
What to expect from this hike and our experience
We started the route in the dark, with the aim of seeing a good sunriseat the final viewpoint on Pico do Furado. As we have already explained in the previous point, to arrive on time you have to startthe hike approximately one hour before the official sunrise time.
Keep in mind that if you go by car from Funchal it is about half an hour and from Caniço, where we were, it is about 20 minutes. So, if you are staying in one of these areas you need to leave about an hour and a half before sunrise to arrive on time.
When you arrive at the car park it will probably be empty and dark, so it is important that you carry a torchwith you. We were practically alone for the whole walk, except on the final return stretch when we came across some hikers who were just starting out.
The hike starts from the car park area and begins with a number of paved steps that go down the hill for about 5 minutes until you get to the wooden bridge. Eventually, these steps become a dirt and rock path that go downhill to the other side of the hill.
After walking for about 10 minutes from the start of the path, you will come to a viewpointwhere you can see the famous rock of São Lourenço. In our case, as we made the walk in the dark we couldn’t see it at first, but we enjoyed the views from the viewpoint and the rock formations with orange tones on the way back. It is very windy at this point of the trail, but make sure you don’t miss it because it is one of the best views of the cliffs.
After the viewpoint you will keep walking uphillfor a while, this part of the path is also quite windyas it is totally exposed, but the path is wide and safe. This segment is short and you will soon reach another narrower area where the wind disappears completely.
The trail follows a dirt and rocky road with several ups and downs, passing some viewpoints and a plateauwhere you will find the only cafeteria of the trail, Casa do Sardinha,
Past the cafeteria you will see the last slope leading to the final viewpoint.
Views from Pico do Furado
This last climb involves some steep stairs, you will see that there is a sign pointing out that the official route ends at this point and that the path to the Pico do Furado is dangerous, but there is no fence to prevent you from passing.
Once you reach these stairs, you can choose to go back or go up to the viewpoint at the top.
We decided to go up and, to be honest, only some of the steps were in need of repair, but we felt no sense of danger at any time. We hiked up the hill to Pico do Furado and it is definitely the perfect place to watch the sunrise with amazing views.
The way up to Pico do Furado is steep and has wooden planks on the ground as steps at the beginning, which then become less defined and the ascent becomes rocky and dirt. Once you reach the top you are at the top of Sao Lourenço with a unique view of the small islands.
At the top it’s very windy, so be careful not to get too close to the edge of the cliff and if you’re going for sunrise take several layers of clothing – you’ll be grateful for it as you wait for the sun to rise.
Once we got to the top, we tried to fly the drone to capture the final part of the point that cannot be reached on foot as it is cut off by a large gap in the ocean. But it was an unsuccessful attempt because it was so windy that day that it was impossible.
As mentioned above, it was a very cloudy day so the conditions were not ideal for watching the sunrise, but it was still worth it to see the sun breaking through the clouds in all directions.
On the way back, when we were on the final part of the trail, we decided to go down to a beautiful pebble beach that can be seen from the path. If you are not in a hurry, it is a quiet place to make ashort stop.
In short, Madeira Island is a real gem. It is an amazing and diverse place with many different landscapes to explore. There are hundreds of hikes on the island, and the Vereda do Ponta de Sao Lourenço at sunrise is one of our favourites. So don’t forget to add this itinerary to your list for when you visit Madeira Island.
We hope this post will inspire you and help you plan your visit to this part of Portugal. If you have any questions or recommendations feel free to leave us a comment here or contact us on social media, @lostcoconuts 😊
Hi! We are María & Toni, digital nomads and creators of Lost Coconuts.
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