22 Feb CURRAL DAS FREIRAS: DOWN TO THE VALLEY OF THE NUNS
This is a short and relatively easy hike. You can combine it with a visit to Funchal, taking the bus to Eira do Serrado from there. An old, steep cobblestone path will lead you from Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras, offering great views along the way down.
We are starting this hike just past noon. We have spend the entire morning in Funchal, getting out of bed very early to see the city awake. After walking the boulevard for some time and visiting the old market, we are up for a dose of nature! Since we don’t have our rental car yet, we decide to take the bus to Eira do Serrado, so we can descend to Curral das Freiras down in the valley. It’s not a long walk, so a perfect choice since we’re starting later in the day.
GETTING TO EIRA DO SERRADO
It’s only a short busride to Eira do Serrado, and I always enjoy taking a bus on Madeira, being able to watch the surroundings while the bus creaps up steep and winding roads. Since it’s midday, the buses don’t go all the way to Eira do Serrado anymore: they do in the morning and at the end of the day. No problem though, the bus can drop us off at a tunnel on the way to Eira do Serrado. From there, it’s only a 30 minute walk. This does mean walking on the road though, no pedestrian paths here, so be careful. Not a lot of cars on this road while we are walking here, so it was never unsafe. The road itself offers some nice views on the valley and the mountains surrounding it, so we were having a good time already.
DESCENDING THE STEEP PATH TO CURRAL DAS FREIRAS
Before starting the descend to the valley, take some time to walk around at the Eira do Serrado viewpoint. There is a walking path around a mountain here, with a sort of balcony from which you can oversee the entire valley.
The beginning of the path to Curral das Freiras leads us through a small shadowy forest, which is great since temperatures can be pretty high during the summer months. Thank you trees, for offering us some respite from the heat! After leaving the trees, the rest the path follows the curves of the mountain, zigzagging down. Nothing but good views here and we can see the village Curral das Freiras long before we arrive there. The path is pretty steep: shaking legs are guaranteed! While we are descending, we cross lots of people doing the hike the other way around: starting at Curral das Freiras and climbing up to Eira do Serrado. Seeing their red and heated faces, I am so happy we took the bus and started at the highest point of the walk.
CURRAL DAS FREIRAS: NUNS VALLEY
The village of Curral das Freiras is located in a cauldron shaped valley, shielded from view by the high mountains surrounding it. The village is named for an interesting bit of Madeiran history. Curral das Freiras, meaning nuns valley, used to be a hideaway for nuns in times long past. During 16th century pirate attacks on the island, nuns from Funchals’ monastery fled to this remote village in the valley.
Nowadays the village is very popular among tourists. To be honest: I didn’t find the village itself very attractive. Although I really enjoyed the hike down to the village, I wouldn’t go there just to see the village. But, for anyone looking for a short hike, this is a great option!