Ponta de Sao Lourenco
Key information: Ponta de Sao Lourenco
- With its superb broken coastline, arid vegetation and bright and weird volcanic rocks, this stunning peninsula at Madeira’s far eastern end feels more like an eastern Canary island, or a Galapagos, than Madeira.
- An exciting contrast to those so-green levadas: not to be missed.
- Walkopedia rating88
- Natural interest17
- Human interest6
- Negative points4
- Total rating88
- Note: Popularity, crowding
- Length: 8km
- Maximum Altitude: 150m
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This stunning peninsula at Madeira’s far eastern end makes for a magnificent half-day expedition. With its superb broken coastline, arid vegetation and bright and weird volcanic rocks, it feels more like an eastern Canary island, or a Galapagos, than Madeira, so gives an exciting contrast to those so-green levadas.
The harsh magnificence and beauty of the peninsula will amaze you, as it winds away, in a series of sheared-off hills joined by narrows, one of them an extraordinary knife-edge, to its watery terminus. You will sense the full grandeur of the Atlantic as it pounds away at the northern flank.
You will view some exhibition geology – a jumble of volcanic rocks and forms and colours and textures, from soft tuff, to yellow sulphurous-looking bands bearing purple shards, to the remains of lava flows, to hard basalt dykes and intrusions into (apparently) metamorphosed sandstone, presumably under extreme heat and pressure. The sea cliffs show off an extraordinary array of bright strata and jagged excrescences.
The vegetation is fascinating and unique, including the low succulent ice plant and other dry-land plants. There is by all accounts a lot of birdlife, although we saw little while there, although we think we spotted the rare Berthelot’s pippet.
The site of the Cais do Sardinha house has charm, but ignore the guidebooks and don’t plan to picnic there – definitely plan to eat at leisure en route, and there are innumerable spots with superb views to choose from.
Delightful swimming off a little hidden quay is another bonus.
Reasonable walking on generally good paths - too curated for our tastes, lots of steps and fencing, although these are probably necessary given the visitor numbers. Come prepared for unpredictable weather.
This walk is popular, with good cause, and in all guidebooks and on all local walk company itineraries; the trail was overcrowded, to our taste, when Walkopedia was there (admittedly a Sunday): we encountered files of 15+ people.
Transport: bus or car.
The excellent Walking in Madeira by Paddy Dillon for Cicerone and Sunflower’s Madeira Car Tours and Walks describe this walks. Find these and other books on Amazon.
See our Madeira page for further information on Madeira and walking photos, and detailed practical information, including weather and transport.
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