Achadas da Cruz, Madeira’s Secluded Paradise

On the northwestern corner of Portugal’s enchanting island of Madeira lies a hidden jewel cradled between the cliffs. A sheer drop of 450 meters below the town of Achadas da Cruz, a tiny fishing village called Fajá da Quebrada Nova hugs the coast. From the viewing platform above, Fajá da Quebrada Nova looks like a tiny collection of homes surrounded by a patchwork of greenery, ringed by the sea.   

Fajá da Quebrada Nova from above, Photo by Becky Gillespie

How to Get There

When you look up directions by car to Achadas da Cruz from Madeira’s capital of Funchal, you will be guided to the parking lot next to the cable car. Once you reach the cable car, there are two different ways to reach Fajá da Quebrada from Achadas da Cruz: on foot or by taking Europe’s steepest cable car!

Hiking down will take you about 30 minutes along a 2-kilometer trail. While this trail is very steep, it has a wide path and is well-maintained. If you take it slow, you should be fine.

The cable car runs from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is open every day, although it can suddenly be closed if the wind is too strong or the cable car operator is unavailable. It costs 3 € return, which just might be the best deal on the island! This cable car is actually the steepest in Europe at a 98% gradient, but it is surprisingly sturdy. If you are one of the last passengers to return from the bottom, you just might be asked to operate the cable car back up yourself!

The closing time of the cable car is important because if you miss the last cable car, then the only way back up is the hiking trail. Try your best to return to the top when it is still light, as it is dangerous to climb back up in the dark.

History

The small parish of Fajá da Quebrada Nova awaits at the bottom of the cable car. This town used to have a population of over 100 who raised livestock and tended to their small farms.  Many of the homes in Fajá da Quebrada Nova have been abandoned for years, which makes this place even more mysterious and open for exploration.

Houses in Fajá da Quebrada Nova, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Exploring Fajá da Quebrada Nova

Two different sections of villages can be explored here. The closest to the cable car still has some homes where people stay overnight. When we visited, we were actually invited into one of the homes, which also seemed to operate as a local bar. The man who invited us in told us that he was one of the cable car operators and served us limpets (lapas in Portuguese) with garlic butter and cold beers—truly an unexpected treat.

Fresh limpets and bread in Fajá Quebrada Nova, Photo by Becky Gillespie

The brick path along the coast that leads from the first village to the next is gentle and well-maintained. The second village is basically abandoned, but it is well worth the walk over to see the remnants of a traditional Madeiran village while also feeling like you are at the edge of the world. The powerful waves pounding the stones piled up along the coast create a sense of awe, and we found ourselves so mesmerized that we stopped by the beach to reflect on life as part of our hike here.

The village of Fajá da Quebrada Nova, Photo by Becky Gillespie

We don’t advise you to swim in the water here, as the waves can be rough and the currents quite strong. Only the most confident swimmers should go for a dip in the hot afternoon sun. In the early morning, the village is still in the shade, so take this into consideration if you’d like to take photos.

Walking the brick-lined path in Fajá da Quebrada Nova, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Although Achadas da Cruz is only accessible by car or as part of a tour, it is definitely worth a visit. This place still feels off-the-beaten path compared to many other hikes on the island, and its isolated location and abandoned villages will make you feel like a real explorer. In our opinion, this is one of the most unique places on the island in addition to the Fanal forest, and we highly recommend that you make time for a visit.

A bar with a view in Fajá Quebrada Nova, Photo by Becky Gillespie

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