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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Eira do Serrado and Curral das Freiras- Madeira

Eira do Serrado (Lookout Point) 
and Curral das Freiras (Nun's Valley)
Mountains of the Interior

After our morning trip up to Pico do Arieiro, we had plans to see some more of middle Madeira, or as my guidebook called it "Mountains of the Interior". A trip to Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley) is one of the most popular trips from Funchal (capital of Madeira).  After seeing Madeiras majestic peaks, it only seemed right to drive down into its gorgeous valleys, nestled in between the mountains. Curral das Freiras sits in a huge cauldron, and earned its name as Nun's Valley  in 1566 when the nuns of Santa Clara convent fled from pirates attaching Funchal and found refuge in this area. 

     No Car? No Problem!
Book a tour HERE to see this part of the island, 
along with other spots of central Madeira. 

View down below of Nun's Valley

This trip is that typical Madeiran combination of awe-inspiring mountain scenery, an easy-going walk, local specialties and welcoming locals.  Also in this area, is a very popular Miradouro (viewpoint) called Eira do Serrado.  If you want to combine a nice walk with these two spots, you can drive to the Eira do Serrado lookout (1094 m above sea level) and hike down to Curral das Freiras. The path starts behind the hotel and is 3.3 to 4.5 km, roughly a 1.5 to 2 hour walk (depending which guide you read).  You will have to climb back up to get to your car, or if you are taking a bus or taxi, they can meet you at the bottom (last busses from Curral das Freiras leave leave in the evening, morning busses stop in Eira do Serrado but later services miss it).  
Terraced garden in Curral das Freiras 

Or, you can do it the lazy/short on time way and drive to each destination separately. Which is exactly what we did.  We drove to Curral das Freiras snapped a few pictures and had lunch at Vale das Freiras. This area is known for its scenic views of the valley, but also their local chestnuts (Castanha) and ginja, a cherry liquor.  The local chestnuts are harvested between October and January.  We had some of the famous roasted chestnuts, poncha, and ginja along with other Portuguese specialties of meat, fish and potatoes.  This area is also well known for its Chestnut festival originating back to when the area had a suprlus in chestnuts.  Chestnuts were used (and still are) in anything from soups and cakes, to puddings and liquors.  Vale das Freiras was a great spot to have lunch right off the main road with a balcony, tables, and umbrellas looking over the beautiful views of the valley.

Roasted Chestnuts 
Having lunch in Curral das Freiras

Views in Curral das Freiras 
Eira do Serrado viewpoint 
Start of the walkway at Eira do Serrado
Hike down from Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras \
Walkway at Eira do Serrado 
View from Eira do Serrado of Curral das Freiras

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