Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Grutas de Sao Vicente- Lava Tubes and the town of Sao Vicente

I know I said I was wrapping up Madeira posts, but then I realized I forgot to talk about this amazing spot.  If you have been reading along, then you know that Madeira is a volcanic island. It is basically a few large volcanic rocks sitting in the Atlantic Ocean.  The island has its dramatic volcanic peaks and cliffs, with some of the most fertile soil for raising crops.  

To learn more about the history of how the island was formed, and about volcanism in general, we headed to the north cost of the island to Sao Vicente and the Grutas de Sao Vicente, the caves/lava tubes open to the public on the island. 

Price:  Adults 8 euros Children 6 euros 
Hours:  10am to 7pm
About:  A two part exhibit, 30 minutes through the tubes
 and another 30 minutes in exhibits and movies after 

Dont have a car?  You can rent a harley and visit the caves.  Book here!

Bridge leading to the caves/lava tubes 

Water flowing under the suspension bridge 
Views around Sao Vicente 
Views around Sao Vicente 
One of the many stray cats that lives at the welcome center
Views from the welcome center lot 
"The Archipelago of Madeira was created through a "Hot Spot".  Volcanoes formed the islands when the Eurasian Plate moved over a hotspot in the same way the islands of Hawaii formed. The lava that formed Madeira reached above the ocean’s surface about 5.2 million years ago.  The island is only the top quarter of the entire volcanic system. The first phase of volcanic activity began about 18 million years ago.  Two other phases formed the volcanic cliffs of the northern and southern shores. "--Madeira Geology
Exit leaving the caves/lava tubes 
Exit leaving the caves/lava tubes 
Inside the lava tubes 

The São Vicente Caves were formed during this last phase of volcanic activity. The caves were the result of an outbreak of lava that cooled and solidified on the surface creating a tubular cavity while lava continued to flow in high temperatures and speeds through these newly created underground “pipes” until the volcano no longer had lava to flow."--Madeira Geology

The caves were first reported in 1885 by locals, and opened to the public on October 1st, 1996. They were among the first volcanic caves to be opened to the public in Portugal and may be visited by following an underground route running for over 1,000 m. The height of the caves varies between 5 and 6 metres.  Visit Madeira

short lava tube 
We had to wait about 10 minutes for the next tour to start through the lava tubes.  An English speaking tour guide lead about 20 people through a 30 minute tour of the lava tubes.  The tour was very informational, pointing out the various forms of lava, the construction of the tubes, and other information on how the tubes and the island were formed.  

lava dripping from the ceiling of the tubes 

water in the lava tubes, dripping through the ceiling due to irrigation and rain above us. 
walking path through the lava tubes 
"At the end of the tour, visitors may access the Volcano Centre, a pavilion offering a range of educational and entertaining audiovisual displays that recreate the geological evolution of the caves, the eruption of a volcano and even a simulation of the birth of the Madeira Islands". Visit Madeira

Views of the river again, leaving the tubes 
Arriving on the north coast- Sao Vicente 
After leaving the Lava Tubes, we followed the road north until we reached the North Coast of Madeira.  The water was rough but the landscape was gorgeous.  This part of the island was very quiet, and we settled into a small cafe.  On our way out of the restaurant, we asked our server about a waterfall we had seen in a picture on my guide book.  She told us it was just around the bend, and we made one last stop at the Sao Vicente waterfall before heading back to Funchal.  We took a few pictures and enjoyed the views.  If you stop at the waterfall to take pictures, beware of the cars speeding out of the tunnel (one of about 150 on the island). 

Bridge and tiny chapel in Sao Vicente 
Waterfall in Sao Vicente 
Waterfall in Sao Vicente 

1 comment :

  1. Very nice post of the caves of Sao Vicente on Madeira lesser known North Coast. Thank you so much for sharing.


Let's Chat!