After a series of posts from Madeira (you can read them all HERE), the last one is the icing on the cake – it is about the most unique, mysterious, and unusual place on the island – the magical Fanal forest.
There are the places to travel to and discover, they stay in your head for a long time and there are the places the memories of which you want to share. Despite visiting over 85 countries I have never seen anything like this before. Entering Fanal Forest in Madeira is like entering a page from a fairy tale book. With every minute you become part of an extraordinary world shrouded in dense fog, unknown sounds, and mysterious shapes. The first thing that came to my mind was: I came across the Chronicles of Narnia, but it’s really happening!
Make yourself a cup of coffee, because I’m about to take you to another dimension…
How to get to Fanal Forest
The Fanal Forest is located on the Paul da Serra plateau in the north-west of Madeira, about 10 km east of the town of Ribeira da Janela. If you are going from Funchal, the trip is 50 km long and takes around an hour and a half. The only way to get here is by car, and you can park in the small parking lot marked as “Faial Parking” on Google Maps. Then you can walk a few hundred meters straight into the forest or visit the nearby viewpoint, which is also a few hundred meters from the parking lot.
When is the best time to visit the Fanal Forest
Fanal Forest, like the whole of Madeira, is a great place to visit all year round due to its stable spring weather. However, when it comes to the forest itself, there are certain weather conditions that make this place so magical. To experience the effect you see in our photos, the forest must be sinking in fog, therefore you must be lucky. We visited the forest several times at different times of the day and each time there was fog. At this altitude, 1150 m above sea level, it is not a rare phenomenon, so it is very likely that you will be able to experience what we experienced. To increase the probability even more, it is best to visit the forest in the morning or in the evening (then as it is getting dark the effect is completely different, but still amazing).
Goal: let yourself dive into the omnipresent fog in Fanal Forest
When the first explorers came to Madeira, the island was covered in the Laurisilva forest. This is one of nature’s most beautiful treasures. It is at least 20 million years old and it means that it outsurvived the Ice Age! It is gorgeous and exotic, with a green mantle of moss and lichen that surrounds tree trunks and rocks.
It can be seen in limited areas of Macaronesia (Madeira, Azores, Canary Islands, and Cape Verde). In 1999 it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The island of Madeira has the largest piece of the forest, as it covers an area of about 20% of the territory, especially on the northern coast in the national parks: Florestal das Queimadas, Fanal, Rabaçal, Chão dos Louros and Chão da Ribeira.
You really don’t have to walk miles to visit the forest. It will absorb you a few meters from the parking lot and will allow you to enjoy twisted trees, mystical fog, and magical scenery. For me, that was the essence of the experience: wandering around the trees, getting lost in a thick fog with the feeling that reality drifted away and I am the character of a fairy tale.
Creative photography in Fanal Forest
Fanal Forest is an amazing place when it comes to taking photos. As I mentioned at the beginning, we visited this place several times and each time we took advantage of the opportunity to take photos against different sceneries.
One time we were able to take romantic and fairy-tale-like photos (please appreciate my sacrifice to pose in a white dress, even though it was cold and wet :)), and the next time, when we arrived late in the evening, it was already dark and twisted tree branches created scenery straight from a horror movie (for me these were the Stranger Things vibes).
As we all know, photos are best when one person can pose thanks to which we can give the trees some scale and effect in the frame. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you are surrounded by dozens of cows grazing in the forest.
Possible hike options in Fanal Forest
If you want to spend more time in this area, there are several options for hikes:
Vereda do Fanal (PR13)
The hike begins on the Paul da Serra plateau and ends in Fanal, near the forest guard office. There is a volcano crater at the top. You will come across spectacular views of the island and the ocean. The trail is located in the area of the Laurissilva forest, which has been classified as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage and is part of the Natura 2000 network. One of the attractions of this trail is the remains of ropes from a device used to transport wood and shrubs.
Levada dos Cedros (PR14)
The Levada begins on the Paul da Serra plateau – the only plateau in Madeira. Levada dos Cedros is a water canal dating back to the 17th-century. The route leads through the Laurissilva forest and the Fanal crater. The most interesting natural specimens are the laurel forests, in which several specimens of laurel are natural monuments from the times before the island was even discovered. The water in the Levada comes from the springs of Lombo do Cedro, located at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level, on the slope of the right bank of the Ribeira da Janela stream.
For more info about the best hikes on Madeira check out this post: The best hikes and levada walks in Madeira
The photos you can see in this post are the effect of my collaboration with Michael. We believe in the synergy effect, which is why we have decided to work together during this trip. We hope that it will be an inspiration for your European trips.