Fanal Forest (Madeira)
Hike and Natural Phenomenon in Porto Moniz (Madeira)
On the northern side of Madeira Island, you’ll encounter an enchanting mist that weaves a captivating ambiance through the ancient trees of Fanal Forest. The gnarled branches of the century-old Ocotea Foetens trees intermingle with the fog, creating a scene straight out of a fairy tale. In this blog post, I will provide you with comprehensive insights into what you can anticipate when visiting Fanal, directions on how to reach this destination, an overview of the various walking trails, hikes, and scenic viewpoints in the vicinity, as well as some photography tips for capturing the essence of Fanal.
Getting to Fanal Forest
Situated on the north-western tip of Madeira Island, Fanal Forest is conveniently accessible and parking can be found at Parque de Merendas do Fanal. Here, you can park your vehicle and embark on a short walk of a few hundred meters into the forest or visit the nearby viewpoint, which is also just a short distance from the parking area. The journey from Funchal to Fanal Forest typically takes about one hour by car.
The Best Time to Explore Fanal Forest
Fanal Forest is a year-round attraction, but certain weather conditions enhance its mystical allure. Ideally, you’d want the entire forest blanketed in fog to create the ethereal, moody vibe often seen in my photographs. Given its elevation of 1,150 meters above sea level, fog is not uncommon in this region. However, predicting when it will be foggy or clear can be challenging. Frequently, while it’s sunny and clear by the beach at sea level, the forest can remain shrouded in mist.
One valuable tip is that foggy conditions are more likely in the morning rather than in the evening. We selected a day when the mountains had been foggy for a few days and then headed to Fanal Forest for sunrise the next morning. It turned out to be slightly too foggy and windy, but we appreciated how the fog enveloped the area, creating a breath-taking scene.
What to Anticipate at Fanal Forest
This ancient laurel forest, located in the northwest of Madeira Island, is renowned for its enchanting and eerie beauty. Upon entering the forest, you’ll encounter a dense canopy of trees that diffuses the light, casting a softer, otherworldly glow. The forest floor is adorned with a thick layer of moss, further enhancing the mystical atmosphere, especially when combined with the fog that often drifts through the area.
While navigating through the forest, you’ll come across several hiking trails with varying levels of difficulty, catering to both experienced and novice hikers. Keep an eye out for the famous “fairy tale trees,” ancient laurel trees with twisted and contorted branches that evoke the imagery of a fairy tale.
Fanal Forest undergoes a remarkable transformation at night. Enveloped in mist, bathed in moonlight and starlight filtering through the trees, it takes on a mystical and ethereal persona. Night-time is the perfect opportunity for a guided hike through the forest, where you can uncover the magic of the forest as twilight sets in. You might even catch a glimpse of some nocturnal forest dwellers, such as owls or bats.
Lagoa do Fanal
Just beyond the forest’s edge lies the captivating Fanal Pond (Lagoa do Fanal). Nestled amidst the winding laurel trees, this circular, petite pool is often enveloped in dense mist, making it a superb location for photography.
In conclusion, Fanal Forest is an essential destination for anyone visiting Madeira. Its serene beauty, magical atmosphere, and myriad opportunities for adventure make it an ideal place to reconnect with nature and escape the rigors of everyday life. Whether you explore it during the day or embark on a guided night hike, Fanal Forest promises to leave you rejuvenated and inspired by its enchanting allure.
Hiking in the Fanal Forest
Vereda do Fanal (PR 13)
The Vereda do Fanal is the most renowned hiking trail in Madeira’s Fanal region. This one-way path leads you from the Paul da Serra plateau to the enchanting Fanal Forest, a journey that typically takes approximately 4 hours one way.
It’s essential to note that this trail follows a point-to-point or in-and-out route, which means you’ll need to arrange transportation in advance, hitchhike, or be prepared for a 13-mile (22 km) round-trip excursion.
Your return point will be the Fanal Forestry Station (Posto Florestal Fanal), where you’ll find a more extensive parking area and your best chance of securing a ride back to your starting point.
Levada dos Cedros (PR 14)
The Levada dos Cedros trail meanders through nearly 4 miles (6 km) of Fanal Forest’s most captivating landscapes. As you traverse this path, you’ll be surrounded by lush green forests and the majestic Ocotea Foetens trees. The trail leads to a breathtaking multi-level waterfall where you can refresh yourself before retracing your steps for the return journey.
The Fanal Forest (Madeira) appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Porto Moniz (Madeira)!
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