Madeira Camping Expedition: From Encumeada to São Vicente

Madeira Camping Expedition: From Encumeada to São Vicente

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I wake up in Encumada, high up in the middle of the mountains. On my right side was São Vicente, on the left side was Ribeira Brava and Bica da Cana ahead further up. Now with sunlight, around 8:30 am, I woke up and walked a little around the tent to see the place where I slept and get a better look at where I really was.

The night before I had called several local accommodations, more than 20 different accommodations. Of all of them, only one of them gave me a more or less answer, the lady who helped me supposedly had a room available, but it wasn’t a room she usually rented. She would ask her husband and give me an answer later. My goal was to stay in São Vicente for 2 to 3 days, recharge my batteries and follow the trail.

I was already hungry, I only had some bread, tuna biscuits and water left, that was what I ate for breakfast to continue my journey to the end of Encumeada.

Breakfast in Encumeada

After eating I continued walking, there were already some people on the trail passing me. The path was very steep, very high steps, very steep and dangerous, any slip could cause injury, as my backpack was very heavy, more than 20kg. The view from there was incredible. I followed the trail, from up there I could see São Vicente, a beautiful village, and I was already super curious to know what it was like.

I met several people going up the trail, taking the opposite path to mine. It is very common to see hikers making the journey from Porto Moniz to Funchal, or from Encumeada to Pico Ruivo. I went down a little further and on the way I was able to take some really cool photos and videos. At a certain point, I came out on the main road, where there are some cars passing by and there are also tourist buses.

Encumeada is an area on the island of Madeira that connects Ribeira Brava to several areas in the north of the island, that is, it is where it connects the south with the north. It is there that PR17 begins, which heads to the north of the island and PR21 which heads to São Vicente. Encumeada is located in the Laurissilva forest protection area, approximately 980 meters above sea level. It is a crossing point where many tourists go. It is close to the Encumeada inn, along the ER105, where you can stay. There is also a small shop where they sell various items from Madeira Island, gift items, souvenirs and much more. Furthermore, this little shop is also a cafe, there were cupcakes, breads, honey cake, juice and other drinks, such as niquita, a traditional drink from Madeira. I ordered a coffee with milk, which on the mainland the Portuguese call “meia de lei” and in Madeira they call “chinesa”. There in that place I would have my second breakfast (the first was upstairs when I woke up), although the first wasn’t that strong. Furthermore, I also bought a backpack and a traditional Madeira hat.

This little shop also has several other items to buy, gifts, toys, traditional clothing, things to give to a friend or take as a souvenir of Madeira.

PR21 – Caminho do Norte

After breakfast, I headed towards PR21 – Caminho do Norte. PR21 is the trail that connects Encumeada to the vicinity of São Vicente, with a total length of 3.2km. It is also called Caminho do Norte, as it connects the central point of Madeira Island (Boca da Encumeada), to the northern area of ​​the island. I followed PR21, entering a dense forest, very humid and with very dense vegetation. There you can already see some vegetation from the Laurissilva forest. The path is very winding and you can also see that there are some water paths through which water passes in times of rain, they are large holes in the ground that form paths where there would supposedly be a small stream on rainy days.

The ER228 road runs right next to it, you can hear the sound of cars passing by. As I go down, I get closer to that road, until I reach a point where there is an exit to that road, and there I went. Now following the ER228, now approximately 700 meters above sea level, I went along the shoulder very carefully when cars passed, always signaling to let drivers know that I was there and to warn drivers to pay attention. The path along the ER228 road is very beautiful, at this point I’m already in the middle of the São Vicente Valley, in the middle of the mountains, it’s really beautiful, mountains on both sides.

At this point you can already see the details of the place, how the roads were built, the nature is different from before in Pico Ruivo, I realize that I was in the middle of the mountains. Walking along ER228 for about 35 minutes, I saw a trail to some stairs with a sign saying “Caminho do Quebra Panelas”, where I should follow. I saw an apple tree on the side of the road, I was hungry, so I went to get some. I also saw some kiwi trees, but I didn’t get them.


At a certain point, I left the forest and found myself walking along a street in the village of São Vicente, more precisely in Rosário, when I saw a bridge that I had to cross to get to the ER208 road.

This part of the journey along PR21, from Boca da Encumeada to Rosário comprises approximately 4.37km, which I completed in approximately 2 hours walking calmly.


Rosário is the first stop on this trail. Rosário is a small village just above São Vicente. It is in the middle of the valley, in the middle of the mountains. There are some cafes and small shops there, nothing special.

In Rosário I crossed the bridge to the left, going to the ER208, towards the center of São Vicente, where I would stay. This time I walked a lot, it seemed like I would never arrive. I stayed for a while at a Repsol fuel station, there I ate a sandwich, withdrew money from a 24-hour cashier and called Dona Eduarda to confirm my stay.

Cantinho das Feiteiras – Local Accommodation in São Vicente

Arriving at the accommodation I was very well received, Mrs. Eduarda is a fantastic person, very hospitable. As soon as I arrived she took me to my room, she offered me some fruit and something to drink. I never imagined I would be treated so well there. Furthermore, she left a honey cake on the counter for me in the room. I believe this is one of the reasons I loved visiting Madeira. In the house, I practically had an entire kitchen to myself, I’ll leave a photo below for you. I was in the middle of Vale de São Vicente with a very beautiful view of the village and the city chapel.

Dinner in São Vicente

It was already 4 pm, I urgently needed to take a shower and eat to regain my strength, so I could plan my next steps. I did so, took a shower and went to a grocery store further down, about a 3-minute walk away.

I found it very curious that the price of food there is cheaper than in mainland Portugal, around 15% cheaper. I then bought some steaks, beer and some cookies.

That night was very special, I had a wonderful dinner there. I had a fully equipped kitchen at my disposal to make my dinner. So I made pasta with meat and some vegetables (this pasta would get me through the next few days). It was a great experience to be able to make my own dinner there. Dona Eduarda also offered me a bottle of wine, so I drank some. I’ll leave some photos below for you.

In the Next Chapter

That day I didn’t walk much, I woke up in the middle of the mountains, had coffee in Encumeada, walked the PR21 towards São Vicente and had an incredible dinner. The rest of the night I just rested and prepared my equipment and clothes. The next day I would go to Porto Moniz by bus, have lunch there, as well as going to the famous Porto Moniz swimming pool.

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