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Day 6 Alternative - Boca da Corrida to Fajã Escura

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  • Along an ancient trail
    / Along an ancient trail
    Photo: Suzel Gary
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This is an alternative walk, only to be walked if it is impossible to do the standard walk due to bad weather, etc. You will be advised locally about this. 

The scenic ancient trail joins the standard walk at Relvinha Pass, facing Madeira's highest mountains range. A steep descent slides down to the first houses of Fajã Escura. 

moderate
Distance 6.7 km
3:30 h
170 m
731 m
1,366 m
640 m

Today’s alternate route, should you be prevented from doing the standard walk starts from the car park at Boca da Corrida, and initially presents the walker with a steep climb up a good cobbled pathway. The views to the East are impressive, and as you reach the ridge, similarly grand views to the West are also opened up. The halfway point is marked by the looming summit of Pico Grande, where you have the option of climbing the mountain (approx. 90 mins in total). However, this involves a very steep ascent, and therefore a very tricky descent, and is not recommended in poor weather. The descent in Fajã Escura is a straightforward zig-zag through a pleasant forest landscape before reaching the village on the valley floor.

Author’s recommendation

Encumeada Pass divides the highlands into the mountainous eastern part and the plateau on the west part; however, it acts as a junction between the north and south sides of Madeira. Indeed, the first part of the walk follows an old path which used to be the main route from north to south as it connects to Funchal.  

Protected by the Pico Grande summit, the ascent to Relvinha is worth the effort with its rewarding mountain atmosphere and views. A rest at the noteworthy snack bar is well deserved at the end of the walk. 

Profile picture of Laura Paterson
Author
Laura Paterson
Update: January 19, 2022
Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
1,366 m
Lowest point
640 m

Safety information

  •  Some slippery sections. 
  • When path is narrow, walk carefully on the trail, not on the vegetation. 
  • In case of landslides, do not proceed if there is any hazard. 
  • Poor gps coverage on part of the trail, data might diverge from given information. 

Tips and hints

Points of Interest 

  •  Boca da Corrida Viewpoint Boca da Corrida
  •  Valley of the Nuns or “Curral das Freiras” was an isolated community based loosely around the Convent of Santa Clara. Established by settlers in the 15th Century, it is widely believed that the nuns took refuge here to escape the attacks of French privateers on Funchal in the mid-16th Century.

  • Until the road tunnel was built in the 1950's, the main route out of the valley was a goat track, travelled most frequently by the postman who used it daily except Sundays. At the time, the postman was a woman.

  • Traditional products from “Curral das Freiras” include liquors (cherry, eucalyptus, chestnut, …), other chestnut products such as cakes and biscuits, and honey. 

Start

Boca da Corrida (1222m) (1,221 m)
Coordinates:
DD
32.711017, -16.986808
DMS
32°42'39.7"N 16°59'12.5"W
UTM
28S 313782 3620996
w3w 
///biographies.lowest.creatures

Destination

Small hamlet of Fajã Escura (640m)

Turn-by-turn directions

Your taxi will pick you up from the hotel at 10:00 am. START at Boca da Corrida. Once you are dropped off make your way to the far end of the car park, in front of the small chapel of São Cristóvão, where there is a nice view of the central mountains and the village of the Nun's valley (Curral das Freiras). 

0.0 km – AHEAD, up the hill. Go past the information board and head up the first steps of the cobbled path following the PR12 signs. AHEAD through the gate. 

0.35 km – AHEAD, but make a point of enjoying the glorious views to the East. Behind you stands Funchal's harbour. Carry on for about 30 minutes. 

1.85 km – AHEAD, whilst enjoying the views to the West and North. The Hotel Encumeada, with its distinctive red roof can be seen in the distance. 

After a sharp bend on the right, the trail is fenced when progressing on the dyke. After going up and down, the path is flat and goes down again on a paved section. Be careful now and watch for a sharp bend downhill on the left-hand side near old chestnut trees. Count less than five minutes afterwards to reach a small junction bordered by thorny gorse bushes. 

You have walked over an hour since the beginning and you must not follow the rock wall of Pico Grande. 

3.42 km – RIGHT up the steps and follow the sign CURRAL DAS FREIRAS. In 2 minutes the trail reaches the mountain pass and a new junction. 

3.48 km – BEAR RIGHT following another sign for CURRAL DAS FREIRAS on the lower path. 

NOTE 1: there is a nice place to take a rest under the trees just off the path on your left.   

NOTE 2: Here you have the option of taking the higher path to the left and climbing Pico Grande, however this is a challenging climb in the best of weathers and it can be difficult. You must be reasonably fit, sure-footed and have a head for heights. If you do decide to take this option, return the same way as you went up, back to this point. See route notes for this option under “Pico Grande summit”.

AHEAD, downhill on the earthen path which later zig-zags constantly with frequent hand rails.   

4.00 km – AHEAD across the stream. After a few steps up, mind your head on the big stone on the left. The trail goes down again.  

Caution: can be slippery.  

After rocky stretches followed by rounded paved stairs with handrails on both sides, a sharp bend on the left affords nice views. On one side Curral das Freiras lies in the valley and on the other one the chestnut trees climb on the sheer slopes.  

4.45 km – AHEAD down the main trail. Ignore steeper tracks.

Further down you pass through eucalyptus & chestnut woods. Continue downhill on the log stairs to a junction with 2 tracks and a concrete road below, on the right-hand side. A sign indicates the way back to PICO GRANDE ENCUMEADA / CORRIDA. 

6.17 km – LEFT down the concrete road. After two bends, pass by some picnic tables in the middle of the trees and a water house. Carry on down the concrete road that takes you to the village. 

6.70 km – At the Café/Bar and bus stop, you have reached your destination. Taxi transfer at 4:30 pm.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Getting there

Transfer to Boca da Corrida in the morning and from Fajã Escura at the end of the day.

Coordinates

DD
32.711017, -16.986808
DMS
32°42'39.7"N 16°59'12.5"W
UTM
28S 313782 3620996
w3w 
///biographies.lowest.creatures
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Equipment

  • Raingear and warm clothing.  
  • Walking boots. 

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Difficulty
moderate
Distance
6.7 km
Duration
3:30 h
Ascent
170 m
Descent
731 m
Highest point
1,366 m
Lowest point
640 m

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