From the mountain lodge of Hotel Encumeada, a short steep climb leads you to the first track of the day which gently undulates along the contour lines, ascending slowly towards the valley bottom. You pass through a remote farming settlement and from here you commence a steady climb over a predominantly paved surface. The gradient slackens towards Relvinha, the high point of the pass between the valleys of Serra de Água and Curral das Freiras. The earthen path then descends rapidly in a protracted series of hair pin bends into the remote villages at the head of the valley, ending at the hamlet of Fajã Escura.
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.
- 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 signal reception on part of the trail.
- Poor gps coverage on part of the trail, data might diverge from given information.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
- Valley of the Nuns “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.
Services only at the hotel.
Food & Drink
- Nothing en route. Picnic and water required.
- Snack bar O LAGAR at destination point, which doubles as a little grocery store.
- Walk starts at the hotel.
- Transfer from Fajã Escura at the end of the day.
- Raingear and warm clothing.
- Walking boots.