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Bus Trip to Curral das Freiras
It's the "Valley of the Nuns" or "Corral of the Nuns" in English...
Situated in a deep valley, surrounded by high mountains all around, this place was the hideout of a group of nuns several hundreds of years ago.
The scenery is stunning all around, I just had to go and experience it...
Things to Know About Curral das Freiras
Before you travel to the Valley of the Nuns, you should know a few things about its history...
The town's history dates back to 1472, even though its name name comes from 1566, when a group of nuns from a Funchal convent fled to hide in this valley, escaping an attack of fierce French pirates on the capital.
View of Curral das Freiras - the "Nuns' Valley"
Two of the Madeira's highest peaks are found here: Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo.
Otherwise, Curral das Freiras is probably the most hidden town, right in the heart of the island.
Today, it is a special attraction - in fact, tourism is its primary source of income.
I've found the locals quite money-hungry "chupa dineros". They'll want to sell you all sorts of expensive local products.
Curral das Freiras is an agricultural town. They produce nuts, cherries, grapes. And related products... such as: chestnut liqueur.
It's as weird as it sounds. And I tried it: it had a strong chestnut flavour, indeed...
The famous Madeira wine is made from grapes cultivated at Curral das Freiras.
Strangely, the municipal seat is Câmara de Lobos, located 29 km (by road) from the town. Curral das Freiras is relatively isolated geographically. Of course, there are some thin roads leading to it. But several hundreds of years ago, it must have been a great remote hideout.
The population of Curral das Freiras is about 1.600 - 1.700 people. Most of them working in agriculture and tourism/hospitality industry.
Bus Trip to Curral das Freiras
I loved the (guided) bus trip organized by Strawberry Tours, which only cost me 19 EUR and took me deep into the heart of the island.
The journey was only 3 hours total time. And I would have stayed longer for the sake of the stunning views.
Normally a trip from Funchal requires 20-30 minutes by car and the road is quite dangerous to drive on: meandering and narrow.
Local drivers are astute, but I wouldn't drive here unless I got well-paid for taking the risk.
The distance from Funchal to Curral das Freiras is about 13-15 km, depending on where exactly you depart from.
Our driver (who introduced himself simply as "Eduardo") knew every segment of the serpentines leading to the town. Sometimes he resorted to the blaring sound of the vehicle's horn - in tight curves, it's necessary.
On Madeira, drivers frequently blow their car's horn for precautionary measures.
Before entering the mountainous area, we stopped at Pico do Barcelos (a peak) in one of Funchal's suburbs. From there, we were able to enjoy the views of Funchal from a less-known viewpoint.
We then cut through narrow gorges, dense green forests, across winding roads and tunnels... to the Valley of the Nuns.
The View Over the Valley of the Nuns
Eduardo drove us up to another viewpoint - just above the town of Curral das Freiras... there is a prominent hotel there (strategically constructed). I won't condemn those who chose to stay there (the views are amazing), but there really isn't that much to do here besides the sight, hiking and visiting the town.
High peaks west of Curral das Freiras
Overall, I only had enough time to admire the views from the viewpoint above, check out the local Estalagem Eira do Serrado Hotel built at the edge of the mountain from where the stunning scenery can be contemplated.
Lots of winding serpentines down there...
I could have stared at the views for hours... but guided tours have tight time limits. We had to rush it.
Snapped a few pics of the cliffs around and of what was "down there", then headed down to the town.
The deep cool valley town under the shades of the eastern mountains
Curral das Freiras, the Town
There aren't many things to see down there, besides a tiny church.
But, there are a few places to eat and drink at.
Local wines, cookies and pastry made with local produce add to the reasons why people come to the Valley of the Nuns.
At a local café, the tricky seller bloke brought me a nut-flavoured cappuccino.
By the way, almost everything here was made out of- or, with the use of nuts.
You can go nuts at Curral das Freiras!
The guy spilled my mini cappuccino terribly and didn't do a thing about it.
By the way, it cost me a whopping 4 EUR. Yikes (for that price...)!
The two blokes working at the café were grotesque ironical money vampires.
Do I look like the "typical wanna buy everything foreigner"?
They kept "feeding me" with all sorts of offers - wines, liqueurs, "this and that", it felt like I was somewhere in Chinatown... but the prices here were terribly high.
When paying for my coffee, it took ages for the guy to give me the change. Not that he lacked the right amount...
With a cunning grin, he eventually gave me the change after requesting it repeatedly.
Overall, the town is nothing impressive.
The views around are indeed breathtaking, but from that particular higher-situated viewpoint I was telling about earlier. Not from inside "the hole".
The town is cool and often covered by shadows. And if the mountains get mysty, you can barely see the Sun.
My verdict is: you can take a one day trip to Curral das Freiras, take the time to admire the views and not spend too much town in the tiny town.
Hiking in the mountains would be another thing worth trying.
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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