The Achadas da Cruz cable car takes you down a huge cliff to an incredibly unique spot on Madeira, which is the traditional village of Fajá da Quebrada Nova. Nestled away on the north-western coast of Madeira, the small parish was once home to hundreds who tended to their livestock and agriculture. Today, many of the small, traditional homes have been unoccupied for years making it an incredibly unique and unusual place to explore.
In this blog post, I will share with you the details about Achadas da Cruz including what you need to know about how to get there, the cable car, the hiking option, swimming and surfing, sunset options, and what you can expect in the village itself.
HOW TO GET TO ACHADAS DA CRUZ
Achadas da Cruz is on the north-western side of Madeira Island. The parish of Fajá da Quebrada Nova is right down next to the beach at the bottom of the cliffs. However, when you search for directions to Achadas da Cruz, you are looking for directions to the cable car. I’ve added the pin location on the map below that takes you to the parking lot of the cable car.
However, as I will explain later in the blog post, you can also hike directly down to the village on a 2-kilometer trail. It’s very steep and not for everyone but I found it quite well-maintained and not very dangerous with a wide path despite the big drop-offs. Even if you choose the hiking option, it starts in the same parking lot as the cable car. The final option (least popular) is to hike from Ponta da Ladeira, which also connects you to the beach. I’ve never tried that one but it looks fun also.
ACHADAS DA CRUZ CABLE CAR – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The cable car takes you from the Calhau Snack Bar, down the incredibly steep 500m drop to the coastal parish. While the drop is unlike anything I’ve seen from a cable car before, it was more sturdy and secure than I had imagined. I’ve heard it can blow around a lot on a windy day but on the calm day when I visited it was safe as a house… suspended 500 meters above the ground by a cable.
Achadas da Cruz cable car cost: The entry fee per person is just three Euros, which I found very cheap given the upkeep and installation of such a cable car.
Opening Hours: The cable car runs from 8 AM to 6 PM every day of the week as of August 2020. Therefore, if you stay down at the beach for sunset you can expect to hike back up because there really is no other option to return to the top of the cliffs after 6 PM.
ACHADAS DA CRUZ VIEWPOINT
Taking the cable car down to the village on the coast is beautiful but if you prefer just to see the village from the viewpoint it can also be a great landscape from the top of the cliffs. There is a parking lot right next to the viewpoint where you can see all the way down to the village without anything blocking the view. At the viewpoint, you will also find the Calhau Snack Bar, which serves food and drinks including alcohol. The Calhau Snack Bar has outdoor seating with great views. Keep in mind, there are no cafes or restaurants down at Fajá da Quebrada Nova. You need to take your food or have a bite at the snack bar before you head down.
Below you have an image I took from the viewpoint and then a photo of the balcony seating at the Calhau Snack Bar.
WHAT TO EXPECT DOWN AT FAJÁ DA QUEBRADA NOVA VILLAGE
After riding the cable car down and surviving the journey, we stepped out of the doors and into the quiet village. Because we arrived at 5 pm, the last tourists of the day were heading back up to the cliff-top because the cable car rides were almost over. This is a great way to organize your itinerary. You have great lighting down at the village, there’s literally no-one else around, you get to enjoy the sunset, and the hike back up is pretty epic. I would definitely recommend the way we visited the village regarding timing.
The cable car drops you at the northern end of the coast. This is actually right next to the trailhead for the hike back up to the cliff-top parking lot (remember that for later). It’s one of the most beautiful beaches on Madeira and we took a few photos here before beginning the walk towards the village.
After checking out this bay, we followed the brick path towards the village. There are two sections of villages and you can visit both. We first explored the closest village, which still had signs of life around with some cats and a few houses that looked like people might be staying the night.
The traditional stonework was incredible to see throughout the paths but the vineyards and agriculture seemed to be quite dilapidated and in need of some love. Exploring this village really gave you a sense of authentic Madeira rather than many of the touristy towns you come across. A number of healthy-looking cats roamed the streets as we slowly wandered through the narrow paths that wound their way throughout the village.
After exploring the first village, we simply sat on a bench and enjoyed our packed dinner. It seemed like we were the only ones in the entire village. All we could hear was the crashing of the waves and the purr of a cat as it begged for a slice of tuna.
We then continued onto the second village at the advice of the cable-car attendant who had suggested we head all the way down to the final bay, which is known as a local surf spot. The walk along the coast continued to be stunning. Looking up at the 500-meter tall cliffs made us feel small but also wary of falling rocks of which we could see many already littered amongst the fields around us.
The second village appeared even more remote and like a ghost town. It truly felt post-apocalyptic as we wandered around without hearing or seeing any signs of life. We checked out some of the old houses, some with locks on the front doors completely rusted over. It seemed they had been untouched for years, if not decades. We then headed down to the pebble/stone beach to see if it was possible to swim.
It wasn’t a very rough day on the water but the current and waves still looked relatively strong. I probably wouldn’t advise swimming at this beach unless you are 100% comfortable. I managed to get in off the rocks without too much of a problem and then swam away from the shallows to enjoy the refreshing dip.
In the afternoon down at Achadas da Cruz there is no hiding from the strong sun so cooling off in the ocean was a much-needed escape from the heat. The water clarity was incredible as you can see all of the stones beneath the surface through the crystal clear water.
It was time for the final chapter of our Achadas da Cruz adventure. We had to head back all the way to the where the cable car was stationed and then continue on to find the trailhead for the hike.
Follow the dirt path bout 500 meters north from the cable car station, and you will see a gap in the cliffs where there are a small staircase and a wooden pole. This is where you turn right and head up the trail to the cliff-top. The map is marked on the Maps.me app, which is what I used to guide the way.
The trail is just two kilometers from the cable car station at the bottom of the cliff all the way to the parking lot. However, you can expect almost 500 meters of incline as you clamber up the stairways. It wasn’t actually that hard but we were covered in sweat when we reached the top. There are a few sections of the exposed path but it is always very wide and almost always had one side of the cliff wall for safety. Even in the dark, I found it very safe and even safer than many of the levada hikes on Madeira.
As we made our way up the stairs, we managed to catch the sun as it was just setting in between the clouds and the horizon. It wasn’t the best sunset we saw on Madeira but the sense of adventure was high as we continued our march up the stairs on our way back to the parking lot. In a race against darkness, we managed to reach the car without needing to use our headlamps to complete what was an epic adventure to Achadas da Cruz.
I hope you enjoyed this guide about Achadas da Cruz. It’s definitely one of the hidden gems on Madeira Island.