There are many scary ridges, crumbly climbs, and slippery slopes but the Faja dos Padres trail is up there as the most dangerous hike on Madeira. The narrow path, often less than 1-meter wide, ascends up the crumbly, coastal cliff above the Fajã dos Padres village. The quiet town below is in stark contrast to the intensity of the drop-off as you wind your way up this perilous cliff-side.
FAJÁ DOS PADRES HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike was 5.29 kilometers including the loop back to the parking lot at the cable car.
Hike Duration: The hike was about 3 hours because of the wild terrain but the moving time was just 2 hours.
Hike Difficulty: This trail is rated very difficult and not for inexperienced hikers. There are very dangerous drop-offs, unstable ground, crumbly rocks, overgrown cactus, and waterfall crossings just to name a few. I don’t recommend this hike unless you are very experienced and even then you can be unlucky with falling rocks or landslides so do be as careful as possible. It was pretty scary at times.
Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 587 meters for the entire loop back to the cable car parking lot.
HOW TO GET TO FAJÁ DOS PADRES
Fajã dos Padres is a small coastal village on the south of Madeira Island in Quinta Grande. It takes about 15-20 minutes drive from Funchal. The main way to reach Fajã dos Padres is to take the cable car down from the station. The fee for the cable car is €10 for the return trip. When we went the guy was impressed we would make a video and liked our friendly chat and let us on the cable car for free. Below is a map to help you reach the Fajã dos Padres cable car parking lot.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE FAJÁ DOS PADRES HIKE
There are really two parts to this blog post. Firstly, I will detail the Fajã dos Padres hike and then in the section below, I will give you the information on what else you can expect at Fajã dos Padres. I spent most of my time on this hike shooting the video you watched above so there aren’t too many photos but between the images, screen-grabs of the video, and the video itself you will understand the hike well.
One final reminder: this hike is quite dangerous and even if you are experienced you are at risk of landslide, rockfall or slipping with a big drop below. The hike begins down the west end of Fajã dos Padres. You won’t find any trailheads, signs or even a path. The key is to head towards the waterfall on the far side of the banana plantations.
We crossed the small bridge over the stream that flows down from the waterfall. It was hard to find the path as it is very overgrown and hardly used but we managed to climb the hill and identify the stairs, which signaled the start of the climb.
From this point on, you are working with a very narrow, crumbly path that never spans wider than one 1-meter but often less. It’s very overgrown and we often had to dig a little to find the steps. It’s a series of switchbacks that zig-zag their way up the coastal cliff.
The video will show you better than the images, but there were a few sections where it was about half a meter wide and we really didn’t have much to hold on to. At this point, you are really hoping none of the rocks give out beneath you and nothing falls from above. That is what makes it a risky hike.
Halfway up the climb is a little cave, which is a pretty cool spot to take in this unique view of Fajã dos Padres. Another good viewpoint is just after the switchbacks finish and you reach ‘relative’ safety in the interior. Climbing the rock below is not necessary but all part of the fun for me. You can see Fajã dos Padres by the coast below.
Once you reach the interior section, you will follow the path on the left hand side of the stream for about 100 meters until you reach a small rock crossing. Here you need to switch sides to continue up the stream and charge on up the hill to complete the climb.
The path from this point on was so thick with cactus, weeds and invasive species that it took a long time for us to progress. I suggest hiking boots and pants to avoid the very sharp thorns throughout this trail. We both finished with bloody and scratched up legs.
We clambered up this very steep section of until we reached an interesting waterfall crossing. It would probably be dry in the summer but with heavy rains in the week before our hike it was flowing strongly. Luckily, it was just weak enough that we could pass safely underneath because there was no going back at this point!
Once you reach the top of the ravine, there is an ancient rock wall and a farming area. Basically, there was no great way out of the overgrown, thorny plants but we managed to escape up to the road. We then had the choice to follow the road back to the cable car for 2.5 kilometers or find a new route. We followed the road for a kilometer before trying to clamber our way along the hills and eventually climbed over a rocky ridge and navigated our way down to a levada thanks to some guidance from some interested locals.
We made it back to the cable car parking lot just before dark and survived without any incidents. Having completede this route, I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone unless you are specifically looking for something dangerous. We were lucky but a rockfall, landslide or the path giving out beneath us was very possible and could have been ugly. I’m not trying to dramatize the hike, I just want to be clear about what this route is.
WHAT TO EXPECT DOWN AT FAJÁ DOS PADRES
Fajã dos Padres is one of the most peaceful spots on Madeira Island. As soon as you get down there you will understand what I mean. Often with great weather and protected from the wind there are few disturbances down here in the Fajã, which has a calming effect on it’s visitors. A Fajã describes the flat, fertile land cause by a depression in the earth. Basically it is a flat coastal area with a huge cliff behind it. This region was home to priests lived here in the 1700’s, which is how it received the name Fajã dos Padres.
After taking the cable car down to Fajã dos Padres, you will be immersed in this small agricultural region. There are lots of banana plantations as well as mango, avocado, and passion fruit trees to name a few. The beauty of wandering through these fruit and vegetable farms is that you will be eating them later at the farm-to-table restaurant at the end of the village. This is a certified organic farming region and you will taste the difference on your plate.
We had a swim in the crystal clear water of the Atlantic Ocean and checked out the huge waterfall on the coastal cliffs that were courtesy of the recent rains.
After our explorations, we headed into the restaurant for a lunch that was very high quality. I’m no foodie but you could tell all of the ingredients were incredibly fresh from the juices to our salads. The restaurant has a big range for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Sitting out in the sun with a view of the ocean during lunch was just superb.
The best time to visit Fajã dos Padres is all year actually. However, try and pick a sunny, calm day so you can have a swim and get the full experience down in this magical region.