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Madeira, the 8 Best Places for Landscape Photography

Madeira Island is an oasis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that enjoys breathtaking landscapes. In recent years it has become a popular destination among landscape photographers who consider it a photographic paradise. 

Madeira is home to various types of landscapes, from the Laurissilva forest with ancient trees, to wild beaches with cliffs and stacks overlooking the ocean, to miradouro (view points) with fantastic views, to mountain peaks above the clouds from where you can photograph an incredible Milky Way. There are so many trails between mountains to wild forests that reach waterfalls hidden among lush greenery. 

If you are a landscape photography lover and an outdoor enthusiastic, you absolutely must visit this Portuguese island.

Check out our “Madeira Photo Tour”


The Loner

We explored Madeira in depth in April 2023, and below I am going to tell you which places impressed me the most for landscape photography. I found this island perfect for night photography as well. It takes a bit of luck to find clear skies, more difficult on the coast but much easier above the mountain peaks over 1800 meters above sea level, such as Pico Ruivo and Pico do Areeiro. The sky is one of the darkest in Europe and the Milky Way is certainly one of the best ever seen in terms of signal.

If you are a landscape photographer, you can’t miss these 8 amazing places in Madeira

Fanal forest

UNESCO World Heritage since 1999, the Laurissilva forest is a unique natural treasure, some 20 million years old, dating back to the Miocene and Pliocene Tertiary. It is a rare subtropical forest that occupies about 15,000 hectares, or 20% of the island.

Located between the Seixal and Ribeira da Janela mountains, Fanal is a vast forest area and here you will find the most incredible trees, in all shapes and forms and often surrounded by clouds and mist. The atmosphere in this forest is really moody and you can take some really unique landscape photos. Walking through that forest and listening to the sounds of nature will feel like you are in a fairy tale and surrounded by creatures watching you. I was also lucky enough to find clear skies at night and was enchanted by the colours of the Milky Way visible to the naked eye. 

Tips for landscape photographers: get to this forest before sunset when the fog often arrives. Thanks to the frequent wind, the clouds move very quickly and it is not difficult to create gaps where the red light of the sun filters through, providing an epic backdrop. You can play with branches and tree trunks to create many unique photographic compositions.

Creepy Tree

Praia de Ribeira da Janela

Praia de Ribeira da Janela is the best wild beach for a landscape photographer. Here, the powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean hurl themselves over majestic stacks and a river lets its water flow against the ocean. A little paradise of photographic compositions. 

You can photograph this beach at sunrise as well as at sunset. During sunrise the sun will rise in front of you and you can capture the sun star among the stacks, while during sunset the sun sets to your left illuminating the stacks and colouring the scene. 

Tips for landscape photography: Go to Praia de Ribeira da Janela during the day and explore it in depth because you can find and create many striking photographic compositions by playing with the water of the river flowing towards the ocean, or with the waves crashing into the large rocks, or with flowers and caves behind the beach.

Night photography tips: it is difficult to find clear skies above Praia de Ribeira de Janela but, if you are lucky, you will have the tail of the Milky Way above the stacks and can create some fantastic photo compositions. 

The Explorer

Pico Ruivo

Pico Ruivo is the third highest peak in Portugal and the highest on Madeira island, an incredible place definitely worth seeing. Located at an altitude of 1862 metres, it often enjoys views above the clouds. From up there you can photograph red sunsets above a sea of clouds and a colourful Milky Way in a very dark sky. 

It is accessible on foot, via the Vereda do Pico Ruivo (PR 1.2), a walk of about 45 minutes, or from Pico Areeiro, along PR 1.1.

The hike from Pico Areeiro to Pico do Ruivo is one of the most scenic on Madeira Island and even during the day, being often in the clouds, creates perfect lighting situations for taking good landscape photographs. Therefore, if you have more time available, I recommend choosing this longer but spectacular route to Pico Ruivo.

The shorter route (PR 1.2) is a very easy and comfortable path to Pico Ruivo and can be considered if you want to reach the spots for night photography.

Tips for night photographers: taking the shortest route, just before reaching Pico Ruivo you will find Madeira’s most spectacular dead trees, with a valley surrounded by rugged mountains in the background and the Milky Way core above. For lovers of night photography like me, this place is top notch!

Pico do Areeiro 

Pico do Areeiro is Madeira’s third highest peak, located at an altitude of 1818 metres. From up there you can enjoy the view of the island’s most beautiful mountain massif with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. 

The famous visual spectacle that can be admired here at sunrise has attracted more and more outdoor enthusiasts and landscape photography lovers.

Tips for landscape photography lovers: you should reach Pico do Areeido during the day, explore it as best they can and return the next days before sunrise. It is not so difficult to find a situation where the sunlight filters through the fast-moving clouds around you and creates a spectacle that will make you happy.  From up here you can also enjoy taking panoramic photographs. 

Pico Ruivo

Ponta do Rosto Viewpoint

Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost tip of the island, is a barren tongue of earth and reddish rock that stands out from Madeira’s lush greenery. In addition to spectacular seascapes full of sheer cliffs overlooking the ocean and majestic stacks, it offers numerous trails perfect for trekking and running enthusiasts.

The Ponta de São Lourenço trail is 10 kilometres long (round trip) and can be completed in about two hours.

While walking along this tongue of land, you will encounter several miradouro (view points) where you can stop and photograph powerful seascapes. Among the most beautiful for landscape photographers are the Miradouro da Luna, the Miradouro de São Lourenço and Punta do Rosto view point. 

Tips for landscape photographers: you cannot miss a sunrise from the highest point of the Punta do Rosto viewpoint, the view from up there is incredible, and a colourful sunset at the Miradouro de Sao Lourenco, which is located in the opposite direction. 

Tips for night photography: this area being on the coast and at sea level is more difficult to find clear skies but, give it a try because I found a clear night and it was fantastic. Depending on the spot you choose you can capture either the whole arc of the Milky Way or just the tail or the core. 

Ponta do Rosto Viewpoint
The bay

Levada do Caldeirão Verde

Of Madeira’s many beautiful waterfalls, Levada do Caldeirão Verde is the one that fascinated me the most. 

You can reach this waterfall via an 8.7 km path of moderate difficulty (PR9). 

Along the way you can explore the middle of the island, you will be surrounded by dense, lush Laurissilva vegetation.

Along the Levada do Caldeirão Verde, dotted with escarpments and mountains, you will pass through four tunnels carved into the rock.

Only then will you find, on the left, the Caldeirão Verde lake, formed by water falling vertically from the bed of the Ribeiro do Caldeirão Verde stream, at an altitude of about 100 m.

Once you have recovered your energy, you can continue to Caldeirão do Inferno, at 2200 m, or turn back via Levada do Caldeirão Verde.

Tips for landscape photographers who love forest and waterfall shots, this is a must-do destination. You can stop several times along the trail and create striking photo compositions by playing with the guiding lines of trees and vegetation. Once you reach Levada do Caldeirão Verde you can use your silhouette to emphasize the majesty of the surrounding landscape.

Levada do Caldeirão Verde

Miradouro do Guindaste

Located on one of the slopes of Foz da Ribeira do Faial, the miradouro do Guindaste offers a breathtaking view of Madeira’s northern coast. It is the ideal place to observe and photograph the power of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the sheer coastline.

At the Guindaste miradouro you will find stunning colors, a harmony between the lush green of the mountains and the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. From this viewpoint you will enjoy a complete panoramic view of the northern coast of Madeira Island, from Faial to Ponta de São Lourenço at the eastern end of the island, and on clear days you can see the island of Porto Santo. 

Tips for landscape photographers: be here at sunrise, the sun rises in front of you out of the green mountains. From the Miradouro do Guindaste you can take photos either with a drone from above or with a camera. Put your silhouette at the end of the trail on the hill of the most beautiful viewpoint and with the ocean and other green mountains in the background you will create a spectacular scene. 

Miradouro do Guindaste

Miradouro de São Cristóvão

What about a pointed mountain covered in fluorescent green overhanging the blue ocean?

Located in the northern part of Madeira Island, it enjoys one of the most impressive and dramatic scenes on the island. This viewpoint is perhaps the least known of the various places listed above, but the view from here will also surprise you. 

Tips for landscape photographers: reach the Miradouro de São Cristóvão at sunrise and bring both drone and camera with you. The sun will rise in front of you as it comes out of the mountain over the ocean horizon. In the foreground you can find various large and colourful flowers typical of Madeira. 

Miradouro de São Cristóvão

Conclusions 

Madeira is an island that surprised me; it is a gem with incredible landscapes. I can say it is a dream for both landscape photographers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are a mountain photographer, seascape photographer or forest photographer, Madeira will make you dream!

During our Madeira Photo Tours we will photograph all these places under the best light conditions during the day and searching for the clearest skies at night for nighttime Milky Way photo sessions.

During these photo tours we will be by your side, helping you capture the most extraordinary images. Regardless of your level of photographic skill, we will help you learn how to get the most out of your photography and make the most of every lighting condition. Whether it’s sunrise, sunset, midday, twilight or even night photography, our goal is to make sure you get the best shots possible and create unforgettable images during your stay in Madeira.

Join us on the Madeira photo tour

The author

Giulio Cobianchi

Hello, I am Giulio Cobianchi, a full-time landscape photographer and co-founder of Gotophototour. Passionate about travel and photography, especially nightscapes photography, I enjoy combining these two elements by exploring and capturing landscapes where wild nature shines at its best. Through Gotophototour, I can pursue my passion, share it with others, and guide them to discover and immortalize the most fascinating places in the world.
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