Camara de Lobos, Madeira, is a pretty little fishing village set in a peaceful cove just 9km outside the centre of Funchal. With its white-washed buildings with red-tiled roofs and idyllic sea views, it’s the stuff postcards are made of (or should that be Instagram photos now?). It’s so close to the city centre and easily reachable by bus, so it’s a popular day trip from Funchal for visitors to Madeira.
Camara de Lobos translates literally as ‘chamber of wolves’. Quite a dramatic name for a quaint fishing village. Alas, there are no wolves there. The name comes from the gaggles of sea lions that used to hang out on the rocks in its cove. Madeira’s discoverer, João Gonçalves Zarco, spotted these lads on his second voyage to Madeira in 1420 and mistook them for wolves. Perhaps he was on his way to Specsavers. But the name stuck. Camara de Lobos even has some
wolves sea lions on its municipal coat of arms. Keep a look out for that around and about as you explore the town.
Anyway, I thought I’d put together this short guide on visiting Camara de Lobos as I know it pretty well and have a good few tips for you. Hope it’s useful. Let me know if you’ve visited or used any of the tips down in the comments…
Why visit Camara de Lobos, Madeira
It’s only small, but you can easily while away an afternoon relaxing (read: eating/drinking) in Camara de Lobos. It’s the ideal setting for doing very little and just enjoying your surroundings. The little harbour is full of brightly coloured boats, and you may be able to watch fishermen mooring them if you’re there at the right time. The cove is framed by white-washed houses spreading haphazardly up the hillsides. Black basalt rock contrasts very nicely with the turquoise waters. It’s all picture-perfect so make sure your camera or phone is at the ready.
In addition to its olde-worlde cuteness, Camara de Lobos also has a surprising amount of brilliant street art. Not what you’d normally expect from a tiny fishing village, eh? But if you’re quickly filling up your camera roll with traditional pretty photos, it’s a good opportunity for some more modern and interesting shots. I’ll share some of my favourite street-art pieces further down this post.
I’ll go onto specific things to do in Camara de Lobos shortly, but the views and quaintness are probably the main reasons to do a day/afternoon trip there. You won’t be disappointed.
How to get to Camara de Lobos, Madeira, by bus
There are two bus options to get to Camara de Lobos from Funchal…
- This is my preferred one as it involves nicer, cleaner buses and you don’t have to pay cash:
- From Funchal seafront, get the number 1 green line Horários do Funchal bus (you can change their website to English, or go straight to the number 1 timetable PDF). You can pay by beeping your Giro card (rechargeable bus card), which you’ll probably already have if you’re staying in Madeira. The journey takes about 15 mins. Get off at Ponta da Laranjeira and walk the 10 mins into Camara de Lobos.
- Get a Rodoeste bus (their website has an English-language option) from the front in Funchal. Loads of their routes go through Camara de Lobos. The journey takes 25 mins and is about 2€ each way: you pay on board and can’t use your Giro card.
Remember that Madeiran bus drivers and bus routes are an experience in themselves. Be ready to hold on to your proverbial hat. Having said that, the journey to Camara de Lobos is really nothing compared with the one to Curral das Freiras. If you’ve had a bit too much poncha the night before and you’re looking for a day trip that doesn’t involve the bus flinging you around too much, Camara de Lobos is a good bet.
Things to do in Camara de Lobos, Madeira
As mentioned above, there’s little to do other than relax in Camara de Lobos. Regular readers might have seen my epic list of 40 things to do in Funchal, Madeira’s capital. I’m definitely not going to hit anywhere near 40 in a list for Camara de Lobos! But that’s the beauty of the place. You’re free to wander, eat, drink, soak up the sun if you’re lucky, admire the street art, dissect what other tourists are up to by enjoying a nice old people-watch… and then get the bus back to Funchal when you’ve had enough.
Of course, there are a few actual things to do in Camara de Lobos and nearby. One very exciting one nearby, actually. Here you go.
1. Enjoy the street art on doors and windows, all made from waste materials
As I’ve already mentioned, Funchal isn’t the only place in Madeira with street art adorning its doorways and windows. Camara de Lobos has some brilliant pieces (some of the best for photo opportunities, too). I was really impressed when I first saw it.
All the street art is made from recycling, mostly tin cans although I think there may also be plastic bottles involved too. The cans were collected by volunteers and local bars, and you can tell a lot of time and love has gone into each piece.
I’ve admired and photographed the street art in Camara de Lobos a few times over the years and it’s changed every time I go, so it’s worth revisiting if you’re a Madeira regular. My personal favourites over the years have been the EU flag, the planet earth in an ice-cream cone, and the ‘we can do it’ WW2 poster lady.
You’ll find most of the street art on Rua São João de Deus, which is very central.
2. Sit on the waterfront and watch the boats bobbing
There’s a low wall around the bay that’s perfect for basking in the sun and enjoying the setting. You’ll probably be joined by some of the local dogs, who congregate around the bars on the front and enjoy a sunbathe. I also really like walking up to the harbour wall and sitting with my legs dangling over the edge watching the tiny boats bobbing about. Lovely stuff.
3. Visit both of the churches
What’s a village or town in Madeira without its fair share of pretty churches?!
At the top of the road with all the street art on, you’ll find Camara de Lobos’s main church, the Igreja Matriz de Sao Sebastiao. I’ve put a photo in below. It’s a typical black and white Madeiran church, all Baroque style inside. There’s plenty of gold chandeliers and some very snazzy tiling. If you visit in winter, there’s both a Christmas tree and a carousel in the square next to it.
Sao Sebastiao church is frequently confused online with the wee fisherman’s chapel, Capela de Nossa Senhora da Concelcao. But the chapel is very different. You’ll find it just behind the harbour. It doesn’t look as church-like from the outside, but you’ll naturally walk past it as you explore. For a tiny little place, it packs a lot of detail into its interior and is definitely worth a look. The ceiling is particularly good. You can just bob your head in as you pass and you’ll see the whole shebang, it’s that small.
4. Check out the
wolf sea lion mural
Alright, this big chap is actually also some street art made from recycling. But he’s massive and stands on his own at the seafront, rather than being on the streets in the village. So I think he deserves his own point on this list.
The Portuguese artist Bordallo II created this sea lion for the people of Camara de Lobos as part of a project for World Oceans Day. I’ve spotted a few of Bordallo’s murals around Madeira (there’s a big fish outside one of the seafront hotels) and on mainland Portugal. He has art installations all over the world, too. His style is very distinctive, so let me know in the comments if you’ve seen any
I really enjoy the message behind the artist’s work. I’m typing this blogpost up having recently watched David Attenborough’s fantastic ‘A Life on our Planet’. And I think we’re all very aware how much more we need to do to stop killing our environment.
‘The idea I have is to create images of the victims of pollution… [using] what destroys them, what kills them. The world is being destroyed and I am creating images with what destroys it, with what destroys nature, which degrades it.’
5. Visit Cabo Girão for some scary views
One of the most popular attractions in Madeira is the viewpoint at Cabo Girão, which is very close to Camara de Lobos. Cabo Girão a big humped cliff, rising to almost 600m above the sea. It’s usually likened to a massive whale leaping into the sea in guidebooks, and it’s obviously an impressive place.
But the main thing about Cabo Girão is the vantage point on its summit, which has a thick glass platform to stand on to enjoy the views both down as well as across. Just don’t look down too much if you don’t like heights; some of the cracks in the glass are mildly unnerving. This is meant to be the best view on Madeira. I don’t agree with that claim personally (my favourite view is from Sao Joao do Pico Fortress looking across Funchal) but it’s definitely a good one. Just make sure you go at the right time of day because if you get the sun shining at you (you’re looking east), your photographs are going to be dark and rubbish. See below for my own personal example of this. Afternoon or early evening would be best.
To get to Cabo Girão from Camara de Lobos, you can get a Rodoeste bus (number 7 at the time of writing, but do check). The journey takes about 20 minutes, following a mountain road that snakes up through vineyards and banana fields.
6. Visit the printing press museum
This is a bit of a niche one. But it’d be remiss of me not to mention the fairly new Museu de Imprensa da Madeira, a museum of printing presses and the history of printing. It’s strangely large considering it’s in little Camara de Lobos and is, I think, the only museum in the town. I work in digital publishing in my real non-blogging job, so I have a mild interest in fonts and I quite liked seeing all the old machinery used. It’s only 5€ to enter and a good way to spend half an hour, particularly if the weather is bad. Worth popping in.
7. Look out for the giant bum sculpture
If you go up the steps behind the sealion mural, you’ll find this brilliant piece of contemporary art. The shot below is actually only the end of it (the amusing bit) but viewed from the side, it’s actually two concrete bums holding up a row of six ships in the middle. You can see it better on this website. It’s by the artist Francisco Lucena and is called ‘Mar de Esperança’ (sea of hope), symbolising the way that the inhabitants of Camara de Lobos are so closely linked with the sea. So that’s a lovely message that we can reduce to seeing a bum.
If this kind of thing is up your street, you have to do a day trip to Porto da Cruz. An even more ‘interesting’ sculpture awaits.
8. Go round the back of the town to photograph the dramatic cliffs
Although the bay is the ‘main’ view in Camara de Lobos, I also love this perspective.
You’ll need to walk up past the bum sculpture as mentioned above, and as far round the edge of the town as you can. As you can see, it’s still impressive even on a gloomy day.
Where to eat in Camara de Lobos, Madeira
Onto the important stuff: eating as much as humanly possible.
I’ve eaten at a few places in Camara de Lobos over the years. These are my lunch recommendations…
- Pier One at the Pestana Churchill Bay Hotel – This is the restaurant of a relatively new hotel, and I gave it a try last time I was there. We don’t eat meat, and this does a few pescetarian and vegetarian options. I really enjoyed some octopus butties with a portion of chips to share. You get a great view of the sea if you manage to snag a table at the front (a good people watch, too).
- Deserta Pequena – A reliable seafood restaurant but they also do a good veggie spaghetti.
- L’arte Della Pizza (Pizzeria Sorrento) – The best place for vegetarians in Camara de Lobos. You have more options than anywhere else and the pizza quality is great. I hope it’s still going as I can’t find an official website or Facebook page for it, so if anyone is local and could let me know, please leave a comment.
- Casa do Farol – Nice little tapas place.
I feel I should also mention one I’ve not been to (yet) but that so many people have recommended to me: Restaurant Vila do Peixe. It seems to be more of an evening meal place as it’s a bit fancier than the above options. Unsurprisingly given the location, it’s another seafood place but there are veggie options too. And wow, both the food and the views look fit. There’s a lovely outdoor terrace where I can just see myself enjoying a wine and going into a food coma. It’s on my list for the next time I visit.
If you’re staying in Madeira and planning your gorging, you can read more about where to eat around Madeira here.
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You might also like my other Madeira posts:
- 40 things to do in Funchal, Madeira
- Where to eat in Madeira – 14 of the best restaurants and cafés
- The best bars in Funchal, Madeira: in search of poncha and craft beer
- Funchal, Madeira: a travel guide
- How to visit the Valley of the Nuns, Madeira (Curral das Freiras)
- How to do a day trip to Porto da Cruz, Madeira from Funchal
- Spending a week in Madeira: a 7-day itinerary without a car.
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