How to experience the enchanted misty forest of Fanal


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Fanal is one of the truly magical locations in Madeira. This ancient laurel forest in the northwest of the island is regularly enveloped in thick fog, giving it a mysterious atmosphere.

Whether it will be foggy during your visit seems mostly up to chance, as the conditions can be right at any time of day or any time of year.

There is no special trick to seeing it at the right time, but your chances are often quite good as it really is foggy very often. We’ve visited three times now; twice it was already enveloped in a dense white void when we arrived, while the third time we had to wait a while for some clouds to roll in.

Even when the skies are clear, it’s a nice area to explore, though it will of course lose some of its mystique.

Tip: there is no perfect time to visit Fanal, so don’t overthink it and just go! If you’re lucky there’ll be plenty of fog and you can take some very cool photos. If not, it’s still a beautiful area to wander around.

Why is it so foggy?

The forest of Fanal is located on the north side of Madeira. Fully exposed to the trade winds, it’s here that clouds typically first hit the island before getting stuck in the mountains.

Fanal is also in a particular location that clouds tend to get funneled into, so even if the weather is bright and sunny in other parts of the island, you may find it’s shrouded in clouds when you get there.

Don’t be fooled by sunny weather even in nearby Porto Moniz or Seixal! You might find that as you ascend the mountain and approach Fanal, it will look like the pictures here.

If you’re not so lucky, it can still be worth waiting a while, as the weather can turn on a dime. We’ve had multiple successes visiting in the afternoon, though some locals have said chances are a bit better in the morning.

While there are webcams in many parts of Madeira that let you check the conditions in areas before heading off, there is no such feed from Fanal, so you just have to cross your fingers.

Fun fact: the TV show Star Wars: The Acolyte shot some scenes in Fanal. The crew was not so lucky and had to wait two whole days for the right conditions to set in.

It’s not Fanal’s only claim to fame as in 2024 it also appeared in an issue of National Geographic!

What’s a laurel forest?

The mysterious look of Fanal is greatly enhanced by all the gnarly and twisted laurel trees that contrast so beautifully against the foggy backgrounds.

The laurel tree, known as Laurisilva in Portuguese, thrives in areas such as this where regular cloud cover creates very moist conditions. You’ll typically find the Laurisilva forests brimming with ferns or moss.

Fanal is part of a UNESCO World Heritage-recognized natural landscape due to being the largest surviving area of laurel forest. It is believed to be 90% primary forest.

The ancient cloud forest exemplifies a type of subtropical forest that was once common on the Mediterranean mainland, but which can now only be seen in the islands of Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

How to get to Fanal

With your own transport: simply put this location in your GPS and drive there, You’ll find a spacious parking area where you can leave your car. There are some picnic tables around here, as well as a public toilet and BBQ area.

With a tour: if you can’t drive to Fanal your only option is to go with a tour. We suggest this Fanal hiking tour with a free pick-up in Funchal or surrounding areas.

There are no public transport options.

Walking around Fanal

Following a hiking trail is not necessary to enjoy Fanal. From the parking lot, you can just have a wander around. It’s an open area without fencing so you can explore it any way you want.

Just make sure you have a good sense of direction or have a map on your phone because it’s very easy to get lost in the fog!

To the north of the parking area is a pond, which can be fun to check out as it’s quite an atmospheric spot where you’ll probably hear many creaking frogs.

Fanal is an amazing location for photography, so don’t forget to bring your camera. It’s a common place for people to shoot fairytale-like portraits among the mist.

You can see Fanal without doing a big hike. On one of our visits we were there with our 18-month-old and our friends with a toddler. The little ones found it quite a fascinating environment. Under the gnarly laurel trees, we had ourselves a nice little picnic.

Doing a hike in Fanal

Fanal is definitely one of our favourite hiking areas in Madeira because of its unique microclimate and beautiful trees. If you’d like to do more than just a leisurely walk, you can follow one of the official trails.

The first trail to consider is PR 13 – Vereda do Fanal. This 4-hour hike starts in the central plateau, passes through Laurissilva forests, and ends in Fanal. It’s point-to-point, which is a bit annoying in terms of transportation to or from the trailhead. You may have to book a taxi to take you back to the starting point if you’re by car, or arrange a tour with pick-up.

For a circular hike, consider the PR 14 – Levada dos Cedros, which starts and ends in Fanal. It takes roughly 3 hours and is of medium difficulty. The route follows the Levada dos Cedros, one of the oldest levadas in Madeira.

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