The enchanting ancient forest of Fanal Forest, sometimes referred to as Laurisilva, is one of the last laurel forests in the world and is therefore listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tens of millions of years ago, a large part of Southern Europe was covered with forests like these, but due to the ice age and deforestation, almost all laurel forests disappeared. The old laurel trees often have peculiar shapes and are covered with up to 20 different species of moss. The thick mist that often lingers in Fanal Forest creates a mystical atmosphere, making this place even more impressive. Read our tips for visiting the Fanal Forest here.
How to get to Fanal Forest
Fanal Forest is located high in the mountains in the west of Madeira and is easiest to reach by renting a car. From Funchal, it takes about an hour’s drive to the Fanal parking lot, and from there, you can directly enter Fanal Forest. The road to Fanal is one of the most beautiful roads in Madeira, and along the way, be sure to make a stop at the viewpoint Miradouro Lombo do Mouro. If you don’t have a rental car, you will need to book a tour as public transportation doesn’t reach this area, and taking a taxi is not recommended due to the long distance and cost involved.
The Best Time to Visit Fanal Forest
If you ask us, you’ll want to visit Fanal Forest when there’s a thick layer of mist. The thicker the mist, the better. Combined with the unique shapes of the laurel trees, it creates a truly extraordinary sight. When there’s no mist, Fanal Forest is still beautiful, but it feels somewhat less mystical. Of course, it’s difficult to know when there will be mist, but fortunately, you have a good chance for most of the year. The highest chance of mist is in the morning. If you’re in Funchal, it’s best to check if there are low or high clouds that day. If there are clouds at the mountaintops above Funchal, there’s also a high chance of mist in Fanal Forest.
From the parking lot, you can of course wander around randomly and get lost in the forest. That’s a good idea in itself, but it can also be helpful to check the satellite images of Fanal Forest on Google Maps here to see where the large groups of trees are located. Otherwise, you might miss a significant part of Fanal Forest because you won’t be able to gauge its size. There are also dozens of cows roaming through Fanal Forest, sometimes appearing unexpectedly in front of you. Give them space when you encounter them.