How to Do a Day Trip to the Valley of the Nuns, Madeira (+ Curral das Freiras)

Some sights are burned onto your retina long after you have returned to your hotel. The Valley of the Nuns in Madeira is one of those sights and was my favourite day trip from Funchal.

Get the lowdown on why you should add this to your Madeira itinerary, how to get from Funchal to the Valley of the Nuns by bus and what to do in Curral das Freiras.

deep canyon of valley of the nuns madeira with village at bottom

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Introducing the Nuns’ Valley, Madeira

The Nuns’ Valley is a deep crater surrounded by near-extinct volcanoes in the heart of Madeira. At its foot is the tiny village of Curral das Freiras (“Refuge of the Nuns”).

Although this huge crater is now thought to have been formed by erosion, some still hold that volcanic activity was to blame.

road winding its way along side of deep lush valley in the nuns valley madeira

Although the village of Curral das Freiras is nice enough, the main reason to visit the Valley of the Nuns is for the jaw-dropping views from Eira do Serrado.
From this viewpoint’s elevation of 1,094 metres, the village appears spotlit at the foot of the canyon. You may be able to make out Ribeira dos Socorridos (literally, “river of the survivors”) which slices Curral das Freiras into two.
Surrounding it are the majestic mountains of the central massif, including Pico da Cruz, Pico de Serradinho, Pico Grande and Pico da Geada. Vineyards cling to the steep slopes for dear life.
It is easily one of the most beautiful places in Madeira

close up of pretty purple flower
row of orange flowers against a backdrop of deep canyon of nuns valley with village at bottom

How to Get to the Valley of the Nuns from Funchal

The Valley of the Nuns is just under eight miles by road from Funchal.

Thanks to a frequent bus service, the Valley of the Nuns is an easy day trip from Funchal if you do not have a hire car. Inexpensive half-day tours will also do the job.

Driving to the Valley of the Nuns

Exploring Madeira by car will always give you the most flexibility. It also presents the most opportunities for shredding your nerves.

Even if you have a rental car at your disposal, think twice before driving to the Nuns’ Valley. On an island that is infamous for its challenging roads, the drive to Curral das Freiras is in a class of its own.

We are talking about a narrow, twisting road bordered by precipitous drops. I witnessed three unfortunate drivers forced to reverse their vehicles along the narrow road at Eira do Serrado to allow a bus to pass.

At one point, I had to shut my eyes.

Funchal to the Nuns’ Valley by bus

Bus #81 from Funchal to the Valley of the Nuns was a far better option for me.

Most buses stop at Eira do Serrado before continuing to the village of Curral das Freiras. You can check the bus #81 timetable here.

The bus sets off from Funchal’s cable car station and the journey takes around 45 minutes. In 2023, a return ticket costs €6.70.

You have two options to continue from Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras: wait for the next bus or walk. To pass the time as you wait for the next 81 bus, there is a hotel and restaurant at Eira do Serrado and a few shops.

The Nuns’ Valley walking trail to Curral das Freiras is clearly signposted and leads straight into the heart of the village. It takes around one hour.

sign saying curral das freiras
Sign for the Nuns’ Valley walking trail

By taxi

As I was travelling solo in Madeira, this was not an option. However, if there is a group of you it is worth considering getting a taxi from Funchal to the Valley of the Nuns.

Cost-wise, you will likely look at €20 – €25 for a one-way journey.

Day tour to the Nuns’ Valley

Alternatively, let someone else take care of all of the arrangements for you and join a half-day tour from Funchal. Many of these excursions include a stop in the lovely Câmara de Lobos.

This is a good option if you don’t fancy the walk down to Curral das Freiras or don’t want to kick your heels waiting for the next bus.

If you are a solo traveller, day tours are a great way to make new friends on the road. I travelled alone to Madeira and met some great people this way.

Take a look at this inexpensive half-day tour that has attracted great reviews. For a memorable and fun day trip to the Nun’s Valley, there’s this tuk-tuk tour.

What to Do in Curral das Freiras, Madeira

people walking in small town square of curral das freiras madeira

I’ll level with you; exploring Curral das Freiras won’t take you long. The main reason for visiting Madeira’s Valley of the Nuns is for those sensational views from Eira do Serrado.

Walking up the high street of Curral das Freiras will take you less than five minutes. Unless you have a real thing for chestnuts, there’s not much to detain you.

Chestnuts are a very big deal in the Valley of the Nuns.

The surrounding area is abundant with chestnut trees and the village is famous for its liqueurs and cakes made from these. You won’t have a problem tracking down chestnut-based souvenirs.

row of bottles of chestnut liqueur

A Chestnut Festival is held on the 1st of November every year, which originated when the parish had a glut of chestnuts.

Curral das Freiras does have a lovely parish church.

bell tower of church with red roof set against the steep forested slope of valley

The Church of Our Lady of Livramento (Paróquia de Nossa Senhora do Livramento) was built in the late 18th Century to replace an earlier chapel. It’s more restrained than Madeira’s typical gilded Baroque churches and has a lovely painted ceiling with Christ at its centre and a fine stained-glass window.

altar and brightly painted ceiling of church
two stained glass windows in church

Finally, if you are wondering how the Valley of the Nuns got its name …

In 1566, the sisters from the Santa Clara convent in Funchal fled from French pirates attacking the city and found refuge in this secluded valley. Their settlement became permanent and the village continued in splendid isolation until the 20th Century when tunnels were bored through the mountains to bring the first road.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this guide on how to do a day trip to the Valley of the Nuns and Curral das Freiras. Those views are nothing short of sensational.

If this has been helpful, take a look at my article describing my favourite things to do in Funchal, including the wonderful Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Looking for another easy day trip from Funchal? Then get the lowdown on spending an afternoon in Câmara de Lobos.

Finally, if you are travelling alone, here’s my Madeira solo travel guide.

Happy travels!

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at or follow her on social media.

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