Curral das Freiras

The views of the valley itself is the main reason to visit. This was where the sisters of the Convent of Santa Clara took refuge from bands of marauding pirates, hence the name. Nearly the geographic center of Madeira, the valley sits in the middle of a circle of extinct volcanoes that long ago pushed the island up from the bottom of the sea. It's a quaint village, with life carrying on as it has done for centuries—apart from the tourist buses that rumble in daily. Park your car in one of the many free spaces and wander around the village, stopping for a drink or snack in one of the roadside cafés.

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