“This village of Machico (head and seat of this
first Captain Tristão) although small, and has few neighbours, is very well laid out, pleasant,
with many vegetable gardens and orchards,
set in the middle of a stream so fresh and superb”
Jerónimo Dias Leite, 16th Cent
The municipality of Machico is considered a place that is truly important in the unfolding of the historic evolution of Madeira, because it was here, on the beach of Machico that João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz disembarked for the first time, in the 15th century. Besides this, there is also the legend of Machim, according to which the English Robert Machim and his lover Ana d’Arfet arrived here, because of a change of course caused by a storm, and where later they died. The curiosity of the story resides in the fact that the two lovers would have been the first two to set foot on the island and that their tombs were found by the Portuguese navigators; the origin of the name of the municipality is therefore derived from “Machim”.
The municipality presently has five parishes, Porto da Cruz, Caniçal, Machico (municipal seat), Santo da Serra and Água de Pena.
The Whale Museum, located in Caniçal, relates all the history of whale hunting in Madeira, which began in 1940 and ended in 1986. This activity had a dominant role in the region, which led to the creation of a factory that produced by-products from whales. Therefore, the museum portrays all this involvement using photographs, artefacts, miniature models of boats and the factory. The belvedere of Pico do Facho is one of the attractions of Machico, providing a fabulous view over the bay of Machico. It is said that the name of this lookout owes itself to the fact that, to warn the population of occasional attacks by pirates or corsairs, torches (fachos) would be lit on this hilltop.
The Parish Church of Machico is located in a square, in front of the town hall, a building ordered built by the family of the donatary-captains. It dates back to the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century, still maintaining today its original features of the end of the Gothic period final gothic characteristics and the Portuguese style of architecture developed under D. Manuel I. Inside, the beautiful gilded carved altars are outstanding. The fort of São João Baptista, next to the wharf of Machico, is strategically situated high up on a cliff. It was built by the order of the Governor of Madeira, captain general Duarte Sodré Pereira, in the year 1708. It is also called the Forte do Desembarcadouro (Fort of Departure), because the island’s discoverers disembarked close by. The interior contains a neo-Gothic chapel, dedicated to the saint which gives the name to the fort. In later times, it served as a hospital and, then as a holiday retreat for children from the convent of Santa Clara in Funchal. The Piedade chapel, in Caniçal, deserves full mention, for it is situated on the top of a small hill. The year in which it was built is not known for sure, but the chapel is thought to be from the 17th century. On the third Sunday of September, the festival of Nossa Senhora da Piedade is celebrated, when the image is taken in a procession by sea to the base of the rocky slope, and the rest of the route is completed on foot.
Nature and Activities:
In the municipality of Machico there are various walks that are available for those who love nature and hiking. Among them we mention the Levada da Portela or the Levada do Castelejo in Porto da Cruz, the Levada do Caniçal and the trail at Ponta de São Lourenço, in Caniçal. The overlook of Portela is also recommended, because of the dazzling view over Porto da Cruz. In the municipality there are various places to go swimming, but Machico beach, the little beach (Praínha) of Caniçal, the pools of Porto da Cruz and the beach of Lagoa in Porto da Cruz are a few that stand out.