The cliffs of Cabo Girao in Madeira are one of the most famous attractions on the island, especially with the glass platform.
But there are many ways to enjoy it:
- The Cabo Girao Skywalk to visit from the top,
- The Cabo Girao Cable car (Teleferico do Rancho) to get to the bottom,
- The boat tours to go swimming below the high cliffs.
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with map, photos and tips.
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Introduction to the Cabo Girao cliffs (Cape Girao)
Located on the South coast of Madeira, Portugal, the sea cliffs at Cape Girao are the highest in Europe.
The highest point reaches 589m (1932ft).
The cape is actually a diamond shaped sea-cliff. Its heights vary from 560m (1840ft) to 589m (1932ft).
In the picture below, you can see the escarpment and the highest point:
As it is the highest cliff in Europe, they have created a tourist attraction around it.
The Skywalk, a glass platform to stand above the jaw-dropping cliffs, is one of the most visited places in Madeira.
Definitively, one of the most famous viewpoints in Madeira (see my list of favorites).
You can visit the crowded skywalk, or explore those cliffs from the bottom, thanks to the cable car.
Strangely, not many people opt for it. But I thought it was much more fascinating, because you can see all the details of the island's volcanic history.
Just have a look at the picture below.
The Cabo Girão Protected Area allows some form of protection for this landscape. It belongs to the Câmara de Lobos municipality and includes:
- the marine part of the Cabo Girão Marine Natural Park,
- and the terrestrial part of the Cabo Girão Natural Monument.
About the name
Girao means "Big turn". The name is said to date back to Zarco's first exploration of the coast in 1420. The legend said that, in his diary, he referred to an imposing dark object where demons and evil spirits lived.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips - Cabo Girao, Madeira
How to get to Cabo Girao
- West of Funchal, not far from Camara dos Lobos
- Funchal to Cabo Girao = 20 to 25min drive
- Camara de Lobos to Cabo Girao = 10min drive
- There is limited carpark at both the Skywalk and the Cable car. Better to visit early.
- Below is a map to locate it and get oriented:
This highlight (with GPS coordinates and practical tips) is included in my travel Guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Madeira trip:
Plan your perfect trip around Madeira!
If you don't want to drive... Cabo Girao tours
If you don't want to drive, there are many options to reach the Skywalk (although not many for the cable car)
- You can easily take a taxi, you can arrange a price for them to wait for you
- You can take the hop-on hop off bus - book your ticket
- You can take one of the many organized tours that include a stop at Cabo Girao - see options
- Or you can book a private tour which includes a stop at Cabo Girao - see options
Need to rent a car in Madeira?
- Compare car rental prices on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (remember you need enough power for the steep roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Where to stay
- Close to the cliffs is the resort Village Cabo Girao with all you may need - Check out photos and availability
- Nearby is the charming fishing town of Camara de Lobos - see best rated accommodations
- For a choice of restaurants - See best rated accommodations in Funchal
More tips on my article about where to stay in Madeira
Cabo Girao Skywalk (glass platform)
Let's start with the most famous attractions: the glass platform viewpoint known as Skywalk.
How to get to Cabo Girao Skywalk - Carpark & Map
- The Skywalk is clearly indicated, you cannot miss it.
- Most if the carpark are for bus and taxis. There are not many spaces for private cars. I recommend visiting early to park easily.
- Skywalk opening hours - 8:30 am to 8pm (or to 7pm in Winter)
- Skywalk price - free access most of the time, however, they have a gated system so they can apply a fee sometimes (some people have had to pay 50cts)
- Plan 20min to admire the views
Skywalk Visit Tips
- As you can see on the map above, there are toilets (for a fee), gift shops and a restaurant
- Of course, as it is a big touristic attraction, prices are quite high
- Short and easy walk to the viewpoint (1min)
- The viewpoint is facing South
- Clouds can be stuck on the cliff and cover the view - you can check the weather at Cabo Girao on the webcam before visiting - see it here
- It gets crowded really fast when tour groups arrive - the worth hours are 10am to 3pm
- Appart from the view, there is not much else to do here.
- It is a nice place to watch sunset
About the view
The glass platform has been built above the cliffs around a tree. This is quite nice as you approach before the crowds.
You don't have to walk on the glass, you can also see the impressive height from the sides.
If you look above the railing, you can see the Cabo Girao fajas at the bottom. This is a tiny piece of land at the bottom of the cliffs where you find gardens owned by locals.
I suffer from vertigo, and yet my experience of the Skywalk was boring. I was not really impressed by it.
But I know other people have been. So, I can't tell you how you will react.
The platform was first opened in 2012 and is similar to the one in the Grand Canyon.
Area in the clouds, before opening of the café and shops:
Cabo Girao Cable Car (Teleferico do Rancho)
But my favorite option is the take the cable car.
Cabo Girao Cable Car Visit Tips
- Located 4km away from the Skywalk at a lower altitude
- You have to know you want to go there, itis not obvious
- Small carpark just below the cable car station, few spaces, free
- Toilets and restaurant near the top station
- No facilities at the bottom
- Teleferico do Rancho price - 5€ return trip
- Cabo Girao cable car opening hours - Tue to Fri - 8am to 8pm - Sun 9am to 8pm (in theory, it can be closed for maintenance...)
Before taking the cable car, you can go up to the viewing platform to admire the scenery.
You get a clear view of the fajas at the bottom (cultivated land at the base of cliffs).
The cars on this Teleferico are modern and nice with a beautiful red color.
There is one car going up while the other goes down.
Before its construction in 2003, the plantations at the bottom were only accessible by boat.
The ride is just 3 minutes, with views towards the East, including Camara de Lobos and Funchal, in the distance.
It is not the most impressive cable car on the island (see my list) but it is a very enjoyable one with beautiful views of the cliffs and a smooth but steep ride.
Below is a picture with a view from the bottom station.
Fajas do Cabo Girao
At the bottom of the cliffs, you reach the Fajas do Rancho and Fajas do Cabo Girao.
Fajas are small piece of the land at the foot of the cliffs. The volcanic soil is quite fertile and locals have established garden there.
You can find many more all around the island.
As you can see in the picture below, they are really using any pieces of land possible:
Before the cable car, they were reaching the farms by boat, from Camara de Lobos.
However, when the weather was bad, they were using a trail with 1100 steps, carrying their boxes on their back.
Today, the cable car is mostly for the tourists, although locals see operate some of the gardens.
There is a nice walking path at the bottom (not long) and pebble beaches.
Cabo Girao from Boat - Swim
Another option to admire the height of the Cabo Girao cliffs is to book a dolphin and whale watching tour that includes a swim under Cabo Girao.
I think this is one of the best boat tours in Madeira (see my list).
The boats, mostly catamarans, first go dolphin and whale watching.
And on the way back, they stop under Cabo Girao for customers to have a swim.
Tours last around 3 hours
Check out the tour options (different sizes of catamaran / different services) & book
Below is a picture where I zoomed from the boat.
You can see the bottom of the Skywalk platform.
And below is a picture of the cable car lines, taken from the boat.
It is quite a steep ride, don't you think!
And finally, here is a picture I took while swimming around the boat, under the cliffs.
I really enjoy the experience. The walls are really massive and the water clear.
Is Cabo Girao open?
The Skywalk is generally open every day from 8:30 am to 8pm (or to 7pm in Winter). There is no official website, so better to check with your local accommodation to see if there are any maintenance closures planned.
What is the tallest cliff in the world?
Cabo Girao is the tallest cliff in Europe, but not in the world. This title goes to different locations depending on your definition of cliffs.
The Guinness World Records indicates that Kalaupapa in Hawaii is the tallest sea-cliff in the World at 1010m (3313ft)
Want to see more of the best Madeira offers?
- 42 Madeira travel tips to plan an unforgettable trip - read article
- Where to stay in Madeira - best areas - read article
- The best landscapes in Madeira in 40 pictures - read article
- The 7 cables cars in Madeira and their amazing views - read article
- Tips to rent a car and drive around Madeira - read article
- 12 Madeira Hidden Gems - read article
Planning a trip to Madeira?
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