Traveling from Funchal, the capital of Madeira on the island’s south coast, Ribeiro Frio is located mid-way along the main route to Santana. The latter being a major, and quaintly traditional, tourist destination on the north coast.
The rapidly river, that flows rapidly down from the jagged volcanic peaks that surround Ribeiro Frio, is chilled by the altitude and its even higher source. This river gives the village its main pulling power as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, its remoteness does tend to limit the number of visitors, but that only serves to preserve its original character.
A regularly stop on the schedule of many tour companies, the roads leading into Ribeiro Frio village are difficult to negotiate. Most times, and especially so around early afternoon, a tangled line of parked cars and coaches funnels the traffic through the narrow twist and turns. If you have taken a hire car, do not be surprised if, open arrival, you are required to leave your vehicle some distance from the center and are forced to walk the last hundred metres or so.
Once you have finally arrived in the village proper, you will perhaps be a tad disheartened. At an initial glance, Ribeiro Frio seems to be little more than a solitary restaurant, a ramshackle small bar and the obligatory tourist souvenir shop. Do not misjudge this delightful rural village on first impressions though, there are things of interest to see and do if you know what to look for.
A short distance down from the Ribeiro Frio Restaurant which is at the heart of the village, there is the main purpose of your visit – the regional governmental trout fish farm. What may come as a pleasant surprise is that this facility is open to the public admission free.
At the fish farm, you can wander amid the profusely planted grounds whilst you make your way between the various trout ponds. The bland, white, concrete square hatchery tanks are perfunctory and little else. Although you can be mesmerised, watching the swarms of tiny fry fish darted about their temporary home. However, the main visual attraction, is the large round, brickwork, green tint of the adult fish pools. If their offspring were fascinating, the adult rainbow trout provide each onlooker with a swirling dance of flashing colour.
Naturally, each pool is fed by the chill, clean waters of the local river that gives the village its name.
Regretfully, those who fancy a spot of impromptu fishing will be disappointed. Angling is strictly prohibited. I have even heard a rumour that the excellent trout on the menu at the nearby restaurant is not even sourced from the farm. One individual has even “gone public” and declared that not one single rainbow trout will ever be seen on any Madeiran menu until that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has been found. This is hard to credit. Madeira Island is not blessed with easily exploited natural resources and the local population has a long tradition of extracting every last minute benefit that is on offer.
At the other end of the Ribeiro Frio village is the SRA Loja do Ambiente, an environmental education centre housed in a large white building. The SRA Loja do Ambiente is part of a consortium of similar establishments covering Madeira, the Azores and the Canary Islands. Not really intended as a tourist attraction, but rather aimed at educating local children in the need for protecting their island home, this establishment may be of interest to those involved in such issues. This facility is not really intended as a tourist attraction. As such, it will be a case of hit and miss if it is actually open when you visit. The presence of an English speaking attendant is similarly a matter of chance.
Apart from these two attractions, the local restaurant is where most day-trippers head. If you do intend to dine at the restaurant, then keep a look out for arriving coaches. The village is a frequent stop on many Eastern Madeira tours and the sudden rush of 60 or more passengers, all simultaneously hungry, can leave the staff overstretched. Internet reviews and feedback on the Restaurant Ribeiro Frio are contradictory and carry a range of opinions. Usually open from 12noon to 6:00pm, it is not expensive given its position and the almost total lack of competing outlets. If you are visiting during the height of the tourist season, you can always phone ahead and reserve a table. The telephone number is (291) 575 898.
Alternatively, if a snack or a casual drink is all that you are really looking for, then the dated but friendly confines of Victor’s Bar will be more suitable. The outside tables, although basic, are very welcome on a hot summer’s day. We have many More Portugal Vacation Information, Travel Review and Tourist Attractions Articles Now Available.
After having enjoyed your meal, the surrounding laurissilva forest, waterfall and panoramic views provide the ideal backdrop for taking a walk in a natural, unspoilt environment. The flat, easy and ever-popular 1 hour round journey walk to the spectacular Balcoes viewpoint is really a must do. Finally, at your journey’s end, a natural rocky outcrop, akin to a balcony, gives fantastic views of the valley and mountains that stretch out spectacularly before you.
Alternatively, if you are feeling adventurous, you can set out along the demanding Levada do Furado walk to Portela. This walk is very narrow in places, with shear drops and with little protection in the way of railings. The journey lasts around 4 hours and you can only expect to cover it one way. It is also definitely not a recommended undertaking for novice hikers. If you do fancy the challenge, then it is advisable to check with the local official tourist office in Funchal for advice beforehand and, in any case, always observe any warnings given on the noticeboard at the start of the levada just below the Restaurant Ribeiro Frio.
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