Curral das Freiras Village in Mountains Madeira, Portugal
The village of Curral das Freiras (Nun's Valley), set at the end of a huge cauldron of rock, is just about the most popular day trips from Funchal, and is also home to that typical Madeiran combined awe-inspiring mountain scenery, an easy-going walk, local specialties and welcoming locals. The village is renowned for its chestnuts plus a cherry liquor called ginja, drunk through the island from shot glasses created from dark chocolate. It's just a shorter (but almost vertical) bus ride on the bustle of Funchal's seafront.
A scenic method to approach Curral das Freiras should be to take the bus for the lookout point at Eira do Serrado, 1094m above sea level and hike down following that. Enjoy the truly astounding views down towards the valley floor around 700m below prior to taking the downhill path from behind the accommodation and souvenir stalls; a common hike, the 5km route is downhill prior to the very last section on the road, mostly on rounded steps. Along the way there, high outcrops of volcanic rock make excellent picnic halts, and interesting flora like eucalyptus trees and camphor plants scent mid-air.
The village has several spots to sample some local specialties. The local chestnuts are harvested between October and January, but you are available all year long as an ingredient in soup, bread, biscuits, cakes, liquors and sweets. The village even holds a chestnut festival (Festa da Castanha) during the early November and 'exports' its products to your tourist hotspots of Funchal.
Also worth a try is the pretty Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Livramento, interesting due to the cliff-edge position just from the main road. Around Curral das Freiras are remote-feeling settlements where locals grow vegetables in ever steepening gradients the further inside the valley you progress. A demanding hike heads straight in the side of your mountain from north with the village, linking with the Encumeada–Boca do Corrida trail.