Another way of camping

Glamping has made its way to Madeira in the shape of two ventures located in Calheta which Essential visited.

At 572 metres high there is not much of anything blocking the view of the sea. Behind Caminho dos Serrões gate number 138, in Estreito da Calheta, there is a garden with five small bungalow-like cottages. Around them, a bit of everything, from the breath-taking ocean to the green of Nature, as well as the agricultural landscape and the clouds, sometimes low enough that they envelop the property.

It could be a hotel but it is not. The name clarifies the concept: Calheta Glamping Pods. It opened to the public in October 2019 as the idea of a family given form. What had once been an agricultural terrain was transformed into a space that offers much more than just accommodation.

The word glamping is the combination of the words camping and glamour. The concept is based on being in contact with nature, the peace and tranquility associated with camping. But then there is the comfort and quality of a hotel unit. In this way, one can have the best of both worlds, appreciating Nature without having to pack all the necessary equipment, including the tents.

Glamping arrived in Portugal around five years ago. An in Madeira around two years ago.

The host at the Calheta Glamping Pods is Francisco Serrão. It is he who greets guests and shows them around the property, including the cottages, chosen after a lengthy search ‘mostly because they are made of woods that came from sustainable sources’ and the fact that the ‘modules are ‘customizable’ allowing for ‘a design of our choice’.

The result was five pods, strategically distributed around the space and with a view of the seal, a porch and all the comfort expected from a hotel: heating in the bedrooms, internet, smart tv, bathroom and kitchenette. And because the devil is in the detail, Francisco Serrão offers a hammock in every bedroom so that people can relax on their porch and take in the sunset.

Peace and quiet reign supreme here. At night the silence is neigh absolute. It is broken only by the croaking of frogs and the chirping of crickets. Around the pods is a growing garden that makes one feel truly in the heart of nature. There is a large pine tree up ahead that blends into the frame of one of the balconies. The sky offers more light than the street lamps. A true haven.

In the morning, light births equally beautiful colours. The sunrise is accompanied by the chirping of the surrounding blackbirds who love to rest on the branches of the great pine tree, almost as if to wish foreigners a good morning.

Then we are further surprised by the knocking on the door that leaves us our breakfast in a cloth bag, as bakers used to do in olden days.

There is no shortage of trails and rural landscape to explore in the surrounding area. In the western part of Madeira, Calheta is bountiful in scenic places and unique views. It is one of the areas in which tourism has most developed over the last few years, through projects that seek to embody an eco-friendly and sustainable attitude.

But those who seek a pure retreat can just let themselves stay in the pool, the only area in the Calheta Glamping Pods that indicates not having internet access, a sign that rest is the motto.

Curiously, the two glamping options in Madeira are located in Calheta. Germana Fulfilling a dream made reality in 2018, Germana Francisco opens the doors to Soul Glamping, in the Prazeres parish, just about 10 minutes away from the Calheta Glamping Pods.

After living for almost 17 years in London, the owner wanted to return to Madeira bringing with her an innovative idea, something different, that did not exist on the island but that would allow for the enjoyment of ‘peace and nature’.

A stone house served as the reception and support room for breakfasts that are ‘prepared and taken to customers’.

There are five tents for guests, installed in an area with plenty of sunlight exposition – the domes. Each dome is a studio, crafted to be cozy. And where the details were kept in mind, including having a private jacuzzi in each dome.

Germana Francisco tells of how she made it a point to seek the best tents, ones that could adapt to weather of Madeira. ‘These are tents isolated from sunrays and wind-resistant’.

For summer this year, Germana Francisco intends to broaden the project, setting up ‘five more tents, in another place’ yet to be revealed.

The view is wide and breath-taking. Turned toward the sea, the locale allows one to enjoy the sunrise to the left, and the sunset to the right. Around there are pastures, agricultural fields and several renovated homes, some of them holiday houses. Around here one finds the pure air and tranquillity that many seek.

Article written in February 2020. (Issue no. 78 February/March)