Monte Toboggan ride in Madeira, Portugal

The 'carreiros' or 'carros de cesto' are a unique tourist attraction in Madeira / Hilmil1/Flickr
The 'carreiros' or 'carros de cesto' are a unique tourist attraction in Madeira / Hilmil1/Flickr
13 June 2019, Tom Beck

If you’re visiting the Portuguese island of Madeira with children, one of the best and most exciting activities you can do is take a ride in one of the Carreiros do Monte, a basket which goes down a toboggan run for 2 kilometres of open road at a breakneck speed of 30 mph. This exhilarating attraction is a must-see when you go to Madeira, and the kids are sure to love it (as will the more daring adults!).

The ride starts at the top of the mountain by the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte church and the Botanical Gardens. It’s a steep journey up to the top and a gruelling walk, so the best way to get there is in the cable car (if you’re taking the toboggan to get down, only buy a one-way ticket for the Funchal cable car). Enjoy a leisurely visit to the beautiful church and tropical garden, and when you’re ready to go back down to Funchal city, head towards the Portuguese men in white uniforms and straw boaters standing by their big baskets. You can’t miss them!

Ignore the taxi drivers in the area because they are famed for charging tourists far too much. The Madeira toboggan prices are also not cheap – it’s 30 euro for 2 people in one car – but the fun of the experience makes it worth it. Even better, children under 5-years-old go free. You sit in your little rickety sled and two Portuguese gents will push you down the hill, running behind you and sliding round the corners of the winding road in a hair-raising sleigh ride. The ride takes around 15 minutes.

The pushers who accompany you wear rubber-soled boots that they use as brakes on the steep roads. There are even cars on the road as well, but there isn’t normally a lot of traffic and the drivers are very respectful of the wicker toboggans. The history of these Funchal toboggans goes back to 1890, when this was the only way to get down the mountain other than walking. Since then, this mode of transport has become an unmissable tourist attraction on the island.

This traditional mode of transport has been a fixture of the island for over 100 years / Wikimedia commons
This traditional mode of transport has been a fixture of the island for over 100 years / Wikimedia commons

The Funchal toboggan route stops about half-way down the mountain, in Livramento, from where you can walk the rest of the way into town (this part isn’t as steep and it’s an easier walk) or you can get a taxi (just make sure they charge you a normal rate of around 7 euro, and not the inflated 30-euro tourist charge!).

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