Caves of São Vicente

Explore this intriguing set of caves formed by an ancient volcanic eruption and learn about Madeira’s natural history at the on-site education center. 

Comprising the largest system of caves in Madeira, the Caves of São Vicente provide a compelling glimpse into the earth’s interior. Accompanied by a guide, walk through this series of volcanic tunnels and visit the neighboring Volcanism Centre to learn how the geological formations were made. With informative audiovisual displays, the caves are a fascinating excursion for both adults and children.

The caves were formed by an enormous volcanic eruption that occurred more than 890,000 years ago. Inaugurated in 1996, these were some of the first volcanic caves in Portugal to be opened to the public.

Follow the well-lit underground route through the caves and look for craggy stalactites and glistening pools. Listen to the background music mixing with the natural sounds of dripping water. The caves consist of eight tunnels and more than 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) of yawning space.

Although there has been no volcanic activity here for more than a millennium, you can still see the marks left by the lava’s path. Notice the hardened molten rock accumulations, known as “lava cakes,” and large stones that became stuck in unusual locations as the lava moved through various channels. 

After touring the caves, visit the Volcanism Centre, which is designed to provide visitors with background information about the caves. Learn about the geological formation of the caves and the archipelago of Madeira at this pavilion packed with educational exhibits.

Watch a 3-D film recreating a volcanic eruption. Information panels explore the myths and science of volcanoes. Learn about the origins of the universe and the stories of famous volcanologists throughout history.

Save time to explore the well-landscaped garden, featuring plants found surrounding the caves. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the garden or stop by the café and pick up a snack. 

The Caves of São Vicente are located on Madeira’s north coast, accessible by bus or car from Funchal. The caves can be explored only by paying for a 30-minute guided tour.

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