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  • Niko Benas

October 17, 2023 - On the move in the mystical “fairy forest” Fanal

When the island of Madeira was discovered in 1419, it was almost entirely covered in dense forest. It is therefore not surprising that the Portuguese gave it this name. Because Madeira means wood. Today only about 20 percent of the island is covered with the famous laurel forests.

The laurel forests of Madeira were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 and have enjoyed very special protection and attention ever since.

Rolling fog into the Fanal plateau at an altitude of 1200 meters

In the northern part of the Madeiran plateau Paúl da Serra, also known as the Moor in the Mountains, lies an almost mystical and surprisingly gentle landscape at an altitude of around 1,200 meters. In the area surrounding the Fanal forester's lodge there is a pasture area interspersed with huge, century-old laurel trees. The lush green of the meadows and the trees covered in lichens and ferns suggest that the trade wind fog regularly brings moisture here.

Hollow tree trunks are not uncommon in the fairy forest of Fanal

This enchanting forest, called Fanal, is part of the large laurel forest area and lies in an ancient volcanic crater. The place owes its inimitable beauty to this fact. Laurel forests require high humidity. Due to its location in the volcano crater, this moisture cannot escape so easily. There are trees there that are a few centuries old.

There are trees in Fanal that are a few centuries old

Some of them are said to have already been here when Madeira was discovered. Due to their old age and the weather, they have taken on peculiar shapes and branches that are overgrown with dense moss and lichens. These circumstances underline its fairytale appearance and coined the name Fairy Forest.

Peculiar shapes and branches due to the old age of the trees

If you're lucky with the weather, you can watch the thick fog hang like a veil over the green, moss-covered meadows and drown out all the sounds in the area.

Every now and then a few rays of sunshine got lost on the Sybil-like plateau

In the thick fog, it felt like I was the only visitor to this mysterious place.

The further you go, the more furrowed and oracular laurel trees appear before you.

Strangely shaped and almost eerie, they stand still in front of you and you quickly begin to recognize faces and shapes in the tree trunks.

Oracle-like laurel trees appear before you

I walked around there for a few hours and took countless pictures of the bizarre laurel trees that stretch towards the sky in surreal branches.

I had definitely arrived in photo heaven...


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