Fertile land

The name Calheta originated from the narrow inlet that serves as its harbour. In fact, that is what Calheta actually means: narrow inlet. The name was given by the discoverers that first arrived there.

The town of Calheta is characterised by being squeezed by high mountains, while at the same time embracing the sea.

Calheta was one of the first places being explored by the first colonizers, that when there straight after the island was discovered. Besides, it was one of the first locations in Madeira being subject to farming.

Amongst the settlers, Calheta welcomed noblemen and knights, amongst whom João Gonçalves Zarco, who chose this location to donate stretches of land to his son João Gonçalves da Câmara and to his daughter D. Beatriz.

For that reason, during the time of the settlement, one brow belonged to the second donee captain of Funchal and the other to his sister D. Beatriz, who appointed the construction of the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Estrela, such as her father Gonçalves Zarco had planned to do.


Amongst the oldest settlers, one would like to point out Pedro Berenguer de Lemilhana, Luiz de Atouguia, João Rodrigues Mondragão and Francisco Homem Gouveia.

The civil parish of Calheta includes seven brows: Lombo do Atouguia, Lombo do Doutor, Lombo do Salão, Lombo do Brasil, Lombo das Laranjeiras, Lombo da Estrela and Vila (town).


It belongs to the municipality bearing the same name, located in the western part of the Island.

The establishment of the civil parish dates back to 1430.

At first, its headquarters were located at the chapel of Estrela. However, in the 19th century, they changed to the church of Espírito Santo, in the town of Calheta.


Calheta was raised to the category of town by royal charter, issued in 1825.

On July 10, 1834, serious tumults took place in the civil parish, as people protested against new public orders.


To deal with these problems, an infantry detachment as well as a navy force from King Pedro's fleet was sent there. Several men were injured in these riots, some died, and there were others who were condemned to banishment for life.


Amongst the historical and cultural heritage, one points out the vast and valuable heritage of a religious nature existent in this civil parish. Calheta is one of the civil parishes in Madeira with the largest number of chapels.


The civil parish has an area of about 14 km2.

From Calheta it is easy to access the plateau of Paúl da Serra, from where you can access Rabaçal, a place where the forest remains in its primitive state, covering the mountains as and endless green mantle.


From Rabaçal, you can go for one of the most beautiful and impressive hikes on the Island.

According to the 2001 Census, today Calheta has about 3,105 inhabitants.

Calheta municipality is the largest on Madeira Island, including the civil parishes of Prazeres, Calheta, Arco da Calheta, Estreito da Calheta, Fajã da Ovelha, Jardim do Mar, Paúl do Mar and Ponta do Pargo.

The main economic activities include agriculture, trade and industry. The transforming industry became very strong with the flourishing of sugar. There were times when there were eight sugar mills in Calheta, of which only one is still in operation today.


This is a very rich area in terms of pisciculture, characterised by a great variety of fish.
Calheta has a very mild climate all year round. During the winter there is a high level of rainfall.


Useful Information

Municipal Public Holiday: June 24
Area: 115.65 Km2
Bathing Areas: Calheta beach

How to Get There


To get to Calheta from Funchal you need to take the freeway in the direction of Ribeira Brava (Funchal-Ribeira Brava). Then, follow the signposts towards Calheta. You can take the road by the sea, or the old road, which is higher up and a longer route.


Related Links

Gastronomic Specialties of Madeira

Typical Food in Madeira Island

Traditional Sweets and Deserts in Madeira

Monuments, Churches, Chapels, Fortresses in Madeira Island

Handicraft in Madeira Island

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