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Walking in Madeira

Operator: Explore
Destination: Madeira
Price From: £688.00

Why book this trip?

Following Madeira’s unique network of levadas and ancient footpaths, this trip discovers the many different sides to this beautiful volcanic island. Walk through Laurel forest, along cliff tops to the Ponta de So Loureno and past alluring waterfalls.

  • – Levada Paths– Variety of picturesque walks alongside the island’s unique irrigation channels
  • – The Balcony Walk– Spectacular Mountain views along this famous path between the peaks of Arieiro and Ruivo
  • – Funchal– Absorb the delights of the laid-back capital with its beautiful gardens, historic buildings and colourful farmers’ market
  • – Christmas and New Year Departures– Festive markets and spectacular fireworks


DAY 1– Join trip in Funchal

Our trip begins in Funchal, which takes its name from ‘funcho’, meaning fennel and according to local legend, when Zarco landed here in 1419, he named this spot after the abundance of the herb he found. Visiting sailors used to call the city ‘Little Lisbon’ because of the grandeur of its cathedral and the buildings that line its harbour.

For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7.30pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Funchal at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Madeira Airport (FNC), which is a 25 minutes’ drive . Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.

Tonight you might like to try one of fresh seafood dishes that Madeira is known for, such as tuna with fried maize or black scabbard with fried banana, and for dessert perhaps have a taste of passionfruit pudding.

DAY 2– Scenic coastal walk on Sao Lourenco Peninsula

A short drive via a scenic viewpoint brings us to Sao Lourenco, the north eastern peninsula of Madeira. Here we walk along the cliff tops, on an undulating trail with great views on both sides. The rock face displays age old volcanic action, eroded by the fury of the Atlantic Ocean. This area is dry and desert-like and offers a contrast to the rest of the island, which is lush and verdant. There is the option to extend the walk with a short but steep ascent to Ponta do Furado for a viewpoint of the two islands Ilhu da Cevada and Ilhu do Farol.

We continue with a drive to Santana, through a peaceful agricultural area, where the rich soil helps to yield up to three crops yearly. Along the route we stop at a sugar cane factory and rum distillery for an optional tasting of this dark nectar!

An idea of how rural Madeira once looked can be gained from the area’s many examples of traditional thatched ‘A’ frame houses known as ‘palheiros’. The thatched roofs keep the buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. Due to a high fire risk, meals were often prepared outside. Once lived in, some of these buildings are now used as cowsheds – the terrain in this area is too dangerous for cows to roam freely. You will often see farmers carrying huge piles of hay to feed their cattle.

Today’s eight kilometre trek is expected to take around three hours with 100 metres of ascent and descent.

DAY 3– Walk through UNESCO Laurisilva forest to Faja do Penedo

This morning we drive up to Boaventure, a hamlet of houses perched on the hillside at the top of the valley. The trail begins with almost two hundred meters of incline, the rest is relatively flat, taking us from the top of the valley and winding down towards the coast. We walk to a hidden waterfall before entering the thick, lush UNESCO protected laurel forest and follow the Levada dos Tornos. The Levada dos Tornos is one of the most important levadas that passes through a big part of the Madeira Island to bring water from the north to the south. At breaks in the trees we will be afforded sweeping views of the valley, the cliff-side levada becomes more scenic as the views down to the coast open up.

From Faja do Penedo our vehicle takes us right along the north coast to Porto Moniz. The 16km stretch of road from Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz took 16 years to complete and was built entirely by hand! Porto Moniz has unusual rock pools, created by volcanic activity. In summer the sun warms the trapped sea water making them excellent places to swim or simply bask after a day’s walking. When the weather is rougher, the waves crash dramatically over the seawall and it is hard to believe that the rock pools really exist!

Today’s 13 kilometre trek is expected to take around five hours with 280 metres of ascent and descent. There are several small sections of the hill-side levada without railing protection.

DAY 4– Levada do Alecrim hike from Rabaal to Risco Waterfall

Today’s walk starts at Rabaal from where we follow the Levada do Alecrim (rosemary), one of the most beautiful levadas of Madeira. Along the trail we can enjoy the variety of endemic flora and take in amazing views down into the Rabaal and Ribeira da Janela valleys. Continuing our hike, we reach the majestic Lagoa do Vento, a river basin formed by the water falling from the top of the cliff, coming from the Ribeira do Lajeado. After a rest and perhaps a swim, we have an hour walking amongst the laurel forest to reach the House of Rabaal where we will stop for lunch.

After lunch we follow the Levada do Risco to the waterfall that feeds it. After enjoying this magnificent viewpoint we continue to the 800 metre Tunel dos Cavaleiros through which the beautiful valley of Calheta and the sea is visible.

Today’s 12 kilometre trek is expected to take around five hours with 475 metres of descent.

DAY 5– Visit the westernmost tip of the island. Levada Nova valley walk

Today we drive to the south coast of the island, making a stop at Ponta do Vigia, the westernmost tip of the island. The lighthouse here stands on the cliffs 300 metres above the waves. Built in 1922, it houses a small museum containing exhibits on the lighthouses of Madeira.

Our walk todays begins from Lombada just inland from Ponta de Sol. We follow the Levada Nova, guiding us round the hillside with views over the coastline and villages of Ribeira Brava. The landscape here gives us a great insight into local livelihoods and traditions, passing banana plantations, cultivated fields and colourful endemic flor, which the tour leader will point out along the route.

The walk ends in Ribeira Brava, where we can stop for a refreshment. From here the bus takes us inland to follow the main road that connects the north and south coasts of the island, steadily climbing to reach our hotel for the night at Encumeada. At an altitude of 950 metres the hotel is surrounded by mountains.

Today’s 10 kilometre trek is expected to take around four hours with 50 metres of ascent and descent. There are several small sections of the hill-side levada without railing protection.

DAY 6– Explore the streets of Funchal. Free afternoon, optional wine tasting and whale watching

On arrival into Funchal there is the option for your tour leader to guide an hour’s orientation walk around the old town or explore on your own. Discover the narrow, cobbled lanes, passing renovated fishermen’s cottages, restaurants, art and craft shops. Visit the Mercado dos Lavradores, farmers market an Madeiran embroidery workshop. Take time to admire the art work painted on the doors of oldest street, Rua de Santa Maria. There is the opportunity to visit the Brady’s wine cellar and taste the different varieties of Madeira wine, the famous fortifies wine produced in the island since the 17th century.

In the afternoon there is choice of activities. You could take a half day cruise and try your luck searching for whales and dolphins. You may simply wish to enjoy more time exploring Funchal, strolling through the botanic gardens and finishing the afternoon with tea at the venerable and atmospheric Reids Palace Hotel for a touch of turn of the century opulence. You may also wish to take the cable car up to the tropical gardens at Monte.

DAY 7– Walk to Pico de Ruivo, Madeira’s highest point

Today’s walk starts at Pico Arieiro (1,862m). From here we follow the trail to the summit of Pico Ruivo (1,862m), Madeira’s highest point, where on a clear day we are rewarded with stunning views down over the island. This route includes walking part of the famous Balcony Walk and through several tunnels (a torch is necessary) including the Tnel do Pico do Gato. This walk can be more challenging than the previous walks, and there are some short, steep sections involving stone steps and metal staircases.

From the pico we descend to Achada de Texeira (1,542m) before returning by minibus to the island’s capital. The old part of town has many restaurants where you can try Espada, a long flat fish unique to the waters around Madeira (and some islands in Japan). This fish has very large eyes and can live at depths below 800m. The Madeirans serve it with banana, which is a delicious combination!

Perhaps the best way to spend the evening is on the harbour front, sampling a glass of the famous Madeira wine, enjoyed by many throughout the ages, including Sir Winston Churchill.

Today’s 11 kilometre trek is expected to take around five-and-a-half hours with 320 metres of ascent and descent. This walk can be more challenging than the previous walks, and may not be suitable for those afraid of heights. There are some short, steep sections involving stone steps, three metal staircases and small sections with steep drops offs to the sides. There are handrails/wire sides at these points and your tour leader will be there to support you.

*Please note that the walk from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo can be closed in bad weather. In this case your tour leader will offer you the best alternative walk for the weather and the group.

DAY 8– Trip ends in Funchal

The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Funchal.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Funchal at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Madeira Airport (FNC), which a 25 minutes’ drive .