The beautiful Portuguese Island of Madeira lies well out in the Atlantic where the Gulf Stream affords it a mild and equable year round climate. Volcanic in origin the rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1800 metres/6000 feet. Forests of pine and laurel flank its jagged peaks. A characteristic feature of the island is the elaborate system of levadas or irrigation channels. Over the centuries this network has extended to more than 2000km of channels and more than 40kms of tunnels. They wind their way across gullies and steep slopes bringing water to the coastal settlements and farms. Many of the levadas can be followed on foot and these together with a network of local trails make even the most remote parts of the island accessible. Spring and autumn are the ideal times to visit the island when a myriad of colourful flowers and trees are in bloom; jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora. We have devised an itinerary that exemplifies the best walking that the island has to offer. Our walks follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside or traverse terraced hillsides. More challenging trails climb up to the rugged volcanic peaks of the interior, to Pico Ruivo, at 1860 metres the islands highest peak. Our itinerary ends in the bustling little capital of Funchal. There you will have time to visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants.
We grade the tour as 'Moderate' (grade 3). As far as fitness goes the walks should present no difficulties for anyone in reasonable condition and accustomed to walking in hilly areas. When walking in the high mountains you may encounter mist (low cloud) and it is necessary for those days to be experienced with compass and map. Short sections of some walks may be loose and slippery underfoot and a head for heights is an advantage on quite a few occasions. On any day you can if you prefer opt out of the walking and travel with the baggage. Day Stages: 12-19km per day, with ascents of up to 800m, descents of up to 1000m. 4 to 7 hours walking per day.
On arrival, a short taxi transfer is included to Machico on the east coast. Machico was the landing point when the island was discovered. This peculiar corner of the island boasts the oldest church, the 'Capela dos Milagres', and two forts still bear witness of the locals’ defence against the many pirate attacks on the village.
Accommodation: Stay two nights at one of two small ‘residencial’ (pension). All rooms have private facilities. The pension has its own restaurant where you will enjoy this evenings meal.
After breakfast you have a choice of walks.
Option 1: Walk from Machico up to the viewpoint of Pico de Facho (322m) before joining the Levada (irrigation channel) de Canical. You can follow this to its source near Ribeira de Machico. This levada was built in relatively recent times and is easy to follow. From Ribeira de Machico transfer (included in tour price) by road back to Machico.
Option 2: A longer more challenging alternative. This is for walkers with a head for heights and in reasonable weather without high winds. Walk from Machico via Pico de Facho (322m) and then along the Levada (irrigation channel) do Canical. Climb to Boca de Risco pass (300m) and from there a coastal walk along the wildest stretch of coastline in Madeira, round the Espigao Amarelo, an exposed path with large drop below and down to Larano (200m). From Larano walk down road to Porto da Cruz and transfer by road (included in tour price) back to Machico.
Included transfer by road to Monte. In Monte is the Nossa Senhora do Monte church with a beautiful garden. Monte, which lies 550 m above the sea in the hills above Funchal, is also known for its wickerwork sleds on which one can slide back down towards the city. There is time to visit the Tropical Gardens and ride the sleds before starting the walk. Our walk starts by following the Levada dos Tornos and then moves up the hillside to follow the Levada da Serra, which contours at a higher level 750m around the head of the ‘Valley of Paradise’. The walk ends in Camacha, from where you will be transferred to Santo da Serra to overnight.
NB : the walk Monte to Camacha is not going to be available for the next 6 months. The replacement walk is Sao Lourenco peninsula (7km/4.30 miles, 3.5h), a coastal walk on the eastern point of the island.
Accommodation: Two nights in a 4 star hotel, located 50m from the village centre. All 68 rooms have en-suite facilities, cable TV and phone. The hotel has its own bar and restaurant. There is a heated indoor pool, jacuzzi and a small fitness room. The hotel also has an attractive large garden.
After your transfer back to Camacha, more levada walking at an altitude of about 500m overlooking the long narrow Sao Lourenco peninsula. Luxuriant vegetation along the levada itself. Then a short ascent to Santo da Serra, a village situated on a broad ridge at 650m above sea level where you spend a second night.
Today you follow the Levada do Furado up into the wild, forested hills of the Madeira Natural Park, with magnificent views at a number of points. Today’s Levada is a whole lot more dramatic and challenging than anything on the previous walks; with narrower paths and uneven going underfoot. At Ribeiro Frio (Cold Stream, 850m above the sea) you are met and transferred to Santana, a village set, 400m/1300 feet above the north coast. (Transfer included in tour price). Overnight in Santana. This village, perched on a shelf high above the north coast, is known for its traditional architecture.
Accommodation: Stay in the centre of the village at a 4 star pension. Rooms have hair dryer, cable TV, digital phone, air conditioning, double-glazing and balcony, with views over the fields and countryside. General facilities include an indoor pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and gymnasium. There is a choice of restaurant in the village and the hotel has a popular restaurant.
Time to head up into the high mountains for a spectacular walk along the highest ridge in the centre of the island. The route does need reasonable weather conditions. The walk starts with a road transfer (included in tour price) up to Achado do Teixeira (1592m), near the famous Homem em Pe rock, from where it is about an hours walk up to the summit of Pico Ruivo (1862m), the highest summit in Madeira. From there you can continue along a high ridge, which forms the backbone of the island, with fabulous views either side (weather permitting). This is a strenuous but very rewarding walk and the hardest day of this tour. There are more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’ and you eventually descend to Encumeada (1007m). If the weather outlook is poor or the path is closed you can ride with your baggage from Santana to Encumeada for an alternative walk, to Ginjas (13 km/8 miles, 3.5 h (bus back). Encumeada, is perched on a mountain pass in the centre of the island, 1007m above sea level. The air is scented with cypress and pine and wild flowers grow in profusion in the surroundings.
Accommodation: Our excellent 3 star pension is a welcoming destination after a long day in the hills. All rooms have en-suite facilities, balcony with mountain or valley views, satellite and cable TV, and phone. The public lounge has a fireplace. The restaurant and bar are in traditional rustic style. There is an outside drinks terrace.
Today, you have a choice of two routes heading towards the sea.
Option 1: The valley route. starting from Lombo do Mouro and ending in the coastal town of Ribeira Brava. First you descend alongside a levada, then tracks and roads. At Ribeira you take a public bus to Funchal.
Option 2: The higher route is often closed but provides a more challenging route with spectacular views when the path is safe and the weather is good. The route goes via Fenda do Ferreiro (1100m) and Boca do Cerro pass (1250m) to Corticeiras from where you take a public bus to Funchal where you overnight.
Accommodation: We use one of two 4 star hotels which are located approx 15 minutes walking from the centre of Funchal. The hotels have fully equipped rooms, with cable TV. They also have a swimming pool, a small fitness room, and snooker table.
After breakfast, a transfer to the airport is included in your trip price and takes approx. 30 minutes.
Per Person, Twin Share