On this Madeira Island walking holiday you follow Levadas & discover the dramatic scenery on this Portuguese island. And you'll hike Pico Ruivo - the highest point
The beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira lies well out in the Atlantic where the Gulf Stream affords it a mild year round climate that is ideal for walkers. Volcanic in origin, the rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1800 metres/6000 feet. Forests of pine, eucalyptus and laurel flank its jagged peaks.
A characteristic feature of the island is the elaborate system of levadas – or irrigation channels that has been extended over centuries. 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.
Jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora. UTracks 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 hike Pico Ruivo, at 1860 metres – the islands highest peak.
Our Madeira Island walking holiday ends in the bustling little capital of Funchal. An extra day is recommended in Funchal so that you will have time to visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants. Also you can spend more time at Monte or the famous botanical gardens.
Itinerary for Madeira Island walking holiday
Day 1: On arrival at Funchal airport a short taxi transfer is included to Machico on the east coast. 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. 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.
Day 2: After breakfast you have a choice of 2 walks. Both walks can be extended by 4.4km, 1.5 hours and over 300 metres of ascent.
Option 1: Start at the Levada de Canical. You can follow this to its source near Ribeira de Machico above the village of Marocos. 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. Start at the Levada de Canical, and soon leave it to climb to the Boca de Risco pass (300m) and from there a cliff hugging coastal path takes you 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.
Day 3: This walk includes transfers to the start and from the end. A circular coastal walk around the Sao Lourenco peninsula, on the eastern point of the island. This is different to any other walk during the week, taking a trek through the volcanic remains which are now a nature reserve. There are spectacular cliff views and wonderful flowers. Overnight in Santo da Serra for two nights in a 4 star hotel, besides expected 4* facilities, the hotel has an attractive large garden.
Day 4: After your included transfer to Camacha, there is more levada walking at an altitude of about 500m overlooking the coastal valleys, hillside terraces forests and the long narrow Sao Lourenco peninsula. There is luxuriant vegetation along the levada itself, and you pass through areas of farming terraces, small villages and other valleys of abandoned farms. Then a short ascent back to Santo da Serra, where you spend a second night. Hopefully you will find some time to look round the beautiful park in the village which has a wonderful panoramic viewpoint towards Machico.
Day 5: Today you follow the Levada do Furado up into the wild, forested hills of the Madeira Natural Park - a real highlight of this Madeira Island walking holiday. With magnificent views at a number of points, the levada threads its way along the hillsides covered with Laurisilva vegetation and the water is very pure. Today’s Levada is a whole lot more dramatic and challenging than anything on the previous walks. At Ribeiro Frio you are met and transferred to Santana where you'll overnight. This village, perched on a shelf high above the north coast, is known for its traditional architecture.
Stay in the centre of the village at a 4* pension. The hotel has a popular restaurant and offers traditional island fayre. An extra day in Santana could be booked in order to walk the Levada from Queimadas to Ilha via Caldeirao Verde, another beautiful walk!
Day 6: Time to head up into the high mountains for a spectacular walk along the highest ridge in the centre of Madeira and to hike Pico Ruivo. The walk starts with a road transfer (included) up to Achado do Teixeira (1592m), from where it is about an hour to hike 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), a high road pass and cafe. From here it is a short road walk down below the pass to your hotel. If the weather outlook is poor or the path is closed UTracks accommodate for an alternative walk: to Ginjas (13 km/8 miles, 3.5 h). Stay in a 3 star pension, a welcoming destination after a long day in the hills.
Day 7: Today, you have a choice of two routes heading towards the sea.
Option 1: Starting from a roadside stop at Lombo do Mouro, follow a quiet descending levada, which soon drops along a ridge and then follows some steep lanes through terraces ending in the coastal town of Ribeira Brava. At Ribeira you take a roughly hourly public bus to Funchal.
Option 2: The higher route is often closed but provides a more challenging walk 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 an afternoon public bus to Funchal where you overnight in a 4* hotel.
Day 8: After breakfast, a transfer to the airport is included in your trip price, which takes approx. 30 minutes.