Walking Week In Madeira
- Funchal – Laid-back city with beautiful gardens, parks, historic buildings and a colourful market
- Sao Lourenco Peninsula – Cliff top walk with stunning coastal views
- Levada Paths – Variety of picturesque walks alongside the island’s unique irrigation channels
- Ponta do Sol – Quaint coastal town with beautiful sunsets
- The Balcony Walk – Spectacular views along this famous path between the high peaks of Arieiro and Ruivo
Levada Trails of Madeira Island
Day 1 – Join tour at Funchal
Arrive Funchal and check-in to hotel. Funchal takes its name from ‘funcho’, meaning fennel. According to legend, when Zarco landed here in 1419, he named this spot after the abundance of the herb he found here. Visiting sailors used to call the capital of Madeira ‘Little Lisbon’ because the grandeur of its cathedral and its harbourside buildings reminded them of Lisbon.
Day 2 – Drive to Sao Lourenco; coastal walk; drive to Santana
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 (approx. 3 hours walk). 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. We continue with a drive to Santana, through a peaceful agricultural area, where the rich soil helps to yield up to three crops yearly. 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.
Day 3 – Walk from Queimadas via Caldeira Verde to Ilha; drive to Porto Moniz
This morning we drive up to Queimadas where our walk to the village of Ilha starts in the the lush UNESCO protected laurel forest following a levada along to the waterfall of Caldeira Verde. We go down a forest path to Ilha finishing with expansive views of the North Coast (approx 5 hours walk). From here 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!
Day 4 – Drive to Cristo Rei, hike to Florencas via Rabacal; drive to Ponta do Sol
Today we head inland up to the ‘Desert Plain’ where we follow a levada path overlooking the fertile south coast. A unique feature of Madeira is its network of ‘Levadas in Madeira‘ – irrigation channels. Fed by natural streams and reservoirs, the network covers over 2000km. Along our route we see caves used by shepherds and may even have goats and cows along with us, as on this terrain they are allowed to roam freely. Our path takes us to Rabacal and then through a long tunnel to join another levada leading down to Florencas (approx. 5 hours walk). The levada paths are often bright with flowers throughout the year thanks to Madeira’s pleasant maritime climate. Hydrangeas and oleanders give the paths a blaze of colour: wild agapanthus and bird of paradise flowers can often be seen. This afternoon we drive to the attractive coastal town of Ponta do Sol, our base for the next two days.
Day 5 – Hike Encumeada / Boca Corrida ; drive back to Ponta do Sol
We drive up into the mountains and intend to walk east from Encumeada, this time following one of the many old trails that linked villages across the island, used before the modern road system was built. The walk takes us through chestnut forest and past old terraces of farms, then up and across the face of Pico Grande from where there are dramatic views of Curral das Freiras (Nuns Refuge). Nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled to this area when pirates attacked Funchal in 1566. Please note the paths are narrow in short sections. We may have to replace or alter this walk with another due to local conditions which vary from week to week. (Approx 6 hours walk).
Day 6 – Balcony walk
Rising early today, we make for Pico do Arieiro (1818m), the start point of the challenging ‘Balcony Walk’. Although this is not a long walk there are some steep sections with small steps cut into the rock. The views are spectacular on clear days, and when the weather is mixed, clouds drift across the route as you pass over Pico do Gato and Pico das Torres, giving tantalising glimpses of what lies below (approx 5 hours walk). NB. Vertigo sufferers may chose not to do this walk and can be transferred to Funchal for an extra day sightseeing. Please note that we may have to replace this walk with another due to local conditions which vary from week to week. (Approx 6 hours walk). After our walk, we return 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.
Day 7 – In Funchal; a choice of optional excursions
Today there is a choice of activities from Funchal. You could take a half day cruise and try your luck searching for whales and dolphins. You may simply wish to take some time to stroll through Funchal, perhaps visiting the colourful market to see the displays of flowers and exotic fruit or nosing into the delightfully old-fashioned shops, maybe 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 8 – Tours end Funchal
Tour ends after breakfast.
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Levada Trails Of Madeira Island
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