The 4 Best Hikes in Madeira
The amazing landscapes, the ancient laurissilva forest, the waterfalls, the wild coastlines and the longest irrigation system in the world, the levadas, makes Madeira one of the best places in Europe for all year hiking.
It can be difficult choosing which of the many walks available on the island, so I thought I would try make it easier for you, here’s 4 hikes you don’t want to miss in Madeira!
1) Hiking the Peaks
The hike takes place between the 3 highest peaks of the island starting at Pico do Areiro at 1811m above sea level.
The majority of the path has been constructed with volcanic rock tiles and has protective railings in the narrower sections. The views are incredible and it’s possible to see many different parts of the island at different points of the hike.
The main attraction is the highest peak of the island, Pico Ruivo, at 1862m above sea level. The views are incredible and it’s always a great feeling to be at the very top!
The hike is roughly 11km long, between altitudes of 1542m and 1862m above sea level and is difficult in the sense that there are many inclines and declines in the form of steps. There are 5 hand dug tunnels, 3 of which need flashlights.
We always recommend good hiking gear as the weather can change quickly, especially in the off season and for many visitors this will be the most challenging hike of the vacation.
This is not one of those hikes you will want to do on your own. Most tour companies offer this hike as a round trip meaning you start at one end and finish in another. If you go on your own, you will have to hike back to the starting point, making it longer and even more challenging, sometimes too long for some.
2) Rabaçal Waterfalls
Every day hundreds of people flock to the Rabaçal valley to hike alongside one of the oldest levadas in the endemic laurissilva forest. The Levadas are canals which collect water from the forest which is later used for irrigation, drinking water and to power hydro-electric power stations in rural parts of the island.
Unfortunately this area has become a massive tourist attraction and can get very crowded. Everybody comes here to see the famous 25 fontes lagoon and very often the entire hike can be one long que of tourists. We’ve got better ideas.
Just a short detour from all the crowds is this path called “levada do alecrim”.
Here we can find some peace and quiet and experience everything the Rabaçal valley has to offer without the chaos of the 25 fontes levada. The path leads to 2 different lagoons and waterfalls, both of which, in my opinion, are more beautiful than the 25 fontes lagoon (big tourist trap).
The main attraction is “Lagoa do Vento” one of the biggest waterfalls on the island and in my opinion certainly the most impressive.
We’ve found a way to get away from the crowds and to show you the very best of the Laurissilva forest, the levadas, the lagoons and the waterfalls in the Rabaçal valley without the hustle and bustle. Believe me when I tell you, this is better than 25 fontes!
The hike is 15km long, moderate, including a fair amount of steps as well as a tunnel towards the end which is flat and spacious. In the summer it’s possible to have a quick swim in the lagoon (July and August) and we highly recommend doing this hike in a small group.
Click here for more information on how to join us at Madeira´s best waterfall;
3) Ponta de Sao Lourenço
The most easterly peninsular on the island is home to some of the most dramatic volcanic landscapes on the island.
The terrain, the fauna and flora and even the weather at Ponta de Sao Lourenço is something very unique and very different to what Madeira’s nature is typically known for and a must do for all nature lovers visiting the island!
The climate at the peninsular is generally hot and dry and occasionally quite windy as well. The landscape is a reflection of this with shades of yellow and brown. The cliff faces are color pallets painted in all the warm colours of the volcano and are nothing short of spectacular!
The water is often crystal clear and very inviting and probably a little warmer than you may think!
The hike involves some ascends and descends and is considered Moderate difficulty with a total of 8Km more or less which should take around 4 hours in total to complete.
It´s a round trip so you can very easily rent a car and do the trip yourself or go by local bus which stops right outside the entrance to the walk and will bring you right back to the centre of Funchal.
Go early! The ease of access of this walk and the fact that it is a round trip makes it one of Madeira´s most popular hikes which means crowds! By 9am it´s too late. We´ve found that the best time to start the hike would be somewhere around 7:30 or 8:00.
We offer this tour at sunrise, at our secret viewpoint (seen above) and of course we´ll come pick you up right outside your door 😉
4) Levada do Moinho in Porto Moniz
Being a reasonably flat walk, this is a great levada for those who want to experience the forest, the fauna and flora and the water canals without the stress of the large crowds at the more popular levadas and without too much difficulty.
We call it our zen walk.
The sound of the water flowing alongside you as you walk under the protection of the tree heathers truly helps you to disconnect a little bit and live in the moment. There are signs of Laurissilva forest all along the old levada path, small waterfalls and streams flowing from all directions, old watermills (where the levada gets its name from) and massive eucalyptus trees in the exotic forest “section” of the walk.
The walk is roughly 10km in length, takes roughly 3 and a half hours to complete and is considered a moderate walk. It´s situated in the forests of Porto Moniz, North West of the island. It´s not recommended by local bus (a very long ride and hard to find) and if you´re going by car you´ll have to walk double as it is not a round trip.
Click here for more information on how to join us on this levada walk;
Always remember to be careful, pack waterproof gear and sunscreen on all walks and hikes and make sure you have the right boots! The terrain can get tricky and good boots can provide better grip and stability.
It´s always a better idea to go with a guide!
You´re not saving that much money by renting a car.
We know the terrain, the weather and all our groups are in a maximum of 7 persons so come on, Let´s Hit The Road!