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Madeira Island is known for its breath-taking natural landscapes, ranging from tall mountains, paradisiac beaches, and amazing hikes – also known as levadas in Madeira.  There are countless hikes all around the Madeira Islands – you could easily do one per day for a year and still have many left to do! While many of them are easy-going, some require a bit of caution and an experienced guide. Hiking in Madeira is the best way to explore Madeira’s Laurel Forest – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let’s get going!

 

What are Levadas?

Levada is the name given in Madeira to the traditional irrigation channels used to transport water from the mountainous north and western parts of the island to the agricultural fields and for human consumption on the south. The construction of levadas began not long after the first colonizers arrived in Madeira. Most of them were constructed in the 17th and 18thcenturies, while some are more recent, made in the 1940’s. Constructing a levada was a very arduous and dangerous process. Workers, suspended from ropes, used pickaxes to excavate the mountain slopes and wood from local trees to build rudimentary canals for the water to flow through. Madeira’s steep slopes made for very unsafe working conditions, and for workers the fear of injury, or falling to their deaths was ever-present. In time, these waterways were rebuilt with better materials and had their pathways greatly expand. Nowadays, hiking in Madeira is safe on nearly all levadas.

Most of the trails for hiking in Madeira are commonly called levadas. Actually, the word "levada" designates only the water course, while the pathway next to the levada is called "vereda". For this reason, the hikes in which there is no water transport are just called veredas.

 

Hikes in Madeira you can’t miss

We’ve compiled a list of beautiful trails for hiking in Madeira that you must see while you are here. Even though each levada has unique sights to discover, we´ve chosen the following as some of the best option for hiking in Madeira:

 

Caldeirão Verde

This Madeira hiking trail starts at Queimadas Forestry Park, in the municipality of Santana. From the Queimadas park start many trails, the most well-known of them being the Levada do Caldeirão Verde – roughly translates to the “Green Cauldron”. This spectacular path follows the natural waterway 8,7 km across the Laurel Forest, ending up at an imposing waterfall. At this point you can turn back or explore further into the heart of the Laurel Forest, where you’ll find the eerily named Caldeirão do Inferno – the Devil’s Cauldron. Contrary to what its name suggests, the Caldeirão do Inferno is a sight worth seeing.

Also starting at Queimadas Forestry Park, the aptly named “A Walk for all” is a short 2 km hike in Madeira, without altitude variations, that presents an opportunity for people with disabilities, or who are otherwise physically unable to do other Madeira hiking trails, to experience Madeira’s Laurel Forest.

 

Pico Ruivo

Also situated in the Municipality of Santana, in the north part of the island, is the Pico Ruivo (“The Ginger Peak”, roughly translated). Only accessible by foot, this majestic mountain towers as the highest point in all the Madeira Islands. Just before the high point at 1862 meters, sits the Forest Guards house, which serves as a rest stop, complete with a breath-taking viewpoint. You can get to Pico Ruivo by hiking from Pico do Areeiro (see below) or from Achada do Teixeira, in Santana. The latter is the easier option, as it does not have as many ups and downs. The trail from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo, crossing the hearth of Madeira’s highest peaks, is one of the most challenging hikes in Madeira.

 

Pico do Areeiro

As the third highest point (1817 meters) in Madeira, Pico Areeiro is a popular tourist site, partly because it’s easily reachable by car, and partly because it’s the starting point of one of the most famous hikes in Madeira. The hike from Pico Areeiro to Pico Ruivo is a thrilling one, as it cuts through the steep inclines of Madeira’s tallest peaks. However, the awe-inspiring views from this hike are not for the faint-hearted – or the shorth breathed.

 

25 Fontes (Rabaçal)

Another very popular hike in Madeira, the Levada das 25 Fontes starts in Rabaçal, in the northwest of the island. This Madeira hike is fairly easy anddescends to a waterfall and lagoon, surrounded by the Laurel Forest. Across the path you’ll encounter various springs (“fontes”) that give this levada its name. This is, however, not the only exciting hike that begins in Rabaçal: there’s also the Levada do Risco and the Lagoa do Vento – all of them worth checking out.

 

Balcões (Ribeiro Frio)

The Balcões viewpoint is one of the most touristy spots in all of Madeira’s hikes. This belvedere offers stunning views of the deep and lush valleys of Faial, the surrounding Laurel Forest. It is also an excellent place for birdwatching. Many species of birds endemic to Madeira call the Laurel Forest home. The Balcões viewpoint provides an excellent opportunity to photograph and even feed these colourful creatures. To reach the viewpoint, there is a short hike beginning in Ribeiro Frio.

Ribeiro Frio is also the start (and end) of other hikes, and features popular restaurants, where you can try the mouth-watering Madeira gastronomy, and as well the traditional Poncha.

 

Levada dos Tornos

The Levada dos Tornos is, by total extension, the biggest hike in Madeira and a true feat of engineering. Starting at the deepest parts of Boaventura, in the north of the island, this levada meanders through 106 km, crossing 4 municipalities and ending at Santo António da Serra. Due to its length, this levada is divided into many smaller hikes. The northern part of Levada dos Tornos, along the valley of Boaventura, offers lush sceneries with amazing viewpoints and some waterfalls. Although not dangerous, its recommended that you are accompanied by a local guide throughout this 13 km Madeira hiking trail. The southern part of Levada dos Tornos starts in Monte, easily reachable by car from Funchal city centre. Along the way there are fantastic panoramic views of Funchal.

 

Ponta de São Lourenço

Ponta de São Lourenço is the name given to the peninsula that sits at the eastern-most part of Madeira Island. Located in Caniçal, in the Municipality of Machico, this rugged and utterly gorgeous volcanic landscape is a must see in Madeira. By contrast with the green and humid Laurel Forest, Ponta de São Lourenço is a rocky, red, Mars-like scenery, with short vegetation and very few trees. There are two obligatory stops at opposite sites of the Peninsula. The Ponta de São Lourenço hike start just at the end of the road and is a very well-known tourist spot. This Madeira hike cuts through the peninsula along its slopes, being flanked by the sea on both sides. Just make sure to bring water and head gear (especially in the summer) to provide protection against the dry, windy terrain. Near the end of this trail, Cais do Sardinha - a small pier -  provides a resting spot, just before the final ascent, where you can take a dive in the water, and features a restaurant.

Opposite, the Ponta do Rosto viewpoint rewards visitors with a sight of the imposing, jagged volcanic cliffs that descend into the sea. Just remember to hold on to your hats!

 

Vereda do Larano (Boca do Risco)

Although it is not of the most well-known hikes in Madeira, Vereda do Larano (also called Vereda da Boca do Risco, for its namesake viewpoint) offers stunning coastal views. While it is not a dangerous hike, this one is certainly not for everyone, and it is recommended that you bring a local guide with you, so you don’t miss any turns. Should you decide to walk along this trail, expect striking views along the north coast of Madeira, between the forest on one side and the ocean on the other. You can start this 9,3 km hike in Machico or Porto da Cruz, depending on which way you want to go. If you are an experience hiker looking for a challenge, you can extend your journey to Caniçal, for a beautiful tour along the north-eastern coast of Madeira. Beware that the path to Caniçal features very steep inclines and a tour guide is highly recommended.

 

This is a short list of some of the best trails for hiking in Madeira - there many more for you to explore. If you are planning to move to Madeira, NEWCO Real Estate can help you buy your dream home, settle, and find experience guides for your Madeira hiking adventures.

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