Madeira may be a tropical island but don’t come for the beach, they are small and rocky and not enjoyable for a day of lounging – so save that for visiting Santo Stefano islands and/or for your hotel pool. Instead, for the hiking in Madeira and for the nature and beautiful landscapes that will steal your heart.
With 5 days in Madeira, while we planned to do at least three hikes, we all know nothing ever goes as planned. We ended up doing two due to how tired and sick we were getting (as I sniffle and write this) and also Madeira is a prime example of the wrath of Mother Nature and has multiple microclimates and in one part of the island it can be warm and sunny and in another, 20 mph winds and down pouring. We also wanted to explore the capital of Funchal more so we opted out of the third hike for that reason as well.
If you love to hike more so than the average traveler, come here for at least a week to experience all the best hiking in Madeira (while still having time for exploring the cultural aspects of the Portuguese island).
Levada do Caldeirão Verde
Begins: Queimadas Foresty Park
Length: 13 km (roughly 8 miles or so)
End view: a massive 100m waterfall
My mistakes are lessons I like to pass onto you guys… Ana and I for our life could not find the f*cking parking lot to start the hike and took the wrong road up and down for an hour trying to find our way to Queimadas and the connection wasn’t so good so we struggled. We ended up finding the Pico das Pedras parking lot which was an extra 4km there and back to Queimadas so we ended up doing 17 km hike so more than 10 miles but it’s almost all flat so not too shabby…especially for two not-so-in-shape girls. So long story short, type in exactly the starting point I put above, not the name of the hike or just Queimadas cause you’ll probably end up as lost as we were.
Hiking in Madeira doesn’t have to be mountainous and difficult for a person that doesn’t hike a lot. This 13 km hike follows the Levada of Caldeirão Verde and if a flat hike the whole time. If you don’t already know, more than 2,000 km of levadas (pictured below) were built throughout the island, even at the highest points and lowest valleys, to carry water to irrigate farm lands before modern technology allowed for other irrigation methods.
The levadas reflect the lush fauna that it runs along, giving it a dark green/emerald color while the tranquil sound of water trickling down along side of you and down the slight incline provides the music to your hike.
Along the hike you pass a few smaller waterfalls that were impressive and a welcoming treat to stumble upon. The levada runs through several caves and along steep cliffs so if you don’t like heights, skip it or don’t look down (like you couldn’t though…) and to the grand finale, a 100 m waterfall!
Bring plenty of food and water and enjoy this relaxing walk. The signs say it should take you 5 ½ hours but it only took us 4 and we weren’t speed walking either.
P.s. After the hike head into the town of Santana which is known for its thatched roof cottage houses or head to Porta do Cruz for more pretty views of the coast!
Ponta de São Lourenço
Begins: E.R. 109
Length: 8 km (about 5 miles)
End view: the un-walkable part of the peninsula and views to the south of the Deserted islands (Ilhas Desertas) and to the North, the more beach friend Porto Santo Islands.
It is very likely that when you arrive to Madeira you will fly over Ponta São Lourenço, the eastern most peninsula on the island. It was my favorite hike, hands down because of its amazing views through every point of the hike that took your breath away, literally!
It took us 3 hours to finish because we stopped quite a bit for pictures and to take in the views thinking they were amazing only to walk 100 more feet and be even more amazed.
We got lucky with beautiful 65 degree weather, but a couple we met the day before had told us they made it all the way to the end and it started raining very hard, and the rain was ice cold…woof. Remember I told you the weather changes very quickly on the island so always be prepared for rain and wind, than sun, then rain, maybe some intense fog, then sun, repeat (you get the picture?). Which leads me to another warning, if it says stronger than usual wind, DO NOT GO! Just like the other bipolar weather in Madeira, strong wind on this hike can be dangerous with steep cliffs and unstable edges.
See that unsuspecting hill? Yeah well, it kicks asses apparently…
Half way up, heart beat racing, where the paramedics at?… also that couple in the picture, CARRYING 2 CHILDREN! (So if they can do it, I certainly could…)
Overall though, even though this hike was shorter than the Levada of Caldeirão Verde, it was more challenging but worth every heavy breathe we took to get to the top!
Reaching the top was never so accomplishing (especially knowing I only had to go down from there)….
In Madeira for a week or more? Check out some of the other amazing hikes you can take advantage of:
Where is the best place you have ever gone hiking? Let us know in the comments!
A NOMADIC DREAMER