Trek Notes - Portugal



Portugal: Madeira

Tour code: JIM

The beautiful Portuguese Island of Madeira lies well out in the Atlantic where the Gulf Stream affords it a mild and equable year round climate. Volcanic in origin the rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1800 metres/6000 feet. Forests of pine and laurel flank its jagged peaks. A characteristic feature of the island is the elaborate system of levadas or irrigation channels. Over the centuries this network has extended to more than 1000km of channels and more than 40kms of tunnels. 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.

Spring and autumn are the ideal times to visit the island when a myriad of colourful flowers and trees are in bloom; jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora. We have devised an itinerary that exemplifies the best walking that the island has to offer. Our walks follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside; traverse terraced hillsides, or skirt the rugged coastline. More challenging trails climb up to the rugged volcanic peaks of the interior, to Pico Ruivo, at 1860 metres the islands highest peak.

Our itinerary ends in the bustling little capital of Funchal. There you will have time to visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants.

Travel Information

Season: Land only: any date March to November. With air travel: see below ‘Access’.

Access:Scheduled flights London Gatwick to Funchal, 5 times a week in Nov-April, and 3 times a week in May-Oct. Also charter flights Mondays from Gatwick or Manchester to Funchal. The first hotel is in Machico, about 20 minutes drive from the airport.

End of Tour: After breakfast on Day 8. The last hotel is in Funchal, about 45 minutes drive from the airport.

Level of Difficulty

We grade the tour as 'Moderate'.As far as fitness goes the walks should present no difficulties for anyone in reasonable condition and accustomed to walking in hilly areas. On two walking days which are spent in the high mountains (Days 5 and 6) you may encounter mist (low cloud) and it is necessary for those days to be experienced with compass and map.Short sections of some walks may be loose and slippery underfoot and a head for heights is an advantage at a few points.On any day you can if you prefer leave out the walking and travel with the baggage.

Day Stages: 12-16 km per day, with ascents of up to 800 metres, descents of up to 1200 metres.4 to 7 hours walking per day.

Waymarks: Waymarking is a bit patchy but you will be equipped with our detailed walking notes and acontoured map of the island showing paths and tracks. We strongly advise taking a compass and being familiar with its use for simple navigation.

Accommodation & Meals

Four out of seven nights on a half-board basis (evening meal and breakfast). For the remaining three evenings we thought it is more fun to choose where to eat from the selection of restaurants in the neighbourhood approx. £15 for a meal for two including wine or beer.

It is always wise to carry a bottle of water and some fruit and bread/biscuits to eat on the way.

Nights 1 and 2: Machico.We stay at one of two small 'residencial' (pension). All rooms have private facilities, cable TV and phone. Night 1 half board. Night 2 bed and breakfast; the pension has its own restaurant and there is a choice of places to eat nearby.

Night 3: Camacha.A typical Madeiran Estalagem, at the center of the pretty village of Camacha. 4 stars. 24 spacious double rooms with verandah mostly overlooking the ocean, heating, satellite TV, telephone. The hotel has its own restaurant specializing in Portuguese and local dishes, but also offering international dishes. A wickerwork workshop is attached to the hotel. Half board.

Night 4:Santo de Serra.In an elevated position this delightful small hotel (11 rooms in rustic style, all with en-suite facilities, satellite TV and phone) has its own bar and restaurant. The public rooms have tiled floors while the bedrooms have polished wood floors. The attractive large garden has a pond and some tall pines (but no pool, although there is a pool table indoors…). If you were to spend an extra night here you would be only 15 minutes walk from the golf course. Half board.

Night 5: Santana. This village, perched on a shelf high above the north coast, is known for its traditional architecture. Here we stay in the center of the village at a 4* pension. Rooms have hair dryer, cable TV, digital phone, air conditioning, double-glazing and balcony, with views over the fields and countryside. General facilities include an indoor pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and gymnasium. Bed and breakfast. There is a choice of eating places in Santana.

Night 6: Encumeada.Perched on a mountain pass in the center of the island, 1007m/3300 feet above sea level, this excellent pension (***) is a welcoming destination after a long day in the hills. The air is scented with cypress and pine and wild flowers grow in profusion in the surroundings. All rooms have en-suite facilities, balcony with mountain or valley views, satellite and cable TV, and phone. The public lounge has a fireplace. The restaurant and bar are in traditional rustic style. There is an outside drinks terrace. Half board.

Night 7: Funchal.We use one of two 4 star hotels which are located approx 15 mn walking from the centre of Funchal. The hotels have fully equipped rooms, with Cable TV. The hotels also have a swimming pool, a small Fitness Room, and Snooker Table. Bed and breakfast is included. For your evening meal there is an enormous range of places to eat out at in Funchal. In our route notes we recommend a good fish restaurant.

Outline Itinerary

Day 1:Arrive Madeira.Arrive Funchal airport, Madeira. Short taxi transfer to Machico on the east coast (15 minutes). Overnight Machico.

Day 2: Walk Machico to Ribeiro de Machico(12km/7 miles /4 hours). After breakfast walk from Machico up to the viewpoint of Pico de Facho (322m. Then, joining the Levada (irrigation channel) de Canical at the point where it emerges from a 750m long tunnel, you follow it to its source near Ribeira de Machico. 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.

Day 2 (alternative; only for experienced walkers with a head for heights and in good weather without high winds): Walk Machico to Porto da Cruz (15km/9 miles/5 hours). After breakfast walk from Machico via Pico de Facho (322m) and then along the Levada (irrigation channel) do Canical for 2km. Climb to Boca de Risco pass (300m) and from there a coastal walk along the wildest stretch of coastline in Madeira, round the Espigao Amarela (exposed path with large drop below; a head for heights needed here) 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:Walk Monte to Camacha(12.5km/8 miles/4.5 hours). Transfer by road to Monte (included in tour price). In Monte is the Nossa Senhora do Monte church with a beautiful garden. Monte, which lies 550 m above the sea in the hills above Funchal, is also known for its wickerwork sleds on which one can slide back down towards the city…however our walk starts by following the Levada dos Tornos and then moves up the hillside to follow the Levada da Serra, which contours at a higher level (about 750m) around the head of the 'Valley of Paradise'…overnight Camacha (700m), where your baggage will have been delivered earlier in the day.

qDay 4: Walk Camacha to Santo da Serra. (14km/9 miles/5 h). More levada walking along the Levada de Serra at about 800m altitude overlooking the long narrow Sao Lourenco peninsula. Luxuriant vegetation along the levada itself. Then a short descent to Santo de Serra, a village situated on a broad ridge at 650m/2100 feet above sea level. Overnight Santo da Serra.

Day 5: Walk Santo da Serra to Ribeiro Frio(13km/8 miles/4.5h). Today you follow the Levada do Furado up into the wild forested hills of the Madeira Natural Park, with magnificent views at a number of points. At Ribeiro Frio (Cold Stream, 850m above the sea) you are met and transferred to Santana, a village set on a shelf 400m/1300 feet above the north coast. (Transfer included in tour price). Overnight Santana.

Day 6: Walk Achada do Teixeira to Encumeada (14km/9 miles/6 hours) Time to head up into the high mountains! Today's programme depends on the weather as well as on your preferences; if the outlook is good you start with a road transfer (included in tour price) up to Achado do Teixeira (1592m), near the famous Homem em Pe rock, from where it is about an hours walk up to the summit of 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 walk and the hardest day of this tour. There are more 'downs' than 'ups' and you eventually descend to Encumeada (1007m). If the weather outlook is poor you should ride with your baggage from Santana to Encumeada. Overnight Encumeada.

Day 7: Walk Encumeadato Corticeiras (16km/10 miles/5.5 hours./ After breakfast your baggage will be transferred direct to Funchal, while (assuming clear conditions) you start by crossing the enchanting emerald green Ribeira do Poco valley with its traditional palheiros (thatched cowsheds). After climbing to a superb viewpoint at Fenda do Ferreiro (1100m) and crossing a steep slope below Pico Grande you reach the Boca do Cerro pass (1250m) with views down into the Curral valley. The remainder of the route down to Corticeiras (750m) is straightforward, following not a levada but a very scenic track, and lower down a minor road, which once formed part of the main north-south route across the centre of the island. This part of the island is aptly known as the Jardim da Serra (Mountain Garden), with orchards and a lovely quinta built in the 1800s for the then British consul. From Corticeiras there is a good bus service down to Funchal. Overnight Funchal.

Day 8: Depart Madeira. The transfer to the airport (included in the tour price) takes about 45 minutes.

What's Included

For all customers (including 'land only'): 7 nights bed & breakfast, 4 evening meals; written descriptions of each day's walking itinerary, 1:50,000 scale walkers' map; baggage transfers each day that you move on to new accommodation during the tour; other transfers during the tour as specified above in section 'Outline Itinerary. Transfers from Funchal airport to first accommodation and from last accommodation back to airport.

For UK based full package customers: as well as above also included are flights to and from Funchal from London Gatwick (or, on payment of a supplement, from Manchester), transfers from Funchal airport to first accommodation and from last accommodation back to airport.

Print   To Top