When someone mentions a holiday in Portugal, no doubt images of beaches covered in tourists and package holidays springs to mind. Not exactly anything adventurous. Yet tucked away in the Atlantic Ocean, on the outermost region of the European union, is a little Portuguese island called Madeira.
Known as the Floating Garden due to the tropical plants and exotic fruits that grow there, Madeira is not only famous for its sweet wine and being the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo, but also for its mountains regions perfect for hiking.
How to Get There
Getting to Madeira is easier than you might think. Simply get a connecting flight through Lisbon, with Madeira being a 90-minute flight from there. Prices and times of flights will be dependent on the time of year, with higher prices during the peak season from June to August.
The best way to find the best deals and times is to use a flight comparison site like Skyscanner well in advance. It’s also worth noting that, due to Madeira’s tropical climate, the temperature is high here throughout the year. There is, however, a much higher chance of rainfall outside May to August, so if you dislike tropical showers, you’re best visiting during summer.
Where to Stay
Madeira has a vast array of accommodation options for its visitors ranging from luxury hotels to hostels. However, if you’re looking for an adventurous trip to Madeira, you’re going to want to avoid the cities and immerse yourself in the mountain life.
Surprisingly, there are very few campsites in the area – and it’s illegal to camp outside a site in Portugal – so if you’re looking for that nomadic lifestyle, instead opt for something like renting your own campervan to sleep in. This can be particularly useful for getting around the island easily.
Alternatively, there are plenty of local homes to rent in the area, most have Wi-Fi and even pools.
How to Get Around
If you don’t opt for a campervan, renting a car is also a good option for getting around Madeira as the landscape here is particularly mountainous meaning lots of steep hills and cliffs to climbs. In fact, many of the roads have tunnels that take you directly through the mountains. Having your own car means you can pack all your hiking gear into the boot and get to the start of your hiking trail easily too.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a mountain bike and cycle through the mountains. As it’s so hard going it can be tempting to use one of the tunnels to avoid rocky regions, but these can be dangerous if you come across a particularly speedy motorist.
Top Walking Trails
Madeira is a hiker’s heaven, with numerous fantastic trails to follow, all surrounded by tropical trees and wildlife. To truly experience this paradise, there is no better trail than a walk through Paradise Valley. A nice, pleasant walk to get you started, the Paradise Valley trail will take you around 2 hours and is 5.5km long, starting in Vale do Paraiso and finishing in Rochao. During the walk, you’ll see some spectacular gardens, views of Camacha and plenty of wild flowers like eucalyptus.
For a more taxing walk, the Ponta de Sao Lourenco is a difficult hike but more than worth it for the spectacular views. The 10km hike will take around 3 hours to complete, and will take you quite high so if you have vertigo or a fear of heights beware. Walking through the natural park, expect to see volcanic formations as well as views over the Ilhas Desertas and Porto Santo Islands.
If you enjoy waterfalls and forests, the 13km hike through Laurisilva Forrest is enchanting. Surrounded by mossy rocks and towering trees, your hike will take you through one of Maderia’s most secluded areas to the magical Caldeirão Verde waterfall. Expect to spend the day surrounded by more luscious greens forests that are hard to even imagine.
Of course, no walking tour of Madeira would be complete without the 13km trail through the islands highest peaks – Pico do Arieiro (1817m) and Pico Ruivo (1861m). Here you’ll find some of the greatest wonders of nature including the oldest heather forest in the world, trees that are centuries old and even some incredibly rare birds. As you’re going up high, you’ll need warm clothing – no matter how warm it is on the rest of Madeira.
Whilst You’re in Madeira
Hiking across this beautiful island isn’t the only way to enjoy Madeira. There are plenty of amazing activities to fill up your days. Some of the most notable include taking a cable car up to Monte then travelling back down by a wicker basket toboggan, exploring some of the many volcanic caves such as the São Vicente caves and, of course, taking a few hours out of your adventure holiday to sit down, relax and sample some of the delicious local cuisine.