© Maren Kowalke

Madeira — hiking in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

Hiking Collection by
komoot

In the middle of the deep blue Atlantic, the reddish-brown mountain slopes of Madeira tower above the floods. While the sun-drenched south is densely populated, you will still find unique and untouched nature on the north coast and inland. And although the island is quite small, the landscape is incredibly varied: The rugged peaks of the central mountain range, the cloudy Paul da Serra plateau, the steep cliffs of the north coast and the enchanted laurel forests are all waiting to be discovered. To see it all, you can enjoy challenging mountain hikes or stick to the coast—or discover the island nature along the levadas. These narrow water channels have been guiding the water from the mountain streams down to the terraced fields of the population for hundreds of years. The footpaths along the levadas are often almost at ground level and so even leisurely hikers can explore deep into the nature of Madeira.

We have selected eight routes for you to discover the diversity of Madeira. The Levada hikes, the jungle of Fanal and the peninsula of São Lorenço are suitable for families, while the hikes in the Massif Central make the hearts of every experienced mountaineer beat faster. If you spend an entire week in Madeira, all you need to do is determine the order of your hikes and then start exploring the unique volcanic island.

Madeira has a very mild climate, the winters are quite warm and in the summer it does not get too hot. Therefore, you'll find perfect hiking weather all year round. The best way to explore the island is in a rental car, with which you can reach even the most remote hiking trails.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Easy
    01:45
    3.67 mi
    2.1 mph
    575 ft
    575 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Once Madeira was completely covered by dense, mist-covered forests, but the first settlers cleared the forests to create land for agriculture. Only in the most impassable valleys and on the windy plateaus can today be found even larger primeval forests. A particularly beautiful jungle can be found on the western plateau at the forester's house of Fanal: Here are centuries-old and knotty stink-laurel trees. Until early summer, dense fog fields pass over the mountains every day, transforming the unique landscape into a mystical jungle.The tour starts at the Forsthaus Fanal, where you can find some parking. Between the huge tree giants, it goes a bit up to a wide heathland with great views down to the north coast. The path meanders along the plateau into the steaming and dripping stinkberry forest. The trees are overgrown with lichen and ferns, and apart from the quietly rustling leaves in the wind, a peaceful silence surrounds you.After leaving the forest, you pass between gnarled tree heaths to two viewpoints with first-class panoramic views down into the surrounding valleys. On the way towards the forester's lodge you will meet some cows that live up here on the wide meadows.You pass again the forester's lodge and on the wide meadow are here particularly large specimens of the laurel trees. In a small round you walk along the big trees and can enjoy between them again and again panoramic views of the North coast and the Atlantic Ocean.Another hint: Despite the name, the laurel trees do not stink. Only when the trees are felled does the freshly cut wood smell a bit unpleasant.

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  • Intermediate
    03:22
    6.12 mi
    1.8 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Levada do Rei is one of the most beautiful hiking tours in Madeira. The narrow irrigation canal leads through dense forests and is very easy to walk along the entire path. At the end of the walk you will reach the Ribeiro Bonito surrounded by dense laurel forest. The 'Beautiful River', as the German translation, flows as a torrent through a narrow valley and feeds the Levada do Rei. Also on this tour, the elevation data are not correct: Apart from a short flight of stairs at the beginning of the hike, the path is almost at ground level and so the walk can be classified as easy.The tour starts at Café Quinta do Levada do Rei. There are also some parking spaces where you can park your car. You pass a hiking information board and shortly afterwards you reach a water reservoir. To the left of the pool, the levada gushes down a short slope and up a flight of steps along the watercourse.You walk along the levada towards the direction of flow and first you go through a fragrant eucalyptus forest. Above you, the wind rushes through the leaves and sometimes the forest gives the view of the densely vegetated valley.After you have crossed a narrow stream, you come to a fork in the road. Follow the signposted PR18 path to the left towards Ribeiro Bonito. The forest becomes more primitive and you are surrounded by gnarled laurel trees.After a short tunnel, the narrow path leads you below a steep rock wall to a waterfall and a little later you reach the beautiful valley of the Ribeiro Bonito. After a long rest, it's the same way back to the start.The Levada do Rei is popular because of its unspoiled nature. If you want to enjoy the valley and the river for yourself, it is best to start as soon as possible.

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  • Difficult
    05:06
    8.42 mi
    1.6 mph
    2,950 ft
    2,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Levada Central is one of the most beautiful levadas and leads you through fantastic views over the dramatic Ribeira da Janela valley through the green jungle of Madeira. The trail is initially very well developed and is a bit more demanding with the track. Sure-footedness and a head for heights are required in several places, as railings are not present on all steeply sloping sections. The elevation data for this tour are not correct due to the steep cliffs: The Levada trail runs almost without incline over the entire route and is therefore also suitable for leisurely hikers. Until the first tunnel, the hike can be classified as easy and medium difficult from the tunnels.At the start point are several parking lots and a nice rest area with a great view. From there it goes on a first broad and comfortable trail along the Levada. The path leads through towering eucalyptus trees and through a primeval fern and moss landscape.After about four and a half kilometers, the levada disappears into a narrow tunnel. The path in the tunnel is narrow and partly wet. Here you absolutely need a flashlight or better a headlamp and sturdy shoes. After the first tunnel you come to a picturesque, narrow valley. A wide waterfall shoots down the wall and the trail leads directly underneath into the next tunnel.The second tunnel makes a bend, so you can not see the end at first. This tunnel is usually even wetter and in some places it makes sense to balance on the narrow wall between Levada and hiking trail. Only a few hikers pass the second tunnel and so you can expect a more natural jungle.This hike takes you a little further to a levada house where the levada workers spend the night repairing. The hut is locked, but a bench in front of the door invites you for a long break.After your well-earned break, it's the same way back to the starting point.

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  • Intermediate
    02:41
    5.76 mi
    2.1 mph
    800 ft
    800 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Countless Levadas flow on Madeira from the mountains down to the terraced fields. Many of the irrigation channels are carefully maintained and enjoy great popularity with hikers from around the world. Especially the levadas through the green and dense forests are very popular. The Levada do Bica da Cana, however, leads below the plateau Paul da Serra through almost steppe-like landscape and gives you fantastic views of the highest mountains of Madeira. The Levada has not been maintained for years and is a bit overgrown, making it the perfect getaway for adventurous hikers. Since the hike is not officially signposted, you can experience the untouched nature of Madeira away from the tourist crowds.The hike starts at the forest house Posto Florestal Cova Grande. Right across the street is a meadow that can be parked on. After a few steps along the road you turn to the levada. At first, the trail is not easy to spot, but soon you can easily follow the path next to the levada. Do not be fooled by the burned gorse bushes, because soon the landscape changes and above and below the levada stretch stony meadows.The path next to the levada is sometimes very narrow and there is no railing anywhere, but overall the route is not a problem for experienced hikers. In several places, the trail is washed down by flowing mountain streams and is therefore quite muddy, so you should wear sturdy hiking boots. Then the way is absolutely fantastic and you walk along the mountainsides and can enjoy the great view into the deep valley.At the end of our tour is a waterfall that plunges down into a small pond - a perfect place for a rest. In addition to the sound of the water, you can hear no sound and can enjoy nature for you. After your break, it's the same way back to the start.

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  • Intermediate
    02:12
    4.57 mi
    2.1 mph
    750 ft
    750 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The São Lorenço peninsula is a unique natural area in Madeira. Due to the low altitude and the exposed location in the very east of the island there is hardly any precipitation here. As a result, only little vegetation grows here. While the meadows in spring are still green and interspersed with blooming flowers, the island turns into a dusty, red steppe already in early summer. A developed and secured path leads you to the very top and along the way you expect unique views of the rocky coast. The trail is very busy, so it is worth getting up early. It is most beautiful at sunrise, when the first rays fall over the cliffs of São Lorenço.The tour starts at the end of the highway, where you can find parking. From there it goes next to a hiking information sign on steps and wooden bridges on the peninsula. The path meanders over ridges and along the slopes, and thanks to the sparse vegetation you have a first-class view. On the peninsula, you can experience an extraordinary natural event: While the waves break crashing on the cliffs on the north side of the island, the water on the south side is still and glittering there.Several viewpoints invite you to take photos and on the last island is the information and excursion center Casa do Sardinha. From there it is a steep but short climb to Pico do Furado, the easternmost point of the peninsula. From the top of the mountain you have a first-class view of São Lorenço, Madeira and the neighboring islands.After a round around the Casa do Sardinha it goes the same way back to the starting point.

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  • Difficult
    05:27
    9.81 mi
    1.8 mph
    2,525 ft
    2,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The north of Madeira is famous for its cliffs, which drop in many places over hundreds of meters perpendicular to the sea. In the northeast of the island a spectacular path leads through the steep cliff face and you have incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean and the reddish brown cliffs. Although the path is secured on all steep sections with a wire railing, you should be free from giddiness to enjoy the experience to the fullest.You start your tour in the small coastal town of Porto da Cruz at the foot of the famous eagle rock. Here you will find a large, free car park where you can safely park your rental car. After a short distance through the village, we will head east along the coast. Climb up the stairs to a dry levada and continue on a little-traveled road between terraced fields.After about two kilometers, a narrow path leads between two small houses up a mountainside to another dry levada. The path is partly overgrown and if you like, you can alternatively continue on the road, which soon meets the trail again. When the road ends, it goes on a first broad, but soon narrowing trail through dense, green forest along the steep coast. Again and again you have beautiful views of the Atlantic, which hundreds of meters below you against the rocks.After a bend the forest gives way and the path leads directly through the bare rock face. The trail is cut directly into the rock and is one of the most spectacular experiences in Madeira. Almost on the entire section are wire rope railing, but you should not approach too close to the demolition edge. After the exciting rock path you will reach the destination of the tour, the Boca do Risco pass. Here you can take a long rest before you walk back the same way.If you arrive by bus, you can also hike down from the valley to Machico from Boca do Risco and then take a bus back to your accommodation. From Funchal you can reach both starting and finishing points on the SAM bus line 53. Timetables at sam.pt/en

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  • Difficult
    06:10
    6.82 mi
    1.1 mph
    3,275 ft
    3,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The Pico Ruivo is with 1,862 meters the highest peak in Madeira. It dominates the breathtaking mountain landscape of the Madeiran Massif Central, formed by rugged peaks, vertical cliffs and deep valleys. The signposted mountain trail PR1 leads from the third highest mountain Pico do Areerio over narrow ridges, dark tunnels and rocky paths up to the summit of Pico Ruivo. On the narrow and partly rustic mountain paths, sturdy shoes, sure-footedness, fitness and above all head for heights are required. For experienced mountain hikers the hike is an absolute dream tour.Below the radar station on the Pico do Areerio there is a large parking lot. The first part of the way is excellently developed and secured. Even in summer, it is quite cool here because of the strong winds, so wear matching clothes. About stone steps, it goes down with incredible panoramic views. The path winds down the cliff walls and leads you through several, partly damp tunnels. It's best if you have a flashlight with you, in an emergency, the light from your phone.After the last tunnel, the path leads on a path cut in the rock directly through the steep wall. Due to numerous smaller rock falls, the wire rope railing is no longer everywhere intact, so you should not step too close to the edge.Soon after, it goes steeply up the stairs to the pass between Pico Ruivo and Pico das Torres, the two highest mountains of Madeira. Above you can expect a unique view. Then it goes down through a burnt Baumheidewald first and then up to the refuge Casa Ruivo.Unfortunately, the cottage can not be stayed overnight and it only opens very sporadically for drinks and souvenir sales. From there, the last ascent to the summit begins on well-constructed steps. Above you can expect a spectacular panoramic view of the summit world of Madeira. After a rest and enough photos at the summit, it's the same way back to the start.

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  • Difficult
    05:07
    5.86 mi
    1.1 mph
    2,625 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert mountaineering route. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The Massif Central of Madeira invites to extended mountain tours. A particularly beautiful route is the mountain trail between the Encumeada Pass and the Pico Ruivo. The demanding mountain path is rarely committed and takes you through breathtaking nature. Our hike leads as a classic mountain hike from the trail parking lot at the pass to the Pico do Jorge. Its rugged summit can not be climbed in the last few meters, but below the summit pyramid you can expect great views.From Encumeada Pass, follow the signposted PR 1.3 Vereda de Encumeada trail. On countless stone steps, you climb through pristine laurel forest to the saddle between Pico da Encumeada and Pico Ferreiro. On top of the ridge you have a fantastic view of the valley of São Vicente in the north and at the same time on the valley of Ribeira Brava in the south.You circle around the huge, stepped peak of the Pico Ferreiro and wander below the rock walls through a breathtaking mountain landscape.With a great view of the Pico do Jorge you climb up towards the summit. The trail goes around the mountain just a few meters below the inaccessible summit and leads you to a gorse overgrown plateau on the east side of Pico do Jorge.From here you have a spectacular view of the huge massif of the Pico Grande, on the valley Curral de Freiras and on the ridge to the Pico Ruivo. After a well-deserved rest, it's the same way back to the starting point.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    8
  • Distance
    51.0 mi
  • Duration
    31:50 h
  • Elevation
    15,125 ft

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