Walking in Madeira
Astonishingly luxuriant, Madeira is the jewel of the Atlantic Ocean, and its lush mountain slopes, ravines and dramatic coastline harbour a rich variety of tropical plants that thrive in the fertile volcanic soil and mild, humid climate, earning it the title ‘the floating garden’.
Crisscrossing the mountainsides is a vast network of levadas (water channels), some of which still carry water from one side of the island to the other. With an almost imperceptible gradient, the water flows gently around the hillsides, alongside footpaths that were originally built to make maintenance easy, but are nowadays used by walkers to access many parts of the island.
To walk Madeira’s unique levada paths is to experience the island at its best – easy, meandering paths bordered by colourful, fragrant hydrangeas, fuchsias and other wildflowers beneath the shade of laurel forests, the only sounds being the gentle trickle of running water and the call of birds in the canopy above.
Away from the levadas, old wine carriers’ routes snake their way through the rare remnants of primeval woodland, a humid sub-tropical forest of evergreen laurel trees – the laurissilva. Follow these to explore deep barrancos (ravines) and climb bare, rugged lombos (ridges) to reach isolated whitewashed settlements on the high plateaux, or small fishing villages nestling in quite coves beneath the towering cliffs of the island’s wild coast.
With paths through scented forests of pine and eucalyptus, passing neat terraced vineyards and dramatic rocky outcrops, from where breathtaking views stretch out over the glittering sea, Madeira is a veritable walker’s paradise.
You can find walking holidays on Madeira and elsewhere in Portugal on the Inntravel website.