MADEIRA – Portugal

Madeira is such a classic and beautiful walking destination that not a lot more needs to be said. And I have been lucky enough to receive a full report on the island from Christopher and Anne, read Our Holiday in Maderia. For more info on the photographs see the credits at the bottom of this page.

A couple of words about places to eat: There are many nice places to pick some meals in the old town, but these joints are mostly so small that you will have to be very early to get a table! Those I liked best were “O Jangos” (very small, and extremely popular, after 19.00 there were always a line of hungry people standing outside, best to book a table a day or two in advance…), and above all “O Topassol”.

The picture above left shows the streets outside my nice little pension in Funchal. Above right shows the surprisingly nice city of Funchal from the Santa Catarina Gardens.

Selected walks: For walks on Madeira see Landscapes of Madeira by John and Pat Underwood (PLEASE NOTE: when I refer to walk numbers etc. from this book they are all taken from the 6th edition). All references below are to this book (as “Underwood”). In addition you should check out Walking in Madeira by Paddy Dillon and Madeira by Rolf Goetz. In addition there are 35 Madeira Walks and Madeira Tour & Trail Map both by David and Ros Brawn.

•1 LEVADA DO TORNOS (Romeiros – Lombo Grande) (my total time about 4h30, including short stops only): This is walk 7 in Underwood, SW1-3. Below are two pictures from the Tornos.

The first two short walks are nice and easy introductions to Levada walking, except that when the Underwoods says that the first tunnel is “very awkward”, they mean what they say! It is very narrow at points, and you are at several occasions almost pushed into the water by protruding rock walls, with hardly anything to put your feet on either. A good torch is needed (for each person). The surface is also wet, as water will be dripping from the ceiling, but fortunately not slippery. The second half of the walk between Romeiros and Quinta do Pomar was diverted into roads, even some on asphalt (last part), but it was all well signposted, so nothing to worry about. The Levada was fenced off, probably due to all the building activity in the area (might have triggered some screes?). You only enter the Levada again just before the Quinta.

The third short walk is more spectacular, needs more head for heights and was at my visit made more difficult by several screes and large amounts of water cascading from above. Shortly after the tunnel (a much more comfortable tunnel, this time), I had no choice but to walk into the Levada, as the path was completely gone for about 10m (well, actually, it had not gone very far, just taken a vertical dive of 50-100m…). Luckily the channel did not carry a lot of water at the time, due to the fact that most of it was (probably) carried in the large tube with its concrete feet standing on top of the Levada (as well as covering most of the path as points…). I needed to cross 2-3 of these feet to get past the difficult spot, either by going over them or under them. Both options were awkward, but under felt safer. Regardless how you do it, it will require waterproof walking boots. There was also a Levada bridge that felt a little uncomfortable, taking the considerable drop (on both sides!) into account. The bridge is not mentioned in the text.

•2 LEVADA DO NORTE (Estreito de Câmara de Lobos – Fajã) (my total time about 6h30, including short stops and one 20min picnic): This is walk 6 in Underwood, with the alternative ending of the 2000 steps. Mostly very nice and easy Levada walking, but the steps were tough. The six pictures below are all from the do Norte.

If the two small diversions mentioned in the text, the second one a scree, appears a little abruptly, you will probably be “guided” by some (begging) children, whether you like it or not… I was startled to meet some former Hawaiians (apparently) at one point…

Ending the walk at Boa Morte might be tempting, but you should by no means miss the insanely fascinating ending of walking down the 2000 steps from Eira do Mourão to Fajã, if you are at all fit. Although not signposted, it is easy to find, and the steps themselves felt pretty safe. But they were of course very steep. Fantastic views!!!

•3 LEVADA DO CASTELEJO (Cruz – Ribeiro Frio – Cruz) (my total time about 3h, including one small picnic): This is walk 16 in Underwood.

Great bus ride to/from Cruz (the picture above shows Porto da Cruz and the spectacular Penha de Águia, Cruz is at the south side of the rock), and one extremely pleasant Levada walk. All the dangerous parts described in Underwood are now protected by fences. There was however some remains of a scree that was not entirely cleaned up at one point. For about a meter and a half there was only 10cms of Levada edge to place my feet on.

•4 LEVADA DA NEGRA (Poiso – Poço da Neve – Trapiche) (my total time 4h39, including one small picnic): This is walk 2 in Underwood, with additions at start and finish.

One of my greatest walking experiences to date! Great views and no big problems underway, although very steep at certain points. The walk from Poiso to the “Ice House” in the morning was also very pleasant, with spectacular peaks all around (Take bus 103 from Funchal at 0715!).

At the end of the walk, you might as well stroll down to the lower Trapiche to catch the bus to the center directly, its less than 1km (if you do want to take the bus down, be sure to get off at the right spot, because bus 91 does not go only between the upper and the lower Trapiche, but continues on to some place called Curral Velha).

•5 LEVADA DOS PIORNAIS AND LEVADA DO CURRAL (Funchal – Ribeira da Lapa gorge) (my total time 4h03, including one small picnic): This is walk 1 in Underwood.

Just the edge of the Levada to walk on (about 30 cms, narrower at certain points) makes this walk a little uncomfortable when you meet or catch up a lot of people. The walk was recommended on a Sunday, and lots of walkers will undoubtedly be around.

The first part (to Quebradas) is not extremely interesting, but this soon changes as you head up the Socorridos Valley (mind your head in those awkward tunnels!), and the second Levada is very nice, although a bit scary at some points. The fence was dubious at several occasions and entirely gone for about 10 meters just after the last houses on your way up. And please do not go more than the designated 100m (ca.) after the gate mentioned in the text. At that point there is only a crumbling and slippery Levada edge with lots of water cascading over it from above…

• Good starting points: • Funchal – from here bus or taxi will take you around, it is also possible to book walking tours with many local agencies

• How to get there: • By air

• More info: • Madeira – The Garden Isle • Landscapes of Madeira • Our Holiday in Maderia by Christopher and Anne • MadeiraWEB – complete tourist guide for the island

This page was last modified at April 21, 2009.

©2001-2009 . Pictures are ©2001-2009 Christopher Thompson, use must include his credits, full size high res JPEG copies available on request.