Katja Laurien

Inspiring your spiritual journey

The Best Hiking Trails on Madeira

30. December 2021 • Katja Laurien

If hiking is your passion, you should come to Madeira! Even though the island is small, it has loads of diverse hikes to offer. Before I start to list the best hikes on this paradise, I want to give you some information you might consider before going there. Let’s start with the question whether or not to rent a car. I personally didn’t rent a car, because I don’t feel secure enough to drive on narrow roads in the mountains (bear in mind that I’m Dutch) next to huge buses that drive like crazy, especially when I’m tired after a long hike. I had read on the internet that it’s perfectly possible to do some of the hikes with the use of buses or with taxi. Both options turned out not to be as easy as expected. First of all, the bus system is very limited. There are only a few options a day and they all seem to be focused on serving people to come and go from Funchal. I didn’t stay a single day in Funchal, thinking it would be smart to stay near to where the hikes start. Because I stayed in the periphery, it was hard to find taxi’s on Bolt (Uber doesn’t work here). If I had known this before I probably would have postponed my trip and would have taken someone who could drive or would have come with sufficient driving skills. At the end of the first week however, I was lucky to meet an incredibly friendly girl with whom I ended up sharing a car. Obviously, I still did some incredible hikes before I met her, so it’s definitely possible, but you need a lot organising skills, patience and at times good luck.

The second thing I want to address is the weather. I went in late November, so the rainy season had already started. I noticed that it’s not really worth it to trust the weather forecast. It did rain quite a bit, but definitely not every day. So, don’t panic when you see that rain is forecasted for the entire period of your stay! But do make sure to check whether the trail you want to do might get slippery after heavy rainfall. Furthermore, it’s advisable to check the webcams to see how the weather is throughout the island. It’s not uncommon to be wonderful weather along the coast, but very clouded in the mountains. This is the main reason why the famous Pico Areeiro to Pico Ruivo is not included in this post. Of the 15 days I’ve spent on Madeira, there were only three days which would have made this hike possible. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it on those three days, especially because it’s hard to tell which days the clouds won’t get stuck on the mountain tops. But fortunately, there are many other hikes and especially the levada hikes can be easily done on cloudy and even rainy days, since they lead through the forest most of the time anyways. Just make sure to take appropriate clothes and also an umbrella. In some cases there are waterfalls pouring onto the trail which can become pretty intense after heavy rainfall. See video below.


Vereda do Larano & Vereda do Caniçal - Boca do Risco

Most people will only do the Veredo Larano which leads from Ponta da Cruz via Boca do Risco to Machico. This is a relatively easy hike which is even from Larano all the way through to Boca do Risco and takes about 4 hours. In the hostel where I stayed, I got the tip to prolong the hike a little bit by combining it with the Vereda do Caniçal to Boca do Risco. Doing this adds another 1.5-2 hours to the hike and also more ascends and descends, but it’s definitely worth it!

Since I was staying in Ponta da Cruz and I had already figured that the buses don’t run as frequently as I had hoped, I decided to take the bus to Machico and hike from there. Like this, I didn’t need to worry about catching a bus on the way back. I got off the bus at the football stadion and started the hike from there. The first hour to Caniçal is rather boring, so it’s definitely an option to catch a taxi from Machico to Caniçal.

To be honest, I couldn’t find the starting point to the hike (it seems to be easier and more straight forward to do it the other way around), but I somehow managed to get onto the Caniçal - Boca do Risco trail. The first part really didn’t look like I was supposed to be there (there were construction sites and private gardens) and maps.me also disappointed me a couple of times with trails which simply didn’t exist. Once I found the levada do Caniçal I could orient myself to the trail. So definitely keep maps.me at hand in order to navigate yourself to the trail.

Once you’re on the trail it’s easy to follow. I realized that I still for some reason got off track, but I would notice quickly. Just try to stay as close as possible to the coastline, from where you can enjoy wonderful views over the peninsula of São Lourenço and the dramatic cliffs of Madeira.

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As I mentioned, this part of the trail goes up and down a lot until Boca do Risco, but the views are really worth it! Besides, there are a lot less people on this part of the trail, which allows you to soak in the beauty and the tranquility.

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Once you pass Boca do Risco the trail is even all the way to Larano. At times the trail leads through wonderful forests and beautiful waterfalls which are just as beautiful as the dramatic view over the cliffs.

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The way down to Porto da Cruz from Larano can be very tricky. When I was there the trail was marked with flags because of a race which had taken place. There are a couple of fixed signposts, but they are sporadic. So, if there are no flags, definitely keep an eye on maps.me. And don’t forget to enjoy the last views of this wonderful hike!

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Levada do Rei

I did this hike while staying in Santana. From there you can take the bus 103 and get out just after Saõ Jorge. Unfortunately the bus first passes by every corner of the region, so the ride takes about 50 minutes from the city centre of Santana. From the bus stop it’s about 15-20 minutes to the start of the hike. Once you reach the start of the hike it’s a very easy hike along the levada.

Most of the hike leads through lush forest (which makes it a perfect hike for a cloudy day) with occasional views over the valley. It takes about 3-3.5 hours and it’s very easy to follow as you only have to follow the levada.

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The hike ends at source of the stream Ribeiro Bonito. Here you enjoy the beautiful waterfalls. Make sure to continue a little bit further to enjoy some more small waterfalls.

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Once you’ve savoured the beauty of the multitude of small waterfalls, you return exactly the same way. Enjoy the beautiful forest and scenery once again!

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Leveda do Caldeirão Verde & Caldeirão do Inferno

This is an extremely famous hike, so I can only advise coming on time in order to avoid having to pass too many people. There are many narrow parts where it can be tricky to let others pass and there are also quite some parts which lead through tunnels (especially towards Caldeirão do Inferno). I ended up doing this hike twice and both times I started between 9-9.30 which turned out to be a perfect time. I only had 2-3 other people in front of me which made the way there very easy. On the way back, on the other hand, I had to pass by a lot of other people, but I guess that’s inevitable when you want to do this hike.

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The first part to Caldeirão Verde is easy and mostly flat. It takes about 1.5 hours to get there. The path leads through the forest, past a couple of waterfalls with occasional mountain views.

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From Caldeirão Verde to Caldeirão Inferno it’s an extra hour to get there. This path has one rather long ascend (approximately 10 minutes) but apart from that it’s also largely even and leads through many tunnels.

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At the end of the trail you’ll be rewarded with a impressively high and broad waterfall. It doesn’t look very impressive on pictures, but that’s why you go and check it out for yourself ;)

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Levada Cortado - Ponta do Clérigo

This short hike of 2 hours is relatively unknown (I didn’t meet a single soul during the hike), but very beautiful. It’s even easy to reach by bus, just hop off at Santana Cortado. The trail is not marked, so I followed the trail on maps.me. It starts at the levada do Cortado which you have to follow through the tunnel. From the other side of the tunnel you already have a pretty amazing view.

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Once the levada “disappears” underground, turn to the right for the descend. Continue descending until you reach a dirt road. Turn right again and follow this road until you reach Ponta do Clérigo. What I enjoyed most about this hike was the fact that there’s no other people, so once you reach Ponta do Clérigo you can just sit down and soak in the beauty of nature in peace and tranquility :)

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Levada do Risco - 25 Fontes

This is one of the most famous hikes on Madeira and can only be reached by car. From the parking lot the first 2 km lead down along a tarmac road. It seems to be possible to take a bus from there to the start of the trail, but the trail is in and of itself not too long (~3 hours), so it’s no problem to walk this part.

After having done some levada walks, this hike is pretty similar to other levada hikes. It leads through beautiful lush forest with occasional mountains views. Obviously, the big highlight is the base of a broad waterfall.

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Don’t forget to also pass by the Levada do Risco, from where you have a wonderful view over the waterfall from a higher perspective.

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The views are obviously very nice, but I do have to say that this hike too, is very crowded. The weather was far from optimal this day and nevertheless it was very busy. We didn’t arrive early, so maybe you might consider doing this hike early in order to avoid the crowds.

While planning your trip to do this hike, make sure to include the entire ER110. It’s one of the most beautiful roads on Madeira. On the day we did the hike there was nothing but clouds, but we ended up driving down the road on another day and even though it was still cloudy, it was truly magical!

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Vereda do São Lourenço

Last but not least another famous and short hike (~2.5 hours) at the very Eastern tip of Madeira (which makes it very famous for watching the sun rise). This is also a hike which is very easily accesible by bus. The bus 113 runs pretty frequently between Funchal and Baía d’Abra. Make sure to take the bus that goes all the way to Baía d’Abra. Some buses only run until Caniçal or Machico.

Once you get off the bus the trail is pretty straight forward. The trail leads over the peninsula of São Lourenço from where you can enjoy some magnificent views. The landscape is completely different compared to the levada hikes and feels more like a hike on Mars which adds to the diversity of landscapes on this tiny island!

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