Have you seen photos of the incredibly scenic Levada Walks in Madeira and knew that you needed to make a trip to this Portuguese island? If you’re looking for an out of this world hiking destination, the unique island of Madeira is for you.
Madeira has a system of irrigation channels that provide the perfect opportunity to explore the island’s vast treasure of landscape. Hiking in Madeira is a lot of fun and there are many amazing trails to choose from.
We’ve put together all the detail you need to do the best hikes in Madeira for first time visitors. They include some of the most beautiful subtropical hiking trails in the world.
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- TOP HIKING TOURS IN MADEIRA
- BEST HOTELS IN FUNCHAL
- PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR MADEIRA PORTUGAL
Where is Madeira Portugal Located?
Madeira Island is part of an archipelago of four islands located off the coast of Morocco, though they are officially part of Portugal. There are multiple flights from Lisbon each day and it’s just a quick 1 hour 20 minute flight.
The main island of Madeira is approximately 309 square miles (800 square km’s) or the size of New York City with a population of about 250,000.
The capital Funchal is located on the southeastern part of the island and is a popular tourist destination for world travelers. It is also a popular cruise destination so the amount of visitors swells with each ship in port.
Hiking in Madeira
The island of Madeira is volcanic with 2 side by side mountains peaking at over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters). Most of the island is lush green with a laurel forest covering 20% of the island.
Its coastline has numerous breathtaking cliff views, volcanic pools and beautiful beaches making it a one of a kind destination. The combination of these landscapes make Madeira one of the best hiking destinations in the world.
The hikes fall into 2 general categories. The first is a typical hike on a dirt trail or verada and the second is called a levada walk, which is a path along an irrigation channel. Both are amazing opportunities to experience Madeira’s natural beauty.
Many of the hikes in Madeira are long but not necessarily difficult. The hikes included here are between 2 – 4 hours and are suitable for most people.
If you have any health conditions that would prevent you from walking long distance with inclines, you can still enjoy some of the easy flatter trails and spend the rest of your time with the many sightseeing options.
What Are Madeira Levada Walks?
If you don’t know what a Levada is don’t worry, a lot of people won’t know unless they’ve been to Madeira.
Here’s the scoop. A “levada” is an irrigation canal with a built in walking path used for farming in mountainous areas throughout Madeira.
Developed in the 16th century to distribute the rainfall high in the mountains, these mini canals were created as an easier way to provide and distribute water to farms and homes.
There are more than 1,300 miles (2,092 km’s) of levadas Madeira has on the island and as a result providing some of the best hiking in Madeira. Some are well maintained and others less so. Many incorporate lengthy tunnels, lush green tropical zones and beautiful waterfalls.
When doing these epic levada walks in Madeira, it’s important to know that the levadas can be long and have steep drop-offs at certain points.
On the more popular levada walks in Madeira, there are guard railings to grab on to for balance and protection but some areas have no protective guard rail or the railing may have been damaged and never repaired.
If you have a fear of heights, you can still do most of these hikes but you might not want to do the whole thing.
Levada walks in Madeira are an experience you have to try at least once. If you’re hesitant to go on your own or just want some company, there are guides that can take you so you can have the best time.
Best Time For Hiking in Madeira
Madeira is known for its warm subtropical climate which means it doesn’t get excessively hot or cold. Summers are warmer and drier while winters are cooler and wetter. That said, you can easily experience all the weather options in one day.
What is most common is that certain parts of the island have more specific weather patterns. With its range of mountains across the island, the north part receives more rain and wind than the south.
This eco system has created lush forests with unique bio-climates,
During the hottest months of August and September, the average high temperature hits 80 F (27 C).
The coldest months are January and February where the lowest temperatures reach an average of 58 F (14 C) close to sea level.
In the highest elevations of the mountains at Pico Ariero and Pico Ruivo the temperatures can be 20 F (7 C) colder than the elevations at sea level. During the winter when conditions are ripe, it’s common to see snow.
As a result of these moderate temperatures, the climate for hiking in Madeira is great all year round with the most ideal time for Madeira hiking being April through October.
- Spring: 4-6 rain days per month, average high 70 F (21 C), low 60 F (15 C). Least crowded time with best hotel prices.
- Summer: 1 rain day per month, average high 77 F (25 C), low 66 F (19 C). July and August is the driest time of year and the most crowded with higher price hotels.
- Fall: 4-6 rain days per month, average high 75 F or (24 C), low 63 F (17 C). Least crowded with great hotel prices.
- Winter: 1 rain day per month, average high 68 F or (20 C), low 59 F (15 C). December and January are very crowded with higher priced hotels.
What to Pack for Hiking in Madeira
When packing for your trip, there are a few things you should plan on bringing if you plan to hike in Madeira.
Some items are absolutely necessary and others depend on the type of hiking you plan to do in Madeira. If easy levada walks are your thing, you will just need sneakers with good tread and the items in the box below.
However, if you are doing some of the more intense Madeira hikes, you need trail runners or hiking shoes too.
We have a full post on day hiking essentials. Everything is easily packable for a trip. It includes the best hiking shoes and all the items we pack for a day hike.
Here are the things we feel are useful for hiking in Madeira:
- Waterproof Rain Poncho – The weather changes constantly on Madeira. Always be prepared for rain with this Waterproof Rain Poncho that will easily fit in your daypack and weighs 9 oz. It will cover you and your gear.
- Headlamp – Most of the trails on Madeira involve walking through dark tunnels at some point. The flashlight on your phone isn’t bright enough and a headlamp allows you to use your hands to climb up around puddles on the ground.
- Trekking Poles – If you plan on hiking some of the trails with more elevation gain, collapsible, packable, lightweight and very sturdy trekking poles will help you navigate the trail. If you are just doing 1-2 flat levada walks, you don’t need them.
- Packable Hiking Daypack – A 40 liter packable hiking daypack that fits in your suitcase will be a game changer. Another great choice is an ergonomic Hydration Day Pack that holds 2 liters of water in the built in bladder.
- Sunscreen – Travel sized vegan and reef-friendly 50 SPF sunscreen.
- Insect repellent – A quality insect repellent will protected against mosquitos that absolutely exist in Madeira contrary to what some people say.
- Lightweight First Aid Kit – perfect for hiking, this mini first aid kit has hospital grade supplies and easily fits in a daypack.
- Hiking shoes & socks – if you need recommendations for men or women, read our Hiking essentials post.
Where to Stay for Hiking in Madeira
We highly recommend staying in Funchal for your stay in Madeira for two reasons. First, it is somewhat centrally located. You’ll be driving around to get to hikes and sightseeing and Funchal is right near the main highways.
Second, most of the hikes in Madeira are long and you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day. Because of that fact, being right in town will allow you to just walk out the door to grab dinner or use a few hours here and there for sightseeing.
We have a complete post with the best hotels in Madeira for every type of traveler but here are our top recommendations:
Les Suites at The Cliff Bay – Luxury
If you want to lay on lounge chairs overlooking the ocean by day and take advantage of the nightlife in Sao Martinho, this is your spot. All of the rooms in this gorgeous hotel are suites or full apartments. The resort like property offers 2 pools, a spa and wellness center and a fantastic restaurant on site.
Three House Hotel – Mid-Range
Shown in the photo above, Three House Hotel has the coolest rooftop pool and bar with 360 degree views of the city. The upper area is only open to guests before 3pm. The accommodations are super comfortable and well designed apartments from studios to two bedrooms with a full kitchen.
Hotel Cajú – Mid-Range
For a stylish hotel right in the heart of Funchal, you can’t do any better than Hotel Cajú. The rooms are beautiful and have everything you need. They have a great gym if you want to work out. The best is the restaurant, Prima Cajú, and breakfast is included in your stay. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, make sure to stop by for the most delicious breakfast or lunch.
Jaca Hostel Funchal – Budget
Very clean, comfy rooms with private bathrooms, free wifi and beers for €1. Guests love the homey vibe.
5 Best Hikes & Levada Walks on Madeira
Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo – PR1 (Most Challenging Day Hike in Madeira)
Some hiking in Madeira can be a challenge with an incredible payoff. If this is what you’re looking for then the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Madeira hike is most definitely the one for you!
This hike starts at Pico Ariero the second highest spot on the island at 5,964 feet (1,818 meters) and takes you to Pico Ruivo the highest spot at 6,106 feet (1,861 meters), giving you stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The trail is 7.5 miles long and takes 5-6 hours to complete. With elevation gains of 3,850 feet (1,173 meters) it’s a great leg burner and many say it’s the best hiking Madeira has.
Since the hike starts at Pico Arieiro PR1 Madeira, make sure to get there 30 minutes before sunrise so you can go to the viewpoint and watch a spectacular sunrise.
The temperature early in the morning at this altitude can get a little chilly into the low 40’s F so bring some layers of warm clothing.
The first part of the trail is relatively easy as it winds its way through a valley. However, the real challenge begins when you start to climb up to Pico Ruivo. There are lots of steps where the path is uneven in a lot of places.
To spice things up, there are narrow cliff paths with hand rails and dark tunnels. But don’t worry, if you don’t have a Madeira hiking map there are signs posted along the trail to help you find your way.
And when you finally reach the top of Pico Ruivo, you’ll be stoked with stunning 360 degree views of Madeira. So make sure to wear good hiking shoes and pack plenty of water for this challenging but rewarding hike.
Why We Recommend Pico Arieiro – (PR1): This is the quintessential hike in Madeira if you are up for it. You’ll see the best views on the island and accomplish a cool physical challenge. Combine it with sunrise for the ultimate Madeira experience.
The best tour if you want a guide: Madeira Peaks Mountain Walk
- Length: 7.5 miles (12.1 km’s) round trip
- Duration: 5-6 hours
- Elevation Gain: 3,850 feet (1,173 meters)
- Difficulty: Hard
- Food: Cafe Pico Arieiro is at the parking area, bring snacks and water on the hike
- Parking: Yes, free parking
- Restrooms: Yes, there are pay restrooms €0.50 at the cafe area
- Distance from Funchal: 14 miles (22.5 kms) or 40 minute drive
Tips for the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike:
This is a very challenging hike and you need a good level of fitness. If you only want to do the hike one way (half the distance but still hard), we recommend taking this tour Hike Madeira: Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo.
They will pick you up from your hotel, drive you to Pico Arieiro, guide you along the trail to Pico Ruivo, then drive you back to your hotel.
If you want to do the same hike at sunrise, choose this Sunrise Hike from Pice Arieiro to Pico Ruivo tour instead.
To do the hike one way on your own, you will need to get transport back to your car at the starting point (45 minute drive). You can also take a taxi to the beginning of the hike and another one at the end of the hike if you don’t have a car.
Pico Ruivo – PR1.2 (Best Shorter Madeira Hike for Big Views)
When was the last time you made a summit and planted your flag? This slightly challenging hike in Madeira takes you to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island that tops at 6,106 feet (1,861 meters) above sea level.
The hike itself is not that long, but it can be challenging in parts due to its steep inclines. However, the views from the top are more than worth it.
Leave Funchal early to beat the Madeira hiking crowds and find parking at the Achada do Teixeira parking area.
When you visit, be prepared that the weather is constantly changing. The Mountain Spot Cafe next to the parking lot is the perfect place to grab a bite if you want to wait for the weather to improve.
A thick blanket of fog and some drizzle hovered over the area when we went and it was gone by the time we finished breakfast so we hit the trail with a perfect amount of fuel to get us to the top.
The nice thing about this hike is the trail is paved stone the entire way. And if weather crosses your path along the hike, you can pop into one of the covered shelters and take a break.
This trail is also popular for hunting rabbits and other wildlife so don’t be alarmed if you see hunters or hear gun shots. They are aiming into the canyon not at the trail.
When we arrived at Pico Ruivo summit, the sky was sunny all around with a thick lower blanket of clouds making you feel like you’re at the top of the world.
The excitement to be at the highest peak and experiencing the 360 degree views is momentous. Hiking in Madeira to Pico Ruivo should be at the top of your list to do.
Why We Recommend Pico Ruivo (PR1.2): The unbelievable views from the highest peak on Madeira. This hike is manageable for most people since it’s paved. If you don’t have a strong fitness level, there are multiple places you can stop for a rest.
The best tour if you want a guide: Madeira Peaks Mountain Walk
- Length: 3.4 miles (5.5 km’s) round trip
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Elevation Gain: 1,571 feet (479 meters)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Food: Mountain Spot Cafe at the parking area and Casa de Abrigo Bar midway
- Parking: Yes, there is a parking lot at Parking PR1.2 Achada do Teixeira
- Restrooms: Yes there are pay restrooms €0.50, at Mountain Spot Cafe near the parking area and Casa de Abrigo do Pico Ruivo Bar which is on the trail 1.3 miles (2.1 km’s) from the parking area.
- Distance from Funchal: 30 miles (48 km’s) or 55 minute drive
Tips for the Pico Ruivo hike:
If you are doing the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike, you’ll get two hikes in one. If that hike is too hard for you, this is the perfect alternative. You should still wear good quality shoes for this hike. The trail can be slippery from gravel or rain.
Caldeirao Verde Waterfall Hike (Levada do Caldeirão Verde) – PR9
One of the most popular and prettiest Madeira levada walks is Levada do Caldeirão Verde.This levada walk starts in the Queimadas Forest.
It takes you through some of the greenest, most beautiful scenery on the island where you can see views of Paradise Valley and one of the most beautiful waterfalls Madeira has to showcase.
This prized Madeira Levada walk is lengthy at around 8 miles (12.9 km’s) out and back but not at all boring. It’s absolutely stunning.
As you walk along the levada, there are portions where you walk along the edge of some steep slopes that might not be good for people that are afraid of heights.
There are guard rails to hold onto that protect you from falling. However, if you don’t feel safe, can always turn back. You won’t regret doing a portion of the hike because the entire walk is beautiful.
The path also takes you through 4 cool rock tunnels so make sure your phone has a light. Better yet, bring a headlamp so you don’t step into a water puddle or bang your head on the jagged tunnel ceiling.
The highlight of the levada walk is the epic 328 feet (100 meters) waterfall at the end point of the levada. Here you can rest, take a food break and enjoy waterfall views before heading back to the starting point.
If you enjoy a refreshing cold water plunge, bring a swimsuit and jump in the sparkling, clear water. You’ll be glad you did.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of the best levada walks Madeira has to offer. This walk is long for decent exercise but not too challenging and the views are nothing short of impressive!
Why We Recommend Caldeirao Verde Levada Walk (PR9): It’s such a beautiful walk and it’s easy, albeit long. It’s one of the most popular levada walks in Madeira so there are a lot of people but it actually makes the hike more fun and social.
The best tour if you want a guide: Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk Tour
- Length: 8 miles (12.9 km’s) round trip
- Duration: 4-5 hours
- Elevation Gain: Around 300 feet (91 meters)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Food: Bring snacks and water, at the start of the hike is Quemeidas Cafe
- Parking: Yes, Queimadas Parking Lot, pay up to €3.00 for the day
- Restrooms: Yes, there are pay restrooms €0.50 in the Queimadas Parking Lot
- Distance from Funchal: 26 miles (42 km’s) or 50 minute drive
Tips for the Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk:
Wear sturdy shoes. You will end up walking Madeira through a lot of puddles, especially in the tunnels. By the time we finished the hike, our shoes and ankles were muddy.
Ponta de São Lourenço – PR8 (Best Coastal Hike in Madeira)
The Ponta de São Lourenço hike takes you along the easternmost point of the island, where you’ll be treated to stunning views of both land and sea.
This moderate Madeira hike is just 4.5 miles (7.2 km’s) round trip with a lot of hills and valleys so the elevation gain is 1,350 feet (411 meters) overall.
It can still be a good hike for beginners because there are many different vantage points to take in the island’s natural beauty along the entire hike. Don’t feel compelled to go all the way to the end if you don’t feel like it. You’ll still have a great time.
For those who do want the whole experience, after hiking up the last ¼ mile (0.4 km) of steep steps, the highlight of the hike is Ponta do Furado viewpoint shown above.
You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the easternmost tip of the island, or if you plan your timing right, a drop dead gorgeous sunrise or sunset. Getting to a spot like this makes hiking in Madeira pure joy.
For this Madeira trekking, it’s a must to wear proper shoes (there are lots of slippery spots) and pack some water. Trekking poles are helpful too.
Why We Recommend Ponta de São Lourenço (PR8): Hands down this is one of the best hiking trails Madeira has to offer to the tip of the island. If you can go for sunrise (weather permitting) it’s even better!
The best hikes Madeira tour if you want a guide: Ponta de São Lourenço/Caniçal Full-Day Hike
- Length: 4.5 miles (7.25 km’s) roundtrip
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Elevation Gain: 1,350 feet (411 meters)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Food: Some mobile food vendors are in the parking area and there’s a cafe/bar near end of the trail.
- Parking: Free
- Restrooms: None at start of hike, pay restroom €1.00 near end of trail at the cafe/bar.
- Distance from Funchal: 32 miles (51 km’s) or 33 minute drive
Tips for the Ponta de São Lourenço hike:
Thank goodness we brought rain jackets because they were definitely needed for this hike. You also need hiking shoes or trail runners and if you have trekking poles, they will definitely come in handy.
Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova (Best Off the Beaten Path Levada Walk)
We definitely think that Levada do Moinho is one of the best Levada Walks in Madeira BUT there are some very important things to know before you do this one. A guide is recommended.
This Levada Walk is comprised of two different levadas, Levada do Moinho and Levada Nova, that form a 5.4 mile (8,7 km’s) loop trail, which takes 3 to 4 hours to complete. The highlight is one of the coolest waterfalls in Madeira at the midpoint.
It’s not a difficult walk since there’s an elevation gain of only about 500 feet (152 meters) for the entire route. The catch is that the trail is less maintained and there are VERY steep drop offs on Levada Nova with no railing.
Less people visit so it’s much more peaceful. In fact, we were alone most of the time.
The start of the hike is at the rear edge of the church – look for the sign at the street crosswalk. It will point you in the right direction. The beginning is somewhat dry and uneventful but it starts to get get more lush after 30 minutes.
In 2.5 miles (4 km’s), you’ll reach the end of Levada do Moinho. Look for the steep concrete staircase on the right. At the top, turn right and head back toward the ocean. The Nova and Moinho waterfall is just a short walk from there.
Once you see the beautiful Nova waterfall that you can walk behind, you have a choice on how you get back.
- Levada Nova – Head through a dark, long tunnel (bring a headlamp) and walk back towards the ocean. You will be rewarded with beautiful views, especially at sunset. Guy loved it and I completely regretted doing it almost the whole way. I’m not scared of heights but the trail is 18″ wide (45 cm) at parts with a 200′ vertical drop (61 meter) and no rail.
- Levada do Moinho – after the waterfall for a much safer, less beautiful journey back, just return the way you got there.
All in all, this is easily one the best levada walks in Madeira so don’t miss it! Because of the distance, it’s best suited for those with a moderate level of fitness.
Why We Recommend Levada do Moinho: A lot of the levada walks in Madeira are crowded. This one is more remote and the waterfall is one of the coolest things to see on Madeira. If you are comfortable with heights and are sure footed, Levada Nova is a gorgeous sea view walk back, especially at sunset.
Tour if you want a guide (we recommend using a guide for this one): Private Moinho Levada Nova Walk
- Length: 5.3 miles (8.5 km’s)
- Duration: 3-4 hours
- Elevation Gain: Approximately 500 feet (152 meters)
- Difficulty: Easy, some areas are sketchy steep without railing
- Food: Bring snack and water
- Parking: Free street parking at Church of Lombada area
- Restrooms: No
- Distance from Funchal: 17 miles (27km’s) or 32 minute drive
Tips for the Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova Hike: Set the driving directions for Ingreja do Lombada da Ponta do Sol. We set our directions for the Levada do Moinho and parked in a very steep residential area, then walked up to the church. It allowed us to see a cool section of Madeira, off the tourist track, but it’s easier to park at the church.
At the end of the Levada Nova trail, it’s not easy to tell where to exit. We took the first path onto Travessa das Pedras and followed the street downhill through a residential section back to the church.
This levada walk has a lot of sun exposure so the best time to go is in the morning or late afternoon.
It’s worth mentioning again that you can go out and back on Levada do Moinho to skip the scary parts on Levada Nova.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking in Madeira
Is hiking in Madeira difficult?
There are Madeira hikes for all fitness levels From easy walking in Madeira along scenic flat paths to very difficult, steep trails with incredible views, you will find the perfect hike for you.
How long does it take to hike in Madeira?
There are lots of half day and full day hikes. You could also spend every day of your trip hiking in Madeira if you want to. There are so many beautiful trails in this hiker’s paradise.
Is Madeira good for walking?
Yes! Yes! Yes! There are lots of hiking routes and levada walks that are practically flat. If you love to walk, you’ll love Madeira.
Do I need hiking boots in Madeira?
You should either bring hiking boots or trail running shoes to Madeira. You will need sturdy shoes with good tread on most Madeira hiking trails.
How many levada walks are there in Madeira?
There are around 200 levada walks in Madeira.
Final Thoughts About Hiking in Madeira and Levada Walks
Madeira is a hiker’s paradise, with trails winding through lush forests, along mountain ledges and cliff-tops with panoramic views, and past tumbling waterfalls.
The levada walks in Madeira provide hikers with endless opportunities to explore its stunning landscapes. Whether you’re new to hiking or an experienced trekker, there’s a perfect hike or Madeira levada walk for you!