Because Madeira is such a breathtakingly beautiful country in terms of natural scenery, it should come as no surprise that hiking is a must-do activity here. Some Madeira hikes here are called levadas, which literally translates as little canals. Functioning as the island’s irrigation system, over time people realized that the maintenance paths next to them could be used for hiking, and as they run through such wonderful nature, hiking became a favorite activity of both locals and travelers. Madeira’s climate also lends itself well to hiking; it does not matter when you have your trip booked, you will find that the weather will be good for the activity. While there are many trails to choose from, if you are short on time, these are the only five Madeira hikes you really need to do to see the best of the island.
1. Vereda do Arieiro – Pico Ruivo (PR1)
Considered to be one of the more difficult hikes on the island, the hike leading from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is also one of the most stunning, so if you have the fitness level to do it, it should be high on your list of trails to do. Located right in the center of the island, the entire route is around 12 kilometers and if the weather is good, your hard work will be rewarded with amazing views over the surrounding peaks and valleys. While it might seem a good idea to start the hike early to miss the crowds, you may find that the peaks are covered in mist, hampering your views; check the weather conditions online before you set out. Technically, the hike can be done in three to four hours, but if you are planning on taking lots of stops to rest and take photos, set aside a whole day.
2. Levada das 25 Fontes/Levada do Risco (PR6)
Actually two different hikes rather than one, they are both fairly short so you can easily do both of them in one day. They are also some of the easiest hikes to do on Madeira; the only difficult part you will come across is the steps that will take you back from 25 Fontes, but these are nothing compared to some of the other hikes on this list. Starting at Rabacal, you will first head to 25 Fontes, a 30-meter waterfall which breaks off into various streams falling into a huge pool, before turning back to the crossing and taking the trail to Risco, another waterfall that falls a dramatic 100 meters into a small natural pool. Both waterfalls are impressive to see, making this one of the most beautiful hikes on Madeira.
3. Vereda da Lagoa do Vento (PR6.3)
The perfect trail to choose if you want to do something a little off-the-beaten-path, the Vereda da Lagoa do Vento leads you to the stunning lagoon the trail is named after. The Lagoa do Vento is formed from water running from the top of the cliff from the Ribeiro do Lajeado and runs into the Risco waterfall and is set within absolutely breathtaking nature. Due to the trail’s lack of popularity with travelers, you may find that the entire route is devoid of people, meaning you can truly enjoy this wonderful spot in all its glory. Just be warned that the ground along this trail can be rather slippery at times, so take care as you make your way along the path.
4. Vereda dos Balcoes (PR11)
Another short walk which should take around one-and-a-half hours in total, the Vereda dos Balcoes nevertheless still delivers when it comes to natural scenery. The trail follows the levada of Serra do Faial which leads to the Balcoes viewpoint, where you can enjoy unspoiled views over the valley of the Ribeira da Metade and the parish of Faial. On your way towards the viewpoint, you will walk through some of Madeira’s most beautiful forest areas, and there are many species of tree and plant life to spot, such as laurel trees, Madeira mahogany, and Madeira orchids. Birdwatchers will also be happy here as you will have the chance to spot various types of birdlife, including blackbirds, robins, chaffinches, and buzzards. If you are lucky, you might even see a Madeira long-toed pigeon, an incredibly rare sight.
5. Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco (PR8)
One of the best coastal hikes, the Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco is a delightful walk along the dramatic cliffs of this narrow peninsula and is the perfect choice if you love being by the sea. It is not the most difficult of trails in Madeira, but there are some things which can make it slightly challenging, such as the strong winds coming off the sea, the lack of shade from the sun, and the numerous steps. However, you will be absolutely blown away by the scenery here, from the varying shades of colors of the rocks – the peninsula is volcanic in origin and is made of both basalt and limestone – to the crashing waves which pound against them. If you’d like to see more of the stunning scenery on the island, check out the most beautiful places on Madeira post.
As such a beautiful island, Madeira obviously gives you plenty of opportunities to pull on your hiking boots and set off exploring. While it might seem that there are so many trails to choose from that it would be impossible to know which are the best, if you feel that you do not have too much time to do too many hikes on your trip, these are the only five hikes you need to do.