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Guide to Walking Holidays in Madeira

Nestled in the heart of the heart of the North Atlantic Ocean, the stunning Portuguese island of Madeira is enticing and endlessly surprising. With over 500 trails on the island, its volcanic mountain tops and tropical flora provide the perfect backdrop for an incredible walking holiday. When and where is best to go? Our guide to walking holidays in Madeira can help answer those and more questions about this incredible island in the middle of the Atlantic.

Highlights of a Walking Holiday in Madeira

Welcome to the enchanting world of walking holidays in Madeira, where lush landscapes, rugged coastlines and charming villages beckon adventurers. This Portuguese island, nestled in the Atlantic Ocean, is a paradise for walkers seeking a perfect blend of scenic beauty and outdoor adventure. Below are just three of our highlights.

Fascinating Geology


Situated as the emergent peak of a colossal shield volcano, Madeira stands tall, rising approximately 6km from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. This geological marvel rests on the African tectonic plate and owes its creation to a volcanic hotspot. The island we see today represents just the uppermost quarter of a vast volcanic system, with the rest lying submerged beneath the waves, where cliffs plunge to depths of up to 4,000m. Pico do Arieiro and Ruivo, the highest summits on Madeira, offer breathtaking vantage points to witness this remarkable geology. From their summits, visitors are treated to a truly spectacular panoramic view that stretches across the entire island. 

Delicious Fresh Cuisine


Madeira's cuisine is a delicious fusion of flavours influenced by its  island location and Portuguese heritage. Seafood plays a central role, with freshly caught fish like espada (black scabbardfish) and limpets taking the spotlight. The island's volcanic soil contributes to the rich, fertile land, yielding a bounty of fresh produce, including bananas and exotic fruits. Locally produced ingredients are used to create dishes such as the traditional espetada, where skewers of marinated beef are grilled to perfection. The local bakeries tempt visitors with their freshly baked bread and bolo do caco, a regional specialty. Be sure to wash down your meal with some of Madeira's famous sweet wine! 

Picturesque Villages


Visiting the villages of Madeira is a highlight of a holiday on this stunning island because it offers an authentic glimpse into its rich culture and history. Nestled amidst lush landscapes, these charming villages showcase traditional Madeiran architecture, vibrant local markets, and welcoming communities. The cobblestone streets, adorned with colourful flowers, lead to quaint cafes and historic churches, providing a serene escape from the bustling city life. Each village tells a unique story, allowing visitors to experience Madeira's timeless traditions, delectable cuisine and the genuine warmth of its people.

Where's best to go walking in Madeira?

North Coast

The North Coast of Madeira unveils some of the island's most breathtaking landscapes and diverse experiences. The Levada do Norte, a vast network of aqueducts, meanders through lush forests, offering a serene and verdant hiking path. In Porto Moniz, an abundance of cascading waterfalls, idyllic beaches and natural volcanic rock pools are situated throughout, all complemented by panoramic sea views. São Vicente's allure lies in its abundant vegetation and dramatic slopes shaped by volcanic activity and erosion. This region boasts numerous gardens, watercourses, scenic trails, viewpoints and natural caves, each adding to its captivating beauty. Santana, the largest municipality on the North Coast, covers an expansive area known for its UNESCO-designated 'Biosphere Reserve' status. This region not only features symbolic levadas but also boasts a rich cultural heritage, prominently showcased by the iconic 'casinhas de Santana' (Traditional Santana Houses.)

East Coast


Exploring Eastern Madeira offers a captivating journey into the island's historic roots, tracing back to its early days of colonisation in the Atlantic. The municipality of Machico holds a significant place in Madeira's history, marking the spot where Portuguese explorers, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, first landed in 1419. Known for its traditional villages, stunning landscapes and inviting beaches, Machico, situated about 22km from Funchal, stands as an integral part of the island's narrative. Similarly, the municipality of Santa Cruz, located around 18km from the capital, serves as the primary gateway to the island, hosting the Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport. Visitors are greeted with historical traditions, delightful local delicacies and a profound interaction with nature, witnessed through magnificent beaches, panoramic viewpoints and significant monuments. 


Southern Coast

Madeira's southern coast is a treasure trove of diverse landscapes. From vibrant, cosmopolitan areas emanating European urban elegance to serene pockets of untouched natural beauty, this region is a tapestry of history, culture and a variety of sandy and pebble beaches. Funchal, nestled in a natural amphitheatre overlooking the Atlantic, serves as the bustling capital of Madeira and primary centre for tourism, commerce and culture within the Portuguese archipelago.

Câmara de Lobos  holds a special place in Madeira's history as the first settlement established by João Gonçalves Zarco, the island's discoverer. This town, rich in fishing heritage and enduring traditions, possesses a unique historical, cultural and natural legacy that invites a thoughtful and immersive exploration. 


West Coast

Western Madeira offers an exquisite blend of sun, beaches, nature and tradition. This region is celebrated as the sunniest part of the island, attracting beach and coastal walking enthusiasts. Moreover, the west coast's climate nurtures fertile soils, cultivating renowned regional produce like sweet potatoes, sugar cane, the famous banana and various exotic fruits.

Comprising three municipalities—Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol, and Calheta—the region houses picturesque cities and towns adorned with a wealth of historical, architectural and traditional heritage. Ribeira Brava boasts exceptional products from its soils and a rich landscape, while Ponta do Sol is revered for its warm climate and diverse scenery. Calheta, located between the south and far west, shines with its cultural and historical richness, deeply rooted in the sea, evident in its fishing traditions and popularity among surfers. 


Central Madeira

As you step away from the island’s coast, you will discover serene landscapes, verdant hills and enchanting valleys. Inland  Madeira reveals undulating terrain, farmlands and vineyards that all contribute to the island's agricultural richness; picturesque, traditional villages dot the idyllic countryside. At the heart of Madeira lie the island's two highest peaks, Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro. The "Balcony Walk," a renowned hiking trail, connects these summits, offering adventurers an exhilarating journey between them. This trail, perched high above the clouds, presents breathtaking vistas as hikers traverse rugged terrain and winding paths, all while being embraced by the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Madeira's highest points. 

The centre of Madeira also holds the stunning Paul da Serra Plateau, nestled approximately 1,500m above the island's coastline, offering panoramic views that showcase the lush valleys, rugged mountains and the azure expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. 


When's the best time of year for a walking holiday in Madeira?

Due to its consistent sunny climate and moderate temperatures, Madeira is an excellent walking holiday destination all year-round. Despite the island's lush greenery, rainfall is generally not excessive and the weather remains comfortably warm without extreme heat. Despite its consistency, each season still offers unique advantages for visitors:



During winter, Madeira enjoys winter sun with daytime temperatures averaging around 20°C in the lower regions while the mountaintops might display a dusting of snow. Christmas is a huge deal in Madeira, with events and celebrations occurring in Funchal throughout December. The annual Carnival of Madeira takes place every February and is a great opportunity for travellers to witness the true spirit and culture of Madeira.



Spring is considered the prime time to visit as it offers moderate temperatures that make perfect walking conditions. Occasional heavy rains are possible but not regular. The Madeira Flower Festival takes place in May each year and is a major highlight in the Madeira calendar. It is a magical celebration of the beauty and fragrance of  flowers with events held throughout the island - a must-do in May!



The summer months in Madeira offer an optimal window for whale watching off the island's coastline. As the warm summer sun blankets the region, it creates ideal conditions for these majestic marine creatures to thrive and roam the Atlantic waters. Daytime temperatures are normally around 24°C in the summer, occasionally rising to 33°C but with ample shade available,  perfect walking conditions remain. 



Autumn months bring a quieter atmosphere and pleasantly sunny weather. Though rainfall slightly increases, temperatures remain stable, averaging around 22°C, ideal for walking. Autumn also hosts the Columbus Festival that celebrates the Age of Discoveries and Columbus' stay on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo. At this time, the streets are filled with theatrical performances and concerts. 

How difficult is the walking in Madeira?


Embarking on a walking holiday in Madeira offers a plethora of diverse walking routes catering to various difficulty levels, spanning from leisurely strolls to moderately challenging treks. While many routes are accessible for individuals with a general level of fitness, some of the more demanding trails may require a reasonable degree of physical ability. Prior hiking experience isn't essential for most of the walking trails although having some familiarity with varied terrains and hiking conditions can be advantageous, ensuring an enjoyable and manageable walking experience in the captivating landscapes of Madeira.

Alternatives to Walking in Madeira


Renowned for their breathtaking landscapes, exceptional walking trails, and delectable cuisine, the Azores are a wonderful alternative. Explore the lush island of Sao Miguel on a self-guided holiday, discovering its verdant beauty. One of the highlights includes a walk to the mystically enchanting Sete Cidades Caldeira, where azure and emerald crater lakes await. This offers an excellent opportunity for travellers seeking a similar walking experience in a different but equally captivating Portuguese archipelago.

Canary Islands


Canary Islands offer a spectacular setting similar to Madeira, boasting stunning weather all year round and picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean. These beautiful islands are not just idyllic beach destinations but also present an array of world-class walking experiences in extraordinary landscapes. From exploring hidden deserts in Lanzarote to conquering Spain's highest peak in Tenerife and hiking through La Gomera's volcanic terrains, the Canary Islands offer a diverse and captivating walking experience. 

Cycling in Madeira


If your heart is set on Madeira, there are exceptional cycling routes available, allowing you to explore the island's diverse beauty on two wheels. Prepare to be captivated by a series of dramatic coastal viewpoints as you circumnavigate the whole island, taking in the awe-inspiring Cabo Girao and enjoying a day exploring Funchal. Madeira's cycling adventures promise a delightful and immersive exploration of the island's rich offerings for those drawn to a different kind of outdoor adventure.

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