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Introduced: Madeira

Hiking, discovering & enjoying the island paradise

Madeira, the Portuguese island in the Atlantic, beckons avid hikers to a paradisiacal experience. Its diverse landscape unveils awe-inspiring trails tracing along steep coasts, meandering through lush laurel forests, and leading to breathtaking viewpoints. The island boasts a year-round mild climate, with winter temperatures resembling a pleasant spring or summer, inviting outdoor enthusiasts to revel in nature throughout the seasons. The enchanting hiking paths alongside the Levadas, historic irrigation channels, are meticulously maintained, offering delightful glimpses into the beauty of the natural surroundings. On Madeira, hikers not only revel in the island's natural allure but also immerse themselves in ancient traditions, cultural nuances, and the distinct hospitality of its inhabitants.

What awaits you on our hiking holiday around Madeira and the unique features that the volcanic island has to offer – along with some personal tips from us – we'll now reveal to you in our HikingBlog.

Basic information about Madeira

The island name Madeira is Portuguese and means "wood" as when the island was discovered around 1419, it was covered with countless forests, such as the island's characteristic laurel forests. Later, the magnificent diversity of flowers and plants developed, showcasing their beauty throughout the year. Madeira is part of Portugal and covers a total area of 741 km2, being home to approximately 267,785 Madeirans. The Atlantic Island is situated about 700 kilometers off the coast of Morocco, with the capital being Funchal, located in the south.

Portuguese is spoken on the island. The archipelago, along with the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Azores, constitutes the island region of Macaronesia, also known as the "blissful or fortunate islands" For all winter-weary adventure enthusiasts, this is the promised land. The subtropical climate guarantees pleasantly mild temperatures year-round, with averages hovering around 19 degrees Celsius in January and a delightful 26 degrees Celsius in summer! You can read even more about springtime hiking in Madeira in the travel story Madeira: Escape to the warmth.

Madeira's Natural Worlds

Particularly impressive on Madeira is the variety of plants and the spectacular natural landscapes nestled between mountains and sea. In the center of the island, there are high peaks with a mid-to high-mountain character, while in the west, the high moorland of Paul da Serra stretches between 1,300 and 1,500 meters in altitude. The highest mountain is Pico Ruivo, standing at 1,862 meters above sea level. Along the coasts, natural swimming pools and impressive cliffs await, some of which extend up to 4,000 meters below the sea surface. For plant enthusiasts, the island offers an original floral display, with approximately 16 percent being endemic and exclusive to Madeira. In spring, one can look forward to the lilac blooms of jacaranda trees, while in summer, red and violet bougainvillea shrubs burst into bloom. In autumn, the flowers of the silk floss tree add their charm, and fitting for the season, winter brings forth poinsettias in red and white.

The marine wildlife is truly remarkable, boasting over 240 fish species in the waters surrounding the island. Among them are the enigmatic swordfish, redfish, blue marlin, haddock, tuna, dolphins, turtles, monk seals, and whales. The diverse nature of Madeira is best experienced by foot. Our hiking holiday Around Madeira takes you to all the special highlights on the island, including Porto da Cruz, the rugged north coast with Sao Vicente, the plateau of Paul da Serra, Porto Moniz, the coastal town of Calheta, the island's capital Funchal, the pilgrimage site Monte, the botanical garden, and Cabo Girao, the highest sea cliff in Europe. Experience even more comfort during island hiking in the selected hotels and accommodations on the hiking holiday Around Madeira with Charm. No matter which tours you choose, Madeira will undoubtedly capture your hiking heart!

Our tips for botanists: tropical gardens & exotic nature

  • Laurel forests in the green mountainous terrain: The laurel forests, recognized as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, can be experienced on the plateau of Paul da Serra on the fourth day of your hiking tour around Madeira.
  • Natural lava pools: What could be better than refreshing yourself in the sea after a hiking stage? The beautiful bathing spots in Funchal and Porto Moniz are perfect for this. Even though the sea around Madeira is not particularly warm, these natural pools are wonderful for swimming as they are heated by the warm volcanic rock. So, don't forget your swimwear!
  • Funchal Botanical Garden: Make sure to explore the enchanting botanical garden in the island's capital on your final day. Spanning 35,000 square meters, it provides a comprehensive display of the island's rich vegetation.
  • The Cabo Girao cliff: The view from the highest sea cliff in Europe, which you'll encounter on the sixth day of your hiking adventure, is nothing short of spectacular. 
  • The Boca do Risco saddle: Your first hiking stage leads you particularly impressively along the north coast, crossing the saddle of Boca do Risco. On this route, you will always be accompanied by the exotic diversity of the island's plants.
  • Island Cuisine: The taste of Madeira

    Not only does the island offer a plethora of landscapes for nature enthusiasts, hikers, sun-seekers, and those in search of tranquility, but Madeira's culinary scene is also a highlight to look forward to. Emphasizing traditional, time-honored recipes prepared with the highest quality regional ingredients, Madeira's gastronomy is a delight. The subtropical climate and fertile volcanic soil provide ideal conditions for agriculture, while freshly caught seafood from the sea adds to the diversity of ingredients.

    Our culinary secret tip: Be sure to try the Bolo do caco, a traditional flatbread that is served around the island as an appetizer. The bread is particularly moist as it is made from sweet potatoes. Spread with garlic butter, it is a must-have during your hiking vacation in Madeira.

    Exotic Fruit

    A true standout is the array of exotic fruits on the island, boasting distinct flavors that leave a lasting impression. These fruits, perfectly displayed on market stalls, not only make for captivating photo opportunities but also elicit awe from market visitors. The sweet Madeira bananas, passion fruits in various colors and flavors, tree tomatoes, cherimoyas, nectarines, and watermelons are a delight for both the eyes and the taste buds.

    Freshly caught Atlantic fish

    The variety of fresh fish in Madeira is particularly abundant. Especially typical for the island is the black scabbardfish, also known as "Espada." A mystical species that inhabits depths of around 1,000 meters, it may not be particularly attractive with its sharp teeth and large eyes, but it is an exceptionally tasty fish. No fisherman has ever caught the black scabbardfish alive, as it does not survive the immense pressure difference when being pulled to the surface during fishing. Another delicious fish dish is the dried and salted cod, also known as Bacalhau, served with sweet potatoes and vegetables. Equally typical for Madeira are the limpets (Lapas), a type of snail caught in the algae-rich rocky coasts and served in small metal pans with plenty of garlic. For those who prefer not to be too adventurous but still want to enjoy the delightful seafood, there is a choice of mussels, shrimp, crab, and squid. And for those who prefer a meat dish, look forward to the beef skewers, known as Espetadas.

    Raw scabbardfish and freshly caught fish on ice with a lettuce leaf, a slice of pepper and a sliced orange

    Madeira wine & Poncha

    The Atlantic island is renowned for its excellent Madeira wine, which is classified into four types based on grape varieties: the dry Sercial, the semi-dry Verdelho, the semi-sweet Boal, and the sweet Malvasia. Equally typical for Madeira is the national drink Poncha. In its classic form, the drink is made with equal parts lemon juice, honey, and sugarcane brandy. For a more exotic twist, it can also be prepared with juice from oranges, passion fruit, or tree tomatoes (tamarillos). Poncha is consumed regularly and is believed by the islanders to be particularly effective against various ailments.

    Discover the distinct characteristics of Madeira through hiking and immerse yourself, mind, body & soul in the island's delights. Savor the moment!

    Traditional poncha drink at sunset with a view of the coast and sea
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