Anyone else researching last minute summer holiday ideas? Here’s a little look at a few exciting ways to get around Madeira’s mountains. Contrary to what many may think of Portugal, Madeira is not lined with golden shorelines like many other favourite Portugal destinations.
Instead, Madeira is a mountainous volcanic island with peaks as high as 1800m, making it the perfect destination for outdoor lovers and explorers.
Of course, getting around this tropical island is no easy task – especially with so many steep slopes – but that doesn’t mean hiring a car is your only option. There are numerous weird and wonderful ways to explore Madeira, here are just a few of our favourite methods:
Hiking: The easiest and most rewarding way to explore Madeira’s beautiful mountains is by foot. Most of the island’s routes will require moderate effort, but should be suitable for anyone with some level of fitness. There are guided tours available if you’re not entirely confident navigating yourself.
A personal favourite trail is the 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco trail. These are one of the shorter hikes – perfect for an afternoon with plenty of beautiful scenery including waterfalls. For experienced hikers, Pico do Arieiro will take you to Madeira’s third highest peak – completely above the clouds! Walk from here to Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak, for an extra challenge.
If you plan to spend a large amount of your holiday hiking then it might be a good idea to rent one of the island’s private villas. Many of these are on the edge of Madeira’s best trails, meaning you don’t need to worry about getting there.
Taking a Jeep: Such rugged mountain terrain can be daunting if you’re not a seasoned walker, or if you have a young family, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on seeing the island’s many mountains and valleys. Instead opt for a jeep tour, these full day safaris will take you all over the island visiting Madeira’s subtropical Laurissilva forests – in areas you won’t reach by foot – and swiftly take you up mountains so you can enjoy the spectacular views without breaking a sweat.
Cycling: For those who enjoy mountain biking, Madeira might just be your paradise. Join in on one of Freeride’s biking packages – you’ll get bike hire, a tour guide and transport up to one of the company’s many seasoned trails. Then it’s just a case of cycling back down a mountain in an adrenaline-pumping atmosphere surrounded by fellow riders taking in the views.
As well as mountain routes, Freeride also offer coastal routes and less taxing trails for those not entirely confident yet.
Horse Riding: For a truly quirky way to explore Madeira’s mountains, Quinta do Riacho offers horse-riding tours of the island’s mountains and tropical forests. Available for all skill levels, with pony tours available for children.
Mountain routes include a memorable trip 1200m into the sky to Pico do Suna, which is meant for more advanced riders due to the steep slopes involved.
Wicker Basket Toboggan: Earlier it was mentioned that the best way to get to Monte is by cable car. However, getting back down to Funchal can be even more thrilling! Take one of the island’s traditional wicker basket toboggans back down the mountain. This thrilling ride, where locals dressed in white with straw hats (Carreiros) push you down, is by far the quickest way to get back down the mountain – although it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted!
Cable Cars: With Madeira being so mountainous, it can be more difficult to get from town to town. Indeed, in cases like Funchal to Monte you are literally climbing a mountain. Luckily, there are cable cars between these two towns to make your journey far easier – you’ll get the most magnificent views as you ascend to Monte!
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” -Eleanor Roosevelt