Madeira Walks – Year Round Mountain & Levada Walking
Madeira walks are varied and scenic. Whether it be levada walks or mountain walks, Madeira is the place for stunning views and is not known as the ‘floating garden of the Atlantic’ without good reason. Madeira walks are something I have spent the last 10 years enjoying.
The Levada system is what makes Madeira walks so unique. Levadas are narrow irrigation channels that cover the whole island. They start in the mountain region and slowly work their way downhill to feed the terraced growing areas. They lead you through fertile farmland of vines, bananas and sugar cane as well as the usual food crops. There are over 1,350 miles of levadas and 25 miles of tunnels offering a great variety of walks.
The island topography brings places such as the Phillipines or South America to mind. In certain places the levadas can be very vertiginous, with sheer drops of hundreds of feet. In some of these sections there are no protection rails, so a slip would most likely result in a fatality. However most levada walks are suitable for walkers with little experience and provide safe and easy hiking.
To my mind the best Madeira walks are in the mountain areas. My own particular favourite is Pico Grande at 1,654 metres/5,426 ft above sea level. It is not the highest peak on Madeira but I think it’s the one that gives the best panoramic views of the mountain ridges and of Curral das Freiras, the village nestled in the valley below. The summit is reached by pulling yourself up on a chain fixed to the sloping east side of the mountain top.
The link is to a copyright photograph which cannot be reproduced but it’s a stunning view of the peak shown on the top left shrouded in cloud and the village below.
I have climbed Pico Grande on three occasions, all on days with clear blue cloudless skies and what a tranquil place it is. There is not a sound to be heard and the views to the northern and southern coastlines of Madeira are spectacular. There follows a long walk to catch the bus at Encumeada which sits on the top of the road dividing the north and south of the island. The image is of my son and myself on the summit in 2005, the first time I climbed Pico Grande.
Of all the places I have visited abroad no hiking compares to the Madeira walks I have completed on this beautiful island.