Footloose on Madeira

Holiday Ideas on the Fabulous Atlantic Island by

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A comprehensive tour and walking travelogue of this amazing Portuguese island.
Runs 105 minutes! 


You may have heard of levada walking on Madeira, those pleasant and level footpaths at the side of Madeira's charming network of irrigation channels. You may have also heard of the vertiginous volcanic mountain terrain which really tests your tolerance to vertigo, perhaps putting you off visiting this amazing Portuguese island in the Atlantic! Our suggested trails here are all "certified" as being quite manageable yet take in some of the best dramatic scenery Madeira has to offer. Walking aside, there are many other attractions on the island to give the visitor a wonderful holiday

- See travel and trail information links at the bottom of the page -

  Highlights/places to visit/things to do 

5 SUGGESTED TRAILS - Levada walk to Camacha, The Nun's Valley, Pico Arieiro, Balcoes, So Loureno
FUNCHAL - The Capital City Walk, The Story Centre (history museum); Half-day cruise from the harbour; gardens and parks; the Market; the Wine Lodge, actually too many attractions to mention!
- Cable car ride to the high-up suburb from the Botanical Gardens, traditional toboggan ride down!
ISLAND TOURING - Visit Santana, Camara de Lobos and many villages by bus or taxi from Funchal or take guided minibus trip around the north, west, east and south.
GARDEN VISITS - the island has a wealth of exotic and tropical gardens
EVENTS - Christmas & New Year fireworks - Carnival - Vintage & Wine Car Rallies to name just a few. 
Time your visit to include an event, we did - the fabulous Flower Festival!

Home Page      Footloose on Madeira 
              ~ 5 episodes on one DVD    


1. LEVADA DOS TORNOS walk to Camacha
Accessible by bus 29 from Funchal to Romeiros, this level 12-kilometre levada walk, through woods and past banks of colourful spring flowers, has the benefit of some great coastal views. Half-way is the Hortnsia Gardens & Tea Rooms, making a really pleasant stop on this elevated rural trail. It features a 300m tunnel, so you will definitely need a torch! Journey's end is Camacha, the town fabled for wickerwork, with a pleasant cafe before returning by taxi or bus 77 back to Funchal.

2. NUN'S VALLEY (Curral das Freiras) 

The spectacular 3km zig-zag mountain trail is reached by a hair-raising bus ride (no.81) up to viewpoint and lodge at Eira do Serrado. The view from here is unsurpassed, with high peaks as a backdrop to this amazing settlement, at what might have been the crater of a huge volcano.The ancient, but well kept footpath descends 400m, but is never steep and the views of Curral das Freiras continue to amaze. At the bottom of the trail, the tourist part of the village has several restaurants, bars, shops and a bus stop (no.81) for your return.  

Surprisingly there is a good road, a car park and visitor centre at the summit of Madeira'a 3rd highest mountain... so a taxi, minibus or coach tour can deliver you above the clouds at 1818m above sea level. Altitude is what visitors really want to experience, but cloud cover may spoil the dramatic views of the mars-like volcanic landscape, so it is best to start out early in the day. A very popular, well maintained trail to the highest mountain Pico Ruivo begins here, but is quite demanding both in stamina, and managing vertigo! There are tunnels to ease this journey, but a shorter walk to the "Buzzard's Nest" is very rewarding. 

This short and easy 3km trail starts out from Ribeiro Frio, a small tourist settlement on a mountain pass between Funchal and Santana, served by an infrequent bus service 103 or 138. You simply follow the sleepy levada that winds its way through the ancient Laurisilva forest, passing an impromptu gift shop and bar. You can take children in a buggy along here or a wheelchair, but the best thing about the trail is the view at the end. Claimed to be the finest on Madeira: superb vistas of the dark high peaks from an overhanging "Miradouro", forest-draped valleys and the deep blue coast. 


Arguably the most popular trail on the island, a convenient bus service from Funchal (SAM 113) drops you at the car park and trail head. A rugged and exposed 8km coastal trail passes through spectacular and colourful rock formations, to a ranger station at the eastern tip of Madeira. The biggest feature of this nature reserve is the natural land bridge: the footpath, with stout wire railings, passes right over this narrow causeway with 100m drop on either side to the sea below!   

See what it's like - watch a preview from our DVD - 
press the 4-arrows button if you want full screen playback

Discovering Funchal & Monte
The capital of Madeira is the city of Funchal, which is home to almost half the population of the island. A couple of kilometres to the west of the city centre is where most of the hotels are situated, with a connecting bus service. We recommend staying close to the centre if you are on a do-it-yourself holiday, because almost all transport radiates from Funchal. If you stay elsewhere on the island, you may feel isolated, unless you have a hire car, or are part of a walking or tour group. 

The attractive and historic city has two main streets: Avenida do Mar (an elegant esplanade), and the lovely Jacaranda-lined Avenida Arriaga. Everywhere are black and white mosaic pavements often with nautical designs. The Placa do Municipal is not to be missed, the entire square is decked with a fish-scale design. The jetty, harbour and port are great places to wander and gaze at the cruise ships and yachts ...and maybe find a boat cruise. To the east is the old quarter, where old fishermen's cottages have been transformed into art galleries and restaurants, many with entertaining doorways. We recommend a visit to the Story Centre here, to learn some of Madeira's long trading history.

Taking the cable-car to Monte is a must-do. The elegant hillside town with lavish hotels was developed over a century ago when tourism really took hold on the island. After visiting the black and white church, the gardens, and parkland here, you can travel part way down the hill on a famous wicker toboggan. This traditional, yet crazy ride is escorted by two riders, wearing smart white trousers and straw boaters. 

Touring the Island

Whether you take a bus, taxi or minibus (see below) you will find villages, valleys, mountains and viewpoints. The dramatic landscape will never cease to tire. Our DVD takes you round many of the popular spots to whet your appetite. Although Madeira measures only 57 x 22 kilometres, the steep volcanic terrain has made it difficult to travel for centuries. Recent tunnels have improved road access, and once-remote villages are now new destinations for the tourist. Popular spots for day trips are Camara de Lobos, Santana, So Vicente, the Nun's Valley, Porto Moniz. Also to be considered is a sea trip to nearby island Porto Santo

  Feature pages:  
Austrian Tyrol
East European Cities
Scottish Highlands
Classic Tour Scotland
London II Unusual
Keukenhof Gardens
Italian Lakes
Italy III Campania
Italy IV TuscanyRome
Italy V South&Sicily
England Lake District
Oxford & York
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Find Shirley & Mike Whitehead's superb guide book of Madeira's walking trails on

Useful links:   Madeira's airport is served by several airlines including TAP and Easyjet.    

Climate ~ Madeira
  Remember it can be cloudier and rainier on the north coast then the sunnier, more sheltered south coast. Like the Canary Islands, Madeira enjoys an all-year round mild climate, but never too hot, and clouds are no strangers in the skies. The beaches are mostly dark volcanic stone and sunbathing is mostly done on public spaces, lidos and Hotel terraces.

Getting around the Island from Funchal, the capital: 
Bus: There are a number of different companies which take a bit of study. There is help with timetables at the friendly kiosks on Funchal's seafront. The yellow Horarios buses are urban within Funchal, their white & yellow buses go to popular visitor spots, often through tunnels. SAM buses serve the east of the island and the airport (also an AEROBUS). Rodoeste serve the west. Useful BUS info

Basing yourself in Funchal is the key to success with the buses, which are by far the best value way to get around.
take a guided tour, you won't tour Madeira in one day, but day tours can cover large parts of the island. Hotels can book these for you and you will be picked up. 
Taxi: The Canary yellow cabs are everywhere, and will take you to and from the start of trails, or even a day tour (at a suitable price!).
Hire Car: There are modern tunnels that get you around the island reasonably quickly, but you might miss much of the scenery that way. If you want to try your hand at rally driving (like the annual Wine Rally in the summer) ther are countless hairpin bends and thrills around the dramatic landscape!

Flower Festival Information

Madeira's Gardens

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