Embarking on a hiking adventure to Portugal’s stunning Island of Madeira is an experience that promises breathtaking landscapes, diverse nature, and unique cultural encounters. Recently, Exodus Adventure Specialist Kaylee Lin had the opportunity to explore this remarkable destination. Read on for Kaylee’s personal trip highlights and top reasons why this journey should be on your travel radar!
Once landed, Kaylee joined the Walking the Island of Madeira tour at the hotel in Machico, overlooking the beach of Machico Bay. She settled in and met her fellow adventurers at a welcome briefing, a great chance to ask any questions and learn more about the adventure ahead. “Andres, our guide, organized dinners at local restaurants for us, which was so special. The first one, just by the starting hotel, was a favorite of many people on my trip. He was funny, too, and had lots of jokes for us along the way!”
This was Kaylee’s first hiking trip, and she was a little nervous, “It was my first and I was worried that I would get bored of walking every day!” But from the start of her first walk the next morning to Ponta de São Lourenço, a rocky peninsula with ocean views for miles, Kaylee knew that this was going to be an incredible trip. “I’m a city walker, I like window shopping as I walk, but on these hikes, you’re not just walking to one point to see an amazing view, there are amazing views all along the way.”
The views and varied landscape are part of what makes Madeira a perfect hiking destination. Despite being a small island, Kaylee was struck by the variety of terrain during her week of exploring. “There were rocky paths, cliffside paths, jungle paths, tunnel walks, even a few ladders to climb on the last day!” And along the way, there are UNESCO World Heritage sites, spectacular mountain scenery, flower-lined levadas, and more. “Every walk we did during the week was completely different from the others – one day we were walking on a rocky peninsula with sharp cliffs created by volcanic eruptions in the past, later we were walking along waterfalls and through tunnels carved into mountains, and then suddenly we were coastal walking by the beach.”
Beyond the trail, Kaylee’s time in Madeira was full of delicious food and drink. “Seafood, especially fish, is plentiful, cheap, and delicious! I’d recommend that. One of the famous local dishes is a fish with banana and passion fruit dish, which wasn’t something any of us were familiar with, but was interesting to try.” She also pointed out the reasonable costs on the island. “Meals weren’t very expensive, and the portions were more than generous. We all enjoyed sampling local wine with dinner since it was so cheap!” And wine wasn’t the only option: “Poncha was my favorite local drink – a mix of locally produced sugarcane rum, lemon, and honey. It was great to warm up after a rainy-day walk!”
On this seven-night trip, five of the days were spent hiking, leaving one free day to explore Funchal, the island capital. The city is easily explored on foot, or you could choose to take the cable car to Monte Palace and Tropical Gardens to enjoy fascinating installations and magnificent views over the city or learn about the production of Madeira’s ever-popular wine at Blandy’s Wine Lodge. You could even opt to join a whale-watching tour to spot some of the many whale and dolphin species that grace Madeira’s waters throughout the year.
After long days of exploring, the tour group rested at three- and four-star hotels, including Kaylee’s favorite, Porto Moniz. “I loved it both because of how amazing the hotel was and how beautiful the ocean waters were splashing on the rocks in the water by the town. There’s a natural swimming pool in the ocean, semi-blocked off from the rest of the water by a mix of natural rocks and cement walls, that’s gorgeous as well!”
On the last hiking day, Kaylee and her tour woke up before dawn so that they could experience sunrise at Pico Arieiro, the 3rd highest peak on the island before the start of the walk to Pico Ruivo. “At the peak, we could see every part of Madeira that we visited throughout the week which is crazy because it’s all close enough to see with the naked eye from the top, but the views on each of our walks were so different!” This special hike had them walking above the clouds for most of the day, alongside cliffs with endless views. “I loved that we started at sunrise, too, because it really adds to the magic of the hike!”
Kaylee closed off her Madeira experience in Funchal, where she and her new friends explored and found a hidden gem called Rei da Pocha, “a bar operating out of a little window on the side of the street. They had a few tables out for people, but most of the goers were just standing around the window in the little courtyard area chatting away – it was a wonderful atmosphere!”
Overall, Kaylee recommends this trip, especially for first time trekkers. “It’s a great option if you’re new to hiking trips or still testing the waters! This is a really affordable trip with amazing value – and some really fantastic hotels used along the way.”
If you’d like to start planning your next adventure with Kaylee, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org