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Following Madeira's unique network of levadas and ancient footpaths, this trip discovers the many different sides to this beautiful volcanic island. Walk through Laurel forest, along cliff tops to the Ponta de São Lourenço and past alluring waterfalls.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 15 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip begins in Santana a beautiful village on the north coast. Home to Madeira's famed 'Bordado da Madeira' (embroidery) and traditional thatched 'A' frame houses known as 'palheiros'.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7.30pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Santana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Madeira Airport (FNC), which is a 40 minute drive from the airport. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit the "Noite do Mercado" at Machico (a 30 minute drive from Santana). Noite do Mercado is a traditional festival taking place at the markets all over the island to promote local products, gastronomy and entertainment.
Christmas celebrations in Madeira offer a varied programme of cultural, folk and artistic events. You'll have your first glimpse of this in Santana tonight, walking through the decorated streets.
Hotel O Colmo, Santana (or similar)
This morning we drive through a peaceful agricultural area, where the rich soil helps to yield up to three crops yearly, to the starting point of today's walk in Machico. We follow the levada through weaving through rural surroundings, where small plots are planted with various fruits and vegetables grow side by side with exotic forests. We follow the path to Boca do Risco, one of the most beautiful natural viewpoints on the East side of the Island. From here we walk along the cliff tops, with fine panoramic views and good wildlife opportunities including the Madeira Firecrest, an endemic bird species on the islands and a vast array of beautiful plants. The walk finishes at Porto da Cruz.
We drive back to Santana, tonight you might like to try one of fresh seafood dishes that Madeira is known for, such as tuna with fried maize or black scabbard with fried banana, and for dessert perhaps have a taste of passionfruit pudding.
Today's eight kilometre trek is expected to take around three hours with 100 metres of ascent and descent. The cliff-side path is narrow in places, with small sections without railing protection where there is considerable exposure.
This morning we drive up to Boaventure, a hamlet of houses perched on the hillside at the top of the valley. The trail begins with almost two hundred meters of incline, the rest is relatively flat, taking us from the top of the valley and winding down towards the coast. We walk to a hidden waterfall before entering the thick, lush UNESCO protected laurel forest and follow the Levada dos Tornos. The Levada dos Tornos is one of the most important levadas that passes through a big part of the Madeira Island to bring water from the north to the south. At breaks in the trees we will be afforded sweeping views of the valley, the cliff-side levada becomes more scenic as the views down to the coast open up.
From Faja do Penedo our vehicle takes us right along the north coast to Porto Moniz. The 16km stretch of road from Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz took 16 years to complete and was built entirely by hand! Porto Moniz has unusual rock pools, created by volcanic activity. In summer the sun warms the trapped sea water making them excellent places to swim or simply bask after a day's walking. When the weather is rougher, the waves crash dramatically over the seawall and it is hard to believe that the rock pools really exist!
In the evening you can admire the Christmas lights and decorations at Porto Moniz. The festive season in Madeira starts in December when streets are magnificently decorated, and the colourful lights are switched on until early January.
Today's 13 kilometre trek is expected to take around five hours with 280 metres of ascent and descent. There are several small sections of the hill-side levada without railing protection.
Hotel Euro Moniz (or similar)
Today we drive to the south coast of the island, making a stop at Ponta do Vigia, the westernmost tip of the island. The lighthouse here stands on the cliffs 300 metres above the waves. Built in 1922, it houses a small museum containing exhibits on the lighthouses of Madeira.
Our walk todays begins from Lombada just inland from Ponta de Sol. We follow the Levada Nova, guiding us round the hillside with views over the coastline and villages of Ribeira Brava. The landscape here gives us a great insight into local livelihoods and traditions, passing banana plantations, cultivated fields and colourful endemic flor, which the tour leader will point out along the route.
The walk ends in Ribeira Brava, where we can stop for a refreshment. From here the bus takes us onto Funchal, our base for the next four nights. Funchal takes its name from 'funcho', meaning fennel and according to local legend, when Zarco landed here in 1419, he named this spot after the abundance of the herb he found. Visiting sailors used to call the city 'Little Lisbon' because of the grandeur of its cathedral and the buildings that line its harbour.
This afternoon there is the option for your tour leader to guide an hour's orientation walk around the old town or explore on your own. Tonight "Noite do Mercado" takes place in Funchal, this festival and all-night market is the peak of Christmas celebrations. The event attracts thousands of locals and tourists alike into the bustling, busy streets as last-minute shoppers pick up fresh produce. The streets are lined with bars and eateries tempting everyone to enjoy in a little late night feasting and drinking, try the traditional sandes de carne vinho alhos a special sandwich of pork meat marinated in wine and garlic.
Today's 10 kilometre trek is expected to take around four hours with 50 metres of ascent and descent. There are several small sections of the hill-side levada without railing protection.
Today has been left free to explore Funchal at your own pace or choose an optional activity. You could take a half day cruise and try your luck searching for whales and dolphins. You may simply wish to enjoy more time exploring Funchal, strolling through the botanic gardens, taking afternoon tea at the atmospheric Reids Palace Hotel, or riding the cable car up to the tropical gardens at Monte. There is also the option of a half day excursion to Nun's Valley and visit a Christmas village with many decorations and nativity scene, where details and scenes of Madeiran daily life are well represented.
Today there is the option to have a three-course lunch or dinner at your hotel, please see the optional excursion section for more details. This can be arranged by your leader at the beginning of the trip.
This evening may wish to stroll the beautifully brightly decorated streets of Funchal tonight whilst listening to Christmas carols or attend midnight mass. It is celebrated at Funchal's Sé Cathedral by the Bishop of Funchal, the church fills up quickly so make sure to get there early to get a good seat.
Hotel do Carmo, Funchal (or similar)
Today's walk starts at Pico Arieiro (1,862m). From here we follow the trail to the summit of Pico Ruivo (1,862m), Madeira's highest point, where on a clear day we are rewarded with stunning views down over the island. This route includes walking part of the famous Balcony Walk and through several tunnels (a torch is necessary) including the Túnel do Pico do Gato. This walk can be more challenging than the previous walks, and there are some short, steep sections involving stone steps and metal staircases.
From the pico we descend to Achada de Texeira (1,542m) before returning by minibus to the island's capital. The old part of town has many restaurants where you can try Espada, a long flat fish unique to the waters around Madeira (and some islands in Japan). This fish has very large eyes and can live at depths below 800m. The Madeirans serve it with banana, which is a delicious combination!
Perhaps the best way to spend the evening is on the harbour front, sampling a glass of the famous Madeira wine, enjoyed by many throughout the ages, including Sir Winston Churchill.
Today's 11 kilometre trek is expected to take around five-and-a-half hours with 320 metres of ascent and descent.
*Please note that the walk from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo can be closed in bad weather. In this case your tour leader will offer you the best alternative walk for the weather and the group.
Today's walk starts at Rabaçal from where we follow the Levada do Alecrim (rosemary), one of the most beautiful levadas of Madeira. Along the trail we can enjoy the variety of endemic flora and take in amazing views down into the Rabaçal and Ribeira da Janela valleys. Continuing our hike, we reach the majestic Lagoa do Vento, a river basin formed by the water falling from the top of the cliff, coming from the Ribeira do Lajeado. After a rest and perhaps a swim, we have an hour walking amongst the laurel forest to reach the House of Rabaçal where we will stop for lunch.
After lunch we follow the Levada do Risco to the waterfall that feeds it. After enjoying this magnificent viewpoint we continue to the 800 metre Tunel dos Cavaleiros through which the beautiful valley of Calheta and the sea is visible.
To note that the 26th December is also Christmas holiday in Madeira so many shops, market and services are closed however restaurants and bars remain open. The Christmas Market will be open at Avenida Arriaga, here you can taste some of the typical delicacies and drinks from Madeira, and enjoy performances by folklore groups.
Today's 12 kilometre trek is expected to take around five hours with 475 metres of descent.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Funchal.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Funchal at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Madeira Airport (FNC), which a 25 minutes' drive.
Total distance : 58 kilometres
Overall, spring, early summer and autumn are ideal times for a trip to Portugal - though the weather varies enormously from region to region. The northern high plains has both extremes, stiflingly hot in summer, bitterly cold and swept by freezing winds in winter. The Atlantic coast, in contrast, has a tendency to damp and mist, and a relatively brief, humid summer. The Mediterranean south is warm virtually all year round. The islands have very different weather patterns due to their positioning and can have sudden rain falls throughout the year so waterproofs are recommended even in the summer.
2 Pin Round
Funchal: Blandy's wine lodge guided tour and tasting €12.50 (14:30, 15:30 and 16:30) Botanical gardens €7.50; Tropical gardens at Monte €12.50 (take the cable car from Funchal €18 return) Whale Watch on a boat €55.00 (weather permitting 2.5 hours) Reids Palace Hotel - Afternoon tea €39 Catamaran trip €35 half day Full day Boat trip to Islas Desertas inc. lunch €85 Porto Santo - Ferry €64.36 (apr - Sep) €52.62 (Oct - Dec) return ticket Tobogganing from Monte, 2km descent taking approximately 15 minutes- €25 (one person), €30 (2 people), €45 (3 people max) All excursions can be paid by cash or card.
July and August are the warmest months, though the islands are freshened by cooling sea breezes. Bring light and comfortable clothing that can be layered according to the temperature. It can become cool, especially at night, so bring warmer layers. Tops made from wicking materials which keep you drier, a warmer fleece is recommended as a mid layer, and walking trousers are preferable to trousers of heavier material such as jeans. A waterproof jacket is essential at all times in case of rain and wind. -Breathable wind and waterproof jacket (you may also wish to bring waterproof trousers) -T-shirts -Long sleeved tops -Sunhat -Long trousers -Shorts (if you prefer to walk in them) -Swimwear and towel -Midlayer Fleece/pullover -Socks (liner and thicker pair) -Insulated jacket
Walking or trail boots are essential and comfortable trainers or sandals for relaxing. Plastic sandals are useful if swimming off lava rocks. Make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
Bring one main piece of luggage and a 20-30 litre day sack is recommended. You will need to carry what you need for the day which may include a raincoat, jumper, camera, sun-cream, water and picnic lunch. On hot days you will carry fewer clothes but more drinking water.
-Sunglasses -Sun cream -Small Torch (with spare batteries and bulb) -Camera -Walking poles (if you usually use them) -Personal toiletries -Personal first aid kit - On each walk a first aid kit is carried but you should have your own blister kit, supply of plasters, aspirin and other essentials. -Insect repellent -Small waterproof dry bag (for items such as your mobile phone) -Reusable water bottle (minimum 1 litre) - Get 15% discount on a Water-to-Go bottle www.explore.co.uk/about-us/responsible-travel/water-to-go-discount-with-explore -Lunch bag/Tupperware (for packed lunches)
Accommodation and service levels in Madeira are generally very good. On this trip we stay in a number of smaller, family-run hotels that might not offer the same luxuries as larger chain-style hotels, but they do provide a warm welcome and a comfortable place to stay. The facilities are good and the majority have a swimming pool, bar and restaurant.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
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Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Portugal: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
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Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory but Tetanus is usually recommended as a precaution. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.