With great weather year-round, and walks ranging from easy to challenging, Madeira is the perfect destination to stretch your legs and try a walking holiday.
The paths that go alongside the Levadas (the intricate canal system carrying water all over the island) are the most popular way to discover the island but a highlight is to summit Pico Ruivo (1861m), the highest point on the island. On a clear day, you have the most amazing panoramic views of the whole island from here. All the trails are signposted so you can either go walking on your own or as part of a small guided group. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the walking will always be easy though as some of the paths are along steep ravines and high cliffs so you’ll need a good head for heights.
Madeira is fast becoming Europe’s go-to island for canyoning holidays.
If you’ve never been before, here’s how it works: A guide will drive you up into a beautifully green, lush valley on the North coast of the island. You’ll pop on a dry suit, helmet and harness and then start your descent scrambling, jumping and abseiling down the mountain stream to the valley floor tackling increasingly spectacular and exhilarating waterfalls as you go.
Madeira looks like a small island on paper but once you’re there you’ll find the steep terrain and sinuous, winding roads make it tricky to explore the entire island in just one week.
A guided jeep tour allows you to discover breath-taking landscapes, steep mountain ridges and sea cliffs that you might otherwise miss. You can also sneak in a visit to one of the island’s few surviving ‘Engenhos’ or rum distilleries. Perhaps better known for its fortified wines, Madeira also produces white rum from the sugar cane which grows in abundance on the island. Yum.
Madeira’s position in the North Atlantic makes it the ideal destination for whale and dolphin watching. Add in the island’s temperate winter weather and you’ve arguably got the best year-round destination for Cetaceans (and for humans to spot them).
The more common species spotted around the island are:
Sperm Whales are sighted throughout the year, but the best time to spot them is normally from March through to September.
Common Bottlenose Dolphins are probably the most well-known Dolphin Species and are resident in the waters around Madeira all through the year.
Bryde’s Whales are spotted all year around but sightings tend to peak early in the year and mid-Summer.
Atlantic spotted Dolphins, as with the Common Bottlenose Dolphins, can be spotted throughout the year but sightings can be lower in the Winter time.
Short-finned Pilot Whales tend to visit between November and April.
Sun seekers that once monopolised flights from Europe are now giving way to a more active generation who don’t want to spend their holiday in Madeira lazing by the pool. The island’s seemingly endless network of trails attracts more and more riders each year – including pro-riders such as Brendan Fairclough and Josh Bryceland citing Madeira as their winter training ground of choice.
The island has a bit of everything for mountain biking holidays – XC trails that mix Madeira’s famous Levada’s with spectacular coastline single track. Flowy, woodland descents crisscrossing full-on downhill tracks and gap jumps are perfect for a day of uplifts. Also check out the steep, technical zig-zagging footpaths that hug the cliffs on the North Coast.
Swimming with dolphins
If it has always been your dream to swim with dolphins then Madeira is quite possibly the place for you.
Head out to sea on a rigid inflatable boat in search of a ‘pod’ of dolphins. Once you’ve spotted them jump into the water while the boat slowly pulls you along at the pace of the dolphins, an unobtrusive way to get up close to these incredible creatures.
In association with Archipelago Choice