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There are many reasons to travel to the Portuguese island of
Madeira, but we believe that a walking holiday is the best way to fully appreciate the island. Spend your days in Madeira hiking the levadas and take in the beautiful viewpoints while at night roaming the charming streets of capital Funchal and other quaint towns.
If you’re curious to understand a little more what a Madeira hiking holiday may look like, check out the images below.
Few places in Europe celebrate autumn in such a dynamic way as Madeira…
Through a wide range of festivals, you can experience a lively autumn in
Madeira. Most likely, your main reason to visit Madeira in September, October & November is exploring the Portuguese island on foot. But there are many more things to do in Madeira in autumn besides navigating the island’s ancient and walking paths. From wine and apple cider festivals to celebrating the organ and stunning nature, below find an overview of some of the festivals to attend this autumn. levadas
Madeira Wine Festival
When >> 26 August – 09 September 2018
Where >> from Estreito de Câmara de Lobos to Funchal (start & finish of the Madeira Island Walking trip)
What >> The wine festival has been running since the '70s and coincides with the island’s Wine Harvest Festival, European Folklore Week and street entertainment in Funchal. Late August/early September is when the annual grape harvest takes place in Madeira and attending these is certainly a reason to plan your travel dates accordingly. There are musical performances, ethnographic parades, demonstrations of old-style viticulture tools and even the opportunity to join in treading the grapes!
When >> 13-15 September 2018
Where >> the island of Porto Santo northeast of Madeira (ask our team for details on how to get there)
What >> The world-famous explorer once called home Porto Santo Island and each year in September, the island close to Madeira organises many events evolving around the epic Portuguese discoveries from the 15-16 th century. You can for example witness the ‘disembarking of Columbus’, browse a 16 th century market for food & craft, listen to orations as they were held at the time, and join in many of the other things to do at this time of year. Expect to be drawn back in time when visiting this small island close to Madeira in September.
Apple Festival & Apple Cider Festival
When >> 15 & 16 September 2018
Where >> Ponta do Pargo (on the far west of the island)
What >> In its 34 th year in 2018, the Madeira Apple Festival is a rural event to celebrate the ‘pêro’ – what Madeirans commonly call the apple. The small festival takes place in Ponta do Pargo in the western tip of Madeira and attracts apple farmers from the surrounding farmsteads. Festivities usually include apple cider tasting, a street parade, exhibitions, and several musical performances. Besides the festival, Ponta do Pargo is a charming town to visit on its own. Or wait a few weeks for the annual Madeira Cider Festival in the weekend of 22 & 23 September.
Madeira Nature Festival
When >> 2-7 October 2018
Where >> around the island of Madeira (check the stand at the Largo da Restauração for more info)
What >> Just like the Madeira Flower Festival in spring, the island’s nature festival celebrates all activities on the island that involve nature. The natural heritage of the island is rich thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil and Madeira is even nicknamed ‘Garden Island’ or ‘Ilha Jardim’. Everything that you can do during the Madeira Nature Festival takes place on the land, in the air or in the sea and includes activities like birdwatching, mountain biking, levadas walks, sailing, and short leisure flights.
Madeira Organ Festival
When >> normally at the end of October, exact dates for 2018 to be announced
Where >> Funchal, Machico & Porto da Cruz (which you’ll visit at the beginning of the walking holiday)
What >> The organ is a relatively unknown part of Madeiran heritage and can be found in several churches and cathedrals across the island. A series of 12 concerts will be held to showcase the instrument and beautiful music it can produce. The festival will have Portuguese and internationally renowned master organ players perform in stunning venues like the Cathedral of Funchal, College Church, Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Church of St Peter.
festivaldeorgaodamadeira.com or on their Facebook page
Madeira is a year-round walking destination with pleasant temperatures to be in the outdoors and there are lots of things to in Madeira apart from walking. For more information and advice on planning your holiday, feel free to
contact our team of travel experts in London.
8-day Madeira Island Walking holiday departs daily, year-round.
©Mark Skarratts Along Madeira's Levadas
Madeira’s 1,350-mile network of watercourses (known locally as levadas ) offer fantastic opportunities for walking holidays. Join us on an historical journey along Madeira’s levadas and learn more about the different routes.
In the early 1400s, Madeira was discovered by three navigators from
Portugal. They found several high peaks, stunning nature and a beautiful coastline on an island that was wet in the northwest, but dry in the southeast. Several years later, the process of building the so-called levadas (aqueducts or watercourses) that are unique to Madeira had started, so that water could be carried to the agricultural regions in the south of the island.
A Network of Levadas
Many of the levadas had to be cut into the sides of the mountains and even tunnels were necessary to complete the network. Today, most of the levadas – and tunnels – that were built between 1461 and 1966 still remain. What’s more, made out of stone or concrete, they still function, although not to distribute water, but to provide hydro-electric power to the island.
Another advantage of the 1,350 miles-long network is the ability for hikers to follow them on foot. Via, at times, easy walks through the countryside and mountain ranges and at other points challenging narrow paths, you can discover the beautiful island of Madeira on a walking holiday.
Levada Walking in Madeira
Partly thanks to Madeira’s levadas, the island owes its nickname of ‘Ilha Jardim’ (Garden Island). On our walking holiday, you can explore several trails along the levadas in Madeira on foot:
Levada do Furado
The walk along this levada is the most dramatic and challenging of all on our 8-day walking holiday in Madeira. It follows narrow paths and uneven going underfoot. You will walk up into the wild, forested hills of the Madeira National Park and be rewarded with magnificent views at a number of points.
Levada dos Tornos
Located around Monte, known for the Tropical Gardens and wickerwork sleds, are the trails of the Levada dos Tornos. Along the way you will be able to enjoy the colourful flora and fauna and views over Funchal Bay. On our day’s walk, we only cover a section of this levada in Madeira.
Levada da Serra
This levada shows you a wonderful part of the island that is fit for walkers year-round. It contours – at a slightly higher level (750m) than the other routes on our walking trip – around the head of the impressive ‘Valley of Paradise’. It is a leisurely walk along a flower-lined levada.
Levada do Canical
Built in relatively recent times (developments finished in the 1960s), the Levada do Canical is easy to follow. The trail is about seven miles towards its source near Ribeira de Machico. We cover a section of this levada that goes through the Canical Tunnel. This Madeira levada is known as the ‘mimosa levada’ as there are many mimosa trees found along the course of the route.
On a short flight from Europe and about 4 hours from London, discover these levadas on our Madeira walking holidays.
For more information and booking details, please have a look at our
8-day self guided Madeira walking holiday, or get in touch with our team of travel experts.
Every year in September you can see the
Douro Valley change from its summer greens to a blanket of gold and eventually red. This is the time to enjoy late summer days in Portugal.
If you visit Portugal in September, you will find fewer crowds on the trails, weather has pleasant temperatures of around 20 degrees C and with almost no rainfall, it is a great time to visit. September is that time of year when the tourism season begins quieting down and the local people start preparing for their annual grape harvest.
A celebratory ceremony, the grape harvest is where workers and villagers gather in a festive spirit (see the video below). Some of the vineyards allow travellers to take part in the ceremonies, such as the accommodation you stay in on our
Douro Rambler walking holiday. It was built during the 17 th century and located a little further up in the hills, offering magnificent views of the valley and Douro River. It owns a small vineyard that sells their grapes to a cooperative. Walkers who would like to join the harvesting activities in Douro Valley can help with picking grapes or indulge in wine and port tasting sessions. If you want to see the first steps in the wine making process, especially of the world famous port, you should visit Douro Valley this September.
You can participate in September’s grape harvest in other regions of Europe too: consider a trip to
Tuscany where the harvesting period runs until October or places in France where the harvesting time varies depending on which area you visit.
For more information on the grape harvesting period on our active European holidays or walking holidays in Portugal’s
, please get in touch with our team of travel experts in the London offices. Douro Valley
Few places in Europe welcome spring in such a colourful way as Madeira…
Taking place in spring every year (2017 from 4-21 May), the island’s dazzling annual Flower Festival features beautiful displays of tropical flowers.
Over the years it has become known for its Sunday parade, when hundreds of dancers accompanied by huge floral floats march through the main streets of capital Funchal.
Madeira enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species! But this is not the only reason why we are such a big fan of Portugal's Madeira island. The mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of levadas together with the impressive scenery form the base for an 8-day self guided walking trip that will immerse you in the island's lush nature.
Flowers in Bloom
© Allie Caulfield
Spring is the perfect time to visit the Portuguese island when a myriad of colourful flowers and trees are in bloom – jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora.
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (approx. 6,000 feet) with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks.
16th Century Aqueducts
© D Stanley
levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside or traverse terraced hillsides; dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions.
Climb up to Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak; many of the
levadas can be followed on foot, which together with a network of local trails make even the most remote parts of the island, such as this peak, accessible.
© Artur Malinowski
Spend time in the bustling little capital of Funchal – visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants.
On our self-guided walking tour of Madeira island, you will walk 4-7 hours per day. The trip departs year round. For more information you can download the trip notes or get in touch with our team of experts in London.
The Iberian Peninsula remains a firm favourite for many holidaymakers and not just during the summer months. Actually the coming months of December to February are an exceptionally good time to travel to Spanish and Portuguese destinations like Madeira, La Gomera, Andalucia, and the Sierra de Aracena. With pleasant temperatures around 20 degrees C, sunny days, and a landscape that ranges from subtropical greenery, to pine forests, and barren flatlands you have all the ingredients for a welcoming winter holiday. Ah, and the flights to Tenerife, Santa Cruz, and Seville have competitive rates for the winter months as well. So if you want to beat the tourists and enjoy a crowd-free break here are some tips for things to do in Spain and Portugal.
Canary Islands: Southern Trails of La Gomera
Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), La Gomera remains largely untouched by mass tourism. The southern part of the island is also the sunnier part. The landscape is surprisingly lush green, with deep gorges densely wooded at the top, covered by mountain rainforest. Columbus’ last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492, La Gomera is home to many friendly and small resorts. What you can do on the island is taking coastal walks, enjoy a view of Tenerife from Mt Garajonay, visit waterfalls, or take a historical walk of San Sebastian town.
Madeira Island Walking
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild climate and a 1,350-mile network of
levadas through which you can discover the island on foot. Madeira island enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species here! Another thing to do is take a guided tour of a Madeira wine lodge - and try some local libations...
Hiking in Hidden Andalucia
There's a part of Andalucia that is a bit more off the beaten path: the unspoilt sector of the Alpujarras east of Trevelez. A visit in the winter months of December, January or February is great for walks on sunny days. There can also be snowfall and it can get a bit chilly, but the landscape is rewarding these months. Walking the southern fringes of the Sierra Nevada, following the Camino Real (Royal Trail), and staying at charming villages of Berchules, Yegen an Mairena make for a
fantastic winter break, even when the sun doesn't show its face.
Walking in Portugal: Douro Valley
Douro Valley is one of the most beautiful corners of Portugal and this month we are excited to be launching a brand new walking trip. Our resident guide Jon Millen explains why it should be on your radar.
The Douro area is a wonderful walking area of hillsides dissected by pretty river valleys draining into the Douro River. Generally too cold in winter and too hot in summer for comfortable walking; spring and autumn (fall) are the best times to visit the region, especially in the spring when everything is quiet and the vines are awakening. In contrast September / early October is when the pace of life whisks into a bustle harvesting. In late October and November the vines turn a gorgeous colour whilst the air is
spiced by the fires from the on-going pruning operation.
The connection with Britain is almost as old as the hills. In 1678, a Liverpool wine merchant sent two new representatives to Oporto to learn the wine trade. While on a vacation in the Douro, the two gentlemen visited the Abbot of Lamego, who treated them to a "very agreeable, sweetish and extremely smooth "wine," which had been fortified with a distilled spirit’’. They were so pleased with the product that they purchased the Abbot's entire lot and shipped it home. This was the start of Britain's love affair with Port, named of course after Oporto; the city where it was stored and shipped from. These days the city is now known as Porto and is the second-largest city in Portugal.
Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, this enabled merchants to import for a low duty. During the century several wars occurred meaning that English wine drinkers were often deprived of French wine. British importers could be credited for recognizing that a smooth, already fortified wine that would appeal to English palates, would coincidentally survive the voyage to London. Almost in anticipation of this demand, The Douro Wine Region, created in 1756 by the government of the Marquis of Pombal, was the first (oldest) demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. In 2001, UNESCO classified 24 600 hectares of the Alto Douro Wine Region as a World Heritage site.
Our walk stays 3 nights in the village of Vilarinho de Sao Romão, high above the river in a restored manor house; each room carefully thought through in terms of décor and period furnishings. There is a beautiful Wisteria engulfed veranda where you could sit all day with a glass of wine, a book or some paints if you weren’t walking, it is so peaceful. There's also the opportunity to cool down in the small pool before enjoying filling dinners that are prepared using local ingredients and traditional recipes.
From here there are four walks threading through the wine estates and up and down the hills, through various villages and hamlets. The last of these drops down to Pinhão, a small port on the Douro where you have a night in a luxury hotel and can spend a couple of hours cruising the river passing the golden terraces of the various wine estates.
From here the tiny narrow gauge train takes you to the relative bustle of Porto and its sister town on the south bank, Villa Nova di Gaia. Hardly affected by the ravages of war during the last couple of centuries, the city is an architectural jewel, defined by the winding river and the Gustav Eiffel inspired Luis I bridge.
There is plenty of time to explore, for a few Euros each you can visit any number of the famed Port lodges and taste their wares. They are nearly all concentrated here including Taylors, Cockburns, Churchills, Sandeman, Croft etc. There is a kind of old fashioned decency and politeness of the locals in the area, however very few people know English so it would be a good idea to know a few Portuguese words such as ‘obrigado’ (thank you) and just as importantly ‘Saude’ (cheers).
For further information about our Douro Valley tour please
for details on how to book. For a full list of our tours in Portugal visit our visit our website page for other recommendations. Self-Guided Walking Holidays in Portugal