Best activities for nature lovers in Madeira
Madeira is a destination for nature lovers. This tropical paradise has unique flora and fauna. You will be dazzled by the colour and scent of the tasty exotic fruits on the stalls of traditional markets. You will swim in natural pools classified among the most beautiful natural pools in Europe. You will live experiences and adventures in the heart of unspoiled nature in Madeira, the paradise for nature lovers. This will be the trip of a lifetime!
Levada do Caldeirao Verde
Parque Florestal das Queimadas
Here dandelions are huge and lilies of the valley are more like bushes. Discover the exceptionally rich and luxuriant nature of Madeira’s green lungs in the Parque Florestal das Queimadas.
Located a few minutes’ drive from Santana and its traditional houses ranked among the best instagrammable spots of Madeira, Queimadas is a must-see for nature lovers and families.
Plan to get there in the morning as the road is very narrow and not easy for passing cars. Your walk begins with the discovery of incredible houses with thatched roofs. One houses a tiny café that offers delicious homemade cakes, the other is a museum of traditions. There are also miniature reproductions of typical houses in Santana with their geese and ducks for children to enjoy.
Walk just 200 m and penetrate the forest to leave civilization and discover the best of Madeira. As a family, you can walk a few km and retrace your steps if the road is too narrow or difficult for your children. Others can walk on to Caldeirao Verde. Watch the weather before you decide to go. Better to discover this exceptional place on a sunny day than in the mist.
A walk of almost 7km (allow 5 hours of walking) will take you from the "Parque Florestal das Queimadas" to Caldeirao Verde at an altitude of almost 1000m. It is a perfect trail for lovers of exotic flora and fauna. Many endemic plants of the island can be observed on this trail.
After 4 tunnels and a bit of walking, you will discover Caldeirao Verde and will keep memories of it for a lifetime.
The Highest cliff in Europe
Madeira is an island full of surprises! Climb to the top of Cabo Girao and admire a breathtaking landscape from the highest cliff in Europe.
A promontory recently installed makes the experience even more unique because its transparent glass structure will give you the impression of being suspended in a vacuum, at 590 meters high.
From Cabo Girao go to Faja dos Padres to extend the experience and discover a hidden treasure of the island.
Cabo Girao is 25 minutes drive from the centre of Funchal, you can get there by taxi or in a more original way by booking a tour in a convertible VW with tasting of Poncha.
Levada das 25 Fontes
Hiking in the Rabaçal Valley
Step into the heart of the Madeira forest and discover a unique flora along the famous levadas that were built to carry water from the north to the south of the island.
The 25 Fontes levada "The 25 fountains walk" is one of the most beautiful in Madeira for nature lovers.
This walk owes its name to the many waterfalls that you can admire on your journey. This walk of +/- 11km round trip (allow 4 hours of walking) is accessible for regular walkers. If you long for nature and need to recharge your batteries, this trail is for you. A word of advice: make sure your smartphone has the "torch" application. This trail will take you through a fairly dark tunnel over 800 metres long. Take food and drink with you and good shoes.
Refresh yourself in a seawater swimming pool
Madeira is truly a premier destination for lovers of nature and sustainable tourism. Forget the chlorinated pools and discover natural pools, made by nature in volcanic rock with water constantly renewed by the ocean.
Many natural pools await you in Madeira. Those of Porto Moniz are certainly the best known but also the most recommended for families with young children. They have play areas, shallow swimming pools for the little ones as well as access for people with reduced mobility.
After a few hours at the swimming pool continue on the road towards Ribeira da Janela and Seixal. Madeira is full of places of rare beauty for you to enjoy.
Discover endemic plants and rare birds
Ribeiro Frio is a natural park located in the north of the island, in a deep valley surrounded by mountains. That place is well known by locals and tourists for its trouts and wonderful walks along its nature trails. For those who want to go on a trek without venturing for hours, the surroundings of Ribeiro Frio are a must with its walks along the Levada (Levada is the name of the gutters carved into the rock in order to carry water in the whole island). The walk will take you to beautiful promontories with views on the green and hilly landscape of the island.
Different types of laurels and endemic plants can be seen on the island as well as rare birds like the pigeon-tocaz, the smallest bird in Madeira.
How to get there? Park your car in Ribeiro Frio and go for a digestive hour’s walk towards Balcões. Doing that is essential for a better understanding of the island even for those who do not like walking. You will see its forests (Laurissilva forest / classified World Heritage by UNESCO), which are the heart of the island.
You can also book a guided walk through the forest and benefit from the explanations of a guide. The transfer from Funchal is provided by the guide.
This botanical garden, located on the heights of Funchal, is a true haven of peace for nature lovers. This sublime tropical garden was previously owned by one of the wealthiest families on the island, the William Reid family. Did you know that William Reid is the founder of the famous "Belmond Reid's Palace", one of the most beautiful 5 stars in Europe and one of the most famous in Madeira?
Endemic plants but also sublime palm trees, medicinal plants or incredible succulents can be observed in this garden which also houses a bird park. Come and discover the most beautiful plants of the island but also cockatoo and macaw parrots in this garden accessible by cable car from Funchal. The garden is open daily from 9.00 a.m until 6.00 p.m.
Levada dos Cedros
This walk will take you from Faial ranked among the best instagrammable places in Madeira to Ribeira de Janela. Your walk starts amid ferns, giant heather and wild blueberries (come in August or September to taste these delicious fruits). Little by little, you enter the primary forest of laurels that are as incredible as they are spectacular. Green walls, waterfalls of rare beauty, breathtaking views... 2 hours of unforgettable walks await you.
You can do this walk on your own by renting a car and driving to Fanal. The easiest way is to hire a specialist guide company for advice and a transfer that picks you up at the end of your ride, so you don't have to walk back to your car. We highly recommend Madeira Adventure Kingdom. Fabio picks you up from your hotel and takes you on the island’s most beautiful roads to immerse you in Madeira’s green lungs. A native of Madeira, he knows every corner of the island and the best anecdotes and addresses to share.
Madeira Adventure Kingdom also offers canyoning, whale and dolphin watching, jeep safari, excursions and is also available for groups. Don't stay in your hotel, do experience the best of the island with Madeira Adventure Kingdom.
Ponta de Sao Lourenço
Discover the easternmost point of Madeira. You can go by car and stop at the parking lot of the "Ponta de Sao Lourenço" viewpoint and its magnificent views of these wild hills.
If you plan on doing this walk, take sunscreen and good shoes with you. It is relatively accessible even for amateur athletes. The good news is that a little "Casa do Sardinha" café restaurant awaits you at the end of the promenade. There is also the possibility, for those who are tired, to take the boat back to Canical. Allow 2 hours for a return walk from the car park to the café restaurant.
Lagoa do Vento
Levada dos 25 Fontes
On the trail "Levada das 25 fontes" you can stop for a few moments and enjoy this exceptional natural spectacle "Lagoa do Vento". If for physical reasons or because you are accompanied by young children you cannot do this trail, choose the nearby "Alecrim Levada" trail instead, which is much easier. You will be able, on your way, to make a small detour to discover Lagoa do Vento, it really is worth it.
Enjoy a beautiful beach day
The sandy beaches are the treasure of Porto Santo. Porto Santo is also called the golden island in Portuguese "Ilha Dourada" because of its 7 miles of golden sandy beaches crossing the island.
Their sand has therapeutic virtues, so do not hesitate and immerse yourself in the sand of Porto Santo and then swim in the beautiful blue water that surrounds the small island of 5,000 inhabitants.
How to get to Porto Santo? One solution: the boat! It is not very fast (2 hours), the departure is at dawn (08:00 am).
Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
Take a walk up to the highest point in Madeira
This hike is the link between two of the highest peaks of Madeira, Pico Ruivo (1862 m) and Pico do Arieiro (1817 m).
Depart from Pico do Arieiro, walk for a few metres, you are then in front of Ninho da Manta (nest of the buzzard) belvedere. From the top of it admire the Fajã da Nogueira valley and watch the puffins (Puffinus puffinus), São Roque do Faial and a large part of the central mountain range.
Avoid doing this hike (7km , 3h30 walking) if you are dizzy but you will miss the views : they are incredible.
How to get there? Access by public transport is complicated you will have to rent a car and park at the top of Pico do Arieiro to start the hike. You can also opt for an organized tour with pick-up at your hotel.
Praia do Porto do Seixal
With its many beaches and natural pools, Seixal is a must- see for nature lovers. This little green paradise is located in the Northwest of the island near two other jewels of Madeira: Porto Moniz and Ribeira da Janela.
Easy to reach by car (40 min from Funchal) or on an excursion, Seixal is the ideal stop after exploring the volcanic pools of Porto Moniz and the traditional houses of Santana. The "piscinas naturais do Seixal", Seixal natural swimming pools and the "Praia do Porto do Seixal" are only 5 minutes by car from one of the most beautiful miradouros in Madeira, the "Miradouro do Veu da Noiva".
As you can see, this part of the island is really made for nature lovers with its breathtaking landscapes and green tourism. It will also be perfect for travellers who have kept their childlike soul and Instagrammers looking for unique places in the world.
São Vicente Caves
The largest lava caves on the island
The Volcanism Centre manages to convey culture and education in a very entertaining way by providing the visitors with audiovisual demonstrations of volcanic eruptions and the birth of an island.
Of Volcanic origin, the São Vicente Caves are composed of a series of lava tubes, result of an eruption that happened 400 thousand years ago.
How to get there? The caves are located on the north coast of the island, from Funchal; it takes 35 to 40 minutes by car. You can also opt for an organized tour of the caves with pickup at your hotel.
Reserva Natural do sitio da Rocha do Navio
Do you long for nature, silence and large green spaces? Take a packed lunch with you and your good shoes and off you go to the natural reserve of Rocha do Navio.
The cable car, which seems to brush against the cliffs, is the start of this adventure during which you will discover many waterfalls and breathtaking landscapes.
This is a must-see for nature lovers. The nature reserve is located in the Northeast of the island. Parking is available near the Rocha do Navio cable car. Allow 5 euros for the cable car. Enjoy!
Madeira Tropical Garden
Awarded as one of the best places in Europe to propose marriage, Monte Palace Garden is also one of the best Instagrammable spots in Madeira.
This exceptional garden, built on several levels, offers you a wide variety of exotic flowers and trees, endemic or from all over the world, as well as artistic installations made to measure for this exceptional place. A museum of African statues and an incredible museum of minerals complete the offer of this peaceful and incredibly photogenic place.
Paul da Serra
A plateau between the south and the north
Getting to know Madeira is knowing more about its typography. The reason why the majority of Madeirans live in the South of the island is because it is much sunnier, while the North with its abundance of fruit and vegetables is wetter due to the fact that the clouds are blocked by mountains. Learning about the geography of the island will help you understand the ingenuity of its people who carved miles of "Levada" into the rock to carry water, essential for agriculture and for life, from one side to the other side of the island to take advantage of all the wonders of that wonderful island.
Paul da Serra is an in-between. A plateau between the south and the north of the island, a unique place, out of time, out of space, another face of that incredible island.
How to get there? If you chose to travel by rental car, do not let yourself be carried away by the first kilometers of straight roads. They are sinuous in Madeira and most of the time you will have to drive slowly.
Dolphin and cetacean observation
Make your trip a truly unforgettable experience!
During your visit to Madeira it is practically required that you take a boat ride at sea for cetacean observation. Several companies offer sea trips, a great way to discover the island and its cliffs.
We recommend that you choose "The Pirate Ship" with its pirate crew and its pirate parrots and enjoy a traditional Madeira cake whilst being taken to the best places for dolphin watching. Experience a close encounter with some of the 28 species of cetaceans that inhabit or visit the waters of Madeira Islands.
Fanal Laurel Trees Forest
Fancy a digital detox and a real change of scenery? Want to disconnect from stress, work, social media and reconnect with yourself and nature? Fanal is for you. Little known to tourists and ranked among the best instagrammable spots of Madeira, Fanal is also classified by the "Parque Natural da Madeira" as a "Reserva de Repouso e Silencio", a reserve for rest and silence.
Listed as a natural world heritage site by UNESCO, the laurel forest is still the original ancient forest which can be found on the entire island. Magnificent laurels, some twisted and of rare beauty, make up this forest with a unique atmosphere. Sometimes surrounded by a mist which adds a mystical character to this unique place in the world, the Lauriferous Forest of Madeira is also home to endemic species such as the trocaz pigeon, a very beautiful pigeon with a blue-purple coat.
Fanal is located on the concelho do Porto Moniz, between Ribeira da Janela and the plateau "Paul da Serra". You can park your car near the forest or, for the more athletic, take the PR13 - Vereda do Fonal trail or the PR14 (route) Levada dos Cedros.
Before leaving for an excursion to the 4 corners of Madeira, plan a lunch as delicious as it is rich in vitamins and local fruits and vegetables by ordering from Vantastic. The van is usually located in front of the Jardim Municipal de Funchal. It was by far the best lunch we have ever had on a press trip.
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