Fri 6 to Wed 11 Oct 2017
Parque Natural da Madeira
Don’t confuse Madeira for Ibiza!
It attracts a more refined clientele, and raving is limited to enthusiasm about the island’s dramatic scenery and botanical wonders.
I think the location of Madeira is one of the most enviable on the whole earth. It ensures every European comfort with almost every tropical luxury.”
Check out the pictures from our last trip here!
Madeirans know this of course, and over the years have enhanced their quality of life by producing an abundance of fine food and wine. They have also helpfully provided access to their rugged countryside by building more than 1,000 miles of irrigation channels (Levadas), accompanied by footpaths that snake through the kind of striking landscapes making ideal hiking routes.
Often referred to as Portugal’s Garden of Eden, Madeira is known as the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ and was voted ‘Europe’s Leading Island Destination’ at the World Travel Awards in 2016. This beautiful Atlantic island is closer to the African mainland than Europe and is enveloped in fragrant bougainvillaea, vibrant lilac jacarandas, frangipani and orchids, creating a colourful, picture-perfect landscape. It’s more rugged natural attractions encompass rocky coves, towering mountains and pebble or black sand beaches, perfect for strolling and hiking. And hiking allows for the exploration of lovely small villages and hidden coves.
Most of the island is an exuberant botanical garden of volcanic soil where just about anything grows, the difference being that the formal gardens have created a semblance of order in the horticultural chaos. Palheiro, in the hills above Funchal, has an outstanding collection of camellias. Still, the most impressive specimen is a towering Norfolk Island pine from New Zealand, a veritable Lord of the Forest that looks ready to join Frodo Baggins in a battle against the evil Sauron.
This is the island’s main wine-producing area, a patchwork of precipitous terraced vineyards that appear to defy logic and gravity. Aficionados of Madeira’s fortified wines should know they are produced by back-breaking toil in vineyards not much bigger than back gardens. There is not enough level land here to park a harvesting machine, much less use one.
This cosmopolitan capital, Funchal, sits high on a hillside on the island’s south coast, and orbits around a pretty bay of warm waters and cultural heritage. The city’s name derives from ‘funno’ (fennel) due to its abundance on the island.
Funchal has a real mix of old and new; modern boutiques, chic cafés and stylish seafood restaurants are all found around the marina area. While amidst the Old Town’s cobbled streets, you’ll find colonial buildings and authentic tavernas where you can sample the local ‘Espada’. There are also art galleries, a covered market and a 15th-Century cathedral. Take a dip at the lido, then test the famous local dessert wine at one of Funchal’s bars.
Visit the Madeira Botanical Gardens, famed for the vast range of 2500 exotic plant species originating from all over the world, including birds of paradise, dragon trees, sugar cane and medicinal plants. The colonial mansion gardens also play host to the Loiro Park, where you can see tropical birds including cockatoos and parakeets.
Take the 15-minute cable car from Funchal to the small village of Monte for fantastic sea views. If you have time to spare at the top, wander around the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, while the more adventurous can take a toboggan ride back down to Funchal! In the Santa Catarina Park, you can see the statue of Christopher Columbus and enjoy views over the bay of Funchal.
“Levada” is a Portuguese word derived from the word “levar” – which means to carry and is roughly translated as “carriageway”, but more correctly defined as mini-canal. These mini-canals are irrigation systems developed to distribute water from the rainfall heavy and wet regions on the north of Madeira island to the drier sun parched regions of the south. These narrow water carriageways deliver precious water over great distances to banana plantations, vineyards, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, as well as to hydro-electric power stations dotted around the island.
The levadas crisscross the mountains and cover a total distance of 2500 km, and date back to as far as the early 16th century. These routes now form the Levada “Walks” or walking trails along the maintenance paths beside the Levadas. Although the Levadas were constructed primarily for agricultural/industrial use, they are just as important for tourists and local people alike who want to enjoy outdoor adventure activities inaccessible by cars.
We will spend our days hiking in these beautiful surrounding. We have a number of hikes planned and with at least two hike leaders, possibly three and will be able to offer a range of hikes at different levels of ability. Our guides have extensive navigational and leading experience and have been wilderness first aid trained.
We plan to host a mix of the following levels of routes and hikes, although not all levels will be available on each day:
We select and publish the planned routes for the weekend and display them at the venue or on our event Whatsapp chat. Thus we are able to make the very best of the destination and the forecasted weather conditions along with our own local knowledge and that of the locals.
Here are just a few of the hike descriptions, which we hope will whet your appetite
Paradise Valley walk is a relaxing Levada walk between mountains and valley’s on the area of Stº da Serra. Such a charming walk, covered with luxuriant vegetation, delightful wildflowers, eucalyptus & pine forest, surrounded by tiny familiar farms producing different vegetables and fruits, and beautiful landscapes all the way through.
Ponta de Sao Lourenco Walk is beautiful! It is situated on the most eastern point of Madeira and is part of a natural park with fabulous seascapes and dramatic views over the north and south of the island. The islands volcanic formation is evident in the rugged beauty of fascinating rock formations. On the horizon, to the South, you can see Ilhas Desertas (Deserted Islands) and to the North the Porto Santo Islands. Not only do we find some scarce and unique flora and fauna but, in the sea, you may be lucky enough to spot the world’s rarest seal, known in Madeira as a Sea-wolf (Monachus monachus).
With beautiful views of the ocean crashing against the coast and the offshore rocks, we take the time to swim in the all inviting clear turquoise-blue waters of the Atlantic.
The Encumeada walk is one of those walks that no serious walker should miss. If we had to choose one mountain walk, this would be it. Magnificent views and very little climbing. Spectacular viewpoint overlooking Curral das Freiras (Nuns Valley) and the enchanting green valley of Ribeiro do Poco. It’s is a rather long walk, more like trekking, but one is mesmerized by the power of the rugged mountains all around and lush green valleys of Encumeada below. A real beauty.
Food & Wine
When visiting Madeira and Porto Santo Islands, you will have the possibility of tasting a wide range of typical regional dishes. Throughout the year, Madeira Island has many typical dishes, that is, dishes traditionally eaten in Carnival, Easter, summer holidays, Christmas and New Year.
Locals are very fond of “bolo do caco” and fresh limpets, before start the meal. This is an excellent choice for starters. “Bolo do Caco” is a typical wheat flour bread, with garlic butter and parsley. If you are a meat lover, you should try the famous “espetada”, beef cubed hung in a bay leaf stick.
“Carne de Vinhos e Alhos” is a delicious dish which consists of small pieces of pork that are left to marinate in a mix of sauce. “Picado” is an excellent choice too. They consist of small amounts of beef fried with garlic in a pan. It’s usually served with French fries.
However, Madeira also has excellent fish dishes available, given its location. These are the well-know “Espada” (black scabbard fish), “Espada com banana frita” (black scabbard fish with fried banana), tuna fish, “bacalhau” (codfish) and “Espada” and “pota” are gastronomic specialities typical of Câmara de Lobos municipality.
As for dessert, try the various delicious puddings, such as passion fruit pudding, velvet pudding, mango pudding and also fresh fruit.
We will have two meals in the hotel and have the opportunity to dine out at local restaurants for two nights. Our group’s finale dinner ill takes place in a private room at Restaurante Do Forte which is positioned within the historical Fortress of São Tiago (17th Century) and serves a gastronomical feast matched by fine service
This hotel is an excellent example of three-star late nineteen sixties interior design, which confers it an identity and style of its own. The hotel has a restaurant for breakfast and other meals. The Bar on the reception floor has a nice terrace, billiards and television where clients can watch Sports TV channels.
On the top floor, there’s an outdoor swimming pool with a beautiful view of the bay and the surrounding mountains.
All of the rooms are equipped with a television with cable TV, free wifi, a telephone and a private bathroom. They are uniquely decorated with photo panels with icons of the sixties.
AAA events start and end in the arrival airport so you will need to arrange your own flight to/from the specified airport for the official Meetup time and point as shown below
We recommend the following flights.
If you want to coordinate flights, lifts to the airport in the UK we recommend that you post a message on the “Meetup “Message Board“ that is specific to this event.
- 1 Welcome supper on arrival day
- 5 nights in twin-share rooms
- 5 Continental breakfasts.
- 2 Hotel buffet dinners.
- Transfers on arrival and departure for the specified group Meetup time detailed above.
- Choice of guided hikes by an experienced guide and trained Mountain leader with Wilderness First Aid Training.
- Event organisation and briefings.
- Compliance with the 1992 Package Travel Regulations including Financial protection.
Price does not include
- Two dinners
- Lunches daily
- Entrance fees to any attractions you wish to visit.
- Travel Insurance.
- Any alcoholic beverages
Price per person, standard sharing room £ 249
Price per person, standard single room £ 310
To book and confirm your place please select the required ‘Ticket’ option below
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any questions refer to our comprehensive Frequently Asked Question section where answers to the question, such as the following and many more can be found;
- How do I book my place?
- What should I wear?
- How fit do I need to be?
- Can I bring my dog?
- Are children allowed?
- What happens if I need to cancel and can I get a refund?
- What if the weather isn’t very nice?
- Who buys the rail ticket?