Charming Madeira

By Philip Wagenaar

(Second of two parts, go to part one)

In the last issue, I outlined a lovely hike along the Levada da Central da Ribeira da Janela in Madeira. This month, I will continue my story.

Returning to Funchal

After finishing your ramble, take the following stunningly scenic route for your return to Funchal (see map for itinerary A). Drive from Porto Moniz via Ponta do Pargo and Pra­zeres to Estreito da Calheta and Calheta. From the latter, take the coastal road via Madalena do Mar, Ponta do Sol and Ribeira Brava to Funchal. Avoid the inland road from Estreito da Calheta via Arco da Calheta and Canhas as it is incredibly curvy, very narrow and full of parked cars.

Map of Madeira

Other walks I recommend (which you may do either in full or in part) are Levada dos Tornos (Underwood No. 7); Levada Calheta-Ponta do Pargo from Raposeira (Underwood No. 41) and Levada do Faial (not listed in the book) on the road to Camacha.

I would avoid hike No. 39, since the area often is rainy, misty and cold.

I could describe many more hikes in detail, but I suggest you look for yourself.

Car trips

In addition to levada walks, Underwood’s book details a number of car trips. I recommend three wonderful drives (of course, you can also use these to reach the various trailheads):

• Funchal-Ribeira Brava-Encu­meada-São Vicente-Ponta Delgada-Santana-Faial-Ribeiro Frio-Monte-Funchal (itinerary B on the map),

• Funchal-Pico dos Barcelos-Eira do Serrado-Curral das Freiras-Câmara de Lobos (don’t go to the miradouro)-Funchal (itinerary C on map) and

• Funchal-Camacha-Santo da Serra-Machico-Santa Cruz-Funchal (itinerary D).

Books and maps

We used the following:

• The Rough Guide “Madeira” is a must for pretrip research. Its compact format extends its usefulness as a reference during your sojourn.

• The detailed hiking guide “Landscapes of Madeira,” seventh edition, by John and Pat Underwood (2002, Sunflower Books, 12 Kendrick Mews, London SW7 3HG, U.K.) is a sine qua non for ramblers and picnickers and also helpful for car trips. The booklet, although out of print, is available in the U.S. from or Barnes & Noble. Alternatively, pick it up at the tourist office or a bookstore in Funchal.

• The free brochure “Madeira” from the Portuguese Trade & Tourism Office (88 Kearny St., Ste. 1770, San Francisco, CA 94108; phone 415/391-7080, fax 415/391-7147, e-mail is useful for its tour listings and its map. Tear out the latter and take it with you to Madeira as it is essential for navigation when driving. The map we were shown at the Funchal tourist office lacked sufficient detail.

You can also contact the Portuguese National Tourist Office (590 Fifth Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10036-4702; phone 212/354-4403, fax 212/764-6137 or e-mail To order brochures, call 800-PORTUGAL, e-mail or go to, or

When planning your trips, keep in mind that the northern and eastern parts of the island and the road to Encumedea from Funchal are the most beautiful and that the southern part of the island is the driest.

Finding the trailhead

Since the trailheads are often hard to find when you use your own car, you have two alternatives. Either take a bus (Underwood’s book gives complete details) or rent a taxi and have the driver take you to the start of the hike and pick you up at the end.

Package tours and scheduled airlines

To locate an all-inclusive tour of Madeira (fly/drive, including meals and choice of hotels), go to “Strawberry World” at or www.

As an alternative, visit Google and type “Madeira + ‘charter flights’,” which presents sites such as and

If you prefer to take a scheduled carrier, take a look at Air Portugal. All the planes we flew had cheery, roomy interiors with plenty of space to stretch our legs in economy class, along with friendly cabin attendants and good meals even on short flights. (I have no financial interest whatsoever in Air Portugal.)

Other Internet sites

The following sites provide additional information:


Guided hikes

During my recent survey of the Internet, I found that the only company offering guided hikes is Turivema (Turismo Verde e Ecológico da Madeira, Edificio Baía, Shop nr. 1, Ground Floor, Estrada Monumental, 187, Funchal, 9000-100, Madeira, Portugal; phone 011/351 291 763 898 or 766 109 or mobile phone 011/351 965 013 445, fax 011/351 291 766 210, e-mail

Keeping yourself safe

Since our unpleasant encounter at the miradouro in Câmara de Lobos, described in last month’s issue, I have changed my modus operandi for carrying valuables.

In the past, I would transfer my wallet to my money belt whenever I was in a city or in other “unsafe” areas. For immediate expenses, I would keep a few bills and a credit card in pockets sewn on the inside of my pants.

I now plan to carry the equivalent of $50 in easily accessible bills, which I will hand over to my next would-be attacker.

Enjoy Madeira!