Most Guides Out There Will Advise You To Rent A Car While Travelling and hiking Around Madeira. It is however not necessary. There are many amazing hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.
Many Trailheads Are Not Accessible By Public Transport. Therefore, This Advice Sounds Pretty Reasonable. Yet What If You Don’t Want To Drive Or Simply Cannot? Can You get to Any of the Amazing Hikes In Madeira Without The Car? Hell Yes, You Can! And I Will Tell You How!
Madeira is one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. Yet geographically, it is not Europe anymore. This stunning archipelago on the Atlantic Ocean boasts the most spectacular nature, magnificent mountains and treks with dramatic views that will take your breathe away.
Hiking in Madeira is one of the best things to do ever, and hiking in Madeira without a car is totally possible.
Some trails indeed can only be reached by car or taxi. Yet, I was determined to do the majority of hikes without the car or hiring a cab. There are many hikes in Madeira you can do without the car. And here is my guide on the best way to do it.
There are 2 types of hikes in Madeira – Levadas and Veredas
What is Levada?
Levadas are irrigational channels created to carry rainwater and water from natural springs from the north and west of the Madeira island where the climate is more humid and participation more frequent to the south where the weather is drier.
Every Levada has a narrow trail attached to it, which these days is used to walk and discover Madeira.
The Portuguese started building Levadas in the 16th century to provide water to the agricultural regions. Ever since, this incredible network of over 1,400 kilometres of channels was continuously built, with the most recent built in the 1940s.
Building the Levadas was oftentimes very difficult, and men frequently had to hang on ropes over steep mountain slopes to dig the channels.
Oftentimes, these irrigation channels also activated watermills and sawmills. Until these days, Levadeiros walk these paths every day to repair and manage and time the water distribution.
Levadas, apart from providing water for irrigation and agriculture, are also used to generate power which makes up nearly 40% of the islands power source. In fact, around 50% of Madeira’s electricity consumption comes from renewable energy sources.
What is Vereda?
Vereda means ‘trail’ in Portuguese (as well as Spanish). This is a general term for a hiking trail in Madeira, so every trek that is not a Levada will be called a Vereda. You will find all types of veredas in Maderia, coastal walks, mountain ridge walks, Laurisilva forest hikes and so on. All stunning and unique in its own way.
So the time came to ask the most important question
Can I hike in Madeira without renting a car?
Definitely yes! There are many trails in Madeira you can get to with the use of public transport. Admittedly, Some trailheads are only accessible by car or taxi, yet you can reach some spectacular hikes by bus and a little walk.
If you have a little more time, I recommend staying few days in Funchal but additionally in Machico, Santana or Sao Vincente where you can access some hikes more efficiently with public transport. You can also stay in Ponta do Sol or Calheta if you are not ruling out the use of taxis.
In case a taxi is a necessary option – I recommend using Uber or Bolt. Both apps work very well in the south part of the island and are much cheaper than yellow taxis.
But if you only have time to stay in Funchal, most of the hikes in Madeira you can do without the car are accessible by bus from Funchal.
There are 3 different bus companies covering various parts of the country.
Navigating around different bus companies and their timetables gets highly confusing for the majority of the visitors. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you ages to figure it out.
The SAM buses (above) serve the east of the island, including stops in Porto da Cruz, Santo da Serra, Machico, Santa Cruz, Caniço and Madeira Airport. On the SAM website, you will be able to find the map and individual times tables.
Rodoeste (busses with red stripes like on the above photos) is the bus line that operates between Funchal and all the municipalities located on the western side of Madeira island. Those buses will take you to Porto Moniz, Ponta do Pargo, Ribeira Brava, among many others.
The yellow buses of Horários do Funchal, marked with GIRO symbol, serve the Funchal urban areas.
Next to each hike, I will provide all the essential information regarding the bus company and the bus number.
11 Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Levada do Furado (PR10) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Levada do Furado was the very first Levada I hiked in Madeira. I took advice from Hit the Road Madeira and followed their tutorial video. They recommend combining Levada do Furado and Vereda dos Baloes (below) into a beautiful 4 hours hike. It’s a great walk to do at the beginning of your trip. You will get yourself accustomed to the concept of walking Levada and experience some fantastic scenery and breathtaking viewpoints. It is also very straightforward to do by bus.
Levada do Furado is one of the most accessible hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.
How to get to Levada do Furado by bus?
Take bus number 56 (SAM bus company) from Funchal Teleferico (Cable Car Station in Old Town), which goes to Santana. You can get off at the Ribeira Frio, where the trail starts. The Levada ends at the Portela Viewpoint, from where you will be able to take the bus back to Funchal. It is recommended you take the first bus in the morning, which at the moment leaves at 8:15. This will give you enough time to walk the Levada and catch the return bus from Portela.
As recommended in the video by Hit the Road Madeira, you can also take the next t stop after the Ribeira Frio, by the ‘Faisca’ bar. This way, you can walk to Miraduro dos Balcoes taking the Vereda dos Balcoes trail, which from there will take you only around half an hour to get to. From there, you can take a signposted path towards Ribeira Frio and start the Levada do Furado trip.
You can read a detailed post on Hit the Road Madeira blog as well.
Bus company – SAM
Duration from Funchal – 50 minutes
Ticket price – €3.35
Levada do Furado overview
Levada do Furado is 11 km long, a relatively easy hike and one of the oldest Levadas belonging to the state. It starts at 880m elevation at Bibeira Frio, where you will find the famous trout pond.
You will walk along the Ribeira Frio valley surrounded by magnificent Laurisilva forest with occasional views over the deep valley. At times you will come across river crossings, all of them easy to pass.
As you will approach the Portela Village, you will be welcomed by panoramic views over Porta do Cruz village and the magnificent rock formation of Penha de Águia. It’s a stunning Levada walk, and it got me completely hooked.
Vereda dos Balcões (PR11) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Vereda dos Balcoes is a short and easy walk that follows the Levada of Serra do Faial and leads to the Balcões Viewpoint with magnificent views over the valley of the Ribeira da Metade.
As I mentioned above, the best way is to combine Vereda dos Balcoes walk with hiking Levada do Furado; otherwise, it’s a short walk for a long bus journey. Nevertheless – very much worth it. Please read the above description of Levada do Furado if you’d like to combine both hikes.
How to get to Vereda dos Balcoes by bus?
In order to get to Vereda dos Balcoes, take bus number 56 from Funchal, which goes to Santana. You can get off at Ribeira Frio and walk around 1.5 km there and back or you can get off at the next stop by the Bar Faisca and reach Vereda dos Balcoes from there. You can then turn into the path signposted ‘Ribeira Frio’, and you can either take a bus back from there or continue hiking into Levada do Furado (recommended – see above)
Bus company – SAM
Duration from Funchal – 50 minutes
Ticket price – €3.35
Vereda dos Balcoes overview
Vereda dos Balcoes is a short and easy walk that is often integrated into island trips and tours. It only takes around an hour to see it; therefore, if you are taking public transport, I recommend combining it with another hike like Levada do Furado. Vereda dos Balcoes ends with a fantastic viewpoint and is definitely worth visiting!
It was the first Miraduro (Viewpoint) I have done in Madeira, and I was mesmerised. Not only I was the only human there at the time (rare), but the views were dramatic, and I was surrounded by incredible nature.
Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco (PR8) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
If you don’t do any other hikes – this is the only one you need to do!
Vereda Ponte do Sao Lourenco walk is one of the most breathtaking hikes in Madeira and one not to be missed. This trail is located at the easternmost point of Madeira, where you will hike along a long thin peninsula of dry, sandy land characterised by dramatic cliffs.
The selling point of that hike is definitely stunning and dramatic views of the ocean combined with unusual land formation. A must-do hike in Madeira!
How to get to Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco by bus?
It is very easy to get to Ponta de Sao Lourenco by bus which makes it one of the best hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.
You can get to Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco by bus either from Machico or Funchal. There are numerous direct busses from Machico bus station. From Funchal, there is a direct bus number 113, which departs several times a day, with the earliest one leaving from Funchal Edificio 2000 bus stop at 7:30 am. You can also take a bus to Machico and change there. The bus’s last stop is Baía d’Abra – this is where you will get off.
Bus company – SAM
Duration from Funchal – 1.5 hours
Ticket price – €4.00
Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco overview
Vereda Pote do Sao Laurenco walk is one of the most breathtaking hikes in Madeira and one not to be missed. This trail is located at the easternmost point of Madeira, where you will hike along a long thin peninsula created by the lava. It’s a very unusual landscape for Madeira.
The selling point of that hike is definitely the stunning and dramatic view of the ocean combined with unusual land formation. A must-do hike in Madeira!
The trek ends at Sardinha house, the base for a group of Rangers who work for the Madeira natural park. You can stop there for a drink before your way back. When I was there, there was also an option to take a boat back for 10 euros, taking you around the peninsula. I was definitely tempted but decided to walk back instead.
It’s a 6 km there and back type of hike and takes just under 3 hours to complete. If you plan to take your camera (recommended), allow additional time for photo taking. You will need it!
It is classified as a moderately difficult hike, probably primarily due to steep stairs and paths winding up and down, often at the cliff edge. I personally didn’t find it too difficult and have seen hikers of all age and fitness level taking the trail.
Be aware, however, that This region of Madeira is both sunny and windy, and there is no shade on the trail, hence gear yourself with a sunhat and plenty of water. and
At the bus stop, you will find a small kiosk offering drinks and snacks as well.
Madeira is one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. Yet geographically, it is not Europe anymore. This stunning archipelago on the Atlantic ocean boasts the most spectacular nature, magnificent mountains and treks with dramatic views that will take your breathe away. Hiking in Madeira is one of the best things to do ever, and hiking in Madeira without a car is totally possible.
Some trails indeed can only be reached by car or taxi. Yet, I was determined to do majority hikes without the car nor hiring a cab. There are many hikes in Madeira you can do without the car. And here is my guide on the best way to do it.
Vereda do Larano - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Vereda do Larano is one of the most spectacular hikes in Madeira, yet for some reason, you will hardly find it in the walking guides. This walk starts with Levada do Canical leading up to Viewpoint of Boca do Risco and then turning into the breathtaking Larano walk. Many articles will describe this hike as difficult, and if you are suffering from vertigo and are scared of heights – I do not recommend it. Otherwise, the hike is not very difficult. The path is clearly marked, always wide enough to walk comfortably and at the most narrow parts, guided by the railway.
I will admit, there was one point at which I decided not to look down and missed some extraordinary photo opportunity, yet I was not brave enough to face the fear, hahaha. Other than that – this is one of the best hikes I have ever done.
How to get to Vereda do Larano by bus
The best way to reach Vereda do Larano is from Machico. Take a bus to Canical and get off just before the tunnel. This is the same bus which goes to Baia D’Arba taking you to Ponta do Sao Lourenco.
Ask the driver if in doubt and he will point to the bus stop for you. You can also walk all the way up from Machico town centre, which I did once, yet the walk is long steep and given the length of the whole trek, I do recommend getting there by bus or taxi.
You can get to Machico from Funchal by taking bus number 113. If you are travelling from Funchal I recommend taking the earliest possible bus going directly to Baia D’Arba.
Once in Porto da Cruz you can take bus 208 or 53 back to Funchal. Keep in mind that the last bus to Funchal from Porto da Cruz leaves at 6 pm but always check the time table beforehand as this can often change.
Bus company – SAM
Duration from Funchal – around 1.5 hours depending on the route
Ticket price – €4.00
Vereda do Larano overview
For the first 3 km, you will walk along the Levada do Canical, which in itself isn’t the most interesting. Make sure you don’t miss the turn into Boca do Risco like I did the first time. Look for it after around 3 km from the starting location. From that point, you will start climbing up on a clearly marked path, and views will start changing, making it much more exciting.
Once you reach the Boca do Risco, you will be rewarded with fantastic views over the island’s northeast coast. Many walkers will end the hike here and return back. It is an option. If you decide to continue, you will be walking towards Porto da Cruz following a cliff-side trail for the next 5 km.
The last part of the walk is taking you down the paved road towards Porto da Cruz where you can stop for a meal or, of course … Poncha 🙂 I took an Uber from there back to Machico, where I was staying at this point.
The trial point to point is around 13km and will take you 4 to 5 hours, depending on the speed and breaks.
Levada do Rei (PR18) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Levada do Rei is a beautiful Levada walk taking you to the head of the river and offering some adventurous views and stunning waterfalls on the way. It is one of my favourite Levadas in Madeira, and I really enjoyed this walk.
How to get to Levada do Rei by bus
Levada do Rei is best reached from Santana by bus nb 103, but it is possible to get there from Funchal as well, yet it could be a bit tight. As for now, there is one very early direct bus from Funchal. After that, you would have to change in Santana.
From Santana, you can take the bus to Sao Jorge and walk from there to the head of the trail. I made a mistake and got off the bus at the ‘centre’ of the village, which is right at the bottom. If I got off 2 stops before, I would save myself around half an hour of the steep hike up the road. Nevertheless, it’s completely doable.
I will pin the head of the trail below, which should allow you to get off at the nearest bus stop.
Bus company – SAM
Duration from Funchal – around 2 hours depending on the route
Ticket price – €4.00 – €5.5
Levada do Rei overview
The walk starts at Water Treatment Plant at Quebradas in São Jorge and follows the Levada all the way to its source – Ribeiro Bonito stream. On your way, you will walk along the path offering spectacular views over surrounding valleys and farmlands. Following that, you will enter a nearly amazon like native forest while entering few short tunnels. Also, This is a fun and very diverse walk ending at a beautiful stream where you can replenish before heading back.
Levada do Rei is an 11 km, there and back route and will take you around 3 to 4 horse to complete it depending on your speed and amount of photo breaks. It is officially rated as moderate in difficulty. However, I didn’t find anything difficult about this trial. But I guess if you suffer from vertigo or fear of heights, there are few moments where it could potentially be dangerous.
Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley)
In theory, Nun’s Valley is neither a Levada nor a Vereda. Most visitors drive here or take a bus to admire the Viewpoint of Eira Do Serrado and the spectacular Vally of Nun’s. Yet you can make it a walk if you want to (i did), and the place is magical, really worth it. Also, extremely easy to get to from Funchal, and, trust me, the bus journey is an experience in itself. There are no excuses.
Nuns Valley (Curral das Freitas) is a village sitting at the bottom of a vast cauldron nestled within almost vertical mountains in the heart of the Madeira island.
When the French pirates attacked Madeira in 1566, the nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled from their homes and found refuge here. The village is very isolated; therefore, locals mainly live off what they grow. The local chestnuts are delicious and are used in everyday cooking. I was also told that chestnuts were used in cooking before the rice was introduced to the island.
How to get to Curral das Freitas (Nun’s Valley) by bus
It is very easy to get to Nun’s Valley by bus from Funchal. There is direct bus number 81 from in front of Palácio de São Lourenço – just opposite the FX Sports Bar on Avenida do Mar.
For the return, you can either catch the bus from the same place or from the Nun’s Valley below.
Bus company – SAM, bus number 81
Duration from Funchal – around 40 minutes
Ticket price – €4
Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley) overview
I recommend getting off the viewpoint of Eira Do Serrado. This is one of the best viewpoints in Madeira (personal opinion) and allows you to see the whole valley from the height of over 1000 m above sea level. It can get chilly, thus do pack a jacket or a hoodie.
From there, you can take a steep walk down to the valley. It takes around 45 minutes, but it is pretty steep and wet at times. Make sure you take comfortable shoes with good grip for that walk.
The village itself is a bit sleepy, but I really liked it. There is a little museum where you can find an example of how nuns used to live and few restaurants where you can try the chestnut soup, cheesecake, roasted chestnuts or chestnut liquor – delicious!!
You can take a bus back to Funchal from there, but you can also continue hiking. Walk down to Poço dos Chefes, one of the valley’s deep stream swimming points where locals meet in the summer to swim and relax.
Few trails start at Curral das Freiras.
You can walk up to Pico Ruivo from there, taking the very challenging 17km trail with over 1000m of elevation gain. Not for the fainthearted. There are also walk to Boaventura, Corticeiras and Caminho das Voltas, but neither is very well known nor mainstream, and I could not find extensive info. I would not recommend taking them alone. But this part of the island is amazing so if you are hiking in a group – definitely go for it!
The most popular trek starting at Nun’s Valley is Vereda Do Urzal
which gives you the option to join PR 1.3 Vereda da Encumeada to Pico Ruivo.
Please note – I have not managed to complete the below hikes due to bad weather conditions at the time, or I have simply run out of time. I have however passed the head of the trail or know personally someone who did those hikes and managed to get there by bus.
Levada do Norte - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Levada do Norte starts above Camara de Lobos in the village of Estreito De Câmara De Lobos and is one of the largest and most important in Madeira. Given its located in the southern part of the island, it can be done all year round. It’s a lovely walk taking you all the way to Cabo Girao and offering spectacular views over parishes of Câmara de Lobos and Campanário.
I have not managed to walk this Levada. I did pass the head of the trail on my way to Camara dos Lobos, and the bus stop is located just a few meters from the entrance to the path.
The opinions on the difficulty of this hike are divided, but there are few parts where the path leads next to sheer drop; therefore, I recommend you are aware, especially if you are suffering from vertigo or fear of heights.
You can end or start the hike at Cabo Girao Skywalk, which is incredible in itself and a must-see when in Madeira.
How to get to Levada do Norte by bus
To get to levada do Norte take a bus 96 from Funchal to Estreito De Câmara De Lobosand and get off near Continente supermarket at Estreito De Câmara De Lobos main sqare.
If you start your journey at Cabo Girao, take bus number 7, which goes to Ribeira Brava. Check before the journey as not all buses to Ribeira Brava will stop at Cabo Girao.
Levada do Norte overview
At the start, Levada do Norte offers spectacular views over parishes of Câmara de Lobos and Campanário.
Once the Levada leaves the village, it then winds through a wide and long valley. The trail will cross the road couple of times. Hence be careful not to miss the course.
You can either make the trip as there and back hike, or once you reach the road to Cabo Girao, hike up the road and enjoy the highest viewport in Madeira and one of the highest in Europe. There are busses to Funchal from there but not very frequent so check the timetable before choosing this option.
If you choose a there and back option, it is just under a 16 km walk with a total elevation gain of 720m.
It is possible to do just a section of this really long Levada. The excellent option is also to start at Cabo Girao and walk to Boa Morte.
There are parts of this walk that are pretty dangerous due to the abrupt slope next to the path, so be aware before taking a walk.
If you prefer, there are also organized hikes offering this route as well as Cabo Girao visit, so this might also be a good option if you prefer.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde (PR9)- Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
Levada do Caldeirão Verde is meant to be one of the most beautiful Levada hikes in Madeira. However, I did not manage to walk it. At the time when I was based in Santana (ideally located for this trek), the weather has gone awful, and a bad storm has prevented me from doing this hike. I am gutted, but hey, I guess I will have to return and do this one next time 🙂
Levada do Caldeirão Verde is partially accessible by public transport, but it should definitely be on your to-hike list.
How to get to Levada do Caldeirão Verde by bus
To get to Levada do Caldeirão Verde take a bus from nb 56 from Funchal to Santana. From there, unfortunately, you would either have to walk to the head of the trail (1.5 hours) or take a taxi from Santana to Queimadas, which I personally recommend.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde overview
Levada do Caldeirão Verde is a 13km there and back hike starting at the elevation of 990m. It takes around 5 to 6 hours to walk the whole length and to return.
This Levada is an impressive work of art built in the 18th century. Levada do Caldeirão Verde starts at the bottom of Ribeira do Caldeirão Verde river near Santana and crosses steep hills and mountains.
It then goes into the deep valley of Ribeira de São Jorge, offering a spectacular view of the mountains and the possibility of passing through man-made tunnels carved in the rock. Do not forget a flashlight – you might need it in the tunnels.
This Levada is like a fairytale walk amongst waterfalls and lush green forest. At the end of the Levada, you will find yourself arriving at e huge waterfall falling on the cold and crystalline lagoon. Great place for a short picnic before returning back.
Caminho do Paúl do Mar, Jardim do Mar, Ponta do Pargo - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car
You can get by bus to both Paul do Mar and Jardim do Mar and whether you decide to walk the hike or just visit the village – it will be worth it. You can also go all the way to Ponta do Pargo and visit the lighthouse and do some hiking there.
This is a great part of the island, and there are few walks located in the area.
The most popular one is the Caminho do Paúl do Mar, part of the greater Caminho Real trek. It will take you down steep stairs to Paul do Mar village. It is graded as moderate, but I have heard many opinions saying it is pretty hard and challenging. The person I met in the hostel who did this part of the trek said it was very hard and not that exciting for the effort.
A much better walk to take in the area is the Levada do Ponta do Pargo, which starts at Ponta do Pargo in the Pedregal and will take you to Lombada Velha. This walk will take you into the forest but will also offer incredible views of the sea cliffs.
It is a loop hike 10.5 kilometres in length and taking approximately 4 hours to complete. I recommend adding an extra couple of hours to visit the Garganta Funda waterfall.
It is a pretty pleasant hike, with a total incline of around 500m. As I didn’t actually walk this route (gutted), you will find a great description and a map of the hike.
How to get to Paul do Mar and Ponta do Pargo by bus.
The bus ng 142 by Rodoeste from Funchal will take you all the way to Ponta do Pargo leaving early in the morning. It leaves around 8 in the morning from Funchal, and it does take under 3 hours to get there, so plan your day accordingly. The return bus is just after 5 pm, which should give you over 5 hours to explore.
Bus company – Rodoeste, bus number 142
Duration from Funchal – 3 hours
Ticket price – €4
You can not only see the whole of Madeira by using public transport but there is plenty of amazing Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car.
It will be a little more challenging, but it is definitely doable. It also adds to the adventure. I am sure you will enjoy it!
If you decide to do any of the hikes or believe some of the information provided could be improved – do not hesitate to comment below.
Until then – Happy Hiking!
Madeira Know before You Go – Important Information and Travel Tips
- Currency – Euro
- Language – Portuguese but English is widely spoken (don’t take it for granted though, it’s always good to learn few basic terms)
- Power plugs and sockets – Type F (European). The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
- Driving – on the right-hand side. Watch this video before renting a car
- Climate and Weather – Madeira is called the island of eternal spring. It enjoys a subtropical climate with mild weather all year round. It is never too cold nor too hot. The temperature hardly ever falls below 15 degrees in the winter or exceeds 25 degrees in the summer. Sea temperature varies between 17 and 21 degrees throughout the whole year. Expect more humidity and rainfall at the North of the island. For lounging by the pool, visit between April and October.
- What to pack -Hiking trousers and shorts, rain jacket, walking shoes, one warm sweater or hoodie, one pair of sandals, some light summer clothing, warm dawn jacket if you go up the mountains, camera (you won’t forgive yourself if you don’t!), adventurous spirit.
- Most popular supermarkets – Continente Modelo and Pingo Doce. Pingo Doce in Madeira has a great restaurant section as well. Much better than in mainland Portugal. You have to try the Octopus!
- Remember Trave Insurance. I recommend SafetyWing especially for those nomads and long term travellers among us. No need to specify the destination not the duration of travel. And you can cancel at any time.
- For accommodation search, I recommend Bookings.com and Hostels World. Although a dorm room is not always the option especially these days, however, I still prefer to stay in a hostel as I get to meet and befriend other travellers. Most of the time I book a small private room in a hostel. This is my preferred form of accommodation. But on both websites, you will be able to find anything from a dorm room bed to a self-catering apartment for the best prices.
- You cannot say you have visited Madeira if You didn’t try Poncha, Espada or Lapas. Check this article for the dishes you need to try in Madeira.