The Azores are on the UK’s Green Travel List!
The Azores (a region of Portugal) are a group of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, offering a gentle climate and unforgettable landscapes. If you are a walker or simply a visitor who wants to drink in the sights, these unique islands will not disappoint.
The islands are divided into three groups:-
The Eastern Group (Grupo Oriental) of São Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas Islets
The Central Group (Grupo Central) of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial
The Western Group (Grupo Ocidental) of Flores and Corvo.
For mountain lovers, you’ll find Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m There are many other impressive peaks to be discovered.
There’s a wealth of walking trails to be followed, enhanced by wonderful views and flourishing unique endemic plant life.
The largest of the islands is São Miguel, where ancient laurel forests and a wealth of endemic flora thrive. The landscape on all the islands is rugged, with extreme peaks; lakes hide in volcanic craters and hot springs confirm the islands’ volcanic geology.
Tempted to visit? Before you go, why not plan your adventures. You will need a detailed, up to date map. If you want to do any walking on the islands, you need a map that clearly shows the walking trails.
We recommend Azores Tour & Trail Super-Durable Map, from Discovery Walking Guides Ltd.
It’s been a long wait but at last, people may travel from England to green-list Portugal from May 17. This includes the beautiful island of Madeira (and its little sister Porto Santo).
Here’s the link to the British government’s official website detailing coutries on each of the lists and what this means for English travellers.
Madeira is a classic destination for keen walkers, though you don’t need to be an expert. There are plenty of lovely strolls as well as high end challenges for experts, with a wealth of variety in between. Or, why not explore by bus, a pocket-money way to experience the island. For plenty more information on discovering Madeira, take a look HERE.
There’s useful information for visitors to the Garden Island of Madeira regarding arriving on the island and the safety measures that are in place HERE.
Late Spring and early Summer are perfect times to visit Madeira. The rugged terrain is graced with an abundance of native trees and unique endemic flowers, easily enjoyed on many of the levada walks which also lead you into Madeira’s heart from village to hamlet.
Our thanks go to walking researcher and author-in residence, Shirley Whitehead, for her beautiful photos of Madeira.
IMPORTANT CHANGES TO WALKING ROUTES
20th FEBRUARY 2020
Volume One – Walk 10 – Levada dos Tornos – Monte – Curral Romeiros – Circular
Whilst this route remains open, is it should be noted that the forest section between Wp.3 and Wp.4 is currently in a poor condition. Therefore it is recommended that anyone finding difficulty ascending this path should turn back immediately and follow the lower route via the João Gomez valley. Once in Romeiros there is an option to walk out and back along Levada dos Tornos between Wp.7 and Wp.4 before returning again via the João Gomez valley. This is an extremely pretty section of levada and remains in good condition but does retain the grade 3 risk of vertigo due to a number of unprotected sections. There is also a very short section at Wp.4 where the channel shoulder has suffered some erosion, but this can be totally avoided by walking on the opposite banking crossing and re-crossing the two concrete slabs over the channel.
Volume Two – Walk 55 – Levada do Caldeirão Verde
This route is shown as ‘Conditioned’ on the official Tourism website due to a substantial rock fall around the green pool. Therefore at the present time walkers can either continue along the suggested extension to reach Caldeirão do Inferno or turn around after Wp.9 and return to the starting point where a new café facility has recently been opened in the Parque das Queimadas
Volume Two – Walk 58 – Camacha to Monte
After reaching the Choupana Hills Resort (this hotel was closed in 2016 following the fires in that area), we follow the path through the gardens, which remain open and continue along the levada to Romeiros, where you leave the channel descending steps at (Wp.13). Here follow the road right for a short distance to reach more steps ascending back to the levada. At this point we recommend that you consider the options for continuing on to Monte, either via the levada or by following the trail into the João Gomez valley. Both these options are described clearly in Madeira Walks Volume Two. However, you should note that due to some problems on the descent after leaving the levada (Wp.4) until reaching the point where both options rejoin at (Wp.3) it may be preferable, and much safer for some people, to take the lower route back to Monte. (Refer to the update above for Walk 10)
Volume Two – Walk 65 – Rabaçal Lagoa do Vento
This trail has recently been refurbished providing stepped ascents and descents along its whole length making for a much easier terrain. The upgrade also includes new signage and diverts the path away from the previous wet and slippery sections referred to in the original text in Madeira Walks Volume Two.
The good news is that there are dozens of excellent walks of all types on this beautiful island. As the summer heat abates and the August visitors leave, it’s an ideal time for a walking holiday. Our resident researcher/author on the island, Shirley Whitehead, has just sent in the following important updates affecting a few routes; some changes are temporary while Shirley suggests alternative detours for some of the walks.
Volume One – Walk 9 – Monte – Bom Sucesso – Funchal
This trail is temporarily closed due to erosion of the pathways and levada following severe fire damage in 2016. Unlike most other water channels, this levada is privately owned and therefore repair work is not at the discretion of the authorities.
Volume Two – Walk 6l – Pico do Areeiro – Pico Ruivo (PR1 Vereda do Areeiro)
This route is shown as ‘Conditioned’ on the official Tourism website describing the trail as accessible along the whole length of the western footpath which passes through tunnels to arrive at Pico Ruivo. However, the route along the eastern part of the trail via Pico das Torres is temporarily closed. This situation has been apparent for some considerable time but our notes will be updated as and when the alternative route reopens.
Volume One and Volume Two – Walks 27 – 64 – 66
Due to the construction of a large reservoir on the Paúl da Serra plateau, scheduled for completion in 2020, the following walking routes are shown as amended or closed. Those affected are as follows:
Walk 27 – Levada do Paúl – Cristo Rei – Fatima Chapel, Rabaçal
This route is closed from Wp.7 where the channel crosses the regional road until it reaches the chapel of Nossa Senhora de Fátima and the Rabaçal car park on the ER105 at Wp.8.
As an alternative route, follow the notes until reaching the regional road at Wp.7 turning right for 300 metres to the junction with the ER105. Turning left from here, it’s around 1 kilometre to Wp.8 at the Rabaçal car park.
Note: the changes to the timings and distance from the original notes are negligible.
Walk 64 – Calheta Slopes – Levada da Rocha Vermelha – Levada Nova – Estrela da Calheta
This route is temporarily closed due to extensive construction work around Wp.3 where the trail becomes impassable in the area of the riverbed and Levada da Rocha Vermelha.
Walk 66 – Rabaçal: Ribeira Grande -Lajeado – Paúl da Serra
This walking trail is impassable beyond Wp. 10. As an alternative we suggest two options: (1) to follow the trail to Pico Rabaçal as a (linear out and back) or, (2) to head in an easterly direction from Wp.9 following the broad moorland path until it reaches the ER209. Turning right here, it is around 800 metres to the cross roads with the ER105 and turning right, passing the Jungle Rain Restaurant, the original trail can be picked up again from Wp.17 to return to the starting point. This alternative section is around 4.8 kms in total making the timings and distances with the original notes negligible.
For further information of closures and conditioned sections of the Officially Recommended Walking Routes go to www.visitmadeira.pt “Notice to Walkers”
Ah, Madeira! It’s an island that draws visitors back again and again, with its unique plant life, a wide range of wonderful walking from strolls to challenging mountain routes, and a benign climate, making it a year-round destination.
One of the best things about walking here is the sheer variety of routes. If you want gentle, level paths, there are many levada-side routes taking you through lush, natural green scenery. Mountain-lovers have a wealth of inspiring options to choose from. You want views? Wild flowers? Unspoilt villages? Short strolls? Challenging all-day routes? They’re all here.
Madeiran island authorities are well aware of the importance of walking to many of their visitors and do a great job of maintaining routes, keeping them open and safe.
If you’re thinking of a visit to the island, you’ll get much more value from your visit with a good guide book and map in your pocket. Have a look HERE for recommendations.
Madeira! What a great desination, especially at this time of year.
Swapping the dark and cold of Northern Europe for Madeira’s green and spring-like mountains is a popular choice at this time of year.
If you are planning to walk there, it’s worth checking that the paths you’re planning on following are open. The best place to look for information is on the official ‘Visit Madeira’ tourism website. To see which routes are open or temporarily closed, LOOK HERE.
If you are already on the island, you can also ask in Tourist Offices who usually have up to date information on walks that are open/closed.
At the moment only three of the official routes are temporarily closed. The authorities are vigilant and usually restore routes quickly; often, the problem is a landslip after heavy rain.
The three routes to avoid at the time of writing this are:
PR1 – Vereda do Areeiro
PR12 – Caminho Real da Encumeada
PR19 – Caminho Real do Paul do Mar
There’s so much great walking on Madeira that you’ll find plenty to tempt you, from strolls to all-day high altitude challenges. Even if you aren’t keen to do much walking, it’s a great idea to use the local buses which give you brilliant (sometimes a bit hairy!) adventures around the island for pocket-money prices.
There’s a great bus map available, also really useful as a driving map; LOOK HERE for details of the Madeira Bus & Touring Map.
For more information including details our two Madeira Walks guidebooks Madeira Tour & Trail Map and digital mapping for Madeira, take a look at Discovery Walking Guides; Madeira pages.
Walking researcher/residents Shirley & Mike Whitehead know the island intimately and have followed up their Volume One book of 40 ‘Leisure Trails’ with a new Volume Two, tackling challenging trails and high altitude routes.
If you’ve never visited this beautiful and dramatic island, you’re missing one of the world’s great walking destinations.
Mountains, levadas, tiny hamlets and towering cliffs; unique flora and ancient forests.
In around four hours by air from Europe you can escape the long cold tail of winter and revitalise yourself with strolls, walks and challenging hikes.
Click HERE for more information.
Resident authors and researchers, Shirley and Mike Whitehead know it like the backs of their hands and have come up with 41 routes and trails ideal for the ‘leisure’ walker in this new publication Madeira Walks: Volume One.
Volume 2 of this series will follow later in 2015 which concentrates on more challenging and high altitude routes.
All the routes are carefully described and are beautifully illustrated with images taken along each route.
Every route has its own highly detailed ‘Tour and Trail’ map section showing the route and waypoints clearly marked; research is done while carrying GPS equipment to ensure accurate walking information.
For more information about the new book and Madeira Tour & Trail Maps and Madeira Bus Maps, take a look http://www.dwgwalking.co.uk/mad.htm
Madeira’s majestic high-level mountain route, the PR1 – Vereda do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo, has re-opened to walkers.
Landslides that had damaged the route have been cleared and fencing replaced.
This is the BIG one for high altitude afficionades!
(Image, thanks to Shirley Whitehead, walking researcher and author) – see http://www.dwgwalking.co.uk/mad.htm
Springtime! The northern hemisphere’s Spring is well under way now. For those interested in flora, there’s nowhere quite like Madeira in the Springtime.
Madeira is always green – now it bursts into colour and perfume. Many of the plants you’ll come across while walking its levadas and country paths are endemic and exclusive to the island.
Two of the many beauties to look out for are orchids and the rare Yellow Foxglove. If you enjoy seeing wonderful plants growing strong and free, Madeira is the place to visit.
For information about the Garden Island, including books and maps, see http://www.dwgwalking.co.uk/mad.htm
(The plant images here were taken by Shirley & Mike Whitehead, authors and researchers resident on the island of Madeira.)