Marvels of Madeira Walk
Surging from the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira offers a temperate sub-tropical paradise perfect for year-round walking. One of Madeira's many charms is its infinite variety; each day's walking and every levada - the island's unique network of water channels - is different. Landscapes vary from cultivated vine terraces and verdant slopes dotted with white hamlets to coastal cliffs with balcony views over the azure seas. Also a nature lover's paradise, there are over 120 endemic species of flora and fauna including the pride of Madeira, the bird-of-paradise, along with jacaranda, tiny bisbis birds, chaffinches and hawks - the list is endless.
On this self-guided, hotel-to-hotel holiday, the island's coastal paths and levadas take you from the sleepy wine village of Santana on the north coast to bustling Funchal in the south. Fringed with a rainbow of colourful flora, the levadas lead you inland to breezy Santo da Serra; a transfer then takes you to the Levada do Norte for spectacular views from the cliff tops.
Our accommodation choices offer as many contrasts as the walks: in Santana your hotel is surrounded by vineyards (join in with the harvest if you're there in September) and has its own wine cellar; in Santo da Serra your hotel dates back to the 1920s and has been used as a family home and tea house over the years, and in Funchal, the ***** Quinta da Bela Vista is one of the most exclusive hotels on the island.
This holiday uses paths by the levadas which are, at times, narrow with drops to the side. You need to be a confident, sure-footed walker, not deterred by heights. There are ascents and descents every day which make this a slightly more demanding holiday than the distances suggest. A torch is required for the Caldeirao Verde walk (day 3).
Read more about this holiday on the travel blog.
Day 1 - Arrive in Madeira
Arrive at your hotel near Santana where our local partner will brief you on the week's walking.
Day 2 - Circular Walk to Sao Jorge 10km/6.5mi/3.5hr or 13km/8mi/4hr
A panoramic coastal path leads you to the ancient cobbled route linking Santana to Sao Jorge. Agapanthus and cacti line the descent to the seaside 'resort' of Calhau. It's then along the base of the cliffs, where big Atlantic rollers come sweeping in, before you climb to enjoy balcony views. There are fabulous coastal vistas as you ascend to Sao Jorge, with the village's lighthouse glimmering above the azure waters. The mighty peak of Pico Ruivo frames the horizon as you return to Santana.
Day 3 - The Caldeirao Verde Levada 14km/9mi/5hr
A transfer (10 mins) takes you up to the Parque das Queimadas - all the hard climbing is done for you! The walk follows the beautiful (and shady) Caldeirao Verde Levada (the Green Cauldron Levada) into the Vale da Lapa. The scenery is magnificent; the views of the sea, of hilltop villages, and of the lofty central peaks are unforgettable. You head up the valley through a series of impressive levada tunnels to the magnificent waterfall at Caldeirao Verde. Then it's back down the Lapa Valley to Ilha before taking the local bus (payable locally) back to Santana.
Day 4 - Santana to Ribeiro/Santo da Serra 14km/9mi/4hr
A scenic 30-minute ride takes you to Ribeiro Frio. You join the Levada do Furado, a verdant paradise of laurel, heather and pine with waterfalls tumbling into the gushing river. Tiny firecrest and tame finches flit between the trees, which occasionally part to reveal stunning views of white hilltop hamlets. You descend to Santo da Serra's vibrant square with its lively market; wood smoke fills the air as meats grill al fresco - you must try the traditional espetada (marinated meat skewered on laurel twigs)!
Day 5 - Sao Lourenco 8km/5mi/3hr
Starting with a transfer (30 mins), today's walk takes you to the most eastern point of Madeira, to Ponta de Sao Lourenco's Nature Reserve, where you'll walk the hugely popular peninsula loop, with sweeping views, jagged peaks and masses of flora and fauna.
Day 6 - Cabo Girao Walk 11km/7mi/3.5hr
A transfer takes you to Boa Morte to take the Levada do Norte, through pine and eucalyptus trees, and on paths lined with pink belladonna flowers. High on the poios (terraces) the path wanders through pretty villages, before arriving in Cabo Girao where the majestic expanse of the Atlantic is spread out before us. A transfer will take you on to the 5* Quinta da Bela Vista above Funchal where you will spend your last 2 nights.
Day 7 - At Funchal
Spend your last day exploring at leisure in Funchal, perhaps starting in the bustling market near the harbour - it's full of atmosphere and ablaze with colour. Enjoy lunch on the harbour, saving room for an afternoon cream tea at Reid's, then it's time to relax by the pool or in the beautiful exotic gardens of your hotel.
Day 8 - Leave Madeira
Where you stay
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking. You can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss accommodation options.
Quinta do Furão, Santana (4 star)
The Quinta do Furão enjoys a stunning location with views stretching over the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel is surrounded by vineyards, vegetable plots and fruit orchards as well as beautifully manicured gardens complete with dragon trees and proteas. The verdant peaks of Picos do Ruivo and Arieiro stand majestically behind the Quinta to complete the picture.
There are 43 spacious rooms (all with twin beds), decorated with pine furniture and colourful furnishings.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Porto Bay Serra Golf, Santo da Serra (4 star)
The Porto Bay Serra Golf was originally built in the 1920s. In the 1940s it became a teahouse and was later used as the golf clubhouse. It has since been renovated into a beautiful hotel. The original part of the building contains the lounge with honesty bar and restaurant as well as the 2 superior twin rooms and the suite.
The 18 standard rooms are situated in the new part of the building. All rooms are equipped with satellite television, hairdryer, telephone and safe. None of these rooms have balconies.
Other facilities include honesty bar, fitness room and library. There is also a 27- hole golf course beside the hotel and the hotel has preferential rates for green fees as well as equipment hire.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Quinta da Bela Vista, Funchal (5 star)
The luxury 5-star family-run Quinta da Bela Vista, one of the most exclusive hotels on Madeira, commands fabulous panoramic views of Funchal from its hillside location on the edge of the city.
All the rooms are stylishly furnished and you'll come across original paintings and rare antiques throughout the buildings. There are two fine restaurants, heated outdoor swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and tennis court. A regular complimentary day time shuttle service is provided to and from Funchal, and there are beautifully established private gardens if you just want to relax.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Extra nights and stop over hotels
If you'd like to extend your trip with extra nights at the start or end, or if you'd like to arrange a stop off point en-route, then we recommend the following hotels.
Hotel Lisboa Plaza, Lisbon (4 Star)
Owned by the same family since 1953, the 4-star Hotel Lisboa Plaza is an imaginatively designed hotel, just off the famous Avenida da Liberdade. All rooms have en-suite marble floored bathrooms, air conditioning, satellite television, direct dial telephones, hairdryers and mini-bar. The public rooms are elegantly furnished and there is a pleasant bar and dining room.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Transfers included from Funchal airport at 12:00 and back to Funchal airport at 10:30.
Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email email@example.com to arrange connecting flights.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Reviewed by Mr Kelly on 06/10/2016
Once again, we had a thoroughly enjoyable holiday! Great walking, wonderful locations for our accommodation, excellent food and drink, and as a bonus the company of other like-minded walkers at various points during the week. Excellent route notes and planning - it is definitely what we have come to expect from our Headwater holidays (this was our 10th)
Reviewed by Mr Shelton on 30/09/2016
Quinta do Furao was lovely, very welcoming staff, a stunning location. The walk along the coast from the hotel was amazing. The local representative, Eduardo from MB Travel, met us to discuss the week's walks and was very helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Serra Golf was a beautiful building, but the staff took two days to sort out our lack of hot water (we had a room in the old house) and had forgotten to provide a packed lunch on our morning of departure. The levada walks were splendid - breathtaking views around every corner. The guide notes were good, but we could have done with a few more arrows or signs on the path. On the last walking day we had an alternative walk due to the forest fires of previous weeks. This was not nearly as good as the previous walks - I am sure there are other walks available. Quinta da Bella Vista was a a lovely hotel set in beautiful grounds - a long way from the centre of Funchal and the hotel shuttle bus does not run on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. There are local buses into town. Five course dinners served every evening, but after a day's walking you just want a big bowl of something on the table. Many thanks to Headwater staff for their efforts to arrange our holiday around our preferred dates.
Reviewed by Mis Rodgers on 02/07/2016
Maderia was a beautiful location. Weather in June was pleasant. Hotels and food good. Walks varied and interesting. Overall a good experience.
Reviewed by Mrs Hewitt on 01/07/2016
This holiday was good and the temperature for walking was very comfortable, but it would have been lovely to see the sun more, and the spectacular views, which were sometimes covered by mist and low cloud. I was not very fit at the beginning and felt exhausted and sore after two days, so chose to miss the walk on day 3 and go with the bags to the next hotel and have a day resting, and reading by the pool. (The Porto Bay Serra Golf has a spa with treatments, and it is possible to book a leg and foot massage!). The walks were dominated by levada routes, so less varied than our previous walking holidays with Headwater, so it was really worth going on the San Lourentco peninsula walk which was wonderful
Reviewed by Mrs Loch on 02/06/2016
Madeira is an excellent year-round easy walking destination. The custard tarts are to die for
Reviewed by Mrs Hansen on 30/05/2016
Fantastic walking, great variety. Very enjoyable holiday. One of our best headwater holidays
Reviewed by Mrs Macleod on 29/05/2016
Very well organised trip. Varied walking; enjoyed walking along the levadas but views often restricted by trees. Misty on some days so some high level walks would have been good.
Reviewed by Mr Grant on 18/05/2016
The holiday was excellent and the walks sufficiently challenging without being too onerous although some of the climbs are pretty severe and you need a head for heights on some short stretches of the levada walls. If you want superb views this holiday is great but if you suffer any degree of vertigo this is not the holiday for you.
Reviewed by Mr Stevens on 01/05/2016
Very enjoyable, well organised and good general standard of accomodation.
Reviewed by Mr Curwen on 25/04/2016
A superb holiday. The walks are out of this world - such a beautiful place, quite magical. The hotels had excellent facilities which is just what you need after a day's walking. Well done Headwater!
Reviewed by Mr Taylor on 13/04/2016
Madeira is a beautiful, friendly and welcoming island, ideal for gentle exercise and relaxation.
Reviewed by Mr Ball on 27/03/2016
Enjoyable notwithstanding some poor weather.
Reviewed by Mr Wildsmith on 03/03/2016
Excellent varied walking on the coast and on the Levada system. Good variety of hotel.
Reviewed by Mr Worsley on 18/02/2016
Met our expectations exactly- no hitches throughout.
Reviewed by Mr Huddlestone on 16/02/2016
An enjoyable winter break in milder weather with an interesting variety of walking, without being too challenging! The hotels provided excellent facilities for rest and recuperation with good dining and comfortable surroundings and some stunning views in places.
Reviewed by Ms Lang on 22/11/2015
It was a good holiday. Just too much rain.
Reviewed by Mr Green on 09/11/2015
Good combination of interesting but not too taxing walks, four or five hours a day, and pleasant pampering by staying at good hotels with pools and saunas,(very important to soothe any aching muscles !) Local people that we encountered seemed uniformly friendly and helpful and the landscape, whether we were being driven or walking through it, was never less than fascinating and often simply amazing, a combination of peruvian highlands and alpine villages !
Reviewed by Mr Stather on 06/10/2015
1. We felt that the Quinta do Furao hotel was ahead of the others because the staff were genuinely helpful / friendly, the restaurant served excellent locally grown food and typically Madeiran cuisine. 2. One flaw in the route notes was on Day 6 - the 2nd line on the 2nd Paragraph on page 22 - starts with 'At the T-junction of paths, turn right.....' We think it should say 'turn left!' Another (more minor) point is on Page 16 (last but one paragraph) mentioning the Tofa Mini Mercato - which we didn't find but suspect that the name has changed (they were in the process of re-vamping the shop with another name and coloured purple. 3. I would especially like to express my thanks to Donna Webber for her close attention to detail and patience when exploring the flight / accommodation options that made our holiday enjoyable during the period we had available. And also for Emma Glasgow for making exceptional steps in a very tight timescale to ensure that we received the route notes / maps etc through the post that were essential to our holiday. Thank you both
Reviewed by Mr Hurst on 04/10/2015
The walking exactly as described in the itinerary. For the intrepid, on the CaldeirÃ£o Verde Levada walk it is worth exploring beyond CaldeirÃ£o Verde towards CaldeirÃ£o do Inferno. The first 1.3k is easy, then their is an ambiguous option of continuing along levada or climbing steeply on well maintained steps signposted 'CaldeirÃ£o do Inferno 0.8km'. We chose the latter. The step take you up to a much higher level levada and a maze of tunnels and bits of old railway track. There is a yellow and red way marker here that seems to indicate this is the official route. Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore further. On day 5 we would highly recommend the SÃ£o LourenÃ§o walk - but do go early before it gets busy. On days where transfers are provided, it is worth verifying that the driver knows where he should be taking you. On the CaldeirÃ£o Verde Levada day we were half way to Funchal before we realised the driver had mistaken our destination. Quinta da Bella Vista is not a 5 star hotel. It has an air of faded luxury, but they need to focus on the basics like cleanliness and service to earn their 5 stars. The bedroom wing needs a freshen-up - e.g. the faded / stained carpets replaced. The 5 course meal and service in the half-board restaurant was ok, but didn't really live up to expectations. The 'production line' catering was obvious and service perfunctory. Having said that, there are some interesting public areas - the pool / bar, old house and gardens. Having after-dinner drinks and coffee by the pool with views over Funchal was memorable. The Quinta do Furao and Serra Golf were fine hotels in their different ways.
Reviewed by Mrs Heard on 02/10/2015
Wonderful,all walks easy instructions to follow with small useful details personally put in buy Lucy the Rep who was full of good and helpful advice. Locations all good. All hotel staff spoke good English which really helped as we do not speak a word of Portuguese. Food good. All transfers spot on nice friendly drivers who gave local history as we traveled. Although a walking holiday found it very relaxing as we walked at our own pase and all the walks different so plenty of scenery to stop and take in. This was our 1st walking holiday and regard it as a total success exstreamly happy with Headwater and would book with them again.
Reviewed by Mr Hurrell on 16/07/2015
Overall we really enjoyed it. However we were not quite prepared for the steepness of some of the walks. This is not down to Headwater but rather our own lack of research. The views were spectacular. We also felt that the times given for the length of each walk was rather optimistic even for us who enjoy walking in all terrains.
Reviewed by Mr Whitehurst on 22/06/2015
The key to my holiday was the flexibility in booking the travel arrangements via Birmingham. This allowed me access to an excellent holiday using a local airport
Reviewed by Mr Robinson on 20/05/2015
We both found this trip very enjoyable. The walking is relatively easy but very rewarding, and remarkably varied. The accommodation was top rate with good quality meals and excellent service. The location of Quinta do Furao is really great. Taxi collections and drop offs were faultless. In fact the whole trip from leaving home to returning was just perfect. One of our favourite trips.
Reviewed by Mr Davis on 14/04/2015
A walking holiday visiting several locations in one area. All the planning, hotels, transport etc is done for you so you can concentrate on the walks and enjoying yourself. Hotels and food very good. The one problem we had was some glass on the floor in the bathroom at the Quinta de Belle Vist. Eventually this was cleared up thoroughly. Minibus driver (lady) at Quinta de Furao was particularly helpful and friendly.
Reviewed by Mrs Corrie on 14/04/2015
It was a great holiday as we were a group of 7,made up from friends for a 70th birthday celebration.The walking was the hardest I have ever done(I am 72 and fit) but it was great fun and a real sense of achievement at the end of each day.
Reviewed by Mrs Peniket on 12/04/2015
We felt the walks were well planned and the hotels well chosen. We thought Eduardo Dias should have been more informative. On day 6 directions were inaccurate. Second para on Day 6 Camacha to Funchal at a ' T-junction of paths' we should have turned left, not right as indicated in the notes. Also other inaccuracies. At Serra Golf we booked a double room and were given a twin.
Reviewed by Mr Deacon on 06/11/2014
Overall we enjoyed the holiday, and especially liked the first hotel. But we did not think that Quinta da Bella Vista was five star. Some features are excellent but the room we were shown first was poor: no balcony, faded fittings and an unpleasant musty smell. In the event we had to pay an additional 30 Euros a night to get the sort of room we expected. This was negotiated for us by the MB Travel office, who were very helpful. Looking on Trip Advisor, the hotel seems to offer two standards depending on the building one is in, one excellent and the other adequate at best.
Dear Mr Deacon, Thank you for taking the time to complete your post-holiday questionnaire. We were delighted to see that you had an enjoyable holiday overall. Although, were sorry to hear of your disappointment with the Quinta da Bela Vista. Ordinarily, this hotel receives positive feedback from our customers. However, Please be assured that we realise we cannot afford to let our standards of accommodation slip, therefore. With this in mind, we have passed on your feedback to the hotelier and we will closely monitor the new feedback we receive for this hotel over the coming season. Thank you for your constructive comments; we look forward to welcoming you on another of our holidays in the future. Yours sincerely, Lisa
Reviewed by Mrs Williams on 12/06/2014
MB Travel were superb everything ran like clockwork, never late unless advised in advance and always friendly. We knew they were available on the end of the phone if we needed them for anything at all. Would certainly recommend this holiday. We are hoping to book an Italian walking trip next year. Thank you Headwater we wish we'd done it years ago.
Reviewed by Dr Daniell on 14/04/2014
Good walks, excellent hotels but the food was disappointing and was a bit of a downer. Not sure you know about the substitute walk on day 4 but it was a hazardous in places and in the UK the footpath would have been closed to the public. There were sheer drops below narrow footpaths on the levadas with no hand rails. Our overall score would be 6 out of ten for this one.
Reviewed by Mr Valerio on 31/03/2014
Excellent holiday though somewhat marred by some wet weather. At 79 years I did find some of the very steep long gradients tough on the knees and without trekking poles would have found one 500m descent on wet clay almost impossible. MB Travel were first class and promptly found us an alternative walk when the original route was washed out. The staff at the Porto Bay Serra Golf Hotel were very quick to find a lost mobile phone and immediately delivered it by car to the next hotel that we had moved to - great service.
Reviewed by Mr Shadwell on 12/03/2014
We thoroughly enjoyed the holiday and thought it was very good value for the money. For us it was only marred by our experience on our second night at the Porto Bay Serra Golf Hotel. The hotel dining room was full on this night, but there were only two staff to serve about 40 people. Consequently the service was very slow. After our main course we requested a menu to choose a dessert, but after waiting for 20 minutes for the menu we gave up and went back to our room. Also, we should have been given a packed lunch the following day, but this did not happen. We should have reminded them the night before, but because they were so short staffed, we could not find anyone to mention it to. Otherwise this was a lovely hotel, perhaps we just caught them on an off day. The packed lunch we received from the Quintar do Furao, was excellent. The overall experience was very enjoyable and exceeded our expectations.
Reviewed by Dr Mather on 14/10/2013
We enjoyed this holiday as we went with friends but the area itself is of only moderate interest although the vegetation is of great interest. The walking was quite easy and did not fill the whole day and is of limited interest as the views are limited. Some more demanding and high level walking would have been good and the last day's walk was very dull and urban and a different day should be subsituted Also the first day would have been boring if we had just returned the same way that we came. Instead we just went one way and took a taxi to port Moniz to swim. Overall I don't think the walks were very well planned to provide variety and interest On the plus side the directions were impeccable and when we had views they were wonderful and some of the walks were very peaceful
Reviewed by Mr Collier on 06/10/2013
The holiday was up to the good standard that we have come to expect from headwater holidays and would recommend it. A comment for improvement would relate to the third hotel Quinta Da Bella Vista where although the food, facilities and service were up to a 5star rating we thought the room of the hotel in which we stayed was a bit tired and needed upgrading to warrant 5stars.
Reviewed by Mr More on 30/09/2013
We were slightly nervous that a very successful and enjoyable independent holiday - Catalan Coastal Walk last year could be matched by this one in Madeira. We thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very different in topography, but also pretty demanding for our ages (65 and 72), which we like. We think 2-boot is good for us. There is a big contrast between the levada walks and the demanding up and downs, but the mix is good. The hotels were all good, but we prefer hotels 'in places' so you can walk with interest around where you are. Like all of the four except one on the Catalan walk. None of the Madeira hotels were in this category. Not a major complaint. Just personal choice.
Reviewed by Mr Morrison on 24/09/2013
Something different every day. From coast to mountains - enjoyable, and occasionally challenging, walks that gave us a glimpse of all the fabulous views Madeira has to offer. And at the end of the day - hotels with a warm welcome and touch of luxury.
Reviewed by Mrs Bird on 23/09/2013
A really good holiday. Some of the walks were slightly more dangerous than we imagined and the Porto Bay Serra Golf would benefit from a lift as we had to carry our cases up a narrow winding staircase with no help. As we had upgraded the room you should perhaps warn clients this may happen.
Reviewed by Mrs Gualtieri on 12/07/2013
The Headwater attention to detail was brilliant but would want them to change the second hotel. We did meet a family who had previously enjoyed a headwater canoeing holiday so we all sang your praises together and may look at that another year. Thank you for giving us a holiday that made us feel special.
Reviewed by Mrs Poole on 08/07/2013
A beautiful, breathtaking experience.
Reviewed by Ms Kennedy on 14/05/2013
A few minor details aside, everything worked like clockwork and we had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday in a beautiful location which offers an unusual walking experience through the unique levada system. We were pleasantly surprised by the second hotel (Serra Golf), which was much better than previous comments had led us to expect. It has joined a hotel group and had a refurb last year, so it has a smart boutique feel. All the facilities were clean and fresh, including a new swimming pool and lawned sunbathing area. The dining room was lovely, the breakfasts excellent, and the dinners very tasty. The picnic was substandard though, someone needs to follow up on that! Also, the reception desk is not manned the whole time and the welcome you get can be a bit brusque, depending who comes when you ring the bell.
Reviewed by Mr Townsend on 24/04/2013
We had a superb week away with Headwater. There was a great balance of challenging walking with luxury at the end of the day. We will certainly be booking through you again.
Reviewed by Mrs Lay on 13/04/2013
Quinta do Furao was a great hotel and the staff were particularly helpful when my husband's tooth broke on the first night (just before they supplied him with a surprise birthday cake). They went out of their way to find a local English-speaking dentist so we didn't have to pay for a taxi to Funchal. The dentist was efficient and cheap, so we were extremely happy with the service. Do take poles for the walks and good clothing, especially if it is a rainy month like March. Also remember that in 2 of the hotels you may have to go outside to access the restaurant. Our main disappointment was that the levada walks seemed to be mainly among trees, so you didn't often get a view despite being hundreds of feet up.
Reviewed by Dr Mason on 13/04/2013
Madiera is an interesting and picturesque island. The walking is pleasant, but you need a head for heights. The walks are mainly along 'levadas' (narrow water channels) which often cling to the sides of steep gorges. On our holiday there was a mixture of sunshine and downpours of rain. Waterproofs are a must, and also walking poles, since the paths can often become slippy when wet. The food is excellent with an abundance of fruit and vegetables. the hotels we stayed in were very comfortable and luxurious. Funchal is a large town, with interesting architecture, but currently the whole of the seafront is being re-built, a major construction operation which is likely to take a long time. We had a very enjoyable holiday in a place we had never previously visited.
Reviewed by Mr Lascelles on 13/04/2013
Although not thrown together with the other walker,s one of the pleasures of the holiday was meeting other people. Some of those walks were rather long and to be able to chat to somebody new helped to pass the time. We enjoyed getting to know Madeira, was impressed and certainly would like to visit again whent he weather was more settled. out of our 4 walking days 2 were a wash out because of torrential weather, which we have to admit we were not totally prepared for.
Reviewed by Mrs Barbour on 13/04/2013
We've travelled with ATG on similar holidays and and the materials, guides etc yIu receive are far more robust - hard back bound ring folders - and far more detailed with good maps and topography profiles. The maps from head water were pretty poor, small scale and not very useable. The instructions come on stapled A4pieces of paper printed double side. By the end of a wet walk, they were in tatters even though we had them in aplastic map carrier. The whole package in fact was cheap compared with competitors packages. In terms of the accommodation, that was better than our recent ATG experience, higher quality however without a car you were somewhat isolated in the villages/towns two out of the three were located in and there was little to do the half board was very variable the first was a set menu poor quality and the traditional element never changed for any of the three nights, also you couldn't eat off the a la carte., the second was excellent and you could eat of the a la carte but it was complicated at billing to understand the adjustments and the third you only got a 5 course a la carte which was excellent and if you ate a la carte had to tell the hotel by 3 pm and them only got a 30% discount, meaning for the same value you would have had to send c €120. It didn't make sense. The hotels weren't all geared for walkers either. Quinta Bela Vista in Funchal knew we were walkers and presented our picnic in a wicker basket. Just don't think Headwater briefed the hotels well. Finally the walks were ok, but the better walks weren't in the schedule, the classic High Peak walk was spectacular, not a hRd walk although at c 1800m but not even mentioned until we asked the local guide. Two to the four walks actually returned by the same route. Haing looked at the website,a guest had mentioned a number of years ago that the Levada Nova was a poor walk, mostly on a road and just walked back the same way as you go. Clearly nobody had listened and it was a waste of a day when there were far better walks in the area.
Thank you for your comments. We're sorry our maps and walking instructions did not meet your expectations. We do everything we can to keep our literature as upto-date, informative and user-friendly as possible. We do now print all route notes double-sided - responsible tourism is a strong part of our Headwater ethos and where we can save paper, we do. We choose not to provide ring-binders and such, again, in line with our environmental policies (they can also be a bit bulky to carry in luggage/rucksacks). We do however monitor all feedback, and if we feel changes are necessary, we will certainly take action. The last thing we want is for people to struggle with maps and notes during their holiday. We are also sorry there appears to have been some confusion at the hotels with regard to your menu choices. We have been working with these hotels for a number of years and upgrading your menu should be no trouble at all. We will take this up with our local agent and ensure that the meal arrangements are clarified at each hotel. Thank you again for contacting us.
Reviewed by Dr Rayner on 23/03/2013
We needed to find somewhere to go in early March, which was a challenge! The weather was fine, apart from the last day, when it rained heavily. The flowers were out in some areas, but not yet at their best. We enjoyed particularly the walk from Queimadas to the waterfall, and the parts in laurel forests. Some of the other walks in eucalyptus forests were rather dry and boring. We saw a few birds, but not many. Could not find a suitable bird book. We took a taxi from Funchal up to the peaks on the Wednesday, which cost about 60 euros and stayed 2 hours while we walked along the summit footpath. This is definitely worth recommending if the weather is fine.
Reviewed by Mr Givens on 10/10/2012
Well organised and excellent accomodation. Weather on our third day was torrential rain and the walk to Caldeirao Verde had to be cut short. We returned to Queimadas as everyone recommended this for safety, our taxi driver had given us his number to call for being picked up so were not stranded. We were soaked through and drying facilities at the hotel for wet clothes was sorely missed. All in all we did however enjoy our weeks walking.
Reviewed by Dr Cooper on 07/08/2012
Madeira was a great destination for a walking holiday, the levadas are just amazing. The Madeirans are also incredibly friendly and helpful.
Reviewed by Mr Meads on 28/07/2012
Walking Levadas excellent - just don't look down!!! July tooo hot - would recommend Apr/May - Jul=Forest/village fires - some diversions needed but makes it more interesting avoiding smoke! -Hotels Excellent especially in Santana with walks along the coast. Would definately go back in Springtime (next time :-))
Reviewed by Mr Newell on 23/07/2012
Very enjoyable, probably the best Headwater Holiday to date.
Reviewed by Mr Lay on 23/06/2012
Hotel itinery was altered from the standard which led to some initial delays with transfers and welcome meeting with MB travel. After first day everthing went smoothly and holiday went as planned. Quality of hotels was good with the Quinta Bella Vista making a excellent and luxurious end to the holiday.
Reviewed by Mrs Hill on 16/06/2012
Very enjoyable. We had a beautiful and relaxing break.
Reviewed by Mr Smith on 11/06/2012
Very good although local rep was not great.
Reviewed by Mrs Waterfall on 25/05/2012
Very enjoyable, but it was let down by food at serra golf, but at least it was only 2 nights,
Reviewed by Mrs Harvey on 25/05/2012
A very rewarding all round excellent holiday.
Reviewed by Mrs McDyre on 25/05/2012
A well organised holiday with excellent hotels.
Reviewed by Mis Ashworth on 09/05/2012
GOOD.A QUIET ISLAND BUT LITTLE CULTURAL OR RURAL CHARM.THOUGHT THE FLORA WOULD BE MORE COLOURFUL AND VARIED.STILL HAD A GOOD TIME.
Reviewed by Mrs Howells on 09/05/2012
Great experience - we liked the variety of locations and activities, from remote villages to Funchal. Hotels were good - but we must remember that five star in other countries isn't the same as five star in the UK! Had a superb afternoon tea at Reid's (glad we pre-booked). We were lucky with the weather - not too hot, too cold or too wet.
Reviewed by Mr Dorey on 28/04/2012
Visiting Madeira at this time of year is too early to experience the floral spectacle that is expected. I am not sure that we saw the best the island has to offer.
Reviewed by Mr Woolstone on 17/04/2012
Excellent in every way. We haven't used Headwater before, but would certainly consider doing so in the future.
Reviewed by Mrs Douglas on 26/03/2012
Quite a testing experience as some of the ascents and descents were a bit precarious but we managed ok and had plenty of time to complete the walks.
Reviewed by Mr Ballinger on 17/03/2012
A great introduction to the island - our first visit. Walks were varied and most enjoyable. Lovely hotels
Reviewed by Mrs Payne on 17/03/2012
Best headwatere holiday we have had, hotel golf not included.
From our postbag
In addition to comments received on our post-holiday questionnaires, we've also been sent the following comments from our satisfied customers.
Hugh Leach travelled to Madeira in 2007
Most people know of Madeira from that roundelay by Michael Flanders: ‘Have some Madeira M’dear’. Well, you can certainly have plenty of that, but there are other joys to be had on this delightful island. For a start it is a botanist’s paradise. With over 700 plant species the landscape is a riot of colour and the national flower, the Bird of Paradise, is so extraordinary one feels it must have been man-modelled.
My own 7 days there, in the first week of March (a good time to go before the tourist season proper) was spent walking from north to south across the eastern half of the island. This could be done in 3 days but better to spread it out over 5 so that one can have exploratory ‘stay-put’ days. I started from near Sao Jorge and finished at Funchal, with intermediary stops at Santo da Serra and Camacha.
Most of the walking is along the levadas, the irrigation channels that bring water down from the mountains. There are over 2,200 kms of them. Built largely along the side of steep basalt rock faces, their construction is a work of genius and a study in itself. Although not too challenging in terms of physical endeavour, parts may not suit those who suffer from vertigo. The views vary from long distance ones out to sea, to sights of locals engaged in terraced husbandry. The mountains in the centre of the island rise to over 6000 ft, so there should be some more challenging and open walking there.
The climate is mild, hot and humid in the summer, but be prepared for rain. The people are friendly with a good sense of humour and the hotels relaxing. If one stays at the top of the range in Funchal there is a danger of becoming addicted. But why not; you deserve a treat at the end of your trek and can explore the old town there. Visits to a Madeira Wine Lodge and the Botanical Gardens are a must. I took as my bed-time reading the original 1719 version of Robinson Crusoe; seemed appropriate somehow.
Departure dates & prices
|October 2016 departures||Tour only|
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Self-guided walking, hotel-to-hotel. Managed by Headwater appointed agent.
Selected Thursdays from 20 Oct '16 to 28 Jun '18, for 8 days (7 nights). Non standard departures can be arranged on request.
All continental breakfasts, 2 picnics and all evening meals.
Starting your tour
Transfers included from Funchal airport at 12:00 and back to Funchal airport at 10:30.
Enquire about this holiday
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