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 Porto da Cruz your hotel is close to the sea with mountains as a backdrop; 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.
Read more about this holiday in Stumpy's Blog.
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).
Arrive at your hotel in Porto da Cruz where our local partner will brief you on the week's walking. (Staying at the Hotel Vila Bela, Half Board)
A transfer (15 mins) takes you to a panoramic coastal path that 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, then transfer back to Porto da Cruz. (Staying at the Hotel Vila Bela, Half Board)
A transfer (25 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 transfer to Porto da Cruz. (Staying at the Hotel Vila Bela, Half Board)
A scenic 25-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)! (Staying at the Porto Bay Serra Golf, Half Board)
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. (Staying at the Porto Bay Serra Golf, Half Board)
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 ***** Quinta da Bela Vista above Funchal where you will spend your last two nights. (Staying at the Quinta da Bela Vista, Half Board)
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. (Staying at the Quinta da Bela Vista, Half Board)
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.
NEARBY:The Quinta do Furao 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.
Room upgrades are not available at this hotel.
Please contact us for extra night prices.
NEARBY:Just 100m from the nearest beach and close to the promenade and the public open-air swimming pool, the Hotel Vila Bela offers a fabulous location between the sea and the mountain backdrop behind Porto da Cruz. This charming little hotel offers 12 rooms, a library, a restaurant and bar and is run by a couple who are very keen on ensuring their guests have a relaxing and unforgettable stay. There is also free Wi-Fi in public areas.
Room upgrades are not available at this hotel.
Please contact us for extra night prices.
NEARBY: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 two superior twin rooms and the suite.
|01/02/2018 - 31/10/2019||£12||£28|
All prices shown above are valid from 06/04/2018. Prices are per person per night based on 2 sharing.
The Superior room is larger and is located in the main house.
The Suite has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, lounge area and kitchenette (Minimum of 3 people).
Please contact us for extra night prices.
NEARBY:The luxury ***** 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.
|Dates||Twin Garden View with Balcony||Twin Superior Room with Balcony||Deluxe Room with Balcony||Junior Suite|
|01/02/2018 - 31/05/2018||£10||£24||£46||£80|
|01/06/2018 - 30/06/2018||£10||£24||£56||£88|
|01/07/2018 - 31/10/2019||£6||£22||£48||£82|
All prices shown above are valid from 06/04/2018. All prices are per person per night based on 2 sharing.
The Twin garden room with balcony is in the garden wing of the hotel, is slightly larger than the standard garden room and has a balcony. The Twin Superior room with balcony is in the Avista Navios building - they have larger bathrooms, a sitting area, and balconies with a view over the beautiful gardens and bay of Funchal. The Deluxe room with balcony have larger bathrooms, a sitting area, and balconies with a view over the beautiful gardens. The Junior Suites are located in the original Manor House and are individually decorated. They have large bedrooms, a separate sitting room.
Please contact us for extra night prices.
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.
Owned by the same family since 1953, the **** 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.
Room upgrades are not available at this hotel.
Please contact us for extra night prices.
Transfers included from Funchal airport at 12:00 and back to Funchal airport at 10:30.
Please call our sales team on 1-800-267-3347 or email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted to our website, so that people can make an informed decision based on past experiences before heading off on holiday. We don’t edit the reviews, the only thing we do is proofread them and alter any typos, where necessary, to ensure they are easy to read for everyone. All reviews will be published (except in certain extreme circumstances), and a member of the Headwater team will respond to any constructive criticisms/comments under the reviews, at their discretion. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Was a first-timer both to Headwater and Madeira. Thought walking would be the best way to get to know the island. There wasn`t a small group holiday so decided to go for self-guided holiday. Apart from the issue of the single-supplement there were no problems. Everything went smoothly throughout the holiday and I was in a position to contact Eduardo the local rep at any time if I needed too. Hotels were excellent in terms of location and food, and service. Especially enjoyed Madeiran specialities such as scabbard fish with bananas! Route notes and maps made the walks simple to negotiate. Good variety in the walks, though three levada walks was enough and glad I took the St Lawrence Peninsula walk as my optional walk as this covered very different terrain. Although I travelled on my own met up with other Headwater walkers on both the walks and in the hotels and enjoyed their company. Of course, the excellent weather helped immensely and walking in the clouds on one of the levada trails was a welcome break from the sun. Last 24 hours in Funchal was great way to end the holiday with sightseeing in the old town, and cable cars to the Tropical Gardens and Botanical Garden. Can recommend the holiday both to single travellers and others. Thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back for more with Headwater.
Madeira is a fantasy island, with outstanding scenery and interesting walking. Some of the walking is challenging: almost the only flat routes are the levadas, and the hills are steep. The levadas themselves have spectacular views, and whilst level are sometimes testing as they can be narrow and uneven, but ultimately extremely rewarding. In May the weather is mild but some rain can be expected, so a waterproof jacket is essential. The Headwater hotels are all excellent, and people in general are friendly and helpful. Thoroughly recommended.
As other reviewers have stated, the levadas are interesting walks but often you cannot see the views due to high vegetation or needing to keep a close eye on your footing due to being on the edge of a steep drop - so after a while some parts felt somewhat tedious. There were quite a lot of long steep ascents & descents.
We only stayed in two hotels. Hotel Porto Bay Serra Golf was really lovely - the room, the food & service were excellent. The final hotel, Quinta da Bela Vista, is set in a good location overlooking Funchal. It has a lovely pool & bar area that is nice to sit in the evening. This hotel is on a half board status - the evening meal is a 5 course set menu with no choice offered at all. We found the food very average. Whilst we were there, people who used the hotel restaurant in the evening were of a very much older age group (we are not young - in our late 50s) & the ambiance was really very quiet & subdued. We decided that on our second & final evening we would not eat in the restaurant & preferred to go somewhere with a bit more atmosphere. Breakfast was not subdued, more of a mixed age group with people chatting etc.
Unfortunately we did experienced some frustrations with the local agent Headwater use. Briefly, these were some of the issues: being dropped off in the wrong location for the start of a walk & not knowing were we were & needing to walk an extra 2k to reach the start; a driver trying to take us to a levada that was closed even though we were advised by the local rep at the start of the holiday that it was closed - we advised the driver it was closed but he told us it was not, however, it was closed; agreeing a time of pick up with the local rep but the driver not being advised of this so arrived 30 minutes late.
This was our first experience of an organised holiday. It was great to be collected/met at the airport and to have the overseas team always on hand, as far as making life easy getting around. There was certainly an older demographic than we expected, which although we were comfortable with, didn't make for such a great time at the bar, or dinner.
This holiday lived up to our expectations - although it was not cheap.
Really enjoyed our walking experience in Madeira. Good variety of walks in good weather and magnificent scenery. Enjoyed staying in three locations in three very different hotels. Good choice of hotels and they all had good facilities.
Good locations, excellent hotels and very relaxing.
Invigorating trip, great organisation, will use Headwater again.
Beautiful island, very welcoming people, excellent standard of hotels.
A holiday should be restful with the minimum stress and this holiday ticked all of the boxes.
The only sour note came when we ate at the restaurant attached to the Hotel Bela Vista and the head waiter seemed surprised that we required a dairy free meal although we had mentioned this to reception when checking in. His response was that there was only one dish on the a la carte menu that was dairy free, which was disappointing and did not reflect the positive and more flexible approach of the other places that we ate, notably the hotel's other restaurant!
At times the walks through the levadas were rather tedious because the vegetations blocked all the views. All the transfers worked really well.
Easy walking, good hotels, mixed weather.
This was our first holiday to Madeira and fortunately enjoyed perfect walking weather.
We enjoyed the Levada experience very much but the Sao Lourenco Peninsula walk was definitely a highlight. Our last walk into Funchal was disappointing but appreciate it had been changed because of the summer fires.
The hotels were delightfully varied. At the Quinta do Furao we enjoyed live music and an outdoor hotel buffet/barbecue on our last night. At the Serra Golf we found ourselves upgraded to a lovely suite! Staying at The Bela Vista is like stepping back in time to 'Colonial days'. Silver service is a fun experience. The waiters were a little surprised when my husband asked for beer rather than wine! But they soon got used to him. We cannot fault the food and service at this hotel. Although the hotel is out of Funchal we did find the local bus service and hotel minibus service worked well.
Overall a wonderful holiday.
A wonderful walking holiday in Madeira. A great insight of the island. Headwater took all the work out of the travel and holiday arrangements and left us to enjoy ourselves!
Fantastic experience walking Madeira. Even on a cloudy day it is an amazing place. Headwater arranged everything effortless. Amazing how the drivers were always there on the dot! Very reliable at all times. The levada walks were easy walks - except if you haven't got a head for heights...Good variety in walks and great that Headwater could provide more walks if you wanted to walk more. For example on your free days.
Will book with Headwater again - a no brainer!
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).
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 Bela 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.
Had a great week's walking in Madeira, the walks were very clear and the transport well organised. The first walk of the week was the hardest, a lot of up and steeply down but fantastic scenery and glad we did it. The lavada walks were lovely and really enjoyed the tunnels. The hotel in Funchal not a five star, the allocated rooms have no balcony which you need to access Wifi or like us you have to stand by window, not ideal after a long walk. The first two hotels were great, very friendly with great service. Overall an enjoyable holiday.
Madeira was a beautiful location. Weather in June was pleasant. Hotels and food good.
Walks varied and interesting. Overall a good experience.
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.
Madeira is an excellent year-round easy walking destination. The custard tarts are to die for.
Fantastic walking, great variety. Very enjoyable holiday. One of our best Headwater holidays.
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.
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.
Very enjoyable, well-organised and good general standard of accommodation.
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!
Madeira is a beautiful, friendly and welcoming island, ideal for gentle exercise and relaxation.
Enjoyable notwithstanding some poor weather.
Excellent varied walking on the coast and on the Levada system. Good variety of hotel.
Met our expectations exactly - no hitches throughout.
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.
It was a good holiday. Just too much rain.
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!
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.
The walking exactly as described in the itinerary. For the intrepid, on the Caldeirão Verde Levada walk it is worth exploring beyond Caldeirão Verde towards Caldeirão do Inferno. The first 1.3k is easy, then there is an ambiguous option of continuing along levada or climbing steeply on well-maintained steps signposted 'Caldeirão do Inferno 0.8km'. We chose the latter. The steps 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 São Lourenço 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 Caldeirão Verde Levada day we were half way to Funchal before we realised the driver had mistaken our destination.
Quinta da Bela 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.
Wonderful, all walks easy instructions to follow with small useful details personally put in by 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 pace 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, extremely happy with Headwater and would book with them again.
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.
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.
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.
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 Bela Vista. Eventually this was cleared up thoroughly.
Minibus driver (lady) at Quinta de Furao was particularly helpful and friendly.
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.
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.
Overall we enjoyed the holiday, and especially liked the first hotel. But we did not think that Quinta da Bela 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 5 star rating, we thought the room of the hotel in which we stayed was a bit tired and needed upgrading to warrant 5 stars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A beautiful, breathtaking experience.
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.
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.
Madeira 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.
We've travelled with ATG on similar holidays and the materials, guides etc you receive are far more robust - hard back bound ring folders - and far more detailed with good maps and topography profiles. The maps from Headwater were pretty poor, small scale and not very useable. The instructions come on stapled A4 pieces of paper printed double-side. By the end of a wet walk, they were in tatters even though we had them in a plastic 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 that 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 off 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 3pm and then only got a 30% discount, meaning for the same value you would have had to spend 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 hard 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 up-to-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.
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 two 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.
Although not thrown together with the other walkers 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 when the weather was more settled. Out of our four walking days two were a wash out because of torrential weather, which we have to admit we were not totally prepared for.
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 two hours while we walked along the summit footpath. This is definitely worth recommending if the weather is fine.
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Minimum group sizes
No minimum group size, however transfers are subject to at least 2 people (in total) booked on each departure.
This holiday is unsuitable for children.
Self-guided walking Managed locally by Headwater appointed agent.
All continental breakfasts, 2 picnics and all evening meals
Although arrival days are flexible, we would recommend not to arrive on this holiday on a Monday as this would mean the last day of the holiday (in Funchal) is on a Sunday when may activities and sights are closed.
Transfers included from Funchal airport at 12:00 and back to Funchal airport at 10:30.
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