Global Adventure - Dayhike the ancient forests, canals, mountain ridges and seacoasts of Madeira


Global Adventure - Dayhike the ancient forests, canals, mountain ridges and seacoasts of Madeira

Over 12 days (including arrival and departure days), day-hike the length and breadth of the 'flower island' of Madeira (also known as the Hawaii of Europe!) We'll explore eight of Madeira’s most spectacular ridgetop, waterfall, rainforest and levada (canal) trails, and explore captivating towns, viewpoints, beaches, natural pools and cultural highlights of this spectacular Portuguese archipelago, all out of nice 3-star hotels central to the upcoming day’s hikes. We’ll explore some of the trails on our own, and some of the other hiking days will be with an English-speaking local guide. We’ll also have two free days to explore amazing nearby viewpoints, botanical gardens, beaches, museums and picturesque villages with the group or on our own. Hike distances and gains will be moderate, between 4.5 and 10 miles, with max daily elevation gains of up to ~2800 feet, (most much less), carrying only a daypack. However the trip has a leader rating of 'challenging' because some hikes will involve off-trail travel, narrow exposed trail sections (with cable handrails), and steep muddy slopes and thick undergrowth. There are also sections of tunnel with fairly low ceilings – we’ll use headlamps but people who get claustrophobic in closed spaces may be uncomfortable! NOTE; The total price is $2600, but the member fee shown is for the $1300 deposit only. PLEASE COMPLETE THE APPLICATION FORM AT THE YELLOW BUTTON IN THE LISTING BELOW, and consider joining the Rota Vicentina hiking adventure immediately following this one - details below!

  • Wed, Apr 9, 2025 — Sun, Apr 20, 2025
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Global Adventures, Day Hiking
  • Adults
  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 41.3 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 13,758 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 6,005 ft
  • Pace: 2.5 MPH

Arrive at Funchal airport no later than the afternoon of April 9, 2025 (we will try to coordinate arrivals because it is a long-ish transfer to our hotel and will be much better if we can share a van!)  After transferring to our hotel in Funchal, we'll have that evening and the next full day to explore around Funchal before starting our program of eight day hikes out of this hotel and three other hotels around the island.   

After the last hike we'll end back in Funchal, with a flex day for weather, and departures from Funchal airport should be organized no earlier than the morning of Sunday April 9.  Those who have the time are encouraged to add a stopover in Lisbon for a couple of days after this trip, where we'll be able to explore the city with another Mountaineers group arriving to start another hiking adventure, this one on the southwest Portugese coast on the Rota Vicentina.  (Or better yet, consider joining the Rota Vicentina adventure!  Find out more and register at this link!)

Itinerary Highlights:    Madeira, the ‘Island of Flowers’, a tiny, verdant Portuguese island created by a volcanic hotspot on the ocean floor in the Atlantic Ocean off the northeast coast of Africa, is a hiker’s paradise with over 450 hiking trails (with over 1860 trail miles!) to explore, encompassing a wide range of vistas, terrain and ecology.  Over our 12-day adventure (including our arrival and departure days) we’ll experience:

  • Eight of the country’s best hikes including rainforest walks to waterfalls that drop from far above us into inviting pools; rambles through ancient Laurissilva forests, an ecosystem that dates back 20 million years and are only found today on a few subtropical islands off the African coast; routes up steep jungled slopes to peaks with the ocean shining deep blue far below; hikes along precipitous volcanic ridges to cliffs surrounded by sea that feel like the ends of the earth; and an adventure in the ‘Himalayas of Madeira’ to a village deep in a caldera ringed by high peaks. Some of the best-mapped and -signed hikes will be on our own, while one will be with a naturalist guide and some will be off the normal tourist track with a local guide to some of his favorite places!  (Some of these will be more adventurous, involving some off-trail travel, somewhat narrow exposed trail sections, and navigating steep muddy slopes and thick undergrowth.)  The hikes are generally fairly short but some will be strenuous, with rugged and/or steep-slippery, somewhat exposed terrain, and some sections of tunnel with low ceilings (see photos at this link).   We may change some of the hikes on the fly if weather or trail conditions make the planned hike too treacherous or if the views can’t be seen due to clouds.
  • Afternoons after the shorter hikes, during which we can choose to spend the time on our own, relaxing or exploring or doing a tour from the hotel, or will decide together to go and visit a museum or viewpoint or picturesque village or black-sand beach that involves a taxi.
  • A free day in the capital city of Funchal (think cable car to a palace with a famed garden, amazing municipal market with colorful fruits, shops featuring local crafts or Madeira wine, and much more!) and a free day to explore Porto Moniz (with its stunning natural pools and lovely waterfront) and the Seixal black sand beach accessible by taxi. A third day is set aside for us to flex our hikes based on the weather, or to add another cultural experience.

Each night we’ll stay in a conveniently-located hotel (twin- or double-share basis) so you only need to carry a daypack.  On our hiking days we will have private transfers to and from trailheads, and we’ll have the support of an outfitter for any emergencies.

Madeira Hikes Map.jpg

Madeira Location.jpg

Time of Year:   Our itinerary in mid-April should catch the start of the famous wildflowers season while avoiding excess cold or heat and beating the flower-festival crowds.  

Lodging:   We'll stay in comfortable conveniently-located 3-star hotels every night, in 4 different locations chosen to make it easier and faster to get to our trailheads and to explore unique sights on the island.

Food:   A welcome dinner and a farewell dinner will be provided during the trip, and breakfasts will be provided at our hotels daily.  Lunches and all remaining dinners will be on our own, but the leader will recommend restaurants and facilitate the group going together to dinner on most days while providing freedom to go off on your own on other days.  We will shop for our own lunches at the grocery store or market and buy our lunches at restaurants while touring in town.  Madeiran cuisine is distinctive, with well-known local dishes being centered around seafood and meat, but there are many restaurant options.  We will do our best to choose restaurants that have vegetarian options but these will be more limited in range.  No guarantees that we will be able to meet other dietary restrictions.

Leader’s Experience:    Cheryl Talbert has been backpacking for 30 years and trekking and backpacking internationally for nearly 15 years.  She is currently is  co-chair of the Global Adventures committee, and instructs for several hiking and backpacking courses including a new leader seminar, the Staying Found On-Trail Navigation course, a Lightweight Backpacking Food planning clinic and an Essential Tools and Skills for Backpack Trip Planning clinic.  She has led dozens of domestic group backpacking trips for the Mountaineers and private groups since 2009, from local overnights to extended trips in the Sierras, Cascades and Rocky Mountains, and has been a Global Adventures leader since 2012.  She has led 40 successful Global Adventures  including Peru, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, northern, central and southern Patagonia, New Zealand, Portugal, Turkey, Iceland, Croatia, the Alps and the Dolomites as well as the Colorado trail, Teton Crest Trail and Wind Rivers highline in the Rockies.   (  She has traveled in Portugal  on the Rota Vicentina and the Camino Portugaes but this will be her first time on Madeira.

Outfitter services:   We will be hiring Portugal Nature Trails (the outfitter we previously used for our Portugal Rota Vicentina adventure in 2017), to support us on a self-guided program.  They will provide the booking services for hotels and transfers, as well as maps and trail information, and they will be available for administrative and emergency support throughout our itinerary.

Maximum 12 participants, minimum 8 (if fewer than 10 people register then it may be necessary to add a surcharge for the trip to go).

Participant Requirements:    You must be a Mountaineers member to join.  Participants must be confident moving on steep, rocky, muddy, root-covered, uneven terrain, and able to tolerate moderate exposure (e.g. narrow ridgeline, steep crumbly scree slopes ).  Some trails will have sections of dark low-ceilinged tunnels up to ½ mile long, so you should not suffer easily from claustrophobia.    Please do not apply unless you know that you can confidently move across the types of terrain described.  

In addition, this is a group trip so participants must be flexible and accommodating, have a positive attitude, and be able to amicably handle close quarters and the company of others for extended periods.  Participants must complete and return a liability waiver and a detailed medical information form, and a doctor’s approval if the leader requests it based on current or recent medical conditions.   International medical insurance and emergency medical evacuation coverage will be required (not included in the trip price).

NOTE:  We welcome people from all backgrounds, ages, races, genders, religions, sexual preferences, body types to apply who can demonstrate that they are capable of completing the activity safely at the pace given and meet the other participant requirements.  Likewise, we expect everyone on our trips to treat everyone else with kindness, acceptance and respect.  Don’t judge someone based on appearances or assumptions, and be thoughtful and supportive in all your communications and actions.

NOTE:  As a Mountaineers group we will operate as interdependent, capable travelers making our way together and helping one another succeed and be safe.  You are responsible for your own safety and that of your fellow travelers.  You must have the ability to navigate on trails with a map and compass, and a digital route on Gaia and gpx will be sent to you before we depart for the trip.

NOTE:  Participants must be fully vaccinated to participate in the trip.  In addition, participants are expected to practice conservative covid behavior before and during transit to the trip including masking and avoiding crowded indoor spaces whenever possible; and that they will carry covid self-tests on the trip and use them at any time when they experience a symptom commonly related to covid.  Any positive test will mean that the participant will need to isolate and mask until they are fever- and symptom-free, per the latest CDC guidelines.

Objectives, Expectations and Style:  Mountaineers groups can be very different from commercial groups because Mountaineers are expected to invest in getting to know and trust each other so that they can rely on each other to have their back in case of any challenge during the trip.   Trip pacing and itinerary decisions are made with an eye on each of us helping one another be safe and successful even if this means not every individual’s personal goals are met.   On an extended Mountaineers group trip, this interpersonal investment in mutual support and group relationships is particularly essential because many group members start out not knowing each other, but then then find themselves in close quarters for a week or more and sometimes called upon to give significant aid to another group member. 

Global Adventures leaders therefore not only need participants to be fit and medically capable, but also need to be sure that everyone’s trip objectives, expectations and trip style are aligned with the leader’s and with one another.  For this reason, we ask any applicant for the trip to read and agree to the leader’s Objectives, Expectations and Style for this trip, and proactively ask  any questions they have about what any item might mean.

Trip Price Detail:    $2600.  Includes all lodging, two group dinners and all breakfasts, plus ground transport, luggage transfers, multiple days with a local guide, and local fees and permits.  Not included are the participants’ international airfare (~$1500), insurance (~75-200), passport fees, lunches and remaining dinners in town, alcoholic beverages, tips, and any personal items.

Registration Instructions:   Please complete and submit the application form at the button below, after which the leader may get back to you with additional questions.   The first 2-3 weeks after registration opens we will gather applications and then select the group for the roster.  Acceptance on the roster will reflect your experience, fitness and fit with the group, and will not be based on the order of application.   We use transparent, consistent criteria to select the final roster and are glad to share the selection criteria and rationale with anyone on request.  





After the leader’s approval to join the roster, please pay the 50% deposit ($1300) in order to hold your space.  A place on the roster can only be held with payment of the deposit.    Registration will close as soon as the roster fills, and the balance of the trip payment will be due in early 2025. As soon as you have registered you are asked to complete an online Trip Agreement and Liability Release form at the buttons below. The Supplemental Information Form will be due a few weeks before the trip departs.  Emergency evacuation and emergency medical insurance are required at a minimum (at your own expense) to go on the trip, and trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended.

 Cancellation Policy:   A 100 euros vendor cancellation fee plus a $100 Mountaineers admin fee will be non-recoverable from the point that you pay your deposit, and 50% of your payment plus the 100 euros will be charged if you cancel between 90 and 30 days of our departure.  Within 30 days of the start of the trip your trip price will be non-refundable.  The only exception is if unless we are able to get a qualified replacement in which case you will be refunded your payment up to that date less the $US100 Mountaineers admin fee.


Dayhike the ancient forests, canals, mountain ridges and seacoasts of Madeira

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.


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