Peter Dudley explores the Portuguese island of Madeira on Ramblers Walking Holidays 'The Floating Gardens of Madeira' where a perfect blend of terrains along less well-known Levadas afford dramatic coastal views. Highlights include mountain walks between Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo, North Coast walk between Boca do Risco and Porto da Cruz and the ascent to Boca do Cerro down to Encumeada. (Book now for 2018)
We have travelled to Portugal several times in the past, both self guided and guided and have been quite impressed with the country. After scouring the Ramblers brochure, we thought the Floating Gardens of Madeira fortnight looked interesting for our next holiday.
We met up with the group and our leader – Ita McCrory – at the airport in Funchal and were transported to sheltered harbour of Porto Moniz – the first of our three locations on the island.
The hotel here featured a fantastic ocean-fed swimming pool, which was perfect for relaxing after a long day’s hike in the mountains. We also had a balcony with an ocean view and a drying rack, which made it easy to wash and dry our hiking kit at the end of each day.
Walking along the levadas (an excellent network of water channels ingeniously cut into the mountainside for irrigation) proved very enjoyable. Ita passed on plenty of interesting information and, given this was our first time on the island, also had lots of questions to answer.
After three nights in Porto Moniz, we transferred to the historic town of Ponta do Sol on the south coast for five nights where we explored the surrounding valleys and mountains. Our hotel room was very spacious with dinner each night featuring “show cooking” where your choice of entrée was cooked in front of you.
For our last six nights, we took a private bus to the hotel in the capital, Funchal. As we arrived on the day of the annual flower parade, it was very busy in the downtown area so we didn't stay in the usual Ramblers hotel on this occasion.
Ita planned some great walks for us over the next few days and, despite inclement weather, we all enjoyed them. We also went out for dinner to a different restaurant every night in Funchal so had a varied selection of well prepared and presented food with wine on some nights.
My wife and I were also took the famous toboggan ride from Monte to Livramento while we were in Funchal which was a lot of fun and well worth doing.
We both enjoyed our fortnight on Madeira and would recommend this holiday to others.