When you think of Madeira you might write it off as a honeymoon destination for couples without any real excitement – in which case you’d be missing out on one of Europe’s most adrenaline-pumping destinations! With is tropical weather and mountainous climates; Madeira is the perfect place to make unique memories. Still not convinced? Here are some unusual ways to explore and experience this Portuguese island:
With its mountainous terrain, Madeira is a paradise for hiking lovers. Whether you prefer a guided tour or want to explore these lush Portuguese mountains solo-style, there are numerous walks to choose from. Perhaps one of the most popular routes, Pico do Arieiro will literally take you above the clouds giving you panoramic views of neighbouring islands such as Porto Santo. From here you can even hike upwards to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island. Keep in mind though, as you get higher, the weather becomes more unpredictable so bring waterproofs just in case. If you are a keen hiker, it may be worth avoiding a hotel and instead opting for a private rental as many of them are situated on the edge of some of the island’s best hiking trails.
Just like the mountainous region of Madeira is perfect for hikers, this island is also a paradise for mountain bikers with numerous breath-taking routes available for bikers of all skills. Freeride, a company specialising in mountain biking, offer packages (single day or 7 nights) where bikes, protection, and return transfers are included. You’ll be transported by van to the trail beginnings with other riders and a tour guide, who will talk you through any tricky parts of a trail. Whether you’re taking a leisurely ride around the coast or zooming down from a mountain, you’ll be guaranteed some stunning views and excitement.
Without something like a hire car or taxi, the trek between towns such as Funchal and Monte can be tiring. Which is exactly why Madeira has its own cable cars ready to help you explore its island to the fullest. Situated in Funchal (Old Town) and in Monte, the gondola holds 39 cabins that can each house 7 passengers. As you travel up to Monte you can enjoy the superb views of Funchal Bay as well as the former volcanic peaks that the island is so famous for. When you get to Monte, be sure to explore some of the local shops and sample some of Madeira’s local cuisine.
Of course, after visiting Monte you can return to Funchal by cable car, but there’s a far more fun and thrilling way to get home. Monte’s famous toboggan rides allow tourists to travel down the mountain the traditional way – in a wicker sled with wooden runners! Plus, these toboggans are driven by traditional Carreiros (men with straw hats wearing white). The ride finishes in Livramento and you can get a taxi or bus the rest of the journey to Funchal.
Horse riding might seem like something out of a Western movie, but it’s actually an incredibly popular and enjoyable hobby in Madeira. Quinta do Riacho offer horse riding trails with an experienced tour guide, for riders of all levels, as well as children. All you need to do is contact the company with your skill level and they will recommend both a trail and a suitable horse for you. Trails include riding through Laurisilva Forest and even up to Pico do Suna.
If you like the idea of a horse riding tour of Madeira, but find horses a little unpredictable, why not opt for a quad bike tour instead? You’ll get the same adrenaline-filled ride, but this time you’ll be entirely in control. Plus, you get to test just how good your off-road driving skills really are. Tours include woodland, coastal and country options depending on what you want to see. You can also choose a quad bike for one, with a passenger, or there are buggies available for larger parties. Tours last roughly 3 hours and, if you want to drive, you’ll need a full driving licence.