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Things to do : Walking : Mountain walking Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM

Mountain walks on Madeira
By Oliver R. Donald Guenay
Jun 5, 2008 - 10:49:39 AM

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Much more severe are walks in December, January and February when even snow can fall and make it hazardous even for the very experienced mountaineers !

Some companies provide guided walks for the inexperienced   – ask at the tourist office !

Back to my second proposal :

Picco Grande (1657 m) is less elevated than the Picos of the main range but nevertheless dominates the bottom of Nuns Valley by over 1000 metres - most of which are steep or vertical. Its north face is the highest wall of Madeira

To get to the departure point is easy: you take a bus number 3 from Funchal to Estreito de Câmara do Lobos (45 min.) and then get there by walking or or short taxi drive from the last bus stop towards the forest house of Boca da Corrida (1225 m). From there you follow the panel towards Encumeada and Curral das Freiras. The walk leads you along the mountain ribs of the Pico do Cavalo and Serradinho into the Boca do Cerro – saddle, before it gets more demanding. In that very saddle the walk splits off. You find a group of chestnut trees with a shepherds stable at the base of the escarpments of Pico Grande.

The walk down towards Encumeada Pass follows to the left across its southern flank and is very much exposed to the elements. To the right, the descent into the Nuns Valley turns off and if you follow straight ahead past the stable you‘ll find the path ascending towards the summit area of Pico Grande which climbs up steeply along the foot of the rock flank (cables) opening into a large flank of grass which you cross up towards the summit cone, a knob of rock. The path is unmarked and needs a certain sense of orientation and you can get easily lost with fog or bad weather!

To reach the summit you follow on the rock by the help of cables to very exposed top (cairn). If you want to explore the surrounding area (where there are very nice volcanic rock formations and outlooks) beware of unstable weather. After crossing a stonewall you will “dead end”   above the vertical – the dropdown of the northeast face of Pico Grande’s Antecime into the bottom of the Nuns Valley.

Turn back on the same path down to the saddle, where the path leads down to Curral das Freiras - to your left. In steep and narrow turns you reach the chestnut forest above Cumial. You cross the forest in a long zigzag and end up between the houses of this village. Close by the road junction with the Curral das Freiras road you’ll find the bus stop and a bar to take refreshments. Plan for the whole walk some 4 hours - from the starting point down to Cumial.

What a wonderful way to see Madeira - hanging off a cliff!

Other nice trips are the ascent of Pico Ruivo from Encumeada Pass, and the Pico do Cedro and Pico do Areeiro from the road to Curral das Freiras at Ribeira Lapa (2 kms before the junction with Eira do Serrado) – unmarked sheep trails.

There are some extreme walks up the canyons and gullies of the northern side on to the summits of the main range but those trails (which are entirely unmarked and extremely exposed ) cannot be recommended to inexperienced walkers.

Other steep walks just don’t lead to a summit but across the coastal cliffs such as the walk up from Paul do Mar to Prazeres – 650 meters, very exposed and very beautiful, but quite hot in summer.

In Funchal you have a mountain shop where you might find gear and advice, if needed. Tel. 291 222 105.

An essential book for those who begin walks on Madeira, is always the following one:

Madeira walks by John & Pat Underwood, Edition Sunflower Landscapes , available at


Oliver walking down from one of the peaks


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