Besides the most famous routes, there are several alternative ones that offer a lot of beauty and unique places.
Footpaths are the perfect combination between physical exercise and direct contact with nature, but they are also a deep dive into the roots of Madeira's history.
The island is well known for its footpaths, and although there are some very popular and well-known footpaths, the truth is that most people still have many others to walk.
Madeira holds secrets in its lap, even for the locals, and in this edition Essential presents less crowded but equally beautiful paths that hiking lovers will not want to miss, especially in this time of summer and vacations.
So there's nothing like dressing up and exploring mother nature, complying with the safety standards recommended by the authorities, while promoting your physical and mental health.
According to the Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation (IFCN), the pedestrian paths are classified as either Short Route (PR), i.e. they have a length of 30 km or less, or Long Route (GR), with a greater length, which may consist of a set of several short routes and are identified by a sequential number.
Currently, the island of eternal spring has a list of 33 recommended pedestrian routes of short routes, three of them on the island of Porto Santo.
For those who like challenges and to go further, we start by clearing the longer paths, which are on this list of recommended itineraries by the Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation.
The Encumeada PR 12 Royal Path has an extension of 12.5 km, and runs between Câmara de Lobos and Ribeira Brava, starting at the Miradouro da Boca da Corrida and finishing in Encumeada. It offers five hours of pure immersion in absolutely superb landscapes, able to make the hiker feel swallowed by nature.
This trail develops between 1,323 and 830 meters of altitude and crosses part of the Central Mountainous Massif, near the base of the highest peaks of Madeira.
In previous times, this route was used by landlords on horseback, in which their wives were carried lying in nets by men, since this Royal Path was one of the main routes for the transit of people on the island.
Relatively shorter, we have the Vereda do Fanal PR 13, which begins in Paúl da Serra and ends in Fanal, located in Porto Moniz, with a duration of four hours and a distance of 10.8 km. It is located in an area of forest cover originally from Madeira, in the middle of the Laurel Forest, classified as World Natural Heritage by UNESCO and is also part of the European Network of Sites of Community Importance - Natura 2000 Network.
Curiously, the mystical area of Fanal is also classified as a Rest and Quiet Reserve by the Madeira Natural Park, being an idyllic refuge for those seeking to disconnect from the bustle and noise of everyday life.
The Vereda das Funduras PR 5, in turn, is another hidden treasure of Madeira’s nature. It is located in Machico, starting at the Miradouro da Portela and ending at Maroços. You can contemplate, for example, the imposing rocky mass of Penha D'Águia, or the traditional terraced fields that are a mark of Madeira's agricultural landscape.
Another suggestion from the IFCN is the Levada dos Cedros PR 14, which is located in Porto Moniz, starting at Fanal and ending at Curral Falso, with a distance of 7.2 km. To access the levada, you will have to go down a path with several wooden steps, in an extension of about 1200 meters. The effort is worthwhile and leads the hiker to a scenery of splendour.
The Levada do Rei PR 18 is a shorter itinerary than the previous ones, about 5.3 km. Starting at the ETA of São Jorge and ending at the suggestive Ribeiro Bonito, an authentic natural sanctuary, it is located in Santana, with a duration of 3.30 hours. The beginning of this path is composed of a mix of endemic and other vegetation, introduced after the discovery of the island. The second part of the trail surprises and captivates anyone with its wide variety of species that serve as real proof of the natural potential of the island's cultural heritage.
After finishing the path you can still visit the São Jorge Watermill, which has about three centuries of history.
The Caminho Real do Paul Mar PR 19 is a 1.8 km path that starts in Prazeres and ends in Paul do Mar, located in Calheta, and goes from an altitude of 550 meters to the seaside.
This path is rich in waterfalls and geological beauty through the alternation between basaltic veins and ochre-coloured rocks. In this royal path (therefore a little wider), paved in small steps, it is possible to have the perception of the difficult accesses travelled by our ancestors, with heavy loads on their backs, as the only alternative to the sea connection, which was too expensive for some and impossible when the sea was rough.
Last but not least, we have A Path for Everyone: Queimadas - Pico das Pedras, which allows people with motor and visual impairments to enjoy direct contact with nature.
In less than an hour, starting at Queimadas and ending at Pico das Pedras, it is possible to follow a forest patch of transition between the natural forest of Madeira and the exotic forest, with trees introduced to the island by men. Here the call is to slow down, listen to the sound of the water in permanent race, and feel the smells of wet earth, which transport to a deep sensory experience of connection between man and nature.