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Guided Winter Walking & Sightseeing

in Madeira, Portugal


Day 0  Depart Toronto on an overnight flight to Madeira  (Air fare not included in the cost)

Day 1
Arrive Funchal Airport and transfer to the Sentido Galosol Hotel (about 20 minutes).  The day is free to relax and perhaps explore the resort and the area of Canico de Baixo with its boardwalk, flowers, and cafes.  If you are feeling energetic you could walk to the Cristo Rei statue that looks westward across the ocean to its counterpart facing eastward  from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which was once a Portuguese colony.

Day 2 -
 Morning at leisure.
In the afternoon we head for Camacha in the highlands of Madeira for a leisurely 6 km half day walk in Paradise Valley.  We follow a century old levada through lush vegetation and wildflowers with occasional views of quaint isolated villages. The flower-lined path winds underneath a canopy of fragrant eucalyptus groves and pine forest to Rachao. Watch for azaleas, camelias and calla lillies growing wild along the footpaths.

Day 3   Funchal
This morning our private transportation takes us into the capital, Funchal, (about 20 minutes) where a local guide will lead us on a walking tour of the Old Town to see the 15th century Cathedral, Rua Santa Maria with its artistic doors, the colourful farmersí market, Mercado dos Labradores.  You may wish to stay in Funchal for lunch and perhaps use the afternoon to explore some of the gardens. Madeira is known as "the island of eternal spring" because of its moderate climate. Flowers bloom year-round  and in winter you will be amazed at the botanical wonders.  There are several wineries if you wish to sample Madeira wine.

Day 4   Full day walking and sightseeing
Today we travel to the town of Canical on the north eastern side of the island to walk the Sao Lourenco Peninsula. This is a moderately challenging walk to the end of the peninsula and back (with a stop at the Rangers hut for lunch and and restrooms). The walk can be windy but the scenery is spectacular The elevation change is 400 metres on dirt and gravel paths (some stairs). The shorter walk ends at the Ramger's hut and returns to Canical by Zodiac (weather permitting). For those who do not wish to walk today there is an interesting Whaling Museum in Canical. After the walk we continue to the fishing village of Porto da Cruz to visit the 100 year old steam powered sugar mill before returning to the hotel.

 Day 5   free day
Optional Whale/dolphin watching excursions might interest you.
Optional:  Explore many beautiful gardens 
Try a local restaurant for lunch and sample the local delicacy, scabbard fish.  And be sure to try a "pastel de nata" (custard tart).

Day 6 Full day   Fanal Emerald Forest - two levels of walking  8 - 12 km
This idyllic place is one of the most emblematic in Madeira with crooked old trees somewhat like the ancient olives of the Mediterranean. The trees date back to a time before the discovery of Madeira. They are part of the indigenous Laurissilva, pre ice-age forest that once covered Europe. Walking is easy on open, grassy pasture land.

Day 7
Today we walk a portion of the Levada do Rei (also know as the KIng's levada) with spectacular views of the north coast of Madeira over the great Atlantic. Built by King Don Carlos I in the late 19th century, the levada was to irrigate the fields of Sao Jorge and to feed the water mills. The water-powered mill at Sao Jorge still grinds wheat, maize and barley grown on nearby terraces. The walk will treat you to splendid views of the Sao Jorge River Valley and the village of Ilha as well as the Atlantic.
One of the highlights of a visit to Madeira is a traditional BBQ. Beef or fish are skewered on bay leaf branches and cooked over a roaring open fire. They are served with home-made bread, salad and lots of wine (cost 22 euros).
On our return we stop at the postcard pretty village of Santana with its iconic red, white and blue A-frame houses.

 Day 8 
In the morning our private transportation takes us to the Mimosa Valley to start our walk.  This 7 km walk is situated in Machico and is an easy path along the levada where you will see local people going about their everyday tasks caring for their land and animals. Abundant flowers, fragrant shrubs and acacias grow all along the way. At the end of the path there is a short steep descent with a hand rail.  Fragrant mimosa trees grow in profusion and February is when they are in bloom.

Day 9 
We begin our day with the vibrant Sunday farmers' market in Santo da Serra. It is a great place to pick up a picnic lunch, sample homemade pastries or just browse. Beside the market are garden paths lined with blooming camelias. We continue to Serra de Agua, one of the most beautiful places in Madeira. for an easy 6 km hike amid diverse flora and fauna. Serra de Agua is an isolated village nestled in a charming valley and encircled by mountains. Its name comes from a historical watermill used for sawmilling  which was a primary source of income here thanks to the abundance of woods.

Day 10  In the morning there is a guided visit to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden which covers 70,000 sq metres and boasts 2,500 species of plants from all over the world, many of which are endangered. Established in 1960 on what was originally a private park owned by the Reid family (of Madeira wine fame), the garden allows visitors to enjoy a world tour of the plant kingdom and also to see the Natural History Museum and the Herbarium.

After this excursion there are plenty of things to do in Funchal. An exploration of the town might include lunch sampling Madeiran specialties like a "prego"  (a steak or fish sandwich using  grilled "bolo do caco" bread  smeared with garlic butter and cheese and served warm). Try it with a glass of Madeira wine and follow it with some passion fruit ice-cream.

Day 11 
Free day to enjoy the facilities at the hotel or to explore. Perhaps visit the Botanical Garden. Or sail on a replica of Christopher Columbus' ship, Santa Maria. Or take a ferry to the island of Porto Santo.

Day 12  Transfer to the airport for your return flight

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Madeira Accommodation
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