Madeira 5 - Hike along coastal cliffs through the Boca do Risco
Vereda do Risco - from Machico to Porto da Cruz
I love coastal walks!
And the steeper the coast, the more wonderful. Before all the tunnels in Madeira were built, this exposed path - 300m above the raging surf - was the only and fastest route connecting the Eastern town of Machico to Porto da Cruz.
Start: Machico 10m
End: Porto da Cruz 24m
Length: 15 km
Approximate walking time: 4:40
Altitude meters: 380 up, 410 down
Tip: Like many hikes in Madeira, the hike is not a circular route. Those who have not organized a pick-up will be walking the coastal path, as shown on the map. There and back it would be 18km. However, Porto da Cruz is a nice end point and having a coffee there at the end of the hike is a great reward ...
Map: I have saved the route in Komoot. You can see the details upon login. (https://www.komoot.de/tour/299660124?ref=wtd)
Refreshments: In Porto da Cruz there are several bars right by the beach.
Hiking guide book: Rother hiking guide "Madeira - The most beautiful Levada and Mountain hikes" 2020
Hiking guides: Madeira Adventure Kingdom and Madeira Experience Tours both offer guided walks.
We did this walking tour with Madeira Experience Tours.
You can find tips for accommodations in my blog Madeira 1 - What to do in Madeira?
Goncalo Vieira is a former handball pro who played for the national team and our hiking guide for the day. Even as a child, when asked what he would like to do later, he said: "Nothing that involves sitting down most of the time". His international travels for the national team took him all over Europe, although he “often only saw the inside of the handball halls”, as he admits. But it was clear to him that he wanted to stay in Madeira at the end of his sports career.
“Here you have high mountains, dense forests and the sea, all within a couple of hours of each other,”
he tells us, as we slowly climb uphill from Machico at the beginning of our hike along the Levada do Caniçal. "Did you know, for example, that in Madeira, 60% of the moisture is not stored in the soil, but in the plants – for example in mosses and lichens?"
We didn't know.
For me there are many advantages to hiking with a local guide:
1. You learn things that you didn't know before, 2. You support the locals, 3. You'll get a pickup at the end of the hike (very practical in Madeira), 4. You'll find unknown paths and especially 5th: you'll get to know people who will reveal unexpected facts about the area.
We leave the Levada after the last huts along the way and take a steepish path to the right to the Boca do Risco saddle. Boca do Risco means “dangerous opening”. For us it is a gigantic revelation, because from here we overlook the north coast of Madeira and see the path we’ll be taking, which meanders 300m above the surf along the steep coast. Happily, I take photos in the most beautiful sunshine. 5 minutes later it is pouring with rain. Gonzalo laughs
“This is Madeira! The weather changes quickly and you always have to be prepared for anything.”
No matter how sunny it is in the morning - we now always pack a rain jacket. Which is especially appropriate for this hike, because we have to cross several smaller waterfalls. I torture my two companions a bit and repeatedly have them come back for a better photo 😁.
But as fast as the rain appears, it soon vanishes again. The landscape looks freshly washed and at every bend there is a new view of the spectacular cliffs, which shimmer in a soft green over the blue sea. The route is impossible to miss, because there is only one path carved into the mountains ...
After the last bend we see the mighty eagle rock, which shelters at the foot of the little fisherman village Porto da Cruz. Here at the end of our destination we treat ourselves to a drink right by the sea. The sun is shining and meter-high waves roll onto the coast just next to us - a spectacular ending for an even more spectacular hike!
So now we had a hike through dense forest and one along a wild coast ... what’s left?
Correct: a classy mountain hike!