Recently I recommend you quite hardcore places and hicks that require high fitness level (you can read more about them here: The best hikes and levada walks in Madeira). That is why, to change this dynamic, I want to show you an unique place and a light hike, which, despite being short and pleasant has an amazing surprises at the end.
The Vereda Dos Balcões in Madeira is a great trail for a small adventure with views of the highest peaks of the island. The route is only 1.5 kilometers long, making it perfect for a short walk or a trip with the family. The trail leads through a beautiful forest and ends at Balcoes (balcony) with a view of Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak (1862 m).
Some technical details:
- The distance (both directions): 3 km
- Hiking time: you can do it in an hour, but I would recommend you to book at least two hours to fully enjoy this place and a surprise at the end.
- Difficulty level: definitely one of the easiest hikes. There is almost no gradient, the trail is clearly marked and there are no dangerous sections.
- The slope: the total slope is only 30 m and it’s completely unnoticeable
How to get to Vereda Dos Balcões
The trail starts in the village of Ribeiro Frio in the municipality of Santana, and then follows the levada da Serra to Faial up to the Balcões lookout point. The village is an attraction itself. There are lush gardens, trout ponds and many wonderful streams and small waterfalls. Since it’s quite popular place, it’s difficult to find a parking space nearby, but the self-proclaimed parking lot stretches along the street. There are many restaurants and cafes. I recommend especially XXX – we came by for breakfast and coffee just after a sunrise on Pico do Arieiro (read about it here: Pico do Arieiro – the most beautiful place for a sunrise on Madeira) and to recharge the battery before the long hike Magical tropical Madeira – the Caldeirão Verde waterfall. It’s a very nice place with a good food. The trail itself is 23 km away from Funchal, and it takes about 40 minutes by car to get here.
Levada da Serra do Faial – fog, darkness and exoticism
We left Ribeiro Frio and follow the trail of Levada da Serra do Faial. This fantastic area is home to some beautiful plants and animals. During the hike through the Natural Park of Ribeiro Frio you can admire exotic trees and with a bit of luck you can see some of the rare birds that nest on their tops.
Vereda dos Balcões is one of the most popular trails in Madeira because of its short distance, flat terrain and wonderful viewpoint. No surprise, it’s also one of the busiest ones.
We started before noon. The weather was foggy and rainy, but there were no crowds. In my opinion it’s a good hike to start a day and do any other at the afternoon, so you can use the day fully.
Even on such a short trail, you can discover some nice spots, e.g. a section of a narrow path with the high rock walls on both sides, forming a natural corridor covered with vines and moss. There are also two chasms along the whole route that make an amazing impression. I really like this foggy and slightly dark weather in Madeira. Especially on the trails, high in the mountains, when you are covered with the fog and silence. This is the best vibe of Madeira! Here, too, it was like that and it only added to the climate when we walked through the dense forest.
After about 20 minutes of walking, we reached a small house and then turned left for the last section leading to the viewpoint on the Vereda dos Balcões.
From this place you can theoretically see breathtaking views of the Ribeira de Metade valley and its surroundings. On a clear day even Pico Ruivo (1861 m) and Pico do Areeiro (1817 m). Pico do Gato, Pico das Torres and the famous Penhad’Águia are also part of this scenery. I write theoretically, because to hit a day with good visibility in Madeira is equal to win a lottery. When I talked to any of my friends about this place, everyone claimed that it was foggy and they could not see further than one meter. Madera is famous for its clouds, which very often cover the peaks, so I would suggest to be very chill about the weather and rather not make any plans dependent on it. Anyway, I think that this darkness makes the island unique and makes the landscape very interesting.
Vereda Dos Balcões – surprise at the end
Vereda dos Balcões is visited not only for the views, but also because it’s a perfect place for observing birds. The most popular are: the Firecrest, the chaffinch, the grey wagtail, the common buzzard, and the very rare Madeira pigeon.
Birds here are familiar with tourists who feed them with small seeds. They are tame enough to eat directly from their hands. All you have to do is to place some seeds on your hand and wait patiently. They will come to you, appearing suddenly in the thick fog.
Did I write you that this trail could be made in an hour? I take it back! I was stuck for 1.5 hour on this balcony fascinated by the proximity of these fragile creatures. I think that every sensitive person who loves nature will behave in exactly the same way.
Additionally, it’s a brilliant place to practice your photographic skills – capturing a bird in motion is a rare opportunity and an amazing challenge for the photographer. In my opinion, photographing animals is one of the most beautiful experiences and adventures. Anyway, look at these photos. This vibe is flawless!
The way back goes the same way, but don’t think that you have already seen everything. One of the best things in Madeira is that every time you visit it, there are new discoveries, experiences and sensations that make this journey unique.
The photos you can see in this post are the effect of my collaboration with Michael. We believe in the synergy effect, which is why we have decided to work together during this trip. We hope that it will be an inspiration for your European trips.