At one extreme there are walks that follow the course of the levadas, ancient water courses that ingeniously serpent their way across the island, always gently descending, and often in the most spectacular setting. At the other extreme, the summits that gather round Pico Ruivo are craggy and rugged, networked with rocky footpaths.
It is vital that you choose only those walks that are most suited to your own standard of fitness and experience. Most walks involve varying amounts of 'up and down'; some are circular, some linear. All are outstanding, but walkers who do not have a good head for heights or are unaccustomed to occasionally steep ascents and descents, should avoid the more difficult walks.
To what concerns protective clothing in January, it can rain and it can scorch. You need to be prepared for both, although the average temperature in Madeira rarely falls below 15˚C.
All walkers must carry a day sack containing waterproofs, a hat, gloves, spare clothing, whistle, food and drink, the relevant map and a compass. On some walks you will also find a torch useful, as some of the levada walks pass through tunnels. You may also need to carry sun cream.
It is essential that walking boots are worn for all walks. Walk leaders have the right to decline to accept on any walk persons whose footwear may, in their opinion, be potentially hazardous.
Please also bear in mind that some paths may be overgrown and/or are flanked by bushes and brambles.
Children should be accompanied by an adult on all walks.