The mountainous interiors of these steeply pitched volcanic islands are draped with a unique and lush ecosystem, the Laurisilva Rainforests of Madeira. Named for its flowering laurels, these forests are marbled with waterfalls and home to hundreds of endemic species, many endangered though this was once one of Europe's most common biomes.
This type of subtropical humid forest begins at an elevation of around 300 meters (984 feet), reaching its cool, misty pinnacle atop Pico Ruivo (1,861m / 6104ft). Well-worn hiking trails and winding roads wend through these rich forests, some specifically protected as biogenic and natural reserves with admission fees, such as Vale da Ribeira da Janela and the Deserta Islands. Others are less formally accessible, such as those around Santana and on the Selagem Islands. All are protected as part of Madeira Natural Park.
The Laurisilva Rainforests are scattered across the mountainous heights of Madeira and the surrounding islands. Any tourist office can point you toward maps, books, and tour operators that offer guided hikes and camping trips.