A guide to the levadas walking trails of Madeira
Madeira is a stunning place for a walking holiday and if you are looking for singles adventure travel ideas that let you enjoy beautiful natural surroundings and good company as you stroll, you won’t find anywhere better. One of the things that makes Madeira stand out as a hiking destination is its network of levadas, which provide a host of trails that crisscross the island.
What are levadas?
Levadas are channels cut into the hillsides to transport water to the various terraces and plantations on Madeira, which is a very mountainous island due to its volcanic origins. These
narrow irrigation channels cover some 1,500 km and most were constructed along the hillsides and cliffs by hand.
The levadas are constantly running downhill, often on a gentle slope, but in places this can become quite steep. The main reason to follow the levadas when you go walking is the stunning views you can enjoy from the paths that track the canals. As the channels often run along the edge of sheer cliffs and hills, you will be able to see for miles as you wander.
Highlights of levada walking
As you might expect, there are dozens of routes you can follow all over the island, some of which can take you to remote areas. If you’re travelling solo, it’s always best to join a group rather than striding out alone to ensure you remain safe and don’t get lost. Here are a few of the top levada walks you can tackle on your trip to Madeira:
Caldeirao Verde – This levada is one of the most spectacular on the island as it delivers water from the highest mountains to the lower terraces. This path will lead you into the centre of the isle, through the stunning forested valleys of the Queimadas Forestry Park. One of the most impressive sections of this route to Caldeirao Verde and the streambed where the levada starts is the tunnel, which was carved by hand through the rock face.
Levada do Moinho – Starting out in Ribeira da Cruz and ending in Junqueira, this trail will take you along the Levada do Moinho, so named because of the watermills that were constructed at various points along the channel. The remains of three of these structures can still be seen today, making this an interesting route to follow.
Levada das 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco – This trail follows two different levadas, one of which passes the 25 spring lagoon, which gives it its name. You will start your hike 1,000 m above sea level on Levada do Risco and pass a stunning waterfall before descending to meet Levada das 25 Fontes to reach the lagoon. This is an impressive sight, as the water trickles down the sheer cliff at the back of the pool and appears to come out of the rock itself.
Vereda do Pico Ruivo – Follow this path and you will reach the top of Madeira’s highest mountain – Pico Ruivo. If you have completed the Caldeirao Verde trail, you will already have seen the towering peak, as this track takes you close to the mountain. From the summit of Pico Ruivo at 1,861 m above sea level you will certainly have wonderful views across the rest of the island, although there will be breathtaking panoramas in every direction as you walk along the ridge that runs between the cliffs Faial and Santana. Expect to see the verdant valleys and striking mountains that characterise Madeira’s landscape while you stroll.