When looking for what to do in Madeira one of the most notable activities is the “Levadas”. The “Levadas” are small irrigation canals that serve to redirect water from one area to another.
The origin of the “Levada” in Madeira goes back to the fifteenth century when it was used to fulfil the need to carry and distribute the water from the rainy north of the island to the areas further south. Rainwater and water from natural springs were channelled to be “taken” - “Levadas” - to the various plantations and wells scattered around the island ... This is why they are called “Levadas”!
They are actually mini canals or irrigation systems that allowed the ancient inhabitants to “take” the water to their crops, in places with difficult access. This way, when you walk along a “Levada”, not only you are contemplating the magnificent scenery that Madeira Island has to offer, but you are also experiencing our history and tradition.
Throughout your journey, there is a trail that follows the Levada.
The “Levadas” can be found all over the island and many go through our laurel forest, which was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1999. Years later, it was chosen as one of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal” and is today seen as a “European Paradise for Walks”. The beautiful green landscapes, the natural tunnels that go through rocks, lagoons with crystal clear waters, stunning vegetation, the singing of endemic birds - “Pombo Trocaz”, the “Bis-Bis”, the “Tentilhão” - the waterfalls, and the sensational views over the valleys and mountains, make experiencing the “Levadas” in Madeira a must for nature lovers.
The Levada provides a contact with nature and the history of Madeira!
The “Levadas” gained prominence as a tourist attraction around the 80s. They were initially constructed with wood but over the years it was found that they had to be built of stone in order to preserve their durability.
Our suggestions are that you discover the "Queimadas - Caldeirão Verde", the "Rabaçal - Risco - 25 Fontes" and the "Ribeiro Frio - Portela".
"Queimadas - Caldeirão Verde"
The Levada "Queimadas - Caldeirão Verde" it’s a safe route and runs a distance of 6.5 km (plus 6.5 km return), it takes approximately 4 hours and is located between a 900 to 980 meters altitude. The views are spectacular and in some parts it’s possible to see the north coast of the island. We go through several tunnels dug into the rock (the use of flashlight is required) and some waterfalls along the way. Finally, we arrive at the “Caldeirão Verde”: a wonderful scenery with an amazing waterfall over a pond of crystal clear water. It seems an enchanted place!
"Rabaçal - Risco - 25 Fontes"
The "Rabaçal - Risco - 25 Fontes" is another that you cannot miss: it’s perhaps the most popular among our tourists. It runs a distance of approximately 12 km (6 km forward plus 6 km to return), it takes approximately 4 hours and it’s located between a 900 to 1300 meters altitude.
It’s located within the Madeira Natural Park, so it’s sure that you will find a lot of beautiful, rich and amazing views. It is possible to observe some species of plants that are part of our Laurel Forest and unique birds that only exist in Madeira.
The two main attractions are the "Risco" – a straight waterfall in the form of a "line" (Risco) - and at the end, a pond formed by 25 natural fountains. A surreal and must-visit scenery.
"Ribeiro Frio - Portela"
The Levada "Ribeiro Frio - Portela" is worth the visit because of the magnificent views that it offers over and inside our Laurel forest. It's probably the most beautiful Levada in Madeira. It runs a distance of approximately 11km, it takes approximately 4 hours and is located at an altitude between 500 and 900 meters. Before you start this journey you can take get to know the Ribeiro Frio, one of the most emblematic places ir our Island. Visit its beautiful garden and the famous pond with trout.
The Levada takes you inside the Laurel Forest - recognized by UNESCO in 1999 as Natural Heritage of Humanity - and the expericence is astonishing. The trail follows the Levada over its entire length and you can see some endemic species of flora and fauna of Madeira. In the Levada, you will occasionally see some trout.
All the “Levadas” are worth discovering because of their natural beauty but not all are easy to access. It is advisable that hikers have prior knowledge of the route and take appropriate precautions with regard to the necessary equipment (flashlights for tunnels, for example). When considering your choice of Levada you should also be aware if you are afraid of heights and are not accustomed to the sometimes long walks that some of these Levadas offer.