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Walking in Madeira: Levada Walking on The Island of Madeira

Updated on July 9, 2016
Gabriel Wilson profile image

Gabriel lives on an Island. A beautiful small Island that enjoys a warm climate and beautiful landscapes. Far, far away from family.

Levadas Are Water Channels

Madeira is famous for her beautiful levada walks. Hundreds of magnificent water channels twist and wind over 2000 kilometers through breathtaking scenery. The channels were orginaly built by hand and are less than a meter in width. The channels will take you far away from the hustle and bustle of the city along old water ways that are still used to day; irrigating the farming lands and providing mountain herds with fresh flowing drinking water.

Walking trails meander through solid rock tunnels, around cliff paths, along rugged terrain and up steep hills. Choose a ramble through the Laurisilva Forrest or a gentle stroll over the plateau. Whether you ramble at leisure or conquer the highest peak, you will find mystery and wonder catapulting you back to your childhood. The Island has much to offer the avid walker.

Beautiful Views Over The Plateau: Paul De Serra, Madeira

Walking The Levadas in Madeira
Walking The Levadas in Madeira | Source
Above The Clouds in Madeira
Above The Clouds in Madeira | Source
The 25 Fontes in Madeira
The 25 Fontes in Madeira | Source
Flora and Fauna in Madeira
Flora and Fauna in Madeira | Source

Walking Pico Do Arieiro: One of The Highest Peaks in Madeira

The sky is a turquoise blue and the white fluffy clouds are below you. You are on top of the world, or so it seems. Standing at 1,818m Pico Do Arieiro the third highest mountain in Madeira stretches before you. Beyond lies Pico Das Torres 1,851m and Pico Ruivo 1,861m; a walk that will take 3 to 4 hours covering 12 km.

On a clear day you can see the sister Isle of Porto Santo in the distance. Morning views of Ponta de São Lourenço are also truly inspiring. Today this walk is classified as a difficult walk, taking you up a steep shepherds path and back down on the other side. The mountain scenery is fabulous and the peace and tranquility is amazing.

Finally arriving at Pico Ruivo the highest point; a deserved rest is in order. Continuing the journey to Achada Do Teixeira takes another 20 minutes. The end of the road or rather the beginning of the road as you will now have road connection once again, ribboning down the mountain side. As you descend, the magic of the scenery remains behind; nestled among the looming peaks.

The Island of Madeira

Map Of Madeira
Map Of Madeira

Walking Caldeirao Verde

Starting your walk in the Natural Park of Queimadas winding levadas will delight you. Wondrous amounts of greenery of different shades covers this area; the highest in Santana. The smell of cedar and laurel is high in the air. A few short tunnels (remember your torch) and you reach your final destination. The sound of running water lingers in the trees at Caldeirão Verde. And then a truly magnificent waterfall greets you. Prisms of coloured light create an abundance of delightful rainbows. Well worth the walk, taking about 4 hours to cover 12 km.

Cabo Girao: The Highest Sea Cliff in Europe

The highest sea cliff in Europe. The second highest in the world. The majestic views from this cliff top are nothing less than fantastic in fact awesome is probably a better discribtic word. Panoramic sights seep downward to turquoise waters below. The expansive ocean strechtes to meet the cloudless sky. A blue hazy merge.

Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful views as you begin your walk along the levada over tiny local villages. An abundance of colourful flowers, cultivated terraces and rural lands envelope you. The vast Atlantic Ocean will accompany your journey, 7 km and 2 to 3 hours later this delight full walk comes to an end. Relatively easy to moderate. A personal favourite and very pretty.

Walking The 25 Fontes West of Madeira

The famous walk of Rabaçal also called the 25 fontes which means 25 springs is a protected Nature Reserve. Walking along a water channel for about 9 km brings you to the 25 springs and numerous pretty rock pools. The walk is one of beautiful serene mountain greenery and deep ravine views. Making your way along the mountain side lush with remarkable evergreen landscape side by side along two of the original levadas on Madeira. The trail narrows here and there and at times it seems you a very close to the sloping brush down to the water below, certainly not for the faint hearted. A moderate walk of 3 to 4 hours leads through a rocky tunnel ending another wonderful exploration of Madeira.

Views Over Paul Do Mar West of Madeira

Paul Do Mar, Madeira
Paul Do Mar, Madeira | Source

Prazeres to Paul Do Mar

A spectacular walk taking you down steep cliffs to the seaside fishing village of Paúl do Mar. Looking out to sea the local fishing boats bob about, tiny dots in the middle of the ocean. The peace and quite is something special. The journey begins at the Hotel Jardim Atlântico. Signs mark your decent. A dramatic hike which will take about an hour or so.

Watch your step while admiring the fabulous views. A waterfall leads the way and crossing an old bridge brings your travels to the final leg of a wonderful walk.

Walking Safely

Rules of walking on the Island and indeed walking anywhere; are very important and must always be adhered to. The weather changes rapidly from rays of sunshine to mist and cloud, making it very easy to lose your sense of direction.

Steep drops and uneven terrain can make walking difficult. There are many companies that offer guided walks, picking you up from your hotel. This is a safe way whereby you can learn the history of the levada trails and also learn about the trees and species of wild flowers covering the mountain side.

Always Adhere to The Following Walking Rules:

  • Wear good walking shoes with a firm solid grip.
  • Ensure your shoes are comfortable and well broken in.
  • Wear light clothes that are a good fit.
  • Bring a rain mac (a light one).
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Bring still water and drink it.
  • Bring a snack; energy or cereal bars.
  • Walking sticks are recommended for steep difficult walks.
  • Don't carry too much, keep your back pack light.
  • When walking on your own; tell your hotel where you are going.
  • If the rating for a walk is a difficult grade, it means it's a difficult walk.
  • Stay on designated pathways.
  • Pay attention to signs.
  • Only walk maintained levadas.
  • Allow plenty of time to do a walk.
  • Be sure you plan your schedule, especially if using local transport.
  • Bring a torch (that works).
  • Get a weather forecast.
  • Be aware of grazing cattle.

On a more relaxed note by all means bring your camera; take photos and most of all enjoy the beauties of the real Madeira in all her natural glory. The Island is a true piece of heaven.

© 2010 Gabriel Wilson


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    • Gabriel Wilson profile image

      Gabriel Wilson 5 years ago from Madeira, Portugal

      It certainly is, who knows Madeira could be next. Hope you have a good time in Lisbon :)

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      Madeira. My dream destination. I'm going to Lisbon on Sunday. I guess that's a start!