This is a paid article written in partnership with Discover Madeira alongside Discovery Island, with products or services supplied by them. Full editorial integrity is maintained at all times. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.
Madeira is a truly unique and diverse archipelago, and one of the best ways to explore the island’s breathtaking scenery is through its iconic levada walks. If you want to explore Madeira at a pace that suits you, here is a list of Madeira’s best levada walks for you to choose from.
Madeira is quite simply a hikers paradise. The volcanic island has an array of mountainous views, lush forest, vast countryside and epic coastlines to explore, and there is no better way to do that than by following the famous levada trails.
The levada walks follow the open canal system unique to Madeira that was developed on the island in the 15th Century to distribute and carry water from the rain filled and mountainous north to the drier regions in the south. Starting out as rudimentary waterways to aid irrigation, there are now over 3000km of levadas leading to four hydroelectric power stations and navigating across the entire island, becoming a remarkable cultural landmark in and of themselves.
Given that the levadas cross the entire island there are a lot of walking and hiking trails that have been developed to follow them, far too many to do in one trip. Here is a list of the most popular so that you can choose what suits you based on the landscape you want to see and your ability. Some of them are very easy walks and ccan be done with very little difficulty on your own, but others are more difficult and some even treacherous, especially in heavy rain, so may require a local guide. Use your judgement and remember that guides often add a lot more to the experience than simply making sure you get from a to b.
No specific equipment is required for most trails. All you need are a good pair of walking trainers or boots, comfortable layers of clothing with a waterproof layer if it starts raining or you head near a waterfall (you will add and remove layers frequently in this climate) and a small backpack for water and essentials. A head torch may be a good idea for those trails with tunnels under the natural rock.
Trail Ponta De Sao Lourenco.
11 kilometres long, moderate to hard difficulty.
More of a hiking trail than a specific levada walk I just had to include this as a must see for any visit to Madeira. This trail takes in some of the spectacular coastline on the very easterly edge of the island in Canical and offer some truly amazing views over the Atlantic ocean. This almost barren part of the island holds some unique fauna and flora and a lot of volcanic rock formations, perfect for those who want to explore the more remote parts of Madeira! Starting at the parking lot at Ponta de Sao Lorenco in Canical the trails are easy to find and follow, be aware though that although most people, including children and the elderly, can complete with a reasonable level of moderate fitness this isn’t an easy stroll in the countryside either. Expect a lot of steps, changeable weather, absolutely no shade from the burning sun and quite often strong wind that was enough for me to check my balance more than once! And I’m a big guy! If you follow this route though you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views on the whole island.
Levada Do Norte.
8 Kilometres long, easy difficulty.
This route takes you along one of the largest and most important levadas in the entire island and basically cuts a path right through the centre of Madeira from the south coast. Starting just below the Cabo Girao, the path takes you up to the Boa Morte area in Ribeira Brava. The climate here is relatively mild which means this trail can be done year round, and will take in the lower altitude countryside and plantations. Perfect for those walkers who want to explore the southern interior but don’t want too strenuous a hike.
Levada Do Moinho.
9 kilometres long, easy difficulty.
This trail starts from the Lombada da Ponta do Sol, near the Church of the Lombada. Starting in some of Madeira’s lush terraced farmland you will get fantastic views over the small village of Ponta do Sol. If you hike up to the end of the trail you can climb the path that leads up to the Levada Nova that leads to a spectacular waterfall. If you take this route it is strongly recommended that you get a guide due to the sharp drops and fragile trails. The trail loops round on itself and you will end back at the Church of the Lombada.
Levada Dos Marocus.
7 Kilometres long, easy difficulty.
This route takes you through the agricultural heartland of Madeira as the levadas supply the land with much needed water. The carefully cultivated and tiered farmland gives hikers a glimpse into the culture of rural Madeira and there are often stops along the way where you can buy seasonal fruit direct from the farmers who have just harvested them! The mild climate means that this is a perfect route for any time of the year.
Levada Do Rei.
12 Kilometres long, easy to moderate difficulty.
One of Madeira’s most unmissable levada walks is the popular king’s walk, or levada do rei. A full 12 kilometre trail leads you through the UNESCO world heritage Laurissilva forest, past small river waterfalls and deep into the unspoilt interior of the island. This is considered one of the most beautiful interior levada trails in Madeira and is perfect for bird and wildlife lovers too.
Levada Do Caldeirao Verde.
15 Kilometres long, moderate difficulty.
For those who loved the levada do rei, the caldeiro verde is absolute paradise. Starting at the Queimadas Forest Park in Santana the trail leads you up into the mountains through lush forest, takes you on a series of increasingly thin pathways with a steep drop on one side with amazing views over the forest and of the village of Sao Jorge, and the levada itself on the other (there are railings on parts of the trail so don’t worry), a few tunnels to explore that gives the trail more of an adventurous edge than some of the others, and then finally rewards you with the magnificent caldeiro verde waterfall and a cool, crystal clear lagoon that you can swim in, as long as you remembered your trunks! If you drive here on your own get here early as there is not much parking at all at the forest park.
Levada Ribeiro Frio To Portela.
16 Kilometres long, easy to moderate difficulty.
Starting at Ribeiro Frio in Machicho, which is a destination worth spending some time in itself with its famous trout farm perfect for a stroll and a spot of brunch before you start your walk, the trail leads you through the lush forest following the path of the levada straight to Portela. The trail is flat and easy but is long, so if you are a slow walker (which is absolutely fine) it is worth setting aside a full day, especially if you want to enjoy a little bit of Ribeiro Frio first.
Levada Ribeiro Frio To Vereda Dos Balcoes.
1 – 2 Kilometres long, very easy difficulty.
This is one of the easiest levada walks on Madeira, is great for family’s or those who just want an easy stroll and gives you some amazing forest views. Starting at Ribeiro Frio, wide, easy forest trails lead you up to a viewing point that overlooks the forests and mountain peaks, and shouldn’t take most people more than half an hour at an easy pace. This is one of the most popular levada walks in Madeira, probably because of its ease and amazing views, and can get busy, but is still worth checking out.
11 Kilometres long, moderate difficulty.
Starting at Rabacal in Calheta, this trail is one of the best and most popular in Madeira. Otherwise known as the 25 fountains trail for good reason, this easy trail leads you through endemic forest alongside the well maintained levada, through Madeira’s very own miniature version of Ireland’s Dark Hedges and then on to a series of 25 fountains, waterfalls and lagoons for you to count as you head up to the final cascade at Risco! If the weather is nice you can even take a dip in the lagoon! It can get a little busy on nice days though and waterproof layers are definitely recommended, but there is a nice cafe at the end of the trail once you get back to Rabacal.
Madeira is a truly spectacular island and one of the best ways to explore it is by taking one of these trails and exploring the landscape on foot.
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