The best way to discover the island
Levadas extend over 2.150 km in the whole Island. They carry water for domestic and industrial uses, as well as supplying the hydroelectric power stations. In most cases, the levadas have paths alongside them and sometimes they are the only access to reach the more secluded and primitive places of Madeira’s forest like Caldeirão Verde in Santana. The reason for building them was to transport water from the north side of the island, where water was more plentiful, to the south side where water was less abundant. Here, it was more needed because of the concentration of the population in the south and therefore, the need to water their crops. Levadas started to be built in the XVI century and the most recent ones in the 1940s. They represent an extraordinary work: hewn out of the rock by men suspended over the rock face using very rudimental tools. They worked in perilous conditions demanding physical effort and enormous courage. Nowadays, Levadas are one of the major attractions of Madeira. Walkers who can enjoy all the beauty of the landscape that Madeira has to offer seek them out. Some of the more well known are Levada do Caldeirão Verde, Levada da Serra do Faial, Balcões (Santana), Levada do Risco and 25 Fontes (Rabaçal). The knowledgeable environmentalist Eng Rui Vieira asserted that “Levadas” are the most important expression of the identity of Madeira”. In fact, Levadas are an unbelievable evidence of the skillful and friendly people who built them and left them as a heritage to the islanders helping to promote Madeira abroad.
Some advice to walkers on Madeira and Porto Santo
Walking on Madeira and neighbouring Porto Santo is invigorating, exciting and hugely rewarding. Any regular walker will find the Madeira Islands both a challenge and a delight, and, we hope, a pleasant surprise. Madeira is a volcanic island rising from the very significant depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and the result is a wonderfully convoluted landscape that will enchant any walker. It is breathtaking in every sense of the word. At one extreme there are walks that follow the course of the levadas, ancient water courses that ingeniously serpent their way across the island and often in the most spectacular setting. At the other extreme, the peaks that gather round Pico Ruivo are uneven and full of rocky footpaths.
Walks (easy to difficult)Try choosing only those walks that are most suited to your own standard of fitness and experience. Most walks involve varying amounts of 'up and down' paths. People who have problems with heights or are unaccustomed to occasionally steep ascents and descents, should avoid the more difficult trails.
Being prepared for the weatherMadeira is known for it’s pleasant weather. Even when it rains, there is always a spot in the sun on the island. However, you should be prepared for muddy trails, and windy and cold weather for when you walk up to the highest peaks. The average temperature in Madeira is 25ºC in the summer and 15ºC in the winter. Carrying a bag containing waterproofs, a hat, sun cream, and a good map is always a good idea. A torch, whistle, a compass can be useful too. On some walks you will find interesting tunnels. It is essential that walking boots are worn for all walks. Please also bear in mind that some paths may be overgrown and/or are flanked by bushes and brambles or be muddy due to waterfalls.
For your own safety
- Before starting out make sure you have update instructions on the route
- Let someone else know where you are going and when you expect to return
- Be sure to confirm the time it will take so that you can finish before nightfall
- Take some extra food and water with you
- Wear suitable clothes and shoes
- If possible, take a mobile phone with you
- In case of heavy rain or strong winds do not go on and/or turn back using the same route
- Don’t take risks
An adult should accompany children on all walks.
Emergency number: 112
Civil Protection: 291 700 112