Madeira is renowned for its picturesque levada hikes, which allow visitors to explore the island's stunning natural landscapes. Levadas are narrow irrigation channels that were originally constructed to bring water from the mountains to the agricultural areas. Today, these levadas serve as hiking trails, offering breathtaking views of Madeira's mountains, valleys, and coastline. Here are our 5 favorite levada hikes on the island, for sure there is one for you!
1. Levada do Caldeirão Verde (PR9)
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde hike is probably one of the most beautiful hikes in Madeira. It takes you through the lush Ribeiro Frio forest and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The Levada do Caldeirão Verde begins in the Queimadas Forest Park, in the northern region of the island, in the municipality of Santana. The Park is known for its exuberant vegetation and lush forests.
The levada runs through the extraordinary Laurissilva forest - a type of subtropical forest known for its density and great diversity of endemic plant and animal species - declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1999. The path also takes you through cool rock tunnels so make sure to bring a headlamp so you don’t step into a water puddle or hit your head on the jagged tunnel ceiling. The trail leads to the breathtaking Caldeirão Verde, the green cauldron - which is the literal translation for Caldeirão Verde - a very narrow and high gorge.
The best comes at the end, the impressive Caldeirão Verde waterfall (100m), where water cascades down a moss-covered cliff which will leave you speechless. Here you can rest, enjoy the stunning setting, or a refreshing dip in the sparkling, clear water.
Length: 8 miles (12.9 km) round trip
Duration: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Easy- it’s relatively flat without too much incline.
Tip! Take some time in Santana to admire the traditional thatched-roof houses, known as "Santana houses". They are part of the island's cultural heritage and provide a glimpse into traditional Madeiran architecture.
2. Levada das 25 Fontes (PR6)
The Levada das 25 Fontes is probably the most popular hike in Madeira. It gets its name from the numerous springs and waterfalls that are located along the route. This iconic hike starts from Rabaçal and leads you through enchanting Laurissilva forests to the "25 Fontes," a captivating natural weeping wall of 25 streams that pour down into a gorgeous pool, where you can plunge in. From the viewpoint along the trail, you can admire the impressive Risco waterfall. You can also embark on the Levada do Risco trail which brings you to this waterfall through scenic landscapes where you can encounter unique flora, and enjoy panoramic views of the island's west coast.
Length: 5.4 miles (4.3 km) round trip
Duration: 3-3.5 hours
Tip! Be aware that the trail gets busy, especially in high season. So, if you are looking for a peaceful walk, be sure to get out early!
3. Verada da Ponta de Sao Louranço (PR8)
The Ponta de São Lourenço hike takes you to the most eastern end of the island of Madeira, close to the city of Caniçal. Ponta de São Lourenço is a protected area and is part of the Madeira Natural Park, ensuring the preservation of this unique ecosystem. This trail is known for its dramatic scenery, impressive cliffs, and panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Compared to other levied hikes in lush green forests, this trail winds along the rugged coastline. The vegetation in this region is more arid and adapted to wind and sun exposure conditions. There are very few trees, therefore it can become warm with cloudless skies and little shade.
The trail is relatively easy to walk, but there are some inclines on the way, and also the uneven nature of the path is a certain challenge. But it won’t hinder the wonderful views you get from every corner. Especially the view from the Ponta do Furado viewpoint at the end of the hike, is incredible and reaches the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. If you plan well your hike, you might be able to admire a gorgeous sunset.
Length: 4.5 miles (7.25 km) round trip
Duration: 2-3 hours
4. Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (PR1)
The hike from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in Madeira is probably the most challenging and most spectacular hike you can do in Madeira. This hike starts at Pico Ariero the second-highest mountain on the island at 1,818 meters and takes you to Pico Ruivo (1,862 meters) over and through mountains and gorges with stunning views of the surrounding valleys and the dramatic coastline of Madeira.
The first part of the trail is relatively easy winding through a valley. The real challenge starts when you climb up Pico Ruivo, but when you reach the top you will be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the island and the surrounding landscapes. There is also a small shelter where you can rest and enjoy the scenery before making your way back or continuing on to other trails.
Along the trail, you will pass through tunnels, traverse narrow paths, and encounter impressive rock formations. There are also designated viewpoints along the way where you can stop and admire the awe-inspiring vistas. One notable viewpoint is Miradouro das Torres, offering a stunning view of the valley below.
Be aware that the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, so it's advisable to check the forecast and be prepared for changing conditions.
Length: 7.5 miles (12.1 km) round trip
Duration: 5-6 hours
5. Levada Dos Balcões (PR11)
The Levada Dos Balcões is the perfect trail for a little adventure with incredible vistas of the highest peaks of the island of Madeira. With a short walk to and from the viewpoint, this is a great hike for families with children and those looking for an outstanding scenic spot without needing to trek for hours.
Vereda dos Balcões is located in the Ribeiro Frio region, in the municipality of Santana. The starting point of the trail is easily accessible from the main road and parking is available nearby.
The well-marked path leads you through a beautiful lush forest before finishing at the viewpoint known as Miradouro dos Balcões, which offers spectacular views of the Ribeiro Frio valley, surrounding mountains, and verdant forests. It is an ideal place to take a break, and appreciate the tranquility of nature.
Did you know? The name "Balcões" refers to a rock formation on the edge of the lookout that resembles some balconies.
Length: 1.8 miles (2.9 km) round trip
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy (over a short and flat trail)