Hiking in Madeira: The Best Levada Walks

Last updated: 12 May 2020 | Guides, Portugal

Risco waterfall
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Hiking in Madeira is probably one of the best things you can do while on the island. If you are an avid hiker, you will be pleasantly surprised by the numerous hiking trails, paths and levadas in Madeira. In addition to that, while you are hiking in Madeira you will get to witness Europe’s most stunning views!

Madeira is an immensely hospitable island and attracts many visitors all year round. Its beautiful landscapes, mild climate and delicious cuisine are some of the reasons to visit. Not to mention that you get lots of Madeira walks to conquer! That is why I curated this hiking in Madeira guide, so you can get a glimpse of what you can expect and do while trekking Madeira. 

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Hiking in Madeira Itinerary Map

Hiking in Madeira Itinerary Map
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Hiking in Madeira

Hiking in Madeira is not like a regular mountain hike. The island sits atop of a massive volcano, which might make the soil quite unstable. Each year there are many landslides and rockfalls causing lots of trouble for the locals and sometimes for the tourists. However, you can always check the condition of the hiking trail here. That being said, it is of utmost importance that you move around the island cautiously. Safety should always be first!

During your stay on the island, you will be lucky enough to choose from more than 30 trails for hiking in Madeira. Yes, you read that right! Madeira has more than 30 hiking trails spread around the island ready for you to explore. So, put your hiking shoes on and start your wild hiking trip in Madeira!

Hiking in Madeira to Ruivo peak

Vereda do Areeiro

If you would like to do some long-distance hiking in Madeira, Vereda do Areeiro is the perfect hiking trail for you! The Vereda do Arieiro is the hiking trail that connects two of the highest peaks in Madeira. Its starting point is at Pico Areeiro, which can be easily reached by car. From there you can follow the paved path that will lead you to Madeira’s highest peak – Pico Ruivo. 

Along the way, you will see some of the most spectacular vistas of the north and south part of the island. One of the stops along the way is Miradouro do Ninho da Manta. From it you can see the northern mountain range and Pico Areeiro. It is also the place where the buzzards are breeding and is considered a protected area. 

After this viewpoint, the path continues down the paved road and to Pico das Torres. Thus, after some dangerous staircases and tunnels you will end up on the trail’s hardest point – the shelter of Pico Ruivo. However, once you climb that, you will witness the most breathtaking view of them all. You will be able to see the whole island… from above!

Vereda do Arieiro is probably the most difficult and exhausting trail on the island. The trail takes about 8 hours in total, including the return back to Pico do Arieiro. Do not underestimate this trail! There are lots of rockfalls along the way and especially near Pico das Torres. Thus, be very cautious when passing by it and do it fast.

Hiking in Madeira

Levada das 25 Fontes

If I have to name the most beautiful of the levada walks in Madeira, that will be the Levada das 25 Fontes! Its lush Laurel forests, cheerful fauna and beautiful waterfalls are introducing a heavenly place to its visitor. 

The levada start at the parking lot of the Levada das 25 Fontes next to the regional road ER110. There you can enjoy a very beautiful view of Gazebo Rabaçal overlooking the whole landscape. After that, the path continues downhill to a swirling road, which will end at the trail’s signs. From there you can follow the path that will lead you to the Rabaçal cafe set in the middle of the lush forest. Then, follow the path to the 25 Fontes Falls, which is a half-caved waterfall. There you can stop for a break and have a little picnic to re-charge yourself. 

After that, follow the sign to Risco waterfall, which will take you around an hour to reach, but it depends on your pace. The Risco waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls on the island and probably the loudest. Even if you are away from it, you will still hear the water falling from 100 meters height down to its pool. 

However, if you still have more energy left I would suggest that you try to reach the Lagoa do Vento. The Lagoa do Vento is the waterfall over Risco waterfall and is not a path everybody takes on. The terrain is quite muddy and tough, but with proper hiking shoes you will do just perfect. The effort is definitely worth it and you will enjoy one of the best waterfall views on the island!

Ponta do Sao Lourence in Madeira

Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço

Are you ready for another adventure? If you are, pack your stuff, put your hiking shoes on and head east to Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço. The trail is set at the easternmost point of Madeira and was named after one of the discoverers of the island Lourenço. In the past, it was often referred to as the “End of the World”, because of its vastness and harsh nature. Nowadays, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço is one of the best Madeira ocean trails. It is holding one of the most scenic landscapes that will make your jaw drop. Some of them are the vistas of the Porto Santo and Desert islands. Furthermore, on a clear sunny day, Pico Ruivo is visible.

 🧐 Tip: The weather is unpredictable and there is strong wind. Make sure to dress properly!

The hiking trail’s starting point is at the parking lot of the same name. After that, it continues down a swirling pathway that has lots of uphills that will make you sore. Along the way, there are lots of stops and viewpoints to enjoy. Praia São Lourenço is the pebble beach of the trail and can be reached by descending down by its stairway. After that, you can stop by Ponto de Vista and Ponta do Castelo viewpoints to observe the nearby islands. If you are lucky it is possible to spot the Porto Santo island.

Eventually, you will have to climb up for one last time to reach the best viewpoint of the hiking trail – Morro do Furado. Honestly, this viewpoint is absolutely breathtaking! From it you will spot the Cevada island at the front and also the Desert islands, which is a nature reserve. 

To hike the path of São Lourenço takes around 6 hours if you walk at a normal pace. Thus, be prepared for the tough hike!

 🧐 Tip: After this exhausting hike make sure to stop by in Funchal for a fullfiling meal at O Calhau!

Hiking in Madeira to Ribeira da Janela

Vereda da Ribeira da Janela

The starting point of Vereda da Ribeira da Janela is set deep into the forest over the city of the same name. It is close to the ER209 highway and you can use the little parking lot to park your car. Close to it you will find the starting point of the hiking trail.

Vereda da Ribeira da Janela is an old one-way pathway that the locals used to bring wood from the forests to the village. Moreover, the path was used as a connection for the cities of the north to the cities of the south in Madeira. The pathway goes through a tough terrain with lush vegetation and requires good touristic shoes. Nevertheless, it is an nice hiking trail, which is leading you downhill, so there is no climbing. Luckily!

However, when you start descending to the city you will witness one of the most traditional agricultural vistas in Madeira. Fields full of potatoes, maize and vineyards are spread around the hills in the city of Ribeira da Janela, creating a one of a kind view.

At the end, when you are in the city make sure to check out its hidden pebble beach. It is one of the most incredible places on the island and is not a well-known spot. You can easily reach it by going to the parking lot of Ribeira da Janela. After that, on the right you will see a stairway carved into the huge rock formation. This will lead you to the pebble beach and the islets of Janela. 

 🧐 Tip: Check out Porto Moniz’s Natural Swimming pools, which are 10 minutes drive away from Ribeira da Janela!

Hiking in Madeira

Levada do Rei

The King’s levada is set in the north part of Madeira island. Its starting point is at the Caminho das Eiras street and leads deep into the forests. 

The levada is famous for being home to one of the oldest Laurisilva forests on the island. The Laurisilva forests in Madeira are declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1999. Consequently, the locals are trying to preserve them as much as they can and I would ask you to do the same. Having this in mind, do not take or leave anything in the forest. 

During your levada walk on the King’s way, you will encounter many endemic species and tiny birds. In addition to that, you will enjoy some panoramic views of Sao Jorge village, as well as its fields that are all around. 

The Levada do Rei is perfect for a casual walk and if you would like to unwind for a bit. Furthermore, the trail is not that crowded so you can enjoy some time alone there. 

Levada Walks in Madeira

Levada do Caldeirao Verde

The Levada do Caldeirao Verde is one of the well-known hiking trails and really nice one in Madeira. That is why it is often packed with crowds of enthusiasts that want to hike on it. 

The levada walk starts at the Queimadas Forestry Park‘s parking lot. From there you can simply follow the signs and go straight into the forest. During your levada walk, you will see one of the newest aqueducts built in the 18th century to bring fresh water to the nearest fields. In addition to that, while walking you will go through a couple of hand-carved tunnels out of the huge rocks. Thus, it is good to bring a lighter or turn your light on the phone while crossing them. 

Eventually, after you pass through all of the tunnels you will find yourself next to Caldeirao Verde lake and its waterfall. There you can stay for a while and enjoy the serenity of the surrounding environment before going back to the starting point. 

Vereda dos Balcoes in Madeira

Vereda dos Balcoes

Vereda dos Balcoes is probably the shortest hiking trail on Madeira island. Its starting point is next to ER103 highway in Ribeiro Frio and takes you for a short walk to Balcões viewpoint. This trail does not require any special equipment or training, thus it is suitable for anybody. 

Along the way, you will have the chance to see very beautiful views over the city of Ribeiro Frio and of the surrounding mountain range. Once you get to the Balcões viewpoint you will see the city of Faial in the northern part of the island and Penha d’Águia rock formation. If you are lucky enough and the sky is clear you can observe Pico Ruivo, Arieiro, Torres and Gato. 

The view from the balcony is quite amazing and there are many little canaries flying around and singing. Thus, it is definitely a very nice place to stay for a bit and unwind.

When you go back to Ribeiro Frio you can stop there to try some delicious food at Cafe Restaurant Jardim do Vale or buy souvenirs. Furthermore, you can check out the trout reserve nearby where the locals are breeding one of the finest trouts on the island.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to stay in Madeira for hiking?

There are many places where you can stay in Madeira for hiking. If you are an avid hiker and don’t mind sleeping outside it is best to get your camping permission. Only then, you will be able to camp in Madeira 🙂

However, you can also stay at one of the nicest campings along the island. I would suggest you try Calhau Grande, which are nice cottage houses situated in Calheta. Otherwise, you can check the camping park in Porto Moniz or Nature Inn in Seixal.

Is it possible to do a Madeira Multi Day Hike?

If you would like to make a multi day hike in Madeira it will be best to hike the Vereda do Arieiro. During the night you can camp around Pico Ruivo’s shelter and stargaze. On the next day, you can continue on Vereda da Ilha, which will lead you to Achada do Teixeira. There you will find a couple of restaurants to fill your hunger and will enjoy the scenic views surrounding the place.

What is a Levada in Madeira?

The levada trails of Madeira are complex irrigation channels. Their only purpose was to carry freshwater from the springs and rivers down to the drier areas.

The irrigation system was built mostly by enslaved people that were brought to Madeira by the Portuguese. They had to build the aqueducts into the most unbelievable places and cut into the sides of the mountains. Often, they made tunnels for the aqueducts, so that the water runs freely.

Nowadays, going on a levada walk in Madeira, means you will witness endless watercourses all over the trail. Honestly, that is a good way of knowing that you are on the right path. That’s simply because most of the hiking trails in Madeira are set within the irrigation system.

What is a Vereda in Madeira?

The veredas, unlike the levadas in Madeira, are the hiking trails of the island. Their sole purpose is to lead you from point A to point B unharmed. Thus, follow the signs and do not play stupid 🙂

Is hiking in Madeira safe?

Hiking in Madeira is considered to be a quite safe activity. However, it is of upmost importance that you check the weather forecast and the condition of the trails before going! Safety is always first!

I hope that you liked this guide about Hiking in Madeira. Did you visit any of the suggested landmarks?

Which one was your favourite?


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