Apart from seeing all the flowers, the main reason to visit the Portuguese island of Madeira is to go hiking, particularly along levadas, i.e. irrigation channels which bring water from the wetter regions of the island to the drier.
On our last trip to Madeira 8 years ago we didn’t see much of the island due to a huge storm which brought heavy rains which caused many landslides and rockfall and unfortunately around 40 casualties. We carefully made our way around the island, not seeing much and forgetting even more. Returning was like going for the first time and we made sure we went on all the hikes we missed out on last time, including these two levada hikes.
Because levadas are virtually flat, they only need a slight incline to move the water from A to B, these hikes are more or less easy. But they are not to be underestimated- they can be long, wet and/or slippery. The very first hike we went on was along the Levada do Caldeirão Verde to the “Green Caldera”. From there we continued along the Levada do Caldeirão do Inferno.
It was a very wet hike, and I was decked out in waterproof pants, a rain cover for my backpack and a rain cape. There were little waterfalls along the path, plenty of mud and the trees and tunnels dripped water. Yes, tunnels. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight!
The hike itself was actually more interesting than the two calderas. You walk through lush forests and under little waterfalls and everything is so wonderfully green. Then you switch on your flashlight and go through a tunnel (mind your head!) and never know what view will surprise you when you walk out the other end. There are several tunnels of varying lengths and some have openings which let in a little light and offer fantastic views. The water rushes through the canals. Sometimes it is only a little trickling sound, other times it’s a roar.
The second levada hike we went on was to the “25 Fontes” (25 Fountains). We actually hiked a part of this trail last time, but I only vaguely remember it. What I do remember were the many birds pestering the tourists for food (they still do) and bushes which had slid down in mini landslides and blocked the trail. This hike had lower trees and less of a rainforest feel, but was equally fun. The funniest part was seeing trout in the levada. We wondered how they got there and it was great fun to watch them swim upstream and then turn and whizz in the other direction. It was a drizzly day and this hike was perfect for that kind of weather as the trees overhead blocked most of the moisture.
At the trailhead you’ll find the Rabaçal Nature Spot Café, the cutest little place which serves homemade cakes, cookies, quiches, soups and sandwiches. Definitely stop there to enjoy the view and have a bite to eat. Everything is delicious and the service is top.