Portuguese island features network of scenic trails

With its emerald green forests, path walks over cliffs, tropical flowers, mysterious tunnels, and adventurous trails, the island of Madeira is a must for fans of nature and fresh, open air travel.

This Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean 500 km west of Africa and 1,000 km from Europe is famous for its exotic flowers and mild weather. It also offers a unique way of exploring the land — strolls along the levadas.

Levadas are pathways carved in the rock alongside the irrigation canals that bring water from the northern, wetter hills of the island to the south.


The Atlantic ocean is within sight from every point, even at the highest spots. Mix all of this with the flat and easy trails, and you have an unforgettable holiday in the middle of nature, on an island that has much more to offer than just sea, sun and gardens.

The return journey is made without rush and offers a restorative sensation that only Portuguese mountains can offer.

Legs may be a bit heavier, but the levadas walks are on flat terrain, so the journey is not that difficult. But if you prefer a shorter distance here are three suggestions:

Caldeirão Verde:

This trail starts at the Queimadas Forest Park and goes along the Caldeirão Verde levada, at an altitude of 990 metres. Don’t forget your flashlight! 13 km round trip.

Ribeiro frio-portela:

An easy walk that starts at Ribeiro Frio and takes you along a level path to Portela. 10 km round trip.

25 fontes:

Starts at Rabaçal and takes you to the 25 Fontes lake that 25 small natural spring waterfalls cascade into. There is a council shuttle from Calheta that takes walkers to the Casa do Rabaçal, where the levada starts. If you have time, make the 15-minute detour to the Risco for incredible views. Some parts of the levada don’t have a fence, so walk carefully! 11 km round trip.

Where to stay:

  • Madeira has two of the best hotels in Portugal. Reid’s is a luxurious historical hotel that has hosted VIPs including the Empress of Austria, Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill. Don’t miss out on the traditional afternoon tea served on the terrace. www.reidpalace.com

  • Choupana Hills is a five- star designer retreat with a magnificent view of Funchal and the sea and delicious Asian-style meals in the restaurant Xôpana. www.choupanahills.com.

  • Cheaper options include the cosy Quinta da Bela Vista, www.belavistamadeira.com, and the curious Pestana Casino Park, www.pestana.com/hotels.

  • There are also wonderful guest houses outside Funchal including Quinta das Vinhas, in Calheta, or Solar da Bica, in S. Vicente. See www.qdvmadeira.comand www.solarbica.com.

  • How to get there: Funchal is a 90-minute flight from Lisbon, where you can connect to most European cities.

  • Getting around: Most of the levadas start in remote areas, so it’s best to rent a car in Funchal.

Latest From ...