I miss the lush green tropics, the fog over the vegetation, and even the annoying humidity that condenses on everything and never disappears. Probably if I would be there now, I would dream of mountain landscapes and fresh air. But you know what? I like to be greedy when it comes to the world and I like wanting everything at once and the fact that I’m able to enjoy every place as if it was the only and the most beautiful one. There are also places that combine both harsh landscapes and tropical climate. Madeira. This extraordinary Portuguese island is a magical place that lets you experience a lot of diversity in a quite small area. Today I will take you to the green part that reminds me the most of… Bali!
Bali in Madeira? Everything is possible here!
Following the levadas
The levadas on Madeira are open irrigation channels. The Portuguese started to build them in the 16th century, and the last ones were built in the 40s of the 20th century. The levadas were needed due to the diverse climate. There is much more rain in the west and northwest of the island than in the drier southeast tip. Levadas allowed transporting water to the farming areas even in the drier parts of the island. It is also worth noting what an incredible architectural feat they are, as most of them were dug directly in steep slopes or on cliffs. In addition to being an important means of water transport, they are also the island’s hydropower source. Madeira uses 40% renewable energy, thanks to hydropower, wind turbines, and solar panels.
Today, the levadas are also one of the main tourist attractions. There is over 2,170 km of these channels on Madeira. They allow walks of various levels of difficulty – from leisurely walks with beautiful views along the way, to spectacular climbs on cornices, cliffs, and tunnels.
Take the most beautiful one - Levada 25 fontes
Levada 25 Fontes and Risco are among the most popular on the island and for absolutely good reason. If I had to recommend one Levada excursion, it would definitely be this one. We went to see them on the last day because it is not a difficult trail, and the weather was exceptionally good (which was the opposite of this amazing trek: Magical tropical Madeira – the Caldeirão Verde waterfall
We both hate crowds of tourists, so we decided to choose an unattractive hour, which is late afternoon. We assumed that we will be coming back when it will be already dark (if you have a similar idea – be sure to take the headlamps!). In addition, for us, the golden hour was important for photos and catching it at the very end of the trail, that is, at the 25 Fontes waterfall.
The trail to the Rabacal Valley is about an hour from Funchal. This is where the two levadas begin, in the parking lot by the main road ER 110. When we arrived at around 4 pm the paid parking lot was still jammed with cars so we parked on the side of the road. And here’s a note: I confirm that in Madeira you need to be a really good and maneuverable driver. Is it not only about driving on mountainous terrain, but also about parking in places like this – on side, narrow and often slippery roadsides.
The starting point of this trail is the Rabacal Nature Spot Café, formerly the Rabacal house that was once a shelter for workers. This is where the trials to the Risco Falls (PR 6.1) and 25 Fontes (PR 6) begin. Until the afternoon hours you can take a bus from the parking lot to the café and from the café to the parking lot. We decided to take the bus only one way so as not to waste time. On our way back we walked, and it is quite a distance!
We started in a classic way, which means that first, we followed the trail to the Risco waterfall. I would call it a rather leisurely walk because the terrain is level and it leads straight to the waterfall. The observation deck at the end of the trail allows you to get pretty close to it, so expect to get wet by the cascading water. However, I like this waterfall the most from a distance that shows its enormity. You can see how beautiful it is on the shots from the drone because only from that perspective you can see how lush green the area is and how spectacularly the water cascades are arranged, falling straight into the dense forest. Magic!
Bali on Madeira
The main destination of this trail, however, was Levada 25 Fontes. Its name refers to a pond into which water flows from 25 springs. To get to it, we had to turn back and reach a branch of the trails which leads towards a short trail – a connector that turns into the PR 6 route, which leads directly to the waterfall. Getting to the destination was an attraction itself as the trail leads among heather trees (classified as UNESCO natural heritage). The branches of heather trees create fancy tunnels and it felt like I was Alice in Wonderland.
It took us about an hour to walk to 25 Fontes from the starting point of the trail. On the way, we only passed a few returning people, and then no one. It was worth having this view only to ourselves. A high wall, overgrown with lush vegetation, through which water was seeping straight into a perfectly crystalline lake. Silence, singing birds, gentle sound of water. It feels like you are in the bustling heart of the island. It is impossible not to think about the Balinese jungle or Central America. Madeira is one of the most surprising places in terms of nature in Europe!
As for the lake itself, the water was freezing cold (it was cold in general) but Michael forced me to get in the lake because he had an artistic vision for an amazing photoJ I admit that I was muttering under my breath, but I must also admit that his instincts did not fail and he was absolutely right – the photos are insane and it was worth the effort (I feel that this conclusion will be used against me one day and I will have to hang/freeze/fight with the wind somewhere again. But seriously – the place is perfect for everyone with an artistic soul, looking for beautiful shots and unique encounters with nature.
The entire trail to the waterfalls in both directions is about 9 km. If you will be taking photos along the way, I think 3 hours is optimal. This is not a difficult trail. In fact, the hardest part is to go back and climb again to the top of the Paul da Serra plateau, where the parking lot is located. However, as is always the case with incredible natural places, you have to put some effort to see them, which only makes them more unique.
The photos you can see in this post are the effect of my collaboration with Michael. We believe in the synergy effect, which is why we have decided to work together during this trip. We hope that it will be an inspiration for your European trips.