Former irrigation channels in the southeast of Madeira now offer a network of scenic trails for walks and hikes. These paths are a gateway into the peaceful countryside and some are known to have steep ledges, drawing adventurous travelers. Here’s how to explore the levada walks.
Laurel Forest (Laurisilva)
Discover the Laurel Forest (Laurisilva) by hiking along one of the levada routes that pass directly through it. The short and gentle Ribeiro Frio-Balcões trail takes you to a lookout point via a stretch of laurel forest, while the moderate King’s Levada (Levada do Rei) and the Levada das 25 Fontes cover larger swathes of forest and take around 3-4 hours each.
Hiking tours ensure that you avoid getting lost on the trails and generally include convenient hotel pickup and drop-off. Some feature stops at attractions close to the Laurel Forest (Laurisilva), such as the Rabacal Lake and the village of Santana, which is famous for its triangular thatched houses.
Things to know before you go
- Though most of the terrain of the Laurel Forest (Laurisilva) is relatively flat, sturdy hiking shoes and a light jacket in case of rain are recommended.
- The Ribeiro Frio-Balcões trail is level enough to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs; there are also a couple of cafes selling refreshments along the route.
- If you’re planning on tackling one of the longer levada routes through the forest, ensure you take plenty of water and snacks as kiosks are less common in other parts.
How to get there
The best point of entry to the Laurel Forest is in the village of Ribeiro Frio, a 45-minute drive from Funchal. Follow the signs on foot along Highway ER103 from Ribeiro Frio to hiking route PR11, Balcões. It’s a fairly level topography and the walk to the natural observation point should take no more than an hour.
When to get there
In general, the weather in Madeira is sunny and dry throughout the year. However, the best time to visit the island is in May or June, before the European summer holidays result in the highest concentration of visitors. This is also when temperatures are optimum for hiking opportunities.
Hiking in Madeira
The island of Madeira is a mecca for hiking enthusiasts. There’s an abundance of levada walks, trails that run alongside irrigation systems that resemble mini canals. Some of the best walks include Levada dos Cedros (P14), renowned for its emerald-green scenery and waterfalls; Vereda do Fanal (PR13), which offers panoramic views of the Ribeira da Janela valley; and Levada da Ribeira da Janela, which features several subterranean tunnels.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to Laurel Forest (Laurisilva)?
What else should I know about attractions in Madeira?
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