Levadas in Madeira

Levadas in Madeira

Levadas are irrigation channels to funnel and transport water in Madeira. They are usually no more than a meter wide and 50-60 cm deep.

Levada in Madeira, Portugal.
Levadas in Madeira

The channels bring water mainly from the wetter west and northwest to the more populated but drier southwest of the island. The idea is believed to stem from the Moorish occupation of Iberia.

There is now a network of more than 2,170 km of levadas on Madeira. As well as irrigation for crops they also provide hydro-electric power. They sometimes pass through tunnels cut through the mountains.

Levadas are often now walking trails.
In days gone by the channels were also used for washing laundry

History & Hikes

Building began in the 16th century and continued until the 1940s. At first, they were built in wood and later stone, though many are just dug from the soil. Convicts and African slaves were often pressed into their construction.

Paths often run alongside them and provide a system of pleasant walking trails in the countryside.

The 37-km long Levada do Caldeirão Verde which becomes the Levada Caldeirão do Inferno, the 5 km Levada do Rei and the 7 km-long Levada do Caniçal are popular hikes. The Levada do Alecrim has great views of the Paul da Serra plateau at around 1,200 meters. The Levada do Furado is a popular walk and descends to the village of Portelo. There are views of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed laurel forest (laurissilva) on this hike. The Levada do Risco is a path to the Risco waterfall and another walk from Rabaçal on the Levada das 25 Fontes leads to 25 Fontes ("25 Springs") a serene pool fed by several falls.

The walks often pass close to some of Madeira's spectacular waterfalls including the Cascata dos Anjos.

Walking the dog on a levada in Madeira
Walking the dog on a levada in Madeira

More on Madeira

Capela de Santa Catarina

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Ponte Romana Tavira

Ponte Romana, Tavira, Algarve

The Ponte Romana in Tavira on the Algarve is so called as it was built over the remains of an earlier 3rd-century Roman bridge on the old Roman road from Faro to Castro Marim.

Ponte Romana, Tavira, Algarve
Ponte Romana, Tavira, Algarve

The present bridge over the River Gilão dates from 1663. The bridge has seven arches and green, iron railings. It is now for use only for pedestrians and cyclists after flood damage in 1989.

Several cafes and bars line the river with fine views of the bridge.

Tavira Ponte Romana
Tavira Ponte Romana

Other Bridges in Tavira

Another nearby bridge in Tavira is the Ponte das Forças Armadas. This is in the process of being replaced. It was constructed for traffic by the military (hence the name) in 1993 after the Ponte Romana was damaged.

This new bridge will be 88 meters long with the option to open for vehicles but primarily for foot traffic and cyclists.

View of the Ponte das Forças Armadas
View of the Ponte das Forças Armadas in the background and beyond that the Ponte dos Descobrimentos

Cars can cross the river at another bridge to the west, the Ponte de Santiago. The N125 highway also crosses the river even further west of town. To the east is Ponte dos Descobrimentos also with vehicular access.

Bridge in Tavira
The bridge is now for pedestrian use only after flood damage

Access - Getting There

The bridge is in the centre of town off Praça da República and Rua dos Pelames to the south. The road on the north bank is Rua Borda d`Água da Asseca.

Churches in Tavira

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Castelo de Vide Synagogue & Garcia de Orta

Castelo de Vide Synagogue

The synagogue in Castelo de Vide in the Alentejo region is the oldest surviving synagogue in Portugal. It is one of only two preserved medieval synagogues in Portugal. The other one is the synagogue of Tomar.

Castelo de Vide Synagogue
Castelo de Vide Synagogue is the oldest still standing in Portugal

Jews settled here from the 12th century with more arriving from Spain in the 15th century after the Alhambra Decree of 1492 ordered their expulsion from Castile and Aragon.

The building is divided into two rooms for men and women and contains a wooden tabernacle. The interior is now a museum dedicated to the history of the Jewish community on the Iberian Peninsula.

Historically, the Jewish population of both Spain and Portugal (known as Sephardi Jews) suffered great hardships and prejudice, particularly after the Reconquest.

The Inquisition in Portugal was particularly oppressive against "New Christians" (aka conversos or the pejorative marranos)- Jews who had been forced to convert and were suspected of carrying on their old faith in secret. There was also a massacre of Jews in Lisbon during the reign of Manuel I when an estimated 2,000 people were killed by the mob.

Many Portuguese Jews were expelled or fled overseas to London, Amsterdam, Morocco, or even South America. Their departure was a great loss for the country.

One prominent Jew of this period is Garcia de Orta (1501-1568). A physician, naturalist, and herbalist he was mostly active in Goa and considered a father of Western tropical medicine. He was born in Castelo de Vide where he practiced medicine before moving to Lisbon and becoming royal physician to King John III.

Garcia de Orta
Garcia de Orta

He left for India in 1534, probably sensing how the wind was blowing at home. Settling in Goa, he again set up a medical practice and served as a physician for both Portuguese and Indians. He was also a friend of the poet Luís de Camões while in India.

After his death in 1568, his sister Catarina was burned at the stake for her Jewish beliefs and in 1580 his remains were also dug up and burned by the vengeful Inquisition in Goa.

He is most remembered for his classic work Colóquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da Índia, a treatise on medicinal herbs and plants in India.

The Jardim Garcia de Orta in the Parque das Nações district of Lisbon is named after him.

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