Tourist and resident information on Portugal, Madeira and The Azores

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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. There are around 200 levadas in Madeira, the majority of them state-owned.

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 3,100 km of levadas on Madeira. As well as irrigation for crops they also provide hydroelectric 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 15th 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 slaves from Africa and the Canary Islands were often pressed into their construction. They were first constructed to provide drinking water and also fuel the short-lived sugar boom on the island in the late 15th century and early 16th century. The system of using slaves for sugar production in Madeira later became the blueprint for sugar plantations in both the Caribbean and Brazil.

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

Levada channel on Madeira.
Levada channel on Madeira

The 37-km long Levada do Caldeirão Verde (PR9) 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

CR7 Statue Madeira

Electricity Museum

Fala Fala Vegetarian Restaurant Funchal

Madeira Wine


Madeira Map


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