Dreamy Winding Paths on an Enchanting Island
of Madeirans live along the coastline and in sight
of the sea. Their forefathers were adventurers: seafarers
with a thirst for discovery; soldiers of arms and
they were also farmers who, centuries ago, reckoned
the island’s volcanic soil and benign climate were
ideal for producing sugar and wine.
Just one problem: most of the rain seemed to fall
in the mountains to the north and not on the warmer
south coast, where the first canes and vines were
ingenuity with backbreaking work, the islanders created
a unique system of manmade irrigation channels, which
they called Levadas. Suspended from baskets, they
would chisel away at a sheer cliff face; on all fours,
they would tunnel inch by inch through a hill. And
all the while, by instinct perhaps, they had to calculate
a gentle downward gradient or the water might never
go where it was supposed to.
of the network, which today totals hundreds of miles,
was said to have been in place before any kind of
road system existed. After all, who needed a road
when there were no decent cars to drive? But with
or without a faucet, you still needed water for those
first vines from Crete and sugarcane from Sicily.
of the oldest professions here (no, not that) is the
levadeiro, the man responsible for opening
and closing sluice-gates and general upkeep of the
irrigation system. To this day, Madeira’s market-gardeners
pay for their water not by volume but by flow-hour,
called a pena.
for nature-lovers, footpaths run alongside many of
these water courses. New arrivals can start with easier
walks: the 45-minutes from Ribeiro Frio to the breathtaking
belvedere at Balcões or the 2-hour trek to Funchal
along the levada from Papagaio Verde, a few kilometres
west of the city.
Madeira on foot and maybe you, too, will strike up
a lifelong affair with its hills and valleys.
Winding Paths on an Enchanting Island
Article: A closer look at the origins and position
of the Levadas today. [More
Watery Thoughts - Article:
How much water is there in the Levadas?
How far do the waterways stretch? What else do we
need to know about Levada Walking? [More
- A dedicated walking host for your holiday
- Visit this STUNNING website for a
magical "carpet- ride view" of Levada
walking on Madeira. This site has hundreds of photographs
of the Levadas sent to them by their guests! [More
Digranes Photo Collection
- Jon has visited Madeira multiple times. His awesome
collection of photographs captures essentially the
beauty and spirit of Levada walking. [More
on Levada Walking
- Visit Madeira Shopping to find books and
picture CD-ROM's on Madeira Levada walking. Other
books and items are also available for purchase. [More