Hiking the Levadas in Madeira is one of the best ways to explore this unique island. And if you can only pick one Levada to walk, then surely you should choose the Levada do Rei also known as ‘The Kings Levada’!
During my recent trip to Madeira, in partnership with Jet2.com & Jet2Holidays Portugal and Madeira Tourism* one of the activities I did was a day hike. I might not have picked to do this walk myself, as it is one of the relatively easier Levada walks in Madeira, however, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an absolutely stunning walk and shows off the beautiful island of Madeira perfectly, including how incredibly green it is.
Be prepared for a serious green overload if you visit Madeira!
Here you can read about my Levada walk in Madeira, plus I’ve included a few top tips for the walk. Feel free to ask me any more questions in the comments below.
Oh, I’ve also created a YouTube video, link below. I’d love you to take a look 🙂
Table of Contents
- 1 Madeira Levada Walks
- 2 Levado Do Rei Walk, Madeira
- 3 Top Tips for the Levada Walks in Madeira
- 4 YouTube Video
Madeira Levada Walks
What is a Levada?
The short version is that Levada comes from the Portuguese word ‘levar’ which means to carry or literally a carriageway. But really the Levadas are similar to an aqueduct or mini-waterway, similar to canals but a much smaller version.
The Levadas were created years ago, in fact, they date back as far as the 16th century and believe it or not it’s a system that’s so successful in Madeira they haven’t changed it since it began. Wow, that’s impressive.
You might think the water is used for daily household use but in fact, the main purpose is to water the land used for farming. As well as hydro-power as well. In the north of the island, there is plenty of rain, whereas the south side is much drier. Take a mental note if you’re planning a trip there are want a sunshine break!
For landowners, the Levada system in place allows a certain amount of time with the water flow. This is done in the weirdest of ways, rags and cloths are used to block the water and as each row of crops is watered the rags are then moved down the water channel. This seems like a very outdated system but apparently, it works!
But why are the Levadas so popular in Madeira for hiking?
Well, for starters there are over 2500 km of Levadas in Madeira, and subsequently, they have created the most wonderful trails all over the island, for hiking lovers, like me to easily explore.
Read next: 32 Best places to hike in Europe
Levado Do Rei Walk, Madeira
Tour company: Madeira Adventure Kingdom*
Location: Sao Jorge, Santana
Start/finish point: Quinta Levada do Rei (Small cafe with a very proud peacock)
Walk distance: 11.5 km/ 7 miles
Walk time: 2.5-3.5 hours
I visited at the end of April when the peacock next to the cafe was showing off his beautiful feathers, very impressive if you’ve not seen before.
Where does the Levada Walk Start?
Is the Levada Walk signposted?
Signs are pretty limited on the walk, with the exception of the sign at the very beginning (Levada do Rei) and another one after maybe 5 minutes (Riberto Bonito) directing you towards some steps (the only ones on the walk).
But there’s a reason for that, the whole point of the walk is that you’re following the Levada. So basically, you have one giant natural sign for the entire walk. Follow that and I promise you can’t get lost!
And once you reach the Riberio Bonito (Beautiful River), it’s pretty obvious that you’ve arrived.
How Difficult is the Levada Walk?
In terms of both distance and the terrain, this is a relatively easy Levada walk in Madeira. The path remains flat for almost the entire walk, with the exception of a few steps at the beginning.
In a few places, the path is narrow so you may need to concentrate more to ensure you don’t end up with a foot in the Levada but generally, it’s a lovely easy walk and would suit most levels.
There’s also one section that goes under a small waterfall so the path can be slippy around this section (check out my YouTube video to watch me walk under it).
Since the path is particularly narrow in places, unfortunately, a pushchair or wheelchair user wouldn’t be able to do this walk due to the width of the path, not the terrain or distance. (Feel free to let me know if you’ve done it and disagree!)
Levada do Rei Flora and Fauna
As you walk along the path you’ll see the surrounding vegetation change gradually as you explore more. At the beginning of the walk, you’ll spot both a mix of endemic and introduced trees and plants, including eucalyptus trees (yes, the ones you find in Australia).
Then as you walk further along the trail you’ll be deep into the Laurissilva Forest, in fact, this is how Madeira got its name. Madeira means wood. When explorers arrived on the island, 600 years ago, in 1419, it was covered in an entire forest, much of which still remains today, conserved by the rule that you can’t build on land above 600 metres in Madeira.
Also, look out for lots of different fungi and mushrooms growing, that’s if you love it like me! As well as many different types of lichen, including Old Man’s Beard, a sign of clean air, you’ll be pleased to know.
Top Tips for the Levada Walks in Madeira
Take Warm Clothes with you
Many of the Levadas are high in the mountains, as is the Levada do Rei (PR18). And with that comes cooler temperatures and changeable weather. Layers are perfect so you can warm up.
Normally, when I’m hiking in the mountains I’m regularly taking layers on and off; however with the Levada do Rei walk since it’s mostly on the same level I was comfortable wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with a warmer top. But of course, my waterproof jacket was packed in my bag as always!
Your waterproof jacket might come in handy when walking under the waterfall. It was relatively gentle on my hike, as you can see from the photo above but I’m sure on a rainy day it would be much stronger.
Wear Good Footwear
Although the trail isn’t overly technical, it’s good to have comfortable shoes with grip. In a few places, you might have uneven ground, tree roots, rocky paths or the stone Levada to walk on so good grippy shoes are a must for a happy hike.
I can also imagine in wet weather the paths would get muddy in some places, in fact, there were a couple of puddles on the wider sections of the trail.
Personally, I wouldn’t say you need hiking boots unless it’s wet weather and you want to keep your feet dry. I wore my Salomon trail shoes which were perfect for the walk.
Food on the Trail
Bring your own food, otherwise, you’ll be very hungry.
On Madeira’s Levada de Rei trail, there is no-where to buy food or drink or the walk. There is a shop, cafe and toilets at the start where you can buy food to take with you and go for one last toilet break.
Remember to take lunch and a few snacks then you can enjoy your day hike, without going hungry!
Read next: What to take on a day hike
Take Plenty of Water
Although you’re hiking alongside a water source we were advised not to drink directly from the Levada in Madeira. It looks clean but our guide told us she’d seen dead rats floating in them! Yes, she honestly said that. I’m happy to say that I didn’t spot any!
I have a Water-to-Go bottle with a filter that kills 99% of germs, I use this on my mountain walks in the UK. You can either carry lots of water or get a filter bottle, like mine, (20% discount code below if you sign up to my mailing list).
Our guide said you could drink from the water that was feeding into the Levadas, i.e. dripping downwards into them, but I will let you decide.
Toilets on the Walk
Talking about toilets brings me on to another important tip.
Firstly, there are no toilets on the Levada do Rei walk, so as well as keeping hydrated you also need to remember not to drink litres of water straight away otherwise you’ll be in trouble!
Our guide adviced us that you’d need to find a tree. That’s standard practice for someone like me who regularly goes on long day hikes and wild camps in the UK.
However, the Levada do Rei walk is slightly different. Remember I mentioned narrow trails, well there is no-where to go to the toilet for pretty much the entire walk. All the trees are towering above you, hence on the wrong side of the rope.
There are a couple of mini caves, homes that are now used as toilets. I wouldn’t advise going in there. Yuck! At the end of the walk, you can venture up into the woods and relieve yourself.
But if you do go to the toilet, please remember to leave no trace. Yes, that means toilet paper. I’d recommend taking a small plastic bag with you and dispose of when you’re back.
Rubbish on the Levada Walk
I’m pleased to say the walk was almost 100% clean, apart from the odd piece of toilet tissue I spotted (read above!)
There are no bins on the Levada do Rei walk, I can imagine this is the same for all the hikes in Madeira. Remember to take all the waste back with you and leave the walk as beautiful as when you arrived.
Possible Vertigo on the Levada Walk
Our guide was very attentive and asked us before the hike if anyone suffered from vertigo. There are a couple of points on the walk where you are walking very close to the edge and there are steep drops. All these sections were roped off and I felt perfectly safe but if you do suffer from vertigo then bear this in mind before you start the walk.
The photo above was taken on the most exposed section of the trail. There were other parts where there was a steep drop but these were more hidden by the trees so if I’m honest I didn’t really notice the drop!
If you’re interested in booking the tour with the Madeira Adventure Kingdom you can find more details here about how to book.
Read next: 10 Fun Things to do in Madeira
Madeira Walks – Levada do Rei Walk
Watch the full video of this beautiful Madeira walk here:
Have you ever thought about going hiking in Madeira? Would you like to try some of the Levada walks? Let me know if you have any more questions in the comments below.
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*Becky the Traveller contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading!
*My trip was sponsored by Jet2.com flights & Jet2holidays in Madeira alongside Madeira Tourism, however, all thoughts and opinions on the trip and activities are my own. This walk was organised by Madeira Adventure Kingdom, as part of the trip.