Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of our favourite hikes in Madeira. We will never forget our walk along the levada watching countless waterfalls and crossing many tunnels! Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of the must-see in Madeira.
For us, this is what Madeira is all about! There are many hikes to choose from in Madeira, however, if you have time to only go to 1, then look no further, this is the one! It is absolutely STUNNING!
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde is located on the north side of the island, near Santana. It is a true masterpiece built in the 18th century at an altitude of 980 meters.
What are levadas?
Levadas are irrigation canals whose origin dates back to the 16th century. Designed to channel water from the northwest (wetter area) to the southeast (drier area) which is more suitable for agriculture, especially sugar cane plantations. Most of the levadas meander on the mountainside, but in some places they cross tunnels dug under the mountains.
The network of levadas is estimated at more than 2000 kilometers. Impressive right!?
Over the years, most hikes in Madeira developed along the levadas. Hiking along the levadas during a stay in Madeira is a must. The most famous are the Levada das 25 Fontes and Caldeirão Verde. For us. Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of the most representative hikes of Madeira, with waterfalls, tunnels and a path which follows the levadas all along!
Ready for some adventure? Read the rest of the post to prepare for your hike.
Where is the start of the levada do Caldeirão Verde?
The start of the levada do Caldeirão Verde is in the heart of the Queimadas Forest Natural Park, 980 meters above sea level, just above the small town of Santana in Madeira. (Google map location here)
You will first reach a rather large parking lot, which is actually very convenient, however not free. You will need to pay 3 euros. You have to pay inside the small tourist office.
If you do not have car, you can also opt for a guided tour which includes transportation. For more information on that, check it out here.
There is a small shop and small cafe before the start of the hike. Enjoy a good cup of coffee before starting one of the best hikes in Madeira, or finish your hike with a poncho, one of the most traditional drinks in Madeira. Be careful though, as you might get a little tipsy with a poncho after a full day of hiking 🙂
How is the hike?
Built in the 18th century, this levada was used to collect water from the Caldeirão Verde river for irrigation to the south of the island.
You will follow the levada for about 6.5 kilometres. You will have to return from the same way. So in total, the hike is 13 kilometers.
We took a little more than 4 hours to complete the hike with a break at the midpoint to eat our sandwiches.
The good part, is that the hike is rather flat. As with all levadas, there is no drop. This levada do Caldeirão Verde is very famous in Madeira. Buses drop off quite a few tourists in the morning, so try to be there before 10am.
Rain is quite common in this area of Madeira. For us it rained pretty much the entire time. But we didn’t mind, it added to the beauty of the hike with water dropping from everywhere. It was a very mystical experience.
What to expect?
You will see many waterfalls along the way. The last one is the most impressive though, with a huge and powerful drop! You will cross 4 tunnels. Bringing a flash light would be a good idea. While the phone light is still ok, the tunnels are pitch dark and very wet at some park. So bringing a flash light would make it much easier.
The beginning of the hike is in a quite dense forest. After the first few kilometers it starts to get prettier and prettiers with narrower path along the cliff and levada. Fortunately it is well maintain with enough protected fence everywhere. The cliff is completely covered with moss and vegetation because water is constantly flowing.
Some points allow you to have an unobstructed view and glimpse the ocean, a real treat for the eyes. Not long after the start of the hike you will see the first majestic waterfall! It felt unreal for us. So much vegetation everywhere.
After crossing the 4th tunnel, it’s not long until you will reach the main waterfall. This marks the end of the trail. If not raining, many will have their lunch at the waterfall. As it was raining quite heavily, we decided to have our lunch in the tunnel nearby. After that it was time to head back to the parking lot and try the poncho at the little cafe!
The largest primary laurel forest
Hiking through the levada do Caldeirão Verde, is also hiking through the largest laurel forest.
It is one of the natural jewels of Madeira, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. 90% primary, it has many endemic species of plants and animals.
The laurel forest extends mainly on the north coast of the island between 300 and 1300 meters above sea level as well as on the south coast in areas that are difficult to access between 700 and 1200 meters. It covers approximately 15,000 hectares (20% of the territory).
The main waterfall
The main attraction of this hike, is the last waterfall, the Grande Finale!
However, there is a sign indicating that it is forbidden to approach the waterfall. Indeed, in 2019, there was a landslide and 11 people were injured. It’s pretty serious, so they closed that section.
It’s a bit odd to keep the hike open but close the main attraction. However, it is clear that most people would trespass the sign and still approach the waterfall. Obviously at their own risk…
Landslides are no joke, and there’s not much room to hide if rocks start falling in this arena-style canyon area. You will have to decide what to do for yourself. We decided to go anyway. The landslide is indeed very impressive.
The waterfall is one of the best in Madeira. It is around 100 meter high and end in an almost perfect circular lagoon below.
– Trail Number: PR9 which is marked yellow and red
– Distance: 2 x 6.5 kilometers
– Duration: 3.5 to 4.5 hours
– Level: easy to medium
– Difficult passages are secured with a cable.
– Take a flashlight for crossing the tunnels (and watch your head!).
– The path can be slippery in places, especially in winter, bring good walking shoes.
– Paid parking on site
In Conclusion about levada do Caldeirão Verde
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of the best hike in Madeira. With lush forest, several amazing waterfalls and 4 incredible tunnels!
This levada trail is one of the most popular hikes on the island due to its incredible waterfall. The good part is that the hike is mostly flat!
We really enjoyed this hike and highly recommend it, especially for those who like to walk but don’t want a huge uphill trek. It really gives you so many great views and a huge waterfall without leading you up stairs or steep hills.
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