Levadas e veredas, um modo de conhecer a Madeira, para todo o viandante que aprecia o repouso e o contacto directo com a natureza, frequentemente quase intocada desde os primórdios do povoamento.
This trail begins at Moledo, next to the Regional Highway and continues up the forestry road, with two alternative routes to follow, either along the north side or the south side of Pico do Facho. The latter has the distinction of being the longest footpath of Porto Santo Island.
As we cross the central zone of the island at the base of Pico do Facho, we can see traces of old farmlands and of the hard work of building the cut stone walls, and contemplate the amazing effort made by man to reforest the island.
At the top of Pico Castelo, you will come upon a statue in honour of António Schiappa de Azevedo, the driving force behind the reforestation of Porto Santo. This process of arborisation has helped control the effects of erosion that are seen on this island. Some exotic species were introduced, whose wild nature is more resistant to the adverse conditions, examples being the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), the Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) and the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa).
Indigenous species that can be found include the dragon tree (Dracaena draco), the olive tree (Olea maderensis sp), the holm oak (Quercus ilex ssp. rotundifolia), some fire trees (Myrica faya), broom heath (Erica scoparia) and pride of Madeira (Echium nervosum).
The walk affords magnificent views and the opportunity to come in contact with the fauna of the island, observing flocks of red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa hispanica), birds of prey such as the common buzzard (Buteo buteo harterti) and the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus canariensis), the colourful house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the impressive hoopoe (Upupa epops).
After the climb to the top of Pico Castelo, you reach the end of the trail at the Canhão Belvedere and have a view of the city of Vila Baleira and in the background almost the entire length of the island. In the distance you can make out the Deserted Islands and Madeira.
The name Pico Castelo dates from the 15th century and derives from the fact that there was a fort there where the local inhabitants took refuge when they were attacked by French pirates or Algerians. Its central location and greater ease of organising the defence of the people made it a true Castle.
This walk is located in the western area of Madeira Island, linking the parish of Prazeres with Paúl do Mar, dropping from an elevation of 550 metres to the sea shore.
In the parish of Prazeres, take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Learning Farm with its various animais, and the Casa de Chá (Tea House), where you can savour infusions of aromatic and medicinal herbs and purchase traditional sweets made with organically-grown fruit.
The descent is made along the face of the cliff between Assomadouro at Prazeres and the dock at Paúl, winding between terraced farm plots, held in place by stone walls, formerly used for growing grain crops, but with decline of agriculture today, they are largely abandoned. Assomadouro is the name given to the place from which something interesting can be seen, being a synonym for miradouro (belvedere). In fact, the view from here is superb, with beautiful panoramic views to the left (the tiny parish of Jardim do Mar) and to the right (Paúl do Mar) that are truly dazzling.
Designated as a municipal path, it is an example of the difficult access routes that were traversed many times with heavy loads on the back, but which were the only alternative to the access by sea, which was too expensive for many and impossible when the sea was raging.
This trail is a genuine historical heritage, winding along the steep slope in a zig-zag pattern, its stone pavement in small stair steps bearing witness to the isolation of past generations and to the ingenious and difficult trails built by the people to overcome this isolation.
Waterfalls and endemic flora exclusive to these elevations, such as pride of Madeira (Echium nervosum) and Madeira mountain stock (Euphorbia piscatoria), help make this trail a true discovery trip.
When you reach Paúl do Mar, be sure you explore this small parish on the seashore and wonder at the high cliffs that surround it. At one time, it was an important fishing village, and due to the great abundance of fish, in 1912 a canning factory was set up here to export tuna.
Today, you can still see remnants of the chimney of that factory, as well as the salt pools, the sugar cane mill and the small fishing port with its typical fishing boats that keep the maritime traditions alive.
Beginning at the regional highway E.R. 110 on the way up to Paúl da Serra from Encumeada, this trail leads to the areas of Bica da Cana, Casa do Caramujo and Folhadal, coming to an end at regional highway E.R. 228 at the Encumeada junction.
This path follows the levadas of Serra and Norte, between the elevations of 1000 and 1600 metres, crossing an excellent area of native high-altitude vegetation, as well as the native Laurisilva forest, an area that is part of the Natura 2000 Network.
Along the way, you will encounter magnificent views of the São Vicente Valley, as well as examples of the islands architecture and heritage, as is the case of a municipal path a section of a public pathway used by the islanders in travelling between the north and south sides of the island paved with stone; the levadas and tunnels carved out of the rock that were built to carry the water from the north to the south side of the island.
The route runs along the levada, although in some places you leave it to follow the stone pathway. When you reach the top of the footpath at Pináculo, you will have a view of the magnificent landscape of the Ribeira Brava Valley in the background and the Central Mountain Range, where the islands two highest peaks stand out, Pico do Areeiro (1817m) and Pico Ruivo (1861m).
Surround this levada is a vegetation rich in small endemic plants which are at the height of their beauty in the spring months: Madeiran orchids (Dactylorhiza foliosa), Canary buttercups (Ranunculus cortusifolius), easily recognised by their bright yellow flowers, Mandon´s chrysanthemum (Argyranthemum pinnatifidum), and geraniums (Geranium palmatum).
You will reach a point where the levada you have followed from the start divides into two branches. Follow the walkway at the side of the Levada do Norte, which is used to power the hydroelectric generating plant at Serra d´Água.
Cascades and tunnels are found all along this route and when you come out of the last tunnel, you reach Folhadal, a name referring to the abundance of Lily-of-the-valley trees (Port., folhados) (Clethra arborea) found here.
At Encumeada you can take PR 1.3 Encumeada Footpath, which leads to Pico Ruivo.