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.

Beginning at Achada do Teixeira this trail climbs up to the island’s highest peak, Pico Ruivo (1861m).

Next to the Pico Ruivo government house you can gain access to 3 other trails that take the hiker to different parts of the island: PR 1 – Pico do Areeiro footpath (5,1/6,4 Km), which takes you to Pico do Areeiro, the island’s 2nd highest peak (1861m); PR 1.3 – Encumeada Footpath (8.6 Km), goes along the central mountain range to the West; and PR 1.1- Ilha Footpath (8.2 Km), which descends to the parish of Ilha. Along the climb you will meet several shelters as the change in climate is sudden and sharp and the area often becomes covered in a sea of clouds or rests above it.

This area is part of the European network of important areas – Natura 2000 – and is known as the central mountain massif. It covers from the highest peaks to 1200m above sea level. It is characterised by herbaceous and bush vegetation that is well-adapted to big temperature variations, heavy rains and strong winds, and is where you can find many types of heather (Erica scoparia ssp maderensis and Erica aborea), which many years ago were used to produce charcoal.

The trail climbs along the ridge that separates the cliffs of Faial and those of Santana, and so allows for an excellent view to the left of the Ribeira Seca valley, topped by Pico das Torres, and Pico do Areeiro in the background. On the right-hand side you can see the “gables” of the Santana mountain range, from where in the distance you can see the Queimadas Forest Park and further ahead Achada do Marques (a small hamlet known for its straw lofts and traditional fields), which appears in the centre of the Ribeira dos Arcos valley. Towards the interior we can see the Ribeira Grande valley that begins at the “mouths” of Caldeirão Verde and Caldeirão do Inferno.

When visibility is good to the East you can see the rocky outcrop of Penha d’Águia, the Funduras mountain range and part of the S. Lourenço Point (far eastern part of Madeira island).

At Achada do Teixeira you can also visit the “Standing Man” (“Homem em pé”), a basalt formation which you will find walking down the cliff, after passing the Achada do Teixeira government house.

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 trail begins at Ginjas in the municipality of São Vicente and follows the walkway beside the Fajã do Rodrigues levada or the Fajã da Ama Levada, the two names by which it is known, ending at the source of the levada in Ribeira do Inferno.

This levada lies at an elevation of 580 metres and has its source in the bed of the Ribeira do Inferno stream, which separates the lands of Seixal from those of São Vicente and winds across ridges and through small valleys up to Rosário, to be used for the irrigation of the farm fields of São Vicente.

The exotic forest which you encounter at the beginning of the trail, with maritime pines (Pinus pinaster) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), precedes the dense vegetation characteristic of the native forest – the Laurisilva, World Nature Heritage of UNESCO since December 1999.

Waterfalls and frequent streams guarantee vitality to the species such as the Canary willow (Salix canariensis), as well as the large Madeira laurel (Ocotea foetens), Madeira mahogany (Persea indica), and the Lily-of-the-Valley tree (Clethra arborea) that abound along the levada. You’ll also notice the flowering species, such as geraniums (Geranium palmatum), Mandon’s Chrysanthemum (Argyranthemum pinnatifidum), Madeiran orchid (Dactylorhiza foliosa), and Canary buttercup (Ranunculus cortusifolius), easily recognised by their bright yellow flowers.

Tunnels are common along this levada, and as you pass between the many, long tunnels, you will have a chance to appreciate the beautiful panoramic views of the São Vicente Valley landscape.

You may catch sight of some of the birds that inhabit the areas that border this trail, from chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs maderensis), to the tiny birds such as the firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus maderensis), which give life to this ecosystem and please the ear with their songs.

Let yourself be enthralled by the scenery that surrounds you, as you wonder at the valleys that drop down to the bed of the stream and catch your breath for the return trip.