PR 11 - Balcões footpath
This trail begins at regional highway E.R.103 at Ribeiro Frio and follows the levada of Serra do Faial, providing access to the Balcões belvedere, which offers beautiful panoramas of the deep valley of Ribeira da Metade and the parish of Faial.
Surrounding the levada the most varied endemic species abound, such as laurel trees (Laurus novocanariensis), Madeira mahogany (Persea indica), Madeira blueberry (Vaccinium padifolium), and Madeira orchids (Dactylorhiza foliosa), as well as exotic deciduous trees like English oaks (Quercus robur) and London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia), which are found at regular intervals at the edge of the path.
When you arrive at the Balcões belvedere, you will come upon a splendid scene completely occupied by the verdant valleys that characterise the Laurisilva forest, which is integrated in the Natura 2000 Network. This forest takes on added importance as a water producer, because it condenses the water from the mists on the leaves of the plants, and from there brings great quantities to the soil, where it later replenishes the springs and brooks.
The Hydroelectric Plant of Fajã da Nogueira is completely visible from this location and is evidence of the value this forest has for the island of Madeira. The plant produces electricity with water from reservoirs and supplies the entire municipality of Santana.
On days when the visibility is good, you will be able to see the Central Mountain Chain of the island, with the highest peaks of the island standing out, Pico do Areeiro (1817 m), Pico do Gato, Pico das Torres, Pico Ruivo (1861 m) and the majestic geological display of the Penha dÁguia rock formation.
With a bit of luck, you may see a firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus maderensis), the smallest bird of the Madeira forest, chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs maderensis), grey wagtails (Motacilla cinerea schmitzi), blackbirds (Turdus merula cabrerae), robins (Erithacus rubecula microrhynchus), buzzards (Buteo buteo harteti), or the very rare Madeira long-toed pigeon (Columba trocaz).
Having retraced your steps and arriving at Ribeiro Frio once again, take advantage of the opportunity to purchase some souvenirs of regional handicrafts and look for the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum) nursery of the Ribeiro Frio Fish Hatchery, the main purpose of which is the production of trout to replenish the water courses of Madeira Island.
Weather subject to frequent changes, take warm clothing; path in some places is slippery.