PR 18 - Levada do Rei
The trail that follows alongside the Levada do Rei begins at the Water Treatment Plant at Quebradas in São Jorge, ending at the source of the levada in the spectacular Ribeiro Bonito stream.
The first part of the trail crosses a forested area where some specimens of indigenous vegetation are found here and there. This initial leg of the trail presents travellers with beautiful panoramic views of the São Jorge and Santana farmlands. After the midway point of the trail, the levada that winds from the interior of the island along the mountain slopes passes through a spectacular area of native forest which is well developed and rich in natural biodiversity.
The tunnels formed by the luxuriant vegetation and the great variety of species that you can find here are excellent living examples of the potential of nature, while the beautiful levada is evidence of the valuable cultural heritage of the island.
The path ends at Ribeiro Bonito, where you are aware of feeling you are in a true sanctuary of nature. This is one of the areas of the Laurisilva forest World Nature Heritage of UNESCO since 1999, where the genuinely Madeiran vegetation reaches its highest expression and its location and isolation leave one with the sensation of having gone back in time to the discovery of the island.
The permanent presence of clear water in this location intensifies the abundant life forms here and allows a great diversity of species to thrive. You can take delight in the majestic centenary Madeira laurels (Ocotea foetens), the laurel trees (Laurus azorica), the Madeira mahogany (Persea indica), and in the tiny birds like the firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus maderensis), and the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs maderensis), species that bring vitality to this ecosystem and please the ear with their songs.
Be sure to visit the São Jorge water mill (moínho), which is about three hundred years old. This mill is a good example of preservation, and powered by the water from the Levada do Rei, it grinds wheat, maize, barley and rye grown on the terraces of São Jorge.
Weather subject to frequent changes, take warm clothing and waterproof coat; tunnels en route, carry a torch; path is slippery in some places; Danger of vertigo.