Levada das 25 Fontes, or 25 fountains levada is probably the best known and most popular of the hikes in Madeira. It’s an almost flat walk that takes us through the laurel forest until reaching one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Madeira. The Levada do Risco is basically in the same place in the forest but at a slightly higher altitude and leads to the also well-known Risco waterfall.
So, in a relatively short walk, you will visit two of the most impressive waterfalls in Madeira, explore a section of the laurissilva – a UNESCO heritage site – and, of course, walk along the incredible levadas of Madeira.
Levada das 25 Fontes usually starts at Casa do Rabaçal and ends at the 25 Fontes waterfall. It is about 11 km long (4.6 km going out + 4.6 km back and about 2 km to go to the Risco waterfall) and takes about 4 hours.
Levada do Risco runs from the Rabaçal house to the Risco waterfall, and it is also flat and is almost parallel to 25 Fontes. For this reason, there are several connections between both levadas and between PR 6 and PR 6.1. These connections are perfectly indicated, and it is thus possible to jump from one Levada to the other and see both waterfalls with relative ease.
Alternatively, it is possible to start the route in the car park on the ER221 road, which connects Calheta to the ER105. It is a practically flat route, except for the climb between the levadas that we will describe below.
Here we will describe the trail of the Levada das 25 Fontes – PR6, accessing through the tunnel and making a detour to the Risco waterfall. It is perfectly possible to start at Rabaçal’s house, but we chose not to do so because it is a much more popular area and therefore more crowded. It is also possible not to do the Risco tour, but we advise you to go there, as it is an imposing waterfall.
Levadas das 25 fontes – quick information
- Name: Levada das 25 fontes
- Start – Zona de Lazer da Caldeira by EN211, or in Rabaçal
- End – Zona de Lazer da Caldeira by EN211, or in Rabaçal
- Distance – about 11 km
- Time required – 4 hours
- Difficulty – easy to moderate
- Max/min altitude: 1290 /900 meters
- Altitude gain: 350 meters
- Type – linear with return
- Signalization (1-5) – 5, perfect
- Highlights: 25 fontes waterfall, Risco waterfall, laurissilva forrest, and acess tunel
- You can download the official map here
The two accesses to the PR6 – Levada of the 25 fountains
As mentioned above, we can start the Levada das 25 Fontes trail at Rabaçal or at the leisure area of Caldeira, in the ER211 car park. It is very easy to find the trail in both cases as it is perfectly signposted and well-marked on google maps.
If you decide to start at Rabaçal, note that the first 2km are by road, or alternatively, you can take the shuttle service that takes hikers from the car park to the Rabaçal Forestry Post/Casa do Rabaçal. It costs 3 euros if it’s one way, or 5 euros round trip.
It is possible to walk this 2 km, but it is not the most exciting area. On the other hand, some (quite a lot) queues form to catch the transport at the most popular times.
If you start at the Caldeira leisure area, you will have to walk about 800 meters through a tunnel with a levada, without any lighting. So, it would be best if you took a flashlight to illuminate the walk, but it is a perfectly safe route as it is completely straight and without significant dangers. It turns out to be a very curious experience, and for those who have never done levadas with tunnels, this is a good one to start.
We chose to do the lesser-known tunnel access, avoiding the cost and making the tunnel.
Our experience on the trail
This version of the 25 fountains trail is less crowded than the access from Rabaçal, but the car park in the Caldeira leisure area is not very large, so it can be difficult to park on busy days. Therefore, arriving early is always a good idea.
Trail to the cascade of the 25 fountains through the tunnel
Accessing the trail is very easy, and it is well signposted, so you won’t have any problem starting. It is across the road from the parking lot, and there’s a sign marking it. From here we walk for almost one km through the forest, always flat, until we find the famous tunnel.
Before entering the tunnel, take your lanterns, put on a raincoat, and/or something warm if the weather is not too hot because it is always much colder inside, and some drips can fall. The route inside the tunnel is about 800 meters long, always flat, and in a straight line. The tunnel follows a levada, and there may be water on the ground.
This turns out to be a curious part of the trail for those not used to crossing tunnels. It’s not technical or dangerous, but it gives a feeling of adventure and discovery. After about 10 to 15 minutes, we reach the other side and enter the laurel forest. The trees and density are entirely different.
Our route continues by following a levada, but immediately afterward, we have an indication of an exit to Rabaçal. Ignore it; for now, we have to continue following the signs to 25 Fontes and the levada to see the waterfall.
For about 2 km, we will follow the levada and marvel at the laurel forest, the magnificent valleys formed by the streams of Madeira, and the construction of the levadas. In some parts, there are high cliffs, which can be challenging for those with vertigo, but the entire route is signposted, marked, and quite safe.
On the bridge, note the impressive waterfall in the background; that’s where we’ll go later. After the bridge, the path by the levada is a little narrower, and in some places, it is necessary to pay attention when crossing other hikers. However, we must mention that all areas that could be more sensitive have railings. At no point on this trail did we feel in danger, and although we don’t have vertigo, we’re not big fans of high ridges.
After another kilometer, we arrive at our first destination, the 25 fountains waterfall. The curious name comes from the many springs that fall into the lagoon.
During the summer or periods of prolonged drought, it is likely that the waterfall takes very little water, taking away much of the charm of the final destination. However, the walk is also worth bearing in all the surroundings of the laurissilva and the Ribeira da Janela Valley. Also, it is natural that many people gather by the waterfall in the summer.
From the 25 fountains to risco waterfall
The 25 fountains waterfall is the source of this Levada and the trail’s endpoint, so from here, we have to go back. However, to avoid crossing people, a part of the way back route takes a detour, slightly higher in altitude. It turns out to be exciting and a way to see the forest even more closely. This deviation is well indicated.
To continue to Risco waterfall, we have to continue returning along the original path until a shortcut appears that indicates Rabaçal or Casa do Rabaçal. At this point, we turn towards Rabaçal and enter the most challenging part of the trail. It is a relatively short but very intense climb, and there is no technical difficulty, just a lot of stairs and a few hundred meters of a hard climb.
At the end of the climb, we arrive at the new Levada, the Levada do Risco. Here if we turn left, we go to Risco; if we turn right, we go to Rabaçal. This levada has a very wide path; it is always flat and without technical or physical difficulty. It is an authentic highway for walkers.
Following the levada for about 800 meters, we arrive at the viewpoint of Cascada do Risco. A waterfall with a considerable height, over 100 meters. When there is rain, the waterfall has a lot of water, making it quite impressive. In the summer or during periods of drought, it is just a trickle of water. Our photo below was at half gas, but it is still a magnificent waterfall.
Note that the trail supposedly continues past the viewpoint, passing right behind the waterfall, but when we went there, it was closed. Although tempting, always follow the safety instructions and not venture on closed trails. Every year hikers disappear in Madeira because they fail to comply with simple instructions.
Return to the car park
After Risco waterfall, we have to return to the starting point; we return along the levada do Risco to the previous crossing for 800 meters. Here we have to decide whether to head towards Rabaçal or go down to the 25 fountains.
We advise you to continue towards Rabaçal, to see a little more of this path. A little over a km later, you will have another opportunity to go down the Levada do Rabaçal, so you don’t need to repeat the previous trail. In terms of distance, it is pretty similar. Besides, we’ll be very close to Rabaçal’s house.
So, following about 1 km to 1.5 km, we arrive at a new crossroads, and here we have to descend to the 25 fountains Levada. However, we are close to Rabaçal, if you want you can visit Casa Florestal, and go to the café/restaurant there. This cafe is also the only bathroom on the entire trail.
The descent to the 25 fountains is similar to the ascent we did earlier and, therefore, relatively easy. Just be careful not to slip if the floor is damp. Once again, at the Levada das 25 Fontes, we have to turn left towards the tunnel, cross the tunnel again and go to the car park.
Although it is not the most popular route, this is the route we did, and we recommend it. It makes it possible to transform a linear trail into an almost circular route, not repeating the entire round trip. We see two waterfalls, two levadas, explore the laurel forest, enjoy fantastic views, and cross a pedestrian tunnel. What more can you ask for on a hike in Madeira?
Best time to do the trail
This trail can be hiked all year round, as long as the weather conditions allow it. It won’t be enjoyable to do in the rain, but which trail is it? Note that if conditions are terrible, it is likely that the levada will be closed.
Although perfectly possible at any time of year, each season has its peculiarities:
- In summer – drier and therefore less impressive waterfalls. More people on the track. Better weather, the sun is not a problem because a large part of the route is covered in shade;
- In winter – Much more humid, care must be taken not to slip. Much more likely to be raining and bad weather. Route may be closed. Much less people but don’t forget that Madeira is popular all year round. Waterfalls with more water and more impressive;
- Mid season – You can have both dry and wet weather. Less likely to get bad weather and rain. Unless it’s a dry spell, the waterfalls will have some water, but not as much as in winter. Some people but without the summer madness.
Is the trail family-friendly?
The PR6 Levada of the 25 fountains can be done by anyone who can hike 11 to 12 km. It only has a relatively short area with ascent and descent; the rest of the route is flat. There are also no hazardous technical areas as long as you have a minimum of care.
The entire route has railings, so even the narrowest areas and close to canyons can be done safely. Even so, we advise that in these narrower places, always facilitate access to those in a less favorable position.
We saw hikers of almost all ages when we did this route, including some children and even backpackers with babies.
What to take?
As we mentioned, this is not a particularly difficult or technical trail. Still, it has the particularity of crossing a tunnel, so it is necessary to carry a flashlight or use your cell phone. In addition, the only opportunity to buy something is at Rabaçal’s house. Therefore, we recommend that you bring:
- Lots of water (about a 2l per person)
- Snacks – If you do this hike in a day without crowds you’ll be able to lunch at one of the falls.
- comfortable hiking or running shoes;
- comfortable clothes;
- rain jacket and something warm, because the weather in the mountains changes quickly;
- sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen if it’s sunny;
- camera and smartphone, there are plenty of photo opportunities here;
- A daypack to take everything with you;
As always, please do not make any trash. Bring back everything you take with you.
Quick Tips for the Levadas of Madeira
In this and all the levadas in Madeira, we advise you to:
- Don’t go hiking alone. The levadas are safe but you never know what could happen;
- Always have your cell phone with you. Watch out for battery levels;
- Always stay within the indicated tracks. Do not take shortcuts or cuts that you are not familiar with;
- Confirm the expected walking time, and make sure you finish the walk before nightfall;
- Wear appropriate clothing, note that the weather is very volatile in Madeira, especially in the mountains;
- It is common for the floor to be damp and therefore slippery – Wear suitable footwear;
- It is forbidden to cycle on the levadas;
- Do not damage plants, do not scare animals, do not litter or smoke;
- In narrow places, always facilitate the passage of other hikers in an unfavorable position, placing yourself in a safe area, away from the abysses;
- If any trail or levada is blocked, for whatever reason, go back along the route you came from;
- Do not take the route if it is closed!
How to go to the trail?
Leaving Funchal, we recommend taking the Via Rapida (VR1) towards Ribeira Brava. Then continue along Via Expresso (VE3) towards Ponta do Sol and Calheta. When you reach the village of Arco da Calheta, at the roundabout, take the 1st exit towards Estrada Regional 222. At Loreto, follow the signs to Rabaçal on 211.
The car park in the leisure area of Caldeira is on the left, about 500 meters from the junction with the ER110, where the main car park is located. It is impossible to miss it, as they are signposted along the road.
Where to stay when going to Levada das 25 Fontes
Madeira is a relatively small island, and you can cross it in less than an hour. Wherever your accommodation is, you will always be less than an hour away from this and any levada.
We, therefore, advise you not to change accommodation to do the trail. It is most likely to stay in Funchal as it is where there is a greater variety of accommodation, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. If you don’t have a hotel yet, check the map below for the best accommodation in Funchal.