PR6 – Levada das 25 Fontes (Calheta – Madeira)
“Levada das 25 Fontes” is one of the most well-known hiking trails on Madeira Island. Its popularity means that every day, countless hikers take the trail that ends at the emblematic 25 Fountains Lagoon.
So we awoke at the first rays of sun and we hit the road. We wanted to start this hike as soon as possible to avoid the congestion on the “levada”.
We weren’t the first to get there. About a dozen cars were already parked in the small parking lot next to E.R. 110 and a bus arrived at that moment. From that point on, only a passenger van (a paid service provided by the Municipality of Calheta) could pass to take the hikers to the Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe, the beginning of the official marked route.
We preferred to start walking down the road to warm up, while a cold mist rose up the valley. A little more than 500m ahead we crossed the course of a river and continued zigzagging to the Shelter House. When the fog rose, we were presented with superb views of the valley and almost instinctively paused to contemplate them.
At Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe we had a coffee with the company of five finches that, without fear, approached us with hope of receiving some crumbs.
But it was time to continue and we set foot on the path. A few meters from the house we could also choose to take “PR 6.1 – Levada do Risco” variant that would lead us to an impressive waterfall. This waterfall, forming a risk in the rock, gives its name to the route that would have to stay for another day because our focus was the 25 Fountains Lagoon. So we descended the stone steps to reach the trail that accompanies the “levada” to the lagoon. This man-made aqueduct, in a vast irrigation network, to conquer the island’s orography and take the waters from the springs to the fields, was built in 1835.
An idyllic spot that seems to be drawn from another world.
We walk on a dirt track, taking advantage of the dense shade of the Laurissilva forest of Madeira, which since 1999 has been classified as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage. When the vegetation allows, we glimpse cinematographic scenarios in the background. Our eyes roam through dramatic mountains covered by different shades of green and yellow, resulting from species of native vegetation that proliferate there, with predominance of “Urze Molar”, “Urze das Vassouras” and “Uveira da Serra”. Some waterfalls cut the colored robe as they fall sharply into the valley. With no doubt there are many reasons of interest that by themself were enough for this journey to be worth.
In some sections, where the trail was narrower, our care was redoubled. Not that it’s a pedestrian route that we consider dangerous, as long as we provided the basic rules of safety, but with Maria on our back, the concern is always greater and the progression slower.
When arriving at the bridge over “Ribeira Grande” we glimpse at the distance the imposing “Cascata do Risco” (Risk waterfall), the end point of the variant PR 6.1. After the bridge, we climbed the stone staircase alongside the levada and entered the last 1300m of the route. Here the narrow track security is reinforced with the placement of balconies in the most sensitive areas.
We finally arrived at the “Lagoa das 25 Fontes” (25 Fountains Lagoon). An idyllic spot that seems to be drawn from another world. From the top falls the main cascade and on both sides of this we observe more than 25 fountains formed by the waters that descend from “Paúl da Serra”. The framing is done by mosses, ferns and other vegetation that covers the gleaming black rock, due to the local humidity.
For some moments we can enjoy some of the tranquility of this fantastic place, but shortly afterwards there were already dozens of tourists who occupied the surrounding stones searching for the best “selfie”. Everyone wanted to take home a little of this paradise.
It was time to return and here the pleasure of this walk ended. On the opposite way we found endless queues of tourists, huge groups and excursions that turned the levada into a national highway at rush hour. Every 5 meters the stop was inevitable to give passage to those who came. And we would start walking again after a few minutes of waiting. And so it was, in these hiccups, until the end of the route.
A sad episode that will forever be associated with the memory of this journey was the fact that a guide, who walked with her clients in the opposite direction, “asked” in a somewhat rude and vigorous way to all who were ahead to turn to the outer part of “levada”, near the abyss. With our daughter behind us, for safety, while we waited to give passage to those who came in the opposite direction, we would always turn Maria to the inner side, that is, the sheltered side of the rock.
It was the safest, we didn’t put anyone in danger and everyone was able to pass. I explained the reasons why I wouldn’t do it and after some discuss and the astonishment and indignation of all those who witnessed the situation, we chose to retreat to a wider area of the trail where there would be the space that the guide “needed” to pass with her clients.
It may be urgent to take measures so that this natural space can be enjoyed in full by all, without harming the business of some, but also allowing independent walkers the right to discover it.
It was something that in more than a decade of regular walks never happened to us, these attitudes of ownership are not really part of who we used to find in these wanderings. And we continue to believe that this is so.
We arrived tired and somewhat saturated to Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe. It was nice to relax on the benches in the garden, to taste “bolo do caco” with bacon, egg and salad or just simple with garlic butter.
We returned to the car to go to the next destination: the Natural Pools of Porto Moniz.
Points of Interest:
Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe, Landscapes, “Levada”, Risk Waterfall, 25 Fountains Lagoon and Waterfalls.
- Begin the hike as early as possible to avoid congestion on the track.
- This hike may cause dizziness. It has balconies in the most complicated sections but be careful, especially when giving passage to other walkers.
- Take a snack at Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe.
- If the legs are tired, the climb back to the car, from Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe (about 2km), can be done in a van available by the Municipality of Calheta, paying some euros (€ 3 per person one way and € 5 round trip during our visit) for transportation.
- Next to the Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe has public WC’s.
723melevation gain uphill
728melevation gain downhill
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