Madeira is especially known for its "levadas".
A remarkably clever system enabling hikers of all levels and ages to discover this insular paradise.


The "levadas" are irrigation canals, more or less broad, a depth of 50cm, which traverse more than 2150 Kms of the island.  They are thus used to supply the villages with water and  to irrigate the crops and farms.  They constitute one of the richest elements of the cultural inheritance of Madeira and show how the intervention of man can be harmonized with nature without causing damage to the ecosystems. 
The network of the "levadas" is an impressive and discrete work which is harmonized perfectly with the surrounding natural environment.
The history of the "levadas" begins with the arrival of the colonists.  The first were built in the 15th century.  At the beginning, these channels were of very short distance, composed of enormous boards in the shape of drains.With the increase in the needs for water  for the irrigation of the fields of sugar cane and the vineyards, the "levadas" were developed and improved thanks to surer techniques (masonry replaced wood).

The new "levadas" are built out of reinforced concrete and the old ones have been restored.  They are the proof of an intensive and painful work set up by several generations.  Indeed, these "levadas" were constructed by man using rudimentary tools.  Sometimes they worked suspended by cords which were attached to the trunks of the trees or the top of the rocks.

The "levadas" remain narrow channels where water runs out slowly. They are gently inclined to avoid loss of water through evaporation.  Sometimes a path runs alongside them. The width of this is determined by the amount of land available. Many of these paths are narrow, although in certain places they are so broad that they look like avenues.  Sometimes the hiker is protected by heather, but in others he's walking on the edge of a precipice. On your levada walks you will see unspoiled landscapes, in particular in the sumptuous "LAURISSILVA", a significant forest of bay-trees, declared Europe World Inheritance by UNESCO in 1999.


Caution: You may consider this advice unnecessary but too many stupid people (pardon the expression) leave to go hiking and treking without being properly equipped.  Good walking shoes, hot rainproof clothing, an electric lamp, a bag with water and something to eat are essential for your good health and safety.  Never venture into the mountains without telling one of your friends or notifying your hotel reception. Mobiles phones are undependable because there is often loss of network.


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