The Levada das 25 fontes hike, officially marked as PR 6, is one of the more popular levada hikes in Madeira. It’s highly scenic and features a beautiful waterfall.
With moderate difficulty and with a wonderful cafe on site, it’s an accessible hike that takes you into the Laurissilva forest on the west side of Madeira. It’s 11 kilometres long (4.6 kilometres one way) and will take about 3 hours in total.
Warning: while the trail is not specifically dangerous, do take care when hiking it. Several people have died at 25 Fontes over the years, including one such tragic incident in 2023. Avoid taking selfies on the narrow paths, don’t lean over cliffs, and be extra careful in slippery conditions. Enjoy but be safe!
What to expect
The name might make you believe there are 25 waterfalls on the trail, but the Portuguese word “fonte” refers to water sources. There is one waterfall where many small streams converge.
The trail can be very busy in peak season, so if your goal is to have an “alone in nature” experience, then this trail is not the best choice. However, if you don’t mind encountering some other hikers, you’ll find that it’s a varied and interesting trail and one of the more picturesque ones in Madeira.
Consider hiking it in the morning or well after lunch time if you want to beat the crowds.
There is a bar/restaurant at the trailhead, so it’s nice choice for a hike if you’re with a group or family and want to enjoy a drink after your hike.
The cafe sells a lot of tasty treats like cakes and brownies and you can relax at the volcanic stone and wooden tables outside while having a great view of the mountains. It’s common for small colourful birds like chaffinches to come and check you out here.
Getting to the trail
The hike starts at the ER110 road on the western plateau of Madeira. It’s fun to drive to this location as the area is a bit wild and has a lot of free-roaming cattle. Do watch out for them as they may sometimes block the road!
You can find a parking lot at these coordinates. From the parking lot, there is a small paved road going down into the valley. Only tour vans are allowed onto this road.
You can choose to hike down this road, though it isn’t yet part of the trail. In the busy season, there may be minivan shuttles offering to take you down to the trailhead for a small fee. This will let you skip about 30 to 40 minutes of not-super-interesting walking.
The hike starts properly at the Rabaçal Nature Spot Cafe.
Much of the path follows an old levada — a type of small water canal found all over Madeira. It’s a lovely path with the Laurissilva forest often forming an arch above the trail.
You’ll go down a bit into the valley and pass a stone bridge over a river.
Then, roughly halfway through the hike you will reach the Lagoa das 25 Fontes. The waterfall is quite scenic and the waters are very clear. This is the perfect spot to have a rest and a snack. You may find the water a little too cold for a swim, but you can at least put your feet in.
We did the trail in point-to-point fashion, going back the same way we came. But the hike can be made circular by using the Calheta tunnel, so pay attention to the signage after the Lagoa das 25 Fontes depending on how you want to do it.
On the way back you’ll climb a lot of stairs, so you will get a bit of exercise.
The trail is well-maintained and good for beginners with a moderate challenge in terms of elevation changes. It’s a beautiful place and a fine example of the levada trails that have made Madeira famous for hiking.
Hiking aficionados visiting in summer may find it too crowded and there are many other hikes in Madeira to consider. However, we still consider the trail worth it for the views and points of interest. Consider an early hike to avoid parking difficulties or any traffic jams on the narrow trail.