Start in Rabacal on the west side of Paul da Serra, Madeira island’s big plateau. climb up to the fire warden’s post at the summit just near the Calheta hydroelectric plant. If there is no mist, you will be able to admire the view over the bare plateau and see where waters flow North and South toward the sea. To the south lie the Calheta ridges and to the north is Ribeira da Janela valley, both contributing to a landscape of extraordinary beauty.
Pico de Arieiro is the highest place on Madeira that you can reach by car and it is standing 1810 meters above sea level.
It´s up on a high plateau where you mostly have some very cold weather so be prepared to bring some warm clothes if you go up there.
The place is often coverd in clouds and snow is not uncommon there so be prepared.
It´s a bit surreal that a tropical island like Madeira can have such a cold place just 10 kilometers from the coast where you have nice and warm climate year round, so i think it´s woth driving up there just to experience the difference even if it´s mostly damn cold and pretty miserable up there.
In the Paul da Serra area of the Parque Natural da Madeira the walk along the levadas of Rabacal is very popular.
From the EN 110 road from Porto Moniz to Paul da Serra are some viewpoints, from where you see the beautiful valley of Ribeira de Janela. At the beginning of this valley you can see also the houses of Rabacal, with the narrow winding road going down.
You can take this road by car. At the end near the houses of Rabacal is a parking lot.
"Rabacal is a fairytale area of singing waterfalls", we red in the guide book.
In the area of Rabacal are three different levadas with each its own character.
We parked our car near the houses of Rabacal and started our walk along the Levada do Risco, the highest levada (1030 M) of the three. We just followed the sign Risco.
What the guidebook said is true, it's really an enchanting area with nice views and vegetation.
The walk to Risco is easy, along a rather wide path between the heather trees.
The vegetation along the levada do Risco was very peculiar.
In the Netherlands we live in a area with a lot of heather, but heather of this height, I never saw before!
At home we are used to walk on the heather, but here we walked under the heather bushes and trees.
So this was my mysterious fairytale of Rabacal.
From the Rabacal houses it is a 15 minutes walk to the waterfall of Risco. Here are two waterfalls. The water falls in a small pool from an height of 100 M.
At the right hand side you can see a tunnel, made in the eighties, trying to get more water from the springs into the levadas.
From this place you have a very nice view at the valley and the other two lower levadas.
In the impressive moorland of Paul da Serra we also did a walk along the levada do Paul.
You can reach this levada at the road EN 209 between Canhas at the south coast and Paul da Serra.
The levada walk starts just south of the statue Cristo Rei, not to be missed.
The levada lies at the slopes of the Paul da Serra and goes through a desolate moor landscape of a rough natural beauty, that I love.
The levada do Paul through the rough heatherlands of the slopes of the Paul da Serra crosses mountainstreams and waterfalls.
It's rather easy to cross the streams and falls, if you are not afraid to slip in the streaming water.
Not only when you cross a stream, but at several places the path along this levada in this swampy area can be rather wet and slippery. So be prepared and wear good shoes.
Walking along the Levada do Paul in the desolate landscape we didn't see any other walker. The weather was hazy and the atmosphere a bit mysterious. The swampy heather land with its rough beauty was really enchanting. That's why I enjoyed this walk.
Where a small stream came down we could look up to the also hazy Paul da Serra area.
Down in the direction of the ocean we had no view because of the clouds.
Walking in this small world was like to be alone on this world for a while.
Just under the viewpoint of the Encumeada Pass is at the south side also a levada.
So after several visits at the pass, we decided to go down and have a look.
We followed the levada and enjoyed the views to the valley of the Ribeira Brava.
The first part of the walk was nice, walking between trees and bushes at a rather wide path. We saw pines, heather, laurel, but also lilys, azaleas, hortensias and many other wild flowers.
From the Levada das Rabacas we had very good views into the valley of the Ribeira Brava and at the village Serra de Agua with the surrounding agricutural terraces.
We could also spot several mountainpaths between the houses at the mountainslopes.
But above all we saw rather rough and steep slopes with scattered vegetation.
Sometimes the slope just beside the path was very steep, so be aware to walk here, if you have fear of heights.
After 45 minutes we reached a waterfall at our right hand side, just below the road from the Encumeada Pass to Paul da Serra.
This was a good point for us to return to the parking lot at the Encumeada Pass taking the same path back along the Levada das Rabacas.
Continuing the route means entering a tunnel for a 30 minutes walk.
For walking along levadas in mountaineous areas and in valleys it is not always necessary to go to the central part of the island.
Ee did a levada walk starting in Santa Quiteria, just a few KMs west of the Pico dos Barcelos in Funchal.
Santa Quiteria is easy to reach with bus nr 8 or 16.
The first part of the levada goes along houses, gardens and orchards, but after a walk of 30 minutes you are in the wonderful green landscape of the Socorridos Valley without any notion, that the capital is so nearby.
This levada trail takes about 5 hours walking. It starts at Sao Martinho-Funchal and it ends at Nun's Valley.
This is one of the hardest trails in Madeira because there are many tunels and you'll need a torch light all the time.
Make sure you're not a novice!
Risco is one kilometre further on Rabacal. The path is flat and after only 15 minutes you will have impressive views. Water flowing from Lagoa do Vento, hidden some 100 metres above, gathers again in the Poco do Risco more than a hundred metres further on down this path. From the lookout point one can admire this outstanding natural monument, carved by the force of water falling onto volcanic rock over hundreds of thousands of years. Moisture loving mosses, ferns, grasses and bushes cling to the rocky walls.