Levada do Furado

Note: This route is reportedly diverted (May 2024) owing to a landslip that will take a considerable time to rectify. The diversion runs from a point roughly 7.2km from Ribeiro Frio to Lamaceiros. The new route is roughly 1km longer and involves a substantial climb over the Pico do Suna.

The Levada do Furado, part of which is now designated as walking route PR10, is one of the oldest in Madeira, being used in the 16th century to irrigate sugar crops and is believed to have extended as far as Caniçal. The further extremities of the system fell into disrepair and were abandoned, however the section between Ribeiro Frio (the original source) and Portela is believed to have been in continuous operation since its inception.

Later, the (old) Levada do Juncal was developed to bring water from the Ribeira do Juncal through Santo da Serra and eventually down to Santa Cruz, roughly where the aiport now stands. Its remains form part of the path to the Balcões viewing point. Between Ribeira Frio and Lamaceiros (where there is a distribution point for water going down to Portela), the water was transported via the Levada do Furado before being routed to Lombo da Raiz near Santo da Serra and then through the centre of the village.

Ultimately, the construction of the Levada da Serra do Faial rationalised the system, with the Levada do Juncal being abandoned at Lombo da Raiz and the Levada do Furado being incorporated into a much longer watercourse.

Consequently, the nomenclature is a little confused. Between Ribeiro Frio and Lamaceiros, the levada is known as the Levada do Furado. Between Lamaceiros and Portela, it's the Levada da Portela and south of Lamaceiros it's the Levada da Serra do Faial.

However, the consequence is that you have a choice of walks between Ribeiro Frio, Portela and Santo da Serra.

Access to Levada do Furado

It's easiest to describe the walk starting at Ribeiro Frio where the access is immediately adjacent to the bus stop arriving from Funchal. The walk is very popular and you may encounter guided groups. Also, the route is partly shared with a running/ultra trail. Like all levada walks, the ground can be uneven and slippery, but the path is generally well maintained.

The path begins in shade, but gaps in the trees reveal some quite stunning views.

View from Levada do Furado

After a while, the levada is joined by water from the Levada do Poço do Bezerro. 

Levada do Poço do Bezerro

There are actually three additional watercourses here: the river (Ribeiro do Poço do Bezerro), and the old (stone troughs) and new (concrete channel) Levada do Poço do Bezerro which carried/carry its water. A running trail is signposted up the hill (old levada) which should ultimately (after a sharp ascent and descent) emerge just south of Ribeiro Frio, forming a continuous circuit. However, the "path" consists of loose and slippery stones and doesn't seem a great choice for the casual explorer. The new levada doesn't appear to have a passable path of any kind.

Initial course of Levada do Furado
© OpenStreetMap contributors

The initial course of the Levada do Furado is shown on the map above: the start of the path in Ribeiro Frio is at A and the junction with the additional watercourses is at B. You can see that the Levada do Furado loops back on itself before taking a sharp turn to the east while the various Poço do Bezerro watercourses head south-west back to just south of Ribeiro Frio.

Beyond this point (heading east) there are a number of pools and waterfalls where natural watercourses and the levada cross. Views start to open up a little.

Views from Levada do Furado

The terrain becomes steeper and the levada is in places cut through the rock face.

Levada do Furado Tunnels

On the approach to Lamaceiros, the tunnels continue, interspersed with distant views of Porto da Cruz.

Levada do Furado - View of Porto da Cruz

The Casinha da Agua at Lamaceiros , 8km from Ribeiro Frio, is the point at which the path splits. The levada continues south to Santo da Serra as the Levada da Serra do Faial. Water from the Levada do Furado drops down into the Levada da Portela and a wide track leads down to that route. There's also a path up to the viewing point at Pico do Suna.

Casinha da Agua at Lamaceiros

From this point, it's only around 3km to Portela where there is also a viewing point, as well as places to eat and drink and (infrequent) buses to Machico. You can see where the two levada trails separate in the map below, with the Levada da Portela heading north-east and the Levada da Serra do Faial heading off to the south.

Levada junction at Lamaceiros
© OpenStreetMap contributors

If you take the route to Santo da Serra, you may find it suddenly very quiet - the majority of walkers go to Portela and the walk along the Levada da Serra do Faial is a distinct contrast.

Levada da Serra do Faial

The levada crosses a dirt road and resumes on the other side. The trail occasionally deviates slightly from the course of the levada, but remains in sight of it, so you shouldn't get lost. After around 4km, the levada reaches the Casinha da Agua at Lombo da Raiz from where a path descends to Santo da Serra, following the route of the old Levada do Juncal.

Lombo da Raiz

If you continue along the levada, after a short time the water is diverted into a natural watercourse and the path of the levada continues showing signs of periodic use by motorcycles.

Water diverted from Levada da Serra do Faial

Getting there

Buses are not particularly frequent in Ribeiro Frio, Portela or Santo da Serra and using your own vehicle is unlikely to very convenient unless you want to walk the route in both directions. You're more likely to get parked in Santo da Serra than in Ribeiro Frio if you do wish to bring your own car.

It's probably best to start in the morning via Ribeiro Frio (see here for more details), but expect it to be busy. There can be a queue for the bus from Funchal, however, it's better to be turned away from the bus in Funchal rather than find yourself stuck in Ribeiro Frio for the reverse journey. There's a bus around 10am from Funchal that gives you plenty of time to do the walk and return from Santo da Serra (information here) or Portela in the late afternoon. The SAM bus 53 which runs between Porto Cruz and Funchal (via Machico) stops several times a day in Portela in each direction on weekdays and with less frequency on Saturday. On Sundays, SAM bus 78 provides one evening service from Portela to Funchal and two services in the opposite direction earlier in the day. A limited number of SAM 20 services between Funchal and Santo da Serra also serve Portela.