Levada das 25 Fontes and Risco
Hiking route in Madeira

Discover Madeira’s most popular hiking route

The Levada das 25 Fontes and Risco is one of the most popular and visited trails in Madeira. This is probably due to the fact that it is a relatively easy walk of only a few kilometres where you can appreciate the beautiful greenery of the island.

This hiking route goes along the famous water channels called levadas, which run through the interior of the impressive laurel forest.

These levadas, or old water channels, were built to distribute water from the north to the south of the island and are one of Madeira’s most famous attractions. Nowadays, the system of water canals stretches over 2,000 km across the island, of which some 1,400 km are available to visitors. These levadas offer walks of different levels of difficulty, from quiet walks through the beautiful forests, such as the 25 Fontes, to spectacular routes along cliffs and through tunnels.

The trail starts in Rabaçal and takes you deep into the forest, passing a number of waterfalls along the way. The two most impressive waterfalls are the Risco waterfall and the waterfall of the 25 springs which gives its name to this route.

Below we tell you how to get there, distance, difficulty, best time to visit and much more.

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Key details of the hike

Hike Distance: The total distance of the Levada das 25 Fontes is 11 kilometres in total, round trip.

Hike duration: this hike will take between 3 to 4 hours depending on your pace and how much time you spend enjoying the waterfalls, resting or taking photos.

Hike Difficulty:This is one of the most popular trails and is well maintained and clearly signposted with no danger zones, making it very safe. In general, it is a fairly easy route with some inclines and descents, but nothing crazy.

Hike inclination:There is only about 350 metres of incline.

Useful info: To follow the hiking trails in Madeira we recommend you to use Walkme app, it will be very useful as you will have the maps with the route available and your location, even if you have no connection in the mountain.

Tip: Do the route early in the morning, this route is very popular with tourists and locals, so to be able to enjoy the route before all the organised tour buses arrive it is worth arriving early in the morning. Be aware that it is a round trip hike, so if you don’t go there early, the whole way back you will be stopping every couple of minutes to let big groups of people pass the same narrow parts of the hike.

How to get to the Levada das 25 Fontes

The Levada das 25 Fontes hike is located in Rabaçal, a nature reserve in the southwest of the island. The starting point of this route is easily accessible and has a large car park.

We would like to mention that there are actually two main routes you can take to visit the 25 Fontes and the Risco waterfall. Each of them has a different parking area and are different in terms of difficulty and inclination.

Route 1: Rabaçal – Levada das 25 Fontes e Risco (PR6)

This is the most popular starting point and the route most people take. We think this route is the best option as you will be able to enjoy the scenery of the valley and several waterfalls along the way. You can easily find the car park on the ER110 road towards Rabaçal, on Google Maps PR6 Levada das 25 Fontes/Levada do Risco.

This route starts downhill on a paved road and then joins the Risco waterfall circuit ending at Las 25 Fontes. It is a two-way route, as we mentioned at the beginning. This route is a little steeper than the other and has some stairs but should not be a problem for most people.

Route 2: Tunnel de Calheta – Levada das 25 Fontes e Risco

The second option is the route through the Calheta tunnel. This route is a little easier, with less elevation gain, but also less spectacular as you don’t pass through the valley and the small waterfalls. This path goes through a dark tunnel for about 800 metres, avoiding the inclination of the valley. The tunnel is well maintained but it is essential to carry a torch or use your mobile phone light.

Overall, we recommend Route 1, even if it is a little steeper, it is worth it for the scenery, the viewpoints and other small waterfalls you will see along the way.

Best time to do this hike

As mentioned, the Levada das 25 Fontes is one of the best known and busiest walks on the island so you can expect it to be crowded any day of the week. So the only way to avoid the crowds of tourists and enjoy the scenery without many people is to do the hike early in the day.

We went on a Tuesday, we arrived at the car park a little before 8 o’clock and there was only one other car, we were able to enjoy almost the whole route practically alone until the last part of the final lap when we started to cross paths with the first groups of organised tours. When we arrived back at the car park it was packed with cars, buses and vans parked along the road. As a reference, these large groups of tourists usually arrive around 10:30 am.

To decide the best time of the year or the best time to visit the Levada das 25 Fontes, it is necessary to take into account the rain. The waterfalls are definitely much more impressive and beautiful after several days of heavy rain.

In the summer months the waterfalls are more likely to carry less water, so you’ll find smaller waterfalls, but the scenery is still worth the effort. On the other hand, in the winter months you are more likely to find the waterfalls plentiful and impressive as the rains are much more frequent.

Our experience at Levada das 25 Fontes and Risco

As mentioned above, we chose the Rabaçal “Route 1” for the levada. Once you arrive at the car park you will be able to see beautiful views of the valley you are about to walk into, it is all very green everywhere you look. You will also find a sign in the car park with full details of the area and route information.

The first part of the hike is downhill along a paved road where small streams of water emerge from the moss-covered walls until you reach the forest post of Rabaçal. This stretch is about 2 kilometres downhill and keep in mind that on the way back this will be the final uphill section of the route, so you need to save some energy.
At the Rabaçal Forest Post, the trail to the Levada das 25 Fontes and the Risco waterfall begins. From here on, this section is all cobblestones and stairs, but it is not difficult at all.

Risco waterfall

After this initial stretch you will come to a fork in the path where you can either take another path to the right towards the Risco waterfall or continue on the path to the Levada das 25 Fontes. The detour to the Risco waterfall is only 800 metres and is well signposted, you will have to go back and forth to the road.

You should not miss this detour for a quick peak of this waterfall with a 100 metre high waterfall and then you can go back to the fork to continue the route along the Levada das 25 Fontes.

Once back on the path to the 25 Fontes after this short stop to visit the Risco, begins the best part of the route. After crossing a bridge a few metres above the Risco gorge, the path becomes narrower and goes deeper into the laurel forest. The twisted branches of the trees create a very interesting kind of “tunnel” and on cloudy days it creates a beautiful and mystical scene.

Viewpoint Levada das 25 Fontes

After a further 2.3 km walk from the Risco junction you will finally reach the 25 Fuentes waterfall. Here you can watch the water falling from the 25 springs. The sound of the water, the contrast between the waterfall and the rock and the intense green of the vegetation create a unique landscape.

This is the perfect place to take a break, have a bite to eat, sit down or take a quick dip in the lake at the waterfall, which by the way is freezing cold. This area is not very big, so be aware that everyone will be doing the same thing, so if you don’t go early you may not have a quiet area to relax in.

Finally, the way back is exactly the same as the way out, so you will have to retrace your steps to get back to the car park.

We could probably say that the experience you take away from this beautiful hiking route in Madeira depends a lot on what time you do it. If, like us, you start the hike early in the morning, the experience will be totally magical because you will be able to enjoy the mystical landscape, the mist and the sounds of nature.

However, if you arrive around 10 o’clock or later, the walk can be more stressful than relaxing due to the number of groups and families that come to this route, especially in the summer months, because as we said throughout the article, there are many sections of the route that are very narrow and only one person can pass, and you spend more time stopping to let the people in front of you pass than enjoying the route.

Finally, the Levada das 25 Fontes is another of the small jewels that this amazing island offers, full of nature and unforgettable adventures.

Don’t miss other guides about Madeira in our blog and if you have any other questions we will be happy to help you.

Lost Coconuts

Hi! We are María & Toni, digital nomads and creators of Lost Coconuts.

On our blog we share travel guides, tips for digital nomads and free tutorials with everything we’ve learned so that you too can start your own digital projects. About us

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