Levada to Caldeirao Verde
Key information: Levada to Caldeirao Verde
- This has to be one of Madeira’s most thrilling levadas, evolving from gentle, green beginnings to visual fireworks high above the monstrous Ribeira Grande.
- Your delightful destination is the damp, mossy, ferny Caldeirão Verde below a 100m cliff with a thin waterfall splashing down into the pool at the bottom.
- Continuing to the extraordinary Caldeirão do Inferno.
- Walkopedia rating95
- Natural interest17
- Human interest14
- Negative points4
- Total rating95
- Length: 3-3.5hrs to Verde
- Maximum Altitude: 950m, Verde
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde, in the northern cliffs of the central massif, has to be one of Madeira’s most thrilling levadas, and that is saying something.
It changes character as you progress, at first running from the magical Queimadas wooden and thatched house through a lush, damp forest park of giant ferns, patches of laurisilva forest, the ancient vegetation of much of southern Europe and now UNESCO protected here, and cedars, beech and much more. A gentle and interesting walk on a wide trail.
The hillside gradually steepens, and you wind in and out of the upper end of two ravines, the path becoming narrower and rougher when it isn’t the smooth Lavada parapet. The views get more frequent and grander, not because the forest gets inherently much thinner but because the cliffs you are now in are so steep. Same effect, we suppose.
You pass briefly through the first of the 5 tunnels, then are at the outside of a long, steep ridge, at the entrance to the longest, 5 minute, tunnel and the junction with a tough 550m descent down the ridge via the charming Vale de Lapa forestry house, to opener landscape around Ilha de Sao Jorge.
Out the other side, the fireworks really begin. You are now walking on the narrow levada rim, 100, 200 metres above the floor of the monstrous Ribeira Grande. With cliffs and spires soaring above, much still covered in vegetation, it looks surprisingly Chinese, especially on a misty day as when we were there. Were it not for sturdy metal posts and cables, Walkopedia would have been whimpering.
The next half hour or so is a thrilling walk high above the gorge, as exciting as any walk we have made. Up a short stream bed in the next cut-back is your delightful destination, the very green, damp, mossy, ferny Caldeirão Verde, a.. er… green cauldron below a 100m cliff with a thin waterfall splashing down its face into the pool at the bottom and countless other little dribbles dropping from clump to mossy clump. A form of bliss and what better way to celebrate than with a picnic?
Walking on to the Caldeirão do Inferno is another matter, and not for the squeamish. You continue along the Caldeirão Verde levada for another half hour or so, then climb 80m of steep steps (gut-wrenching to descend for the vertigo-sufferer) to the Levada do Pico Ruivo, where you turn right and soon after enter a vertical cavern-gorge complete with waterfall, an extraordinary and both a thrilling and a sinister place. Shortly after is the quiet (unless after heavy rain) Caldeirão do Inferno below its 300m cliffs, an extraordinary place to end a walk. This extension will take the walk to 15.5km, 5+ hrs.
This walk is very popular, and in all guidebooks and on all local walk company itineraries, and was overcrowded, to our taste, when Walkopedia was there (midweek): we encountered files of 20+ people, and spent some time stepping aside for oncoming traffic, or thanking people who had done likewise.
Our vital statistcs above are for the Caldeirão Verde. Caldeirão do Inferno is a tougher proposition. Uncertain weather, and extreme heights can cause real problems, both psychological (vertigo) and physical (falls). Come fully prepared. And you will need a torch for the tunnels.
Transport: car, or bus to Santana, then taxi to Queimada, high on the slopes above Santana.
The excellent Walking in Madeira by Paddy Dillon for Cicerone and Sunflower’s Madeira Car Tours and Walks describe this walk. Find these and other books on Amazon.
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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
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