About 25 Fontes Levada hike
One of the most popular trails in Madeira, the Levada das 25 Fontes hike, is relatively easy and leads you to a beautiful valley with lush vegetation, along a Levada surrounded by beautiful trees the whole way.
It ends in a small canyon where many small streams of water pour down a canyon wall creating a pretty waterfall. What makes this spot even more special are the friendly birds.
If you want to get familiar with Levada walks and see how it is, this is a great one to start with.
In this guide, we’ll share all the information you need to know before doing the 25 Fontes Levada hike.
Hiking the 25 Fontes Levada
This hike’s name comes from the ‘25 Fontes’ or ‘25 Fountains’ waterfall, which is the highlight of this Levada walk. The waterfall looks like 25 little streams are pouring down from the top of the cliff walls into one big turquoise pool, which makes quite a unique sight.
This Levada is also known for friendly birds around the waterfall area. If you bring them bird seeds, they will happily come to eat from your hand.
Key hiking information
Levada das 25 Fontes is about 10 kilometers out and back in total. The 10km trail includes the detour to the Risco waterfall, which is about 1,6 kilometers in total distance.
From the Rabacal parking, it’s about 4,3 kilometers to the 25 Fontes waterfalls, while Risco waterfall adds around an 800 meters detour each way. However, if you take the minibus from the parking lot, you can save around 1,8 km each way (more on this later).
Depending on how long you stay at the waterfall, it takes around 3 – 4 hours to finish the Levada das 25 Fontes hike.
We spent about 6 hours at the Levada das 25 Fontes, as we took our time to enjoy both waterfalls and had some fun feeding the birds.
25 Fontes trail is considered moderately difficult, as some inclines and many stairs are involved.
The trail there isn’t too hard as you’re mostly going downhill, but you have to go uphill on the way back. This hike shouldn’t be too hard if you don’t have any health problems.
To make the journey back easier, you can take a shuttle bus back up from the Rabaçal Forestry House, which helps a lot as that’s the worst part of the hike, in our opinion. Read more about the shuttle bus later in the guide.
The incline of Levada das 25 Fontes is 300 meters.
The only toilets at Levada das 25 Fontes trail are at Rabaçal Forestry House (about 2 km away from Rabacal parking lot). The toilets there are paid for unless you’re a customer of the restaurant/cafe.
There are no toilets along the trail.
How to get to Levada das 25 Fontes?
Unfortunately, no public transport can take you to the starting point of the 25 Fontes hike, so the best way to get there is by renting a car. The parking lot is free of charge.
You can also take a taxi from Funchal to Levada das 25 Fontes for about 50 EUR.
Getting to 25 Fontes by car
Levada das 25 Fontes is located in Rabaçal, and you can reach it by car from Funchal in about 1 hour (42km).
The easiest way to get to Levada das 25 Fontes is to write “25 Fontes Levada” into Google Maps, and it will take you directly to the parking lot, which is the starting point for the hike.
Organized tours to Levada das 25 Fontes
Madeira has great a great selection of companies specializing in organized tours.
So if you’d rather join a tour, check out some of these top-rated ones. We found these had the best and most recent reviews.
From what we’ve seen all the tours run on different days, with some companies only operating on the weekends (Saturday, Sunday) and some only Tuesdays and Fridays.
Best time to do the Levada das 25 Fontes hike
The best season to visit the Levada das 25 Fontes is in the winter when there is more rain, the waterfalls are more powerful, and everything is lush.
The wintertime is the best time for almost every Levada hike in Madeira.
In summer, most of the waterfalls in Madeira will be dry and not as spectacular as in winter. Nonetheless, if you’re visiting in the drier months, the scenery is still breathtaking.
The best time of the day to visit the Levada das 25 Fontes hike is early morning or in the afternoon, as it’s one of the most popular Levada walks in Madeira. So you’ll want to visit as early as possible, especially in summer.
There might be fewer people in the winter unless you’re visiting during the winter holidays.
What to pack for the 25 Fontes hike
You don’t need a lot of gear for the 25 Fontes hike in Madeira, but you need comfy trekking/hiking shoes, a jacket, a raincoat, and some snacks.
A detailed description of Levada das 25 Fontes hike
The 25 Fontes hike in Madeira is an out and back route, so you go down and come back up where you came from.
Section 1 – starting at the Rabacal parking lot
You can take the shuttle bus or walk about 1,8 km down the paved road.
Important: If you decide to hike early (before 10 am), the shuttle bus is not yet operating. Therefore, the only option is to walk.
The 1.8km of paved road is not as impressive as it’s a paved road, after all. It is surrounded by beautiful, green, lush forest, though, but that’s it.
Going down wasn’t as bad, but going up seemed pretty long and never-ending to us as it was pouring rain. So we’d recommend taking the shuttle bus back up.
Section 2 – path through the forest
After 1.8km of either walking or driving with the shuttle, you’ll reach the Rabaçal Forestry House, where you must turn into the forest path. It takes around 2,5 km to the 25 Fontes Levada from this point.
The path down to the level of the Levada is mainly made of rock, and there are quite some stairs, so it can be a bit slippery if you visit after or during the rain as we did.
In our opinion, this is where the beautiful part of the hike starts when you finally go into the forest and get surrounded by beautiful trees and greenery.
Optional – Detour to Risco waterfall
After reaching the forest path and walking for about 1,2 km (which is halfway to the 25 Fontes), you can make a short detour to Risco waterfall. This detour is only 800 meters each way, and it’s definitely worth it. Many people decide to skip this part, so it will be less crowded than 25 Fontes, and nobody stays here for too long.
Risco waterfall is about 100 meters high and is the most powerful during the rainy season.
There used to be a trail taking you underneath the waterfall, but landslides ruined it, so it’s now closed. However, if you look closely, you can still see parts of it. We can only imagine how cool that would be!
You can choose to make the detour to Risco waterfall before or after seeing the 25 Fontes. It won’t make any difference as you have to return the same way up to the parking lot. We did it on the way back.
Section 3 – reaching the Levada
From this point, you just have to follow the Levada (a little canal of water that you can see on the side of the path). Most of this section is relatively flat and is the most exciting part of the route (except for the waterfalls themselves).
You can see the best views on this part. Some parts have big mountain drops, but those parts are secured with a fence. However, most of these parts are pretty narrow, so you have to be careful while avoiding other people on the route.
At one point, you’ll see a staircase leading up. Don’t get confused, and just follow the Levada.
The end – 25 Fountains waterfall
The endpoint of the 25 Fontes Levada hike is the enclosed area with little streams of water pouring down the mountain wall into a big pool. The waterfall might not be the most impressive, but it is quite a unique sight. And it’s even more stunning in winter when the waterfall is the most powerful.
Don’t miss a chance to get close to the water pool and observe the fish inside. Of course, you might get a bit wet when you approach closer (at least in the winter), but it’s so worth it!
We didn’t see many people take a dip in the waterfall pool, as the water is cold and it’s not the most pleasant, especially in the winter when the temperatures outside are colder. However, if this is something you’d like to do, go for it!
25 Fontes waterfalls are famous for their super friendly birds, so make sure to buy bird seeds before the hike! Put the seeds in your hand, and reach out. Be patient as they need time to trust you. We were lucky, and they quickly came and rested in our hands. It’s a beautiful experience as we’ve never done it before this!
Tip: You need to come earlier, as the birds might already be full by afternoon, considering many people might feed them before you. You can also try your luck along the route (not just at the waterfall), but it might take longer for them to come.
Just head out back on the same path you came from to finish the hike when you’re done.
Optional starting point – Calheta tunnel – 25 Fontes route
You can also choose the route Calheta tunnel – 25 Fontes, which starts at a different parking lot, but you have to walk 800 meters through a dark tunnel. However, you can save some time that way and skip the incline and 1,8 km of a paved road. We didn’t go through the tunnel, as everyone recommended the most popular Rabacal – 25 Fontes route that we described above.
About the Rabacal Shuttle
Rabacal Shuttle is a minibus that takes you from the Rabacal parking lot to Rabaçal Forestry House, from where you can start the hike. By taking the minibus, you can skip the 1,8 km walk on the paved road, which isn’t as impressive in our opinion.
The minibus goes every 15-20 minutes, every day, from 10:00 am to 5:40 pm. The ticket price for the Rabacal Shuttle is 3€ one way, both ways 5€, and for children 2€.
However, keep in mind that this is a small bus, and you might need to wait in line for your turn (as people with health conditions have priority).
We’d recommend taking the minibus on the way back as going up in the summer heat or pouring rain isn’t fun. We wish we knew about the minibus back then. We saw it pass through in the pouring rain, but we only saw the board with the price list when we came back up to the parking lot.
Photography tips for the 25 Fontes waterfall
The waterfall is in a canyon, so it will be pretty dark inside most of the time. On top of that, we visited on a rainy day, so the sun never came out.
It was a bit hard for us to get great photos of the birds eating from our hands as we had to put the ISO high and still have the shutter pretty high because the birds were moving fast. Nonetheless, we think we did well. 😀
25 Fontes is a pretty popular spot, so expect MANY people, mainly because everyone takes a break at the waterfall.
It’s easy to get some shots from up close, as not many people approach the waterfall that close, so you might be able to get some interesting angles that way. However, if you want the photos from far away, you need to be one of the first ones here, or be very patient and catch a moment when it clears up.
As for the drone, we didn’t even try it as it was raining, but from what we’ve seen, some people do drone the waterfall – we’re just not sure from which spot precisely as the signal is not the best near the waterfall.
Is Levada das 25 Fontes worth visiting?
Even though it’s one of the easiest and most visited ones in Madeira, the Levada das 25 Fontes is very much worth visiting for the lush scenery, great views, and a waterfall as a reward for the end of the hike.
Is Levada das 25 Fontes safe?
Levada das 25 Fontes has a well-maintained and safe trail. There are railings along the more significant drop-off points. However, some parts are a bit narrow, so you’ll have to be patient while passing other visitors along the trail.
This is a very safe trail, and if you follow the regular hiking rules, there’s no need to worry.
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Madeira Levadas: Explained
What is a Levada?
A Levada is a waterway or channel made by the people of Madeira to serve as a way to get water from the high mountains to the lower grounds where people live and grow crops.
Levadas in Madeira were cut into the edges of mountains and, in some cases, transported water for 20km or more.
Nowadays, the Levadas still serve the same purpose as before, but with the addition of being an excellent trail for hiking, as most times they go through lush scenery and offer beautiful views of mountains and valleys, as well as many waterfalls on the way.
Why are Levadas so special?
Madeira’s Levadas are on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage as they are a fascinating part of history and the longest irrigation system in the world at a total of around 3100 kilometers.
Though a similar type of irrigation system exists elsewhere globally, the Levadas in Madeira are unique because of the incredibly difficult terrain in which they were cut. We’re talking about 3100 kilometers of waterways on an island of just 55km in length.
Useful tips for Levada walks/hiking in Madeira
Always bring a headlamp to a Levada hike in Madeira, as some of them include tunnels with no light source inside, and some of them can be anywhere from 10m to almost 1km long.
The weather in Madeira can be unpredictable, so it is always good to bring a jacket or raincoat with you on a Levada hike. And especially if you’re visiting during the rainy season.
Snacks and water
You should take water and snacks to any Levada hike in Madeira. We always had some nuts or dried fruits with us.
Stay on the path
Always stay on the designated path while hiking in Madeira.
Keep track of time
Keep track of time, and always try to return before it gets dark.