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Why Book with Atlantic Holidays?
Specialists in holidays to Portugal, Madeira and the Azores since 1991.
Portugal is a walker’s paradise. Many parts of the mainland are delightfully rural and almost untouched by industry or mass tourism. Whether you choose a holiday in the mountainous north, the central plains or the Algarve, you’ll never have to venture far to feel at one with nature.
But a walking holiday in Madeira offers something unique: the chance to explore the extensive network of levadas. To make it easier to explore some of the best walks in Madeira they are available as organised excursions from Atlantic Holidays - see our walking excursions.
Dating back to the early 16th century, these irrigation channels were built to carry water from the wet regions in the north of the island to wherever it was needed for agriculture. The last levadas were built during the 1940s, and they now make up a total distance of more than 2,000 km. Given the steep terrain of Madeira, they’re an astounding feat of engineering: some of them are scored deep into the bare rock of the mountainside, including some 40km that run inside tunnels.
They’re still in use today, ensuring that the banana plantations, orchards and vineyards never become dry, and providing hydroelectric power for the islanders. They have a secondary function as one of Maderia’s most popular visitor attractions, as the maintenance paths that run beside them allow walkers to visit many parts of Madeira that are otherwise inaccessible.
The levadas criss-cross the island through some amazingly varied scenery. You can walk through acres of picturesque farmland, and then choose a route through Europe’s largest laurel forest. The paths grant access to Madeira’s rugged highlands, from which you can look down on the clouds that roll into the valleys from the sea. And thanks to Madeira’s gentle climate, the levadas are accessible all year round.
Rabaçal and the 25 Fontes on the west side of the island – a landscape of springs and waterfalls – is a full day’s walking (graded “moderate”). And finally, there’s a chance to see the beautiful mountain scenery of the central region, on a walk that includes ancient heather forests and the highest point on Madeira (walk graded “challenging”).
To make it easier to explore some of the best walks in Madeira they are available as organised excursions from Atlantic Holidays - see our walking excursions page. What’s more, if you want a more flexible walking itinerary that’s exactly geared to your level of ability, Atlantic Holidays resident representative can put together variations on the walking programme during your stay in the resort.