Levada do Alecrim key facts
Before setting off to the Levada do Alecrim hike, below some key facts!
Hike distance and duration: The total distance of the Levada do Alecrim hike is a little less than 7 kilometres out and back. It will take you somewhere between 1,5 – 2,5 hours depending on your pace and how long you stay at the different waterfalls.
Difficulty and incline: Levada do Alecrim is a very safe and well maintained levada walk with clearly marked trails. There is some incline involved and some stairs here and there, but not more than 160 meters of elevation in total. So no heavy uphill hike, therefore I can recommend it to young and old!
How to get to Levada do Alecrim
The starting point of Levada do Alecrim is at the same parking spot as where the popular Levada das 25 Fontes hike begins. Don’t get confused and follow the crowds down the paved road into the valley, because that is the trail towards 25 Fontes. The Levada do Alecrim hike starts on the right side of the parking lot sideways of the paved road and bends into a small trail which goes into the bushes. Fun thing to know is that the Levada do Alecrim actually goes above the 25 Fontes waterfall, so at one point you can stand on top of the Risco waterfall with amazing views over the valley!
Because there are more levada walks starting from this parking lot in the Rabaçal valley, it can get very busy here. If you arrive early in the morning you won’t have any problem finding a parking spot, but later on the day we’ve seen the parking completely packed! So for several reasons make sure to start your hikes in Madeira early!
Best time to do the Levada do Alecrim
Levada do Alecrim is not as popular as the 25 Fontes levada, but it still can be busy on this trail. We experienced on every hike in Madeira that the best time to start is around 9 AM. And if you’re a real early bird, then is the earlier the better! We often watched sunrise somewhere at a viewpoint, and then headed off to a hike. So most of the time we started our hikes in Madeira around 8 AM when there was still no-one else on the trail.
In terms of the best season to hike the Levada do Alecrim you don’t have to worry too much. The Lagoa Dona Beja has a beautiful waterfall which even flows after the summer period. We went in August after months without rain in Madeira, and the waterfall was still very pretty. You can assume that after some days of rain the waterfall is even more powerful and maybe a bit bigger. But don’t worry if you do the Levada do Alecrim in the summer period after months of drought, there will still be a waterfall!
What to expect during the Levada do Alecrim
The Levada do Alecrim hike is a nice and easy 7 kilometre walk on 1300 meters height in Rabacal. Your end goal is the spring of the levada at the Ribeira do Lajeado (Lajeado Creek). The start of the Levada do Alecrim hike is on the right side of the parking lot and goes straight into the bushes where you follow the levada stream on your right hand.
The first part of the hike is on a narrow trail with stones on the path in all strange angles. So be careful here as you can sprain your ankle easily. These little rocks also can be a bit slippery, so caution is advised! The first highlight in the early parts of the Levada do Alecrim hike is the steep section of the levada with the stairs next to it. The water slides down in the levada with a lot of speed, making it look like a waterslide. If you photograph this waterslide with a bit of a slow shutter speed you can get a nice silky effect of the water!
Exploring the Levada do Alecrim waterfall
The trail then continues and goes deeper into the forest while it winds up above the Levada das 25 Fontes trail. After a little more than three kilometres you will reach the first ‘official’ highlight of the Levada do Alecrim which is the Lagoa Dona Beja waterfall. In this area you can explore a few beautiful waterfalls and natural pools. If you want to, you can swim in the pool at Lagoa Dona Beja, but be prepared because the water is very cold! Otherwise it’s a lovely place to relax, enjoy the stunning scenery and eat your lunch. Fun thing to know is that the Lagoa Dona Beja waterfall and pool feeds the Lagoa do Vento via the river below.
If you continue to hike a bit further up the rocks, you can explore the natural pools above the Lagoa Dona Beja waterfall for a different view from the area. But be careful when you walk around because the rocks are very slippery!
Options to combine the Levada do Alecrim hike with
There are three options that you can do after exploring Lagoa Dona Beja waterfall. The first option is to go back via the same trail of Levada do Alecrim and end your hike. Another option is to continue your hike and complete hiking the Lagos da Madeira trail which is a loop. The third option, which is the one we did, is combining the Levada do Alecrim together with the Lagoa do Vento PR 6.3 trail and Lagos da Madeira hike. This way you have three hikes in one, but you double the distance. Instead of hiking 7 kilometres, which is the distance of Levada do Alecrim out and back, you will hike about 14 kilometres in total.
If you do this option you will see lots of other waterfalls and amazing viewpoints. All three hikes have an overlap anyway. So if you’re in for a few hours of easy hiking I would definitely recommend to combine all three hikes in one! One of the highlights of the Lagoa do Vento hike was the view on top of Risco waterfall over the Rabaçal valley.
Continuing Levada do Alecrim to Lagos da Madeira and Lagoa do Vento
So if you decide on combining these three hikes together, then be prepared to get onto a bit of an overgrown trail at Lagos da Madeira. To be clear, the Lagoa do Vento trail is very well maintained. On the Lagos da Madeira path here can be some thorns of berries along the trail, so be careful for your skin and clothes! Via the other side of the mountain you will pass back onto the other side of the river and get to Lagos da Madeira. In our opinion this wasn’t the very best and spectacular trail in Madeira. You will mainly walk in between prickly bushes and thick forest. The only highlight were the hidden waterfalls and wild berries along the Lagos da Madeira trail.
But descending to Lagoa do Vento is something we would definitely recommend to combine with the Levada do Alecrim! The natural pool of Lagoa do Vento has a tall waterfall flowing into it, fed by Lagoa Dona Beja from above. It depends on the season how much water there is flowing down from this waterfall, so don’t be disappointed if you go here in the summer, or after the summer months and there is no water flowing down anymore. You can always swim in the pool at Lagoa do Vento but again, be prepared that it’s super cold!
Via this trail you will also get to the viewpoint above Risco waterfall! Here you will have an amazing view over the Rabacal valley with Risco waterfall beneath you. It’s safe to wander around on the rocks as these are not that slippery, but caution is always advised!
The view on the valley above Risco waterfall and a drone picture of Risco waterfall
What is a Levada?
If you’re coming to Madeira for the first time, you might question what the word ‘Levada’ actually means. This word specifies the different Madeira hiking trails. But what is the origin of these Levadas and what is their purpose?
Levadas are little canals of water that wind through the mountains and translates as “carriageway”. These water canals are irrigation systems developed to distribute water from the wetter regions on the north of Madeira to the drier and sunnier areas of the south where lots of plantations are located. The levadas cover a total distance of about 2500 kilometer from the heart of the Laurissilva forest to the most rocky slopes.
The origin of the levadas dates back to the 15th century when the first levadas where created. Their purpose was to provide water to irrigate the sugarcane plantations. Back then sugar was also known as the “white gold” because it was considered as the main engine of Madeira’s economy in the 15th & 16th century. The narrow water canals have ever since the important task to deliver water along far distances. Mainly to banana plantations, vineyards, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. But also to let the hydro-electric power stations on the island work.
But nowadays, the levadas are also a great way to discover Madeira’s stunning nature. You will see landscapes and different species of flora and fauna along the levadas that are unique in the world.