Levada do Moinho or Levada Mill?
Before giving more information about the Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova hike, let’s first start with something to avoid misunderstandings. Because it might be confusing that Google Maps translates the Portuguese word ‘Moinho’ to the English meaning ‘Mill’ on the map. So if you’re going to navigate with Google Maps, be aware that the Levada Mill is the same as Levada do Moinho and will bring you to the starting point of this particular levada walk.
But then there is also another hike on Madeira with exactly the same name; Levada do Moinho. To keep things easy… Be aware that you’re going to the levada in Ponta do Sol, not the Levada do Moinho hike in the north west part of the island which is a completely different hike.
And then there’s another thing, because there are actually two different levadas that you combine to walk this loop. Levada do Moinho is an older levada path and Levada Nova is, as ‘nova’ means, a newer levada trail above. You will start along the Levada do Moinho and then climb up the stairs to join the Levada Nova back to your car.
Levada do Moinho key facts
Before setting off to the The Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova hike, below some key facts!
Hike distance and duration: The total distance of this circular hike is 9 kilometres with the same start and finish point. It will take you around 3 hours to complete this hike, depending on your pace and if you take a photo and lunch break at the waterfall or somewhere along the way.
Hike difficulty and incline: The Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova hike is an easy trail with only 150 meters of incline via stairs. The concrete levada path is well maintained and is most of the parts accompanied by a fence. There are some spots with exposure to the cliff edge, but it’s nothing to be worried about.
How to get to Levada do Moinho
The starting point of the Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova hike is in Ponta do Sol on the south coast of the island. The official address of the Levada do Moinho is Casa Carreira 24, Ponta do Sol. The trail starts next to the white church named “Igreja da Lombada da Ponta do Sol” where enough parking spots are available. There isn’t public transport going to the start of this trail, so you either have to go by your own rental car or with a taxi. The closest Rodoeste bus stop is “Ponta Do Sol Rotunda”, from which it takes another 30 – 45 minutes to reach the levada trail.
The towns in Ponta do Sol and Calheta are surrounded by banana plantations which is very cool to see from up close.
Best time to do the Levada do Moinho
Because the Levada do Moinho mainly follows an exposed trail, you can expect lots of direct sunlight on a sunny day. In the summer months is is therefore advisable to do the hikes on Madeira in the morning. Another thing to keep in mind is that the waterfall you will see on this hike is in his best condition in the winter months when rainy days keep the water flow powerful. We did this hike in august and despite the drought we still saw the waterfall. But I do think it can be way bigger and with more power.
What to expect during the Levada do Moinho
If you’ve found the church and parked your car it’s time to hit the trail! But first you have to find the levada which might seems like a challenge because it’s a bit hidden! You have to go behind the church where you will find a little alley that leads you to the levada.
The first part of the Levada do Moinho you’ll walk along the cliff edge with stunning views on the valley in front of you. Don’t get shocked by the word cliff edge because it is a safe walk with a fence and quite well maintained trails. Don’t forget to look back at this part, because you’ll have some amazing ocean views!
Throughout the Levada it feels pretty straight forward and you won’t encounter too difficult parts. There are only some rocky river crossings, stairs and dirt paths. The trail shows the way, but you have to stay alert because when you reach the stairs on your right hand you have two choices. Make it a shorter route and head straight for the incline to get on Levada Nova for the way back. Or what we did, heading down into the gorge to find another beautiful hidden waterfall! You can cross the dry riverbed at the end of the gorge and see another beautiful waterfall. After exploring this part of the gorge you can loop back up via the stairs to join the Levada Nova.
Levada do Moinho waterfall
Once you reach the end of the stairs you are very close to the main attraction of the Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova waterfall hike. About halfway of this trail you will see something very unique! A very characteristic waterfall that pours over the levada path that has been carved into the cliff. Don’t worry because you won’t get soaking wet here. The cave passage is very fun and adventurous to pass, but mind your head! The rocks are not giving in when you bump your head..
Halfway on the Levada trail means it’s time for a little break. We found this spot near the waterfall a great place to have our lunch and to enjoy the waterfall view a bit longer. There is no seating here, so if you don’t want to sit on the ground or eat while standing, you have to look for another spot along the trail. Which I actually didn’t really seen, or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it. If you found a nice other picnic spot along this levada, let me know in the comments!
Joining back on the Levada Nova
After you passed the waterfall you will head straight into a 200 meter long tunnel. You will need a headlamp, flashlight or phone light for this to navigate your way through. The roof is quite low, so again mind your head! Once out of the tunnel you will now follow a cliff side trail facing the ocean which is Levada Nova. This last part is as beautiful as the levada on your way to the waterfall, but here are some parts without a safety fence. So stay alert and enjoy the way back.
The Levada Nova ends a bit further up from the church where it spits you out onto a small road in this little village. You will walk back along the houses and banana plantations which is very nice to see.
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. They are 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 kilometre 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.