The most famous walk in Madeira is the Levada das 25 Fontes hike.
This trail takes you down in a lush valley, along a levada to the 25 Fontes waterfall. Plus, you can take a detour to the Risco Waterfall.
Below is my complete guide to help you plan your hike with tips, map and photos.
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Is the PR6 25 Fontes hike worth it?
The PR6 trail a.k.a. Levada das 25 Fontes hike is one of the most famous on the island with the Caldeirao Verde one (see my list of top 10 hikes).
And it is a gorgeous walk. It includes:
- going down in a lush valley
- walking along a levada (traditional irrigation channel)
- admiring magnificent trees and moss
- Sitting in front of the weeping wall that is the 25 Fontes Waterfall
- and maybe walking a little more to see the long drop of the Risco waterfall.
I do think that, if you do it early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds, it is worth it.
However, in the middle of the day, the flock of tourists on this narrow path makes the experience a lot less enjoyable.:
- you can't stop whenever to admire Nature
- you can't go at the pace you want
- it is noisy with people talking
- there is no space o enjoy the waterfall
The name of the hike comes from the waterfall. It is due to the number of fountains or little waterfall flowing along the wall. They are impossible to count, but 25 is the number in the name.
More photos after the planning tips.
Best time & Difficulty - Levada das 25 Fontes walk, Madeira
Statistics about the Walk
The official start of the walk is from the Rabaçal house down in the valley, but you have to leave your car at the Rabaçal parking lot. During the day, there is a small shuttle, but otherwise you have to walk. So here are the various data points:
- Hike only from Rabaçal Forestry House (with shuttle down and up) - 5km return (2.5miles) - 2 to 3h return
- If you add the walk down from the carpark and back up - add 4km return (2.5 miles) - add 1h to 1h20
- If you add the trail to Risco waterfall - add 1.6km return (1 mile) - add 20 to 30min return (with photo stop)
How difficult is the 25 Fontes walk?
It is considered a moderate hike.
Technically, there are no difficulties.
- The path is well maintained,
- with flat areas for your feet,
- no tunnels,
- just a couple of very short sections with the drop of the valley on the side.
However, it is not an easy hike.
It is quite long for someone who never hikes. You first go down and down in the valley (with lots of stairs).
And it is a return hike, so you have to walk them back up at the end of the hike!
The most difficult part is crossing path with people in narrow sections of the levada.
Best time to start the hike
There is definitively a best time to complete this hike.
It is very popular and can get crowded. Therefore, visit early morning or late afternoon, so fully experience its beauty.
If you park for sunrise, you will have enough light to easily walk the trail down.
- Starting at sunrise
- Returning for sunset
And between these 2 times, I think sunrise is better, because it means that when your hike is finished, the shuttle will have started and you can take it without queuing to get back up to the carpark (more info on the Shuttle later).
You can enjoy this hike all year round, even in Winter.
- Toilets at the Rabaçal Forestry house (but only open when the house is open - for a fee)
- Snack bar at the Forestry house
- Not facilities or place to go to the bathroom along the path
- Wear proper hiking shoes, with the water it can get slippery
PR6 Levada das 25 Fontes Starting Point - Access + Rabaçal shuttle
25 Fontes Location - Map
- West side of the island
- On the Paul da Serra Plateau, it starts from the Rabaçal carpark
- Easier to access from the South Coast of the island (several roads going up there)
- Calheta Beach to Rabaçal carpark = 20min drive
- Funchal to Rabaçal carpark = 50min drive
- Ribeira Brava to Rabaçal carpark = 40min drive
- Below is a map to locate it and get oriented:
This highlight (with GPS coordinates and practical tips) is included in my travel Guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Madeira trip:
Plan your ideal trip around Madeira!
Drive to the Rabaçal carpark
- Several roads can lead to the carpark.
- It is on top of a plateau, so most of them are sinuous steep roads.
- No major difficulties, though.
- Be careful, if you are heading for the carpark at sunrise, there are many animals on the road at the top of the plateau. Drive slowly.
- The carpark is large and obvious. However, during the day, it fills up.
Need to rent a car in Madeira?
- Compare car rental prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (with enough power for steep roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Bus to Rabaçal carpark
- Sorry, there are no public transportation options to this carpark
- You can take a bus to one of the coastal town and take a taxi from there.
- Otherwise you can book a group tour that takes you to the hike and guide you through it - check out the options
Safety on the trail
- Wear suitable clothes and shoes
- Bring water and food
- Stay on the track
- Make sure you come back before nightfall
- Walk with caution, especially when the path is wet
- I always carry an emergency thermal blanket and my Garmin Mini, especially as I am hiking alone.
The Rabaçal Shuttle vs Walking
The first decision to make is how to get down to the beginning of the hike.
From the carpark, there is a road. But it is closed by a barrier.
Only a few local vehicles can take this road, including the shuttle.
The road is 2km one way (1.24 miles).
About the Rabaçal Shuttle
There is shuttle taking hiker down to the house and back up to the carpark
- Shuttle operating house: 10am to 6pm according to the sign (year round I believe, but I have not found any confirmed information on that)
- Shuttle Price: 3€ one way - 5€ return
However, a few things you should have in mind on top of the hours:
- It takes the shuttle 20min to do a loop, I think
- It is a small shuttle taking 6 to 8 people (depending on health conditions)
- It is a very (very) popular hiking trail
Therefore, you could be queuing for a very long time before getting in the shuttle!!!
The walk along the road is not the most fascinating.
The vegetation is lush, and there are few small water features to look at.
Sometimes you can enjoy views of the valleys.
The road is in good condition.
The Rabaçal Forestry House
At the bottom of the road is the Rabaçal Forestry House.
INside is the Rabacal Nature Spot Cafe. When open, you can enjoy some nice snack and drinks and relax on the terrace.
Cakes, burgers, quiches, soups, salads, pies, ice cream...
It opens from 9 or 10am to 5 or 6pm.
There are toilets below it for customers (otherwise pay 50cts).
My favorite option
I opted to do the walk at sunrise.
Therefore, there was no shuttle on the way down. I walked.
However, once I had finished to hike and was back at the Forestry house, the shuttle had started operating.
And since I had been alone to do the hike at this early hour, there was no one else to take the shuttle back up that early, and I did not have to queue, just to wait for it to arrive.
Where to stay in Madeira?
- For a choice of restaurants and if you don't rent a car - See best rated accommodations in Funchal
- For luxury resorts, check out the Lido area in Funchal
- For a sandy beach - See best rated accommodations in Machico
- For a quiet village in beautiful scenery - See best rated accommodations in Porto da Cruz
- For a practical location to explore the island - See best rated accommodations in Ribeira Brava
- To enjoy the natural pools - See best rated accommodations in Porto Moniz
More tips on my article about where to stay in Madeira
Section 1 - Going down in the valley
Once you start the official hike at the Forest house, you still have to walk down for around 600m until you reach the level of the levada.
There are many paths and signs around the house. Just follow anyone indicating 25 Fontes. They all join the same track at the bottom.
The trail goes down via slopes and many staircases.
It is made of rocks and can be a little slippery. It is better to have hiking shoes.
The entire time, beautiful trees and ferns surround you.
Section 2 - Walk along the 25 fountains levada
And then you reach the levada...
A levada is a traditional irrigation channel on Madeira island.
They were built to bring water from the Northwest of the island to the drier Southeast area, where it was easier to set up houses and agriculture.
Because Madeira is mountainous, building the levadas was not easy. Many of them are cut into the sides of the mountains and sometimes through mountains (with tunnels).
That is the reason why those walks so fascinating!
Along the way to the waterfall, the path is relatively flat (just a few staircases here and there).
The trail varies from soils to rocks.
Most of the time, you are surrounded by trees. But there are few sections where you have the mountain drop on one side.
However, it always feels secure because of the cables set up on the side of the path:
My favorite sections are always when the trees are bending over the path, creating and arch. It is so pretty.
It feels a little like a fairytale.
Towards the end of the path, there is one moment where it was not clear.
Always stay along the levada (the staircase is for the return walk).
Hopefully, there will place the signage back on the poles.
See on the pictures below how the trees are creating tunnels around the path.
End point - 25 Fontes Falls
The end of the path is at the 25 Fontes waterfall.
It is a small area with large rock and a steep wall where many flows of water are dropping.
The wall is around 30m high (98ft).
It is not the most beautiful waterfall in the World..
But the red of the rock against the lush vegetation is charming.
There is a small pool at the bottom.
The name means 25 springs or 25 fountains because of all the small falls making it.
Return walk - Viewpoint
The return walk is mostly on the same path.
There is just one section that goes around the levada, and avoids you crossing path with other hikers on narrow areas.
It goes up a staircase... And in this direction, it is clearly indicated.
This path leads to a viewpoint before walking back down to the levada level, and then along it.
It is just a view of the valley. Pretty, but not mesmerizing.
Detour - Risco waterfall
From the same path at the 25 Fontes hike, there is also the possible of visiting the Risco Waterfall.
It adds a 0,8km in each direction.
Is the Risco Waterfall walk worth it?
I think it is worth the extra effort. The waterfall is completely different.
The path is flat and wide. A very easy walk.
My recommendation is to do it last on your way back.
If you visit early, start with the 25 Fontes walk before the crowds arrive.
The Risco waterfall
It is 100m high waterfall (328ft) in several drops.
At the foot is a small pool. Access is not authorized.
Don't follow groups with trained guides into it. It is very dangerous, serious accidents have happened.
The view from the path is already nice!
Want to see more of the best Madeira offers?
- 42 Madeira travel tips to plan an unforgettable trip - read article
- Where to stay in Madeira - best areas - read article
- 35 best things to do in Madeira - read article
- The best landscapes in Madeira in 40 pictures - read article
- The 7 cables cars in Madeira and their amazing views - read article
- Best time to visit Madeira - read article
- Tips to drive around Madeira - read article
- 12 Madeira Hidden Gems - read article
- 4 Madeira Natural Pools (and 6 coastal alternatives) - read article
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