Before Their Time: The Levada Walks

Madeira, Portugal

The Levada Walks are irrigation canals that can be found on the archipelago of Madeira in Portugal. They offer more than just water, though, as many travellers head to them for a memorable hiking experience.

Before Their Time: The Levada Walks

Roughly translated into “carriageway”, the Levada Walks are, essentially, small canals that are used for the purpose of irrigation, drawing water to areas of the land that tend to be dry and to the precious banana plantations, orchards, and vineyards which couldn’t survive without them. The canals are also responsible for supplying hydro power to the island. Dating back as far as the early 1500’s, about 1400 km of levadas cut across the mountains.


The Levada Walks were initially created to serve as walking trails for easy access to the canals, but they have become popular tourist attractions due to the rugged terrain, beautiful landscapes, and breathtaking scenery they provide. The paths are well-maintained and accessible only on foot.


While the land offers its own natural elegance, the irrigation system is also an interesting discovery. The engineering that went into the design and function of the 16th century canals is a testament to those who created them and proof that the civilization was well before its time.

Safety Considerations

While the Levada Walks are regularly maintained and help is not usually too far away, there are some things you should plan for before heading out.

  • Keep your cellphone with you. While there may not be a network through the walks, dialing the emergency number – 112 – will force the signal to search for any network available in the area.
  • Create a plan and share it with someone who is staying behind. If you should fail to return, they will know where to look for you. Don’t change your plans.
  • If weather turns bad, head back … don’t try to push through heavy rains or wind in the mountains.
  • Carry some food and water to hold you over in case you can’t make it back to your hotel before nightfall.
  • Keep a flashlight with strong batteries handy.


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