The Levada da Ribeira da Janela hike runs from the coast to the mountains through an enormous canyon with scenic cliff-side levada paths throughout the journey. The 11.5-kilometer journey can be done as a point-to-point hike or doubled as a mighty 23-kilometer out and back trail. In this blog post, I’ll give you all the details about the Levada da Ribeira da Janela hike, how to organize it as a one-way trail, and show you my favorite photos of the trail.
LEVADA DA RIBEIRA DA JANELA HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of the Levada da Ribeira da Janela hiking trail is 11.5 kilometers one way. It can be done as an out and back, which would double the distance to 23 kilometers. I actually did it as a point-to-point hike with a second car organized but we began upon the plateau from Fonte do Bispo so my total hike distance was 19.5 kilometers. I will detail your options in the section below.
Hike Duration: This of course depends on what distance your hike is but the main thing you need to know is that the trail is very flat so you can calculate your regular pace and apply it to the distance you chose. For me, the 19.5 kilometers took five hours but the 11-kilometer section on the official point-to-point trail took three hours of moving time.
Hike Difficulty: This trail is pretty safe although a few edges of the trail were quite crumbly and fell from beneath my feet so take care to stay close to the inside of the cliff. You also have a few levada-tunnels to endure with the longest tunnel more than one kilometer in length. It had waterfalls spraying around inside so it was definitely uncomfortable but I found it funny rather than dangerous. The trail is relatively easy to navigate with signs but does have a few intersections without a sign so have your online map ready.
Hike Incline: The 11-kilometer section has only 100 meters of incline.
HOW TO GET TO LEVADA DA RIBEIRA DA JANELA HIKE
While the actual trail is quite easy, organizing how to do the trail is a little bit more complex. This is because it is technically a point-to-point trail. Basically, you go along the gorge for 11.5 kilometers and then turn around and hike back to make it an out and back hike. However, 23 kilometers is a bit much for many, and doing the same trail back is usually undesirable.
Therefore, you can have a second car organized at one end or a taxi pick-up arranged. I did the hike with several friends and we left one car at Fonte do Bispo and the other car at Lamaceiros. We began the hike at Fonte do Bispo, hiked down into the canyon (700m decline), and then hiked all the way along the Levada to Lamaceiros. We then drove back to our second car and that was the end of it. I think it’s the best way to do the hike if you aren’t keen for the 23-kilometer out and back option. I’ll add the pin below for the Lamaceiros end of the hike and if you want to begin at the same spot as me with your second car, the place you want is Pico Fonte do Bispo (pictured below with my car)
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE LEVADA DA RIBEIRA DA JANELA HIKE
The first part of the mission was to meet our friend at the Lamaceiros end of the hike. This is where we would finish the hike so we were dropping off our other car. He then got in our car and drove back with us to Fonte do Bispo where we parked the car and began the descent down towards the Levada. The temperature in this area was super chilly with a huge fog clouding the entire area.
The descent is pretty aggressive down from the plateau to meet the levada. In just over four kilometers, we descended almost 700 meters. After a few hundred meters, we found our way beneath the clouds. However, it wasn’t quite low enough to enjoy a great rocky viewpoint that has scenic views over Rabacal.
The steep descent was quite eventful with a few sections of trail giving way beneath my feet causing a mini-landslide or rockfall. It’s not a very well maintained trail and it was very dry with a loose-leaf covering so it was a recipe for an accident. Luckily, we made it down to the Levada unscathed.
Once you reach the levada, you are now basically on the official trail of the Levada da Ribeira da Janela. However, you still have a choice to make. You can venture to the right (away from the coast) to explore the extra three kilometers of the levada (you have to come back) or you can go to the left, directly for Lamaceiros, which is where the hike ends. As you can see on the sign below, you have your choice.
We decided to head just a kilometer down the trail away from Lamaceiros to check it out. It was a nice bit of trail but when we made it to what seemed like the turning point of the levada we called it a day, took a few photos, and then finally began heading in the direction of Lamaceiros and the coast.
Immediately after the sign, I showed you earlier is the first tunnel of the day. There will be many so have your headlamp easily accessible. Several of the tunnels had caution or danger signs but none were closed exactly. The longest tunnel was more than one kilometer and had many sections where the floor was flooded. Waterfalls poured down from the roof and we got very wet. One even shot sideways out of the wall, which was a bit of a surprise in the dark to get hit right in the eye by a spout of water. It’s all fun and games though in the tunnels if you tread carefully and advance slowly.
The trail never really had a ‘Wow’ moment like other hikes on Madeira but it was a really interesting route. We hugged the cliffside the whole way as the river seemed to get lower and lower in the gorge below us as it dipped further and further towards the coast. The cliff walls were draped in leaves and vines. It was a really wild looking trail and because it was so flat, you could really look around and enjoy the scenery.
In the rainy season, there is one cool part of the trail where a waterfall topples down onto the trail. A little tin shed protects hikers from the flow of the waterfall as they scurry under with the protection of the roof taking the brunt of the force provided by the waterfall. During the summer when we visited this part of the trail was quite dry so we didn’t get to witness the waterfall in action.
The final 4-5 kilometers from this point on are consistent with nothing too interesting popping up but occasional views of the valley kept things interesting. The legs were starting to feel the pinch of the distance by this point. In the spring, you can expect this section of the trail to be covered in wildflowers but in the summer when we visited there were only the late bloomers on show. After six hours of adventuring and five hours of moving time on the trail, we made it to Lamaceiros to finish the hike.
At Lamaceiros, you can enjoy a picnic table with a few down the coastline. We enjoyed a late lunch here before heading off to Fonte do Bispo to pick up our additional car. The adventure was then complete.
I hope you enjoyed this hike about the Levada da Ribeira da Janela hike on Madeira Island.