The Levada Fajã do Rodrigues hike on Madeira Island takes you through some incredibly lush forest paths to many amazing waterfalls. The trail begins quietly beside the levada but quickly escalates with a number of tunnel passages. The final destination is an epic canyon, which hides multiple waterfalls.
LEVADA FAJÃ DO RODRIGUES WATERFALL HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 8 kilometers and is an out and back trail.
Hike Duration: The hike can be easily done in under two hours but may take you closer to three if you stop for a snack or explore any waterfalls. Because there is basically no incline, a fast walking pace is quite easy to maintain.
Hike Difficulty: The trail is very easy with well-maintained levada paths throughout the route. The only part of the trail that makes it a bit difficult is the long tunnel, which is a 1-kilometer in length and can be quite narrow in parts. With a headlamp and some courage, it is nothing to fear.
Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike is 95 meters.
HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
This trail begins at Ginjas, which is in São Vicente, and follows the terrace of Levada da Fajã do Rodrigues (Levada da Fajã da Ama). The trail ends (turnaround halfway point) at Madre da levada in Ribeira do Inferno, which is where you can explore the canyon and find the waterfalls.
There is lots of parking space at the trailhead and a number of signs directing you from the parking lot to the official trailhead. At the official trailhead, you will find the customary white information board that signifies the start of a hike on Madeira Island. I’ve added the exact location to the trailhead below so you can plan your route accordingly.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE LEVADA FAJÃ DO RODRIGUES WATERFALL HIKE
On a moody morning, we drove through the center of the island, passing through many layers of clouds. It was perfect weather to be heading out on a forest levada-hike in search of waterfalls amidst the fog.
The trail begins as a leisurely walk alongside the levada. With almost no incline on this trail, it was consistently flat and easy to find a nice rhythm in between the photo stops of course. Early in the trail, I was captivated by the many wildflowers still in bloom during the late summer.
After just a few hundred meters since the beginning of the trail, you will pass the first ‘waterfall’. It’s actually a man-made cascade, which is part of the levada system.
The Levada Fajã do Rodrigues is lush from the first step to the last. In many locations, the forest threatens to engulf the trail as it branches out, seemingly reaching for the hikers. The density of the greenery is immense and the beauty of this trail is that the intensity of the forest only increases as the hike continues.
Even on such a moody and cloudy day, there were a few clearances in the fog to reveal the view down to the village below and a sneak-peek at some of the ridges that loomed above us.
Throughout this trail, there are multiple tunnels. A couple of them are very short and you don’t even need a headlamp. However, there are two long ones with the longest one actually totaling more than 1-kilometer in distance. With narrow paths on the side of the levada, which also runs through the cave, it can be a little tricky to navigate. I used my phone light, but I suggest a headlamp to make sure you have your hands free to use the wall to guide you in some of the narrow sections.
After about three kilometers into the trail, you will reach the first waterfall scene. Looking down from the levada, behind the safety of the railing, you can see two stunning waterfalls. One was slightly obscured but the main waterfall pours down into a small pool below. It’s an incredibly beautiful scene and remains quite untouched with no easy point of access for hikers.
It’s at this point in the trail that you need to venture into the long tunnel. Brace yourself because when you hit the halfway point, the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. If you are 6ft tall like me, the constant hunching over in the tunnel will start to cramp your style and you will be hurrying out of there as quickly as possible. Keep watching the rocky roof, which tends to have a habit of knocking people’s hats off. After the tunnel, there are a few hundred meters left of the trail. This is by far the lushest, dense forest of the entire trail and had some of my favorite corners and green, cliff walls.
At the four-kilometer mark, you are halfway into the hike. The trail seemed to end quite abruptly, stopping at a narrow canyon. The trail clearly ended there according to the map, but there were signs of a lightly trafficked trail through the canyon so I set off to explore. Within minutes I was knee-deep in water as I DIY canyoneered my way up the gorge. It was incredibly slippery but extremely magical with crystal clear water in the river surrounded by gargantuan walls of rich greenery.
I knew there must be a big waterfall further upriver. It turns out there is actually a massive waterfall at the top of the river called Ribeira do Inferno. It takes a canyoneering tour to get that far up the river but I made it far enough to reach a pretty picturesque series of waterfalls. The chest-deep water was enough to stop me in my tracks so I accepted defeat and stood knee-deep in the water enjoying the idyllic scene. After taking a few photos and locking that beautiful spot into my memory-bank, I turned back and re-joined the trail.
With my shoes already saturated, I decided to walk straight through the levada in the tunnel so I didn’t have to duck the entire way back. It was a successful strategy but it froze my toes to their core. Can’t win them all.
I hope you enjoyed this guide about the Levada Fajã do Rodrigues hike on Madeira Island.