Rabacal Valley

Rabacal Valley

Route: Rabacal Valley via the Levada da Ribiera da Janela

Area: Madeira

Date of walk: 27th April 2022

Walkers: Andrew and Gilly

Distance: 6.4 miles

Ascent: negligible

Weather: Sunny

Today’s walk took advantage of the ancient levada system of water channels in Madeira, created hundreds of years ago in order to divert water from the lush laurisilva rainforest to the drier agricultural areas lower down. These channels are remarkable feats of engineering and required enormous effort and ingenuity. The terrain is remote and dangerous and the original builders somehow created these channels out of bare rock, with huge drops below, maintaining a steady gradient all the while. Taking today’s walk as an example, we walked 6.4 miles (there and back), yet only ascended a few feet. Although we were walking at high altitude, some 4,500 feet, the gradient of this walk was almost level. On the outward leg of the walk we could only tell that we were ascending because the water was gently flowing the other way

We started the walk from a picnic area beneath Lamaceiros, where there is ample parking. A sign warned us that the first tunnel, some 3 miles into the walk, was closed but this was of no concern as we could simply retrace our steps on reaching it. This is a ‘there and back’ walk no matter how far you go

From the car park we joined the Levada da Ribeira da Janela almost immediately. From here no navigation skills are needed – just follow the course of the levada as it weaves its way around the gorge and deeper into the remote Rabacal valley. It’s impossible to get lost. The path is narrow, with the levada (about 3 feet wide and deep) on one side and huge drops on the other for much of the way. While there is some sense of exposure, the path is well protected by a fence for much of the way and there are no real dangers

As we walked further into the valley, the terrain became more dramatic, resembling a jungle at times. After about 3 miles we arrived at the tunnel. This is normally part of the itinerary, and we’d brought head torches in case it was open, but in view of the closure signs at the start, and at the entrance to the tunnel, we were quite content to end the walk here and retrace our steps (despite a group of walkers advising us that the tunnel was in fact open and that they were intending to walk through it)

It had been a memorable walk in unique surroundings

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