Even if you research walking in Levada, you can find that several aspects are not covered - hence this article.  It's not intended to be comprehensive, just a list of things to be aware of.

Climate

Madeira has lots of different microclimates depending on where you are on the island and Levada walks can be at anything from 400m up to 1400m above sea level.  In addition the weather can change rapidly on any given day.  So, you need to think about the likely weather before setting off (just because Funchal is sunny doesn't mean your destination will be) and - as with walking in more northern climes - take wet/cold weather gear as well as sun cream.

Guided or not?

Several local companies offer guided Levada walks and a lot of people go with these.  Equally, many prefer to do their own thing.

Guided:

  • Most of the walks are one-way; guided walks will drop you off at the start and pick you up at the end, so avoiding either retracing your steps or waiting for a bus/taxi to get you back.
  • The guides will be able to point out flora/fauna/scenery that you might have missed and will know what are the best routes and ones to avoid.
  • You'll be in a party of anything up to 30 others (typically 15-20) and the pace of the walk, when you stop, how long you stop for, and so on is dictated by the guide.
  • Because of mini-bus pickups from several different locations, you can spend quite a long time getting to and from the walk.
  • Some walks will involve walking through dark caves and tunnels. Although companies provide torches, they are not always very bright or have low batteries. It's a good idea to take a small torch of your own.
  • You aren't at risk of losing your way or getting delayed getting to the walk.

On your own:

  • At your own pace, following the route you prefer at the time you want.
  • A map, compass and a guide book (several are available on Amazon etc) are essential (there is very little by way of signposting and it's easier than you'd think to get lost on some walks).
  • You are at your own risk. Advice is never walk alone or at night ,always bring the right gear, boots, anorak, food, water, walking stick, sun glasses and a whistle.

Best time of year

Whilst Madeira is good for walking all year round, go at the end April to mid June if possible - the weather then is warm and reasonably dry, and in these months all of the plants and vegetation are blooming, making it very pretty.  Also bear in mind that some walks (eg Rabacal/25 Fontes) are high up and predominantly tree shaded so are better for the summer months, whereas other walks at lower altitudes (eg Levada Nova) are predominantly unshaded and better for the winter months.

Best walks

Everyone has different ideas on this!

Suffice to say that two walks often touted as "best" - Rabacal/25 Fontes and Ribiero Frio - may not turn out to be your favorites. Why? Very busy with lots of guided parties doing these walks and - for 25 Fontes in particular - a narrow one-way path in places, where you often have to stop and wait for groups going the other way.  Both are high up and shaded by trees so that they may be better done in the summer months.  Also, not as spectacular as is claimed if you're used to the sights you can see when hill walking in Northern Europe / North America.

On the other hand some of the "less popular" walks - eg. Levada Nova - may be more to your liking.

Madeira: Walking & Trekking

Inlcudes some suppliers as well as information