Another magnificent trail in Rabaçal area! I have not yet seen this trail in any of the walking guides I own, but I do know that some of the commercial walking tour organisations offer this walk as well. Anyhow, you won’t encounter many other people on this walk.
The trail starts at the parking space above Rabaçal. The first part of this trail you’ll be following the Levada do Alecrim trail. Just past the barrier over the descending road to Rabacal, a narrow dirt path is hidden in the vegetation (to the right of the road). Walk up this dirt path, the path will soon meet a levada. In the beginning of the walk, there is a lot of vegetation on both sides of the levada and the levada is very wide. After approximately 10 minutes the levada joins a large water reservoir and some small pools. In the water reservoir, you’ll see lots of trout swimming around. From this point on you’ll follow the levada upstream. The levada path is very accessible, without demanding descends or ascends, and you’ll enjoy some beautiful panoramic views on the surrounding mountains and the valley below. Some 3 kilometres into the trail, at the right side of the levada path, a narrow side-path goes up through the vegetation. Pay attention: it easy to miss the path! You’ll have to scramble up a steep hill for a little while, after which you’ll end up on top of the Paúl da Serra plateau from which you’ll have a panoramic view in all directions.
Following the trail on Paúl da Serra you’ll soon encounter another levada. This levada meanders over the plateau and while following it you’ll be accompanied by butterflies and the sound of running water from the levada. After a while, the trail will descend some, leading you into an area filled with small pools: the Lagos da Madeira. The trail runs above the pools, and you’ll be able to see them during your walk. If you care for a refreshing dive in the water: some of the pools can be accessed if you carefully climb down the rocks. When we were here, it was pretty hot and the trail leading to the lakes was mostly exposed, so we just couldn’t a resist a dive in these pools.
Beyond the pools the trail enters a Laurissilva forest. Since this trail isn’t heavily visited by hikers, this part of the trail can be a bit overgrown by bushes (especially in mid-summer). It will be hard to spot the path and some of the bushes are barbed. We were walking with our walking GPS, and because of that we were still able to follow the right path. Without the GPS, staying on the path would have been a tricky task. This is however a very section of the trail, the rest of the path was very easy to follow.
After crossing the Laurissilva forest the trails ends up on top of the Ribeira Grande waterfall. A path next to the waterfall descends, until you end up at the bottom of the waterfall. This is where the trail joins the Levada do Alecrim trail. The Levada do Alecrim (which you have followed on the first 3km of your walk) will lead you back to the start of your walk. The way back along the levada offers more beautiful views on the lower valley and the surrounding mountains. Especially on a sunny and clear day, this is a magnificent hike!
I really like the diversity of this trail. This trail offers all of Madeira in one: levadas, pools, panoramic views, valleys, forests and a stroll on top of the Paúl da Serra, which is really beautiful. It’s a light walk, but large sections are fully exposed. In summer, walking in the sun can be somewhat exhausting. Bring enough water, and you’ll be fine though! Do take into account that some sections can be overgrown by vegetation. Long socks and an extra jacket with long sleeves will protect your legs and arms from thorns.