Rabaçal, Risco Waterfall, 25 Fontes and Towards Fanal

Rabaçal, Risco Waterfall, 25 Fontes and Towards Fanal

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This was the last day on the island of Madeira, doing whatever trails we wanted. It was the day I visited one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Portugal, Cascata do Risco. Next, I entered one of the most famous levadas on the entire island, PR6 – Levada das 25 Fontes. Later on, I had to face one of the most difficult climbs in all of Madeira towards Fanal, covering 10km with an elevation gain of 548 meters.

Lagoa do Vento

Waking up at the Rabaçal campsite at around 08:00, I went along Vereda do Vento, directly to that waterfall that I showed in the previous article, where Lagoa do Vento is, I wanted to make some better videos with the drone, take photos and see from near that place again. I left my tent in the same place, closed, I didn’t pack anything.

It is 1.69km from Rabaçal to Lagoa do Vento. I took some videos and took amazing photos there. I spent some time meditating there and enjoying the view. Luckily, I found some singers that day along the trails in that region. There were some people playing traditional Portuguese music, beautiful music that gave a unique feeling to whoever passed by, a feeling of peace and deep contact with local nature. It was around 9 am and I needed to go back to Rabaçal and have my breakfast.

Breakfast in Rabaçal

To start the day off right, returning from Lagoa do vento, I had my breakfast around 9:40 am. I ordered a cappuccino and a slice of cinnamon cake, I wasn’t very hungry, I didn’t want to eat much either, after all I wanted to go to the waterfall as soon as possible.

PR6.1 – Levada do Risco

This levada is easy to access, it is right next to the Rabaçal gas station. After breakfast, we followed PR6.1 – Levada do Risco, taking only part of this levada, from Rabaçal to Cascata do Risco. It’s about 20 minutes from Rabaçal to Cascata do Risco, and early in the morning there are several people there. This route is one of the most frequented by tourists. The municipality of Calheta offers public transport that takes you from Calheta to the Rabaçal station, for just €3 one way or €5 return.

Getting closer to the waterfall, I realized that I was in the middle of large walls of rock covered by vegetation and in front of me was the large Risco Cascade. Walking along the trail, it is possible to immerse yourself in the dense Laurissilva forest in its original state. At a certain point on Levada do Risco it is possible to take a path to the left towards Levada das 25 Fontes, the entire route is well signposted, so don’t worry about getting lost. At the end of Levada do Risco, you will be extremely rewarded by the most beautiful waterfall on the entire island of Madeira.

Once at the end of this levada, the way back is along the same route. A good route is to go to the Cascade do Risco, then return along the same path and follow the levada of 25 sources which is further down and not very far away.

PR6 – Levada das 25 Fontes

I returned along the same route as Levada do Risco, now for lunch at the Rabaçal gas station. I ordered my usual dish, pasta carbonara which I love. Then, I prepared my things, packed my tent, put everything inside my backpack and headed towards PR6 – Levada das 25 Fontes, a very popular levada and one of the most popular among tourists and locals.

The Levada das 25 Fontes is approximately 9km long, round trip. It takes approximately 3h00 to complete the entire route, depending on your physical condition. When leaving Levada do Risco, you will cross a bridge over Ribeira Grande, from where you can see the Risco waterfall. Along the trail you will have a levada, and in part of the trail you will also find a diversion to Levada da Rocha Vermelha.

After about 1h30 of walking, I finally arrived at the 25 Fontes lagoon, a magical and very beautiful place, there were some people there who also took the same route. This trail and lake are named after the 25 springs that continue to fall into the lake over time.

But it was already 5pm and I needed to head towards Fanal, where I would spend my last night in Madeira,

Towards Fanal Forest

I spent a few minutes there at the 25 fountains, an incredibly beautiful place that conveys a lot of peace. It was almost 6pm and I headed towards one of the most difficult sections of this trail. About 1.56km of pure climbing, more than 300 meters of elevation gain. Even after 7 days of hiking on the island, passing through Areeiro, Pico Ruivo, Encumeada, Pico Fernandes, this last route was the most challenging in terms of physical endurance. From the 25 sources you can return along the same initial path, passing through Paul, a point with an incredible view of the Ribeira da Janela valley, and return to the trail on the right. From then on it’s just uphill, very challenging, I didn’t count how many steps there are in total, but it was extremely difficult. As I am already in good physical condition, I managed to complete this entire climb in approximately 1h00 with just 3 5-minute stops to rest, but for those who are not used to it, it could take up to twice as long.

At the end of this route, you will find a fork with PR1.3 – Vereda do Fanal, follow it to the right until you exit Estrada Regional 209 – ER209. I sat there for a few minutes to eat, drink water and rest. There were a few people who were also climbing that same peak towards ER209. From there, I followed the regional road until I reached the Fanal Forest Post. There are many people there, a parking lot. Many people were there in the Fanal forest, whether taking photos, having a picnic, or taking a walk.

Fanal Forest

Fanal is a captivating and enchanting location nestled in the heart of Madeira, Portugal. It is renowned for its ancient laurel forest, providing visitors with a truly immersive experience in nature.

Fanal is characterized by its lush greenery, with the forest dominated by laurel trees. These trees, part of the Laurissilva Forest, are considered ancient and have survived for centuries. The thick canopy of foliage creates a magical atmosphere, especially when sunlight filters through the leaves, creating a play of light and shadows.

he Laurissilva Forest in Fanal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This laurel forest type is unique to Macaronesia, which includes Madeira, and is known for its biodiversity. The forest is home to a variety of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to the region.

Fanal offers a network of hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the forest and its surroundings. These trails vary in difficulty, catering to both casual strollers and avid hikers. Walking through the ancient laurel trees, you’ll encounter the beauty of endemic flora, moss-covered rocks, and perhaps even some wildlife.

Fanal Plateau

Fanal is situated on a high plateau, providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. The plateau itself is a peaceful expanse, perfect for a picnic or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery. It’s a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of more populated areas.

Due to its relatively remote location and minimal light pollution, Fanal is an excellent spot for stargazing. On clear nights, visitors can enjoy the brilliance of the night sky, observing stars and constellations in a tranquil environment.

Practical Tips

  1. Footwear: Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain.
  2. Weather: Be prepared for variable weather conditions; it can be cool and misty, even during the warmer months.
  3. Guided Tours: Consider joining guided tours to gain insights into the ecological importance and cultural history of Fanal.

Camping in Fanal Forest

Arriving at Fanal, my biggest objective at that moment was to find a place safe enough to leave my backpack and where I could spend the night. There were several trees there called Heathers, they are centuries-old trees that overcame climate conditions over time and remained there. I found a tree in particular, further away, that had its roots sticking out of the ground in a shell shape, which ended up serving as protection against the wind. It was there that I left my bag and went with the drone to take some photos and videos.

I went to the Miradouro, the highest point in that area. There really is an incredible view from there. It is possible to see the entire Fanal forest, see Ribeira Funda further down the valley. There are some cows there that are grazing, very docile, they don’t do any harm. Tourists keep feeding, giving fruit and touching the cows, they are very cute and docile.

It was almost 9 pm, the sun was disappearing over the horizon, so I went to set up the tent. That was my last night in Madeira. It was a night of reflection, where I was able to think about the entire journey I had taken, the mistakes and successes of this expedition on the island of Madeira. I also thought about the people I met along the trail, Nicolai on the trail to Areeiro, my now friend Maffort who works at the Pico do Areeiro restaurant and who had recently moved to Madeira, the two French women, Lea and Célia who I met on PR1 towards Pico Ruivo, the Portuguese couple who gave me bread, sardines and oranges on the Encumeada trail, the Dutch people who I helped and gave water to because theirs had run out in the middle of the trail, Ms. Eduarda and Mr. Afonso who They welcomed me into their home in São Vicente, and everyone else I met on the island and in some way helped me or was part of it.

I went to sleep with a sense of accomplishment, with a strong desire to do it all again. I really want to go back to Madeira to discover more and more, walk other trails, meet new people, new places, waterfalls, levadas and much more. I had a very pleasant night’s sleep.

In the next chapter

The next day I woke up, quickly ate some bread that I had taken with me, after that morning meal there was no more food, I reached my limit. Dona Eduarda called me inviting me to have lunch with her and Mr. Afonso the day before, so I accepted and went down a trail along the back of the mountain that forms the Ribeira Funda valley, descending there for approximately 2:30 am until arriving in Ribeira Funda. From there, in the middle of the beautiful valley, I went down through the tunnels, passing through the old regional road 101 – ER101 and arriving in Seixal, where Dona Eduarda would pick me up by car to have lunch with them.

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