Ribeiro Frio to Portela

Every Wednesday, we offer the Levada walk from Ribeiro Frio to Portela.
It is a well known Levada walk, and due to its location, very popular for walkers. After a short visit to Madeira’s Trout Farm and knitting stalls entering we the Laurisilva Forest of Madeira (UNESCO World heritage since 1999, covering 149.5km2 of Madeira).

During the walk you see all the Laurisilva vegetation with beautiful views into the valley located on the North side of Madeira (Porto da Cruz), and if you look into the Levada you might even see “baby” Trout’s.

Other than its popularity, it is also the most dangerous walk.

By studying the walking guide books, this walk is classified as easy or medium (even the local authorities are given this walk a grade: 2). However, most casualties are taking place on this walk (from cuts, brushes to broken bones)!

We have been investing some time to understand why so many accidents are taken place on this particular walk.

As this walk is one of the only Levada locations (in the Laurisilva Forest) were you can travel to/ from by local transport, a lot of walkers are walking on their own and follow the instructions what is written in a book. Unfortunately, the dangers are NOT written down, such as: vertigo, slippery slopes and wet/humid conditions. What crucial is, is that due to a landslide a half year ago, the walking path is diverted. This diversion is not clearly marked, and most walkers are following the instruction from the documentation. This old path (over the landslide) that the walkers are following is extremely dangerous, with steep drops (Vertigo). At the end of the walk, the path is going downhill with the Levada in the middle. With even the slightest bit of rain, the Levada overflows what turns the path into mud and makes the path extremely slippery.

The combination of weather conditions and the lack of knowledge turn this Levada walk into Madeira dangerous walk.

Therefore I strongly recommend that if you want to do this walk, you do this with a qualified guide. If you insist that you want to do this on your own, please seek advice from the local authorities and check the weather conditions.

6 Replies to “Ribeiro Frio to Portela”

  1. i did this walk in july 2008 ….if this was in the uk it would be closed off ……it is one of the most dangerous walks i have ever been on with sheer drops being protected by a single wire being supported by rusted out angle iron posts. I did try another walk between monte and camacha but turn back because i came across the same problem of unprotected sheer drops and later i found out the previous day two women fell one of which died.
    I would like point out i did read about these walks in several guide books before going on them and both times they said the walks were safe.
    just be very careful and keep your children away from these dangerous walks.
    richard

  2. I have done this -very spectacular- walk at least six times. The walk needs great care in wet conditions, but there is no mortal danger, and the rewards are incredible. At some points its like being in the Himalaya. At the end of the walk do not miss the sirloin spit at the restaurant in Portela . Do not be scared, just careful. Steffen

  3. I have also done this walk many times..Wonderful but I do It from Portela to Ribeiro Frio much easier that way cause as you walk you see the rocks in front of you and not the drop !Plus there is a bus back to Funchal at arround 6pm

  4. Ribeiro Frio to Portela dangerous? No. If you want a dangerous walk do from Curral das Freiras to Funchal. There is another one in Serra de Água to Ribeira Brava which is probably the most dangerous. For example in the first example there are lots of places with only a 8 inch slipery path (with no protection at all) with a levada on one side and a sheer drop of 200 meters on the other side.

  5. I have just returned by cab from a walk from Machico where I am staying to Rebeira Frio via Santo da Serra and Poiso. Imaging my disappointment when after 5 1/4 hours of mostly uphill slogging I find the levada closed due to landslides and cannot complete the challenge. However, I have done the levada a number of times before, in both directions, and would have to say I didn’t find it at all scary. You still have to be careful of course since its pretty wet most of the year round.

  6. The walk from Ribeiro Frio from the back of the trout farm is extremely dangerous. I did this walk a few days ago in good weather. There are many parts that have been broken down due to landslides, with no path, only a thin ledge with a sheer drop with only the rock face to cling onto, I would have turned back but I the thought of going back over the other dangerous areas we had already passed was too daunting, however, on going forward there was many more areas which were extremely dangerous too. In hisndsight, we should have turned back but did not think it could get any worse than that, but it did. I seriously would not recommend this walk and the bus company selling tickets to the area should give people warnings about the dangers. I walk in many places and this by far is the scariest (and most stupid) walk I ever did.

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