Caldeirao Verde or PR9 is a classic levada walk in Madeira that offers sweeping views, exciting cliffside walk in some sections, takes you through some tunnels and finally culminates in a tall waterfall. Of course, all along the walk you will be walking alongside the levada, small canal made for irrigation purposes on the mountains. Caldeirao Verde literally translates to the green cauldron in Portuguese and it is rightly called so for the lush green vegetation that encapsulates this beautiful hike.
The start of Caldeirao Verde levada walk
This hike starts in the Queimadas forest park. We drove here right after we finished the Vereda dos Balcoes walk. This was our first day of hiking in Madeira and we were super excited by the stunning scenery everywhere. We finished our short but sweet walk very early and decided to proceed on to the Caldeirao Verde hike. The parking lot closest to the starting point of the hike fills up very fast and after that you just have to park on the road. We were lucky to find a spot on a small pullout parking area on the road not very far from the starting point. As soon as you enter you will spot the traditional Madeiran house which serves as a small cafe and the big fancy house which is perhaps a guest-house and a museum. There is also a fish farm on the right hand side. We were keen to get on with our hike first so we headed on our way to the hike path and decided to explore other things later on our way back.
The path starts off pretty flat & broad. It is flanked by the levada on one side and beautiful flowering plants including tall hydrangea bushes and beautiful native trees like Laurisilva on the other. After a while you come close to a small waterfall. Given we were there during peak summer the water flow was very low and it was only a small trickle. But it was nevertheless exciting to walk on the elevated levada walls in this section. The path closely hugs the mountain side and is shaded in many places. So this is a very doable walk on a super sunny day or even on a rainy day. This levada walk is constantly engulfed in lush green vegetation. And if this isn’t enough to captivate your senses, you can also marvel at the distant blue ocean merging into the equally blue sky and some small seaside towns from some of the viewpoints.
Caldeirao Verde walk’s most fun part
After a while you will come across your first tunnel. The tunnels are pitch dark so it is advisable to have a flash light with you or your camera torch will also just work fine. The levadas also pass through the tunnel so the gurgling water sound will always accompany you on this walk all along. There are about 4 tunnels in this walk with 2 of them being bit longer and hence more fun. The roof of the tunnels can be a bit low so do watch your head. Of course for a petite person like me, this is never a worry ;). Some of the tunnels also have some side openings which gives you a view of the surrounding mountains and nature. Unfortunately with all the foot traffic, people do tend to use these corners for other bodily requirements and hence some of these corners smelled of pee and was also rendered with tissues and stuff. This was the only spoiler on an otherwise wonderful hike. So if you intend to do the hike i strongly urge you to use the toilet facility at the start of the hike as there isn’t any on the hike trail itself.
The hiking path itself gets very exciting after you cross the tunnels as it closes hugs the mountainside and gets considerably narrow in some places as well. So in many spots you might have to literally wait over the levada and try not to fall in so that you can let the people from opposite side pass. It is not scary at all but there is only a very narrow single lane path in some sections. There are also steep drops on the side of the mountain but the path was always well secured and had a railing. This made us feel very secure and comfortable all throughout the hike. The scenery just gets more and more stunning as at this stage the canyon narrows and the majestic mountains on the other side tower over you. The lush greenery is so so cooling for the eyes and to top it off the clouds were rolling in and out over the mountains. This just gave the whole scene such a mystical feel!
End point of Caldeirao Verde hike
This spectacular hike ends at a tall waterfall which forms a small pool closeby. The pool is surrounded by rocks and after our photo session ended we found a dry place to have our packed lunch of sandwich and fruits. As i sat there hungrily gobbling down my lunch i couldn’t but help wonder how much more the water flow must be during spring and autumn. Even at the height of summer the waterfall was magnificient and there is always something about the sound of water that completely calms you down. If you are brave enough you can also take a refreshing dip in the pool.
From here you also have the option to continue the walk to Caldeirao Inferno or the devil’s cauldron but that will require you to walk a few more kms. At the waterfall, there is always a good crowd of walkers here who are resting their feet or getting the much deserved energy boost before heading back or further on their trail. The end point is amazingly set amidst nature in the green cauldron and hence you don’t have any facilities for refreshment here. So don’t forget to bring your own snacks and refreshments for this hike.
The way back
Caldeirao verde levada walk is a one-way trail and hence you walk back the same way to the starting point. But when you are surrounded by such breathtaking nature, you can hardly complain of this. Instead you get to experience the levada walk in all its green glory one more time in the opposite direction. The walk by itself isn’t very difficult either as there is not much of an elevation difference along the path. But it is just a long walk that gives you the opportunity to get immersed in beautiful nature and get your senses overloaded with jaw-dropping views.
After we returned back to the starting point, our first order of business was to use the toilet facilities. I then went around taking snaps of the trout farm and watch the kids play with ducks and geese. Sridhar decided to rest his legs while also planning for the most burning question of the hour, “where should we have dinner today”. Given we had a very light lunch and a long day of hiking we both were clearly famished and we wanted to have an early dinner before we headed home. Unfortunately the cafe at the entrance of Queimadas forest part only provides snacks and refreshments, so it is a good but slightly expensive option to stock up for your hike but not so much for a good meal.
Tips for Caldeirao Verde levada walk
- This walk is about 6.5 kms one way , so a total walking distance of 13km
- It is quite a popular walk and hence can be crowded. Try to start as early as possible in the morning
- Toilet facility is available only at the beginning of the walk. Will cost you 50 cents to use it though, so have some change handy
- Car parking facility available near the entrance of Queimadas forest park. But this gets full very quickly and after that you will have to park on the roadside along the entrance
- Snacks and refreshments available at the cafe near the entrance
- Wear comfortable shoes for this walk
- Overall the walk is pretty flat and does not have much ascent or descent
- Bring flashlights for the tunnels or use your phone torch
- Bring a rain jacket or poncho if rainy weather is forecasted
- Carry plenty of water with you as this is a long walk
- Bring a packed lunch, energy bars, fruits etc. to keep yourself energised during the walk