Natural Heritage

Laurisilva of Madeira

Wow – So many trees, such a big forest! Let’s call this island “Madeira” (Portuguese for wood).

Maybe those were not the exact words, but the feeling of amusement is probably not so far. In 1420, when the Portuguese navigators arrived this island, in the Atlantic Ocean, they were impressed with the majestic presence of the forest. And that forest was and still is the Laurisilva of Madeira.

This forest is between 15 – 40 million years old and used to cover the southern part of Europe. Nowadays, it only exists in Azores and Madeira, Portugal, and in the Canary Islands, Spain. The Laurisilva of Madeira is the main survivor of this primary laurel forest, being one of the reasons to become World Heritage in 1999.

Nowadays, the Madeira Natural Park protects this unique ecosystem of plants and animals. You can even sense the high quality of the environment through the presence of lichens in the bark of the trees and on rocks. This means absolute pure air! It is also the habitat of the beautiful local bird Laurel Pigeon. There is no cultivated land neither buildings, except those that allow the maintenance and safe leisure of the forest.

Where will this water go? Check the video

Where will this water go? Check the video

The forest’s conservation and sustainability requires special attention from the Natural Park. This is due to invasive species, risk of fire, etc. At the same time, visitors need to be environmental friendly when discovering such green wonder.

One way to explore these 15 000 hectares, approximately 20% of the island, is through a path called LevadaLevada is the name given to a water canal with 100 centimeters width. It brings water from the mountains to the agricultural land and population. Luckily for us, there is a path with one meter width along the canal that allows visitors to dive into the forest. When there is no water nearby, the path is called Vereda.

The path on the left, the water canal on the right.

The path on the left, the water canal on the right.

As you stand in an island, the water surrounds you. And you think you will escape the ocean by being inside the forest, but no. You feel the water even more, running beside you and making you feel a living organism. You are in perfect harmony with the surrounding, it is all alive!

Can you hear the sound of the running water? Do you also feel the sweet earthy smell? Just follow me in this video and I promise you a refreshing end!

Video: Levada das 25 Fontes/ Levada do Risco, 4,6 kilometers

Thank you Margarida for the photos, Francisco and Manuel for such green adventure. In memory of our GoPro Camera, who fell – literally! – in love so much with Madeira, that decided to swim with the fish forever.

Me trying to walk gently to not cause turbulence with the GoPro camera

Me trying to walk gently to not cause turbulence with the GoPro camera


  1. Anna Karla Almeida

    I love nature and this jungle is perfect for an adventure trip, feel the nature after a long period of stress… Great place and great article!

    • mariana martinho

      Hi Anna,
      It really is a wonderful place! Perfect to relax and get some inspiration!
      Thank you for your kind words and for your help with the video!
      Looking forward to do the next one!

  2. Marta Lima

    Wow your words made me feel like I was there. Definitely a place to visit.

    • mariana martinho

      Hi Marta!
      I guess your wow has a lot in common with the Portuguese navigators 😉
      So glad you captured that feeling!
      Thank you for reading and sharing!

  3. Francisco Oliveira

    Such a remarkable place, it’s a must do at least once before you die. Never had such a similar diving into nature experience as the miles you can walk in this heritage forest.
    Thank you for this wonderful sneak pick of Laurisilva beauty.
    Happy to help and to see the final result.

    • mariana martinho

      Hi Francisco!
      Great memories from this Levada and the tunnel.
      That can be material for the next article ahah.
      Thank you for being part of this experience!

  4. Margarida Martinho

    An amazing place to feel the nature! We have more 20 levadas/veredas to do, what are we waiting for?!
    Thank you Mariana for such a good article that brings back that special feeling.

    • mariana martinho

      Hi Margarida!
      Shall we book a flight today?
      Thank you for being part of the adventure and of this article!
      The best of heritage is this feeling of living and sharing!

  5. Inês Costa Lima

    thank you for make me travel to a wonderful place. your words make us fell that you brought the nature inside your heart.

    • mariana martinho

      Hi Inês! This experience really influenced me. Thank you for your kind words!!

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