Madeira – Levada

A levada (Portuguese for “led”) is an irrigation channel or aqueduct specific to the island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean.

The levadas originated out of the necessity of bringing large amounts of water from the west and northwest of the island to the drier southeast, which is more conducive to habitation and agriculture (such as sugar cane production). In the sixteenth century the Portuguese started building levadas to carry water to the agricultural regions. The most recent were made in the 1940s. Madeira is very mountainous, and building the levadas was often difficult. Many are cut into the sides of mountains, and it was also necessary to dig 25 miles (40 km) of tunnels.

Today the levadas not only supply water to the southern parts of the island but provide hydro-electric power. There are over 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of levadas and they provide a remarkable network of walking paths. Some provide easy and relaxing walks through beautiful countryside, but others are narrow, crumbling ledges where a slip could result in serious injury or death.


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