Levadas Walks in Madeira Island
“A levada is an irrigation canal specific to the Portuguese Atlantic regions of Madeira and the Azores. On Madeira, 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. They were used in the past also by women to wash clothes in areas where running water to homes was not available. The idea of this style of water channel was brought to Portugal by the Moors during the time of al-Andalus. Similar examples can still be found in Iberia, such as some Acequias in Spain.
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 kilometers (16 mi) of tunnels.
Today the levadas not only supply water to the southern parts of the island, they also provide hydro-electric power. There are more than 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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