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Day 5 - Walk Paul da Serra & Levada do Norte

Hiking route · Portugal
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  • Bica da Cana Viewpoint
    Bica da Cana Viewpoint
    Photo: Suzel Gary
m 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 12 10 8 6 4 2 km
From the rugged highlands to the laurel forest conservation area, the route strolls down a beautiful mountain atmosphere in a landform moulded by the past volcanic activity. After going through the rich evergreen vegetation of Folhadal, the long tunnels of the Levada do Norte lead to the southern side of the island and to Encumeada mountain pass.
Distance 13.4 km
5:25 h
155 m
900 m
1,607 m
832 m

After the transfer, today’s walk starts from the high plateau of Paul da Serra. From the picnic site and view point of Bica da Cana, there are magnificent views over the highest mountains and São Vicente valley. The path descends steeply through gorse bushes to the ancient Levada do Plaino Velho, before you track beneath the escarpment through the laurel forest conservation area. After some magnificent views, the path descends steeply into the ravine before a short climb back up to join the Levada do Norte

The levada takes you through a magical environment of water, forest and tunnel. Once out of the darkness of the tunnels, it stretches easily to the mountain pass. The Hotel Encumeada is reached by a smooth walk down the road. 

Author’s recommendation

Fantastic panoramas, a steep descent to the levada, a walk through long tunnels and the atmosphere in the heart of the laurisilva forest are some of the highlights of this adventure. 

In order to recover, the bar at Encumeada pass provides a heart-warming break amongst locals and tourists. 

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Macs Adventure
Update: December 01, 2022
Highest point
1,607 m
Lowest point
832 m

Track types

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Safety information

  •  You must be sure-footed and have a head for heights. 

  • Some slippery sections.
  • When path is narrow, walk carefully on the trail, not on the vegetation.
  • In case of landslides, do not proceed if there is any hazard.
  • Poor signal reception on part of the trail. 
  • Poor gps coverage also, data might diverge from given information.

Tips and hints

Points of Interest

The origin of Levada do Norte is at an elevation of 1025m. From its origin to the point where it reaches the south of the Island, it is over 15 km in length of which 7.2 km are tunnels. The tunnel which crosses the Encumeada Mountain from North to South is about 540m long and supplies the hydroelectric plant in Serra d’Água. After helping to produce electricity, the Levada do Norte is channeled to the fertile terraces of Ribeira Brava, Campanário, Quinta Grande and Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, where the Day 7 walk passes by. This south part of the levada is at a lower altitude of 550 meters and runs almost 35 km.


  • Santana is well served with banks, supermarkets, numerous bars and restaurants, a pharmacy and a bus station.
  • Services only at the Hotel Encumeada.

Food & Drink

  • Picnic and water required. 
  • Snack bar BOCA DA ENCUMEADA at Encumeada Pass. 


Bica da Cana (1,555 m)
32.757523, -17.059410
32°45'27.1"N 17°03'33.9"W
28S 307076 3626283


Hotel Encumeada

Turn-by-turn directions

You will be picked up at your hotel at 9:00 am and dropped off at the information board at Bica da Cana. 

NOTE: In case of foggy or cold weather, you can skip the up-and-down visit to the viewpoint at the picnic area. 

0.00 km – TURN to your RIGHT when facing the board and walk up the cobbled path between the two concrete pillars (there may be a chain across the entrance). Head up the slope. 

0.10 km – BEAR LEFT before the house. The way will sweep first right, then left before reaching the picnic area with glorious views across to Pico Ruivo. 

0.70 km – TURN BACK down the hill, retracing your steps to the information board. 

1.38 km – TURN RIGHT, onto the path PR17, which tells you “ENCUMEADA 11,2km”. Ignore other options and follow the yellow and red markers as the path winds its way first through the prickly gorse bushes and then in the middle of higher vegetation. 

1.85 km – TURN LEFT at the T-junction. Follow the sign indicating ENCUMEADA 10,7km. As the rock wall unfolds on you left, the path is narrow on some stretches. For security reasons, do not step on the vegetation. 

2.40 km – BEAR LEFT at a small junction with a big stone and a tree holding a handmade mark. After 200m, a viewpoint on the right-hand side is indicated by an arrow dug on the ground. Carry on DOWN the log stairs.  

3.52 km – TURN RIGHT at the top of the steps following the sign ENCUMEADA 9km and go DOWN the rough road for 50 metres only. Be careful, the next junction is easy to miss. 

3.60 km – TURN RIGHT, off the road and down the paved steps – follow the hidden red and yellow indicators. 

NOTE: If the vegetation is too dense to go through, carry on DOWN the rough road for 1,4 km, at a small junction in a bend on the left. TURN RIGHT into the forest, to find an abandoned (dry) levada alongside the wide path, on the right-hand side at Point A (altitude 1173m). Follow the indications bellow from this point on. 

3.79 km – After climbing 3 stone steps up,  BEAR RIGHT at the junction to carry on downhill amongst the heather trees. 

NOTE: The old Caramujo forest guard houses stand by the left, past the entrance gate. 

3.98 km – BEAR LEFT when reaching the clearing. Mind your head with low heather branches. 

Ignore a trail going up on the right. 

4.80 km – BEAR RIGHT, following the sign stating ENCUMEADA 7.6km. You will see an abandoned (dry) levada alongside the wide path, on the right-hand side at Point A

5.20 km – AHEAD through the first, short tunnel. 

NOTE: This is the first of the tunnels you will encounter. The last two are by far the longest, and tell you that you are near the end of the route. For now, they are short, but it is important to take care and remember to look up as well as down - head room can be limited. 

5.34 km – AHEAD through the tunnel to find nice views of the mountains and some sections dug into the rock. 200m after a stone arch, the old levada ends at a small junction. 

6.70 km – BEAR LEFT down the steep log stairs following the sign ENCUMEADA 5,8km. 

6.88 km – AHEAD following the path between the guard rails at PAREDÃO dyke. With the glorious views either side, this is an ideal place for lunch. The path descends steeply after here, with some sections which can be slippy. 

7.36 km – TURN RIGHT at the bottom of the steps on an easy trail. 80m after getting round the left of a big stone, continue STRAIGHT ON across a bike track and ignore 2 trails on the left. 

7.95 km – AHEAD up the log stairs and you will soon be climbing back in the direction you came – this is correct and will take you up to the Levada do Norte. 

8.15 km – TURN LEFT onto the Levada do Norte, following the flow. The sign states ENCUMEADA 4,3km. Follow the path alongside the levada. 

8.64 km – AHEAD through the first long tunnel and carry on along the levada. AHEAD through the small tunnel.. 

NOTE: You will have to traverse through two long tunnels. Headlamps are essential, and please remember to look up as well as down as the headroom / shoulder room is limited in parts. 

10.47 km – AHEAD through the last tunnel. 

NOTE: You can shorten the last section of the walk and reach the hotel sooner. In this case, go AHEAD on the concrete way located at a lower level next to the end of the tunnel. This road will zig-zag down to the main tarmac road, where you must TURN RIGHT and walk 600m down to the hotel. 

11.00 km – TURN LEFT at the end of the tunnel, following the flow and the sign ENCUMEADA 1,4km. At the picnic place viewpoint, the hotel’s red roof is clearly visible below. 

12.08 km – 200m after the house, BEAR RIGHT down the flight of stairs to reach the road. This is the end of the yellow and red markers’ track. The ENCUMEADA PASS overlooks the Ribeira Brava Valley to the south and the São Vicent Valley to the north. 

After enjoying a rest, AHEAD down the road with the bus shelter on your left-hand side, past the stairs. 

NOTE: On the second bend of the road, take notice of the path starting there. The day 6 standard walk goes along this way. 

13.40 km – At the HOTEL ENCUMEADA, you have reached you destination. 


all notes on protected areas

Getting there

  • Transfer to Bica da Cana.
  • Walk ends at the hotel.


32.757523, -17.059410
32°45'27.1"N 17°03'33.9"W
28S 307076 3626283
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


  • A good head torch is essential for the tunnel sections. 
  • Raingear and warm clothing. 
  • Walking boots. 

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13.4 km
5:25 h
155 m
900 m
Highest point
1,607 m
Lowest point
832 m


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