Santo da Serra to Ribeiro Frio

Hiking route · Madeira
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15.5 km
320 m
128 m

A relaxing walk from Santo da Serra through the laurel forest of Ribeiro Frio and onto 'Balcoes', a stunning panoramic viewpoint. 

Today's walk is a popular and very classic walk in Madeira; Santo da Serra to Ribeiro Frio ('Cold River'). The route is largely flat and winds through the subtropical laurel forest ('Laurissilva'). This walk combines tunnels and waterfalls with views of the surrounding cliffs like the beautiful Eagle's Rock. Enjoy the silence and breathe in the fresh air as you reach Balcoes. This unique panoramic viewpoint is the absolute highlight of today's walk. Also make sure to walk around the local trout farm which you can visit free of charge. 

Author’s recommendation

Make sure to visit the viewpoint Balcoes, a highlight of this trip! Once you have reached Victor's Bar in Ribeiro Frio it's only a short 30 minutes away and the route is flat and easy (Note: Also 30 minutes to get back to Ribeiro Frio, so it'll take about an hour in total). 

Highest point
900 m
Lowest point
670 m
Best time of year

Safety information

In winter the path can be wet and slippery, take extra care. You will cross a few roads during your walk and even though most of them are quiet, please take care when crossing. It is required to take your headtorch with you today as you’ll pass through numerous tunnels. Please take extra care while walking through tunnels, they can be narrow, slippy and it's easy to bump your head. 

Tips, hints and links

Packed lunch is recommended on today’s walk as you won’t pass any restaurants or cafes along the way until you have reached the endpoint in Ribeiro Frio. Packed lunch is available at your accommodation in Santo da Serra (at a small additional cost). Make sure to order the packed lunch upon your arrival or at least the night before.

It is also possible to have (a late) lunch at Ribeiro Frio, there's a lovely restaurant that serves typical Portugese food. Always make sure to carry plenty of water and to keep hydrated during your walk.    


Santo da Serra (692 m)
32.725261, -16.824027
28S 329068 3622301


Ribeiro Frio (Overnight in Santana)

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00km - Today's walk starts from Estalagem A Quinta Hotel. Start with your back facing the hotel and TURN RIGHT onto the road. There's a petrol station on your left where you can buy water or snacks should you want to. Keep walking STRAIGHT ON until you reach a roundabout where you TURN RIGHT in direction of Porto da Cruz and Portela. Follow this road, a gradual ascent. 

0.80km - TURN LEFT and keep following the road until you reach a sign that says 'Pesca Ludico Turistica (Trout Fishing Course)'. BEAR LEFT and follow this road that goes up. 

1.70km - BEAR LEFT and continue to walk in direction of the trout farm.

2.10km - You have reached an intersection, BEAR LEFT and continue STRAIGHT ON. You will pass by a sign that says 'Levada da Serra', you will notice that the path goes up steeply here. As you walk on you will pass a stone waterhouse on your left and behind it you'll find a levada. Keep the levada on your left and continue on. 

3.70km - BEAR LEFT and continue to follow the levada. When the path forks, you CROSS the path diagonally. As you continue on the path will fork again, BEAR RIGHT and CROSS the small bridge. 

4.30km - You will have reached another stone waterhouse, similar to the one you have seen earlier. 

5.40km - The path forks, walk STRAIGHT ON through the rock opening (gap). Make sure to grab your headtorch and take extra care passing through here. 

9.10km - BEAR RIGHT and continue on.

12.00km -
You have reached Victor's Bar in Ribeiro Frio. This is where the driver will be to collect you and drop you off at your accommodation in Santana. If you have time and energy left you should definitely go to Balcoes. This panoramic viewpoint is the absolute highlight of today's walk. To get here you BEAR RIGHT and follow the sign that says 'Balcoes' alongside the levada. 

13.10km - You'll walk past a bar called 'Flor da Selva', continue untill you reach a sign that says 'Balcoes'. Keep walking STRAIGHT ON until you arrive at the viewpoint. Breath in and enjoy the fresh air, the silence and the incredible view before you make your way back taking the exact same route. 

15,50km - You have made your way back to Ribeiro Frio and Victor's Bar. This is the endpoint of today's walk. Enjoy a refreshing drink in one of the bars before the driver arrives. 

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Book recommendations for this region:

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All normal walking equipment are required: walking shoes/boots, water and windproof jacket, plenty of water and snacks for during the day. Walking poles can be useful during this walk, the paths aren't as narrow as previous days. It is required to take your headtorch with you today as you’ll pass through numerous tunnels.

Responsible for this content
Macs Adventure User
Heleen Bosch
Updated: August 04, 2017

Travel Guide: Hikes in Madeira

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Dagmar Beck-ne
July 10, 2019 · Community
Bernd Hr
September 24, 2018 · Community
  • Montag, 24. September 2018 11:32:36
    Photo: Bernd Hr, Community

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