The trail to the Balcoes viewpoint: levada PR 11 Vereda dos Balcoes - map, description, access, parking
Short, easy and… magical
Levada PR 11 Vereda dos Balcoes is an excellent proposition for a short, very easy and magical walk.
As the name suggests, the trail runs along a typical levada (the name of the levada itself is Serra do Faial) and ends at one of the most famous viewpoints in Madeira: Balcoes.
The path is practically flat, there are no ascents or descents, and is an excellent option for an interesting family walk. Even people in a weak condition can cope with it without any problem.
The fact that the trail is short and easy does not mean that it is boring. On the contrary! Levada PR 11 is one of those levadas that I would love to come back to again. It runs through a beautiful and extremely atmospheric forest (I hope that the photos in this post reflect it) and ends with a unique vantage point ... from which you can see .... hmmm
Climate or views?
Exactly! What can you see from the Balcoes viewpoint? If I were to describe what I saw, the description would be short: I saw nothing!
Unfortunately, we came across a day when everything was covered with a dense fog and it was impossible to see anything. However, we spent some time at the vantage point in the hope that the fog would eventually subside (because what we call fog is actually low-hanging clouds). It sometimes happens that after a while the cloud moves on and suddenly the view of the entire valley is unveiled.
We waited a long time and it looked like there was little hope for nice views.
What should you see?
There is a beautiful panorama of the valley from Balcoes Ribeira da Metade, the three highest peaks of the island located in the central massif: Areeiro Peak (1817 m) Peak of the Towers (1851 m) Pico Ruivo (1862 m) and a rock formation Penha d'Aguia.
The valley is covered with dense forests. These are typical laurel forests. It is made up of about 150 plant species, 66 of which are typical of Madeira, unique in the world.
As a curiosity I will only add that this forest, commonly known as the "laurel forest", has a valuable ability to "produce water". The water from the mists condenses intensively on the leaves of plants, from them flows down to the soil, and then feeds the springs and streams.
Since 1999, the laurel forests in Madeira are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can see a better view from the Balcoes vantage point on one of the panoramas available on Google Maps. I present one of them below. You can rotate the panorama, zoom in and out.
You might think that the fog that prevented us from observing the Ribeira da Metade valley ruined our trip. Nothing could be more wrong! There is always something for something in life. We didn't see the valley, but the whole trip along the levada we walked in the magical scenery of a dense, beautiful and smoky laurel forest. The scenery was in the mood of a fantasy movie. The charm of the laurel forest shrouded in a mysterious fog made all the way you could hear shouts of delight, not only issued by us.
Perhaps someday we will come back here again and then we will be able to see the valley. Certainly, regardless of the weather, as soon as we return to Madeira, we will again go for a walk along the PR 11 trail to Balcoes.
Basic information about the PR 11 route
Beginning of the trail: parking in the village of Ribeiro Frio
Access to the starting point: car or buses: 56, 103, 138
End of the trail: Balcoes viewpoint
Trail Length: 1,5 km (one way)
Walking time: 45 min (one way)
Level of difficulty: easy
Description and map of the trail
The trail begins within the administrative boundaries of a miniature town Ribeiro Frio but outside of its center. Here you will find some small gastronomy, toilets and souvenir shops. There is also a rainbow trout farm in Ribeiro Frio. Of course, local restaurants serve it to their guests. I have eaten and recommend it. After returning from a walk, the trout will taste great.
PR 11 is one of the few routes to which can be reached by bus. The lines 56, 103, 138 stop here. The bus stop is right outside the entrance to the trail (get off at the “Ribeiro Frio” stop). A detailed bus timetable can be found on the website serving in Madeira public bus connections - [click]
If you come here by car, you will have a miniature parking lot (P1) near the entrance to the trail (for several cars). Most likely, you won't find a place on it. A few steps further you will find another, slightly larger parking lot (P2). If you do not find a free space in the second parking lot, you will be forced to do it just like other tourists. Most cars park with one wheel on the narrow shoulder along the road, almost completely in one lane. You have to do exactly the same. Look for a free spot near the trail entrance.
The whole trail runs through the laurel forest and in small fragments between picturesque rocks, covered with moss. The walking path is wide, even and comfortable. Along the path there is a levada, which is partially filled with water.
At the end of your walk you will reach a crossroads where there will be a sign pointing left for Balcones. This is of course your direction.
I don't know what kind of weather you like best, but it is best if there is fog in the forest and the sun is shining over the valley… and I wish you that!
Useful GPS coordinates
Below I present the GPS coordinates of the most important points on the route. After clicking on the link next to the coordinates, the navigation on your phone will automatically open and in case of problems the phone will guide you to your destination.
Small P1 car park near the trail, GPS coordinates:
32.735111, -16.886493 - click and route
A slightly larger P2 car park a few steps from the trail, GPS coordinates:
32.733538, -16.887135 - click and route
The beginning of the trail - levada PR 11, GPS coordinates:
32.735472, -16.886402 - click and route
Balcoes viewpoint, GPS coordinates:
32.741590, -16.890350 - click and route
Madeira sightseeing itineraryThis entry is part of a complete one Madeira sightseeing plan - [click]. The guide contains plans, maps and descriptions of specific sightseeing routes.
To see all currently available descriptions of attractions in Madeira, click on the link: Madeira - [click].
Safe car rental guide: Madeira - car rental without deposit?
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One comment on “The trail to the Balcoes viewpoint: levada PR 11 Vereda dos Balcoes - map, description, access, parking"
I have looked through many pages looking for well-described trekking routes in Madeira, but this blog beats others! From descriptions, photos and practical tips, in addition, starting and ending points, parking lots, everything with coordinates, all you need to do is click on the link. Thank you very much for the work done and for sharing such useful information.