The high mountains of the large island of Madeira are covered by dense laurel rain forest. It is known as Laurisilva and is one of the biggest attractions of the archipelago. The laurel forest covers an area of approximately 15,000 hectares of the interior of the island, and it falls within the Madeira Natural Park. Only a small part of the forest gets into the southern half of the island and covers the mountainous areas north of the capital Funchal. The majority of Laurisilva covers the north and north-west facing mountain slopes of Madeira.
The laurel forests cover a wide range of elevations varying from 300 – 400 to about 1,500 meters above sea level.
The assumed age of this ancient relict forest is estimated to be about 20 million years. The combination of mild climate, abundant sunshine and moist Atlantic air masses coming from the north provides excellent conditions for this kind of forest.
In 1999 Laurisilva was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some incredibly beautiful walks and breathtaking hiking trails pass through the territory of Laurisilva. They make this place one of the most attractive in the world to hike.
The emerald green interior of Laurisilva is very rich in water. In the forest there are numerous crystal-clear mountain streams, waterfalls and ponds.
The narrow trails that pass along the small irrigation canals are extremely popular for long mountain walks. Also known as “Levadas”, the oldest of these canals date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
They are built completely in harmony with the environment and create a wonderful sense of connection between man and nature.