The Laurissilva Forest of Madeira is a living remnant of an ancient laurel forest that once covered most of Europe. Today, it is the largest surviving laurel forest on earth. This forest type is only found in the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands. It contains a unique mix of plants and animals, including many endemic species such as the Madeiran long-toed pigeon. Also called a cloud forest, itoften has clouds on top of the trees, drawing moisture from the air into the soil – and then into the levada network of canals.The Parque Natural da Madeira (Madeira Natural Park) contains the largest surviving area of primary laurel forest. These forests have an intact ecosystem with biodiversity and about 76 plant species endemic to Madeira, together with a high number of endemic invertebrates and two endemic birds species.
The Levadas of Madeira are a hydraulic engineering marvel and recognized as a world heritage. The building of these mountain channels started in the 15thcentury and came to be a water transportation system of about 400 miles of waterways and aqueducts. The Levadas (from the Portuguese “levar” – to carry) are a system of channels mostly bordering mountains but also going through them, with several stretches over rugged rocks, to bring water from different sources to the coastal areas. Today, the ‘Levadas da Madeira’ are an exceptional multi-functional landmark, transporting water for human consumption, agricultural purposes and the production of electricity. They are also unique hiking paths for discovering the island’s unique volcanic landscape.