Furnas do Cavalum

Furnas do Cavalão

Useful Information

Location: Caminho da Quinta de Sant'Ana, Machico.
Machico, 150 m from the road.
(32.7323406, -16.7847506)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologylava tube
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=550 m.
Cavalum I: L=300 m, A=125 m asl.
Cavalum II: L=110 m, A=140 m asl.
Cavalum III: L=90 m, A=140 m asl.
Cavalum IV: L=50 m, A=135 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: P. Relvas, V. Monteiro (1987): Grutas do Cavalum (Machico - Madeira), Algarocho, Boletim interno da Sociedade Portuguesa de Espeleologia, #9, 1987, pp 5-8. online
Juan A. Zaragoza, Dora Aguin-Pombo, Élvio Nunes (2004): Paraliochthonius cavalensis, Nueva Especie Cavernícola De Madeira (arachnida, Pseudoscorpiones, Chthoniidae), Revista Ibérica de Aracnología, ISSN: 1576 - 9518. Dep. Legal: Z-2656-2000. Vol. 9, 30-VI-2004 Sección: Artículos y Notas. Pp: 343–351. pdf
Address: Associação do Caminho Real da Madeira, Biblioteca Municipal da Ponta do Sol, R. Príncipe Dom Luís, 9360-218 Ponta do Sol, Ilha da Madeira. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



The Furnas do Cavalum (Caves of Cavalum) are named after a local legend about a devil called Cavalum, who was imprisoned in the cave. The lava tube is of great importance and has numerous specialties, and at the moment the process of the creation of a natural reserve is on its way. It is of geologic relevance, as it allows a view on the volcanic history of the now inactive island of Madeira. It is also of biologic importance with several troglobiont living in the cave, including crustaceans, spiders and flies. Fourteen invertebrates live in these tubes, three of them are endemic on Madeira, one of them exists only in this cave. But it is also part of the cultural heritage of the islanders, as numerous legends are told about the cave.

The local people tell the legend, that the Furnas do Cavalum are home to a sort of monster. The Cavalum is a devil or demon in the shape of horse, with bat wings and fire coming out of his nose. On stormy days it is possible to hear the screams and the rumble when he kicks out, because he is so annoyed to be imprisoned in this cave.

The story how he got imprisoned goes like this: In times, when Cavalum was still free, he went to a church and knocked on the door, in order to speak to God. God asked what he wanted, and he responded: "I want to consider a challenge. I will destroy this church and all people living in the village, I want to see if you are able to hinder me." And God answered him, that he did not like this kind of jokes.

Cavalum thought, "So I told you...", and called the wind and the clouds to form a huge storm to destroy all the people. He stood on a high cliff and whinnied content, enjoying the misery of the people. At that time God was sitting quiescent at his fireplace, not believing Cavalum would really do what he said. But he continued, and the houses and the fields were destroyed.

God was irritated, as he had not taken it serious, but decided to stop this immediately. He called the sun, which came with all its force and moved away the clouds, the wind, the thunder, and the lightning. The sky was blue again, and the people became happy. But now God decided to imprison Cavalum in a cave, which was thus called Furnas do Cavalum. Cavalum is imprisoned until today, and at every storm it is possible to hear his anger and despair about being imprisoned.

Local legend.

On 09-OCT-1803, the island of Madeira suffered one of the worst floods in its history. Some say this event or probably a similar event lead to the legend. The legend was oral tradition and first written down by Alfredo de Freitas Branco between 1924 and 1955.

One time a child entered the cave through one of the many openings of the cave. It went in at a place Moinho da Serra, but it left at Água de Pena. Some say this is the reason why the cave is called Furnas do Cavalum, because Cavalum is another word for Devil, and the Devil is the only one who will not get lost in this labyrinth.

Local legend.

Despite the stories about the devil, the cave was used as a refuge by the locals during violent uprisings like the Revolta da Farinha (Flour Revolt) or the Revolta da Madeira. The uprisings in 1931 were a result of the Great Depression of 1929, the decree for the centralization of wheat and cereal import, but also the dictatorial regime of the time.

The plural in the name is actually correct, there are four lava tubes close together with a total length of 550 m. There is a trail starting at the Caminho da Quinta de Sant'Ana, a staircase leading uphill between the garden walls of two houses. At the far end the trail goes down on the other side through thick bushes and eucalyptus to the cave entrances. The trail is covered with earth, so we would recommend to avoid rainy days, as the trail will get slippery. It was built for the visitors of the caves, in other words the cave visit is officially allowed, but the caves are not developed. At the end the train branches, the left, upper branche leds to the caves II and II which are only 10 m from each other at the same height. They are obviously of the same age, formed by the same lava flow. The right branhc leads to Cave IV, which is rather wide but low, and the shortest of the caves. Further down the hill and to the east is Cave I, which is the longest of the caves, and as it is the lowest also the oldest.

The visit is simple, the floor mostly level, there are trails from the frequent visitations, good walking shoes are nevertheless recommended. In most parts the ceiling is high enough to walk upright, some sections require stooping, it's a good idea to wear a helmet with headlamp. The Assoçiação de Caminho Real da Madeira sometimes offers guided tours to the caves. As they are a hiking organisation, they start at the Solar do Ribeirinho museum in Machico and walk the 2.5 km to the cave from here. It's also possible to park at the road above and walk only 150 m to the caves.

Please be aware that the caves are under protection, do not disturb the animals living their more than absolutely necessary. Do not bring anything into the cave, do not litter, do not use open fire for lighting.