The 5 Best Hikes in Madeira

The island of Madeira is a hiker’s paradise. Despite its small size, this Portuguese island off the coast of Africa offers an unbelievable diversity of landscapes and sceneries. These are the 5 best Madeira walks and hikes that take you through the clouds and along the ocean, and show you the rugged beauty of this island.

I spent a week in April this year visiting Madeira and it was one of my favourite destinations. The island has yet to turn into a major tourism hot spot, which means we were able to enjoy many of the trails and viewpoints without the usual crowds. There are hundreds of hiking trails and levada walks on this little island and it’s truly an outdoor lover’s dream.

When to go

Weather in Madeira is great almost all year round. The average temperature doesn’t fluctuate much and is about 16-22C degrees every month. April-October are generally the driest months and therefore a good time for hiking. If you want to avoid the crowds I would suggest the shoulder seasons of March-May and September-November.

Due to the mountainous terrain there are many microclimates on the island. It may be warm and sunny in the the capital of Funchal while it’s pouring on the north shore and freezing up on the peaks of Pico do Arieiro. Always pack layers and a rain jacket and you’ll be set.

Quick Tips

  • The best way to get around is by rental car. The roads are in great condition and easy to navigate.
  • Stay for at least one week. You may look at the size of the island and think a few days is enough to cover it, but you’ll be surprised at how much there is to do in Madeira. I think 10-14 days would be ideal.
  • I would recommend staying on at least two parts of the island to get a feel for the diverse landscapes and microclimates. We stayed in Funchal for 3 days and Sao Vicente for 3 days. I personally liked the moody north coast more.

Here are 5 of the most scenic hikes in Madeira:

1. PR1 Vereda do Arieiro

Probably one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done, this trail leads you to two of Madeira’s highest peaks, Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo. The section between these two peaks winds along exposed ridges and lush vegetation. You’ll likely find yourself amongst the clouds for much of the hike.

There are two ways you can complete this hike. Option 1 is an out-and-back trek covering the most beautiful part of the trail between the two peaks. It’s the tougher and longer option and involves some steep stairs and ascends.

In Option 2 instead of returning the same way after you reach Pico Ruivo, you will head down the other side of the mountain to the parking lot at Achada do Teixeira. This section is a quick walk along a paved trail and is quite easy. The only downside is that you will then have to taxi back to get your car from Pico Arieiro.

Option 1: Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate
Time:
7-8 hours
Length:
14km roundtrip
When to go:
Start at sunrise to enjoy sunrise at Pico Arieiro
Start/End Point
: Start/end at Pico Arieiro parking lot

Option 2: Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo to Achada do Teixeira

Difficulty: Moderate
Time:
4-5 hours
Length:
10km (7km to Pico Ruivo, then 3km to Achada do Teixeira)
When to go:
Start at sunrise to enjoy sunrise at Pico Arieiro
Start/End Point
: Start at Pico Arieiro parking lot, finish at Achada do Teixeira and taxi back to Pico Arieiro

2. PR8 Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço

This is another iconic Madeira hike that takes you along the rugged east coast of the island. It’s a fairly easy trek without many steep inclines. The only real push is at the end when you have to climb a series of steps to reach the viewpoint of Ponta do Furado.

This trail is one of the most popular ones in Madeira, so try to get here either early morning or late afternoon. It also gets very windy and exposed here so make sure to pack a windbreaker and/or rain jacket.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Time:
3-4 hours
Length:
8km roundtrip
When to go:
Anytime. To avoid the trail being busy go early morning or late afternoon.
Start/End Point
: Start/end at Ponta de São Lourenço parking lot

3. PR6 Levada das 25 Fontes & PR6.1 Levada do Risco

Madeira has numerous levada walks, which are trails that follow old irrigation channels that were used to distribute rainfall from the wetter parts of the island to the drier ones. This hike takes you along one of the most beautiful levadas on the island and leads to two stunning waterfalls, 25 Fontes and Risco.

Start at the parking lot along highway ER110. From here it’s about a 25-30 minute walk down to the official start of the hike. There are shuttles that operate on this road and can take you to/from the parking lot, however they are infrequent and quite small. We saw some hikers waiting for these shuttles but many opt to walk instead.

Don’t forget to grab a bite or drink at the Rabaçal Nature Spot Cafe, located at the beginning of the hike. It has a cute patio and delicious food.

Difficulty: Easy
Time:
4-5 hours
Length:
9km total (not including walk to/from parking lot)
When to go:
Start early as the trail is narrow and can get crowded.
Start/End Point
: Start/end at parking lot along road ER110.

4. PR11 Vereda dos Balcões

Easily the best bang for your buck, this quick and easy walk leads you along a levada to the beautiful Balcões viewpoint. On a clear day you’ll have a view of Madeira’s central mountain range including Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo. This would be a great spot to go for sunrise or sunset.

Difficulty: Very easy
Time:
1 hour
Length:
3km roundtrip
When to go:
Anytime. Good for sunrise or sunset.
Start/End Point
: Start/end at highway ER103 at Ribeiro Frio. Park along the road.

5. PR13 Vereda do Fanal

This trail leads you through a beautiful Laurissilva forest made even more magical by the frequent fog that rolls along this region. Since it’s located on the elevated Paul da Serra plateau, you’ll enjoy views over the surrounding valley.

While the trail officially starts higher up on ER209 and comes down to the Fanal Pond, I would recommend starting at the parking lot near Fanal Pond instead. The area close to the parking lot is stunning itself and worth exploring. From here you can follow the trail up for as long as you want before heading back to the parking lot.

Difficulty: Easy
Time:
3-4 hours
Length:
10km one-way
When to go:
Anytime.
Start/End Point
: Officially starts along road ER209 near the geotag on Google Maps and heads down to near the Fanal Pond.

Madeira offers great hiking for all levels. These are five of the best walks that show off the diverse beauty of the island. Whether you want to trek peak to peak or follow along a lush levada, Madeira makes for a great hiking destination for everyone.

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