The best independent guide to Madeira
The best independent guide to Madeira
Pico Ruivo is the highest point on Madeira, standing at 1,862m above sea level.
The summit of Pico Ruivo is accessible by foot, and there are two challenging hiking trails which climb through the stunning mountainous scenery of Madeira’s interior.
The first shorter route follows the PR1.2 trail, which begins at the car park at Achada do Teixeira, and then climbs eastwards to the summit of Pico Ruivo. The route has a total length of 5.6km (2.8km each way) and takes around 2hours. This is the more popular route and is the route taken by tours or groups to watch the sunrise from the summit.
The longer route follows the Vereda do Arieiro (the PR1), which connects the Pico do Arieiro (the third-highest peak) to Pico Ruivo. This is a much more challenging trail, which passes through tunnels, crosses ridges, and has lots of steps to climb. The PR1 route is a whole day hike (4-6 hours covering 15km), but the dramatic scenery makes it worthwhile.
Related articles: Introduction to Madeira – Madeira top 10 - 1 week in Madeira
The final steps up to Pico Ruivo, with a severe drop on either side
The weather on Pico Ruivo is unpredictable and rapidly changes. When visiting always be well prepared (shoes/clothes/food) and check weather conditions before setting out. Between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo (PR1) there are tunnel sections, so it is advisable to bring a torch.
Insight: The main draw of Pico Ruivo are the spectacular views, but the mountains are often showed in cloud, especially outside of the summer. If there is dense low-lying cloud, do consider visiting another day.
An organised hiking tour of Pico Ruivo or along the PR1 takes the hassle out of organising transport and is a great way to meet fellow travellers.
Also, a one directional walk along the PR1 from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo with a pickup at Achada do Teixeira, eliminates the long uphill slog when returning to the summit of Pico do Arieiro. Click here for a highly rated 8-hour Arieiro to Ruivo hiking tour.
Insight: The PR1 when heading north is either downhill or flat, with all of the uphill climbing via two steep and intense set of stairs. Heading south on the PR1 is uphill the whole way and is very tiring when returning back to Pico do Arieiro.
Some of the best tours and activities in Madeira’s mountains provided by GetYourGuide include:
Clouds can quickly form while in the mountains
The PR1.2 is the most popular hiking route to Pico Ruivo, and there is a good footpath for the entire way, which is clearly signed. It is 2.8km from the starting point to Pico Ruivo, with much of the uphill climbing in the final section, when the path climbs the north side of the mountain.
The PR1.2 is a very dramatic hiking route as a large majority of it follows a mountain ridge, with steep drops to the north and south (over the Ribeira Seca Valley).
If you wish to watch the sunrise or sunset at Pico Ruivo, the PR1.2 is the route to follow, but always remember to bring decent torches for low light ascent/descent.
Just before the final climb, there is a coffee shop (the Restaurante do Pico Ruivo), which sells hot and cold drinks and simple snacks. The prices are comparatively high and the selection limited, but all the stock has to be lugged along the footpath you just hiked…
The jagged mountains of the interior of Madeira
The PR1.2 starts from the car park at Achada do Teixeira (GPS: 32.764993, -16.920925), this car park is large and free, but is a long mountainous drive up to it. The road to Achada do Teixeira (the ER218) begins in Santana, and it is a 9km (16min) drive from the town.
Insight: If you are based in Funchal and just wish to see some beautiful mountains, the Pico do Arieiro (1,818m) is much closer and more accessible (the road even goes to the summit!) The Pico do Arieiromountains are just as stunning as Pico Ruivo.
While hiking near Achada do Teixeira, do make a side trip to the Homem em Pé, a basalt rocks rock formation, which is said to resemble a group of old men.
Much of the route up to Pico Ruivo is along pathed paths, and there are rails on dangerous sections
The most detailed and free (open source project) maps of Madeira are provided by OpenStreetMap.org. The following are maps to:
Pico Ruivo Map (www.openstreetmap.org/query?lat=32.73535&lon=-16.92863)
Achada do Teixeira (start of PR1.2 route) (www.openstreetmap.org/query?lat=32.73535&lon=-16.92863)
Pico do Arieiro (start of PR1 route)(www.openstreetmap.org/query?lat=32.73535&lon=-16.92863)
The hiking route from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
The PR1 from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, is the best mountain hike of Madeira, but it is demanding due to the number of steps to climb.
The route starts at the Pico do Arieiro car park and heads north along the Ninho da Manta ridge, skirts around the Pico das Torres (1851m) pass through five tunnels and then climbs lots of stairs to join the PR1.2 close to the summit (and near the Restaurante do Pico Ruivo). The entire route takes 4-5hours and is 15km.
When heading from Pico do Arieiro the first ¾ of the route is downhill or flat, but the real demanding section is the metal stairs which climb the Pico das Torres. This is 20 minutes of continuous stair climbing, and is tough on knees…
Insight: he return leg is mainly mostly uphill with a very steep climb on the final section to Pico do Arieiro. The return (Ruivo to Arieiro) is much more demanding than the “going” section, and is why most tours suggest a route of Arieiro to Ruivo and a pickup at Achada do Teixeira.
Just before the tunnels, the PR1 used to divide offering two paths, with a shorter route going through the tunnels and up the stairs, and a second meandering eastern route which scaled the side of Pico das Torres. The east route is currently closed due to landslides (it has been shut for over 3 years so should be considered permanently shut). This is a shame as the footpath was cut directly into the cliffside and had fewer stairs to contend with.
The PR1 has some very high ridge walks with very severe drops on either side. The path is safe with cable rails, but is not suitable if you suffer from vertigo or there are strong winds.
At Pico do Arieiro there is a decent car park (GPS: 32.734802, -16.928693), a restaurant (Retiro da Freira) café and a gift shop. The road to the summit is very good, as at the summit is a NATO radar installation.
The radar dome on the top of Pico do Arieiro