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How hard is Pico Do Arieiro To Pico Ruivo Hike?

The Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is hard but so much worth the challenge. It is one of the most popular hikes and it will bring you to the highest point of Madeira island with incredible views along the way. The 10.8 kilometer out-and-back trail is tough with over 1100 meters of elevation gain to the highest peak on Madeira Island, Pico Ruivo at 1862 meters. 

It takes you anywhere between 3 to 5 hours of hiking, depending on your fitness level. The trail has a narrow path with steep inclines and is one of the best things to do on Madeira Island. Always make sure to check the weather conditions with the Pico do Arieiro webcam before you start this hike. We lived for 7 months on the island of Madeira and besides many other hikes, we hiked this beautiful trail two times. We’ll share our experience with you together with valuable tips so you will be fully prepared to hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo!

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Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Map

Before setting off to the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike, below are some key facts together with the Pico Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Map of Alltrails.

Pico Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Map from Alltrails

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo distance

Hike distance and duration: 

From Pico do Arieiro (third highest mountain of Madeira), passing Pico das Torres (2nd highest peak of Madeira), to the summit of Pico Ruivo and back it is a 10.8-kilometer round trip. To cover the total distance you will need anywhere between 3 to 5 hours of hiking depending on your fitness level, how often you take a break, and how long you will spend at the top.

If you don’t want to return to Pico do Arieiro, you can also choose to hike from Pico Ruivo to Achada do Teixeira and take a taxi back to Pico do Arieiro. In that case, you see a part of the Pico Ruivo trail at the end of the hike. The route to Achada do Teixeira is also much easier because it’s flat and only 3 kilometers one way. So this will shorten your hike in kilometers and duration but it means you need transportation back to where you came from. 

Hike difficulty and incline: 

Although the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is one of the most beautiful hikes on Madeira Island, it is also one of the hardest. The total incline is about 1100 meters throughout the trail. So with untrained legs, it’s going to be tough as at some parts it’s a steep climb. There are lots of steps and uneven parts, so you’ll need your energy and strength for the steep inclines until the very end. The narrow path is quite technical passing the cliff wall with lots of uneven surfaces and dark tunnels. The trail is safe and well maintained with handrails and signs along the way. Most of the trail is wide enough but there are some narrow parts with steep drops. Of course here the railings are in place, but still always be cautious! 

Book your private guided hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo here


How hard is it to get to Pico do Arieiro?

The trailhead of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is well marked on Google Maps as Pico do Arieiro which is also the famous Pico do Arieiro sunrise spot. The parking lot is very spacious with a cafe/souvenir shop to get some caffeine in before you start the hike.

Can you drive up Pico do Arieiro?

It is possible to drive up Pico do Ariero and the road is in great condition already offering amazing views. The easiest way to get to Pico do Arieiro is with a rented car. But if you don’t have a rental car, there are some other options to get to Pico Arieiro! Public transportation is not one of them because there is no bus going up to the parking of Arieiro. But one of the options is to book a guided tour with a local guide. However, if you want to do the hike by yourself, below are some other options. 

Getting to Pico do Arieiro with a pickup and drop-off transfer

If you don’t have a rental car yourself, a great option is to book one of the pico transfers that pick you up from the hotel, bring you to Pico do Arieiro, and then pick you up again at Achada do Teixeira to bring you back to your hotel. The hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is still self-guided in this case. Book your transfer here for your convenience and they will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation in Funchal or Caniço.

Can you go to Pico do Arieiro by taxi?

You can recognize the taxis in Madeira by their yellow color. You can book a taxi online via the Taxin app which is the ‘Uber’ of Madeira or just stop a taxi along the road. One way to Pico do Arieiro from Funchal costs approximately €30 – €40 so booking the transfer with the link above is way cheaper.

How to get to Pico do Arieiro by car?

With the average sunrise time in Madeira being around 7.30 AM, you don’t have to get up shockingly early. Being one of the easiest accessible viewpoints on the island, Pico do Arieiro is a very popular sunrise spot. From Funchal, it only takes you about 30 minutes to get to the top. From Calheta, it is about 50 minutes to the parking of Pico Arieiro. The journey up to Pico do Arieiro is beautiful as you will wind your way through the beautiful Ribeiro Frio park.

On the right side, you’ll see the radar station where the hike starts. If you’re lucky you’ll walk above the clouds!
Along the way up to Pico do Arieiro you have some great photo spots!

What is the best time to do the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike? 

The best time of the day to do this exhausting hike will be in the morning. Which is perfect to combine with watching the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro. There is almost no shade along the trail, so doing the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike in the middle of the day in the scorching heat is something I strongly discourage. 

Another option could be to watch the sunrise from the summit of Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest mountain. But in that case, the hike from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo is easier and more recommendable than to hike from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in the dark. Or you start the hike before sunrise and catch the first light along the trail. But watching the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro is the best place for an amazing start of the hike.

Watching the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro viewpoint before you start the hike to Pico Ruivo is a great plan!

What to expect from the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo trail?

The starting point at Pico do Arieiro at 1818 meters above sea level, you will make your way through along the highest mountains of Madeira, conquering many steps and tunnels to the highest peak of Madeira Island. Pico Ruivo on 1862 meters. With over 1000 meters of incline throughout the hike, this Madeira mountain trail is not for everyone. From the car park of Pico Arieiro, you’ll head to the left side of the weather station. Here you’ll already see some incredible mountain views. The first kilometres are a mix of decline and incline so you’ll get a nice warming up for the rest of the hike. Maybe you’ll think this first decline is not too much, but on your way back these final meters will burn your legs! 


The first kilometer is probably some of the most impressive parts of the complete Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike. Around every corner the view is different, so take your time and don’t forget to look around as you make your way further up the trail. 


Miradouro do Ninho da Manta

The first official viewpoint you will encounter is Ninho da Manto which has a balcony overlooking the valley. Depending on the season and position of the sun, you can also watch the sunrise from this spot. As it is just a minute walk from the trail you can make a quick stop here before continuing the hike. It is a great photo spot and worth taking in the views for a moment. If you look towards your left and squeeze your eyes, you might be able to see the trail. A great adventure is awaiting you for the rest of the hike! 


Staircase to heaven

Thereafter you will make your way descending the dramatic staircases that make this a breathtaking trail. And if you’re lucky with low-hanging clouds, it makes you feel as if you’re on another planet. If you look from the bottom up, it feels like the staircase to heaven. Worth a photo stop! 


It can also happen that the clouds are too high covering these stairs completely. In that case, you won’t see a lot from the landscape, like we had on our way back from a sunset shoot along the trail. Checking the weather forecast online can give an indication but from my experience, I can tell the good weather changes fast up in these mountains! 


Miradouro Rija

The next viewpoint is called Miradouro Rija from where you can see the eastern and western side of the Portuguese island. This is also a great sunset spot if you plan on doing the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike in the afternoon towards sunset. 


Tunnel and plateau section of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike 

In the next section, you will encounter the first tunnel that has been drilled into the mountains. The name of this tunnel is Pico do Gato and here you will need a headlamp or the flashlight of your phone to find your way through the tunnel. It’s really cold inside, so we also called this the ‘recovery tunnel’ as you can cool off a bit here on the warm days. The length of this tunnel is about 150 meters. 

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. And a beautiful view in this case!

As you continue along the ridge you’ll see that the trail has been carved out of the side of the mountain. This makes the path quite narrow, but along the complete trail of Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo are handrails and chains attached so overall this amazing hike is very safe. But if you are any taller than 6ft or 1.80 meters you will have to watch your head. The cliff wall is at some parts pretty low and the rocks don’t give in. You’ll pass through some other shorter tunnels on this flat part of the trail to kind of prepare you for the steep incline that’s about to come! 


Staircase to Hell 

Well, this might be a bit dramatic to call it the Staircase to Hell, but I found it a funny joke as the counterpart of the earlier called Staircase to Heaven. This section of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is tough and will push your legs to the limit. The steep stairs bring you further up towards Pico Ruivo but it’s not the last steep incline. So be prepared for more! However, after this part, it’s an easy walk again so you can recover before you get to the last section and last incline. 


The path along the white dead trees

After the heavy incline at the metal staircase, you’ll get to a more flat section accompanied by dead trees. Unfortunately, these trees have died after a wildfire, so now there is a white dry dead tree forest along this trail. It’s still a beautiful part of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike though, the dead trees are kind of artsy! 


The final battle uphill to Pico Ruivo

The last part up to the summit of Pico Ruivo isn’t an easy ending. You’ll get challenged until you reach the highest peak of Madeira Island! When you continue the walk along the dead trees, the trail goes upward gradually. But as soon as you reach the intersection at the Casa do Abrigo mountain hut, you will get to the grande finale staircase of this hike! Yes, as I said before, you don’t get the best view on Madeira Island for free  


Casa do Abrigo mountain hut

When you’ve reached the Casa do Abrigo mountain hut know that you are almost at the summit! Only a little 10 more minutes hiking up the stairs. You can grab a coffee or a little snack at the hut before you make your way to the summit. Especially in the winter months, it’s a great place to warm up. But we did it during the summer months and had our lunch at Pico Ruivo with the best view you can imagine! If you need to, you can go to the toilet with toilet paper at the mountain hut for a small fee of €0,50. You can also refill your water bottles with fresh mountain water from the tap.


Pico Ruivo summit

The last stretch of the hike up to Pico Ruivo summit is a 10-minute steep climb up the stairs. The views along this last section are breathtaking, but once you’re at the peak, you will have a panoramic view over the whole mountain range in the heart of Madeira Island. The summit is very wide and flat so you can easily walk around between the two main viewpoints. 

Pico Ruivo viewpoint facing northwest

There is one viewpoint facing southeast and another viewpoint facing northwest both with incredible views of Madeira’s highest peaks. If it’s a clear day, you can see the ocean as well. 


Precautions for hiking Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

For a safe hiking experience in Madeira, it is important to take the following safety precautions. There have been accidents in Madeira on levada walks and in the mountains in the past, which doesn’t directly make hiking in Madeira dangerous. But you do always have to keep in mind that the weather in Madeira can change suddenly. Or that landslides take place, branches can fall or paths can be slippery. In case of any emergency, you can call 112.

Below are some of our tips for a safe Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike

  • Wear suitable clothes, always bring an extra jacket, and put your hiking boots/shoes on with a good grip. 
  • Take enough water and some snacks with you such as nuts, and (dried) fruits.
  • Always bring a head lamp on your hikes in Madeira because some of them include walking through a tunnel.
  • Take a whistle with you in case you get lost or slip from the path. 
  • Book a qualified guide when you want to be sure on your first levada walk. Most of the levada walks are flat and easy, especially the well-known levadas in Madeira. You can find a detailed description in our blog about the 20 best Levada’s in Madeira. But if you prefer a qualified guide next to you when walking in Madeira, you will not only learn more about nature but you will also be 100% safe and don’t have to worry about navigating your way through the forest. 
  • When hiking alone on Madeira, prepare yourself and collect all the updated information about the trail you plan to follow. Are the trails open? No landslides? On the website of Visit Madeira, you can find up-to-date info on the walks that are open and closed. 
  • Calculate the time you’ll need to finish the hike so you’ll be back before dark. 
  • Inform the hotel or accommodation you are staying with which walk you are going to do. 
Happy hiking!!

Best Madeira island tours

If you want to explore the best of Madeira with a local guide then here are some great tours I recommend. During these tours, you will pass by some of the best viewpoints which I share in this complete guide. All of these guided tours include transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides, and sometimes entrance fees if applicable. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

Madeira Tours

  • Customized 6-hour Madeira tour. On this six-hour tour, you can choose the different areas you want to visit on Madeira Island. Pick the landmarks and iconic places to make your Madeira itinerary with the help of your local guide/driver.
  • West Madeira private tour. Starting in the fishing town of Câmara de Lobos you will drive via Cabo Girao, the highest cape in Europe, to the beautiful view of Serra d’Agua valley. From there you will head to São Vicente to explore the Laurisilva forest. Continuing north, you will visit Porto Moniz, known for its natural lava pools where you can swim. As a last stop, you will visit the famous rocks at Ribeira da Janela.
  • East Madeira tour. Visit Pico do Arieiro viewpoint, take pictures at the Santana houses and the beautiful viewpoints at Porto da Cruz to finish the day at the impressive volcanic landscape of Ponta de São Lourenço.
  • Canyoning adventure with a transfer from Funchal. Get the thrill of canyoneering and explore Madeira’s untouched nature. follow a river as you walk, rappel, slide, and jump through hidden waterfalls with streams that cross endemic forests. A super fun and adventurous day!
  • Ponta de São Lourenço hike with pick up in Funchal. Explore the eastern tail of Madeira island with its unique volcanic rock formations to understand how the island was created.

Funchal Tours

  • Funchal 48-hour hop-on hop-off bus tour. Explore the lush landscape of Madeira and the sights of Funchal at your own pace with a 2 or 5-day ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus.
  • Tuk-Tuk tour to Monte Tropical Garden with Toboggan ride from Funchal. Explore Funchal Old Town with a Tuk Tuk before making your way to the mountains to the stunning Monte Tropical Garden. There you will explore over 70,000 square meters of exotic plants. At the end of the tour, you will enjoy the thrilling ride down the hill with a Toboggan ride.
  • Funchal Old Town walking tour. Learn about the history of Funchal and Madeira on a guided walk through the city’s medieval center. Visit the farmer’s market, the Campo Almirante Reis. The Fortress of St. James and some other sites as your guide provide commentary.

Boat Tours

  • Dolphin & Whale watching Luxury Catamaran Cruise from Funchal. Enjoy the views of Funchal from a luxury catamaran. Look out for whales and dolphins in their natural habitat as you relax on board and explore the underwater world with a snorkel.
  • Scuba diving Madeira. Explore the underwater world of Madeira Island. A theory lesson and practice in the swimming pool is included. This before you will dive about 12 meters for 45 meters in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Sunset tour from Funchal by Catamaran. Watch the sunset off the coast of Madeira on a 3-hour evening catamaran cruise from Funchal and spot dolphins (guaranteed, or you get a 2nd trip for free).

General travel must-haves for Madeira

Have you thought about how to get around in Madeira? A car is the easiest way to drive around the island.

  • Book your rental car here and compare the providers to get the best deal.
  • Book your scooter or motorbike here to get around in Madeira. For most of the scooters, you need a driving license (A1/A2/A) from 18 years old, or from 25 years old with a car (B) license. The motorbikes have a minimum age of 20 or 21 with an A (moto) license.

Do you prefer a private driver for the day and the freedom to create your own Madeira itinerary?

Have you already booked your accommodation? 

Are you insured during your travels?

  • Buy your travel insurance here. Safetywing not only includes coverage for travel delay, lost checked luggage, emergency response, natural disasters, and personal liability. But also covers all your medical expenses for hospitalization.

Where to stay in Madeira


Several towns in Madeira are great to stay in while exploring the island. Funchal is the capital town of the island with the most restaurants around. It has a charming old town and all sorts of facilities you might look for such as a boulevard, shopping center, cafes, and nightlife. It is a great place to base yourself with plenty of culture, beautiful old buildings, and charming streets to explore. There are also a few beaches in Funchal to enjoy the ocean. However, these beaches are from pebble stones.

→ Check out this great tool to compare prices in Funchal and book your favorite hotel!

We have stayed in The Vine Hotel and Okulus villa which are both beautiful locations. The Vine has the comforts of a hotel including breakfast and is located right in the city centre. Okulus Villa is located in the Old Town with the most amazing ocean and city view.

→ Book your stay at Okulus villa here

→ Book your stay at The Vine Hotel here



If you want to be based near a sandy beach in Madeira, then Calheta is a great place. While Funchal is more to the east of the island located, Calheta is more to the west of the island located. So eventually you can also stay a few days in both towns depending on the total length of your stay in Madeira. Calheta has an atmospheric marine with restaurants offering great spots to watch the sunset and enjoy a meal.

We have stayed a few weeks at Calheta Boutique Houses during our 7 months living in Madeira. Highly recommend these private villas as you have all the amenities you have at home as well. The modern design and amazing ocean views make it a perfect vacation home.

→ Book your stay at Calheta Boutique Houses here

Small villages in nature

If you want to experience really small towns to stay in Madeira, then check out the accommodations in Seixal, Porto da Cruz, Sao Vicente, or Ribeiro Frio. Take into account that there will be fewer restaurants around but you will be completely immersed in the local life and nature.

→ Check here the available accommodations in Seixal, Porto da Cruz, Sao Vicente or Ribeiro Frio


More Madeira travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike in Madeira.

For more information about Madeira, head over to our other travel blogs.

50 best things to do in Madeira – The Ultimate Guide

40 best photo spots in Madeira – The Ultimate Guide

30 Best Viewpoints in Madeira – The Ultimate Guide

30 best hikes in Madeira – The Complete Guide

25 best things to do in Funchal – The Ultimate Guide

25 best waterfalls in Madeira – The Ultimate Guide

20 best levada walks in Madeira – The Complete Guide

20 Best Restaurants in Madeira – The Complete Guide

15 best Sunrise Viewpoints in Madeira – The Complete Guide

15 Best Sunset Viewpoints in Madeira – The Complete Guide

12 best beaches in Madeira – The Ultimate Guide

12 best Funchal restaurants – The Complete Guide

All about Poncha – The Ultimate Guide about Madeira’s traditional drink

All about Madeira wine – The Ultimate Guide

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We hope this guide will help you plan your travels! If you consider booking your accommodation, tours or rental car via our affiliate links, you support this blog because we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you!


  1. Thank you for all your info and beautiful images. Is it safe / easy to drive in the dark to see Sunrise or Sunset combine with this hike?

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, driving in the dark to see sunrise or sunset at Arieiro is totally safe IF there is no snowfall or heavy rain- fog. Make sure to bring a headlamp for the hike cause you will need that 🙂 Have fun and safe travels!

  2. Linda Riedle says:

    Thanks so much for the information. We’re looking to do the hike from Pico do Ariero and end at Achada do Teixeira. I’ve downloaded the taxiin app. Now my question for you is….can I count on cell coverage at Teixiera? Do you foresee any difficulty in a taxi picking us up that far away?

    1. Hi Linda! You’re well prepared! At Teixeira you have cell coverage and there might be even taxi’s already waiting at the parking for hikers to get picked up. Enjoy the hike and Madeira!

  3. Hello! Thanks so much for this informative post. I am wondering how tight the tunnels are? Can you stand in them? Do you need to crawl or squeeze through any of them? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lauren, my pleasure to share this information! The tunnels at Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo are high enough for everyone to just stand straight. You can even walk with the persons next to each other. At Levada Faja do Rodrigues this is a different story. There is one tunnel which is super long and with a low ceiling, but luckily not from Pico to Pico. Enjoy and safe travels!

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