pico-ruivo-peak-drone

Pico Ruivo is the highest peak of Madeira Island and some of the most famous hikes of Madeira. With 1862 meters above sea level, the panoramic views from Pico Ruivo summit are a must see in Madeira. Unlike Pico do Arieiro which you drive easily to until you reach the first viewpoint, you have to hike to reach Pico Ruivo summit.  But this is absolutely rewarding, especially to watch the sunrise or sunset. You have to take in the weather conditions though, because if it’s too cloudy you won’t see the beautiful mountain range. To be well prepared for your Pico Ruivo hike, read this blog post with all the information you need. I will explain the four different hiking routes you can take. Then you can choose which one you want to take. I will explain clearly which one is the easiest and hardest, what you can expect, what you need to prepare and much more! 

General travel must haves for Madeira

Before we dive into the best things to do in Madeira, let’s check a few things to make your travels in Madeira easy and safe.

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. Most of the scooters you can drive with 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 A (moto) license.

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

Did you already book 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 hospitalisation.
car-madeira

Best Madeira island tours

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

  • 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 own 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 last stop you will visit the famous rocks at Ribeira da Janela.
  • East Madeira tour. Visit Pico do Arieiro viewpoint, make 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 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!
  • 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.
  • 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 your relax on board and explore the underwater world with a snorkel.
  • Ponta de São Lourenço hike with pick up in Funchal. Explore the most eastern tail of Madeira island with its unique volcanic rock formations to understand how the island was created.
  • Scuba diving Madeira. Explore the underwater world of Madeira island. A theory lesson and practice in swimming pool is included before you will dive about 12 meters for 45 meters in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 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 a number of other sites as your guide provides commentary.
  • 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).
  • 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.

4 DIFFERENT TRAILS TO HIKE TO PICO RUIVO MOUNTAIN

How to get to Pico Ruivo summit

Hiking to Pico Ruivo is possible via four different trails. All these four different routs vary in difficulty, incline, length and of course views along the way. Below are the four different trails. After this small summary I will dive deeper into the different routes to give you a better expectation of what you can expect. But based on this summary you can already make a choice in which trail suits your level of hiking. 

Of course you don’t have to do the hard trail out and back. What you can do is hike to Pico Ruivo, and then go back to Achada do Teixeira which is the easiest route. There are plenty of taxis waiting at the Pico Ruivo parking to bring you back to your car or accommodation. In this case you safe yourself from going back the same, hard trail as you came. 

  1. Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo PR 1

    Without a doubt one of the most famous hikes on Madeira island. But also one of the most technical and strenuous hikes. The total distance of PR1 Vereda do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is 11 kilometres out and back with 1180 meters incline. You basically decent and ascent two mountains on your way to Pico Ruivo summit, so with untrained legs this is going to be very very tough. Most part of the trail is of man made stones which makes it pretty easy to keep your balance. 

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

  2. Ilha to Pico Ruivo PR 1.1

    Another very hard hike to get to Pico Ruivo summit with a total of 16.4 kilometres out and back hiking. The total elevation during the hike is 1376 meters, so the climb should be done very calmly. Don’t do this hike after rainy days, because then the trail is very slippery. You’ll walk a long part of this trail in the forest, so the path is natural, no man made stones like the other trails to Pico Ruivo.  

    Book your guided tour from Ilha to Pico Ruivo here

  3. Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo PR 1.2

    This is the easiest and fastest hike to Pico Ruivo summit. Therefore it’s the most popular trail for a sunrise hike because it’s only 3 kilometres one way. This means you can get to Pico Ruivo summit in 30-45 minutes hiking. The hike is also relatively flat. Only the last meters towards the summit you will face stairs. The total incline of this hike is 260 meters which is nothing in comparison to the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike. 

    Book your private guided tour from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo here

  4. Encumeada to Pico Ruivo PR 1.3

    Another very hard hike to the highest peak of Madeira Island. The walk from Miradouro da Encumeada to Pico Ruivo has fantastic views along the way. But with 20 kilometres out and back and an incline of more than 1800 meters it is a hike for only the trained ones. The terrain is a mixture of rocky stairs to grass paths but also a bit more slippery descents. 

pico-ruivo-summit-path

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo PR 1

The PR1 Vereda do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is some of the most famous hikes on Madeira Island. And it is very understandable why. The fantastic views along the way will leave you speechless. If you are lucky, you will walk above the clouds which is an incredible and very unique experience. 

pico-do-arieiro-hike-clouds-sunset
ninho-da-manta-viewpoint

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo duration and difficulty

This hike is 11 kilometres out and back with 1180 meters incline. You will begin this hike at the parking of Pico Arieiro where you can drive straight to with your rental car. There are also plenty of tours offering this activity, so if you are traveling along it might be a good idea to join a group to do this hike. The total duration is anywhere between 3-4 hours depending on your speed and how long you relax at the summit or during the trail. Because this hike is one of the most famous hikes of Madeira Island, the trail is very well maintained. There are hand rails and most of the path is from man made stones. There are some tunnel you need to cross, so a headlamp or torch can be handy to bring. Bring also plenty of water, because you will need this along the way. At the Pico Ruivo mountain hut you can refill your bottle for free with drinking water, or order a coffee and a snack. This mountain hut called Casa de Abrigo Pico Ruivo is the final point before you make the last incline to Pico Ruivo summit.

pico-do-arieiro-path-drone

Sunrise at Pico do Arieiro

A great start of the day is to watch the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro. You can perfectly combine this activity with hiking from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. Depart right after sunrise on the hiking trail so it’s not too hot yet for the hike up Pico Ruivo mountain. There are several viewpoints at Pico do Arieiro to watch the sunrise from. I wrote a separate blog post about the best sunrise viewpoint at Pico do Arieiro which you can read here.

pico-do-arieiro-sunrise-jump

Sunrise at Pico do Arieiro

Ilha to Pico Ruivo PR 1.1 

Together with Encumeada to Pico Ruivo this is one of the hardest hikes to get to Pico Ruivo summit. Check beforehand if this trail is open, because sometimes due to the bad weather the PR1.1 trail is closed. It can be slippery so avoid this hike after heavy rainfall. 

Ilha to Pico Ruivo duration and difficulty

With a total of 16.4 kilometres out and back hiking, this trail is not for the unexperienced hikers. The total elevation during the hike is 1376 meters so it’s without a doubt very strenuous. The trail starts in a small village called Ilha and takes you through and then crosses two different eco systems. The central mountain massif and the Laurissilva forest. It is very interesting to see these two types of ecosystems with their different vegetations along this trail. 

Tired of climbing all the stairs

Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo PR 1.2

This is the easiest hike to get to Pico Ruivo summit. With only 3 kilometres one way along a relatively flat path, this hike is manageable for every age. You will have fantastic views along the way, facing Pico do Arieiro on one side and Santana village on the other side. 

achada-do-teixeira-pico-ruivo

Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo duration and difficulty 

The total hike distance of this out and back trail is 6 kilometres on a relatively flat path. Only the last 10 minutes of this hike you will face some stairs to reach the summit of Pico Ruivo. In total the hike shouldn’t take you more than 1.5 hours, depending on the time you take to relax at the summit. It’s a perfect family friendly activity. We did this hike with our 60+ Mums and it was a never to forget experience! 

Because of the short distance to Pico Ruivo summit, the Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo hike is most popular to take for sunrise or sunset. From the Pico Ruivo parking it only takes you about 30-45 minutes to get to the highest point of Madeira! 

Read our complete guide about the Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo hike here

achada-path-ruivo-ocean

Two completely different weather conditions during the same day 

Encumeada to Pico Ruivo PR 1.3

This hike starts at Miradouro da Encumeada, a beautiful viewpoint with coffee- and souvenir shop. A perfect place to grab a coffee or beer before / after the hike. (I would advice the beer after, but that’s up to you!)

Encumeada to Pico Ruivo duration and difficulty 

The trail is uphill from the very first moment when you start climbing stairs for the first couple of kilometres. With 20 kilometres out and back and an incline of more than 1800 meters it is a hike for only the trained ones. The terrain is a mixture of rocky stairs to grass paths but also a bit more slippery descents. The total duration of the hike in anywhere between 6-8 hours depending on your speed and how often you take a break. As mentioned before, you can also hike back to Achada do Teixeira when you reached Pico Ruivo summit to avoid the heavy trail back to your car. At Achada do Teixeira are always taxis waiting for customers.

encumeada-viewpoint

Sunrise at Pico Ruivo mountain 

Some things are worth getting up early for. Watching the sunrise in Madeira is one of these things! There are many amazing sunrise spots in Madeira, and Pico Ruivo is one of them. 

It is something magical to stand on top of the highest point of Madeira Island with views of the impressive mountain range around you. If it’s your first time for a sunrise adventure, then read the tips below so it will be a success!

  • Always make sure to arrive about 30 minutes before sunrise at the spot you want to be. This gives you enough flexibility if something doesn’t go according to plan. But more importantly, sometimes the colours before the sunrise are even better than the actual sunrise itself! Especially when you’re a photographer like us, you want to set up your gear, find a nice place to shoot etc. Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the moment! 
  • Drive to Achada do Teixeira parking if you want to reach Pico Ruivo summit before sunrise. This is the safest and shortest trail with the least incline to Pic Ruivo mountain. 
  • Bring enough water, a headlamp, eventually coffee or tea in a thermos, some light breakfast or snacks, and you’ll have a morning to remember forever. 
  • It’s mostly not too cold at the highest point of Madeira Island. Depending on the wind it can feel chilly, but even during the winter months we only needed a light jacket. When the sun comes through, you can easily stand in your shirt on the summit. 
pico-ruivo-summit-drone

Pico Ruivo webcam 

Before setting off the the Pico Ruivo hike, you might want to check the weather conditions. On an island like Madeira, the weather can be dramatically different on the opposing sites. 

Also, if you want to have perfect cloud conditions, you can check the webcam by clicking here. 

Many people hope to walk above the clouds, or see a sunrise or sunset about the clouds at Pico Ruivo summit. Therefore, always check the webcams that are scattered over the island so you know what type of weather you can expect. 

There are a few shelter huts along the trails, so if it suddenly starts to rain you can sit there and wait for the rain to stop. These huts are also perfect spots for a lunch break as there are mostly equipped with concrete table and chairs. 

Best time to visit Pico Ruivo

There are a few things to consider when you plan on going to Pico Ruivo. The most important factors are time of the day, month of the year and weather conditions. 

Time of the day

If you’re a sunrise or sunset lover, a visit to Pico Ruivo during one, or two of those time frames can’t be missed. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it to visit Pico Ruivo during the day. Every time up in the mountains is magical, but seeing the golden light while being on the highest point of Madeira Island is definitely a bucket list experience. I wish for everybody visiting Madeira that they can at least experience a sea of clouds beneath them for one time. You have to be a bit lucky for those circumstances, but you can always check the weather conditions on the webcam.

Month of the year

Madeira has a mild climate all year long, but of course the overall experience can differ from the summer or winter months. When we were in Madeira during the winter of 2020 – 2021 there was even snow on the peaks! That means the trails in the mountains are officially closed. The best months to visit Madeira for hiking are the spring months and autumn months. During spring the flowers are obviously in bloom which can give a completely different view than during the autumn and winter months when there is mostly only green vegetation along the trail. It is never too hot or too cold on Madeira Island, but you can expect the midday sun in the summer months to be quite hot. So try to avoid hiking during the middle of the day in the summer months.  

Weather conditions

Always check the weather forecast and webcams before you make your way up in the mountains. On an island like Madeira, the weather can be dramatically different on the opposing sites. 

If you want to have perfect cloud conditions, you can check the Pico Ruivo webcam by clicking here. Walking above the clouds is something you will never forget. And in my opinion it is something that makes Madeira very unique. 

More hikes you have to do in Madeira

We often get the question which hikes in Madeira you HAVE to do. The famous Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is one of them. But it is a strenuous hike with lots of incline, so therefore not for everyone. Some hikes we would recommend are as following.

Best coastal hikes in Madeira

Vereda do Larano

Vereda Ponta de São Lourenço

Best forest hikes in Madeira

Levada dos Cedros

Levada do Castelejo

Best waterfall hikes in Madeira

Levada das 25 Fontes

Levada do Caldeirão Verde

vereda-do-larano-hike

Where to stay in Madeira

Funchal

There are several towns in Madeira that are great to stay 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 centre, cafe’s and nightlife. It is a great place to base yourself with plenty of culture and 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 on hotels around the world 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

the-vine-hotel-funchal-madeira
sunset-funchal-okulus

Calheta

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 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 villa’s as you have all the amenities you have at home as well. The modern design and amazing ocean views makes 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 less 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

calheta-boutique-houses