VEREDA DO FANAL PR13 HIKE IN MADEIRA – The Complete Guide
The Vereda do Fanal PR13 hike is very nice forest walk in Madeira and offers a lot of variety along the way. You walk through the enchanting UNESCO-listed Laurissilva Forest and via open paths with incredible views on the Rabaçal Valley to the Fanal Forest as spectacular finish. This 11 kilometre moderate point to point hike gives you a perfect experience of what Madeira nature is about. But for waterfalls and coastal views you need to choose another hike in Madeira. Be prepared that there are some stair climbs involved, and make sure to plan your hike taking the weather into account. The Paul da Serra plateau where Fanal Forest is located on 1,150 meters above sea level, is known for being covered in fog often. Although it does create a very mysterious vibe in the forest, it won’t let you view the landscapes throughout the hike. Read more about the best time to do this hike and other facts in this complete guide about the Vereda do Fanal hike!
Vereda do Fanal hike key facts
Before setting off to the Vereda do Fanal hike, below some key facts!
Hike distance and duration: Vereda do Fanal is a point to point hike which means you need to have a plan how to get back to your car. So you will either have to double the distance to get back to your car, go with two cars and park them at both start and finish points or hitch hike back to your car. Vereda do Fanal is 11 kilometres long which will take you about 3 hours.
Difficulty and incline: This hike is not difficult but has some stairs involved which will make you feel your legs. With a total incline of about 460 meters when you end at Fanal forest it’s nothing to be worries about. The whole trail is clearly marked and there are no dangerous parts throughout the hike. We saw families with young and old on the paths, and Fanal Forest makes it a lovely picnic spot to end the hike on a sunny day.
How to get to the Vereda do Fanal hike
Because the Vereda do Fanal hike is a point to point hike it means you have to know up front what you’ll do at the finish. You either have to hike 11 kilometres back to your car. Or go with two cars if you have the opportunity with a friend. This gives you the option to park one car at the start, and the other car at the finish of the hike. Another option is to call a taxi or book one via the TaxInn app, or hitch hike back to your car!
The Fanal hike is located on the Paul da Serra plateau in the north western part of Madeira. You will find Fanal Forest at the ‘Faial parking’ on Google Maps. If you plan this as your finish point you have to start at the sign PR13 Vereda do Fanal. This point is located along the ER209 which you can see on the map below. Your decision on where to start the hike depends on how you want to experience Fanal Forest. Do you want to explore Fanal forest in the morning, or use it as a great picnic spot after you’ve finished the hike? We parked a car at Faial parking and started our hike at the PR13 sign which gave us the opportunity to explore the forest during midday. We came back another time in the early morning to have the circumstances in Fanal forest with fog. But that time we only focussed on taking photos and a short video of the forest.
Best time to do the Vereda do Fanal hike
You might have seen those magical pictures of Fanal forest in foggy weather circumstances. The fog creates an even more enchanting vibe to the forest which is already magical with the twisted tree branches with moss hanging from them. It’s absolutely worth it to go to the Fanal forest in these circumstances, but it’s not the ideal circumstances for a hike with several viewpoints. That is the reason why we went to Fanal Forest twice. One morning with foggy weather, and a second time on a clear day for the hike and the viewpoints.
Overall the best time to do the Vereda do Fanal hike is in the morning, especially in summer season. Although you walk mainly in the forest, there are some open parts with the stairs which can become super hot. You can expect the grassland at Fanal forest to be drier in the summer months and greener after the winter months.
What to expect during the Vereda do Fanal hike
As mentioned before we started our hike near the ER209 at the PR13 sign for Vereda do Fanal. Because we hiked with another friend we had two cars at our disposal. This gave us the opportunity to hike from point to point with a car ready at Faial parking to get back to PR13 parking. This way you also hike the downhill route starting at the Paul da Serra plateau which meant we had a nice little picnic at Fanal Forest during midday.
Once we started the hike we felt as if we were immediately immersed in the Laurissilva forest. With ferns, moss, interesting trees and different shades of green the lush vegetation of Madeira always cease to amaze! You follow a forest trail with some stairs here and there, alternated with the incredible views on the Rabaçal valley. The trail is quite some time exposed which means walking up the stairs in the scorching sun can be exhausting. The tree branches which create a natural shelter of the sun are a welcome variety from the open spaces on the trail.
After about 4 kilometres you will arrive at the first highlight of this trail. There is a nice little open viewpoint on the endless green valley. Here we had a stop, little snack and made ourselves ready for the next 7 kilometres of the hike.
Vereda do Fanal to Fanal Forest final kilometers
After the viewpoint you cross the road to dive back into the forest on the other side. Here the trail gets a bit wilder with vague paths which made us wander off the path a few times. But no worries because you can’t really get lost in the forest. Especially when you follow the Madeira Walkme App which is very convenient to use!
When you enter the last two to three kilometres of the hike you will see a little change of scenery. The paths are accompanied by the typical Ocotea Foetens, also known as Stinkwood tree, which is the enchanting tree with twisted tree branches. This is what Fanal forest is famous for!
For the final part of the hike you will be first spit out of the forest onto an exposed trail and dirt path. This is on top of the hill where you look out onto Fanal forest. You will see a huge pinnacle in front of you which is an awesome viewpoint if you dare to climb it!
If it’s a clear day you’ll have a wonderful view that reaches until Seixal. We went a few times to Fanal and saw it with a clear view but also with low hanging clouds! This gives a completely different experience to Fanal Forest, but definitely a special one! Below the view on Fanal forest from the hill and a drone shot of Fanal forest with low hanging clouds. These photos were taken with 2 months in between them, so you can see how much greener the landscape turn after some rainy days!
The view on Fanal Forest after you’ve finished the Vereda do Fanal hike
Precautions for levada walks and hiking in Madeira
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 some of our tips for a safe Madeira hiking experience
Wear suitable clothes, always bring an extra jacket and put your hiking boots / shoes on with good grip.
Take enough water and some snacks with you such as nuts, (dried) fruits etc.
Always bring a headlamp 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 levada’s 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 the 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 the up to date info of the walks which 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 which walk you are going to do.
Do not go off the designated path.
More Madeira travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this full guide about the Vereda do Fanal hike. For more Madeira travel inspiration and the must visit destinations, head over to our other blog posts about Madeira island.