Madeira, the island also known as a hiking paradise. It can be hard to choose from the long list of hikes on the island. The hikes listed below are my personal favorites and are in my opinion the most beautiful hikes in Madeira. I think they offer a good variety of the different landscapes the island has to offer.
In this blog post I will cover my favorite official hiking trails in Madeira. These are all marked PR trails and should be safe to do without a guide. Always check the local news for any trail closures, to make sure it’s safe though! If you are planning to hike one of the unofficial hiking trails make sure to bring a guide with you.
PR1 Vereda do Arieiro hike – Pico Arieiro to Pico
Let’s start of with the most famous hike on the island. The hike starts at the Pico Arieiro, the peak which is famous for its beautiful sunrises. If you’d like to watch the sunrise, I would advice coming at least 40 minutes before it actually comes up. A surprisingly large group of people drives up the mountain to watch the sunrise.The parking lot besides the starting point fills up quickly. If it’s full you’ll have to park on the side of the street or at the parking lot further down adding to an already pretty long hike. Most people watch the sunrise from the viewpoint right at the start, but you get an even better view is you walk a bit further down the trail.
The trail starts at the top of the mountain. You’ll start your hike above the clouds. The trail takes you around the most spectacular views of the magnificent mountains of Madeira. It’s not a technically difficult hike, but the many ups and downs make it a pretty tough hike physically. It will take around 1,5 hour to get to the Pico Ruivo. Here you can find a little cafe to relax and have lunch before heading back. If at the halfway point you decide the hike back would be too much, you can ask the cafe owner to call you a taxi. It is costly, since the taxi has to drive around the mountain, which will take around 1 hour. It will cost between €60 and €80. But if you ask around the cafe, you could probably find people to join you and share the cost. From the cafe, you’d have to hike down to Achada do Teixeira since the taxi’s can’t reach the Pico Ruivo.
Distance: 11 km
Time: around 4 hours
Elevation: 1200 meter
PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike
This hike truly has it all. Beautiful views of the cliffs all the way down the trail, a bit of incline and it can be done in around 2-3 hours. I tried to catch the sunrise, but realized when I got there that it would come up behind the cliff, so to see it you’d need to start early. The hike is fairly popular, so it’s definitely worth starting early even if it’s not for the sunrise. There’s a little beach around the beginning of the trail and a cafe at the end if you’d like to take a break.
Distance: 7 km
Time: 2 tot 3 hours
Elevation: 470 meter
Levada do Moinho-Levada Nova hike
The Levada do Minho Starts near the church of the Lombada in Ponta do Sol. The trail starts out with fantastic panoramic views of the valley. For quite a while you’ll walk down the narrow trail into the valley. Be aware that its not a very wide path and at times there is no protection. Most of the trail has a little railing on the side, but there’s a few parts were the railing is missing. At times you’ll have steep drops straight down besides the path. Overall it’s an easy walk though. Not much elevation and a clear path. If you suffer from vertigo however, you may want to skip this one. A little after the halfway point you’ll reach an impressive waterfall with the path leading you underneath it. Be careful not to hit your head in the tunnel that follows after this waterfall! Me and another hiker both hit our heads around this point.
Distance: 8.5 km
Time: 3 -4 hours
Elevation: 105 meters
Boca do Risco hike
This coastal route along the cliffs has an easy path without much elevation. If you need a break after some of the bigger hikes, this is just the short, but beautiful hike you’d need. The bit along the coast is part of a longer Levada walk, but we choose to only do the coastal bit. You can park the car at the Cabo de Larano Viewpoint and start from there. It’s not usually busy, but there’s not a lot of parking space. You basically have to park your car on the side of the road. From there you’ll immediately start getting those beautiful views of the cliffs and the blue ocean.
The trail is very easy as the path follows the coastline. You follow it until you reach the Boca de Risco viewpoint and from there you head back.
Distance: 10 km
Time: 2 tot 3 hours
Vereda do Fanal (PR13)
You can’t visit Madeira without seeing the famous Fanal forest. It’s known for its often foggy conditions. The fog with the twisted branches of the ancient laurel trees creates an eerie atmosphere. It is however not always foggy and you have to get lucky to see it in the right conditions. I included two different photo’s to show the difference between sunny and foggy conditions. Again, going early morning would be best. You’ll have the highest chance of seeing it in the fog. It’s also become extremely popular and it may be your only chance to see it without crowds.
You don’t have to do a full hike to see the forest. You could just drive to the parking lot and explore the magical trees, without doing the full hike, but when you’re there you may as well. The trail leads you through the immense Paul de Serra plateau. Some parts of the trail are exposed, offering you incredible views of the landscape and other parts are covered by lush vegetation.
The Problem of this hike is that it’s point to point and you could either hike back or try and hitchhike back to the parking lot. We decided to start the trail at the end point so there would be a bigger chance of getting picked up on the way back. We managed to catch a ride with some friendly hikers as we weren’t that keen on hiking back along the road.
Distance: 10 km
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation: 271 meter