Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (PR1 and PR1.2)

Hike in Funchal (Madeira)

Pico Do Arieiro To Pico Ruivo Hike
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

The trek from Pico do Arieiro (1817m) to Pico Ruivo (1862 m) stands out as the best levada walk on Madeira island, Portugal. The route is is commonly known as PR1 or Vereda do Arieiro. The route guides hikers along slender pathways, navigating through daunting staircases and dark tunnel chambers. Pico do Areeiro is also the third highest peak in Madeira, while Pico Ruivo is the highest peak on the island, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

While the path is an engineering marvel, it is not recommended in inclement weather due to the risk of rock-falls. Moreover, the route may be unsettling for those with vertigo. However, for those undeterred by these considerations, the path is superbly crafted, predominantly carved from rock, providing an exceptional experience with intimate views of the mountains. It intricately weaves through the highest peaks, showcasing the skilful engineering that went into its creation.

  • Starting point : Pico do Arieiro summit (easily reachable by car)
  • End Point:
    • Option 1 – The same as the departure point
    • Option 2 – Achada do Teixeira (Taxi back or take this tour)
  • Hiking distance : 7km one way (or there and back, totalling 14 km)
  • Level of difficulty : Moderate
  • Time required to hike : If you’re going one way it will take approx. 3.5 – 4 hours at a leisurely pace.
    If you’re beginning and ending in Pico do Arieiro it will take approximately 7 – 8 hours

Top Tip: Try to make a very early morning start and get to Pico do Arieiro at daybreak. 

Travel to Pico Arieiro

Travel to Pico Arieiro by Car: The easiest way to reach Pico do Arieiro is to drive from Funchal. It’s a very easy drive once you’re on road ER 103 as this will take you the entire way to the viewpoint with only one left turn at Abrigo do Poiso Restaurant. The drive will take about 40 minutes and the road is in great condition. Allow for a little more time if it’s a particularly foggy morning and you’re driving in the dark. The downside to travelling here by car is that you will need to walk along the PR1 and then all the way back again.

Travel to Pico Arieiro by Tour: The easiest and cheapest option after driving to reach the viewpoint is a tour. With this option, you’ll be picked up and dropped off at your hotel at your chosen time. You can also use this option if you plan on hiking One way from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo as they will also pick you up there.

Travel to Pico Arieiro by Taxi: Another easy option is to book a taxi which should cost around €30/€40 one-way from Funchal. If you’re only planning on going to the viewpoint and not hiking, you can sometimes make a deal with the driver to wait and take you back.

Start – Pico Arieiro Parking

You basically start the hike at the top of one of todays three peaks – Pico Arieiro! Pico do Arieiro is 1818 meters above sea level which makes it the third tallest peak on Madiera.  There is an excellent viewing point Miradouro Juncal. As with any popular tourist attraction it can get quite busy, so you can skip this entirely and start the trail and spend more time at the next viewpoint.

The trail actually starts from the parking for Pico Arieiro, use the toilet and snack bar as you wont be seeing another one for a while.  Departing from the parking lot, follow the path to the left of the weather station, leading directly down the paved route. While the descent may not seem significant at first, you’ll find it etched in your memory on the return leg as the final challenging push a day later.

Pico Do Arieiro – Radar Station
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Andrei Dimofte

In my opinion, the initial 1-kilometer stretch of the trail is particularly remarkable. I find the dramatic staircases that wind along the ridgeline truly captivating. When low-lying clouds roll in, this section takes on an otherworldly appearance, akin to being on a different planet. Despite the potentially intimidating look in some photos, the trail is well-equipped with handrails and chains, ensuring adequate support. Consequently, despite the steep drop-offs, it is a relatively safe passage.

Miradouro do Ninho da Manta (Buzzard’s Nest) – 20mins

The paved path runs gently down to a gap, then crosses a small hump. At a T-junction,turn right to the first viewpoint, the Miradouro Ninho da Manta. Miradouro do Ninho da Manta is the initial significant viewpoint along the trail. Featuring a balcony section that overlooks the valley of Fajã da Nogueira, it provides an impressive vantage point. Although it doesn’t directly face the sun, the balcony allows for a sunrise view if desired. What makes this viewpoint special is that many tourists opt not to make the 1.2km walk from the parking lot to this balcony. Consequently, while Miradouro Juncal may be crowded with hundreds of visitors, Miradouro do Ninho da Manta offers a serene and less populated experience.

Miradouro Do Ninho Da Manta
CC BY-SA 4.0 / José Lemos Silva

Pedra Rija Miradouro

Following a brief pause at Ninho da Manta, you’ll descend the stairs swiftly and reach the connecting ridge, serving as a bridge to Pico Ruivo. Particularly enchanting during sunset, this section showcases cliffs bathed in a rich, fiery orange hue in the last light. As you proceed along the ‘bridge-ridge,’ you’ll encounter an entertaining stretch of the trail, as it has been intricately carved out of the mountain. For those taller than 6 feet, caution is advised to mind your head, as the trail resembles a cave with a railing on the left and the cliff wall looming on the right.

Fenced steps lead down a steep, sharp, rocky edge to the Pedra Rija Miradouro, where there is another viewpoint and an information board.

Pico do Cidrão

Ascend slightly and traverse a cliff face on Pico do Cidrão, then descend dramatically using a series of zigzag stone steps. Navigate beneath a massive, leaning boulder, weave past rocky pinnacles, and descend through an opening carved through an upright wall-like basalt dyke.

Pico do Gato to the Tunnels (1 hour)

The terrace path becomes easier and you come to a tunnel beneath the sheer-sided Pico do Gato. It is in this segment that you’ll encounter the initial tunnels drilled into the mountains. Navigating through these tunnels requires a headlamp or, at the very least, a phone torch (sufficient for our journey). There are 6 tunnels in total, the longest tunnel spans approximately 150 meters.

As you exit the tunnel you come to an old branch in the path. You will take the left (west) path. The right (east) is the Torres route as it takes you over Pico used to take you over the Pico das Torres. The path has been closed for years, and possibly wont reopen.

Periodically, you pass through additional tunnels before remerging onto the narrow path. This unique segment of the trail unfolds on a plateau, providing a welcome respite from steep climbs or descents.

Vereda Do Areeiro Path At Pedra Rija,Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ximonic (Simo Räsänen)

Ascend to Pico Ruivo

The ascent to Pico Ruivo marks one of the most challenging segments of the journey from Pico do Arieiro. It entails navigating a steep set of winding stairs through a mountain pass. Upon reaching the summit of this path, the landscape unfolds once more to the east, unveiling a spectacular view. Bathed in sunlight, layers upon layers of ridges are illuminated, creating a breath-taking panorama. This moment stands out as one of my personal favourites along the trail.

You’re now incredibly close to Pico Ruivo, with just a remaining ascent of 180 meters. Fortunately, this incline is more gradual compared to the  stair section, which likely left your legs burning and your lungs gasping. Revel in the morning sunlight as you steadily ascend towards Casa de Abrigo Pico Ruivo, the mountain hut located just below the base of Pico Ruivo.

Upon reaching the mountain hut, you’ll find yourself within touching distance of the summit of Pico Ruivo. Just another five minutes on the trail, winding around the side of Ruivo, will lead you to the mighty summit—the highest point on Madeira island at 1,862 meters above sea level. Pico Ruivo offers panoramic views, providing a comprehensive sense of the island. Take some time at the summit to study maps, identify regions, and recognize other peaks, enhancing your knowledge of the island’s geography.

Despite being at the highest point on Madeira, the journey back is not downhill. The return leg back to Pico do Arieiro from Pico Ruivo involves picking up another 500 meters of incline. The route back poses a challenge, especially in the final 2 kilometres, which are predominantly uphill on a very steep section leading back towards Ninho da Manta, the balcony viewpoint.

Returning on the same trail offers a distinct experience, as the backdrop is entirely different when facing the other way. Even in varying lighting conditions at different times of the day, you can have an entirely unique and captivating journey back along the trail.

Continue to Achada do Teixeira (PR1.2)?

As an alternative to retracing your steps back to Pico do Arieiro, there’s the option to continue the hike towards Achada do Teixeira which follows PR1.2, following a flat 3km route. However, it’s worth noting that if your car is parked at Pico do Arieiro, you’ll need to plan for transportation back.

To address this, I recommend considering the services of Pico to Pico Hike Transfer. By booking from Funchal with this service, they can pick you up from Funchal, transport you to Pico do Arieiro, and later, at the end of your hike, pick you up from Achada do Teixeira. This option provides a convenient solution for those who prefer to conclude their hike at Achada do Teixeira without the logistics of returning to the original starting point. For this we choose the Funchal: Sunrise Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo provided by Do it Madeira, our driver Adrianna was so kind and helpful!

What Is The Best Sunrise Spot In Madeira Island?

Without a doubt, Pico Do Arieiro. The weather conditions can vary but is likely to be “above the clouds” due to the altitude of 1810 meters above sea level. This makes a spectacular scenery for a stunning sunrise. With a “Sunrise Transfer” with us, you can enjoy this before the hike to Pico Ruivo.

At What Time Is The Sunrise In Pico Do Arieiro?

The sunrise time changes during the year, being the earliest at 7:00 am and the latest at 8:20 am. With our “Sunrise Transfer” you will arrive 20 to 30 minutes earlier (depending on the temperature) to appreciate all the sunrise colors before the hike to Pico Ruivo.

Is It Safe To Do The Hike Without Any Guide?

Yes, it is completely safe. You must be careful and use common sense but it is not dangerous to go without a guide for many reasons:
– The trail is safe, well built and there are clear big signs all the way.
– There are hundreds of people doing this hike every day, you are not going to be alone.
– Locals and travellers with rented cars do this hike every day without any guide.

What Is The Elevation In Pico Do Arieiro – Pico Ruivo Hike?

The start at Pico Do Arieiro is at 1810 meters above sea level. Going to a minimum of 1542 meters and up again to 1862 meters (Pico Ruivo). Then, you will go down again to 1582 meters (Achada Do Teixeira).

How Long Is Pico Do Arieiro – Pico Ruivo Hike?

From Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo there is 8,3 km of a medium-hard hike which is doable in around 3:30 hours. From Pico Ruivo to Achada Do Teixiera there is 2,7 km of an easy walk downhill which is doable in a little less than an hour. Being a total of 11 km and 4:30 hours.

What will the Weather Conditions be during the Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike?

The temperature can vary a lot during the seasons and the conditions can be 100% different to the rest of the island for being the highest points. It can be as cold as -5°C in the wintertime and as hot as 30°C in the summer. With an average of 8°C to 16°C in the spring and autumn. Meteo Blue provide the best weather forecast.

How long will the hike from Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo to take?

The hike from Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is the hard part that takes around 3 to 3:30 hours, meaning a 6 to 7 hour round trip.
The hike from Pico Ruivo to Achada Do Teixeira is an easy walk that takes around 1 hour. Meaning the shorter walk from Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo to Achada do Teixeira takes around 4 to 4:30 hours.

The Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (PR1 and PR1.2) appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Funchal (Madeira)!

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Visiting Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (PR1 and PR1.2)

Duration: 8 hours

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