Are you looking for the best hikes in Madeira? Let me start by saying how incredibly excited I am for you that you decided to travel to this amazing island! I am in no way an experienced hiker myself but I love to be outdoors and breathe in the fresh air.
Madeira has some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the entire world. In this blog post I will give you all of the details and my personal tips on the best hikes in Madeira!
Let’s start at the beginning! When planning your trip to Madeira you might be wondering what’s the best way to get around the island. For me the best and only way to explore Madeira is to do it by car. You can grab your rental car from Centauro and use my code ICHLRL15 to get a 15% discount.
If you’re still trying to figure out where to stay in Madeira I would suggest you find a hotel in Funchal. I stayed at Sé Boutique Hotel and absolutely loved my stay. For more information on why you should choose Funchal as a base for your road trip and hiking adventure click here.
The 6 Most Epic Hikes in Madeira – Hiking Trails you can’t miss
Did you know that there are over 450 different hikes in Madeira? This means that there is over 3000km of hiking fun scattered throughout the entire island. It’s safe to say that it won’t be possible to do all of them on your trip. I think that would be just a little too much, even for the most experienced hiker out there.
The hiking trails in Madeira are divided into two categories:
- Levadas – Levada walks are very popular in Madeira. They consist of maintained paths alongside man made water springs, making it a calming experience. You’ll be surrounded by lush nature and along the way you’ll see amazing panorama’s.
- Veredas – Vereda hiking trails are up in the mountains of Madeira. They offer incredible vista’s but are often also a little more challenging.
In this blog post I will cover my favourite official hiking trails in Madeira. These are all marked PR as they are included in the list of Recommended Walking Routes. If you are planning to hike one of the unofficial hiking trails make sure to bring a guide with you.
1. Vereda do Pico do Arieiro – PR1
Pico do Arieiro 1818m – Pico Ruivo 1862m
Let’s start with one of the most beautiful and impressive hikes in all of Madeira! But let me be clear, it’s also the hardest. Remember that I said that I am in no way a professional hiker? Well, that became very clear on this particular hike :p.
This hike connects the two highest peaks on the island: Pico do Arieiro (1818m) and Pico Ruivo (1862m)
Distance – 7.4km (one way)
Average time – 3,5 hours (one way)
Starting point – Pico do Arieiro. The restaurant and shop opens at 9am and closes at 6pm.
End point – Pico Riuvo
Difficulty Level – moderate to hard
Advised starting time – 30 minutes before sunrise
What to bring with you – Sunscreen, water, camera, protein bar and a piece of fruit. I did the hike without trekking poles but can imagine they would really come in handy here.
What to wear – Make sure to wear enough layers. In the morning it can be very cold and windy but once the sun rises you’ll be happy to continue the hike in a t-shirt. This hike requires good hiking shoes.
Distance from Funchal – 45 minutes driving
After you’ve parked your car go up the stairs and follow the arrow that says PR1 Pico Ruivo. As soon as you start your hike you’ll realise why I have kicked you out of bed this early. Not only will you be one of the only people here but you will get to witness the sunrise in all it’s glory. Imagine a pastel coloured sky, cloud inversions, the moon on one side and the sun rising through the clouds on the other side.
Your first stop on this hike will be Miradouro do Ninho da Manta, also known as the birds nest. Make sure to take out your camera and snap some photos. I used my Tamron 70-300mm to take these close ups.
For more information on my camera gear click here
After this simply continue along the PR1 trail. On the way you’ll come across stairs, tunnels and insane panorama views. The reason why this trail is pretty tough is that you go almost entirely up and down the mountain. To add to that, the PR1 is not a loop trail. There are two ways to get back to your car at Pico do Arieiro:
- Hike the PR1 back from Pico Ruivo to Pico do Arieiro
- Hike the PR1.2 Vereda do Pico Ruivo. This is a 2.8km hike that will take you to Achada do Teixeira in Santana. If you wish to do this you have to ask the guy at the refugio at Pico Ruivo to call a taxi for you. Do know that the drive from Santana back to your car at Pico do Arieiro can take up to 1 hour and will cost you minimum €60.
We didn’t want to spend that much money so decided to simply hike the PR1 all the way back. This was way harder (at least for me) cause by now the sun was high in the sky and there were way more people on the hiking trail. I think in total it took us around 8 tot 8,5 hours to complete the entire trail, including frequent water breaks, a late breakfast at the refugio on Pico Ruivo and a ton of photography stops.
Once you’ve made it back to Pico do Arieiro you should quickly pay a visit to Miradouro do Juncal. Not to worry, it’s only 15 minutes walking from the parking lot but totally worth the little detour before you head back to the hotel.
Extra Tip for Pico do Arieiro
If you have the time make sure to come back here once more for sunset. Not to hike the entire PR1 again, let’s not get too crazy ;). But in the evening there will be way less people and the chance of seeing more cloud inversions is higher.
2. Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço – PR8
This hiking trail is located on the Eastern part of the island and offers incredible panoramic views! During the hike you’ll walk along the entire peninsula.
Distance – 3,5km (one way)
Average time – 1 hour (one way)
Starting point – Ponta de São Lourenço
End point – Morro do Furado
Difficulty Level – Easy to moderate
Advised starting time – Sunrise or 2,5 hours before sunset
What to bring with you – Sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, water, snack
What to wear – For this hike you can wear sneakers or hiking shoes. Make sure to dress in layers. There is no cover during this hike so you might want to bring a cap with you to protect you from the sun. Just make sure to choose something that sits tight on your head cause it can get very windy on this peninsula.
Distance from Funchal – 40 minutes driving
After you’ve parked your car simply follow the arrow saying PR8. This trail is pretty straight forward and isn’t too difficult. There is some elevation involved but nothing you can’t handle ;). Good to know is that this is another loop hike. To get back to your car you will have to walk the entire way back. Make sure to calculate in this extra time when you want to hike in the evening. You do not want to end up stranded here in the dark.
After the hike make sure to do a pit stop at Ponta do Rosto for another spectacular viewpoint!
3. Levada das 25 Fontes – PR6
This is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira and is often combined with the Levada do Risco (PR6.1). There is parking space available alongside the ER110. From here you have two options:
- You can walk down about 30 minutes to the actual start of the hike
- You can take a shuttle bus (however it only starts running from 10am)
This hike got it’s name because of the many small waterfalls and springs that you will encounter along the way and at the end of the trail.
Distance – 4,5km (one way and walking distance from the parking lot not included)
Average time – 1 hour (one way)
Starting point – ER110
End point – Lagoa das 25 Fontes
Difficulty level – Easy to moderate
Advised starting time – Make sure to start around 8am. This hiking trail in Madeira is very narrow at some points. From 9 am tour busses will start to arrive and this will cause long waiting lines along the trail since at some parts only one person can pass at a time.
What to bring with you – Water, camera and a snack. There is a cafe at the start at the hike but the food here is not really good and also way overpriced.
What to wear – Rain jacket, long pants and hiking shoes. It rains a lot more on this part of the island and because of this the trail can be rather muddy at times.
Distance from Funchal – 1 hour driving
4. Levada do Risco – PR6.1
This levada is often combined with the Levada das 25 Fontes. To reach the starting point simply walk back from the PR6 until you reach the crossroads again. Here you will see another arrow pointing at PR6.1.
The hiking trail here is wider than on the PR6 so if you wish to combine both hikes I would suggest you start with the PR6 and then do the PR6.1 before returning to the parking lot.
Average time – 30 minutes
Difficulty level – Easy
At the end of this levada you will see the beautiful Risco waterfall. A two tiered waterfall dropping down from the lush mountains in front of you. You can go pretty close to it although the best photos are taken from the hiking trail along the way. To capture this photo I used my Tamron 70-300mm.
5. Vereda dos Balcões – PR11
Looking for one of the easiest hikes in Madeira? This hiking trail will give you the biggest reward for the smallest effort!
Distance – 1,5km (one way)
Average time – 20 minutes (one way)
Starting point – ER103, you will have to park your car alongside the road
End point – Levada dos Balcões
Difficulty level – Easy
Advised starting time – I visited this hike during the middle of the day and the crowds come and go. There is only 1 viewpoint so after reaching it people go back rather quickly.
At the end of the hiking trail you will reach a panoramic platform. On a clear day it will give you views over Madeira’s most impressive mountain chains such as Pico do Arieiro, Pico Ruivo, Pico das Torres and Pico do Gato. But as you can see below the valley was mostly covered in clouds. This doesn’t however take away from it’s beauty and it remains an impressive sight.
6. Vereda do Fanal – PR13
This is one of the most beautiful hikes in Madeira and it will lead you through the magical Laurisilva forest. Fanal was one of my favourite parts on the entire island and even though we didn’t do the complete hike I enjoyed just being here so much.
Distance – 5.6km
Average time – 4 hours including extra time at Fanal
Starting point – Fanal parking
Difficulty level – Moderate
What to bring – Water, sunscreen, snack and camera
What to wear – Raincoat, hiking shoes
Advised starting time – We arrived at sunrise. Even though at the beginning we didn’t have mist it was still beautiful. The first mist started to arrive around 9am.
Driving time from Funchal – 1 hour. Be careful when you’re getting closer to Fanal. The local cows tend to walk on the road (especially in the morning) and they always have the right of way!
The area of the Laurisilva forest is often covered in a thick mist and experiences a lot of rain throughout the year. If you don’t have enough time in your itinerary I would skip the hike and simply park your car at the Fanal parking lot. From here it’s only 2 minutes walking to these magnificent trees. Especially on a misty morning they will evoke a feeling of pure mistery.
While exploring Fanal make sure to watch where you’re going! Not only can the grass be rather muddy, there is also a lot of cow poop.
Extra tip for Fanal
After your visit make sure to make a stop here. On a clear day and during the month of March the entire area will be covered in yellow flowers.
Other blog posts you might be interested in
The Perfect 7 Day Madeira Road Trip Itinerary – A complete overview of all the amazing places I visited during my time on the island.
Where to stay in Madeira – All the reasons why Funchal is the perfect base for your road trip.
A 3 Day Guide to Lisbon and Sintra – Cause why not combine your adventure on Madeira with a fabulous city trip to Lisbon and a day trip to the beautiful castles in Sintra.
Where to stay in Lisbon – My personal experience
The best photography spots in Lisbon – All the best photo locations, including when to go and how to get there to get the best photos.