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Madeira Island is a destination that has become famous for its natural beauty, and it’s no secret that one of the best ways to experience it is by going on a hike. Located off the coast of Portugal, Madeira is home to a diverse range of landscapes, from rugged volcanic coastlines to lush green mountains and forests. Hiking on Madeira Island allows you to immerse yourself in these stunning surroundings and explore parts of the island that can’t be reached by car or public transportation.
In this blog post, we wanted to share our top five must-do hikes on Madeira, each with a unique offering of the island’s jaw-dropping landscapes. We’ve chosen hikes that vary in difficulty level, so whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, you’ll find a trail that suits your experience level.
After visiting Madeira for a total of 3 weeks so far, and experiencing many of the hikes on offer, we can confidently say that these are hikes you don’t want to miss!
1. Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
3-4 hours (one way)
6.1 km (one way)
One of our personal favorite hikes is the Vereda do Areiro, or commonly known as the Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. This is a moderately challenging hike, but it’s certainly doable for most people and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of the highest mountains.
This trail starts at the Pico do Areiro, the third-highest peak on the island, and winds its way along the ridge to the Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island. The trail takes you through a variety of landscapes, including rocky peaks and tunnels carved into the mountainside and the weather can change without warning – so make sure to bring a torch and a waterproof!
We chose to park at the Pico do Areiro car park and complete the hike both ways, covering a total distance of approximately 12 kilometers and taking around 6-8 hours to complete.
These photos were edited with our Lightroom Presets
You can also opt to do the hike one way, starting from either end and finishing at the other, as you can drive to both points. However, if you choose to do it you will have to book a transfer or arrange for someone to pick you up at the other end.
For obvious reasons, this is one of the most popular hikes on the island so we would definitely recommend starting this hike during or after sunrise as it will be much quieter and if you’re lucky, the morning light will make for some beautiful photos at the lookouts along the way.
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2. Lagoa do Vento
3.6 km (round trip)
The Lagoa do Vento hike is a trail that takes you off the beaten path, leading you through the enchanting laurel forest, and ending at the Lagoa do Vento waterfall cascading down into a crystal-clear pool. This is definitely one of the most photogenic hikes, as the laurel forest is very unique and makes for some incredible photos.
This trail is located in the Rabaçal area, where there are many other walks including the popular 25 Fontes and Risco waterfalls. The trail starts from the main car park but doesn’t follow the paved road along with the rest of the walks, instead it veers to the right before the road.
Like the many other hikes in Madeira, you’ll be following a flat levada for most of this trail, and then down a winding set of stairs down to the waterfall. The stairs go quite a long way, so be prepared for a decent climb back up on your way back.
3. Ponta de Sao Lourenco
7.4 km (round trip)
This hike along the red volcanic rock landscape is a completely different experience compared to other hikes on the island. It takes you along the scenic coast to the tip of the island, offering stunning views of Madeira’s volcanic cliffs above the rough Atlantic Ocean.
This landscape will make you feel like you’re on another planet, with orange and red rock formations and turquoise water crashing below. The trail starts from Ponta de São Lourenço Parking, which is at the end of the ER109 road on the eastern point of the island, and is marked all the way along.
The Ponta de São Lourenço trail is reasonably flat and easy all the way, covering a distance of around 6km, it takes around 2-3 hours to complete with plenty of viewpoints and lookouts along the way.
Towards the end of the trail you’ll find a café serving some rather expensive food and drinks, but we coughed up and devoured a brownie as we had forgotten our lunch!
4. Levada do Caldeirao Verde
12 km (round trip)
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde is another waterfall trail winding through lush forest and along the Levada, leading you to the 100m Caldeirão Verde falls. The trail starts at Queimadas Forest Park in Santana, which in itself is a beautiful sight, with a quaint building with original features from a typical Santana house.
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde trail might be slightly longer than others at around 12 km, however, it’s flat almost all the way and can be one of the most rewarding hikes on Madeira Island, especially after a lot of rainfall.
We visited in the summer when there was hardly any water coming down the falls but we still think it was worth it!
5. Verda do Pico Ruivo
5.6 km (round trip)
The Vereda do Pico Ruivo hike is a shorter and less challenging alternative to the Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo trail, taking you to the summit of Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak, in just 1-2 hours.
The trail starts at Achada do Teixeira and winds through rocky peaks until you reach the summit of Pico Ruivo, where you have incredible panoramic views of the Island, with lush rolling mountains and turquoise blue sea views.
Although short, the Vereda do Pico Ruivo hike is generally classified as moderately difficult due to the climb from the car park up to the summit. We found the climb to be relatively gentle most of the way up, following a well-maintained path. However, as you near the peak to enjoy the 360-degree views, be prepared for a leg-burning climb up a steep set of stairs.
Luckily, just before the stairs you’ll find a small, serving food, drinks, and a place outside to refill your water bottle.