One of the most popular things to do in Madeira is hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. This challenging yet breathtaking hike spans approximately 13 kilometers (round trip) and typically takes 5-7 hours to complete, depending on pace and weather conditions.

It offers stunning views, dramatic landscapes, and a memorable trekking experience.

Trail Details

  • Distance: Around 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) one way. 13km return.
  • Duration: Typically takes 3 to 4 hours each way, depending on your fitness level and pace.
  • Elevation Gain: Around 1,200 meters (3,937 feet).
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging, with some steep and exposed sections.

Getting There

The typical direction to walk this hike is from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. I highly recommend doing it in this direction otherwise you’ll spend most of the hike trying to squeeze past people coming the opposite way.

There is a parking area near the summit but be warned, by 9am it is completely full, as is the road leading up to the parking.

Watching the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro is quite possibly the most popular thing to do on the island, so if you don’t arrive early, you will not find a space to leave your car.

Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo - full with cars

Please note: There is a carpark at the very top, but you can only park here for a maximum of 1 hour. This is great if you simply want to watch the sunrise (or sunset) from the viewpoint and then leave. If you plan to do the hike however, you will need to park in the lower car parks. There is a sign that says cars will be towed should they overstay the time, although I’m not really sure how they’d measure that (there’s no ticket system in place).

Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Transport Options:

If you don’t have a car (I 100% recommend you get one for Madeira!) then you can opt to take a taxi, or there are also transfer shuttles available.

TIP! If you prefer to just do the hike one way (I totally get it!) you can pre-arrange a shuttle to pick you up at Pico Ruivo carpark and drive you back to your car at Pico Arieiro (around 1 hour drive, costs approx 60 per person). It is definitely on the pricier side, but will save you around 4 hours of hiking. We did consider paying for just 1 person to be driven back, which, if you’re in a group will definitely save you money. However, it would be a 2 hour wait by the time your friend is dropped off, and drives back to get you. Equally, you could be saving 120-180 by doing it this way, so it’s something to consider.

The Hike

  1. Start at Pico do Arieiro: The trail begins near the radar dome at Pico do Arieiro (1,818 meters).
  2. Follow the Path: The path is well-marked and includes several tunnels, steep ascents, and descents. There are stairs and railings at some sections for safety.
  3. Key places to see:
  • Ninho da Manta (Buzzard’s Nest): A great viewpoint early in the hike.
  • Encumeada Alta: Another stunning viewpoint along the way.

And lastly, you’ll reach Pico Ruivo. The final ascent to Pico Ruivo (1,862 meters) is steep but manageable. The views from the top are spectacular.

If you then opt for walking back, you’ll do it all again but in reverse.

Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

What to Bring

  • Clothing: Wear layers, as the weather can change rapidly. It’s also cold at the top with the wind, especially in the early morning and evenings. A waterproof jacket is advisable.
  • Footwear: Sturdy hiking boots with good grip.
  • Water and Snacks: There are no facilities along the trail, so bring plenty of water and high-energy snacks.
  • Headlamp/Flashlight: Essential for tunnels and early/late hiking.
  • Sun Protection: Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Map/GPS: While the trail is well-marked, it’s good to have a map or GPS device.
Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo - bring headlamps!

Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Best Time to Hike

  • Early Morning: Start early to avoid the midday heat and the crowds. The trail is less crowded, and the lighting for photography is excellent.
  • Avoid Peak Times: Weekends and holidays can be busier. Aim for weekdays if possible. Having said that, I don’t think there will ever be a time that there won’t be a lot of people on this hike.

    Surprisingly, we found sunsets to be way quieter than sunrise here.

Things to Be Aware Of

  • Weather: Check the weather forecast before you go. Conditions can change rapidly, and fog or rain can make the trail more difficult.
  • Fitness Level: This is a challenging hike, so be prepared for strenuous sections.
  • Safety: Stay on the marked trail, especially in foggy conditions. Some sections are exposed with steep drops.

By planning ahead, you’ll have an unforgettable experience hiking from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, enjoying some of the best views Madeira has to offer!