Pico Ruivo is the highest peak on Madeira island, with 1,861 metres (6,106 ft) above sea level at its highest point. You'll definitely want to try the Pico Ruivo hike when you visit Madeira. While it may appear as a challenging trail, with the right information and preparation you'll be able to get to the top for those spectacular views above the clouds.
In this complete guide to Pico Ruivo, we'll discuss the best route, how to prepare for your hike and what to bring with you. By the end of the article, you'll be well-prepared and ready to reach Pico Ruivo and enjoy those stunning views.
Before we begin, please don't forget to get travel insurance. You will want to be safe and covered when hiking in Madeira. Book a car for this trip, as you will need to drive to the starting point. Alternatively, book a guided tour with transfers included.
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Getting to Pico Ruivo
There are two ways to access Pico Ruivo: either from Pico Arieiro after a difficult hike or from Achada do Teixeira, on a shorter and easier trail. From the Pico Ruivo summit, you'll be able to enjoy some wonderful views of the island and the surrounding ocean. It will genuinely feel as if you're on top of the world.
Some hiking enthusiasts like to continue the hike to Pico das Torres, which can only accessed from a trail between Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro. Pico das Torres is the second-highest peak on Madeira at an elevation of 1,853 metres (6,079 ft) at its highest point and Pico do Arieiro is the third-highest peak at 1,818 m (5,965 ft).
Most people prefer taking the easier route to Pico Ruivo. This is the route we also recommend, as it's more accessible for a wider range of hikers. To get to the starting point, you'll need to drive to the Achada do Teixeira car park. The route starts from the parking lot. Please note, there is no public bus available for this. You should book a sunrise transfer if you don't wish to rent a car. This takes you to Pico do Arieiro, then picks you up from Teixeira.
Part of the fun it's the drive itself, as you'll have to navigate through thick cloud and narrow, winding roads. Just maintain the speed limits and always drive carefully. After all, the Ruivo mountain is no easy task.
There were a few viewing points along the drive towards the car park. Stop to rest, take it all in and take some pictures.
Always check the weather forecast before deciding on the hike. Depending on the weather conditions, you might find yourself hiking in thick clouds or just above the clouds, under clear skies and intense sunshine. There is a possibility for strong winds at the Pico Ruivo summit. It is, after all, the highest summit on the island. Windy weather conditions can easily turn this into a hard hike. If it's too much, stop in a mountain hut along the route and wait for better weather conditions. Alternatively, just make a turn and come back another day.
The central mountain massif of Madeira Island is located at more than 1,400 meters of altitude and includes Pico Ruivo. Along the way, you'll admire deep valleys, jagged peaks piercing through the clouds and countless species of endemic flora.
The hike to Pico Ruivo
Hiking to the Pico Ruivo summit is one of the best things to do in Madeira. Sure it may feel like a strenuous hike but with the right preparation, you can do it! You can make this into a sunrise hike, being just 3 km long trail. At the top, you'll see the beauty of Madeira island in all its glory.
For the Pico Ruivo hike, you will need good hiking shoes. Whether you decide to take the long or easier route, a good pair of hiking shoes can be the difference between you having a good time or giving up halfway through.
As previously mentioned, there are two ways of doing the Pico Ruivo hike.
From Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo, as a shorter and easier hike. It's ideal for a sunrise hike.
From Pico do Arieriro to Pico Ruivo, which is a hard hike that will take several hours. Very likely, you will see both the sunrise and the sun set.
We recommend the easier option, to Pico Ruivo. There are many other trails on Madeira island, like the stunning Caldeirão verde hike. Take the easier route and save precious hours to hike on other parts of the island as well.
From Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo
The Pico Ruivo hike is on a well-defined path, all the way to the summit. There are plenty of incredible viewing points all along the route, and you will want to stop to take plenty of pictures. Next to the path, there are so many gorgeous alpine flowers. There will be parts when the path is narrow, and you'll walk next to a massive chasm.
It may be a good ideal to consider this if you suffer from vertigo or have a fear of heights. Some paths are enough to make your knees wobble, even for the most experienced of hikers. But this is part of the fun of hiking in Madeira and aiming for its top.
Expect beautiful green jagged mountains rising from the white clouds, to form a surreal landscape. Along the way, you'll see the vastness of the ocean and floating clouds.
Depending on the day, you may experience cloud, rain and intense sunshine all on the same day. Please bring lots of drinking water with you. Ideally, have a snack or two handy as well. While the total length of the trail is just 6 km return, if you hike uphill under the midday sun, you can easily start to feel overwhelmed.
With all the stops to take more photos and to rest occasionally, it will take approximately 2 hours to reach the top of the island. The total elevation of this hike is 260 meters. From the top, you will enjoy panoramic views of the island.
Once you are ready, it's time to head back to the car park and make your way to your hotel. There are hotels right in Santana, if you wish to be close to the peak. From Sanatana there are many great hikes to enjoy.
Pico Arieriro to Pico Ruivo
To start this trail, you will want to get a rental and drive to Pico do Arieiro. There is a car park is spacious and there is even a café there, so you can grab a cuppa before the hike.
The route starts at the car park and continues along the Ninho da Manta ridge. You'll pass tunnels and climbs numerous stairs, but you'll be rewarded with stunning landscapes right in the heart of the Madeiran mountains.
This hike is 11 km return and the hike itself can take anything between 3-4 hours. The trail is fairly difficult as you'll journey through almost 1000 m of incline, but it's a great hike if you have the stamina to do it.
The trail itself is well maintained. Just 5 minutes from the Pico Ruivo summit is a mountain hut for you to rest and catch your breath.
If you travelled by car, you will now turn around to trail back to the car park. The views will be different and pretty impressive still.
What you need for a hike to Pico Ruivo
Car - To start the hike you will need to drive up to the car park. The easiest way to get to the starting point is to drive. Rent a car, even if it's just for the day. Driving in Madeira is a lot of fun anyway, and you'll get so much flexibility in exploring off the beaten path on the island.
Water - You will want to bring lots of drinking water with you. At least 2 litres, but if you can carry more, that's even better.
Food - After at least two hours of hiking uphill, you'll want to eat. Bring some protein munchies and some trail mix with you. Bring nuts and berries with you, they will help you a lot. You can have a nice picnic along the way with local Madeiran food.
Camera - Bring your camera. Madeira is stunning and there will be times you'll wonder how this island can even exist? It's so beautiful, and you're going to take so much fun seeing it all. At the highest point of the Ruivo mountain you will quite literally be above clouds offering the most impressive views.
Sunscreen - If the weather conditions allow you to be under direct sunshine, you will have to brave the hike at some 30C. Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Windbreaker - Pack your lightest windbreaker just in case the weather changes as you reach the top. A good shell should be light and protect you from wind and rain.
Good hiking shoes - The paths can get slippery, especially after a day of rain. You will want to bring great hiking shoes with you.
Hat - Bring a hat, whether it is to protect yourself from rain, clouds or direct sunshine.
Super Tips for hiking Pico Ruivo
Pay attention to the weather - You might get lucky and get sunshine all around. That's brilliant. Bring your shorts and enjoy. But please remember that the weather in Madeira can get unpredictable. Some days there are even dangerous conditions. Make sure you have the appropriate gear for you and dress for the weather. If it's rainy and windy, best to turn back, as the path might get too slippery. Good hiking shoes are imperative for this hike, regardless of the weather.
Let someone know where you are - Even if this is a safe hike, always let someone know where you are. Tell family and friends you are about to hike Pico Ruivo so they know about you.
Don't carry too much - Carry only the essentials. Bring water, sunscreen, snacks, and a jacket if needed. A lightweight hike will be a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Bring a guide - There are many local guides in Madeira, and they can really help if you're unsure about hiking the mountain alone. Sometimes going in a group is a lot more enjoyable. Plus, if you don't have a car rental, your guide can take you to the starting point as well. Book your guided tour in advance.
Follow the trail etiquette - Leave no trace. If you eat or drink on the trail, bring all the rubbish back with you. Pico Ruivo is kept in pristine condition, so everyone can enjoy it.
Function over fashion - Check your hiking shoes before the trail and bring the appropriate clothes with you so you are comfortable. A comfortable hike is the best!
It's OK to turn around - Don't push yourself if you're feeling unwell. Maybe it's too much sunshine, maybe the wind gusts feel too scary. Don't ignore these signs and just turn around. There are plenty more opportunities to hike the mighty Pico Ruivo. Safety first.
What do you think? Would you go up Pico Ruivo and conquer Madeira? Let me know in the comments section below.