Pico Ruivo: Take a Hike in the Sky

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Pico Ruivo: Take a Hike in the Sky
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Madeira is one of the hottest hiking destinations at the moment. It’s easy to see why. The island is formed by mountains rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean, accumulating to its highest point, Pico Ruivo. The lush mountains and valleys are connected by a network of walkways called levadas and verenas. It is possible to hike the entire island on the Madeira Trail, a 5-day coast to coast thru-hike. Some of us simply don’t have the time or desire to spend five days hiking. How to get a taste of the popular Madeira Trail and scale the highest mountain on Madeira while you’re at it without spending all your holidays?

At Bookatrekking.com we created the Pico Ruivo Sky Walk, a two-day hike that packs everything that’s great about Madeira. You ascend Pico Ruivo via levadas and verenas and sleep in one of the most spectacular spots on the island. You finish the hike with a thrilling traverse to the famous look-out point at Pico Arieiro. If this doesn't get you high, we're not sure what will!

How To Climb Pico Ruivo, Madeira's Highest Peak

Madeira is an island of superlatives. From the spectacular coastline decorated with huge cliffs, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters to the rugged forested mountains that make up the island's interior, Madeira has it all. The highest point on the island is Pico Ruivo, soaring 1862 meters above sea level. The good news is, you don't have to be an alpinist to climb it! There are several hiking routes to the top. Although you have to be fit, it is doable for most people.

One of the ways to scale Pico Ruivo is to hike the Madeira Trail. This epic trek passes the summit and you can even stay close to it. Having said this, you can do Pico Ruivo in as little as a day, starting from Pico Arieiro to the peak and back or continue to Achada do Teixeira. We recommend doing it in two days. Why? First of all you miss out on hiking through the incredible laurel forest that cover the lower slopes of the Madeiran mountains. Second, spending the night high up in the mountains is an unforgettable experience. Imagine eating your freshly made dinner while looking out over endless forests and the Atlantic! And third, the satisfaction of scaling a peak starting from a low point is immense. Which ever way you do it, incredible views guaranteed.

How To Climb Pico Ruivo, Madeira's Highest Peak

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Where Is Pico Ruivo?

Pico Ruivo is located on the island of Madeira (Portugal), more than a 1000 km from mainland Europe. It’s literally a green dot in the Atlantic Ocean, generally only accessible via air travel (unless you are a sailor). The highest summit of the island, Pico Ruivo, is located in the heart of the mountainous interior of Madeira. The only way to reach it is on foot. There are several trailheads that lead to the summit. These are Pico do Arieiro 5 km south of Pico Ruivo, Boca da Encumeada located 10 km west of the peak and Achada do Teixeira, just 3 km northeast of the summit. In the chapter “How to get to Pico Ruivo” we’ll share some tips on transport to get there.

Where Is Pico Ruivo?

When to Visit Pico Ruivo?

In principle you can do the hike to Pico Ruivo year-round. Madeira is subtropical, though there are four distinct seasons. Below we delve a little deeper into what each season is like.


Springtime is a wonderful time to hike the mountains of Madeira. Lots of flowers, mild temperatures and it’s not overly busy on the trails. It is a time when there can be quite a bit of rainfall and this can cause landslides in the most extreme cases.


Summer offers long daylight hours, allowing for early morning or late evening hikes. The weather is typically warm and sunny, perfect for high altitude trails. Summer months can be crowded with tourists, especially in popular hiking areas such as Pico Ruivo. The higher temperatures might make hiking more challenging, so it's essential to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.


Autumn in Madeira is characterized by balmy temperatures and fewer crowds compared to summer. The landscape is vibrant with colors as the foliage begins to change. It does rain more than in summer, but this is still our favorite season for a hike to the roof of Madeira.


It is the rainiest season of the year and occasionally there’s a dusting of snow at the highest peaks. Wintertime is the quietest time and you may have the trails all to yourself. Just bring some warm layers!

Overall, the best time to go hiking in Madeira is subjective and depends on your preferences for weather conditions, crowd levels, and the type of scenery you want to experience.

When to Visit Pico Ruivo?

How to Get to Madeira and Pico Ruivo?

Getting to the more remote spots on Madeira by public transport can be quite challenging. Only the main towns are served so to get to the trailhead for the hike up Pico Ruivo, you need to organise private transport like a taxi service.

From Pico do Arieiro

The look-out at Pico Arieiro is one of the most popular attractions on Madeira. That’s partly because it is relatively close to Madeira’s main city Funchal. The 20 km drive takes you around 40 minutes by car. From the trailhead it's a 5km / 2hr30min hike one-way to the top of Pico Ruivo. You can either hike back or continue to Achada do Teixeira which is 3 km from the summit. From there you can organise your taxi back down.

Boca da Encumeada

The trailhead at Boca da Encumeada also has good access by road. It about 30 km from Funchal and the drive takes less than 40 minutes. This hiking route to Pico Ruivo is much harder with over 1000 meters of ascent over the course of 10 km. For experienced and fit hikers, you could make a day return. Or you could opt for continuing to Pico do Arieiro or Achada do Teixeira.

Achada do Teixeira

It's an hour driving (50 km) to the mountain cafe Achada do Teixeira. From this place it's an easy hike of about 3 km one way to the summit of Pico Ruivo. As with the other approaches, you can end your hike elsewhere, either Pico do Arieiro or Boca da Encumeada. Make sure you pre-organised your taxi as there are no taxi stands at any trailhead or trail end.

How to Get to Madeira and Pico Ruivo?

Pico Ruivo Sky Walk

The Pico Ruivo Sky Walk is arguably the best two-day hike on Madeira, if not in Portugal. You essentially make a traverse of Madeira's mountainous interior and you scale the highest peak Pico Ruivo while doing it!

Casa das Queimadas - Achada do Teixeira

Duration: 04:00 h
Distance: 9.1 km
Ascent: 990 m
Descent: 300 m
From the traditional Madeira house Casa das Queimadas, that now serves as a museum, you start hiking along the Levada do Caldeirão Verde. Walk along the levada until you are at the entrance of a tunnel. Don't go through the tunnel but turn right and over the tunnel, and continue climbing on the Vereda Ilha Pico Ruivo. It's a long climb through the forest to the top of the ridge called Encumeada Alta at around 1700 meters. Turn left and descend for about 1.5 km to your fantastic spot for the night, Achada do Teixeira.

Achada do Teixeira

Achada do Teixeira

Achada do Teixeira - Pico do Arieiro

Duration: 03:55 h
Distance: 8.3 km
Ascent: 670 m
Descent: 470 m
Achada do Teixeira is just 3 kilometers from the summit of Pico Ruivo. Hike back to where you came from yesterday and continue at the junction (waymarks). Pico Ruivo is signposted. Quickly you will arrive at the hut, Casa do Ruivo where you can grab a cup of coffee or tea. It's only 15 minutes from the highest point. Head back to the hut and just after turn right on the mind blowing hike to Pico do Arieiro. Expect brilliant views, steep drop offs and tunnels. It is one of the most exciting hiking stretches on Madeira. When you arrive at Pico do Arieiro you can have a last view on Pico do Juncal before heading back to Funchal.

Where Can I Book the Pico Ruivo Sky Walk?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Pico Ruivo Sky Walk and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offer here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.


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