The Best Hiking Trails on Madeira, Portugal
Rise above the clouds on the trail from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo on Madeira, Portugal | © an Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Lush volcanic peaks cascade down towards the Atlantic Ocean, making Madeira, Portugal, a hiker’s paradise. Explore the clifftop trails, passing waterfalls and subtropical forests on foot. Here are our top recommended hiking routes on the Portuguese archipelago.
With its towering green cliff faces, expansive sea views and temperate climate, Madeira is a great place to visit if you like hiking. There are dozens of well-mapped trails for all levels of fitness across the island – from short one-hour strolls to epic six-hour treks. Experience Madeira and all its natural beauty on one of these top routes.
Vereda do Areeiro
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This mountain trail takes you through the two highest peaks on Madeira (Pico Ruivo and Pico do Areeiro). While it’s only 7km (4.3mi) in length, the steep slopes, uneven terrain and tunnels mean it’ll take around four hours to hike. Bird spotters should keep their eyes peeled for rare species, such as berthelot’s pipit. It can get quite busy, but the views are worth it. Start early to avoid the crowds.
Vereda do Pico Ruivo
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This is the easiest way to hike up to the very top of Madeira. It takes around two hours to reach the single peak of Pico Ruivo. At 1,862m (6,109ft) above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with astonishing views from the top. On a clear day, you can see São Lourenço Point on the far eastern side of the island. Just watch out – at this altitude, cloud covers can envelop the path in minutes, so make sure you bring plenty of layers.
Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço
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At the eastern end of the island, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço is a gentle hike, suitable for all levels of fitness. As a result, it does get quite busy, and you may struggle to find a parking space in the car park unless you get there early. Follow the trail along the peninsula where the land drops away on both sides, tumbling down into the Atlantic below. Don’t forget to bring your camera – the craggy cliff face fringed by the frothy ocean is worthy of a snap.
Vereda das 25 Fontes
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As the name suggests, this hike features a whopping 25 waterfalls, guaranteed to attract even the most reluctant of hikers. It’s a fairly easy hike that takes around two hours to get there and one hour back, due to the varied terrain. The giant Risco Waterfall is one of the key highlights along the way. Watch out – the stone steps are slippery when wet. Go early in the morning, when it’s quiet, and you can admire the beauty without the crowds.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde
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If you like a hike with a few interesting twists and turns, opt for the Levada do Caldeirão Verde. It’s the best way to explore Madeira’s forested interior. Starting in the Queimadas Forest Park, make your way along the leafy trails and echoey tunnels (bring a torch or your phone light) of the levada at nearly 1,000m (3,281ft) above sea level. The 8.9km (5.5mi) hike isn’t too challenging but will take around five and a half hours. Wear hiking boots, as the ground can be muddy during the rainy season.
Vereda dos Balcões
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One of the easiest hikes you can do on Madeira, Vereda dos Balcoes is suitable for all fitness levels. It starts just below two restaurants at Ribeiro Frio, following the Serra do Faial to the Balcões viewpoint that offers sweeping views over the valley. At 1.5km (0.9mi), it should take no longer than 90 minutes. Keep your eyes peeled for the firecrest bird, the smallest on Madeira, and the rainbow trout hatchery on return to your starting point.
Achada do Teixeira
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If you want to reach the highest point on Madeira but don’t fancy the strenuous walk, then choose the Achada do Teixeira route. This moderate hike is around 3km (1.9mi) each way and takes around 90 minutes – there’s a cobbled pathway the whole way and only a small incline towards the summit. It’s a great route for a sunrise or sunset hike, especially when the atmospheric clouds roll in over the peaks.
Achadas da Cruz
© MIKEL BILBAO GOROSTIAGA- TRAVELS / Alamy Stock Photo
Achadas da Cruz is said to be the steepest cable car ride in Europe. It’s easy to believe when you peer over the vertiginous edge, down to the village of Fajá da Quebrada Nova below. While the cable car is certainly worth a ride, there’s also a hiking trail from the top – it starts from the narrow gap between the cliffs and stairway. The 2km (1.2mi) route is steep but safe with a wide path. Expect fabulous views on the way down, then catch the cable car back up.