6 outstanding hikes in Madeira (+ hidden gem Villa)
Have you heard of Madeira? It’s a small Portuguese island located about 900km west of the coast of Morocco.
It’s a volcanic island about 60km wide and 20km north to south. South, you’ll find a few pebble beaches, fisherman villages and Funchal, the biggest city on the island. The north shore is in striking contrast with the south. It has dramatic scenery of waves crashing against massive cliffs covered with lush vegetation. The perfect place to venture for a hike.
The best hikes in Madeira
We explored Madeira for 10 days, and we feel like we barely scratched the surface. There are hundreds of hikes on the island but here are our favourites in no particular order.
1. Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
Pico de Arieiro is located in the middle of the island and easily accessible. It’s the 3rd highest peak and will likely give you an opportunity to stand above the clouds.
This hike to Pico Ruivo is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a serious 12km hike return that will take 5 to 6 hours to complete.
Be aware that weather conditions change very quickly up there. So plan for the worst. It’s also always a lot colder there than on the coast. Don’t forget to check out the webcams (see our tips to hike in Madeira section below) to make sure everything’s OK.
Even though we couldn’t fit the entire hike because of our baby’s schedule, we had a blast. The first hour will give you unbelievable views on the valley and the peaks around.
2. Achada do Teixeira
It’s a more accessible alternative to get to Pico Ruivo and stand above the clouds. The 3km trail takes about 2 to 3 hours (return) to complete. It can take longer depending on the number of photographs you capture along the way. The views are breathtaking. As for the previous hike, the air is crisp, and the weather can change quickly.
3. Caldeirao Verde
Located in the Parque Forestal Das Queimadas (Queimadas Forest Park), the trail follows the Levada of Caldeirao Verde. Levadas are irrigation channels that were used to bring large quantities of water from the north and west coast to the drier east side of the island. There are over 2,000 km of levadas on Madeira.
The 13km hike is relatively flat and should take a bit more than 5 hours return. The trail starts after the charming fairytale house and the small cafe. On the way, you’ll see waterfalls, cross a few tunnels (don’t forget your headlight), and get glimpses of the valley below.
4. Achadas da Cruz
Stuck between massive cliffs and the ocean, Fajã da Quebrada Nova seems to have escaped time. And as you look over the viewpoint’s fence, you understand why. The cliffs are a few hundred meters high. And if you’re afraid of heights, it’ll probably make your head spin.
The cable car was installed to help farmers access their crops. It operates from 10AM to 6PM (with a break for lunch between 12PM to 1PM). It will cost you 3 euros to go up and down, and kids travel for free.
It’s very steep, and if I’m honest, I was a bit worried about hopping onto it. But I’m glad Rafika managed to convince me.
We decided to walk down the cliffside despite the worrying “you will cry” warning from the old lady at the cafe (you can take the cable car down). It took us about an hour to get to the pebble beach. Some parts were a bit steep with the baby but overall very doable and we had the whole path to ourselves.
Once at the bottom, you can walk along the ocean for about 15 minutes. Then, take some time to wander amongst the cute little houses at the bottom. It was a sunny spring afternoon so there were many flowers around as well as so many lizards!
When you’re ready to go back up, just press the button, and the lift will come to you in minutes.
Definitely one of Madeira’s highlights.
5. Ponta de São Lourenço
This 4-hour hike offers incredible views on colourful cliffs overlooking the ocean. The layers on the cliffs tell the story of an island formed by an underwater volcano million years ago. The colour palette is astounding, and you’ll realise how huge the cliffs are when you see hikers so tiny they look like ants.
The hike is classified as moderate and goes up and down a few times.
It’s best to avoid this hike on very windy days as the trail follows the cliff and there is sometimes not much to hold onto.