The Best Hikes And Levada Walks in Madeira That You Cannot Miss

The Best Hikes And Levada Walks in Madeira That You Cannot Miss

Madeira is one of the best places in the world to hike, with its lush forests, dramatic peaks and stunning coastlines. This Madeira blog will tell you all the best hikes in Madeira that you can’t miss.

One thing that really tempted me to visit the small Portuguese island of Madeira was the dramatic landscape and beautiful hikes. Located off the coast of Africa and one hour flight from Lisbon, Madeira is not a place on many people’s radar. But after spending a week in Madeira my only wish was to stay longer since there are so much to do and see and eat!

Madeira has over 20 official hiking trails according to its tourism website and although you probably can’t do all the levada walks and hikes in Madeira you can do some of the best hikes that I will outline below.

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The Best hikes in Madeira

PR1 – Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Length: 7km each way
Time: 3-4 hours each way
Difficulty: Moderate
Altitude gain: 300m

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo trail is called PR1 and in my personal opinion it’s the most beautiful and amazing hike you can do in Madeira. If you only have time for one hike in Madeira then Pico Do Arieiro is the hike you have to do.

PR1 trail connects the two highest peaks in Madeira and as you can imagine you will be traversing through mountain range along ledges of these peaks.
You can visit Pico do Arieiro for sunrise first and also to avoid the crowds during peak season. The PR1 hike is long if you do round trip (more on that later) so I advise that you start the PR1 hike early.

sunrise at Pico do Ariero Madeira

The PR1 trail starts at the view point Pico Do Arieiro, a view point that you can easily drive to. Many people drive through the clouds/fog for the view and only a fraction of these visitors actually do the PR1 walk.

As you continue the PR1 walk the trail mostly goes downhill and you will be walking on the ledge of the mountain with railings on the sides. Some people say if you have vertigo you would have problems with this part of the hike but I honestly had no problem and I am scared of heights.

Sunrise at Pico Do Arieiro Hiking Madeira

Along the way you will pass through 5 tunnels and a couple of view points. Since you are high above the clouds during most of PR1 trail you will see some stunning views along the way. I seriously have never seen such dramatic landscape from a hiking trail and I’ve done hikes in Norway, Patagonia, New Zealand and Banff.

PR1-Ariero-hike-hike dramatic view

There are two routes on PR1 walk one can take: East and West. The East trail goes through Pico das Torres but it’s longer and easier. The west trail is shorter and more difficult as it goes through a steep 20-25 minute stairs and 5 tunnels. Currently the East trail via Pico das Torres is closed due to landslide risk so you can only access the harder and shorter West route.

Pico Do Arieiro East Trail Steep stairs
Steep stairs on PR1 East Trail

What’s interesting about PR1 is that you can do it as an one way hike to Pico Ruivo then to Achada do Teixeira vía PR1.2 (more on that later) and take a taxi back to the Pico do Arieiro starting point or you can hike back to the starting point which is pretty long and painful since it’s mostly uphill on the way back.

We originally had planned on doing the round trip since we have no transportation to get back to Pico do Arieiro parking lot if we did a one way hike. However when you are near Pico Ruivo there is a cafe and the cafe people can call a taxi for you. The Taxi to take you from Achada do Teixeira back to Pico do Arieiro costs about 70 Euros and takes about an hour.

Why you would like the PR1 walk: dramatic landscape, hiking above the clouds, beautiful view point, best spot for sunrise

Why you might not like PR1: vertigo if you are scared of heights since you will be hiking on and along the ledge, steep stairs and long walk back (mostly uphill coming back)

Best time to go to Pico do Arieiro: Sunrise

Website to check weather condition on Pico do Arieiro:
https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Pico-do-Arieiro/forecasts/1818

Webcam to check conditions at Pico do Arieiro:
http://www.netmadeira.com/webcams-madeira/pico-do-arieiro

PR1.2 Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo

Length: 2.8km each way
Time: 1.5 hours each way
Difficulty: Easy/ Moderate
Elevation gain: ~300m

PR1.2 trail is an extension of PR1 as it goes past Pico Ruivo and continues to Teixeira do Pico Ruivo. The hike itself takes about 2-3 hours round trip from Teixeira do Pico Ruivo to the peak of Pico Ruivo on a slightly uphill slope with steep stairs at the end to climb up to Pico Ruivo.

This is the first hike we did in Madeira because the weather was good. PR1.2 walk is considered relatively easy except the last 10-15 minutes of steep uphill to the actual peak. We also did this hike because we thought we would be doing the round trip hike at PR1 but little did we know that we ended up taking a taxi after PR1 so it wasn’t necessary for us to hike PR1.2 separately.

Pico Ruivo Hike Above the Clouds

There is a large parking lot at Teixeira do Pico that is above the clouds and as you slowly hike uphill you will see more views of the valley under you (if not covered by the cloud). You will continue to hike along the ridge that separates the cliffs of Faial and those of Santana.

There is a washroom and cafe near the peak (washrooms cost 50 cents) before your final ascend. At this point you will also see signs pointing to 3 other hikes: PR1 Pico do Arieiro, PR 1.3 Encumeada Footpath (8.6 Km), and PR 1.1 Ilha Footpath (8.2 Km), which descends to the town of Ilha.

PR1.2 Pico Ruivo Hiking Trail to the peak
Trail on the peak

There are several shelters along the PR1.2 hike since the weather in this are changed drastically. We did part of the walk twice (second time is because we ended up only doing a one way hike from Pico do Arieiro and had to go back down to the parking lot) and the second time we couldn’t see any of the views because it was so foggy.

Why you would like PR 1.2 walk: short, easy hike with a dramatic view and a trip to the highest peak of Madeira

Why you might not like PR 1.2 walk: weather can change drastically and hiking trail could be covered in fog. Final ascend is steep. If you already hiked PR1 there’s is really no need to do PR1.2.

Best time to hike PR1.2: before 10am to prevent the parking lot from filling up

Website to check weather on Pico Ruivo:
https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Pico-Ruivo/forecasts/1862

PR6/ PR6.1 – Levada das 25 Fontes/ Levada Do Risco

Length: 4.8km each way
Time: 2-3 hours each way
Difficulty: easy/ moderate 

If you are looking for a lush and easy hike along the levada then PR6/ PR6.1 is the hike for you. This is actually a combination of two equally nice trails to see two different waterfalls. 

The PR6/ PR6.1 trail starts from the car park on ER 110 and descends into the Rabacal governance house and a cafe/washroom. This part of the trail is a mile long and it’s paved. There is a shuttle service starting at 10am that can drive you down to the Rabacal Governance House where you start the actual hike. But you can just walk down this paved road before 10am and avoid all the people.

From the Rabacal governance house you continue the trail and the trail splits into PR6 and PR6.1.

PR6 Levada das 25 Fontes is longer and there is a long section (20 minutes) of the trail that is narrow with railings on one side and the a levada with running water on the other side. It is perhaps the most unique hike I did in Madeira because levada is so unique to Madeira. PR6 eventually leads to a nice waterfall that you can see up close. 

PR6.1 levada walk along the levada
PR6 trail next to the levada
PR6 Levada das 25 fontes

PR6.1 is on a higher ground level than PR6 and the path is wide and flat with plenty of vegetation and a couple of view points. The trail is only about 1.6km one way and you will have a spectacular view of the Risco waterfall. Unfortunately you cannot go behind the water fall (there is a path but it’s locked) but you can feel the splash of the waterfall up close.

Both PR6 and PR 6.1 is pretty easy and there are a lot of old people and people with kids that hike these two trails.

PT6.1 Risco Waterfall PR6 hike Madeira

Why you would like PR6/ PR6.1: lush green environment, unique hike, 2 amazing waterfalls

Why you might not like PR6/ PR6.1: narrow path on PR6, some uphill and stairs on the way back, crowds

Best time to hike PR6/ PR6.1: early morning before 10am as shuttle buses start running at 10 to bring people to the trail (you can walk down yourself) and tours start coming in around 10. 

PR8 – Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Length: 4km each way
Time: 1.5-2 hours each way
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: minimal until the end

PR8 Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco is the hike to the eastern end of Madeira to see the peninsulas. Unlike the other levada walks in Madeira that I mentioned above, the vegetation at Sao Lourenco is completely different and more “barren”. In addition the exposure to the strong wind in this region resulted in low vegetation. 

The PR8 hike itself is relatively flat as you follow the trail to go around the tip of the peninsula. As you walk along the trail you will see the dramatic coast landscape and black sand beach due to the volcanic nature of this area. 

PR 8 Vereda da ponta de sao lourenco view point

The official trail ends before the steep stairs up to the final view point and there is a cafe/ washroom near by. But if you have ventured this far you would naturally climb up those steep steps for that postcard view. 

Pr8 Vereda da ponta de sao lourenco hike trail
Pretty Flat Trail

Although most of the hike is pretty flat and easy except the end stairs, what makes this hike difficult is the strong sun (no shade anywhere on the trail) and the strong wind that could literally push you off the trail (not dangerous however since it’s wide just really annoying). 

When I was researching this hike I read comments on Tripadvisor that some people just went down to the black sand beach (about 15 minutes from the trail head) and turned back. The part after the black sand beach is exposed to strong wind but fortunately the windy part doesn’t last very long.

PR8 Ponta de sao Lourenco stairs
Steep stairs at the end
Pr8 Sao Lourence View
Post card view

Why you would like PR8 trail: stunning and unique landscape, relatively easy. Option to get down to the black sand beach

Why you might not like PR8 trail: very strong wind and steep stairs at the end. Crowd could also be an issue if you go during the day

Best time to hike PR8: either really early or late afternoon. During the day parking lot fills up and trail gets crowded. We started the hike at 4pm and it was pretty empty

PR11 – Vereda dos Balcoes

Length: 1.5km each way
Time: 20-30 minutes each way
Difficulty: Easy & flat

If you are looking for an extremely easy hike with an amazing view then PR11 Vereda Dos Balcoes is the trail for you. The PR11 trail is a flat walk in a lush forest with the levada on the side until you get to the famous view point.

There were people with strollers on this trail so you can imagine how flat and easy it is. The official trail map claimed this hike takes 1.5 hours but I’m not sure if that was meant to be round trip. The hike itself only took us 25 minutes each way and we spent about 30 minutes taking photos at the view point before heading back.

PR11  VEREDA DOS BALCÕES Hike
PR11  VEREDA DOS BALCÕES view point
Balcoes view point

Why you would like PR11 trail: Easy, lush, beautiful view point and photo opportunity

Why you might not like PR11 trail: can get crowded since it’s so easy

Best time to go to PR11: late afternoon when everyone has left. We went after 6 (sunset was at 8:30 and we were the only people).

Additional Hikes in Madeira You May Want to Consider

There are a few other hikes that are popular among tourists and locals that you may want to consider. I will list the most popular 2 below. Although I didn’t personally do them, I did read great reviews about them and heard people talking about them when I was in Madeira.

PR9 – Levada Do Caldeirao Verde

Length: 6.5km each way
Time: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

If you are not tired of waterfalls and levadas then here is another one to add on your list. PR9 similar to PR6 in a sense that you are hiking along the levada to see a stunning waterfall. What is different is that there are tunnels on this hike that will require you to bring a torch. You will also be hiking along the levada of Caldeirão Verde and cross some steep slopes.

PR 13 – Vereda do Fanal

Length: 10.8km
Time: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

PR13 is a beautiful walk that starts near E.R. 209 on the Paul da Serra plateau and traverse down to Fanal Forest. There are some ascends and descends along the hike as well as a few view points to see the valley down below. The trail looks lush with various vegetation. I did read that this hike is very long and easy to get lost so it’s recommended for more experienced hikers.

PR13 Vereda do Fanal Fanal forest
End of PR13 in Fanal Forest

Bonus “hikes” that you may like in Madeira

Although these are not real hiking trails, I wanted to include them as they are short walks to see fantastic waterfalls. They are also mostly hidden and usually there is no crowds.

Ponta do Poiso

In one of my previous posts on the best things to do in Madeira, I mentioned that there are several spectacular waterfalls in Madeira. One of the most famous waterfall is the Bridal Veil Waterfall or Véu da Noiva located near Seixal. There are two view points of this waterfall, one is easily accessible by car called Miradouro do Véu da Noiva and another view point is a hidden hike down to Ponta do Poiso, one of the tips of the northern coastline in Madeira.

Starting at the end of the larger parking lot at Miradouro do Véu da Noiva, there is a very hidden set of steps that goes downhill through the lush forest. As you continue to climb down on these stairs through the thick vegetation and the forest you will start to see two waterfalls (one is Bridal Veil Waterfall and a smaller one next to it). Since the path is hidden there usually is nobody there. Although not an official hike, it does take a while to walk down to the tip.

Ponta do Poiso hidden path
Ponta do Poiso view of waterfall Madeira

Miradouro Garganta Funda

Garganta Funda waterfall is one of the most unique and stunning waterfalls in Madeira and it’s located on the western end of the island. Since it’s pretty out of the way most people don’t ever go close to it and the signs for this waterfall only show up when you are in the proximity.

After driving down a narrow road following the signs for Miradouro Garganta Funda, you will park your car on the road because you won’t be able to drive down any further. Instead you have to walk about 10 minutes following the dirt path along someone’s farm to access the view point.

You also won’t be able to see the waterfall until you are literally about to arrive at the view point. This waterfall is very hidden and only those who researched Madeira will know its existence.

miradouro garganta funda walk from parking
miradouro garganta funda waterfall madeira
miradouro garganta funda waterfall view point

What To Pack For Madeira Levada Walks

You may be an experienced hiker or a first time walking but that’s ok! I want to provide you with a little tips on what to pack for hiking in Madeira as some of the trails and landscape is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Hiking Shoes: Although most of the hikes are not hard, there are many muddy and slippery areas on the trail.

Hiking Poles: You may not need the hiking poles for most hikes, but they do help with keeping your balance in the strong wind on PR8 and the climbs/descent on PR1 and PR6.

Layers: I cannot stress enough how important it is to bring layers. At one time I had 4 layers of thin jackets on me on PR6 because it was so cold.

Torches/ Head Lamps/ Flashlight: If you are doing PR1 or PR9 then you should bring a torch. These hikes go through tunnels where you would need a light source to see.

Cash and toilet paper: Some of the hiking trails have a cafe and washroom (like PR1.2, PR6, PR8, etc). Often times you will need to pay 50 cents to use the bathroom, so bring some cash with you to use the WC and buy some snacks.

Sunscreen, Hat, Sunglasses: This should come as a no brainer especially on exposed hikes like PR1, PR1.2 and PR8.

Water & Food: Although most trails have a cafe either at the beginning or the end, you should still bring your own water and food in case you get hungry, especially on long hikes like PR1.

Avoid Ticks While Hiking in Madeira

I didn’t know this at the time when I was in Madeira but apparently there are occasional tick infestations in Madeira in the hiking areas especially when the temperature is hot. As of July 2019, there is news on the Madeira news website to warn hikers the danger of ticks.

In case you are not familiar with tick, their bite can cause Lyme disease, a very serious illness. To avoid getting bitten by ticks in Madeira, make sure you wear long pants and sleeves and cover your ankles while hiking in Madeira.

Pr6.1 Levada walk Madeira

Final Thoughts on the Best Hikes in Madeira

Madeira is a stunning island with tons of amazing hikes and levada walks one can do. Depending on your level of fitness and how much time you have in Madeira you can do as little as 1 and as many as 20+. Even if you are not that active most of the hikes I mentioned above are not very hard or you can just do part of the hike such as PR1 and still enjoy the dramatic landscape.

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