After spending just a few days in Madeira, I really see why this island also is referred to as hikers' paradise. 😍 Regardless of where you are on this island, you'll find yourself surrounded by mountains, which offer a variety of beautiful hiking routes that will leave you stunned and breathless - they sure had that effect on us.
Our first 'real' hike on our trip was the famous Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, and I'm so excited to tell you about this hike, as this is undoubtedly one of the best hikes I've done - this far at least. 😉
On the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike (where pico means mountain top), you essentially walk from one peak to another.
Pico Ruivo is the highest point, and standing at 1,862m above sea level, the summit provides spectacular views overlooking the entire island. Can't wait to show you the view from up there. 😍
Since we stayed on the north side of the island (in Sao Vicente), we had a small trip to make to get to the starting point, Pico Arieiro, which is also where you park your car, if you decide to do the entire Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike.
Although Pico Ruivo is the highest of the two peaks, the Arieiro peak also provides some pretty amazing views, as you can see from the picture below.
And, if you're lucky with the weather conditions, you will essentially walk ABOVE the clouds, which is quite an unusual yet amazing feeling! We were soo lucky with the weather on the day we decided to do the hike; the clouds were hanging quite low, meaning that we were able to walk above them. It might not always be like this, however - we spoke with some other guys, who for parts of their hike actually walked IN the clouds, because they were 'hanging' higher that day.
Basically, when you're this high up, the weather conditions are quite unpredictable and might change from hour to hour. This is also the reason why it's recommend to bring warm clothes, even for a challenging hike like this, as it might get chilly pretty quickly - especially during this time of the year, as the sun is hanging low, meaning there will be parts of the route, where you'll walk in the shadow.
I started the hike wearing warm tights and a fleece pullover but changed later for a skirt and a top. So, bring some different clothes - of course not your entire wardrobe (girls 😉😘), but so that you have the option of changing if you get either too warm or cold.
From Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo there's about 5.6 km (if you take the shorter of the two) or 7 km (if you take the longer of the two). However, it DOES NOT feel like a 7 km hike at all, since you almost constantly walk up (and by up, I really mean UP 😃) and down due to the mountainous terrain. So yes, it can be quite a challenging hike at times - but definitely manageable - and so worth it.
The hike takes about six hours in total, and a thing that that is worth knowing about this hike (and Madeira hikes in general) is that you walk back on the same trails that you used to get to the top - so essentially, it is three hours out and three hours back again, which to some might sound tedious, however, with views like these you'll be thinking that you'd walk those trails a 100 times really. 😍
So, this is basically the landscape you'll be walking in on the entire route - and I can almost assure you, that it will leave you breathless soo many times. 😍
Like I mentioned, the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo can be quite a challenging hike at times, as you'll be walking some rather steep slopes and ridges not to mention the parts where you'll be walking through tunnels to get to the other side. Again, it is definitely manageable, but if you do know that this might challenge you a bit, it is nice to know in advance I feel. 😊
One of the things that really struck me out here - or up here really 😃 - was that everything is so raw and unpolished yet incredibly beautiful - you know, just the way nature made it really. The entire hike, I had the feeling of being so close to nature, and at times it almost felt like we were taken back in time and had a glimpse of how the world used to look, if that makes sense. 😊
Also, the entire trail is generally very well maintained, and the potentially scary parts of the route with sheer drops all have steel wire handrails with steel support. These definitely made me feel a lot more safe.
Although you might get a pretty decent idea of the route from these pictures, they don't even remotely resemble how this place looks in real life. That's something you'll have to experience first-hand.
// Mid-point of the route and also where the toughest section to Pico Ruivo starts. 😱
As you walk further and further up, you'll start seeing these grey trees (whose name I have no idea of 😃) scattered across the mountainside. They are literally silver grey to the point where you'll start questioning if someone have actually spray-painted them out there, ok that's not quite likely, but they really were quite an amazing sight. 😉
When the weather changes, or you walk on the sunny side of the mountain, you'll be really happy that you brought some lighter clothes with you. Also, you might even be able to get a tan out here, so make sure to bring some sunscreen as well.
When reaching Pico Ruivo and seeing this view, you can't help but feel a little on top. 😍
Clearly, I wasn't the only one with this feeling. No wonder with this spectacular view. 💙
After enjoying our lunch in the sun, we headed back along the same trails we used to get to the top.
The clouds had risen up a little and were thus hanging slightly higher now.
We worried a little that they would rise so high that we'd be walking in them, but they never did (thankfully 😊), so we kept walking above them.
Like a said earlier, you'll be walking back on the same trails you walked to get to the top. And although you never really tire from views like these, coming from the other side actually does provide a different view. ⛰
If you expect to see lots of wild animals on the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (I sure did - ofc 😍), you will however be a little disappointed. We didn’t really see any animals, except for these cute little birds on our way back. 🐦🐦🐦
If you walk earlier in the morning you might be lucky to spot a few more, as they haven’t been scared off from all the hikers.
From this point, you see that the clouds had actually risen quite a bit during the day.
Our hike back was surprisingly faster than the three hours we'd calculated with; it only took us a little over two hours to walk back, which of course might have to do with the fact that at this point we were familiar with the route, as we already walked it once, and perhaps also that we didn't take as many photos on the way back...
We did, however, make sure that we left Pico Ruivo (the top) no later than 3 pm, since the sun sets around 6 pm, and you will HAVE to be back before this, since there is no light whatsoever on the entire route.
We got back just in time to watch a magical sunset ABOVE the clouds.
That’s one thing I've never seen before - except from a plane that is 😃, but it is definitely a whole other feeling once you're out in the open air and feel so incredibly close to nature.
If you ever go to Madeira - and enjoy hiking of course - I can definitely recommend you do the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike. Make sure to bring both warm and lighter clothes as well as foods and snacks and LOTS of water - you'll be needing it.
Safe travels. ✈