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Pico Ruivo - the Highest Peak of Madeira
Pico Ruivo is the highest peak of Madeira reaching 1861 metres above sea level. You can't drive up to this peak but it can still be accessed easily on foot. Also, no special climbing skills are required but a normal physical condition is enough. At the peak, you have a stunning view of the whole island but only if the sky is clear enough. That is why it is important to follow weather forecasts before and until the very day of the intended hike. Regardless, you will have an amazing hike experience.
Routes to Pico Ruivo
In this article, we share our experiences on an easy hiking route from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo (PR1.2). There are also alternative more challenging routes:
The most challenging route (PR1) leaves from Pico do Areeiro which is the second-highest peak of Madeira. This starting point can be reached by car but the path to Pico Ruivo is long and demanding.
Two other hard routes start from Ilha village (PR1.1) and Miradouro da Encumeada (PR1.3). If your goal is to reach Pico Ruivo easily, we recommend forgetting the harder ones and sticking to PR1.2 as we did.
How to Reach Achada do Teixeira?
Achada do Teixeira is the starting point of the route PR1.2.
The easiest way to reach Achada do Teixeira is to drive there by car. Driving in Madeira is moderately easy so we recommend hiring a car to save time. A car gives you also more flexibility on your holiday. Another option is to attend one of the many Pico Ruivo tours.
If Funchal is your origin, first, you need to drive along highways to the northern side of the island and then climb up to the mountains. The road from the northern coast up to Achada do Teixeira is in perfect condition and traffic is usually peaceful. As you arrive at Achada do Teixeira, there is a large free parking area. On a sunny day, the parking area gets easily tightly packed with a few hundreds of cars, tour buses and motorcycles.
The trail PR1.2 starts from the parking area of Achada do Teixeira and ends at Pico Ruivo. The path is almost straight and there are no sudden drops. Also the inclination is mild, less than 300 metres together.
After you have hiked the first 15 minutes, you need to pass an intermediary peak. Luckily, the trail goes around it, so passing this peak does not require much energy. Soon you will already see Pico Ruivo, which gives you extra energy to continue the hike.
At the end of the trail, there are stairs up to the peak. The stairs are in good condition but they are the most challenging part of the hike. It is a good idea to climb them slowly up. The climbing of these stairs takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
Preparing for the Hike
The trail from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo is easy. There is no need to do special preparations. However, as walking in the mountains is something that you don't do every day, it is good to understand a few important aspects.
A mountain hiking experience is less nice if the weather is cloudy, foggy or cold. Inside clouds, you would barely see anything so the biggest part of the experience would be missing. Cloudy weather usually means also a colder temperature. That is why it is recommended to check the weather forecast beforehand and be ready to do the intended hike on a sunny day.
A hike to Pico Ruivo in the sunshine is an amazing nature experience. Unfortunately, sometimes the weather is cloudy many days in a row. Even though the weather in Funchal would not be perfect, you may still take a risk and head to Achada do Teixeira. You will notice the real weather condition just moments before reaching the parking area.
The weather in Madeira can also change quickly. If there are clouds, they can disappear during the day or they may stay below the peak.
When high winds are forecasted, hiking is uncomfortably cold. Prefer calm days.
During our first hike to Pico Ruivo, it was a cloudy day. Luckily, the clouds were below the peak so we were still able to experience the blue sky at the top. However, the clouds were covering the view of the island and we could not see all the details. For the majority of the hike, we had to walk inside a thick fog. On our second hike, the sky was almost clear so we were able to walk the whole trail in the sunshine. It was also quite calm, so the weather was perfect, even hot. As a side effect, also other travellers had noticed the good weather and the route was busy.
Winds in Madeira are often high and they can bring new clouds out of the blue. When the clouds reach the trail, the weather may become foggy in seconds.
Clothes and Drinks
It is necessary to take drinks with you. Even though there is a small cafe, Casa de Abrigo do Pico Ruivo located below the peak, it may not be open every day and they serve mainly coffee/tea. If the sun is shining, walking uphill makes you easily feel dehydrated. So prepare to have at least 1 litre of water or sweet drinks with you.
There are natural water streams along the trail where you can refill your drinking bottles with refreshing cold water from the mountains. Outside the cafe, there is also a small mountain hut where you can have a water refill from a faucet for free.
We recommend taking some snacks with you. At the peak, you can have a picnic or maybe just eat some chocolate to get the energy to hike back.
When the wind is calm and the sun is shining, shorts and a t-shirt is enough. The temperature may stay below 10 degrees but the sun keeps you warm. Especially, when walking uphill, you do not need many clothes. If the clouds happen to cover the trail and the wind increases, the temperature may drop even below 0 degrees. It is absolutely important to have warm pants, a jacket or pullover. Also, a hat and gloves are good to have in the backpack. The cold breeze makes you feel freezing in a few minutes.
We advise to have sunscreen to protect your skin.
It is better to leave too early than too late. The weather tends to be better in the mornings. In any case, it is necessary to come back before the sun sets because there are not any street lights along the zig-zag road. Driving back to the hotel is uncomfortable without street lights and expectedly you have less energy after the hike and the driving requires constant alertness considering the unending sharp curves. Two drivers would be nice to exchange the roles in between.
The hike takes about 45 minutes one way but you can easily spend more time there. The scenery is so beautiful and while laying on the grass, you can easily get unnoticed that time is passing by.
According to our opinion, the trail from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo is easy to walk. The path is quite flat except for the stairs up to the peak at end of the trail. The total incline of this hike is only 260 meters which is nothing in comparison to a hike from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo. People who are in normal condition can manage this hike easily.
The path is 3 kilometres long oneway. Going up takes about 45 minutes and coming back a little less.
The trail is well-marked and there are no sudden drops. At the peak, fences are protecting visitors from accidental falls. The route is suitable for children but they must be supervised well. It is never a good idea to exit the marked path.
Restaurant and Toilet
There is a cafe with a toilet just before the peak. During our first hike, this cafe was not open, but the second time, it was serving drinks and snacks. The cafe has a toilet outside the restaurant for which you pay 0,50€ per person at the restaurant's cashier. The toilet seems to have irregular maintenance as it was super stinky and dirty. If the weather is sunny, expect the cafe to be open. However, it is important to have your drinks with you.
Do not dump any trash to the nature to keep the trail clean.
On the peak, there is a perfect 360 degrees view all around Madeira. There are also fences so you can't fall accidentally as long as you use common sense. The peak is busy during beautiful days, so you may need to wait some time to get your Instagram shots taken.
Some people spend only a few minutes at the peak but when the weather is sunny and calm you can easily stay there for 1 to 2 hours. The peak is a place to unwind. Because the altitude is less than 2 kilometres, there is enough oxygen even for a longer stay.
Pico Ruivo is a popular yet free attraction that you must visit during a holiday in Madeira. It is up to your preferences whether to choose one of the difficult hikes or the easiest one from Achada do Teixeira. If you wish to save time and energy, the hike from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo is recommended.
The most important preparation is to follow weather forecasts and choose the right day for the hike. Another important thing is to have drinks, good hiking shoes and suitable clothes. With these preparations, the hike will surely be a pleasant experience. And if something unexpected happens, there is mobile network coverage and other people to help.
Have you hiked to Pico Ruivo? Share with us your preparation tips!