Today, I’ll give you a little inside into our experience hiking the famous Madeira “PR1 – Vereda do Areeiro” trail. I can already tell you, it’s fantastic! But read on and find out (and hopefully see for yourself soon!) Madeiras PR1 hike is well known since it connects two of the highest peaks, Pico do Areeiro (1817m) and Pico Ruivo (1862m), on a spectacular trail above the clouds. In my opinion, this is one of the best walks in Madeira.
some basics about the hike
Duration: 6.1km / around 3:30h oneway
Level: medium to hard
Altitude: Max. 1857 m / Min. 1491 m
How to get to Pico do Areeiro
Pico do Areeiro is accessible by car, and the drive from Funchal will take you around 45-60 minutes. Since Pico do Areeiro is at 1817 m in height, you will drive up some steep inclines from time to time. The road leading up the mountain also holds many curves. It can be a little intimidating because some edges weren’t really secured. However, the route is very scenic, and once you come close to the peak, you will be likely to drive through the clouds. I’ve heard many tourists being disappointed once they reach the last part of the drive, but you really need to just go on a few more minutes (or meters) to find yourself driving out of the fog and enjoy the view above the clouds.
Parking at Pico do Areeiro is easy since it has not only a parking lot, but you can also park your car along the street.
Quick side note: Google Maps will probably suggest a few routes if you drive from Funchal. Stay on the ER road as long as possible, trust me. Even though it might cost you 5 more minutes, you probably don’t want to end up like us driving the steepest and narrowest road I’ve ever seen. Imagine stopping every 5 meters to roll back down the hill because someone needs to pass in a random part of Funchal. It was so horrifying. We were considering turning around at one point, lol.
Madeira’s weather changes fast, making it a little unpredictable. There is a webcam on Pico do Areeiro to check the conditions beforehand. I wouldn’t suggest hiking on a rainy day because most parts of the trail are exposed, and you will be soaked and more likely to slip on the mud and stones. Depending on what side of the mountains you are on, it can also get quite chilly.
Things you should bring
First of all, dress in layers. As I just mentioned, the weather conditions change fast, and depending on your location, you will be exposed to the sun or in the shadows hit by a cold breeze. A rainproof jacket will be your best friend, and some hiking shoes are a must. There are many steep stairs made of stones which can be very slippery. You really need some grip and protection once you walk through the puddles in the tunnels. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat and pack enough water and food. Since the toilets on the peak aren’t that well equipped, some tissues and disinfection would be fantastic. A headlamp or a good flashlight would be nice in the tunnels, yet we also did it with the iPhone ones only. Bring some cash if you want to purchase snacks in the café, use the toilet, or need a taxi ride back.
Hiking Madeira PR1 from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo
East or West trail?!
As of today, the only way to hike to Pico Ruivo is on the west trail (VO). The east path remains closed due to safety reasons. (Don’t get confused when you look on the maps and don’t find any other possible route while you’re hiking. They closed it down entirely, and there’s already grass and bushes growing into the trails, so you can only imagine where the east course once ran and where the hike parted). The west trail holds (I think around 5) tunnels, and there is no way around these, even though older guides will tell you about an easier path with no tunnels.
Facilities along the way
At the starting point at Pico do Areeiro, you’ll find a restaurant, a souvenir shop, and public toilets. Shortly before arriving at Pico Ruivo, there’s another café and a public bathroom (50cents). These two are the only possibilities to either use the toilet or purchase snacks and drinks. In the 3hrs in between, you’re on your own. Some caves along the way are used as toilets, but I found them to be very exposed and too frequented. Plus, the countless amount of tissues along the floor isn’t good for the environment either.
The different sections of the PR1 hike
The first third
I absolutely loved the first part of the hike. The trail goes mostly downhill with pretty amazing views and many viewpoints. You don’t need to walk a long time until you reach the “Buzzard’s nest” viewpoint (Ninho da Manta). You’ll be able to encounter some views that made me want to go there once I saw them all over social media. Breathtaking! Concerning the views, the first one is probably the most spectacular part in my opinion.
The second third
After you’ve made it down some meters, it gets pretty easy with not much incline in height. It’s a relaxing walk until you encounter your first tunnels. You will have a few more to pass from here – some are pretty short, some are a little longer. This is when a headlamp or flashlights come in handy. Our iPhone flashlights were barely strong enough to see what you step on in the tunnels that are a little longer. This part is also still on “the sunny side,” and you will see lush greens, birds and if you didn’t undress yet, you would probably do that now. It did get pretty hot in the sun, even in January when we went.
Now once you think to yourself, “wow, this is only going downhill for two hours, we have to make some meters height soon?!” the not-so-fun part starts.
The last third
This last part of the hike was exhausting. It is the most challenging one since you will encounter some steep stairs. (Or maybe I should call those constructions “windy ladders”). You will now make it to the other side of the mountain, which will surprise you with changes in landscape and weather. It gets windy, cold and you will see fewer greens and some white (dead) trees which I found to be pretty cool. This part is the hardest because you will only walk uphill from now on. However, this part shouldn’t be underestimated. Many hikers even stopped and turned back. Not because it was unsafe, but it was physically challenging and very intimidating if you’re not too comfortable with height and narrow trails.
Shortly before arriving at the peak, you will reach the Café and the bathrooms I discussed earlier. So now you’ve nearly made it to the end! From here, it’s only a few more meters up the peak.
Once you reach the peak of Pico Ruivo, you will find a nice, quite wide area where you can sit down, take a break and enjoy the fascinating view.
One-way or return hike?
After you reached Pico Ruivo and took a well-deserved break, you’ve got two options:
1. Go on to Achada do Teixeira
This is an easier walk but can be problematic if you arrived in your own car. It is said that some shuttle services are operating between the parking lots, yet you can’t really rely on those (at least as of what we’ve heard from other tourists). The most common option would be to get a taxi from Achada do Teixeira back to the parking lot at Pico do Areeiro. The ride takes around 1h and can cost anything between 70-100€. You should make a taxi reservation beforehand and talk to them about the price to avoid surprises.
2. Hike all the way back to Pico do Areeiro
We went for the return-trip option since we had our car at Pico do Areeiro. I have to admit it was very exhausting because it’s mostly uphill on the way back. You are still tired from the way there, and you need to do all of this again. However, I found the scenery still very beautiful, even though we literally walked the same trail just a few moments ago. In my personal opinion, this view doesn’t get old. After passing certain viewpoints and landmarks, I knew it was not far anymore. Being back for sunset was a great reward also! Since the first part of the hike was my favorite due to the view, I still enjoyed every single step at the end. (Even though I wanted to die at some point because I was SO exhausted, lol.)
Most people (including us) visit Pico do Areeiro during sunrise or sunset. Meaning: if you want to do the Vereda do Areeiro hike, you either start it at dawn or mid-day, so you are back at Pico do Areeiro for sunset. (If you make the Madeira PR1 a return trip.)
If you’re not an experienced hiker, you might choose the sunrise version. Why? Depending on your fitness level, it might take you a lot longer to do the hike, especially the return part. We actually had some time pressure ourselves because we had to get back in time, too. Hiking back in the dark is absolutely not an option because the trails aren’t lit. You gotta be back by sunset. We calculated around 3,5 hrs one way, and I have to admit, if my boyfriend didn’t push me that hard on the way back, I might have taken a lot more breaks and would have arrived 30min to 1h later lol. So instead, you should plan an extra hour and if you make it back early, go find yourself a nice spot to watch the sunset later on and chill – you will need the rest after that hike anyway.
Madeira PR1 hike – final thoughts
This hike was one of my favorite things we did on Madeira, and I totally get why it’s so famous. With the touristic fame also come some “side effects,” though. We met so many tourists along our hike that weren’t adequately geared up, meaning they walked in sandals without any snacks or water. It seemed like many didn’t prepare or research at all and then had some unpleasant surprises during their way. As soon as it starts raining, the paths (and especially the stones) can get very slippery, and without proper shoes, you might fall and hurt yourself. If you are afraid of heights, you should do your research and maybe watch some scenes on youtube before you decide to go. Some parts are very narrow, and the “fences” will definitely not be able to stop you from falling once you slip and tumble – just keep that in mind.
I personally didn’t find it scary or intimidating, yet I don’t fear heights and love a good adventure. My biggest struggle was my fitness level, and I fought hard with myself during that return hike. This hike is certainly not at all suitable for children. If your kids didn’t reach the teenager phase yet, this is definitely way too dangerous and steep.There are some high stairs where even I had to pull myself up with my arms.
If you’re comfortable with heights, I really urge you to go on the PR1 hike. The views are fantastic. An bring your camera! You will get some once-in-a-lifetime shots.
Aaaaaand it’s a wrap! I hope you learned more about this hike so you’re prepared for your time on Madeira’s famous PR1 hike. Feel free to comment about your experience and other hikes you did while you visited the island. I’m looking forward to hearing your experiences and recommendations!
As always, stay happy and healthy!