At the top of Madeira – the PR1 from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike

The PR1 from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is the number 1 hike of Madeira. Here we tell you everyting you need to know about this hike.

The PR1 from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is considered as the best hike of Madeira. The hike takes you through stunning mountain scenery and even the pathway itself is spectacular. The Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is challenging, but the scenery makes up for the effort. If you start early, you can witness a stunning sunrise at Pico de Arieiro before heading to Pico Ruivo, the highest mountain of Madeira. This Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike will definitely be a highlight of your trip to Madeira!

madeira travel guide sunrise at pico de arieiro best viewpoint

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What is a PR route?

The Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is a PR trail, more specifically PR1. The government of Madeira has selected more than 20 trails that received a PR label. These routes are recommended trails, they are very well marked and are well-maintained. PR trails never dissapoint!

signage along the PR1 pico de arieiro to pico ruivo madeira

The PR1 from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike in short

  • Length of the hike – The hike is a point-to-point hike, so you start from point A to point B and then back. If you do the hike back and forth, it is about 14 kilometers of hiking. Another option is to take a one-way tour. These tours drop you of at Pico de Arieiro. From here you start your hike to Pico Ruivo. After Pico Ruivo you can take an easy path to Achada do Teixeira. This place is well accessible for transport. The tour bus will pick you up again and bring you back to Funchal. The price for these tours vary between 33 and 50 euros. If you opt for the one-way tour, it is about 10 kilometers of hiking. We like to use the website because they only work with certified tour operators and you can easily compare prices. We booked this tour from the company “Do it Madeira” and the service was excellent.


  • Duration of the hike – Expect to hike between 6-7 hours back and forth. If you opt for the one-way tour, hiking times will be between 3-4 hours. The amount of time you’ll need depends on your fitness level and the breaks you take to soak up the beautiful scenery along the way.
  • Difficulty level – The hike is challenging and a good fitness level is required. When doing this hike back and forth, there are 1.650 altitude meters to conquer. Because there are many steep steps, it is especially challenging on the knees. It is often the return hike that people find the most challenging with the last kilometer going up the entire time. If you choose for the one-way option, you have 900 altitude meters in front of you. The one-way route is definitely less challenging and is a good option if you have problems with your knees or if you’re less fit. Although the hike might test people that are afraid of heights, the hike is safe and there are safety railings along the way.
pr1 hike from pico de arieiro to pico ruivo safety madeira

Where does the Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike start?

The hike starts at Pico de Arieiro. This mountain top is easy to reach by car and it takes a 40-minutes drive from Funchal. Because it is so easy to reach, a lot of people drive up the mountain to see the sunrise. There is a free parking lot, but keep in mind that spaces are limited. So our best advice is to arrive quite some time before sunrise. That way, it won’t get difficult to find a parking spot at the top. When you arrive at sunrise, the café on top of the mountain is still closed (opens at 9 am) so there are no toilets available in the early morning.

From the parking lot, it takes about 5 minutes to get to the sunrise viewpoint. We highly recommend to watch the sunrise here. Although it gets extremely crowded during high season, this was one of our best sunrises ever! After the sunrise, you start your hike to Pico Ruivo. Just go up again, pass the cafe and you’ll see the first signage of the PR1.

sunrise pico de arieiro madeira
The stunning sunrise at Pico de Arieiro before starting your hike

If you opt for a one-way tour, these tours drop you off at the sunrise spot. Most tours will pick you up at the endpoint (Achada do Teixeira) 4 hours later. If you arrive early at Achada do Teixeira, don’t worry because there is a wonderful mountain restaurant there.

Description of the PR1 from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike

After the sunrise, you immediately start your hike in an epic landscape, with rugged mountains and endless steps. The first kilometers of this hike are definitely the most beautiful and are definitely not the hardest because you go down the entire time. Along the way, you pass several tunnels, so it’s best to bring a headlamp or flashlight. After going down, it’s time to go up again, destination Pico Ruivo. There are some extreme steep stairs, one following the other, and these were killing. After a while, you reach a little cafe with toilets (€0,5 to enter the toilets). From here, you’re almost at the top. Almost, because a last steep ascent awaits you till the top of Pico Ruivo.

Top of Pico Ruivo in Madeira with clouds in the valley

If you head back to Pico de Arieiro, you take the same way back. If you opted for the one-way tour, head back to the little café. A bit further there is an intersection where you take the trail to the left. From here it is about 45 minutes to Achada do Teixeira.

What to take with you when hiking from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo?

  • On our hikes, we always make sure to pack lunch and take plenty of water with us. Because it promised to be a demanding hike, we took our Camelbaks with us, allowing us to take 2 liters of water each with us. Also a daypack is essential.
  • Definitely bring a hat and qualitative sunglasses to protect you from the sun. Sunscreen is also a good idea.
  • Always wear clothes adjusted to the predicted weather. The weather in Madeira can change rapidly so dress in layers. Make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots. In the morning it can be rather chilly, so bring a windproof jacket or a fleece with you to keep you warm while watching the sunrise.
  • The hike can be hard for your knees so we recommend bringing trekking poles with you. These give you extra support so your knees don’t have to carry all the weight. And when going up, trekking poles help you to keep a good pace.
  • A good backpack is an essential item when hiking. Our favorite brands are Vaude and Deuter. These brands offer fashionable and high-quality backpacks.
  • Often forgotten by many hikers but important: a first-aid kit. If it’s not to help yourself, you could help someone else. On our way, we encountered someone who had hurt her head in one of the many tunnels. With our first-aid kit, we could help this person clean her head and make sure the bleeding stopped.
  • On that note, because of the many dark tunnels with uneven surface, we highly suggest to bring a headlamp or flashlight with you.
tunnels during hikes in madeira

Some final thoughts on this hike

Make sure you always check the weather upfront. This is a hike in the mountains, so you want to make sure you don’t get stuck here during a storm or during heavy rain. Also during extreme fog you might want to postpone your hike to a day with clear skies. It would be a pity not to see the impressive scenery that surrounds you.

Also, we would recommend not to do this hike as your first hike in Madeira. The hike is strenuous and it might be better to first acclimatize a bit.

Where to stay in Madeira?

Madeira offers a lot of accommodations for every type of traveler. The best place to stay for doing the PR1 from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is Funchal. From Funchal, it is an easy 40-minute drive up to the top of Pico de Arieiro. Also most one-way tours start from Funchal.

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madeira where to stay sign funchal

More of Madeira

Wondering what else to do on Madeira? Make sure to read our travel guide for Madeira. Up for some more hikes on Madeira, then read our other blogpost about hike in Madeira:

We hope you enjoyed reading our guide about the Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know below.

Happy hiking!

Matthias and Mieke

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