6 Incredible Hikes in Madeira

Written By Becky Gillespie

The island of Madeira in Portugal is truly a hiker’s paradise. For nature lovers, the stunning beauty of the island with its stunning landscapes, comprising forests, mountains, and dramatic coastlines, may make you never want to leave.

Madeira’s well-organized network of trails include ‘PR’ routes (short routes, or “pequena rotas”), levadas, and veredas.  Among these, the levada walks are a standout feature, following ancient irrigation channels that weave through the landscape. These levadas, essential for distributing water across the island’s terrains, have been repurposed into scenic trails.

Hiking in Madeira does require preparation. The levada routes, with their old paths, tunnels, and potential for rock falls or adverse weather, can present challenges. It’s crucial for hikers to equip themselves properly and verify the status of trails before setting out. Madeira’s hiking trails each offer a unique experience and there is a trail for every backpacker.

There are over 130 hiking trails on Madeira which span over 1,170 km (1,350 miles). The majority of these trails are well-marked and maintained by the Regional Government of Madeira. For the most up-to-date information, be sure to check Visit Madeira for the elevation, duration, and difficulty of each of the PR routes divided by region.

Madeira’s hikes lead adventurers through the legendary 20-million-year-old subtropical Laurissilva rainforest, a UNESCO-protected site home to ancient laurel trees, to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking cities, coastlines, and mountains. These trails not only reveal the island’s scenic beauty but also its historical significance, offering insights into the ingenuity of Madeira’s water management practices.

Let’s take a look at 6 incredible hikes in Madeira.

1. Vereda do Pico do Areeiro (Pico do Areeiro-Pico Ruivo) (PR 1)

The PR1 Vereda do Areeiro trail links three of Madeira’s highest peaks, starting at Pico do Areeiro (1818 m), passing Pico das Torres (1851 m), and concluding at Pico Ruivo (1862 m). Spanning 7 km, it presents a moderate challenge and takes hikers through the heart of the Central Mountain Massif, a part of the Natura 2000 Network, which showcases the island’s stunning natural beauty.

The path from Pico do Areeiro has unique features such as tunnels through volcanic tufts and steep slopes that were originally used as shelters by cattle and shepherds. To reach the highest point, Pico Ruivo, hikers must navigate a steep staircase around Pico das Torres and face the final challenge: a climb to the Casa de Abrigo do Pico Ruivo shelter.

The trail also leads to the iconic ‘Homem em pé’ (Standing Man) rock formation. Despite being partially closed, the trail remains accessible from the western side, inviting hikers to explore this trail’s unique landscapes and endemic bird species.

Difficulty: Medium
Distance: 7 km
Time: 3:30 h

Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, Photo by Andy Walker, Flickr
Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, Photo by Andy Walker, Flickr

Book Sunrise Hike from Madeira’s Highest Point

2. Levada das 25 Fontes (PR 6)

Starting from the regional road ER 105 in Rabaçal, the Levada das 25 Fontes trail is one of the most popular hiking trails for both tourists and locals on the entire island. Spanning approximately 4.3 km and taking about 3 hours to complete, it offers a moderately challenging yet rewarding experience for nature enthusiasts. This trail, running almost parallel to Levada do Risco, presents a diverse array of scenery and points of interest, ultimately ending up at the jaw-dropping Lagoa das 25 Fontes. This lagoon, fed by 25 springs emanating from Paul da Serra, presents an unforgettable natural spectacle, surrounded by a breathtaking landscape.

The water is ice-cold here, but if you’re up for it, take the ultimate plunge and go for a quick dip before making your way back the same way that you came. Also, be prepared here for crowds along the trail. This is one of the more congested routes on the island.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.3 km (8.6 km round trip)
Time: 3-4 h

Reaching the waterfalls on the Levada das 25 Fontes, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Book Hike to Levada das 25 Fontes

3. Verada do Fanal (PR 13)

Starting from the Paúl da Serra plateau, Vereda do Fanal is truly the most breathtaking and unique on the entire island of Madeira. The trail takes hikers across the lush, green expanse of Madeira’s indigenous 20-million-year-old Laurissilva forest. This forest, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, stands in splendid conservation, enveloping hikers into a magical realm where each tree seems to have its own character. The path also reveals the ingenuity of past inhabitants, highlighting an intricate system of cables that past Madeira residents once used for transporting wood.

At the end of Vereda do Fanal lies a small volcanic crater, designated as a Rest and Quiet Reserve. Here, amidst the ancient Til (Ocotea foetens) woods, some predating the island’s discovery, hikers can discover stunning views and a great place to have a rest or a picnic before returning to your car.

Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
Distance: 10.8 km
Time: 4 h

The trees of Fanal will surely inspire you, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Amazing trees in Fanal, Photo by Becky Gillespie
The enchanting trees on the Verada do Fanal, Photo by Becky Gillespie
Hiking through a wide expanse of green in the indigenous Laurissilva forest on the Verada do Fanal, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Book Private Hike to Verada do Fanal

4. Levada dos Cedros (PR 14)

Levada dos Cedros starts close to where Verada do Fanal ends on regional road ER 209. It follows one of the oldest levadas in the region and finishes on the same road but in the area of Curral Falso. Constructed in the 17th century, the Levada dos Cedros route brings hikers face-to-face with towering Laurissilva trees. Some of these trees reach between 30 and 40 meters high! The final push of the hike is past the steep slope of the right bank of the Ribeira da Janela stream.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.2 km
Time: 3 h

So many beautiful levadas to enjoy in Madeira, Photo by Becky Gillespie

5. Levada do Moinho (PR 7)

Levada do Moinho, also known as Levada Grande, is renowned for its historical water mills. These mills, like the Achadas, Cancelas, and Levada Grande, were once powered by its waters. Although now in ruins, they mark a trail rich in heritage and folklore. Funded by locals, water rights were exclusively theirs, demonstrating Madeira’s value placed on this resource. Traversing through the lush Laurissilva, the path offers moderate challenges and ends at Tornadouro in Junqueira. Its scenic route, adorned with branches of “levadas” carrying water to irrigation tanks, offers some truly unforgettable scenery.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 10.5 km
Time: 3:30 h

Hiking in Madeira, Photo by Becky Gillespie

6. Vereda dos Balcões (PR 7)

Vereda dos Balcões is a captivating 1.5 km trail in Ribeiro Frio that leads hikers to the gorgeous Balcões Viewpoint. It starts on ER 103 and offers a gentle walk of around 1.5 hours by the Levada da Serra do Faial. Pass by indigenous and endemic vegetation along the way, part of a lush tableau of the Laurissilva forest. Hikers can marvel at the rich biodiversity, including the Lauraceae trees and various exotic plants. The viewpoint reveals breathtaking valleys and, on clear days, the island’s central peaks. The return journey allows a visit to the Ribeiro Frio Forest Park and its trout nursery.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.5 km (3 km round trip)
Time: 1:30 h

Hiking in Madeira, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Enjoy your hiking in Madeira!

Related Tours & Activities

Book Private Two-Day Tour of Madeira

Book Private 4×4 One-Day Tour of Madeira

Book Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour of Madeira

Book Self-Guided Hike from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Book Canyoning Tour in Madeira

Guide to Madeira

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