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Things to do : Walking : Mountain walking Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM

Mountain walks on Madeira
By Oliver R. Donald Guenay
Jun 5, 2008 - 10:49:39 AM

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There are two major Mountain walks, which I consider to be the islands best choice: the very famous and quite well equipped traverse from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo (frequented by hikers) and the Pico Grande, which I like most among all mountain walks, and which, of course, is more serious, especially in bad weather conditions and is tempted by far less people!

Some of the flora on the way to the peaks

The traverse of Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo is well described in many guide books. It takes about 3 hours and follows the main range of the island in a south-north direction across several tunnels and steep steps, contouring the peaks of Gato and Torres with impressive jaw-dropping vertigo tingling downward views into the canyons of Cidr‚o, Faj„ de Nogueira and Gato.

The problem is getting to the starting point and from the end, Achada do Teixeira, back down. You will have to improvise transportation by either chartering a taxi on both sides or having patient friends who may bring you up and down.

To save money you may take a bus from Funchal to Monte and negotiate a price with a taxi there to go up to Areeiro. From the other side at Achada do Teixeira, where the walk ends, you will have to take a taxi down to Santana on the north coast and then continue by bus.

As the average altitude of the walk leads you at around 1700 mts. across the heart of the island, beware of the weather:

Under normal conditions clouds appear almost certainly at around midday, sometimes even earlier. The best time to start is early   in the morning. The weather is still reliable and the views, especially for photo shots, are spectacular !

Sometimes in high summer you have nice weather all day round and then you may walk late, too. In August and September it can get hot even there, but clouds, rain and mist, strong winds can appear at any time of the year and change the conditions dramatically within hours.

Those mountain walkers who want to be sure of getting the best conditions as early as possible can stay overnight at the Pousada do Areeiro, or, in a more mountaineers way, take a tent and sleeping bag and put it up somewhere (not quite usual on the island, but...)

Pointing the way to Pico Grande

Be well prepared: most of the walkers underestimate the mountains ! Cold, wet and slippery conditions can turn the walk into a very severe one on its exposed parts.   Accurate predictable weather forecasts for the island are difficult to find, not only since the best ones are in Portuguese, but because Madeira enjoys several micro-climates Ė the best information is given at the airport, the least reliable by the local newspapers or the TV!

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