Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in Madeira - PR1 Hiking Details and Tips
Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in Madeira - PR1 Hiking Details and Tips

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in Madeira - PR1 Hiking Details and Tips


When Is the Best Time

The most popular and spectacular hike in Madeira is the PR1 from Pico do Arieiro (1816m) to Pico Ruivo (1862m), the highest mountain of Madeira

The Stairway to Heaven between Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo
The "Stairway to Heaven" is roughly a 30-minute hike from Pico Arieiro

I will give you all the important details for this bucket-list hike, where the Stairway to Heaven is located, what to consider and pack, and my top tip to get the most out of this unique and demanding hike and place.

Is it Worth Visiting Pico do Arieiro?

The sunset from Pico Arieiro above the clouds
The spectacular sunset from Pico do Arieiro.

Pico Arieiro is a Must and easy to reach by car. From the parking, it is a short walk to the peak and also to the sunset spot. You reach the Arieiro peak on a staircase only but the sunset spot is wheelchair accessible.

The view to the north east with a few clouds
You are able to see the Sao Lourenco Peninsula on a clear day.

The views from the summit to the cloudier north part with its dramatic coastline, the mountain range with Madeira's highest mountains and the sunrise and sunset all is spectacular from here.

How to Get to Pico do Arieiro?

Pico Arieiro in Madeira at sunset
Pico Arieiro's white radar installation belonging to the NATO station of the Portuguese Air Force

There is no public transport to get there, but Madeira's taxi system is sufficient and not expensive. From Funchal, it takes roughly 40 minutes on winding roads to get to the parking of the third-highest mountain of Madeira.

The pride of Madeira along the winding roads to Pico Arieiro
In May and June you are able to see the "Pride of Madeira" along the roads.

The "Pride of Madeira" is native to this island. The plants can grow to a height of 1,5-2,5 m.

Best Time to Hike PR1 from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Hiking Sign for PR1 to Pico Ruivo
To the right is the staircase to the summit of Pico do Arieiro and to the left starts PR1.

Madeira is a great destination throughout the year. However, in the summer, Madeira is crowded and in the winter, snow can occur at this high elevation. Therefore, the best time to hike Pico Arieiro and for watching the sunset regarding crowds and snow are spring and autumn, March/April until June and September to November.

The Best Daytime for Pico Arieiro

Steep hike already in the beginning from Arieiro to Ruivo
What a spectacular view and hike already in the beginning

Often Pico Arieiro offers better views in the morning, being above the clouds which rise up during the day. However, if it is a clear day, the sunset is spectacular from here. If you plan to hike PR 1, start early for two reasons, there is limited space at the car park and for breathtaking views just in case clouds roll in at midday.

Top Tip for Pico Arieiro

Hikers on the trail and view to the clouds in the north
The clouds in the north - view close to Pico Ruivo

You never know how the weather will be 1800 m above sea level. Check the webcam of Pico Arieiro before you venture out and drive the long and steep road to the summit on a less cloudy day. Due to the elevation, it is possible to end up in clouds. Webcam Pico Arieiro

Parking at Pico do Arieiro

The main car park at Pico Arieiro
The car park next to the peak.

There is limited parking, and if you plan to hike PR1, come early otherwise, you may be forced to wait for half an hour or so to get a space when day visitors leave the mountain. Google Maps Parking

However, there is a new overflow parking one kilometre before the main parking at Pico do Arieiro. Google Maps overflow parking

Hiking Trail Description

Information board for the Pico do Arieiro hike
PR1 also called Vereda do Areeiro - information board high resolution

This mountain hike is the most famous one and for sure one of the best with fantastic views. Most important to know is the trail is exposed in sections, and the track almost only descends or ascends. If you are not used to climbing mountains, it is a leg burner. This is the most strenuous hike of all, and even I had aching calves the next day.

A breathtaking scenery where a never ending staircase is leading through
The endless staircase that was carved into the rock.
  • Trail length: 12.2 km, the longer and easier route doesn’t exist any longer
  • Duration: 4-6 hours for the more experienced and up to 8 hours for the less trained
  • Elevation gain: 1,132 m one way – yes, more than 2,250 m
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • A map is not necessary for this hike, the trail is very well-marked like all hikes in Madeira.
A hiker and plenty of hiking sign at Pico Ruivo
And more steps shortly before you reach Pico Ruivo.

The trail from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is well maintained, and some parts are surfaced with cobblestones, but be careful they are a bit slippery when wet.

The first viewpoint along PR1 Pico do Arieiro
Miradouro do Ninho da Manta - already the first viewpoint offers fantastic views.

The first viewpoint along this track is Miradouro do Ninho da Manta, which is also phenomenal for the sunrise, and it takes just 20 minutes to get here.

Where is the Stairway to Heaven in Madeira?

The steep staircase with a blue sky in the back
The "Stairway to Heaven" above the clouds in the afternoon.

Very famous, and an Instagram spot is the Stairway to Heaven. If you wish to walk until here, it may take half an hour. The light is terrible in the morning and excellent in the afternoon if you want to take great shots here. So, the best time with the perfect sunlight for this awesome location, the "Stairway to Heaven", is the afternoon on a sunny day. 

  • Trail length to Stairway to Heaven: 1,2 km - return 2,3 km
  • Hiking Duration: roughly 30 minutes one way
  • Hiking Map until the stairs by Locus Map App
View out of one of the tunnels.
There are plenty of tunnels - a headlamp is well-needed.

You walk through several tunnels along the route. The longest and almost straightforward tunnel leads through the second-highest mountain of Madeira, Pico das Torres (1851 m). I was glad to have my headlamp in my backpack.

A narrow and exposed part of the track with broom to the right
In May, yellow broom flowers along the hiking trail

I can guarantee for this hike that you need a proper lunch or sandwiches and energy food for this plenty of calories burning hike. When I hiked these steep steps down, I was already aware of the ascent on the way back, which is hard in summer during the midday heat.

The mountain hut nestled in a breathtaking landscape.
The mountain hut "Casa de Abrigo" shortly before Pico Ruivo.

Shortly before you reach Pico Ruivo (1862m), you pass by a mountain hut where you are able to get beverages, and food, and you can stay here overnight. Pico Ruivo offers outstanding views.

Hikers at the viewpoint on Pico Ruivo.
The beautiful viewpoint at the end of the track.

It is the highest mountain of Madeira, but the peak itself was crowded, and I soon returned the same way back.

The summit of Pico Ruivo was a little crowded
You are able to see Pico Arieiro from Pico Ruivo on a clear day.

Don't miss out on my guide for Sao Lourenco, the eastern tip of Madeira.

The breathtaking high cliffs and volcanic rocks.
Miradouro de Sao Lourenco viewpoint - another great hike in Madeira.



Where to Stay? My Top Recommendations


Calheta Beach Resort perfectly located
The Calheta Beach Resort is perfectly located next to Calheta Beach.

The Calheta Beach Resort is excellently located in front of the beach and sea, and within walking distance is a small supermarket Pingo Doce. It is shallow water here and, in combination with the sand beach excellent for children. Swimming is best at high tide, and snorkelling is amazing. Due to the breakwater, the bay and beach are well protected from powerful waves and currents. It is one of the very few sandy beaches in Madeira.

Ponta do Sol

Ponta do Sol Promenade and bay
The breakwater protects the bay.

This town is located in the south, and it is one of the sunniest places in Madeira. There is an interesting historic town centre, lovely restaurants, and one of our favourite spots for swimming. The protected bay is well laid out.

Promenade and Hotels in Ponta do Sol
Several hotels in front of the beach.

There are lots of highly-rated hotels in Ponta do Sol. These hotels (by booking.com) are opposite the fantastic sunny bay.

Thanks for booking via my website. With your support, I am able to provide all my guides for free.

Best Months to Visit


Related Topics

Location and Tips


This hiking trail is challenging for those not used to climbing mountains. The entire track took me less than 4 hours, but I live in the mountains and climb to the summits weekly. If you don't have any knee issues, you should do this exceptional hike.

Steep part with hundred of steps from Arieiro to Ruivo and back
Demanding steps on the entire trail from Arieiro to Ruivo and back

It is a leg burner but worth the effort. Calculate roughly 6 hours, including several breaks. The hike leads through several long and dark tunnels. You climb lots of steps and staircases. This demanding trail offers everything in one day. Even if you stay here for a week only, this trail is a Must-Do!

A hiker on the narrow and exposed track
Oskar, my fellow hiker on the way back - the exposed sections are secured with a rope.

Watch the sunset afterwards if you do this hike with a clear blue sky. You won't regret it. Overall, it is one of the most spectacular mountain hikes with jaw-dropping scenery. 

Packing Checklist for Pico Arieiro 

A group of hikers on the Pico Arieiro trail
Even with such a blue sky, be aware that the weather can change quickly.
  • A wind jacket and fleece pullover, it is windy up here, and the weather can change quickly.
  • Plenty of water, especially in summer.
  • Have a proper lunch and energy food for the demanding hike.
  • A headlamp for the tunnels and the winter with shorter daylight hours.
  • Sun protection: sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses - the sun is intense 1,800 m above the sea.

Would you like to know more about Madeira? Check out my new guides with tips for an excellent stay on this breathtaking island of Portugal.

Map Madeira with 19 Highlights
The 19 Highlights from our YouTube video. Map high resolution

Who Are We?

A female photograper at a viewpoint on Pico Arieiro
My husband Markus took this photo before we watched the sunset.

We are passionate travellers, and I started my first project already in 2015. I would like to share some of the most beautiful places and hikes with you from my own experience. It is a tough business nowadays, and we can't live from it. Fake content and stolen pictures are common today. Do you wish to know more? Check out my article on how you can unmask such fake travel websites: 11 Sneaky Ways Travel Websites May Trick You.

Do you like to support me? Share this article on social media, subscribe to our YouTube Channel or check out my About Me for more information.

Do you want to obtain the usage right for my images? Contact me, but I will take action against picture theft.

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