A marvellous 11 km trek amongst the highest peaks of Madeira, with stunning views. The track is generally very well maintained and the potentially scary sections with sheer drops have the reassurance of steel wire handrails with steel supports - only one small section had a broken handrail, which by ‘sod’s law’ was adjacent to a sheer drop!
You should be quite fit and have very strong knees to attempt this trek, as there are lots of very steep descents via steps that are cut into the rock. My wife and I are both over 60 but we are considered very fit. We walk regularly, swim, do daily stretches, and do 3 x 1 hour resistance gym workouts per week that include energetic leg exercises such as squats, seated leg extensions, and prone leg curls. However, we both suffered knee stress when descending the very steep and very extensive steps. There are tunnels on the route and it is best to take your own ultra bright LED torch. Also, you should wear good hiking footwear.
We went on a guided trek with ‘Madeira Explorers’ and were collected from our hotel by a minibus, and after a small number of stops to pick up others we were driven to Pico Ariero and dropped off to begin the trek. A limited number of crude wooden walking staffs were available from our guide, so if you like good walking poles it is best to take your own. We then trekked to Pico Ruivo and ended at the car park for Achada do Teixeira, where we were picked up by the minibus and driven back to our hotels or other pickup points. Well most of the party were driven to their original pick up points but the party of four from our hotel were dumped the other side of a busy road that was adjacent to our hotel, as this was more convenient for the driver! I wouldn’t recommend ‘Madeira Explorers’ from our experience, as our Madeiran guide was rather surly and had no concept of customer care/service. It would have been a much better experience with a friendly and helpful guide, but you pay your money and ...
There is a way to enjoy the best scenery of this trek without knee stress that is also very convenient if you have a hire car. Simply drive northwards to Santana on the ER101 and turn off left onto the ER 218, which terminates at the car park for Achada do Teixeira. Park the car and walk towards Pico Ruivo along the well signposted track, enjoying the best scenery of the whole trek but without many steps. It is only a couple of km to Pico Ruivo, which at 1862m is the highest point and has spectacular views over the whole island.
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