This hike was fantastic. We lucked out with the weather, even though there was rain in the forecast, and had the most incredible day climbing up and down the stairs on the epic hike from Pico Arieiro (Madeira's third-highest peak) all the way across to Pico Ruivo, the highest summit on the island.
Considered the most beautiful hike in Madeira, I think I said "wow" at least 600 times. It felt like wandering through the mountains of Pandora (from the film Avatar), that's how spectacular these rock formations were. We hiked through tunnels and up and down plenty of elevation gain on this epic trail. It's not for those who don't like hikes, and I'd recommend solid prior hiking experience for this intricate track.
I joined a tour to do this hike as it is a one-way trek. The tour picked me up in Funchal just near my hostel, then dropped us off at the parking lot on Pico Arieiro. We then hiked 6km across to Pico Ruivo, before another 3km back down to the parking lot on the other end. The last 3km are much easier, practically flat, so that's a good return option (6km round-trip) if you're after something easier or quicker, but I can't recommend the full trek from Pico Arieiro enough. Book your tour here - the guide was wonderful, too.
PICO RUIVO HIKE DETAILS
When: year-round, but aim for a sunny day as it is dangerous to hike this path in the rain
Where: Madeira Island
Difficulty: intermediate, with some difficult sections and lots of stairs and elevation gain
Length: 4 hours one-way for 9km
Directions: start at the parking lot on Pico Arieiro, Madeira's third-highest summit. Follow the yellow and red signs for Pico Ruivo all the way to the summit, then back down to the parking lot at Achada do Teixeira
Bathrooms: yes, at the start at Pico Arieiro, at the summit of Pico Ruivo, and at the end of the hike at Achada do Teixeira
Public Transit: no, I joined a tour which dropped us off (including a great guide) at one end and picked us up at the other end