Like other islands, Madeira, and the surrounding archipelago, was created by volcanic activity, making it a mountainous landscape with a myriad of hills, valleys and craters. So in this article, since I’ve talked about the seaside city of Funchal and inner forests and levadas of Balcões and Queimadas, I’m going to go all the way up, to the tallest mountains in all of Madeira, starting with Pico do Areeiro! Above the sea of clouds.
Pico do Areeiro is the lowest of a trio of mountains that constitute the tallest mountain range in Madeira, the other being Pico das Torres and Pico Ruivo. It is also the one with the best access. Due to the location of an airforce base next to the viewpoint, it has a road that leads directly to the peak, unlike Torres, which inaccessible or Ruivo, which has a long trail that I’ll elaborate more on in the future. But if your a hiking lover don’t be discouraged because from the peak of Areeiro you find many trail to take will lead you on the incredible mountain landscapes, including two trails that lead to Pico Ruivo that pass through Pico das Torres, that include steep hills and even tunnels! (use of a flashlight is advised).
But going back to the journey there. Even though it was made by car, it is still a surprisingly soothing experience, since you’ll get to see the really diverse ecosystems present in Madeira. In one day I managed to go from the more urban area, pass through a dense, and humid forest, go up above the clouds to a mountain peak and then go down to a more dry, beach area… It really is unlike what I see on mainland Portugal. So be sure to enjoy the trip, on the way you’ll see amazing and even curious things, like the Poço de Neve, an old structure (similar to an igloo) that used to contain and preserve ice to be transported to the cities below!
On the top you’ll see true wonder of theses peaks: The breathtaking view. On one side you’ll get a privileged view of the center of Madeira, the now extinguished volcano that originated the island, and on the other you’ll see a sea of clouds, all colliding on the hill sides and forming a white blanket that covers the life below. I didn’t hike on Pico do Areeiro, but I did take my time to really take in the view from the viewpoint.
For this type of trail I’ll leave a similar warning as the one on the levadas: Be careful! The rocky terrain can be unstable at some parts and can crumble if you’re not careful. Unlike the levadas though I advise caution with the wind and the sun, since you’re in high altitudes the wind can be strong and due to the fact that the peak rises above the clouds, the sun rays will hit you directly, so bring water and sunscreen!
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