This is a hike on Porto Santo that I have named ‘The Three Peaks’ hike as it tours three of the top peaks on the island. The route takes you to Pico Juliana, Pico Castelo and Pico do Facho on a 9-kilometer round-trip adventure. It’s a steep trail but the panoramic views from the summit of each peak are well worth the arduous journey!
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY IN PORTO SANTO
PICO CASTELO, PICO DO FACHO & PICO JULIANA HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike was 9 kilometers on the circuit but there are a variety of options to shorten or lengthen the trail.
- Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 3 hours if you have a quick look at each viewpoint or probably 4-5 hours if you pack lunch and spend some time enjoying the view at each spot. The incline will slow you down a little also!
- Hike Difficulty: This trail isn’t too difficult with the hardest part being the incline. 666 meters of incline over just nine kilometers is quite steep and many will find that challenging. The trail itself was predominantly natural with dirt, clay, and gravel being the main surface underfoot. In several sections, you needed to scramble on the rocks a little bit but never with exposure to a drop-off and it wasn’t necessary unless you wanted to reach the very highest rock. You can enjoy the great views without scaling rocks like I was inclined to do. Overall, I’d say this trail can be done with kids who are used to a steep climb, and bringing a dog along would be reasonable.
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 666 meters.
- My Strava Map Upload: Three Peaks hike on Porto Santo
HOW TO GET TO ‘THE THREE PEAKS’ HIKE TRAILHEAD
This trail is actually my variation of one of the two official hikes on the island. It’s my version of the PR2 Vereda do Pico Castelo, which is one of only two recognized trails on the island and therefore is quite easy to find. On the northern side of the island, you will find the red and yellow sign next to the road.
The trail is marked with a pin location on the map below so you can plan your transit route. There is a gravel parking lot at the base of the hike. I actually rode my bike here from the southeast area of the island, which was a pretty uphill ride but definitely possible if you can climb a few hundred meters of elevation on the bike.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE PICO CASTELO, PICO DO FACHO & PICO JULIANA HIKE
The journey began at Vila Baleira hotel where I jumped on my bike and kicked things off on two wheels. It was a 20-minute ride with almost 300 meters of incline as I wound my way up the hills to the starting point of the hike. The map was really accurate and there was a red and yellow PR2 sign to mark the starting point of the trail. I chained the bike up to the trailhead sign and embarked on the gravel switchback section, which is how this trail begins.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t filled with too much hope when I began this trail. The gravel switchbacks were pretty dull and the sun was nowhere to be seen but the hike got more and more exciting as it went on. Never judge a hike by its first kilometer.
PICO JULIANA HIKE
The switchbacks took you up a pretty steep incline of almost 200 meters until you reached a junction. At this point, you can turn right and head towards Pico do Facho and Pico Castelo or you can turn left and summit Pico Juliana. I thought I would try and summit all three peaks so I headed up Pico Juliana, even though it wasn’t on the official route via the Madeira Hiking app.
The short trail up to Pico Juliana is defined in some sections with a nice path but the further you climb the wilder it gets. The final few hundred meters is a bit of a scramble up the rocks but there were no moments of exposure and you could stay far away from the edge as you clambered up the rocks on a makeshift path.
At the summit of Pico Juliana, you get to enjoy a view of the entire east coast of Porto Santo. You can catch a glimpse of Ilhéu das Cenouras, which is a small islet off the coast of Porto Santo. It’s at Pico Juliana where you can see the other two peaks that you will also be hiking to on this route. I could quickly see that it was going to be an exciting adventure. Here are some of the photos I captured on the drone from Pico Juliana.
VEREDA PICO CASTELO HIKE
After I descended from Pico Juliana, I then made my way over to the other two peaks. No matter which peak you choose to summit next, you will follow the same trail until you meet an intersection where you need to decide which one to climb first. I followed the trail through the forest, enjoying the views out to the north of the island.
When I reached the intersection, I decided to first summit Pico Castelo. It looked like it had a great view down to the east side of Porto Santo so it would be nice to see during the golden hour. I would save Pico do Facho for the final sunset moments of the day.
The climb up Vereda Pico Castelo is pretty steep but you have a defined path the whole way that wraps around the peak so it isn’t too much of a direct incline. At the summit, there was quite a bit of infrastructure. Cement stairs led up to a picnic table with a great view of Porto Santo. A house also sat atop the summit but I’m not sure of its use or what it was previously used for. The view from Pico Castelo was great but probably the least ‘epic’ of the three viewpoints. I enjoyed the view here before quickly heading down to summit Pico do Facho before the sun would set.
PICO DO FACHO HIKE
I descended along the same path that I had climbed to reach Pico Castelo and made my way back to the intersection. I then quickly trekked up the wide road to Pico do Facho. At a certain point, I darted off the road to the left and created my own way to the rocky outcrops near the cell tower. There is also another rocky outcrop a little further which is a nice viewpoint as well. I thought it was interesting to be up there with the ‘lunar-style’ cell tower looking directly out to the sunset.
This part of the hike is a little sketchy as I clambered along the rocky ridge to get right next to the cell tower. From here I had a great view as the sunset began to unfold before my eyes. After an entire day of grey skies, my faith and efforts were rewarded as the sun broke through a tiny gap between the ocean and the bottom of the cloud layer.
The glistening sun momentarily ignited the lining of the clouds with fluorescent orange. All alone upon the ridge, I took a deep breath and exhaled. Grateful to be out here on one of the highest peaks on Porto Santo Island witnessing an incredible sunset.
Of course, because I had stayed up on the ridge during sunset, I needed to hike back to the trailhead in the dark. I had a headlamp with me and the trail was pretty simple back to the parking lot. It’s important to note that you don’t need to go out on any of the rocks or ridges as part of the trail.
These are just optional little adventures atop the viewpoints and summits that I enjoy but you can do the entire hike without needing to go near the edge or take any risks. I made it back to the bike and had a great ride back down the hill to the east side of Porto Santo to complete my bike and hike adventure.
I hope you enjoyed this guide about ‘The Three Peak’s’ hike on Porto Santo Island, which includes Pico Juliana, Pico do Facho, and Pico Castelo. Happy hiking!
WHERE TO STAY ON PORTO SANTO
There are a lot of options on Porto Santo Island from big all-inclusive hotels to small Airbnb apartments. I’ve written a huge post about all of the best options when it comes to Porto Santo and you can check it out here: WHERE TO STAY ON PORTO SANTO ISLAND: 11 BEST RESORTS AND HOTELS
I stayed for five days at Vila Baleira Resort and five days at Hotel Porto Santo & Spa but also heard and saw great things about Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa. Here’s a quick glimpse at those three, beautiful beachside accommodations.
VILA BALEIRA RESORT
Vila Baleira Porto Santo (Luxury & All-inclusive): THIS IS WHERE I STAYED! Vila Baleira is a 4-star resort situated right on the golden sand beach of Porto Santo. The rooms are on one side of the road and the restaurant and pool area are directly next to the beach. I had the all-inclusive package, which meant we got a wristband when we arrived and then had buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as unlimited coffee and alcohol all day, every day.
Click here to check the best current rates and availability of Vila Baleira Porto Santo.
Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa (Luxury): This is a 5-star resort on Porto Santo Island and it is by the largest hotel group in Portugal. The moment you step in the resort you’ll be rewarded with a blissful setting and its world-class amenities. I would’ve liked to stay here and from everything, I heard while on the island, it is a pretty awesome place to stay. It’s the top pick for a hotel on Porto Santo Island if you want luxury!
Click here to check the best current rates and availability of Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa.
Hotel Porto Santo & Spa (Luxury): THIS IS WHERE I STAYED! Another classy, 4-star resort is Hotel Porto Santo & Spa where I stayed for my second 5-day period on my 10-day trip to Porto Santo Island. I’d happily recommend this Porto Santo hotel for couples and those looking for beachfront luxury with a very relaxing atmosphere. On top of that, the spa has a Turkish bath, a heated pool, massage rooms, relaxation spots, hot sand therapy, and more. Not to mention the restaurant serves fresh local dishes.
Click here to check the best current rates and availability of Hotel Porto Santo & Spa.