The Pico do Alto ridge hike is one of the most incredible adventures on the north coast of Madeira Island. The ridge will test the vertigo of hikers while providing incredible views of Sao Jorge on one side of the ridge and Boaventura on the other side. The ocean and mountains combine to make this one of the most scenic trails on the island.
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY IN MADEIRA
PICO DO ALTO RIDGE HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of my hike was 10.65 kilometers for the loop trail.
- Hike Duration: The hike duration was 7 hours but only 3.5 hours of moving time. We had to clear many sections of the path so it was very slow going. If it’s clear, you could expect five hours I think.
- Hike Difficulty: This hike is one I would list as moderately difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly the incline is 769 meters, which is a pretty steep journey. Secondly, the terrain is a mixture of rocky stairs, muddy tracks, and slippery descents. You have to be prepared for it all. There are a few moments of exposure and lots of scrambling.
- My hiking guide: I did this hike with a local guide (also a great friend) called João. He’s lived in Madeira his whole life and knows all of the unique trails (not just the popular ones). This trail requires some local knowledge of the directions so I recommend a guide. Want to contact João to be your guide for this hike or any of the hikes I’ve done on Madeira? You can contact him on Instagram here: João Let’s Hike or by email: [email protected]
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 769 meters.
- My Strava Map Upload: Pico do Alto Ridge Hike
MY 3 FAVORITE TOURS IN MADEIRA
- Dolphin & Whale Watching: Take a cruise from Funchal to spot Dolphins, Whales and see amazing views of Madeira’s coastline!
- Hike Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo: Hike the most epic trail on the island with a qualified guide!
- Level 1 Canyoning Adventure: Rappel down waterfalls in this high-adrenaline experience.
HOW TO GET TO THE PICO DO ALTO RIDGE HIKE
The Pico do Alto hike has many alternate options for routes to the summit but we began at the Boaventura side of the tunnel that links Sao Jorge and Boaventura. There is a small space here to park the car. I’ve added the pin location for the parking and tunnel on the map below.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE PICO DO ALTO RIDGE HIKE
Boaventura is a bit of an underrated region in Madeira when it comes to hiking. I’ve done a couple of hikes now in Boaventura and both have blown me away. The first hike I did here was the Levada dos Tornos and it was an incredible forest levada walk. This time, we were going off-the-beaten-track with the guys from Madeira Lés a Lés, which is a hiking group that does off-the-beaten-path adventures every Saturday.
The hike began at the tunnel, which links Boaventura to Sao Jorge. We hiked up through the houses in the foothills on the Boaventura side. It was a very steep ascent through thick trees on what was, at times, quite an undefined trail. Even in the early sections of the trail, we had great views of Boaventura.
The hike follows the Caminho do Cabeço out from Boaventura until we emerge at the ridge-line in between Boaventura and Sao Jorge. This stunning ridge offers some of the best views I’ve seen on Madeira. On one side you have the beauty of Boaventura town, the valley, and the incredible backdrop of mountains. In front of you is the coastline with glimpses of Porto Moniz in the distance. To the right is the rugged coast in front of Sao Jorge, a stunning coastal town. I really didn’t know where to look! This is Pico do Alto, the focal point of the hike.
The hike now heads inland along the ridge. It’s a very rugged trail and our guides had to clear a lot of branches and bushes that had overgrown the route. It had a few moments of exposure and slippery sections of trail but overall wasn’t too dangerous. We were quite lucky with the weather as we enjoyed brilliant sunshine at the coast but then as we moved inland, moody clouds began to form behind the mountains creating a wonderful atmosphere near Pico do Arco.
The trail now dips down into the forest and the views die off for a while on our journey to the next point of interest on the hike. We wind our way through some more dense paths until we reach the unbelievably manicured site of Miradouro das Voltas. This viewpoint offers panoramic views over Boaventura.
The incline is done for the day and we now follow Vereda das Voltas back down through the forest until we reach the lush surroundings at the Levada das Faias. From there we take the Caminho do Cabeço back to our starting point near the tunnel. This steep descent was very scenic with the late afternoon sun painting the lush surroundings in golden light.
I hope you enjoyed this guide about the Pico do Alto hike on Madeira Island. Happy hiking and stay safe out there!
WONDERING ABOUT WHERE TO STAY ON MADEIRA?
Throughout my six months on Madeira Island, I stayed in multiple accommodations. My favorite regions to stay in were Funchal and Canico de Baixo. I’ve created several guides to help you find the right region for you and a great hotel or apartment.
- The ultimate guide: WHERE TO STAY ON MADEIRA: WHICH REGION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
- If you want luxury: BEST 5-STAR LUXURY HOTELS ON MADEIRA ISLAND
- To feel at home: TOP 10 BOUTIQUE HOTELS ON MADEIRA ISLAND
- If you want to base in Funchal: WHERE TO STAY IN FUNCHAL: 15 TOP-RATED HOTELS
HAVE YOU READ MY OTHER MADEIRA BLOGS?
I spent six months exploring Madeira and the nearby island of Porto Santo. These are some of my most popular guides about the region that you may be interested in.
- My favorite hikes: 65 AWESOME HIKES ON MADEIRA
- My favorite levada walks: 25 BEAUTIFUL LEVADA WALKS ON MADEIRA
- The best waterfalls on the island: 25 EPIC WATERFALLS ON MADEIRA
- Guide to the best Accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON MADEIRA
- Hardest hike: THE MADEIRA ISLAND ULTRA TRAIL IN 4 DAYS (115KM)
- Longest hike: CAMINHO REAL 23: MADEIRA’S ROYAL PATH (180KM)