Pico do Areeiro, walking on Madeira’s sky
Pico do Areeiro, the 3rd higest peak of Madeira, offers breathtaking views. From here you can walk along the highest peaks of the island.
I have started the trip to Pico do Areeiro with high expectations as I have heard and read nothing but the highest compliments on its beauty. Nevertheless, alike Thomas the Apostle, I need to see before believing and the question “Is it really so astonishing?” kept crossing my mind while driving in the streets of Funchal on the way there.
Yet my doubtful and unfaithful mind surrendered to the evidence long before reaching my destination. In fact, the road from Funchal to Pico do Areeiro anticipates the magnificence of the 3rd highest peak of Madeira island with 1817 meters high. While the car winded along the mountain road I was being conquered by the imposing scenery of the green landscape making its way down to the clear blue waters of the Atlantic reflecting the sun as a mirror. Sometimes this set is interrupted by the sight of a small village at the distance, with houses so small that look like a lego city. The sound of the countless crystal water streams is so refreshing and calming that makes you want to stop the car to enjoy a gulp.
Finally I reached Pico do Areeiro and parked the car by the former Pico do Areeiro Inn that is unfortunately closed. The first thing that stroke me was the golden color of the Pico, then there was the view, the remarkable view of mountains of gold and green, Lilliputian villages at the distance and the mysterious mist coming through between some of the peaks. And there was also the sea, the irresistible sea of Madeira.
From here one may embark on a memorable journey along the highest peaks of the island. However, if heights give you vertigo or if you are not used to exercise it is advisable to stay at the small café enjoying a poncha (the typical and strong alcoholic drink of Madeira) or picking up some souvenirs at the gift shop. On the other hand if you are the adventurous type and a six hours walk (back and forth) does not scare you, I invite you to go from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo (1861 m). The track isn’t easy, in fact, it may be daring, but the views will reward the effort.
Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, preferably suitable for tracking, and a warm coat, as the temperature can be chilly and the wind may be strong. A lantern is also advisable as there are some passages through the rocks along the track.
Just a short distance from the Pico do Areeiro Inn you will find Ninho da Manta balcony (The Buzzard’s Nest balcony) from where you may observe Fajã da Nogueira Valley. Some species make their nests in this valley, including the Zinos Petrel, a Madeira native sea-bird in danger of extinction. Enjoy the scenery and move on to Pico das Torres, where a steep up through hundreds of steps excavated in the rock followed by a demanding down is waiting for you. Take your time before heading on to Casa do Abrigo do Pico Ruivo (Pico Ruivo’s hut), as the climbing to the top of the peak is considered the most difficult part of the track. For those who aren’t out of breath yet, nearby is the access to Achada do Teixeira , where the “Homem em Pé”, a basaltic rock formation with the shape of a standing man, is to be found.