Madeira’s High Country

It may come as a surprise that Madeira has a high country, but Pico Ruivo is Portugal’s third highest peak at 1861 m (6,106 ft). There is a fantastic hike from Pico do Arieiro at 1,818 metres (5,965 ft), Madeira’s third and Portugal’s 5th highest peak. We drove up in complete darkness to witness the sun rise before attempting to hike from one peak to the other.

The hike remained an attempt as before we arrived on the island it had snowed and that day was the first day the trail was reopened. Well, it probably should have remained closed for a few more days. We made it about 2/3 of the way to Pico Rivo before we came across a patch of snow covering the trail and the guard rail. There was no possibility of holding on on the cliff side and one false step would have you flying off into the abyss. We turned around, along with everyone who was there before and behind us. Still the hike offered spectacular views of the canyons and I’d highly recommend hiking the trail without snow.

The high country consists of an area with the highest peaks and a more or less flat area where the wind whistles across the land. It is not uncommon to find this plateau, called Paul da Serra, to be shrouded in thick, wet fog, as it was the first time we were on the island. In fact, we were surprised to be able to see the plateau under sunny skies the first time we ventured up. I had planned to photograph the old laurel trees (some 500 years old) in the fog. By the way, it was extremely peaceful to lie under those tress and listen to the wind rustle the leaves.

Two days later, we were up at the plateau again to hike the 25 Fontes trail. This time there was thick, wet fog and since we were in the area, we thought we might as well go see the trees in the fog. This time there was no rustling of the leaves, but rather complete quiet as the fog rolled about, at times thicker and then again lighter.

2 Replies to “Madeira’s High Country”

  1. You’re right. I never knew that Madeira had such high peaks, or that it ever snowed there! What a great adventure. And the ancient laurel trees are quite a sight.

  2. Aunt Gail says: Reply

    I’m so glad I get to see these amazing places through your eyes. Every photo makes me want to be there, except that mountain trail did look like a “hair raiser!” Love those laurel trees and the green velvet blanket covering the ground. All in all, a beautiful place!

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