If you are in a hurry, one day is enough to visit the central part of the island. This route includes Curral das Freias, Eira do serrado, Pico do Arieiro and Ribeiro frio. This route includes really narrow roads so please be careful while driving. Also, try go choose it for a sunny day, because otherwise you will not see anything because of the clouds. I drove this on the first day in Madeira and it was a challenge as I was not used to the roads. But it was the only not cloudy day in the mountains so it was worth it. 🙂
Getting down to the valley
We were staying in Calheta so it took some time to drive to the first stop – Curral das Freias. This town was remote from the rest of the island until 60s as it is deep down in the valley and there were no good roads to lead there. Now there is a tunnel but still you will have some fun curves to deal with. It is very cosy and nice. Especially when you see how hills are surrounding you and the only way back is the way you came.
Eira do Serrado
Next stop was the viewpoint of Eira do Serrado. The best way to get there from Curral das Freias is to go back up the tunnel and turn right for the viewpoint. Our Google maps got crazy and was sending us to the road that looked more as a dead end and not a road. So be careful with your GPS, it might lead you to the old roads or very narrow streets. Also on the way to Eira do Serrado be careful for the touristic busses. Other than that, views are amazing and totally worth the drive up. There is also a restaurant there but all restaurants are expensive in these touristic locations.
Pico do Arieiro
From Eira do Serrado to the peak of Arieiro is a very beautiful new road, no busses go there. Also it is closed at nights so be sure not to drive too late. On the way you can stop in some more viewpoints – there are signs on the road. If you have food you can even make picnic in one of them. Pico do Arieiro is the starting point of the path that leads to Pico do Ruivo – the highest peak in Madeira. It is 5 km one way so you should give yourself some hours to walk there and back. We did not take that way as we were short with time. But the path is really beautiful, going on the peaks. Of course that means some going up and down so wear comfortable shoes and bring some water and snacks with you. Otherwise just to see the views you do not need much time. But the trip is so worth it – it is one of my favourite spots in Madeira.
Ribeiro frio or the cold river is a place where 2 levadas start. Also there is a nice restaurant with normal prices to eat before a walk. One levada that starts right next to the restaurant is very easy. Goes along levada in the forest – if you are looking for a relaxing walk – that is a good choice. Another one is more challenging but the views are amazing also.
So if you are staying longer in Madeira you can do this route in 2 days and go for a hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico do Ruivo and also in levada in Ribeiro frio. Otherwise it is more of a driving day from one viewpoint to another. Enjoy!