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Curral Das Freiras (Nun’s Valley) To Pico Ruivo Hike, Madeira


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Candice Joe



Welcome to the breathtaking island of Madeira, a Portuguese gem nestled in the North Atlantic Ocean. Known for its stunning landscapes, lush forests, and awe-inspiring hiking trails, Madeira offers a diverse range of outdoor adventures for nature enthusiasts. One such adventure is the hike from Curral Das Freiras (Nun’s Valley) to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island.


Curral Das Freiras, also known as Nun’s Valley, is a picturesque village located in the heart of Madeira. Surrounded by towering mountains and steep cliffs, this remote and secluded village offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city life. Legend has it that the nuns sought refuge here in the 16th century during pirate attacks, hence the name Nun’s Valley.


Pico Ruivo, standing at an impressive 1,862 meters (6,109 feet) above sea level, is the crown jewel of Madeira’s hiking trails. The trail from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo provides hikers with an unforgettable journey through the island’s dramatic landscapes, offering panoramic views of rugged peaks, deep valleys, and sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean.


Embarking on this hike not only allows you to immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty of Madeira but also provides a rewarding challenge for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are an experienced hiker looking for a new adventure or a beginner seeking to push your limits, the Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo hike is a must-do on your Madeira itinerary.


In this guide, we will provide you with all the essential information you need to know before embarking on this exhilarating hiking adventure. From getting to Curral Das Freiras and trailhead information to highlights of the hike and safety tips, we’ve got you covered. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your water bottle, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the stunning landscapes of Madeira.


Overview of Curral Das Freiras (Nun’s Valley)

Curral Das Freiras, or Nun’s Valley, is a charming village located in the heart of Madeira. Surrounded by towering mountains, with steep cliffs and lush greenery, this picturesque valley offers a unique and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The name “Nun’s Valley” originates from a legend that nuns sought refuge in the valley during pirate attacks in the 16th century.


The village is nestled in a natural amphitheater, surrounded by the mountains of Madeira. As you enter Curral Das Freiras, you’ll be greeted by quaint houses with terracotta roofs, colorful flowers, and narrow winding streets. The peaceful atmosphere and stunning natural beauty make it a beloved destination for nature lovers, photographers, and those seeking a peaceful retreat.


Curral Das Freiras is also renowned for its sweet chestnuts, which have been an important part of the local economy for centuries. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of the local delicacies made with chestnuts, such as chestnut cake or liqueur.


There are several viewpoints in and around Curral Das Freiras that offer breathtaking panoramic views of the valley and its surroundings. From Pico dos Cedros viewpoint, you can marvel at the valley’s beauty while enjoying a picnic or simply taking in the tranquility of the surroundings. Another popular viewpoint is Eira do Serrado, which provides a bird’s eye view of the village and its amphitheater-like setting.


Curral Das Freiras is not only a destination in itself but also serves as a starting point for various hiking trails, including the challenging hike to Pico Ruivo. Its central location makes it convenient to explore other attractions on the island, such as Funchal, Madeira’s capital city, and the stunning coastline.


Whether you are seeking a peaceful retreat, want to explore the scenic beauty of Madeira’s mountains, or are looking for a basecamp for hiking adventures, Curral Das Freiras is a destination that will captivate your heart and leave you with lasting memories.


Overview of Pico Ruivo Hike

The Pico Ruivo hike is a thrilling and challenging adventure that takes you to the highest peak of Madeira, offering breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment. Standing at 1,862 meters (6,109 feet) above sea level, Pico Ruivo provides panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.


The starting point of the hike is Curral Das Freiras, a village nestled in a valley surrounded by towering mountains. The trail to Pico Ruivo is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long and takes around 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on your pace and fitness level.


The hike is a combination of challenging ascents and descents, steep staircases carved into the mountainside, and narrow ridges, making it suitable for experienced hikers or those with a good level of fitness. However, with proper preparation and caution, even beginners can enjoy this adventure.


As you make your way up the trail, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the lush greenery of Madeira, with the diverse flora and fauna adding to the beauty of the hike. Along the way, you’ll pass through tunnels, traverse rugged terrain, and venture through clouds, creating a sense of excitement and wonder.


The highlight of the hike is reaching the summit of Pico Ruivo, where you’ll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring panorama. On a clear day, you can see the neighboring islands of Porto Santo and Desertas, as well as the dramatic landscape of Madeira itself. It is an experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s grandeur.


It is important to note that the weather conditions at the summit of Pico Ruivo can be unpredictable, with mist and cloud cover rolling in quickly. It is advisable to check the weather forecast and bring appropriate clothing, including layers and a waterproof jacket, to ensure your comfort and safety during the hike.


As you descend from Pico Ruivo, you can take a moment to reflect on the incredible journey you’ve just embarked upon. The Pico Ruivo hike is not just about reaching the summit; it’s about immersing yourself in the raw beauty of Madeira, challenging yourself, and creating memories that will last a lifetime.


So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to conquer the heights of Pico Ruivo – an experience that will leave you exhilarated and in awe of the wonders of nature.


Getting to Curral Das Freiras

Curral Das Freiras, also known as Nun’s Valley, is located in the heart of Madeira, offering a secluded and picturesque destination for nature enthusiasts. While it may seem tucked away, getting to Curral Das Freiras is relatively straightforward, with multiple transportation options available.


By Car: Driving to Curral Das Freiras is a popular option for those who prefer flexibility and independence. From Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, you can take the VR1 highway towards Monte, and then follow the signs leading to Curral Das Freiras. The drive takes approximately 25 minutes, offering scenic views along the winding mountain roads.


By Bus: Madeira’s public transportation network provides regular bus services to Curral Das Freiras. From Funchal, you can take the Rodoeste bus number 81, which operates multiple times a day. The journey takes about 45 minutes and offers a comfortable and affordable way to reach Curral Das Freiras.


By Organized Tour: If you prefer a hassle-free experience, joining an organized tour is a convenient option. Many tour operators offer day trips to Curral Das Freiras, providing transportation from Funchal, guided tours, and the opportunity to explore other attractions in the area.


No matter which mode of transportation you choose, it’s important to note that the roads leading to Curral Das Freiras are narrow and winding, with steep inclines and sharp turns. Take caution while driving or rely on experienced drivers if you’re not comfortable with the terrain.


Once you arrive in Curral Das Freiras, you can park your car in the designated parking areas or hop off the bus at the village center. From there, you can start your hiking adventure to Pico Ruivo or explore the village’s charming streets and local shops.


Whether you prefer to drive, take the bus, or join a guided tour, getting to Curral Das Freiras is a journey worth taking. As you make your way to this hidden paradise, prepare yourself for the breathtaking beauty of Madeira’s mountains and the unspoiled wonders of Nun’s Valley.


Trailhead and Route Information

The trailhead for the hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is located in the village itself. You can easily access the trailhead by following the signs or asking for directions from the locals. The starting point is clearly marked, making it convenient for hikers to begin their adventure.


Before embarking on the hike, it is recommended to check the current trail conditions and weather forecast. The weather in Madeira can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared for changes in temperature, wind, and visibility, especially as you ascend to higher altitudes.


The trail from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long, with an elevation gain of around 650 meters (2,132 feet). The path is well-maintained and clearly marked, ensuring that hikers stay on track and enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience.


The route to Pico Ruivo consists of a combination of ascents and descents, steep staircases, and narrow ridges. The trail provides hikers with a diverse and challenging terrain, offering a sense of accomplishment and adventure.


As you ascend, you’ll pass through tunnels carved into the mountainside, adding an exciting element to the hike. These tunnels not only provide a unique experience but also protect hikers from potential adverse weather conditions, such as strong winds or heavy rainfall.


Throughout the hike, there are several viewpoints and resting areas where you can take a break, enjoy the breathtaking scenery, and replenish your energy. These spots offer opportunities to capture memorable photographs and soak in the natural beauty of Madeira.


The trail from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is a one-way route, meaning that you will need to make arrangements for transportation back to your starting point. You can either arrange for a pick-up service or opt to hike back the same way you came, depending on your preferences and available time.


It’s important to note that due to the challenging nature of the trail, it is recommended to start the hike early in the day to allow ample time for breaks, photos, and rest stops. This also helps to avoid any potential overcrowding on the trail, especially during peak tourist season.


With the trailhead easily accessible and the route well-marked, hiking from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo promises an unforgettable adventure through the stunning landscapes of Madeira. So, lace up your hiking boots and get ready to experience the beauty and thrill of this remarkable trail.


Highlights of the Hike

The hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is an extraordinary adventure that offers a multitude of highlights along the way. From the breathtaking scenery to the sense of accomplishment at reaching the summit, here are some of the memorable highlights of this hike:


1. Spectacular Panoramic Views: As you ascend to higher altitudes, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramic views of Madeira’s rugged mountains, deep valleys, and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. These vistas provide unforgettable photo opportunities and a sense of awe in the face of nature’s majesty.


2. Stunning Landscapes: The hike takes you through diverse landscapes ranging from lush forests to rocky ridges. You’ll walk amidst vibrant flora, including colorful wildflowers, towering pine trees, and moss-covered rocks, adding to the enchanting atmosphere of the trail.


3. Magnificent Tunnels: Venturing through tunnels carved into the mountainside is a unique and thrilling aspect of this hike. These tunnels not only provide shelter from potential adverse weather conditions but also add an element of excitement and adventure to the journey.


4. Challenging Terrain: The trail presents various challenging terrains, including steep ascents and descents, staircases, and narrow ridges. Overcoming these obstacles requires physical fitness, determination, and a spirit of adventure, making the experience even more rewarding.


5. Sense of Accomplishment: Reaching the summit of Pico Ruivo, the highest peak in Madeira, is a triumphant moment in the hike. Standing atop this majestic peak, with the winds gently caressing your face, you’ll experience a sense of accomplishment and awe at what you have achieved.


6. Breathtaking Sunrise or Sunset: For those who are up for an early start or wish to experience the hike in the late afternoon, witnessing the sunrise or sunset from Pico Ruivo is an unforgettable experience. The changing colors of the sky, coupled with the sweeping vistas, create a magical and serene atmosphere.


7. Wildlife Encounters: Keep an eye out for the island’s unique wildlife as you hike. Madeira is home to several species of birds, including the endemic Trocaz Pigeon and the Madeira Firecrest. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some lizards basking in the sunshine along the trail.


These highlights, combined with the sense of adventure and connection with nature, make the hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Difficulty Level and Safety Tips

The hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is considered challenging and suitable for experienced hikers or those with a good level of fitness. Here are some important difficulty level and safety tips to keep in mind before embarking on this adventure:


1. Physical Fitness: This hike involves steep ascents and descents, staircases, and narrow ridges. It requires a good level of physical fitness and endurance. It is recommended to engage in regular physical activity and prepare yourself physically before attempting this hike.


2. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with good traction to navigate the sometimes uneven and rocky terrain. Proper footwear will provide stability and protect your feet and ankles during the hike.


3. Check Weather Conditions: Before starting the hike, be sure to check the weather forecast. Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, so it’s essential to be prepared for potential rain, fog, or sudden drops in temperature. Dress in layers and bring a waterproof jacket, especially during the cooler months.


4. Carry Ample Water and Snacks: Hydration is crucial during the hike, so carry enough water to keep yourself well-hydrated. Additionally, pack energy-rich snacks to keep your energy levels up throughout the hike.


5. Stick to the Marked Trail: The trail is well-marked with visible signs and markers. It’s important to stay on the designated path to avoid getting lost or encountering dangerous areas. Deviating from the trail can lead to hazardous situations.


6. Respect Nature and Wildlife: As you hike, respect the fragile ecosystem and wildlife of Madeira. Do not disturb or harm any plants or animals along the trail. Stick to designated paths and avoid venturing off into protected areas.


7. Hike with a Buddy: It is recommended to hike with a companion for added safety and support. Having someone else with you can be beneficial in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.


8. Be Prepared with First Aid: Carry a basic first aid kit with essential supplies, such as band-aids, antiseptic solution, and pain relievers. This way, you can handle minor injuries or discomfort during the hike.


9. Inform Others of Your Plans: Before setting off on the hike, inform someone about your plans, including the expected duration and the route you will be taking. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can take action if needed.


10. Respect Your Own Limits: Know your own physical limitations and stamina. If you feel fatigued or encounter any physical discomfort during the hike, it’s important to listen to your body and take necessary breaks or even turn back if needed.


By considering these difficulty level and safety tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience during the hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo. Adventure awaits, so make sure you are well-prepared and ready to conquer the challenges of this remarkable trail.


What to Pack for the Hike

Proper packing is essential for a successful and enjoyable hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo. Here is a list of essential items to pack before embarking on this adventure:

1. Hiking Gear: – Sturdy hiking boots with good traction – Comfortable hiking socks – Lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for hiking – Hat or cap to protect from the sun – Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare 2. Backpack Essentials: – Ample water to stay hydrated throughout the hike (at least 2 liters) – Energy-rich snacks such as trail mix, energy bars, or fruits – Basic first aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic solution, and pain relievers – Map or guidebook of the trail – Compass or GPS device for navigation 3. Weather Protection: – Waterproof jacket or shell in case of rain or windy conditions – Extra layers of clothing to adjust to changing weather conditions – Sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn – Insect repellent, especially during the summer months 4. Other Essentials: – Fully charged mobile phone with important contacts saved – Cash or credit card for emergencies or any purchases along the way – Lightweight and compact camera to capture the stunning scenery – Binoculars for a closer look at the panoramic views – Small towel or bandana to wipe away sweat or clean yourself 5. Optional Gear: – Hiking poles for added stability and support, especially during steep ascents and descents – Portable battery pack to charge your electronic devices – Portable rain cover or poncho for added protection during heavy rain Remember to pack lightly and efficiently, as you will be carrying your backpack throughout the hike. It’s important to strike a balance between having essential items and keeping your backpack weight manageable. Having the right gear and essentials will ensure that you are well-prepared for any challenges or unexpected situations that may arise during the hike. So, pack smart, stay safe, and enjoy the incredible journey from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo.


Nearby Attractions and Additional Activities

Exploring Madeira offers much more than just the hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo. The island is filled with captivating attractions and additional activities that can complement your hiking adventure. Here are some nearby attractions and activities to consider:

1. Funchal: As the capital city of Madeira, Funchal offers a vibrant blend of historical charm and modern attractions. Explore the colorful Old Town, visit the famous Farmers Market (Mercado dos Lavradores), and take a cable car ride to Monte for panoramic views of the city. 2. Levada Walks: Madeira is famous for its extensive network of levadas, which are narrow irrigation channels that wind through the island’s breathtaking landscapes. Embark on one of the many levada walks, such as the Levada do Caldeirão Verde, to immerse yourself in the beauty of Madeira’s nature. 3. Porto Moniz Natural Pools: Located on the northern coast of Madeira, Porto Moniz is known for its stunning natural swimming pools carved into volcanic rocks. Take a refreshing dip in these crystal-clear waters and enjoy the dramatic views of the ocean. 4. Cabo Girão: Visit Cabo Girão, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Admire the panoramic views from the glass-bottomed Skywalk, which offers a thrilling perspective of the steep cliffs and the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean below. 5. Santana Village: Explore the picturesque village of Santana, known for its traditional A-shaped houses with thatched roofs. Take a stroll through this charming village and learn about Madeira’s rural heritage at the Santana Houses Museum. 6. Whale and Dolphin Watching: Embark on a boat tour to witness the incredible marine life surrounding Madeira. Spot dolphins leaping through the waves and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of majestic whales in their natural habitat. 7. Câmara de Lobos: Discover the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, which was famously painted by Winston Churchill during his stay in Madeira. Wander through the narrow streets, visit the colorful harbor, and savor traditional seafood dishes.

These are just a few examples of the many attractions and activities that Madeira has to offer. From exploring charming towns and villages to enjoying the natural wonders of the island, there is something for everyone to experience and enjoy alongside your hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo.



The hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is an incredible adventure that allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Madeira’s mountains and valleys. From the picturesque village of Curral Das Freiras to the summit of Pico Ruivo, this trail offers a combination of natural wonders, challenging terrains, and unforgettable vistas.


As you hike, you’ll traverse through diverse landscapes, including lush forests, narrow ridges, and volcanic terrain, showcasing the stunning variety that Madeira has to offer. The panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the sprawling ocean will leave you in awe of nature’s grandeur and beauty.


While the hike presents challenges and requires physical fitness, it is a fulfilling and rewarding experience for outdoor enthusiasts. The sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit of Pico Ruivo is unparalleled, and the memories created along the trail will stay with you long after your adventure ends.


Beyond the hike itself, Madeira offers a plethora of attractions and activities to complement your visit. Explore the charming streets of Funchal, marvel at the natural swimming pools of Porto Moniz, and embark on levada walks to further explore the island’s natural wonders.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, tranquility, or a connection with nature, the hike from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo is an experience that should not be missed. It is a chance to challenge yourself, discover the raw beauty of Madeira, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, pack your hiking gear, soak up the untamed landscapes, and embrace the magic of Madeira as you embark on this unforgettable journey from Curral Das Freiras to Pico Ruivo.