This energetic ridge walk begins just below Pico Ruivo, the highest summit, and heads west, high above steep, wooded slopes to the mountain pass at Encumeada.
Starting at Achada do Teixeira and following along PR 1.2- Pico Ruivo Footpath leading to the Pico Ruivo Shelter, you will find signs indicating the following routes: PR 1- Pico do Areeiro Footpath, leading to Madeira’s 2nd highest peak (1817m); and PR 1.1- Ilha Footpath, which descends to the parish of Ilha.The beginning of the trail to Encumeada begins a few metres above the Pico Ruivo Shelter.
Marked by frequent climbs and descents, the trail winds along at elevations between 1800 and 1000 metres as it heads towards Encumeada.
Extremely beautiful landscapes await travellers as they cross two types of ecosystems, both of which are part of the European Network of Sites of Community Interest – Natura 2000 Network: the Central Mountainous Massif and the Laurisilva Forest.
As you progress along the trail, you will pass from the volcanic precipices of the island that are characteristic of the phytoclimatic levels above 1400m (high-altitude heath) to the enveloping settings covered by species of the Laurisilva forest, such as the Madeira laurels (Ocotea foetens); laurels, or bay trees (Laurus azorica); Lily-of-the-Valley trees (Clethra arborea); an endemic buckthorn, sanguinhos (Rhamnus glandulosa); the flowering pride of Madeira (Echium candivcans); the very rare Madeiran orchid (Dactylorhiza foliosa) and Mandon’s Chrysanthemum (Argyranthemum pinnatifidum).
Along the trail you will find various caves (furnas) dug out of the rocks, such as the Furna da Lapa da Cadela, which in former times served as a refuge for men who passed by as they went about cutting heath (Erica scopariassp maderensis and Erica arborea) to be used for fences, firewood, or making charcoal.
From the junction of Boca das Torrinhas you can see panoramic views of the majestic valleys of Curral das Freiras. As you near Encumeada the feeling you are in the middle of an island will increase, as you will have the thrill of contemplating landscapes of the southern slope (Serra d’Água) as well as the valley of São Vicente to the north.