Pico do Castelo and tour of Facho, Gandaia e Juliana/Vila mountain peaks

 

11 km (6.8 miles) – 5 hours

 

To get a better sense of direction, you will start off by climbing up Castelo, which might appear to be the island’s highest mountain peak, but in fact is only 437 metres high. Nearby, Facho peak is 517 metres above sea level, and the highest.

From the top of Castelo peak, you can enjoy an immense view that allows you to understand the island’s morphology: two volcanic groups separated by a low area where the airport has been built. Castelo peak is part of the main volcanic group occupying the east and northeast of the island. From the top of this peak you can easily notice the huge contrast between the rugged, cliff-strewn coastal strip to the north and east, and the long beach that spreads along most of the south coast. From the top you can also see some islets scattered in the sea as if they were guards protecting Porto Santo.

Now, let us leave Castelo peak and go down the path on the northern side, reaching a point where the road ends. Near the end of the trail the El-Rei path starts, circling Facho peak from the South. At the start you will have to be careful not to take a wrong turn. There are two paths, but the highest one is more interesting. As it runs along the side of Facho peak, with its antenna on top, this path offers a series of fantastic views over the island’s central and western parts.

From the Gandaia’s slope we can glimpse the village of Serra de Fora, between the top of Graça hill and Concelho peak. A little further along, you can see the rocky formation of Serra de Fora, between Maçarico and Concelho peaks. Heading southward, there is a hilltop that is very exposed to the north winds. From this point onwards, already in Matos de Dentro, you can see the little hamlet of Serra de Dentro. Visible, too, is the little stream that flows down the steep hanging valley between Branco and Concelho peaks. Little by little the hiker approaches Juliana peak, where the attention is drawn to prismatic columns of basalt.

On reaching the gorge that separates the Gandaia-Facho and Juliana ranges, the path is divided. One route completes a circuit of Gandaia and Facho peaks, ending at the departure point. The other route leads down to the foot of Juliana peak. If you choose to take the lower route, do be aware that there is no proper path between Juliana peak and the road, so you will have to scramble through the vegetation. The terrain, however, is not particularly challenging.

From here it is simply a matter of following the road back to town. It leads through the hamlets of Serra de Dentro and Serra de Fora, which you will already have seen from above. There is no better way to complete this ramble than to climb to the Portela viewing point, from where you can admire the fantastic view over Vila Baleira and the beach.

 

Features: The path circling Facho and Gandaia peaks is mainly flat and with no abysses. The main challenge offered by this circular route is the descent from Juliana peak to the Serra de Dentro road. You will have to cross-country, but the descent is not too hard.


Accommodations nearby :