Pico do Arieiro: The Ultimate Guide

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Located at 1,818 metres, Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak in Madeira and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the archipelago.

Most days, you’ll find yourself looking down on a sea of clouds floating below the craggy peaks of Madeira’s central mountains and you’ll feel like you’re on another planet!

On a clear day, you should be able to see out to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo.

Madeira's central mountains protruding through the clouds at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira, Portugal
Truly an incredible experience

One of the best things to do in Madeira is to visit Pico do Arieiro for sunrise when the sky is lit up in various hues of reds and oranges. Soaring above the sea of clouds, you’ll be immersed in an otherworldly and mystical atmosphere!

Our Top Tip: arrive about half an hour before sunrise as the glow from the sun starts before the sun is above the clouds. This is when you’ll see the most vibrant and dramatic colours.

Helen sat at the Pico do Arieiro viewpoint at sunrise above the clouds, Madeira, Portugal
Arriving just before sunrise is the best time for the colours

The main Pico do Arieiro viewpoint is Miradouro do Juncal which is a 5-minute walk from the car park and the most popular spot to watch the sunrise. It faces out towards the ocean and directly to where the sun will rise. 

Helen sat at the Pico do Arieiro viewpoint at sunrise above the clouds, Madeira, Portugal
Sunrise at Pico do Arieiro is such a magical experience

Our Top Tip: there’ll be hundreds of people on this balcony, however, if you follow some of the nearby dirt paths you’ll be able to find a quieter spot slightly away from the viewpoint but with the same breathtaking view.

Sunrise at the Pico do Arieiro Viewpoint with the golden and orange hues above the clouds, Madeira, Portugal
Finding a spot slightly away from the main viewpoint you'll lose the crowds

The second viewpoint, Miradouro do Ninho da Manta, is a 1.2-kilometre walk from the car park which most people don’t bother with until after sunrise. The route is along a narrow path but it’s well maintained and has handrails so it’s perfectly safe.

This viewpoint doesn’t face directly out to the sun but it’s surrounded by craggy mountain peaks and will create a very dramatic sunrise. If we were to go back again, we’d watch the sunrise here.

If you’re hiking from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, you’ll pass this viewpoint on the trail.

Miradouro do Ninho da Manta with its craggy peaks and endless mountains on Pico do Arieiro, Madeira, Portugal
Madeira has some truly incredible scenery!

The Pico do Arieiro Viewpoint is also the starting point for hiking to Pico Ruivo; the best hike in Madeira and an absolute must-do!

Start of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike, floating clouds below the mountain peaks, Madeira, Portugal
The start of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike

Standing at 1,861 metres, Pico Ruivo is Madeira’s tallest mountain.

Narrow ledges, steep staircases, jagged mountain peaks, endless panoramic views and dark tunnels make this hike a truly unique and unforgettable experience and will no doubt be a highlight of your Madeira itinerary!

Where is Pico do Arieiro and how do I get there?

The map below shows the exact location of Pico do Arieiro.

The easiest way to reach Pico do Arieiro is to drive from Funchal. It’s a very easy drive once you’re on road ER 103 as this will take you the entire way to the viewpoint with only one left turn at Abrigo do Poiso Restaurant.

The drive will take about 40 minutes and the road is in great condition. Allow for a little more time if it’s a particularly foggy morning and you’re driving in the dark. From the parking lot, the viewpoint is a 2-minute walk.

If you don’t have a car, don’t worry, you have some other easy transport options.

Private Transfer
The easiest and cheapest option after driving to reach the viewpoint is a private transfer. With this option, you’ll be picked up and dropped off at your hotel at your chosen time.

You can also use this option if you plan on hiking one way to Pico Ruivo as they will also pick you up there. 

Taxi
Another easy option is to book a taxi which should cost around €30/€40 one-way from Funchal. If you’re only planning on going to the viewpoint and not hiking, you can sometimes make a deal with the driver to wait and take you back.

Unfortunately, there is no public transport option.

Everything Else You Need to Know about Pico do Arieiro

What facilities are there?

At the Pico do Arieiro Viewpoint, there’s a large car park which, if you’re arriving for sunrise you’ll easily find a spot. However, if you’re arriving later in the day the car park may be full and you might have to wait for a space.

You’ll also find toilets (for a fee so bring cash), a small cafe, an information centre and a souvenir shop. Bear in mind that the toilets may not be open first thing if you arrive for sunrise.

When’s the best time of year to visit?

Madeira has a sub-tropical climate with hot summers and mild winters so the Pico do Arieiro viewpoint is ideal to visit at any time of the year.

A couple of things to note though is that the mornings will be fairly cold in the winter and in the summer you’ll have the crowds.

When’s the best time of day to visit Pico do Arieiro?

We visited for sunrise which we would 100% recommend, especially if you’re only going once during your stay. Sunrises at Pico do Arieiro are truly magical and something you’ll cherish forever.

Sunset is also an incredible time to visit and, if the clouds are playing ball, the sky’s colours will probably be a lot more dramatic as the light tends to be softer in the afternoons compared to the harsh morning light bursting through quickly.

Sunset, however, will also bring the crowds and parking may be more of an issue.

If you’re not limited to one specific day to visit the Pico do Arieiro Viewpoint, try to visit with cloud cover. Seeing Madeira’s central mountains jut out above the sea of clouds was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something we weren’t expecting.

There’s sometimes an operational webcam where you can check the conditions (more so if you’re visiting for sunset as it’ll be dark in the morning).

What should I wear?

We wore hiking clothes and a hoody which was absolutely fine for the time of year and conditions we were there (late May and not much wind). We also brought a hat and more layers to be prepared but didn’t need these.

In the winter you’ll need more layers as the mornings will be a lot cooler and, even in the summer, if you catch the mountain on a windy day, it can get quite chilly.

The weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable and change rapidly so even if you’ve checked the weather and it looks fine, come prepared with extra layers.

Once the sun is above the clouds, you can really feel the heat beating down so make sure you have sunscreen!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the Pico do Arieiro Viewpoint, if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment.

While you’re here, why not check out some of our other Madiera blog posts below?

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