Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak on Madeira Island and is one of the most popular sunrise spots. Each morning crowds gather to watch the sun break through the thick sea of clouds that create an otherwordly atmosphere. The viewpoint is the start of the famous hiking route: Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, which is one of the world’s best day hikes. I visited Pico do Arieiro multiple times such as for sunset, sunrise, during the day, and for the purpose of hiking. In this blog post, I will share with you all of my tips and detail everything you need to know to enjoy all that Pico do Arieiro has to offer.
HOW TO GET TO PICO DO ARIEIRO
There are a few different ways to get to the top. The most obvious way is to drive up in your car but don’t despair if you don’t have your own vehicle. Your Pico do Arieiro sunrise dream is still alive.
Driving: One of the reasons it is so popular is because from Funchal it takes just 30 minutes by car to reach the parking lot. From the parking lot, it is just a 2-minute walk to the main sunrise viewpoint. When the sun rises at 7:30 in August you can roll out of bed just before seven and still catch the best sunrise in Madeira without raising a sweat!
Public Transport Bus: There is no public bus that goes the whole way to the viewpoint but from Funchal, you can take the N56 bus until ‘Poiso’, which is a restaurant halfway up the route. You will then have to walk two hours to the summit or hitch-hike
Taxi: The taxi to Pico do Arieiro will cost approximately 30-40 Euros one-way from Funchal.
Pico Transfers: The best option in my opinion (if you don’t have a car) is to use a service like Pico Transfers. They will be pick up from your accommodation and drop you at one of several viewpoints available such as Pico do Arieiro. As of 2020, the fee is 29 Euros and you will need to book and confirm in advance. This isn’t sponsored, nor do I earn a commission if you book I’ve just heard it’s a reliable and efficient service and it seems cheaper and more organized than a taxi.
Pico do Arieiro Map: I have placed the pin on Google Maps below to show you the exact location of Pico do Arieiro viewpoint so you can create your route from where you are located.
TIPS FOR A SUNRISE AT PICO DO ARIEIRO
It’s hard to know what to expect when it’s your first time to Pico do Arieiro so I hope this helps. When you are heading up for sunrise these are the things you need to know.
- Whatever time sunrise is, get there a minimum of 30-minutes early if not more. The glow will begin well before the official sunrise time. The glow on the clouds is beautiful and when I was there, everyone waited half an hour and then clapped when the sun finally burst over the horizon to begin the day!
- There are a cafe and information center, which is where you will park. From there, most tourists head over to the hill area that views directly to the sun. This viewpoint is Miradouro Juncal and is on Google Maps. I will go into detail about the different viewpoint options in the section below but basically, this is a good place to start the adventure. It’s easy because it is a safe and very short walk from the parking lot and then you have a clear view of where the sun will rise. However, it isn’t the most epic spot of the two options. Miradouro do Ninho da Manta is really interesting at sunrise because you have the narrow paths, the balcony viewpoint, and lots of unique ridges whereas Miradouro Juncal is more of a basic hill viewpoint.
- It can be a good idea to watch the sunrise at Miradouro Juncal and then do the hike to Pico Ruivo or at least head off in that direction on the trail and explore to the Miradouro do Ninho da Manta.
- I thought it would be colder than it was. I wore pants, a beanie, and a down jacket but was never cold and took off all the layers as soon as the sun was out. I had expected it to be very chilly but it was mild. If it’s a windy day it may be a different matter.
Our sunrise as Pico do Arieiro was beautiful. As it was our first time, we watched the sunrise up over the clouds at Miradouro Juncal with about 100 other onlookers. The clouds didn’t float all the way through the valleys like they do sometimes but it was still a pretty special morning. After the sun had risen, we went back to the information center and then did a short little adventure to Ninho da Manta to check out the Balcony, which is quite similar in shape to the viewpoint at Vereda dos Balcoes.
BEST VIEWPOINTS AND LOCATIONS AT PICO DO ARIEIRO
Miradouro Juncal: This is the classic viewpoint very close to the parking lot. It looks out towards the ocean, directly to where the sun will rise. During sunrise, there will be hundreds of people gathered on this hill to watch the sunrise over the clouds. It’s very safe and there are dirt trails leading around the viewpoint. It is just a 5-minute walk from the parking lot and information center, which is why most people choose this viewpoint for sunrise.
Miradouro do Ninho da Manta: This viewpoint has a balcony section that looks out over the valley. While it doesn’t face directly to the sun, you can catch the sunrise from this balcony. What’s great about this viewpoint is that most tourists can’t be bothered walking 1.2km from the parking lot to the balcony so you have hundreds of people at Miradouro Juncal and hardly anyone at Ninho da Manta.
The pathway to Ninho da Manta is a bit more interesting with a narrow path made of stone steps and a dirt trail that winds in, under and around the formations of the mountain. Hand-rails keep you safe but it is still a little bit of an adventure.
For photography, I would pick this viewpoint as there are lots of ridges, outcrops, the balcony, and many different angles on the stairs and pathway. Miradoura Juncal looked directly to the sun but offered a bit less in the foreground and was a bit more of a flat scene. Both were beautiful but I’m just offering some advice for the fellow photographers who may only have one chance at a Pico do Arieiro sunrise.
SUNSET AT PICO DO ARIEIRO
For those who aren’t keen on an early wake-up, you can still get some magical views at Pico do Arieiro as the sun sets and lights up the top of the clouds before diving beneath them. In fact, you can often have better lighting at sunset because the clouds have a softer glow before the sun dips below their thick layer compared to when the harsh morning light quickly bursts above them.
PICO DO ARIEIRO WEBCAM – CHECK BEFORE YOU GO
Before you make the journey out to Pico do Arieiro you may want to check the webcam. You can view the Pico do Arieiro webcam by clicking here. Obviously, if you are going for sunrise, you may not see much on the webcam but if you are planning to visit for sunset it can be very handy. The webcam updates every fifteen minutes so you can get a clear indication of the weather conditions at the summit before driving all the way across the island.
Checking the webcam becomes important when you consider that many people are hoping to watch the sunset or sunrise above a sea of clouds. However, on many days there are no clouds and you may be disappointed. The other main reason to check the webcam before you visit is that the weather is dramatically different on the opposing sides of the island. When one side is raining and cloudy, the other side can be perfectly sunny. So, it can be a good idea to check if it is gloomy and raining before you head away from the sunny side of the island to the doom and gloom.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PICO DO ARIEIRO
There are a few things to consider when considering when you should visit Pico do Arieiro. The key factors are: Time of day, time of year, type of weather.
Time of day: Sunrise and sunset are the most popular times to visit Pico do Arieiro. To watch the sunrise above the sea of clouds or set below the clouds and light them on fire is truly a bucket-list spectacle that you will remember forever. Everything is more magical during the golden hour.
If you visit during the middle of the day, you will have to contend with the possibility of the heat from the sun as you hike or explore the area. In the morning it can be cold but not freezing conditions. With a good jacket and pants, you will be okay at the summit.
Time of year: Because Madeira has a temperate climate all year, there is no good or bad time of the year when considering the weather. I visited in late summer and spring and had a mixture of moody weather and great sunny days. The months of September, October, and November are usually much quieter on Madeira so if you want to avoid the crowds then think about a trip during those months.
Type of weather: As mentioned above, you should never be ridiculously cold or hot on Madeira but the midday sun while hiking can get a bit much for some. The morning chill during sunrise viewing is mild enough for most to handle. However, it is the clouds that are the most important part of the experience so try your best to visit when the cloud cover is creating a white layer through the mountains for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AND FULL MOON PHOTOGRAPHY AT PICO DO ARIEIRO
With very little light pollution this far up in the mountains, Pico do Arieiro is a great place for astrophotography and for witnessing the full moon. One night we set out on a mission to Pico do Arieiro to photograph the full moon as it rose over the peaks on the ridge just near Ninho da Manta viewpoint. We set up about 1.5km down the trail from Pico do Arieiro looking back towards the ridge in an easterly direction.
It was a pretty crazy mission and one that definitely involved some sketchy climbing in the dark but we managed to create an amazing set of images that are pretty unique. It was great to shoot at night out on the trail because all the tourists and hikers are gone so it is incredibly peaceful while you are shooting the stars and the moon.
You will need a tripod for the astrophotography but you can actually shoot the moon handheld just like in the second photo you see below. Good luck and stay safe out there during the night when it’s dark, cold, and a bit scary out in the mountains!