Pico do Arieiro is the third-highest peak on the island of Madeira and the best place to watch the Sunrise. It’s easy to get to Pico do Areiro from Funchal by car. That’s why you can expect many people to gather in the morning at Pico Arieiro as it’s an amazing sunrise viewpoint. If you’re lucky there is a cloud cover beneath you making it very fascinating if it’s your first time standing above the clouds. It is so mesmerizing to see the highest peaks of Madeira like Pico das Torres and Pico Ruivo sticking out above the clouds with the first rays of sunlight rising above the horizon. It’s an unforgettable experience and one of the best things to do in Madeira!
Next to being an amazing viewpoint, Pico do Arieiro in Madeira is also the start of the famous hiking route from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo which we did two times. It’s one of the best, but also hardest hikes on the island. We’ve visited Pico do Arieiro multiple times while living for 7 months on the island. We’ve seen sunrise, sunset, and even the full moon Arieiro during different weather circumstances. We’ll share our experience with you together with valuable tips so you will be fully prepared to visit Pico do Arieiro on Madeira Island.
Is it easy to get to Pico do Arieiro Madeira?
The best way to get to Pico do Arieiro Madeira is with a rental car which you can book here. But if you don’t have a rental car, there are still enough other options to get to the Pico do Arieiro parking lot. The parking lot is very spacious with a cafe to get some caffeine in before you start hiking. There is also a gift shop/souvenir shop close to the parking lot.
How to get to Pico do Arieiro from Funchal?
The quickest way to get from Funchal to Pico do Arieiro is by car which takes you less than 30 minutes.
How far is it from Funchal to Pico do Arieiro?
The distance between Funchal and Pico do Arieiro is around 8 km. You need to drive around 17 km to get to Pico do Arieiro Madeira.
What time do I have to leave to watch the sunrise at Pico do Ariero?
With the average sunrise time in Madeira being around 7.30 AM, you don’t have to get up shockingly early. Being one of the easiest accessible viewpoints on the island, Pico do Arieiro is a very popular sunrise spot. From Funchal, it only takes you about 30 minutes to get to the top. From Curral das Freiras it will take you around 30 minutes as well. In case you are staying in Calheta, it’s about one hour to the parking of Pico Arieiro. But if you stay a bit closer in Ribeira Brava it takes you around 50 minutes. The journey up to Pico do Arieiro gives already spectacular views as you wind your way through the beautiful Ribeiro Frio park.
Getting to Pico do Arieiro Madeira with Pico transfers
If you don’t have a rental car yourself, then a great option is to book a transfer to Pico do Arieiro. But this is only valuable if you do the hike from Pico do Arieiro to the summit of Pico Ruivo – Achada do Teixeira, because you’ll be picked up at the parking of Achada do Teixeira. You can book a transfer online and they will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation in Funchal or Caniço.
Can you get to Pico do Arieiro by taxi?
It’s possible to get to Pico do Ariero by taxi. You will recognize the taxis in Madeira by their yellow color. You can book a taxi online via the Taxin app which is the ‘Uber’ of Madeira or just stop a taxi along the road. One way to Pico do Arieiro from Funchal costs approximately €30 – €40.
Is it possible to get to Pico do Arieiro by bus?
Some sources might be a bit misleading because there is no public bus going to the parking lot of Pico do Arieiro. The nearest bus stop to Pico do Arieiro is next to Restaurant Casa De Abrigo Do Poiso with bus N56. From there it’s still 6,7 kilometres walking until the parking which is a constant incline. Not recommended to do it this way. Or you have to find a hitchhike!
Best time to go to Pico do Arieiro Madeira
Pico do Arieiro is famous for being the ‘best sunrise viewpoint in Madeira’, so you want to check it out with sunrise! But take into account that there won’t be a sea of clouds every morning. You have to be a bit lucky to get the very best weather conditions at Pico do Arieiro, therefore you should take into account a few things.
What is the best season to visit Pico do Arieiro on Madeira Island?
Each season on Madeira Island has its beauty. We lived for 7 months on Ilha da Madeira and went many times to Pico do Arieiro. After the summer period, you can expect the ground to be a bit orange-brown. But after a few rainy weeks, the soil turns green and looks like a different landscape! During springtime the flowers start to bloom, creating again a different atmosphere. Chances of a cloud cover are in every season, and you just have to be a bit lucky the get the perfect conditions. So the ‘best season’ to visit Pico do Arieiro is hard to say because every season has its iconic beauty!
What is the best time of the day to visit Pico do Arieiro?
Both sunrise and sunset are good times to visit Pico do Arieiro on Madeira. But witnessing a sunrise at Pico do Arieiro above the sea of clouds is something memorable. How the orange, red sun light up the brown-green landscape and white clouds is something so unique. You can eventually combine the hike to Pico Ruivo summit with watching the sunrise at Arieiro. So this would be a great half-day adventure. But of course, it depends on the weather circumstances if you will get the perfect conditions. With sunrise you can’t check the Pico do Arieiro webcam upfront as it will be too dark to see how the weather is, so it’s always a gamble. After so many visits with perfect outcomes and complete fails, we said to each other every time we were doubting: “You’ll only know when you go”!
The pro with Sunset is that you can check the Pico do Arieiro webcam before you go up there. In that way, you can estimate your chances of having a cloud cover or not. Or maybe Arieiro is completely covered in fog so you won’t see anything. But then at least you can ‘abort the mission’, because it’s a bit of a pity to drive up and find out you’re in the clouds instead of above the clouds.
The best type of weather to visit Pico do Arieiro (with a sea of clouds)
Madeira has a microclimate. This means that all the small regions within the general climate zone have their unique climatic conditions. They exist specifically on Madeira because of the varied landscapes such as hills, mountains, and water. Therefore it can be warm and sunny with clear skies along the south coast, but cold and foggy in the mountains. This also means that it’s very difficult to predict when you’ll have the best conditions at Pico do Arieiro. You can check the Pico do Arieiro webcam daily to follow the development of a cloud cover at Pico do Arieiro or just go to the peak and hope for a good sunrise! We’ve heard from other photographers that they went up to Arieiro 12 times a week (sunrise and sunset), but still didn’t get the very best conditions.
Pico do Arieiro webcam
All over Madeira are weather webcams installed so you can check the weather conditions before you set off to a different part of the island. It does not apply for sunrise of course to check the webcam before you depart because it will be dark. But if you want to watch the sunset at Pico do Arieiro it’s a perfect tool to predict the clouds.
The webcam updates its view every 30 minutes and you can even watch a time-lapse from the last 24 hours. This will give you a good insight into the last conditions at the peak. If you’re staying for a longer period on the island, you might even get better at predicting the clouds by just looking up at the mountain peaks. But as always, there’s nothing as changeable as the weather!
Best viewpoints at Pico do Arieiro
There are a few viewpoints at Pico do Arieiro which you can check out. The first one is located right next to the parking lot. The other two include a little hike to the balcony section. Below are all three viewpoints at Pico do Arieiro specified with accompanying photos of what you can expect.
Miradouro Juncal is the viewpoint next to the parking lot which is very easy to reach with only a 5-minute walk on a dirt trail. The balcony viewpoint has a few natural seats. But there is a hill next to the balcony where you also can find a spot. Also for photography, the hill is a better place to install yourself than on the balcony viewpoint. You can easily bring your whole family from (very) young to old to this viewpoint. This is THE popular sunrise spot on Madeira, so you can expect it to be busy. There is a chance you have to share the sunrise hill with tens if not a hundred other people during the high season. This won’t be the case during the low season.
From Miradouro Juncal you’ll look straight into the valley of Fajã da Nogueira with wonderful views on the ocean. The other side is when you can see the ocean you won’t have a sea of clouds beneath you. On a clear day without clouds the sunrise is also beautiful, don’t get me wrong. But the special effect is the sea of clouds in combination with the golden light of the sunrise. It will take your breath away when the light touches the clouds and paints the landscape in an orange tone. Below are two pictures of the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro, obviously taken on two different mornings so you can see the difference.
There are many creative angles to find at Miradouro Juncal, especially if you work with different focal lengths which gives a new perspective to the scene every time.
Miradouro do Ninho da Manta
This other balcony viewpoint takes a bit more effort to get to. The balcony of Miradouro do Ninho da Manta looks out over the Fajã da Nogueira valley with the ocean in the distance. The 1,2 kilometers with some steep inclines you need to walk to get here isn’t something many people want to do before sunrise. Therefore this viewpoint is a quieter option compared to Miradouro Juncal.
At Miradouro do Ninho da Manta there are many creative photo angles to find. The scenery is different and maybe a bit more interesting than at Miradouro Juncal. But it depends on what you have in mind if you want to take THE perfect Pico do Arieiro sunrise photo. The narrow path and stairs towards the viewpoint can be a great leading line. But also the balcony on the viewpoint itself is a great spot. Especially with low-hanging clouds in the valley!
There are also many outcrops here and the perspective seen from the hill opposite of the balcony is beautiful as well! Here you’ll have more of a raw mountainous landscape or the valley in your foreground. While at Miradouro Juncal you’ll look straight upon the sea of clouds, or the ocean. Depending on the weather circumstances of course.
Is Miradouro Juncal better than Miradouro do Ninho da Manta?
My experience at both viewpoints was that at Miradouro Juncal you can shoot more ‘minimalistic’ pictures with a sea of clouds and eventually a person in your frame. There is no real foreground here, except when you use the tall grass or other natural attributes. But you can be more creative with different focal lengths, creating a different perspective of the scene every time you change the focal length. While at Miradouro do Ninho da Manta you can be more creative with the surroundings, making use of the mountains as foreground or backdrop. Changing position to get another perspective, making use of the path as leading lines, and so on.
Miradouro da Pedra Rija
This third viewpoint is a bit further than Miradouro do Ninho da Manta. From here you look over the west part of the island and on the east side to the Ninho da Manta viewpoint. Because you’ll have great views towards the west, the Pedra Rija viewpoint is also a good spot to watch the sunset. Besides that, you’ll look up to an impressive set of stairs on top of the mountain ridge. Another great photo spot, especially if you have low-hanging clouds in the valley!
Go here with sunset, and you’ll be in for a magical color game if this viewpoint is not covered in clouds. If you’re lucky with low-hanging clouds at Pico do Arieiro, you’ll be lucky to walk above the clouds and witness a magical sunset with a sea of clouds beneath you.
What to prepare and bring for sunrise at Pico do Arieiro?
Whether you only watch the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro or also plan to do the Pico to Pico hike, below is a list of things to bring and general tips for your best sunrise experience at Pico do Arieiro!
- Bring an extra jacket because the weather can be cold and windy in the mountains. Especially before the sunlight can warm you up. On windy days, you might even want to tuck a scarf around your neck and wear a hoodie to mute the wind around your ears.
- Wear comfortable shoes, hiking shoes are the best (especially for the hike itself). But sturdy sneakers are good as well for sunrise at the viewpoints.
- Bring water (and food when you plan to hike). There is a cafe and information center near the parking lot, so you can always grab a coffee before you start the hike. Here are also toilets for €0,50
- Use a headlamp, flashlight, or your phone in the dark. Some parts of the path can be a bit uneven. So walk with caution and use a light for your assistance.
- Take a blanket with you if you want to tuck yourself and your lover in while watching the sunrise. You can also use this to sit on while sipping your coffee.
- Arrive half an hour before sunrise time. This gives you the time to find a good spot to install yourself. Also the glow before sunrise is magical as well to witness. If you want to go before sunrise to Miradouro do Ninho da Manta, take into account an extra 20 minutes to hike to this viewpoint.
- Of course, bring your camera (eventually tripod) and a drone if you have one. This will be a memory for your lifetime! In the next paragraph, some photography tips for sunrise at Pico do Arieiro to help you find the best spots and angles.
Photography tips for Pico do Arieiro
With three amazing viewpoints and so many great angles to shoot from, Pico do Arieiro Madeira offers plenty of amazing photo spots. Below are our photography tips for sunrise at Pico do Arieiro!
Our photography tips:
- Make sure to arrive about 30 minutes before sunrise. This will give you the time to search for a good spot and set up your composition. Take into account that if you want to watch sunrise at Miradouro do Ninho da Manta you’ll need to hike for about 20 minutes to that balcony. Miradouro Juncal is only a 5 – 10 minute walk from the parking lot.
- Use different focal lengths, if you have different lenses. You will see that you can create a completely different perspective of the scene with several focal lengths. This will also allow you to make the best of your sunrise mission. Even if it’s not the very best sunrise at Arieiro. For example, if the clouds are a bit further out on the ocean and you have a telelens such of 100-400 mm for example, you can compress the background. This will bring the background closer to your perspective, giving the result as if the clouds are closer than in reality! See below the comparison of a picture taken with a tele zoom lens, and with a wide angle lens. Both are at the same spot, but give a completely different result.
- Try different angles in combination with several focal lengths. The natural playground will give you lots of options to get yourself on a higher perspective. In this way, you’re not limited to one angle but you can shoot three or four different angles giving your pictures a different view every time. Of course, always make sure to stay safe when exploring around on the rocks!
- Use the natural surroundings as foreground such as a part of the rock or the tall grass. This will give your photo more depth and perspective.
- Make a time-lapse of the moving clouds.
Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike
One of the most beautiful but also heaviest hikes on Madeira Island is the Pico to Pico hike. In other words, the 7-kilometer (one-way) hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. This stunning hike connects two of the highest peaks on Madeira and leads you through the central core of the mountains with fabulous views along the way. The hike involves a tunnel route, some narrow paths, and a few steep inclines and descents. One way from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo will take you about 2.5 – 3,5 hours depending on your pace and fitness level. The total incline of the hike is 1100m making it one of the hardest hikes on the island. If you want to get to Pico Ruivo but you’re not in for this heavy hike, you can do the Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo hike.
Full Moon photography at Pico do Arieiro
Pico do Arieiro in Madeira is a great place to capture the night sky. With little light pollution this high in the mountains, Pico do Arieiro is an easy and beautiful place for night photography from Funchal.
I had the idea, inspired by one of my photography idols Chris Burkhard, to shoot the rising Full Moon right above a peak with a person frame as silhouette.
So we set off for this ‘Chasing the Full Moon adventure’ in the dark after we had explored Pico do Arieiro a few times during sunrise. It was pitch black and very special to be up in the mountains with no one else around.
With the help of PhotoPills, an app that shows you the exact position of the moon per hour, we found a peak where the moon would rise from behind. After about 30 minutes from the parking lot, we found a perfect setup for this shot. Around 10 PM the moon would make her appearance behind the peak. Once we saw the peak lit up, we knew we had the right spot! The only question was if our model for this shoot would be in time on the mountain peak… Luckily it all worked out and we could shoot the rising moon with a person in silhouette in front of the Full Moon! What a photography adventure! Considering the short time we had for the moon to be in the exact position above the peak, we are very happy with our pictures. Have a look below!
General travel must-haves for Madeira
Have you thought about how to get around in Madeira? A car is the easiest way to drive around the island.
- Book your rental car here and compare the providers to get the best deal.
- Book your scooter or motorbike here to get around in Madeira. For most of the scooters, you need a driving license (A1/A2/A) from 18 years old, or from 25 years old with a car (B) license. The motorbikes have a minimum age of 20 or 21 with an A (moto) license.
Do you prefer a private driver for the day and the freedom to create your own Madeira itinerary?
Have you already booked your accommodation?
Are you insured during your travels?
- Buy your travel insurance here. Safetywing not only includes coverage for travel delay, lost checked luggage, emergency response, natural disasters, and personal liability. But also covers all your medical expenses for hospitalization.
Best Madeira island tours
If you want to explore the best of Madeira with a local guide then here are some great tours I recommend. During these tours, you will pass by some of the best viewpoints which I share in this complete guide. All of these guided tours include transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides, and sometimes entrance fees if applicable. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
- Customized 6-hour Madeira tour. On this six-hour tour, you can choose the different areas you want to visit on Madeira Island. Pick the landmarks and iconic places to make your Madeira itinerary with the help of your local guide/driver.
- West Madeira private tour. Starting in the fishing town of Câmara de Lobos you will drive via Cabo Girao, the highest cape in Europe, to the beautiful view of Serra d’Agua valley. From there you will head to São Vicente to explore the Laurisilva forest. Continuing north, you will visit Porto Moniz, known for its natural lava pools where you can swim. As a last stop, you will visit the famous rocks at Ribeira da Janela.
- East Madeira tour. Visit Pico do Arieiro viewpoint, take pictures at the Santana houses and the beautiful viewpoints at Porto da Cruz to finish the day at the impressive volcanic landscape of Ponta de São Lourenço.
- Canyoning adventure with a transfer from Funchal. Get the thrill of canyoneering and explore Madeira’s untouched nature. follow a river as you walk, rappel, slide, and jump through hidden waterfalls with streams that cross endemic forests. A super fun and adventurous day!
- Ponta de São Lourenço hike with pick up in Funchal. Explore the eastern tail of Madeira island with its unique volcanic rock formations to understand how the island was created.
- Funchal 48-hour hop-on hop-off bus tour. Explore the lush landscape of Madeira and the sights of Funchal at your own pace with a 2 or 5-day ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus.
- Tuk-Tuk tour to Monte Tropical Garden with Toboggan ride from Funchal. Explore Funchal Old Town with a Tuk Tuk before making your way to the mountains to the stunning Monte Tropical Garden. There you will explore over 70,000 square meters of exotic plants. At the end of the tour, you will enjoy the thrilling ride down the hill with a Toboggan ride.
- Funchal Old Town walking tour. Learn about the history of Funchal and Madeira on a guided walk through the city’s medieval center. Visit the farmer’s market, the Campo Almirante Reis. The Fortress of St. James and some other sites as your guide provide commentary.
- Dolphin & Whale watching Luxury Catamaran Cruise from Funchal. Enjoy the views of Funchal from a luxury catamaran. Look out for whales and dolphins in their natural habitat as you relax on board and explore the underwater world with a snorkel.
- Scuba diving Madeira. Explore the underwater world of Madeira Island. A theory lesson and practice in the swimming pool is included. This before you will dive about 12 meters for 45 meters in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Sunset tour from Funchal by Catamaran. Watch the sunset off the coast of Madeira on a 3-hour evening catamaran cruise from Funchal and spot dolphins (guaranteed, or you get a 2nd trip for free).
Where to stay in Madeira
Several towns in Madeira are great to stay in while exploring the island. Funchal is the capital town of the island with the most restaurants around. It has a charming old town and all sorts of facilities you might look for such as a boulevard, shopping center, cafes, and nightlife. It is a great place to base yourself with plenty of culture, beautiful old buildings, and charming streets to explore. There are also a few beaches in Funchal to enjoy the ocean. However, these beaches are from pebble stones.
We have stayed in The Vine Hotel and Okulus villa which are both beautiful locations. The Vine has the comforts of a hotel including breakfast and is located right in the city centre. Okulus Villa is located in the Old Town with the most amazing ocean and city view.
If you want to be based near a sandy beach in Madeira, then Calheta is a great place. It’s one of our favorite regions. While Funchal is more to the east of the island located, Calheta is more to the west of the island located. So eventually you can also stay a few days in both towns depending on the total length of your stay in Madeira. Calheta has an atmospheric marine with restaurants offering great spots to watch the sunset and enjoy a meal.
We have stayed a few weeks at Calheta Boutique Houses during our 7 months living in Madeira. Highly recommend these private villas as you have all the amenities you have at home as well. The modern design and amazing ocean views make it a perfect vacation home.
Small villages in nature
If you want to experience really small towns to stay in Madeira, then check out the accommodations in Seixal, Porto da Cruz, Sao Vicente, or Ribeiro Frio. Take into account that there will be fewer restaurants around but you will be completely immersed in the local life and nature.
More Madeira travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this full guide about Pico do Arieiro with all our tips!
For more Madeira travel inspiration and the must visit destinations, head over to our other blog posts about Madeira island.