Pico do Arieiro, Madeira, is one of the best places to visit on the island.
It offers very impressive views with jagged mountains, lush valleys and magical sunrises.
Below is my complete guide to help you plan your visit, whatever your fitness level:
- Best time
- Access road & facilities
- Main viewpoint and alternatives
- PR1 hike - Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
- Tips, map...
This article contains affiliate links (Disclosure page). If you purchase using my link, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.
Why visit Pico do Arieiro in Madeira?
Pico is the 3rd highest peak in Madeira, and it is accessible by car and just 2 minutes of walking!
It is not every day that you can so easily stand on top of a land.
Pico do Arieiro height: 1818m (5965ft) above sea level.
Pico do Arieiro is a must-visit when traveling to Madeira.
It offers views of:
- dramatic mountain scenery with jagged peaks,
- lush forested valleys,
- the sea on both sides,
- sea of clouds (sometimes),
- magnificent sunrises (it is one of the most famous spot for a sunrise in Madeira).
Plus, it is the starting point of the most famous hike on the island: PR1 to Pico Ruivo.
About the name
There is no definitive explanation for the name.
But, it is sometimes also written Pico Areeiro which can be translated to Megrim (a fish) or to Sandpit.
So it is either related to the geology of the place or to the shape of the flat fish... Still a mystery!
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips - Pico do Arieiro, Madeira
How to get to Pico do Arieiro
- Very easy to access
- Well maintained road to the observatory - one lane in each direction
- Funchal to Pico do Arieiro = 40min drive
- Porto da Cruz to Pico do Arieiro = 40min drive
- Machico to Pico do Arieiro = 40min drive
- Compare car rental prices on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites! - Choose the car and company you prefer (remember you need enough power for the steep roads) and Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- Below is a map to locate it and get oriented:
This highlight (with GPS coordinates and practical tips) is included in my travel Guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Madeira trip:
Plan your perfect trip around Madeira!
Bus, organized tours & taxis - no car
If you don't want to drive, there are other options to visit this incredible viewpoint:
- Take a taxi - it will cost around 40 euros from Funchal - you can make a deal for the driver to wait and take you back if you are not hiking
- Public transport - NO - there is no public bus going to Pico do Arieiro
- Book a tour - There are many group tours that include a stop at Pico do Arieiro - Jeep tours, minibus tours... with other places visited - Check out the options
- Group hike - if you don't want to hike alone - check out options
Where to stay nearby
Where to stay in Madeira?
- For a choice of restaurants and if you don't rent a car - See best rated accommodations in Funchal
- For luxury resorts, check out the Lido area in Funchal
- For a sandy beach - See best rated accommodations in Machico
- For a quiet village in beautiful scenery - See best rated accommodations in Porto da Cruz
- For a practical location to explore the island - See best rated accommodations in Ribeira Brava
- To enjoy the natural pools - See best rated accommodations in Porto Moniz
More tips on my article about where to stay in Madeira
WHEN - Best time to visit Pico do Arieiro (sunrise and more)
Let's start with all my tips about the best time to visit Pico do Arieiro.
Best time of the year
First there is no best month. Madeira is a year-round destination.
However mornings will be colder in Winter at 1800m in altitude...
And crowds will be more important in Summer.
Best time of the day
- Pico do Arieiro is famous for its sunrises - It is often above the clouds and you can see the sun rising above the sea of clouds.
- It is said that Pico do Arieiro offers better visibility in the morning - it often starts the day above the clouds and then they can move up
- It is also a nice location for sunset
- It can be hot in the afternoon in Summer - and there is no shade
However, conditions can change all the time. Plus, one side of the island can be covered while the other is sunny. You never know - to take a decision I have 2 tips:
- If during the day, check the webcam before starting your drive, you can see the current conditions at the summit (it updates every 15 minutes) - webcam here.
- If you plan on visiting early morning - download the app Madeiraweather (small fee) - it includes the weather forecast for the 2 summits Arieiro and Ruivo - but don't forget it is only a forecast.
Best weather to see Pico do Arieiro
I think the only weather you don't want is dense clouds where you don't see at 2 meters. Because then, there is no point.
Apart from that, Pico do Arieiro is beautiful in all weather conditions:
- Clear and no clouds - then you can see all the way down the valley
- Above the clouds - you can still see the jagged peaks and it is impressive to walk above the clouds
- With light clouds - even if the clouds go up a little, it can create a very moody scene where the peaks slightly disappear. It is less impressive, but creates another type of experience.
HOW to get to Pico do Arieiro - Road
As I mentioned before, it is not often that you can just drive to one of the highest point on a land.
In just 40minutes from most towns on the East of Madeira, you can reach the carpark.
You first get up on road ER103 from Funchal or from Porto da Cruz.
The turn is at Paso do Posio, near the Restaurant Casa de Abrigo do Poiso. Easy with clear road signs.
And then, the road leading to it is in excellent condition, with one lane in each direction. Have a look:
There is no difficulty to drive up to the observatory.
The turns are clearly indicated and traffic is not dense.
Alternative road - Curral das Freiras
There is also a road connecting Curral das Frieiras to Pico do Arieiro.
It is open only during the day in Summer and closed in Winter or in case of fire danger.
This is a more difficult drive, as the road is narrower. However, there are hardly any cars on it, so the experience is not stressful. It is a great option to combine both attractions on the same day.
FACILITIES - Carpark, restaurant...
And then you arrive...
There is a large carpark before the buildings.
It is large for Madeira (where there are often only a few spots to park) but be aware that during the day it gets full and you might have to wait for a spot.
By arriving before sunrise, you will find a parking place...
Once out of the carpark, there is a building. Inside you will find:
- a souvenir shop,
- a snack-bar,
- toilets (for a fee - you need cash)
- an information center - Centro Freira da Madeira Dr Rui Silva
The café snack bar has a few tables outside with stunning views.
I have not tried it. Reviews vary a lot.
Need to rent a car in Madeira?
- Compare car rental prices on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (remember you need enough power for the steep roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
VIEWPOINT - Miradouro do Pico do Arieiro & observatory
Once past the restaurant building, you can clear see the observatory dome: Encumeada Alta.
And right next to it is the path to the summit.
To be honest, the view from this viewpoint platform is not the best. It is just to say that you reach the summit.
I recommend exploring around to get better views (see further in article).
Plus, at sunrise, everyone flocks to that viewpoint. If you want peace and quiet, you definitively have to walk around.
Below is the view taken from the official viewpoint.
On the left you see the beginning of the hiking path PR1 to Pico Ruivo.
The view you are seeing around is part of a pyroclastic complex. Basaltic dykes are protruding and resisting to erosion.
The rocks date back from 5.3 to 3.6 million years ago.
Alternative viewpoint - Miradouro do Juncal
Before I share about the hike, you should know that there is another viewpoint. It is a little lower, but easy to access and with superb views towards the summits and the sea.
Miradouro do Juncal is particularly interesting at sunrise, as you stay away from the crowds.
Below is the view on the path to Miradouro do Juncal
Access to Miradouro do Juncal
Once you pass the restaurant, take the path to the right of the observatory.
It is a safe rock and dirt trail.
It takes less than 10minutes to reach the viewpoint and you enjoy beautiful views along the way.
You are a bit further away from the jagged peak, but the view is way more open on this side.
With this 360° view you can enjoy:
- the observatory,
- the jagged peaks,
- the lush valley,
- the sea.
One a clear day, you can clearly see the volcanic "tail of Madeira" called Ponta de Sao Lourenço.
Below is a zoomed picture:
Best views around Arieiro Peak
There are other views you can enjoy around the official viewpoint.
Even if you don't hike the whole PR1, which is a difficult hike, you can enjoy the beginning of the walk.
There are stairs and slopes, but the views are well worth the effort.
For example, you can head to :
- The beginning of the hike PR1, once the view opens up to the North East
- Miradouro do Ninho da Manta - where you are right up close with the jagged peaks
- Pedra Rija - a bit further away where you are between the jagged peaks
Pico do Arieiro to Pedra Rija is 1.05km - it takes 1h to 1h30 return (with lots of picture time included).
Photos on the hike section below.
HIKE - Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo PR1
Pico do Arieiro is also the starting point of the most famous and most impressive hike on Madeira island: PR1 Verada do Areeiro.
The trail is clearly indicated.
It is a return walk so you can do as much as you want / can and turn back.
This is the beginning of the trail:
PR1 Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo trail in numbers and details
- 7km/4.3mi between the peaks
- Plan 3h30 to 4h30 one way - to 7h to 9h return
- Lots of stairs, and steep paths - moderate to streneous
- Some vertigo inducing areas
- The path is well-maintained, with a lot of safety railings
- Via the O path (shorter) you take tunnels - you must bring a flashlight
- Toilets at Pico do Arieiro (for a fee) and 500m before Pico Ruivo at the café (for a fee - need 50cts coins)
- If you don't want to walk all the way back, check out the alternative return at the end of this section (towards Achada to Teixeira)
The PR1 hike
It is really a stunning hike surrounded by jagged peaks and lush valleys.
It is recommended to start early at sunrise to avoid the heat and have time to walk back.
The path is really good with safety railings in many places, so you feel safe all the time.
It goes around peaks, sometimes cut into them:
First stop - Ninho da Manta
The first official stop along the way is a viewing platform on the side of a peak, a nice balcony over the valley.
This is another great place for sunrise, if you want to walk here in the dark before.
Below is a view taken after the balcony, looking back towards it:
Second stop - Pedra Rija
The path continues to be mesmerizing as you keep walking towards Pico Ruivo.
You will, again, go up and down, but I think it is worth it.
The next official named spot is Pedra Rija.
Here you can learn lore about the flora and fauna in the area.
This is one of the famous stop along the hike because of the very photogenic staircase from which you arrived:
Rest of the hike
I am not showing you all the steps of the hike. Best for you to be surprised.
Just don't miss the dead white trees around the snack bar.
At one point there is a choice of path (depending on potential closure - check the trail status):
- The East trail goes along Pico Las Torres, the 2nd highest peak in Madeira - it is longer but with stunning views
- The West trail takes you into tunnels - it is shorter but with really steep stairs.
Along the way, you will notice caves cut in the rock. They were used as refuge with the cattle.
Snack bar - refuge
500m before Pico Ruivo, you reach a snack bar.
A great place to have a break and use the toilets (50cts with coins).
From there it is only uphill via staircase to reach Pico Ruivo, the highest summit in Madeira at 1861m (6106ft).
There are several platforms for you to enjoy the views in all directions.
This peak is a little more isolated, so the views are truly open for 360°. However, I think they are less impressive that those around Pico do Arieiro.
Below is a zoomed picture looking back towards Pico do Aireiro, the starting point!
And then you walk back...
Alternative - Pico Ruivo to Achada da Teixeira
- From Pico Ruivo take PR1.2
- 1h to 1h30 to reach the carpark
- Call a cab to take you back to your starting point (don't forget to take a taxi number before)
- or organize private transfers
Other TIPS for Pico Areeiro - Packing and more
- Pack layers of clothes - it can be cold and windy or hot at the top of those mountains - better to have layers so that you can adapt to the conditions.
- The more crowded times are between 10am and 3pm
Pico do Arieiro Sunrise tips
- Arrive 45min before sunrise to choose your spot and see the beautiful light increasing
- As described above in this article, the 4 main recommended sunrise spots are - Beginning of the hike to Pico Ruivo, Miradouro do Juncal, Miradouro Ninho da Manta and Pico do Arieiro viewpoint (most crowded).
- Bring gloves - if, like me, you often get cold hands, I recommend gloves for the first 30minutes until the sun is warming you up
- Always check the trail status
- Bring coins for the toilets,
- Bring a flashlight for the tunnel,
- Wear sturdy shoes,
- Wear sunscreen,
- Bring snack and lots of water
- Thermal blanket - I never travel without one. In case of accident, keeping warm is essential.
- And since I hike alone, I also take with me a Garmin inReach Mini for added security - I take the lowest monthly subscription for one month, just to be able to use the emergency service button.
- From the same carpark there is another hike: PR3 from Pico do Areeiro to Ribeira das Cales - 7.2km one way
WILDLIFE around Pico do Arieiro
I also recommend to bring binoculars (see my buying guide) to discover the local birds:
- The canary (Serinus canaria)
- The pipit of Berthelot (Anthus berthelottii madeirensis)
- The unicoloured trip hammer (Apus Unicolor)
- The sparrow
- The Finch of the trees (Fringilla Coelens Madeirensis)
- The kinglet with triple stringcourse (Regulus ingnicapillus madeirensis)
One of the birds, Zino's Petrel is nesting only on the Madeira archipelago, in rugged terrain - it became critically endangered by 2001. Thanks to conservation effort, it was in much better shape by 2010. In the evening, you may hear them around Pico do Arieiro:
Next to Ninho da Manta, I was lucky to see a bird very close with 4 babies. Not sure what it is though, I am no birdwatcher.
Want to see more of the best Madeira offers?
- 42 Madeira travel tips to plan an unforgettable trip - read article
- Where to stay in Madeira - best areas - read article
- The best landscapes in Madeira in 40 pictures - read article
- 10 best hikes & levada walks in Madeira - reach article
- Tips to rent a car and drive around Madeira - read article
- 12 Madeira Hidden Gems - read article
- 4 Madeira Natural Pools (and 6 coastal alternatives) - read article
- 18 best beaches in Madeira - read article
- 7 best Madeira boat tours & trips - read article
Planning a trip to Madeira?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Plan your perfect trip around Madeira!
Want to see more of MADEIRA?
Inspired? Share it on your favorite platform!