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Pico do Arieiro on Madeira in 2024 - Everything you need to know before your visit

A complete and up-to-date travel guide to visiting Pico do Arieiro on Madeira Island, Portugal. Includes everything you need to know about visiting Pico do Arieiro from how to get here independently and do the PR1 Hike Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo to finding the most picturesque locations on the trail.

Ninho da Manta viewpoint at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira
Ninho da Manta viewpoint at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira

I spent the last two years traveling around Madeira, and Pico do Arieiro (1818 m) turned out to be my favourite place on the island. This mountain ranks as the third-highest peak on Madeira and has gained popularity as a sunrise spot, leading to traffic chaos and creative parking issues.

You might already stumble upon some recommendations to Pico do Arieiro in social media from one time visitors that could put you off from visiting this place. In this article I will tell you everything what you need to have the best experience while visiting Pico do Arieiro.

What to do on Pico do Arieiro

Pico do Arieiro, situated in an isolated mountainous area, offers various attractions. Begin your day with breakfast at the cafeteria, boasting the best view on Madeira. This small restaurant serves traditional snacks and drinks. I suggest trying my favorite Portuguese pastry - Pastel de Nata. The site also features a gift shop and toilets, but note that everything starts operating after 8 am.

Pico do Arieiro provides panoramic views of the entire Madeira Island. Explore different viewpoints on the PR1 trail, all within a 15-minute walk from the parking area.

The PR1 trail on Madeira
The PR1 trail on Madeira

How to get to Pico do Arieiro

There's no public transportation which can take you to the top. So the best way to get to Pico Arieiro is by a rented car or with a tour. Finding Pico do Arieiro isn't difficult, just type its name in google and the map will take you there. There are several roads which can take you to Pico do Arieiro. The roads starting from the north and east seem to be more challenging for drivers not used to steep mountain roads. The roads from the south are less  less steep. I recommend the road starting in Cancela and heading towards Camacha for the best-prepared route. Driving to Pico do Arieiro can be challenging not only for the driver but also for the car. If you rent a cheaper car with a smaller engine you might spend lots of time driving in the 1st gear, which will end in with a higher bill for gas and wasted time, so if you planning to spend your time in the mountains consider renting a car with a stronger engine to enjoy Madeira stress free.

There are two parking lots at Pico do Arieiro. The upper parking allows one-hour parking, while the lower parking has no time limit. Both are free of charge.

Ninho da Manta Viewpoint on Madeira
Ninho da Manta Viewpoint on Madeira

What to expect of Pico do Arieiro

When visiting Pico do Arieiro, you can expect to see some extraordinary views. The whole trail PR1 is just incredible itself. Especially the part closer to Pico do Arieiro. It's not uncommon to see cloud inversions. The best way to learn about the weather conditions on Pico do Arieiro is by checking the online webcam. To predict cloud inversion I'm checking the elevations of clouds in a weather app. If the clouds are expected to be bellow 2000 meters, it means that you might be lucky to see a spectacle. The cloud inversions can occur at any time of the day

Being Madeira's number 1 attraction, Pico do Arieiro attracts many visitors. In recent years, it has become a ritual for people to visit this peak at sunrise, resulting in what we now know as "The sunrise traffic." Hundreds of cars are driven to the top and then left in very random locations. The incorrectly parked cars later block the way for tour buses, preventing them from passing or turning back. Whenever the top parking is full, the police must control the traffic and block the road. So, if you're planning on visiting Pico do Arieiro, never leave your car in an incorrect place!

The trail PR1 on Madeira, Pico do Arieiro
The trail PR1 on Madeira, Pico do Arieiro

The increased number of cars means even more visitors during sunrise, the peak time for tourists on Pico do Arieiro. So, you'll see lots of people everywhere. Although the mountain is a large area, watching the sun rise from below the horizon on Pico do Arieiro isn't an intimate experience anymore. You might expect people shouting, laughing, or even playing loud music from a speaker.

To be honest, I'm not sure why sunrise on Pico do Arieiro has become such a phenomenon for tourists on Madeira. It's the coldest time to be up in the mountains, and because of the night, you can't see the weather conditions on the webcam. Considering that there will also be hundreds of people at the top, it makes me think that this isn't the best time to visit Pico do Arieiro.

As someone who goes to Pico do Arieiro every week, I'd strongly recommend choosing sunset over sunrise for your visit. You can easily predict the weather, and on top of that, you'll see fewer than 10% of the crowd you might encounter there at sunrise.

Remember that Pico do Arieiro is a mountain peak, so the weather there is very different compared to sea level. Even if it's sunny, I'd always have a jacket with me or in the car. I always recommend having proper footwear when visiting mountains. The area around the peak is very well maintained, so having at least sport shoes will be enough for a short visit, but consider packing hiking shoes if you're planning to hike.

The PR1 Trail on Madeira
The PR1 Trail on Madeira

Hiking the PR1 Trail from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

  • Distance: 6KM (point to point)

  • Incline: 500M

  • Duration: 3-4 hours

This challenging point-to-point trail takes you from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island. The trail offers breathtaking views of the island's rugged interior. On your way, you'll pass few impressive viewpoints, like the popular balcony - Ninho da Manta and the Stairway to Heaven. This trail is very well maintained, some of the tunnels are quite dark, but a phone flashlight is totally enough to find your way. Keep in mind that after reaching Pico Ruivo, you'll need to hike back or take an expensive taxi to return to your car. The parking next to the trailhead allows you only to park there for one hour, so if you're going for the hike you should leave your car at the bottom parking and walk up 15 minutes to the starting point.

There's a restaurant at Pico Ruivo and at Pico do Arieiro, so there are some good options to rest and have lunch. To our observation, going to Pico do Arieiro to see sunrise become a some sort of ritual. There are thousands of people there at that time and the parkings are totally full. That's why, we recommend to start this hike a little later to pass the busiest moment. Last time, we started at around noon and got back to Pico do Arieiro for sunset. Recently, a service opened up, offering transportation to Pico do Arieiro and then a pick-up from Pico Ruivo. This might be a great alternative if you're planning to spend the whole day on the trail.

We actually made a full YouTube video about this hike. You can check it out here:

Points of Interest at Pico do Arieiro

I can identify three points of interest in the Pico do Arieiro area. The first one is the sunrise viewpoint called Miradouro do Juncal. As you'd guess, the viewpoint is located on the east side. You can easily find it by typing the name of this location into Google Maps.

The Ninho da Manta viewpoint is very close to the start of the Vereda do Areeiro (PR1) hiking trail, which is famous in Madeira. It's a must-stop for both hikers heading to Madeira's highest peak and visitors to Pico do Areeiro. From here, you can see São Roque do Faial, Fajã da Nogueira valley, and also a significant part of Madeira's central mountain range. The view is dominated by tall rock formations that often stick out above the clouds. After taking in the scenery at the Ninho da Manta viewpoint, you can also explore the trail that connects Pico do Areeiro (1818 m) to Pico Ruivo (1862 m).

To get to this viewpoint, you'll have to hike for about 15 minutes from the Pico do Arieiro parking lot, where you can leave your car for free for one hour.

The other place that tourists seem to enjoy is a viewpoint commonly called the "Stairway to Heaven." It's a very exposed part of the PR1 trail and may be a bit stressful for people who are afraid of heights. The Stairs to Heaven are situated about a 30-minute walk from the parking. The walk isn't very challenging, but it can be tiring, especially if you try to make it fast.

Stairway to Heaven, Madeira
Stairway to Heaven, Madeira

My Experience at Pico do Arieiro

I visit Pico do Arieiro every week to do photoshoots for couples or to go hiking. Whenever I plan to do the PR1 hike, I never start it at sunrise because that's when everyone shows up on the trail. In my opinion, the perfect time would be just before noon, so you can return to Pico do Arieiro at sunset. I prefer visiting Madeira's mountains in the evening hours because I can check the weather conditions on the webcams and enjoy the viewpoints without the crowds.

Other Articles about Madeira you'd might like

Madeira is such an amazing place to visit, and we still can't believe we've been able to call it home for the past two years. During our stay, we explored all the best spots on the island and tried all the most exciting activities, many of them more than once! This helped us create these comprehensive guides that will help you plan your own trip to Madeira.



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