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  • Niko Benas

June 7, 2024 - Sunset at Pico do Arieiro

Not only the sunrise is an absolute highlight on Pico Arieiro, but also the sunset. With a height of 1,818 meters, it is the third highest mountain in Madeira and has a decisive advantage in contrast to its two big brothers Pico Ruivo (1,862 m) and Pico das Torres (1,851 m). It has a direct road connection because the NATO radar system, which opened there in 2010, must be easily accessible. So you can leisurely drive to the summit, park in one of the many free parking spaces and explore the beautiful area.

I decided to be there about 1.5 hours before sunset that day. At this time you can easily find a free parking space directly under the cafeteria there. Most visitors come here early in the morning to start the PR1 tour from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. A free parking space is out of the question long before sunrise.

Numerous Madeira gorse bushes grow in this rocky landscape and are particularly beautiful to look at during the flowering period from May to June, when the bright yellow flowers are formed and open. The ornamental shrub exudes a light, sweet scent and provides a breeding ground for butterflies. However, you should know that gorse is poisonous, basically in all parts of the plant.

While it was still raining in the valley and around Funchal, I initially saw a dense sea of ​​clouds up here that only dissipated very slowly. However, the sun kept peeking out from between the clouds, from which the craggy rocky peaks of the smaller surrounding mountain peaks now and again protruded.

Truly spectacular viewpoints not only make the hike to Pico Ruivo an unforgettable experience, but also offer countless photo spots along the very varied route. I decided to follow the paved hiking trail to the Miradouro do Ninho da Manta viewpoint to the Miradouro Pedra Rija viewpoint, 1.5 km away.

Although some of the peaks were completely in the clouds, I could always see impressive views over the deep valleys. In the constant ups and downs, I had to stop repeatedly to take a snapshot of this spectacular natural spectacle and to get some air. The clouds slowly moved up the mountains, which were now illuminated orange by the evening sun, and further over the peaks. The whole scenery changed almost every second.

Not only do numerous broom bushes bloom around the Pico do Arieiro, but also the pride of Madeira, the Madeiran snakehead (Echium candicans).

It's not just the Portuguese who are proud of the Madeira viper's head, but also everyone who experiences the extraordinary plant at home on the terrace or in the winter garden. The huge, sky-blue flower candles, measuring 30 cm long, attract attention in spring to early summer, as do the gray, velvety foliage and the candelabra-like growth.

The sun suddenly disappeared behind a peak or was it clouds? For me the signal to head back to the parking lot. This now felt even more difficult and it was getting noticeably colder.

In between, I continued to try to capture a few last impressions of this magnificent low mountain range in Madeira, until the sky slowly but surely became darker and the first orange stripe could be seen on the horizon.

There is something very sublime about experiencing a sunset between and above the clouds.

The short effort was more than worth it!


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