• Menu
  • Menu

Farol do Arnel: Uncovering the Mysteries of the Azores’ Oldest Beacon

Blog » Travel » Farol do Arnel: Uncovering the Mysteries of the Azores’ Oldest Beacon

Alexandre Balas | Great shot of the Farol da Ponta do Arnel

Farol do Arnel (Arnel’s lighthouse, if literally translated) is the oldest lighthouse in the Azores. Located in the extreme northeast of the island of São Miguel, this private construction has a privileged location overlooking the immensity of the sea and is one of the tourist attractions that most impress visitors to this island.

This lighthouse is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful architectural buildings in the Azorean archipelago. It has been in operation since November 1876 and to this day carries out its coastal control activity.

Over the years, the site underwent some improvements and maintenance work. Is currently one of the most emblematic visiting cards in the Northeast.

What is the Farol do Arnel?

The Farol do Arnel, also known as the Farol da Ponta do Arnel, was built at the end of the 19th century, by the hand of the well-known “Worker of the Northeast”, António Alves de Oliveira. And it is currently considered a heritage landmark of the municipality of Nordeste.

David Rodrigues | Aerial photo over the Farol do Arnel
David Rodrigues | Aerial photo over the Farol do Arnel

Over the years, the Farol do Arnel has undergone several improvements and adaptations. It was kept up-to-date and with the ability to carry out its maritime signaling functions for all the traffic that navigates in Azorean waters.

In addition to its basic functions, the lighthouse offers its visitors a permanent exhibition about the lighthouses of the Azores. It is an excellent opportunity to:

  • learn about the ancestors;
  • and the history of the place together with the lighthouse keepers.

History of Farol do Arnel

​Farol do Arnel was the first lighthouse built in the Autonomous Region of the Azores.

Alexandre Balas | Great shot of the Farol da Ponta do Arnel
🛈 Did you know | According to the existing documentation, the complete equipment of the lighthouse had a total cost of 21 thousand reis (old portuguese coin). 

Designed, planned and built by António Alves de Oliveira, it presents an irreverent architectural style. It’s based on the modern ideas of the great worker of the time.

It has:

  • an octagonal tower intended for the accommodation of lighthouse keepers;
  • 15 meters high;
  • and an altitude of 66 meters.

The lighthouse emits single white flashes at 5-second intervals with a range of 25 nautical miles.

What to do in Farol do Arnel

Are you passing through the Nordeste (“Northeast”, if literally translated)? Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the Arnel Lighthouse and some places that we consider to be equally relevant points of interest for you!

Álvaro RP | Another great perspective over the Farol do Arnel
Álvaro RP | Another great perspective over the Farol do Arnel

Between waterfalls and viewpoints, this will certainly be a great place to discover and explore during your visit to the island of São Miguel.

Diving in the Cascata da Ponta do Arnel (waterfall)

The Cascata of Ponta do Arnel is an imposing waterfall, located in the Natural Park of São Miguel. It’s also known as Salto do Andrea e Martin.

Approximately 80 meters high, the Ponta do Arnel Waterfall is one of the regional ex-libris. It attracts annually thousands of curious and adventurous visitors.

This waterfall is located close to the Arnel Lighthouse, the Ponta do Arnel Viewpoint and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré.

You will have to walk a steep path (it can be done by car or on foot) to access the waterfall. The site also offers a free car park, open 24 hours a day.

Contemplate the View from the Miradouro da Ponta do Arnel (viewpoint)

The Ponta do Arnel Viewpoint is located in Vila do Nordeste, in the municipality of Nordeste, in São Miguel, in the Azores.

Bruno Ázera | Amazing colors of Farol do Arnel’s

With approximately 150 meters of altitude, the Viewpoint of Ponta do Arnel, has excellent access conditions. It has a ramp for people with reduced mobility and a free car park.

This viewpoint offers you a magnificent panoramic view over Vila do Nordeste, over the Ponta do Arnel Lighthouse and over the blue sea of ​​the Atlantic Ocean. From the Ponta do Arnel Viewpoint, you can also see the picturesque parish of Faial da Terra.

Appreciate the immensity of the sea at the Miradouro da Vista dos Barcos (viewpoint)

The Vista dos Barcos Viewpoint is located near the village of Lambo do Moio, in the municipality of Nordeste. From this location, you can enjoy a breathtaking view over the sea and the surrounding region.

David Rodrigues | Close to the Farol do Arnel
David Rodrigues | Close to the Farol do Arnel

With an altitude of 430 meters, this viewpoint is the first place on land where it is possible to see the ships that approach the Azorean coast from the east.

This is certainly a mandatory stop on your way through the Northeast.

Best Time to Visit Farol do Arnel

Due to its location, temperatures in the Azores are mild throughout the year. However, in the winter months, periods of rain and lower temperatures are naturally more frequent.

David Rodrigues | Our guide and client walking down the hill to see the Farol do Arnel from close
David Rodrigues | Our guide and client walking down the hill to see the Farol do Arnel from close

In this sense, the best time to visit the archipelago is usually between May and September, when precipitation is practically zero and the days are longer and sunny.

However, it is important to mention that the cloudy sky is a common feature to all the islands of the archipelago, so sometimes it may be difficult to contemplate the true splendor of some viewpoints in the Northeast, in São Miguel.

Plan Your Visit to Farol do Arnel

The Arnel Lighthouse is a tourist attraction full of history and stories, which is why this place deserves a visit, regardless of the time of year in question.

Know that you can visit the Arnel Lighthouse throughout the year only on Wednesdays. Admission is free and you need to register or make a reservation to access this imposing secular architectural work.

David Rodrigues | Drone photo from a different perspective
David Rodrigues | Drone photo from a different perspective

The Arnel Lighthouse is open at two different times, namely:

  • Summer: every Wednesday from 2 pm to 5 pm;
  • Winter: every Wednesday from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm.

How to get to Arnel Lighthouse?

Keep in mind that the path to get there is quite steep, but in the end your effort will be rewarded.

The access route to Farol do Arnel has a very steep slope, with a 35% slope and has no parking. Therefore, despite the possibility of going to the lighthouse by car or motorcycle, it is advisable to take the 500-meter journey on foot.

🛈 Did you know | Due to the steep slope, many vehicles with a lower displacement and without traction may even have difficulty making this journey.

However, if you prefer to make the journey by car, you must park on the side of the Estrada Regional, near the descent towards Porto de Pescas.

What to do around Farol do Arnel?

After visiting the Arnel Lighthouse, getting to know a little more about the history of this place and having explored the entire surrounding area with viewpoints and waterfalls, know that the municipality of Nordeste still has much more to offer.

David Rodrigues | A closeup of Farol do Arnel
David Rodrigues | A closeup of Farol do Arnel

In this sense, below, we think it is important to highlight other points of tourist and cultural interest that should not be left out of your itinerary on the island of São Miguel.

Dive in the Piscina Natural da Boca da Ribeira (natural pool)

The Piscina Natural da Boca da Ribeira is located near Vila do Nordeste. It is considered a leisure space of choice for residents and tourists visiting the region.

🛈 Did you know | The Boca de Ribeira Natural Pool is a result of volcanic activity and the action of the sea.

With its clear waters and a well-used and recovered space, the Boca da Ribeira Natural Pool is certainly an excellent option for a different and well-spent day.

The natural pools have all the support infrastructure for bathers. It which makes them an even more attractive place for those who want to take advantage of the warmer days. Enjoy sunbathing and the salty seawater!

Explore the Jardim Botânico da Ribeira do Guilherme (botanical garden)

The Botanical Garden of Ribeira do Guilherme is a municipal park and botanical garden located in Lomba da Fazenda – close to the towns of São Jorge and Senhora do Rosário -, a municipality in the Northeast.

Álvaro RP | Immerse yourself on the luxurious Nordeste's vegetation
Álvaro RP | Immerse yourself on the luxurious Nordeste’s vegetation

This botanical garden is made up of vegetation typical of the Macaronesian forests, with the dominant Laurel forest. With the aim of protecting and preserving this habitat, part of the park was included in the Special Protection Zone of Pico da Vara and Ribeira do Guilherme due to the presence of Priolo and its plant variety.

The Ribeira do Guilherme Botanical Garden has waterfalls, mills, lakes and swans. Also, if you like camping, this garden also has a beautiful campsite with a saltwater pool.

If you want to explore this garden, know that there is a footpath that goes through the entire park. It offers panoramic views over the sea.

Other Points of Interest in Nordeste, São Miguel island

The Vila do Nordeste is a colorful small town with a great heritage in the North East of São Miguel island. It is one of the most flowery villages in Europe and if you visit during the spring or summertime, you will clearly see why.

When you arrive in Nordeste, you will see the Bridge of the 7 arches, one of the most beautiful bridges in the Azores. It is quite old as it was built between 1882 and 1883. Beautiful scenery to stop by.

With this said, be sure to add these must-visit places to your itinerary to experience the best of what Nordeste has to offer:

Cascata da Ponta do Arnel, Centro de Interpretação do Priolo, Farol do Arnel, Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada, Miradouro da Ponta do Arnel, Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Miradouro da Ponta dos Barcos, Miradouro do Salto da Farinha, Museu Municipal do Nordeste, Pico Bartolomeu, Pico da Vara, Piscina Natural da Boca da Ribeira, Poço Azul, Praia do Lombo Gordo, Ribeira dos Caldeirões, Moinho do Felix, Vila do Nordeste.


The Arnel Lighthouse, located in the northeast of São Miguel, is the oldest lighthouse in the Azorean archipelago and has been active since November 1876.

This is an emblematic historic building, it performs coastal control functions and offers a permanent exhibition on the history of Azorean lighthouses and lighthouse keepers – open to the public every Wednesday free of charge.

In addition to the uniqueness and grandeur of the lighthouse, the municipality of Nordeste has many other points of tourist interest that deserve to be visited! What are you waiting for to embark on this adventure?


Paulo Soares |


  • Mendonça, L. (2017). Questions and Answers about the History of the Azores. 2nd Edition, Washed Letters. Thin tip.
  • Forjaz, V., Ribeiro, L., Almeida, L., Pereira, N. and Rodrigues, J. (2019). From the Azores volcanoes. (4th Edition). Washed Letters. Thin tip.
João Fins