The Smooth Escape

Madeira itinerary: The perfect 7-day Madeira road trip

madeira travel blog

Madeira Island is a place that exceeded all my expectations. I was there for five weeks, exploring its breathtaking landscape, unique nature and hiking trails, and can confidently say that it’s one of the most spectacular islands I’ve ever seen. In this blog post, I’m sharing a 7-day Madeira itinerary that showcases the most beautiful places I discovered during my time on this mesmerizing island.

Madeira lies in the Atlantic Ocean, 1000km (620 miles) from mainland Portugal and is often called the Hawaii of Europe. Its lush vegetation, subtropical climate and volcanic landscape will make you feel like you’ve stepped foot on a remote paradise island when in reality you’re less than a 2-hour flight from continental Europe. 

The best way to explore the island is to rent a car and embark on an epic Madeira road trip. Although some places in this itinerary are accessible by bus, having a car will give you the freedom to stop wherever you want and allow you to get around Madeira much faster. 

Ready to start planning your trip? Below I’ve outlined my 7-day Madeira itinerary that includes the most scenic hikes and levada walks, volcanic beaches , viewpoints, picturesque towns and more. At the end of the article, you’ll also find a map with all the stops on this travel itinerary as well as my recommendations for where to stay in Madeira.

The dramatic green cliffs on the north coast of Madeira are a mandatory part of every Madeira itinerary

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7-day Madeira itinerary: The perfect Madeira road trip

Day 1: funchal.

On the first day of this Madeira itinerary, discover the island’s charming capital city Funchal.

Although you won’t need a car on the first day, you will need it very early the next day so I recommend picking it up right away. You can rent a car either at the airport or in Funchal.

Below, I’ve listed the best places to visit in Funchal. If you don’t manage to see much of the city on the first day, don’t worry because you’ll also have some time here on the final day of this Madeira itinerary.

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are located in the hills above Funchal and feature a large collection of exotic plants, various sculptures and walkways spread over a 7-hectare (17-acre) area. As you walk around the gardens, you can see peacocks, swans and koi fish. It’s a gorgeous place to explore with something exciting around every corner. The entrance fee to the gardens is 12.50 euros.

The easiest and most fun way to get to Monte Palace is to take a cable car from the city. The Funchal Cable Car station is located at the waterfront near the old town and the ride costs 11 euros one way (16 euros round-trip).

A woman standing on a bridge in the lush Monte Palace Tropical Gardens in Funchal

Funchal Farmers Market

In the heart of the city, you’ll find the bustling Funchal Farmers Market (Mercado dos Lavradores). Full of colorful stalls selling fresh produce, flowers, spices and seafood, the market is a real feast for the eyes.

What I loved most about Mercado dos Lavradores was its wide variety of exotic fruits. Make sure to taste the various types of passion fruit and the Monstera Deliciosa fruit – a long green fruit with hexagonal scales, which the locals introduced to us as a pineapple-banana fruit. Just make sure it is ripe, as it can otherwise be toxic.

There are also small cafes and bistros at the market where you can enjoy local pastries or have a glass of Poncha, a traditional drink made of sugar cane brandy and fruit juice. Warning: this stuff is STRONG.

Colorful tropical fruits being sold at Funchal Farmers Market

Funchal Old Town

The picturesque Old Town of Funchal (Zona Velha) is home to cozy cobblestone streets, historical buildings, small boutiques and some of the best restaurants in the city.

While here, make sure to stroll along Rua de Santa Maria, which is one of the oldest streets in Funchal. Lined with shops, bars and restaurants, this narrow street is a popular hangout for both tourists and locals and the best place to experience the city’s nightlife. You’ll see that many doors and walls on Rua de Santa Maria are covered with colorful paintings. This is a result of the Painted Doors art project which transformed the area into a permanent outdoor art gallery.

Other famous attractions in the Old Town are the 15th-century Corpo Santo Chapel, the yellow São Tiago Fort and Madeira Story Centre museum.

A narrow historical street lined with restaurants in Funchal Old Town.

If you’re looking for more things to do in Funchal, consider visiting Madeira Botanical Garden, Funchal Cathedral, Christiano Ronaldo Museum (he’s born in Madeira!) or taking this food and wine tour to savor some delicious local products.

Day 2: Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike

Kick off the second day of your Madeira itinerary by getting up early and driving to Pico do Arieiro to see the sunrise. At 1,818m (5,965ft), it’s the third-highest peak on the island and it takes around 45 minutes to drive there from Funchal. 

Once there, head to Miradouro do Juncal viewpoint and be ready to witness the most breathtaking sunrise above the clouds. I still remember the feeling of standing at that viewpoint surrounded by low-hanging clouds and watching the first rays of sun paint the sky pink. It was a surreal experience! Make sure to dress in layers because it’s COLD up there at such an early hour (10°C during our visit in August).

People watching the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro mountain, one of the highlights of this 7-day Madeira itinerary

Next, get ready for what’s probably going to be one of the most unforgettable hikes of your life – the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike. With 1,862m (6,109ft) of altitude, Pico Ruivo is the highest peak in Madeira. 

It’s a pretty challenging and steep 12km (7.5-mile) out-and-back trail and probably one of the top 3 most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done! With deep verdant valleys, glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean and jagged mountain peaks piercing through clouds, the views along the trail are absolutely stunning.

Sharp mountain peaks surrounded by clouds on the hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, one of the best hikes in Madeira

During the hike, you’ll need to go through several tunnels carved into the mountains, so make sure to bring a head torch or a phone flashlight. Once you reach Pico Ruivo, you’ll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the entire island. After you’ve got a bit of rest and caught your breath, hike back the same way to Pico do Arieiro. Although it is the same trail, the views are totally different as you’ll be facing the opposite way.

P.S. If this 12km (7.5-mile) round-trip hike sounds too tough for you, there’s also an easier option where you’ll do the hike just one way. For this, you’d need to take a guided tour like this one . You’ll first hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (6km) and then down from Pico Ruivo to Achada do Teixeira (3km), where a car will pick you up and drive you back to your hotel.

Pico Ruivo hiking trail above the clouds

Day 3: Northwestern coast of Madeira

On Day 3, take a road trip to the incredibly scenic northwestern coast of Madeira. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful section of the island’s coastline and another highlight of this 7-day Madeira itinerary.

São Vicente

Nestled between steep green mountains, São Vicente is a picturesque little town that’s certainly worth a quick stop. The best thing to do here is to simply stroll around the town’s historic center and the oceanfront area, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.

A narrow street lined with flowers in Sao Vicente, a beautiful town to visit on your Madeira road trip

A short drive east from São Vicente lies the small coastal town Seixal, which boasts some of the best views in Madeira. Before entering the town, stop at Miradouro do Véu da Noiva, a famous viewpoint where you can admire the Bridal Veil Waterfall and the towering cliffs around it. 

Green mountains rising out of the turquoise ocean at Seixal, one of the most beautiful places in this 7-day Madeira itinerary

Next, head to Seixal Beach which is one of the few naturally sandy beaches on the island. With its black sand, turquoise water and green mountains rising vertically from the ocean, it’s a strikingly beautiful place.

Another fantastic place to visit here is Seixal Natural Pools. Surrounded by volcanic formations and filled with crystal clear water, these tidal lava rock pools are a really unique spot for a swim.

Read more about Seixal Beach and Seixal Natural Pools in my post about the best beaches in Madeira .

A woman walking on the black sand beach in Seixal, Madeira Island

As you leave Seixal and continue driving northwest along the coast, visit also Miradouro da Eira da Achada and Miradouro Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela viewpoints.

Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz is a small seaside town known for its two sets of natural pools – one is more developed and kid-friendly and the other one is a bit more ‘rough’. Again, you can find more details about them in my Madeira beaches post. If you’re running short of time, I’d say you can skip visiting Porto Moniz.

Achadas da Cruz Cable Car

For the final stop of the day, head to Achadas da Cruz cable car, which is supposedly the steepest one in Europe. Here, you’ll be transported down an almost vertical cliff and arrive at a beautiful isolated stretch of coastline. It’s an exciting 5-minute ride and costs just 3 euros for a round-trip.

Down by the shore, there’s a tiny traditional village, a pebble beach and a walking trail with amazing views of the cliffs towering above you. As this place is very remote and doesn’t receive tons of visitors, it definitely feels like one of the hidden gems of Madeira.

A coastal trail next to towering cliffs at Achadas da Cruz, one of the hidden gems of Madeira

Day 4: Levada walks and Fanal Forest

Continue your 7-day Madeira itinerary by exploring the fantastic nature of the Paul da Serra plateau in the western part of the island.

As the plateau receives a large amount of rain, it is home to several waterfalls and levadas (man-made irrigation channels distributing water across the island). Walking along levadas is surely one of the most unique things to do in Madeira and allows you to immerse yourself in the wonderful nature of the island.

Levada das 25 Fontes walk & Risco Waterfall

Levada das 25 Fontes, which translates into 25 springs or fountains, is an easy levada walk featuring a scenic forest trail and several waterfalls. The trail leads to a small lagoon surrounded by tall rock walls with dozens of tiny streams trickling down them. If you’re brave enough you can even go for a swim in this chilly water.

Be aware that the 25 Fontes hike is one of the most popular levada walks in Madeira. I recommend getting there early if you don’t feel like rubbing shoulders with 100 other tourists.

Small waterfalls, blue lagoon and lush foliage at the 25 Fontes levada walk.

To get to the 100m (330ft) tall Risco Waterfall, walk the same way back from the 25 Fontes lagoon and turn left at the fork about halfway through the trail. To visit both of these waterfalls, it’s an 11km (6.8-mile) round-trip hike and should take you 3-4 hours.

Since we were here in August, one of the driest months in Madeira, both 25 Fontes Falls and Risco Waterfall had reduced to just a small trickle. If you come here in the wetter months of the year (November to April), you can expect the waterfalls to look a lot fuller.

Fanal Forest

After the 25 Fontes and Risco Waterfall hike, drive to the magical Fanal Forest (Auto Fanal in Google Maps). This ancient laurel forest is a part of Madeira’s Laurisilva forest which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its biological and ecological importance.

What makes Fanal Forest so special is its crooked moss-covered trees and the mysterious fog that’s often present here. It really looks like an enchanted forest and makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. It’s crazy to think that most of these trees are more than 600 years old and have been growing here since before Madeira was even discovered! 

As you walk around the forest and the meadows, you might encounter some cows roaming around so watch out for cow poop. Since it gets pretty chilly up at Fanal, make sure to bring a warm jacket and long pants.

Ancient moss-covered trees at Fanal Forest, one of the most unique places to add to your Madeira road trip itinerary.

Day 5: The ‘tail’ of Madeira

On Day 5, I recommend exploring the impressive landscapes on Madeira’s east coast. Get ready for some coastal trekking as well as some well-deserved beach time.

Ponta de São Lourenço

Ponta de São Lourenço is the easternmost point of the island and a mandatory stop on every Madeira road trip. This long narrow peninsula, which is also known as the “tail of Madeira”, features spectacular volcanic cliffs, rock formations and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Dramatic volcanic landscapes of Ponta de São Lourenço peninsula, one of the most beautiful places in Madeira.

With its barren, moon-like landscape and very little vegetation, this place looks completely different from the rest of the island. On top of the cliffs, there’s a hiking trail that allows you to enjoy the dramatic views from many different angles.

Near the end of the trail, there’s also a small cafe where you can get snacks or a cold drink. From here, most people start heading back but I recommend hiking a bit further to the Miradouro Ponta do Furado viewpoint for incredible views of the Ilhéu da Cevada islet.

The Ponta de São Lourenço walk is an easy 8km (5-mile) hike (round-trip) and should take you about 3 hours to complete. Since there’s no shade from the sun on this trail, bring sunscreen and lots of water.

A woman hiking along the rocky coastal trail at Ponta de São Lourenço, a place that needs to be on every Madeira itinerary

Prainha Beach (Prainha do Caniçal)

Located just a short drive from Ponta de São Lourenço, Prainha Beach is one of the few naturally sandy beaches in Madeira and the ideal place to relax after your hike.

Because of its soft volcanic sand and turquoise water full of colorful fish, it became one of my favorite beaches on the island. Read more about Prainha Beach in my Madeira beaches guide .

Day 6: Northeastern part of Madeira

Continue your Madeira road trip by getting to know the northeastern corner of the island.

Levada do Caldeirão Verde

Start your day with the Levada do Caldeirão Verde hike, which is one of the best levada walks in Madeira. The trail leads you through a lush Laurisilva forest, past several small waterfalls and offers magnificent views of the green valleys and mountains of Madeira. 

A picturesque thatched-roof house at Parque Florestal das Queimadas on Madeira Island.

At the end of the hike, you’ll arrive at the mysterious Caldeirão Verde (aka the “green cauldron”), where you’ll see a 110m (360ft) tall waterfall cascading down green mossy cliffs. As we were there in August, there was just a small trickle left of the waterfall but it was still beautiful.

Bring a head torch or a phone with a flashlight because there are a few tunnels you need to walk through. The total distance of the Caldeirão Verde levada walk is 12km (7.5 miles) but since the trail is flat and well maintained, it’s a very easy walk and takes about 4 hours to complete.

A woman admiring the Caldeirão Verde waterfall on Madeira Island

After the hike, drive to Santana which is famous for its adorable traditional houses. With triangle-shaped thatched roofs and colorful facades, these tiny houses look like they belong in a fairytale. 

There are quite a few of them scattered around Santana but the best place to see them is in the town center, next to the Town Hall (Casas típicas de Santana in Google Maps). Here, you’ll find a beautiful flower garden and six traditional houses. Each of them is a shop selling a variety of local products and souvenirs.

A woman posing in front of the quaint traditional Santana houses and blooming flowers.

Miradouro do Guindaste

Round off your day with a visit to the Miradouro do Guindaste viewpoint. It’s an amazing place for photos and offers some mesmerizing views of the ocean and the massive cliffs along Madeira’s northeastern coast. 

If you crave a dip in the ocean or want to grab something to eat, head to Faial Beach Club right next to the viewpoint.

Scenic coastal views of cliffs at Miradouro do Guindaste, a must-see spot on your 7-day Madeira itinerary.

Day 7: Dolphin and whale watching tour

Spend the last day of your Madeira itinerary in Funchal. Depending on your interests, you can either visit the attractions that you didn’t have time for on the first day or you can go on a dolphin and whale watching tour – a bucket-list-worthy experience for any wildlife lover!

The waters surrounding Madeira are home to large whale and dolphin populations and the chances of spotting them are supposedly as high as 85%-95%. Ironically, we didn’t see any whales or dolphins during our tour but that’s how it is with wildlife – you can never be guaranteed that you’ll see them.

Cabo Girão cliff seen from a boat during a dolphin and whale watching tour in Funchal.

Most of the dolphin and whale watching tours have really positive online reviews so I think there’s a high chance you’ll have more luck than we did. Many people mention seeing pods of sperm whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, turtles and other species, sometimes just a few meters from the boat!

If this sounds like something for you, here are the different types of tours to consider:

  • A tour on a speedboat – With a speedboat, you can cover larger distances and therefore have a better chance of spotting wildlife. It’s an adrenaline-filled experience and you’ll need to stay in your seat throughout the trip due to high speed.
  • A tour on a catamaran – With a catamaran, you can cover less distance but the experience is a lot more relaxed and you’ll have access to various sitting areas, bathrooms and a bar. In the warmer months, the tour also includes a snorkeling stop.
  • A tour where you can swim with dolphins – If the conditions are right, you can swim with common dolphins or spotted dolphins on this tour. There’s also a chance that you’ll see some whales.

Where to stay in Madeira

Since Madeira is quite small, you could easily base yourself in the capital city Funchal and do day trips to the different parts of the island. But if you want to experience what it’s like to stay in some of the smaller towns, consider spending a night or two in São Vicente, Santana or Machico.

Here are some of my top picks on where to stay in Funchal:

BUDGET: FX Pena The perfect accommodation for budget travelers. Spacious, clean and modern rooms plus a shared kitchen and a large terrace.

MID-RANGE: NEXT by Savoy Signature A new 4-star hotel at the waterfront in the heart of the city. There’s a fabulous rooftop infinity pool & bar, sauna, gym and modern rooms with views of the ocean and Funchal. This hotel offers amazing value for money.

LUXURY: Savoy Palace by Savoy Signature One of the most high-end hotels in Funchal. With its stunning interior decor, incredible rooftop, exceptional spa facilities, tropical gardens and impeccable service, Savoy Palace is the definition of luxury.

Madeira itinerary map

On this map, you can find the locations of all the stops included in this 7-day Madeira itinerary. Click on the top left corner of the map for more details.

Have more than a week in Madeira?

If you have more than a week in Madeira, consider also visiting Porto Santo island, which is a part of the Madeira archipelago. Porto Santo is just a 2-hour ferry ride away but its nature and landscape are very different from Madeira. The biggest attraction on the island is its 9km (5.6-mile) long beach with golden sand and clear turquoise water.

Madeira itinerary: final thoughts

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, epic hiking trails and incredible nature, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Madeira. Even after spending five weeks on this island, I couldn’t get enough of its beauty!

I hope that this 7-day Madeira itinerary gave you a good overview of what to expect when visiting this gem of an island and that you found some inspiration for planning your own trip.

If you have any questions about this itinerary, leave them in the comments below.

For more photos and videos of our Madeira trip, have a look at my Instagram account – look for the stories highlight called Madeira.

Planning to explore mainland Portugal as well? Then have a look at the following posts:

  • Algarve 5-day itinerary
  • Best hikes in the Algarve
  • Visiting the Algarve in winter
  • Hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in the Algarve

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38 Amazing Things to Do in Madeira (In 2024)

Madeira is commonly called the “Hawaii of Europe” and for a good reason — this volcanic island off the coast of Morocco has the stunning beaches, lush forests, and reliable sunshine you’d expect from it’s year-round subtropical climate.

The key difference: it’s approximately a million times more affordable . Dare I say, budget-friendly?

Even though the island is just 741 km 2 (286 mi 2 ), there are so many amazing things to do in Madeira that you can easily spend a week or more. But thanks to how compact and well-connected Madeira is, it’s totally possible to hit the highlights in just a couple of days if that’s all you have.

Read on for the best things to do in Madeira in 2024, completely up-to-date with what’s open now and how to make the most out of your Madeira holiday.

Plus, a few travel tips to prepare for your trip and what you absolutely need to arrange in advance.

What to know before you visit Madeira

Before heading off in the Madeiran sunset, here’s what you need to know to prepare for your trip:

  • Best way to explore the island is definitely by car. Critically, you want to get a SMALL car (we opted for a Fiat 500) because streets are super narrow. We always book our cars through Discover Car's comparison portal to find the best deal on our car hire.
  • If you don’t hire a car, many places are accessible by small group tour. Wherever possible, I’ll also include shuttles and tours you can use to explore Madeira without a car.
  • You can pay by card almost everywhere. But a handful of places were cash only or Portuguese cards only. For that reason, make sure to carry a small amount of cash.
  • If you plan to hike, definitely bring hiking boots. Some of the most beautiful hikes to stunning waterfalls are in the forest and can get muddy. There are lots of options for hiking in Madeira for all levels of fitness.
  • The best time to visit Madeira is May through August. Simply because there is less rain than in Winter. However, Madeira is a year-round destination and has enough microclimates that if it’s raining somewhere, you can drive to sun and warmth in under an hour!
  • The best place to stay in Madeira is in Funchal. Our amazing villa (pictured below) was a 5 minute drive from the main highway, and a 15 minute walk to the city. The location was absolutely perfect as a home base to explore the entire island efficiently.

With the fact that Europe has truly opened to international travel, I highly suspect that people will be flocking to Madeira this Summer. So if you’re looking for accommodation, I’d definitely recommend booking soon before prices inevitably increase again and availability is limited.

If you want to stay in the same villa as us, you can check its availability here . The host, Louise, was incredibly helpful and we would 100% stay here again on our next trip, as it was just perfect.

Things to do in Madeira

This list of top things to do in Madeira is based on my experience on the island, and such there are tons of pictures of each location and activity. If you have any questions, you’re always welcome to contact me and I’ll see how I can help!

Here are the best things to do in Madeira in 2024:

25 Fontes

1. Take stunning waterfall photos at the 25 Fontes hike

Arugably the most popular hike on the island, the 25 Fontes hike is one of the best things to do on Madeira because it features several gorgeous waterfalls — and is mostly flat after the initial descent into the valley along a paved road.

Flat (ish) hike with a big reward? That’s what I like to hear!

The highlight is the 25 Fontes , or “25 Fountains” which feed the levada you walk next to on your way to the source. But for a mere 800-meter detour, you can also stop by the Risco Waterfall along the way (pictured below).

As you hike, you’ll find beautiful wildflowers, a peaceful levada stream running alongside you, and birds for company. The path is extremely well-maintained, with plenty of railings near any drop-offs. The finale is a stunning, delicate waterfall complete with fish swimming in the pool below!

We had about 3 hours of moving time, and 4.5 hours total round trip including stopping for lunch and taking copious photos.

That said, if you have mobility limitations, do be aware there is a decent set of stairs (300 meters of elevation gain in total) about midway through the hike that’ll get your heart pumping. As always, “easy” is relative, but we did see people of all ages on this trail.

We hiked mid-day on a weekend in mid-Summer, and still found the crowds manageable. That said, bear in mind this hike is very popular so you’ll meet plenty of new friends along the way!

Reach it by tour

If you’re not renting a car, you can reach the 25 Fontes and Risco Waterfall hike through this guided tour at a really affordable price. Hiking tours are very common in Madeira, and a great way to both stay safe and learn more about the island. Click below for details and availability:

2. See sunset at Pico do Arieiro

Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak on Madeira, and a must-see viewpoint when the clouds are low enough to form a layer between you and the world below.

The best part? You can get these incredible views a 60-second walk away from a car park! That makes this an excellent location for people who don’t want to trek. There’s even a stairlift for wheelchair users or people who can’t get up stairs.

Pico do Arieiro is also a really popular places for sunrise, but with one drawback: this area is extremely prone to thick fog (AKA being inside a cloud!) meaning the risk of near-zero visibility is pretty high.

So if you plan for sunset instead of sunrise, you can use the webcams on NetMadeira to plan your trip during a clear time period. That’s how we landed these incredible views on our second attempt:

Packing tip: Stay warm! You’re at the top of a mountain, which is a very different climate than hanging out on the beach. A sweater and light outer layer worked perfectly against the windy conditions. Ladies with long hair, bring a hair tie or risk eating your mane while trying to take a selfie!

3. See the traditional houses at Santana

Madeira was claimed by Portuguese sailors in the early 1400s, and was supposedly uninhabited at the time (though there’s evidence the Vikings may have visited a few centuries earlier).

Some of the early inhabitants built small, triangular houses with thatched roofs, best observed today at the cultural site called Casas típicas de Santana in the Northeast part of Madeira.

At this location, you’ll find several houses including some you can enter, such as the tourism office and a small flower shop. The houses are free to see, and a popular spot to spend 30-45 minutes wandering around.

There are tons of things to do in Madeira in the Santana area, you’ll most likely find yourself with several opportunities to stop by these houses on your Madeira road trip.

If you’re not self-driving, you can reach Santana on this full guided tour of Madeira’s East Coast , which includes stops at Pico do Arieiro (mentioned above), levada walk to the Balcões (mentioned below), and of course these famous A-frame houses. Click below for details on pricing and availability:

4. Look out over the Vereda dos Balcões

Probably the easiest hike we took on Madeira, Vereda dos Balcões is an ultra flat, 1.5 kilometer path from the street to this lookout point.

Right in the middle of Madeira is a big natural park, called Ribeiro Frio (which literally means “Cold Brook” in Portuguese). The mountains are covered in thick forest, and you’ve got a view all the way out to the sea on a clear day.

What’s important to know is tht this area is also very prone to mist and cloud cover! So you’ll want to plan in advance and check visibility on NetMadeira before making the drive through.

5. Hike to the island’s highest point at Pico Ruivo

Pico Ruivo is the highest point on Madeira, at 1,862 meters above sea level. You have two options for reaching the summit: from Pico do Arieiro in an intense hike known as the “Pico to Pico”, which is a 7km trail between the peaks of these two mountains.

Or you can do what we did, which is the easier Achada do Teixeira trail. It features a 300m elevation gain and 2.8km each way. On the path, you’ll spot wildflowers and butterflies, and there are places to fill up your waterbottle, too.

The trail itself is extremely well-maintained, with what is basically a rock pathway all the way up. You don’t have to do any climbing, though there are a fair number of stairs to contend with in the last stretch. At the peak, you can gaze down at your kingdown below!

If you want to hike the full Pico to Pico route, this hiking tour will guide you for the more challenging 8-hour trek. Learn about the mountain’s flora and fauna from a local guide, plus take advantage of pickup and drop off from Funchal. Click below for details and availability:

6. Go on a dolphin or whale-watching tour by boat

The best time for whale watching in Madeira is between April and October, whereas dolphins can be seen year round. This means that no matter when you visit Madeira, you’ve got a great chance to spot some incredible creatures from a boat.

Not only that, but you get to actually see the island you’re on from a totally different angle. We wanted to do one of these tours but didn’t manage it in time, and were then recommended to book at least three days in advance to guarantee a spot.

Here are some of the tours we tried booking, maybe one of them will work for you!

Boat rides are often the highlights of my trips, as they give you a fantastic way to see your surroundings and connect with nature. Here are three options for seeing dolphins and whales with excellent reviews (click the tour name for pricing and availability):

7. Snap an iconic Madeira panorama at Miradouro do Curtado

If there’s any Portuguese word you’ll become intimately familiar with on your trip, it’s got to be Miradouro (or, “Scenic Viewpoint”). These dot the entire Madeiran coastline on all sides, but one of our favorites was this viewpoint which you’ll encounter driving from Funchal to Santana: Miradouro do Curtado .

This one really has it all! Mountains, sea, and some of the most popular purple flowers you’ll find gracing the roadside all across the Eastern coastal roads.

8. Visit one of the world’s top botanical gardens, Monte Palace

Monte Palace is located right in Funchal, in the north of the city. These botanical gardens are sizable (70,000 square meters!). You can spend a lot of time here if you like taking pictures.

Perhaps unexpectedly, a lot of the gardens are inspired by traditional Japanese gardens. Having been to a lot of these in Japan, I can say there are similarities (apart from the palm trees 😉).

Rated in the top 13 most beautiful botanical gardens in the world by Conde Nast traveler, the main gardens after the entrance definitely stack up to some of the gorgeous gardens we’ve visited in our travels. Eventually, you’ll see “the palace” and from there be able to look out over Funchal to the sea.

Beautiful gardens, and definitely recommend for anyone who loves visiting botanical gardens on their travels!

8. Stand over the highest cliff in Europe at Cabo Girão Skywalk

Cabo Girão is the second highest sea cliff in the world , and the highest in Europe. What better place to walk across just centimeters of glass separating you from a 580 meter drop?

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m scared of heights…but they kind of freak me out. Before heading to Madeira, I watched a YouTube video of a guy who wouldn’t walk across the Cabo Girão Skywalk because it freaked him out and honestly — I get it.

Even if heights scare you, the views from this vantage point are great for looking along the coast.

The Cabo Girão Skywalk is free to enter, and has a cafe nearby if you happen to need a drink after your brush with fate.

9. Go for a levada walk at Levada do Caldeirão Verde

Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of the most rewarding, moderate hikes on Madeira, if somewhat longer at 8.7 kilometers (5.4 miles) each way, for a total of 17.4 kilometers.

What makes it special is the thick jungle you pass through as you follow the levada to several waterfalls en route. You’ll find endless varieties of ferns, pretty flowers, and a safe, well-maintained path with railings next to every drop off.

Inside, two stunning waterfalls await! Here’s a preview of the first, which you meet relatively early into the hike:

The second is a tall, beautiful waterfall that plummets about 100 meters into a circular lagoon below.

The hike is extremely flat with just a small number of stairs and no rock climbing needed, though you do walk quite a bit on uneven stones as opposed to soft ground which can start to hurt in the final stretch, even with good hiking boots.

Still, the most beautiful hike on Madeira in my opinion! If you go on just one Levada hike, this one is sure to give you everything you could want.

Tip for this hike: You’ll pass through several caves with low ceilings and wet floors. My iPhone’s light was not sufficient to go through comfortably, so I’d highly recommend bringing a headlamp with you. This particular headlamp is what we later bought and it’s ultra bright and simple to use.

10. See a waterfall into the ocean at Miradouro do Véu da Noiva

This beautiful viewpoint at Miradouro do Véu da Noiva features a waterfall that leads straight into the ocean. If you look closely, you’ll see there’s an old road that used to lead right through this waterfall:

In 2008 there was a landslide that caused damage to this road, and today it’s closed off for visitors. You can see what remains of the landslide in the pile of rubble at the foot of the waterfall.

This viewpoint is beautiful, and extremely easy to reach. Just walk for a few seconds from the nearby parking lot, and this view is yours! Hopefully you’ll get more sunshine that we did.

11. Visit the black sand beach at Seixal

This is an excellent place to stop after visiting the Miradouro do Véu da Noiva (mentioned above), a nearby waterfall that pours into the ocean right next to Seixal (featured just a little further in this list!).

As a volcanic island, Madeira has a number of beaches with volcanic rocks and stones. But the black sand beach at Seixal has smooth, fine sand you can relax on like any other beach.

Here you can also take surfing lessons, go paddle boarding, or go for a swim in the gentle waves.

12. Hike the Ponta de São Lourenço trail at sunrise

At the eastern most tip of Madeira, you’ll find Ponta de São Lourenço . This rugged, almost desert-like stretch extends into the Atlantic ocean and is commonly referred to as “The Dragon’s Tail” of the island.

In the distance, you can see the the Ilhas Desertas , an island that’s home to giant wolf spiders (google it if you dare). Luckily you’ll see no such critters on this trail, though you will encounter beautiful thistle flowers, bumble bees, and (once they wake up) locusts in the high brush.

Given there is virtually zero shade or coverage on this trail , hiking at sunrise works great to help you stay cool and avoid the crowds (and the stronger winds) which crop up in mid-morning.

The most famous viewpoint is beyond the “recommended trail”, a steep ascent to the very top of the island. As someone who’s not a super experienced hiker, this trail was pretty challenging for me! Still, absolutely worth it for these views.

If you opt against sunrise, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe at the end where you can put up your boots. Only issue is they open at 10:30AM, so it’s on you to bring your own breakfast if you go at sunrise.

13. Look over the Valley of the Nuns at Miradouro Eira do Serrado

As you drive through the mountains of Madeira, you’ll get several viewpoints over this valley. But Miradouro Eira do Serrado is great because it gives you an extremely high vantage point but without a ton of stairs or walking. Just a few minutes of walking from the carpark and…

These views over the valley known as the Valley of the Nuns .

You look out over terraces stacked like a layer cake up the side of the mountain and streets that look fit for a race track, zig zagging across the scene. It’s an impressive view with virtually no work to reach in comparison with many of Madeira’s hiking trails.

Driving in this area can get a little bit dicey, with extremely narrow roads and lots of twists and turns (as you can see in the photos!). This super popular tour spends half a day in the area for an extremely affordable rate and with stellar reviews. Click below for details and availability:

14. Visit the same fishing village as Winston Churchill

A lot of famous people have visited Madeira over the years, but Winston Churchill really put it on the map when he visited Câmara de Lobos . This small fishing village now even bears a hotel in his name.

This town works great as a stop after Cabo Girão , where you can stop at one of several harbor bars for an ice cold beer or Poncha. Around the corner, you’ll also find a popular beach complete with surfers and a beach bar.

Câmara de Lobos is also home to one of the best meals we ate in Madeira (grilled meat skewers called Espatadas ), so keep scrolling for that tip a little later!

15. Drive under a waterfall at Cascata dos Anjos

Cascata dos Anjos (literally, “Angels Waterfall”) pours out over a now defunct section of the old highway, ER101. Referred to endearingly as a “free car cash”, this waterfall will definitely do the job if your car is dusty!

A lot of people also park further way, and simply take photos under the waterfall. The most prepared bring swimsuits. While not the most beautiful waterfall in Madeira, it’s certainly a unique experience and easy to reach on any drive back from Western Madeira to Funchal.

16. Go snorkeling at Garajau Nature Reserve

Garajau Nature Reserve is a large, protected area of Madeira’s coast, designated to prevent the desertification of the seabed. It’s located to the East of Funchal, and is a fantastic place for both scuba diving and snorkeling. You can see tons of kinds of fish and aquatic wildlife here, including Atlantic Manta Rays, and large fish like the Mero and other coastal species.

If you love water activities and want to get a chance to explore Portugal’s first and only Marine Reserve, a tour with an experienced local is the best way to do it. Here are two options from my favorite tour company, GetYourGuide:

17. Enjoy some of Madeira’s best beaches

Most of Madeira’s beaches are rocky, comprising volcanic rock that has smoothed out over the years. This doesn’t stop people from sunbathing, Some of Madeira’s best beaches include:

  • Praia da Calheta – A rare, white sand beach with sand imported from the Western Sahara.
  • Machico – Located on the South coast of Madeira, this beach also has imported sand and is actually pretty close to the airport.
  • Ponta do Sol – This extremely sunny part of Madeira is home to a small, 160-meter beach with excellent swimming conditions.
  • Seixal – This black sand beach is unique for its surrounding jungle view and the fine black sand you walk on. The beach isn’t huge but you can enjoy gentle waves here.

18. Hike to the waterfall at Garganta Funda Viewpoint

Garganta Funda might look small in this photo, but it’s actually one of the tallest waterfalls on Madiera at a height of 140 meters. Walking to this viewpoint takes about 5 minutes each way and extremely easy. From here, you’ll look down into a carved out section of this cliff and find this:

The best time to visit Garganta Funda is in Winter , because the extra rain makes the stream much mightier than what you see here during Summer. Especially if you can visit after a heavy rainfall!

19. Eat Espatadas at Restaurante O Polar

Espatadas are beef skewers, served on a spit that hangs over your table. These are drenched in garlic butter and served with fresh-cut fries. It was heavenly!

We looked high and low for the best place to try them, and O Polar fit the bill. Our total bill was about 25 euros for two people, and we were stuffed to the brim afterwards.

20. Do a wild levada walk to Cascata Agua d’Alto

Not for those who are scared of heights, the levada walk to Cascata Agua d'Alto is no longer maintained but still accessible with a little determination and geo-sleuthing. You’ll walk next to a rushing levada, through the jungle to a waterfall at the end of the path.

How to get there: You will see a “dead end” sign when driving through the closest town, which is across the way from a bus stop. Technically you can drive up to this dead end and find a tiny parking lot, though we opted to park below and walk up. From there, you’ll find some stairs and an overgrown path. Be careful, as there are no railings and some very narrow spots.

Again, there are some short sections with steep drop offs and no railings, so not for kids or or people scared of heights.

21. Eat a delicious steak sandwich

Madeirans love sandwiches, and as luck has it, it’s one of the most affordable and filling items on a lot of menus. Made here with Bolo do Caco bread, this steak sandwich cost just 4.30€ and took the place of dinner! You can find these at a lot of restaurants in Madeira, but this particular one was at Ribeiro Frio Restaurant near the entrance to the walk to the Vereda dos Balcões.

22. Take the cable car over Cabo Girão

Called teleférico in Portuguese, cable cars are abundant on Madeira. You can take them to descend from the top of Funchal, and down from many cliffs, but perhaps the steepest on the island is the one from its highest sea cliff to the coast: the cable car at Cabo Girão.

It costs just a couple of euros for a round-trip ticket, and takes you to the bottom of the cliff quickly. At the bottom you’ll find black rock beaches, though when we were there, they were clearly cleaning up after a rockslide.

23. Visit Fanal Pond in mist

Fanal is one of the few places in Madeira where you’re hoping for that famous mist to set in, so you can capture some incredibly unique photos. This positively disorienting place is fun to wander about, but make sure you’ve got some GPS to help you find your car afterwards!

If you keep walking around, you’ll find cows chilling in a field (and lots of cow pies to dodge). Come here for some great photos to put on your alternative band’s next album cover 😉

If you happen to show up on a clear day, there’s a also a hike you can take, PR13 Vereda do Fanal.

24. Tour the Miradouros on the Western Coast of Madeira

West Madeira is a bit off the tourist track, but this rugged coastline and smaller villages definitely give you a different perspective on the island than the East. As you drive along the coast, you’ll find a number of viewpoints to stop at, snap some photos, and learn about the local flora and fauna:

  • Viewpoint Fio – First accessible viewpoint when coming from the south, depending on your accommodation. Also has a restaurant at the viewpoint.
  • Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse – When we visited in June 2021, the viewpoint to see the lighthouse from afar was closed. But you can go right up to the lighthouse and walk down a small path in front for photos.
  • Garganta Funda Viewpoint – One of the highest waterfalls in Madeira, and just a 5-minute walk in each direction.
  • Boa Morte Viewpoint – Location of both a viewpoint and a church of the same name, walk past some chilled out cows to this viewpoint of the East Madeira costline.

25. Swim in the natural pools at Porto Moniz

Unfortunately we were here on a cloudy day, but don’t underestimate how beautiful these pools are. Fed by the ocean, you can enter these natural pools for just 1.50€. Even if you just want to access the cafe, the entry fee is totally worth it.

26. Photograph the rock formations at Mirador Illeus da Ribeira da Janela

I’ll have to write a separate photographers guide to the island of Madeira, but here’s a spot you’ll often see in Madeira photos in case you’re wondering where it is!

These rock formations are located on the north coast of Madeira, and make for a great spot for a long exposure photo. You can also take some stairs up to a small cave, giving you the best vantage point for pictures of this rock formation.

27. Visit the tomb of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor

This church located just up the street from Monte Palace is called Igreja Paroquial de Nossa Senhora do Monte or the Church of Our Lady of Monte. Apart from the beautiful, golden interior, you’ll also see the tomb of Karl I, the last Emperor of Austria.

He was exiled to the island of Madeira after his second failed attempt to reclaim the throne of Hungary, and was taken to Funchal in 1921 where his wife and children later joined him. Sadly, he died of a cold that turned into severe pneumonia and never left the island.

28. Try Scabbardfish (Espada), a local Madeiran delicacy

Scabbardfish, called Espada in Portuguese, is a local delicacy and deep-water predator fish that hangs out at a depth of 180-1,700 meters. Local fishermen use special equipment to catch these dish, which come up bearing pretty pointy teeth! Most commonly, Espada fish is served alongside banana but you can also find it alongside chips at pubs on the island.

29. Explore the old town of Funchal

Honestly, of all the places on the island, we probably spent least of our time in Funchal proper and instead explored outside the city. But at least one afternoon or evening should be dedicated to walking through the old streets! Just be aware that if you decide to dine in this area, you’ll be paying a premium compared to what a dinner outside the old town would cost.

30. Visit the CR7 Museum to Cristiano Ronaldo

Easily the most famous, modern Madeiran is Cristiano Ronaldo, the legendary footballer and Funchal-native. Not only have the Madeirans renamed their airport after him, but they also created a dedicated museum to him called the CR7 Museum .

While we didn’t go inside, if you’re a soccer fanatic this museum might be for you. You’ll find it near the Port of Funchal.

31. Explore the now defunct Royal Path, Caminho Real 23

Back in the 19th century, the King of Portugal commissioned Madeira’s very own Ring Road: a path that was designed to encircle and connect the entire island. It’s about 170 kilometers long and nowadays, many of the passages have decayed beyond use.

This path is part of what used to snake by Miradouro do Véu da Noiva, a waterfall on the North part of the island.

Today, some people still hike on this path though its original use pre-dates modern cars.

32. Visit one of the only white sand beaches at Praia da Calheta

Calheta is a sunny town to the west of Funchal, and one of the possible places to stay in Madeira if you’re exploring the Western part of the island.

Oen of its main attractions is a white sand beach, Praia da Calheta . Unlike most of the black sand beaches in Madeira, Praia da Calheta has white sand which was imported from the Western Sahara.

If you’ve ever been to Tenerife, you might known that their most famous beach, Las Teresitas also imported its sand from the Sahara.

33. Go for fresh fish and chips at O Ideal

Seafood lovers rejoice, because Madeira is an excellent place to eat fresh seafood. Though my boyfriend isn’t a big seafood fan so I had to exercise some restraint, one of the best places we had fresh fish and chips was at a tiny bar in Paul do Mar called O Ideal .

An excellent place to enjoy the sunset, eat fish for a great price, and down your own personal pitcher of sangria. Our entire meal was something like 20€ including salad and a starter of Bolo do Caco.

We even tried to go back the second day, but it was closed on Tuesdays!

34. Stay in a guesthouse outside Funchal

Although we could’ve stayed in Funchal for our entire trip, we also opted to spend three nights in a more rural part of the island in a town called Faja Da Ovelha . Getting to our guest house was a proper trek of approximately 300 stairs, but every day we were rewarded with panoramic views like this:

Depending on the type of trip you’re looking for, a more remote accommodation option could work out. Madeira is small enough to stay just in Funchal, but for those who like variety (and stairs), rewards await!

34. See the Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse and lookout point

While you’re on the west side of the island, stop by the lighthouse at Ponta do Pargo. This is one of the most prominent lighthouses on the island, and its red and white color makes for a great photo.

When you arrive, you’ll see a couple of stars from the car park leading to a dirt area in front of the lighthouse. You can walk here to snap some photos of the lighthouse, or of the coast itself.

35. Take a toboggan ride from Monte

One of the top things on any list of things to do in Madeira is to take a tobbogan ride from near Monte Palace down the street. While we didn’t do this ourselves, we did drive behind one of these rides to observe what it was like.

36. Eat at a Michelin Star restaurant in Funchal

Despite being a small island, Madeira is home to two, Michelin-star restaurants. If you want, you can eat very cheaply in Madeira and turn it into a budget trip. But if you’re looking for luxury, these are the two restaurants that’ve been awarded a Michelin star:

  • William (One Michelin star) – This restaurant focuses on traditional Madieran and Portuguese food, and the menus will set you back between 120-160€ per person.
  • Il Gallo d'Oro (Two Michelin stars) – This restaurant was the first to receive a Michelin star in Madeira and features a lot of local incredients. Prices range from 130-245€ per person.

We didn’t plan in advance to visit one of these, but absolutely would on our return trip!

37. Eat Bolo do Caco with virtually every meal

Bolo do Caco is essentially garlic bread, which is served or offered as an appetizer at nearly every restaurant in Madeira.

Traditionally, Bolo do Caco is cooked on a caco , which is a flat basalt slab. The inside is then smothered with garlic butter and served warm.

Typically it comes sliced in to eight pieces, perfect for sharing before you dig in to the main course.

You can also often get sandwiches served in this bread, as it’s a really popular replacement for typical bread on the island. Simply delicious, after our first bowl we began ordering it as a precursor to just about every meal.

38. Drink a flight of Poncha at your local bar

Another must-have food, but this time as a drink: Poncha . Poncha is a traditional, very sweet alcoholic drink typically served in a small glass and made from sugar cane (specifically, an alcohol derived from sugar cane called aguardente de cana ). It’s delicious. And potent.

There are many kinds of poncha, with the most popular being passionfruit poncha (maracuja), poncha pescador (fisherman’s poncha), even ponchas with kiwi, strawberry, honey and lemon.

Some places even offer poncha “flights”, so you can try and taste a variety of ponchas in one go.

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About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for over six years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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Journal of Nomads

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

Have you got some questions about travelling to Madeira? In this ultimate Madeira travel guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know for planning your trip to the Portugese island.

We’ll take a look at how to make the most of all that Madeira has to offer, the logistics of your trip and the sensible planning stuff. So read on for the full Madeira travel guide plus 20 things to know before you go…

Madeira is a Portuguese island situated off the west coast of Morocco and north of the Canary Islands. The volcanic island’s striking terrain makes it an incredibly unique place. Its dramatic slopes are densely populated with green vegetation and a skyline of jagged mountain peaks beckon you to explore.

Madeira is known by many as the ‘pearl of the Atlantic’ for many reasons including a constant subtropical climate, exotic fruits, spectacular coastlines and extraordinary landscapes .

Pico Ariero Madeira - Hiking in Madeira - Madeira Travel Guide - best hikes in Madeira - Journal of Nomads

Madeira’s skyline of jagged mountain peaks makes it a hiker’s dream destination

The island’s staggering geological formations are down to it essentially being a plate of a volcano that once thrusted up out of the Atlantic Ocean. Its basalt rock crags, coastlines and mountain peaks have shaped much of its tourism and visitors are encouraged to discover its history.

One of the island’s main charms is its web of walking trails . From calm coastal rambles to challenging mountain scrambles , there are routes for every hiker. The trails are found on most good navigation apps which means there is scope to get creative and plot your own route.

Vereda de Sao Laurenco PR8 - Hiking trails in Madeira - Madeira Travel Guide - Madeira Hiking - best hikes Madeira - Journal of Nomads

For such a small island, it has a mighty amount to offer tourists, especially for adventure-seekers . The valleys are carved out by roaring waterfalls and gushing streams which has provided a constant supply of canyoning openings making Madeira one of the best places in the world for canyoning. 

Madeira’s elements also provide a playground for rock climbing , surfing, snorkeling, cycling, paragliding… the list goes on…

Climbing in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. A person ascends a sport climbing route, belayed by a rock climbing guide at a crag near São Lourenço trail, Madeira island, Portugal.

Cynthia and I took two weeks to explore Madeira in January, but we needed far more time! The island has such a peaceful energy and while there’s so much to physically do, it’s also a place to relax. 

We wanted to pass on everything we learned from our trip and help you have just as much fun. So please read on for our ultimate Madeira travel guide!

Tip: See our  Madeira Travel Page  for a complete overview of all our travel guides about Madeira!

Hiking in Madeira - best hikes in Madeira - Levada do Lorano Madeira - Boca do Risco Madeira - Journal of Nomads

Disclaimer: This posts might contain affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through these links, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thank you for helping to support this website!

Madeira experiences & travel resources

Top experiences.

  • Sunrise hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
  • Walking Tours in Madeira
  • Whale watching & Sunset sailing tour
  • Canyoning Adventures in Madeira

Madeira Travel Resources

  • Rent a car in Madeira
  • Book your stay in Madeira
  • Travel Insurance for outdoor adventures in Madeira
  • Madeira Hiking Guide

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Visiting Madeira: Madeira entry requirements

Schengen zone citizens Schengen zone citizens can travel visa-free to Madeira.

Non-EU/EEA and UK citizens Non-EU/EEA and UK citizens can enter Portugal without a visa and stay there for up to 90 days within 180 days for tourism, business trips, visiting family or friends, or any other short-term purposes.

US citizens US citizens are allowed to travel to Portugal for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa.

2. When is the best time to visit Madeira?

This totally depends on what you want to get out of your adventure but Madeira is a superb destination anytime of year. Thanks to its subtropical climate, Madeira gets sunshine all-year round with warm temperatures ranging around 18C-22C in winter, spring/autumn 20-24C and around 24C-28C in summer.

What I loved about Madeira was that it had diverse microclimates .

In the southern town of Ponta Do Sol, you’ll get sun all-year round. The east of Madeira, which was the first to thrust up out of the Atlantic as a shield volcano, is the driest. Meanwhile the central mountainous part can get more changeable weather because of the higher elevation. The northern area is more green, more humid and more likely to have rain. 

2.1) What is the best month to go hiking in Madeira ?

During our trip in late January to early February, we had average temperatures of 22°C which was pleasant for hiking. Some of the trails had little shade, but in those temperatures it was just lovely to be out in the sunshine without any serious risk of heat stroke/dehydration. 

Hiking in summer would make for a sticky time and it’s not easy schlepping up a mountain with the sun bearing down on you. You’d also probably have to go on your adventures in the morning and evening which makes it a little harder to plan. If you want to explore the best of Madeira’s mountains and trails, organize your trip for winter, early spring or autumn.

Madeira Travel Blog - Hiking in Madeira - Best hikes in Madeira Journal of Nomads

The handy guide to hiking in Madeira including our 7 favourite hike

Madeira travel guide: Hiking in Madeira by Journal of Nomads. Covering the Levada do Lorano Madeira trail

2.2) What is the best month to go canyoning in Madeira?

With about 128 canyoning openings in Madeira, you can do it all year round. The water temperatures in the water runs don’t vary too much, but the air temperature will make a difference especially if you’re spending hours in the water.

If you’re travelling to the island purely for canyoning, I’d recommend booking a trip in spring/summer/autumn when it will be over 25C outside.

Canyoning in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. A person rappelling down a waterfall during a tour with Epic Madeira near Ribeiro Frio.

Canyoning in Madeira: everything you need to know

Madeira travel guide: Canyoning in Madeira by Journal of Nomads. Two canyon guides from Epic Madeira about to jump down waterfalls near Ribeiro Frio.

Madeira is known for being one of the best destinations in the world for canyoning

2.3) When is the tourist season in Madeira?

As a result of its alluring all-year round sunshine, Madeira is popular with tourists throughout all seasons. Locals have told me that Madeira gets incredibly busy in July .

If you want to head to some of the popular trailheads, it’s important to plan your activities earlier or later in the day due to parking and busy coach-loads of people (even in winter!).

Beaches in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. Praia de Machico is a beautiful beach for tourists in Madeira.

2.4) What is the hottest month in Madeira?

The hottest month in Madeira is August, with an average temperature of 27°C. July also hits a similar temperature. If you’re planning to do some hiking during this time, I’d stick to other months. The levada walks are very sheltered by the forests, but the mountainous region is very exposed to the sun .

2.5) Should I visit Madeira in winter?

Cynthia and I traveled to Madeira in the height of winter and we both agreed it was a brilliant time to be out there. We both would love to come back again in this time of year.

I live in England and Cynthia lives in Belgium . In January, gloomy gray clouds hog the sky and it’s miserable… we were both desperate for some sunshine and beautiful surroundings. Madeira gave us more than enough vitamin D and was such a good tonic for the winter blues . 

Practically, we found that the winter temps in Madeira were ideal for hiking and exploring the island. The sea was around 20C (very warm for that time of year) but I was told it is usually a little cooler at 18C in winter. If you’d like to swim in warmer waters, hold off booking a trip until the autumn when the sun has heated up the sea.

Madeira travel guide - Praia Pedra Canical Madeira - Madeira Climate

3. Travel insurance for Madeira

‘Oh, I won’t need insurance’. Stop it. Yes you do. Accidents happen when you least expect it and if you don’t have insurance you can get in all sorts of sticky situations. 

Funnily enough, on our trip in Madeira, we were staying with a friend of Cynthia’s. For context, she had explored some really remote parts of the Earth and hadn’t had any accidents. When we were there, she severely sprained her foot just by walking to the shop and she couldn’t walk for weeks! 

It just goes to show that anything can happen at any time so spend a few quid and get yourself insured. We recommend HeyMondo as a reliable all-round insurer.

Need  Travel Insurance for Outdoor Activities in Madeira ? I use and highly recommend   HeyMondo Travel Insurance .  As a reader of Journal of Nomads, you get a 5% discount off your insurance plan!

4. What is the best way to get to Madeira?

The only way to get to Madeira is by flying into its airport (Aeroporto do Funchal). The airport is 13km away from Madeira’s capital Funchal. 

Although the airport is commonly known as Aeroporto do Funchal, it was officially renamed Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport in 2016. Ronaldo was born in Funchal and grew up in the nearby parish of Santo António.

The architecture of the runway is pretty spectacular as the structure is a huge platform supported by hundreds of pillars! 

The airport mainly hosts flights from Europe, so if you’re flying outside of Europe you may have to consider transfers into your journey. The most important thing to mention is Madeira has one of the only airports in the world with wind limits in place .

This means if there are strong winds, flights will be diverted or canceled . It does happen pretty regularly, so remember to get good travel insurance covering flight issues.

Madeira travel Guide - Madeira Airport - How to get to Madeira

5. Transportation in Madeira: do I need to rent a car in Madeira?

In short, yes, you will need to rent a car in order to get about the island . Many of the trailhead and canyoning starting points are remote and near impossible to reach without a car. 

5.1) Car rental services from Funchal airport

Hiring a car is a fantastic way to access the island’s myriad of mountains, beaches and forests . Madeira is a small island and if you’re located centrally, most places take one hour or less to drive to. The best place to rent a car is at Funchal Airport.

I’ve written a full guide on everything you need to know about driving in Madeira which you can read here. It’s got lots of helpful tips and advice that we learned during our trip.

Madeira car rental - renting a car in Madeira - hiring a car in Madeira - Journal of Nomads

The full guide on how to rent a car in Madeira and driving rules.

Car hire Madeira - Renting a car in Madeira - Madeira mountain roads - roads in Madeira - Journal of Nomads

5.2) Parking in Madeira

Visitor parking for visitors seems to be a total bugbear for the locals and we were on the receiving end during our stay. We thought it was important to include in this Madeira travel guide.

When we arrived at our accommodation, we were loosely told of a parking spot. It was clear of private parking signs, wasn’t near a yellow line (which means no parking in Madeira) and there were plenty of spaces available in the surrounding area.

On our third day, we walked down and found a threatening note pinned on our car from a resident who said they would call the police if we parked there again and some *other lovely language*. Within minutes, some locals came out of their homes and stared us down. We scuttled away before they got out their pitchforks. 

We couldn’t help finding the situation funny (Cynthia kept the note as a token of our stay) but we were obviously confused because we had played everything by the rules. Even other locals said we had not done anything wrong.

It was probably some tetchy neighbors who hated visitors. Nevertheless, it’s something to bear in mind. Also just make sure you double check with your accommodation about delegated parking spaces , don’t park in spots that are labeled ‘estacionamento privado’ and don’t park on yellow lines .

5.3) Public transport in Madeira: Buses

In our time on the island, we didn’t see many buses. I did some research while I was there to see if it was possible to travel to other parts of Madeira from Ponto do Sol but the timetables were pretty difficult to navigate and the services weren’t regular.

Timetables for buses leaving from Funchal to urban areas can be found here, while timetables for buses leaving Funchal to the inter-urban areas can be found here .

5.4) Public transport in Madeira: Taxis

Taxis in Madeira are yellow saloon cars with two blue stripes across the vehicle’s body. Taxis that drive outside of Funchal don’t use a taxi-meter and work on a kilometer basis. The government sets prices for pre-defined routes which can be found on the back of the front seat.

From what I’ve read online , you can usually haggle on the price with the driver – just do it before you set off on your journey. 

The app Bolt is in operation on the island, but it doesn’t have many drivers using it outside Funchal. I tried to use it twice from Ponto do Sol but didn’t have any success. 

Note: If you can’t drive but want to make your Madeira trip happen, there are ways where you could organize transfers (sadly it won’t come cheap!). Take a look at GetYourGuide and get in touch with local tour companies.

5.5) Hitchhiking in Madeira

Cynthia and I passed hitchhikers during a trip. Annoyingly, we couldn’t pick them up because one time they waited in dangerous parts of the road where it was impossible to stop. The following time we passed another hitchhiker, they started wildly flapping their arms and jumping up and down while running towards us. It wasn’t the way to say ‘hey, I’m going to be chill in your car’.

Needless to say, if you’re going to hitchhike here, make sure you wait on a part of the road where it’s safe for the driver to pull over, and flag down a car safely .

Driving along the coastline of Madeira - Renting a car in Madeira - hiring a car in Madeira - Journal of Nomads

6. How many days do I need in Madeira?

Madeira is an amazing destination for adventure-seekers. There are endless activities to get stuck into… these include hiking , canyoning , rock climbing , coasteering , surfing, paragliding, diving, trail running and cycling.

Climbing in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. Rock climbing guides at the sport climbing crag near São Lourenço trail, Madeira island, Portugal.

However, Madeira is also a destination to rest. There are numerous yoga days and mountain meditation retreats to choose from. The island has so many forces of nature and it’s good to take some time to appreciate it. 

Cynthia and I spent two weeks on the island and we were desperate to extend our trip. There was so much more to explore!

The magic of Madeira is that you can pack in a lot of activities and also take everything in at an easy pace. The people living here are very relaxed and we felt a calm energy with the quality of life. I’d recommend anytime from 10 days to two weeks to get a taste for everything Madeira has to offer.

Madeira beach - things to do in Madeira - Madeira Travel Guide - Journal of Nomads

7. What activities can I do in Madeira?

7.1) hiking along the levadas and veredas.

Hiking is definitely one of Madeira’s main attractions. From calm coastal rambles to challenging mountain scrambles, there are routes for every walker.

Levada, meaning to carry , is an irrigation system that collects water and transports it across the island. The routes often start perched up high in the mountains and snake their way down into villages, towns and cities. 

The island’s web of waterways span about 3,100km and are some of the longest irrigation systems in the world . Some of the channels are about 600-years-old and the structures are synonymous with Madeira. 

Nowadays, the channels are used for human consumption, electrical energy and agricultural uses. However, they are also a brilliant source of inspiration for hikes because the systems wind into some seriously beautiful and remote places on the island! They are known as levada walks .

Caldeira Verde Levada Hike Madeira - Hiking in Madeira - Levada Madeira

The word vereda translates to path . Madeira’s veredas can widely vary from a simple route in the forest to a trickier mountainous path.

In the mountainous region, the trails are named by PR which are a useful tool to find trailheads and plot your distance/difficulty.

Madeira is pretty unique in that its trails are clearly marked and maintained. This means it’s really easy to shorten/lengthen versions of routes and link up mountains and beauty spots. 

The handy guide to hiking in Madeira including our 7 favourite hikes

Hiking in Madeira - Best hikes in Madeira - Madeira trails - Madeira Travel Guide - Journal of Nomads

7.2) Canyoning in Madeira

The valleys are carved out by roaring waterfalls and gushing streams which has provided a constant supply of canyoning openings. Madeira is known for being one of the best places in the world for canyoning and it’s synonymous with outdoor lovers on the island.

Adventure groups can cater for total beginners to experts and Madeirans really encourage you to give canyoning a go. 

Canyoning in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. Guides from Epic Madeira are leading a tour through a gorge and waterfalls near Ribeiro Frio.

7.3) Rock climbing in madeira

Contrary to what you’ll find written online about climbing in Madeira, there are a lot of varied climbing routes here. 

There are venues for sport, trad, multipitch, bouldering and deep water soloing dotted all over the island. I was really impressed how even at the easier venues, there were magnificent coastal views. 

The climbing community here is really welcoming and it’s easy to link up with locals. Alternatively, if you’re new to climbing and want to give it a go, there are groups that can provide equipment and training for the day.

Climbing in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. Two rock climbing guides ascend a sport climbing route at a crag near São Lourenço trail, Madeira island, Portugal.

Climbing in Madeira: the full guide for rock climbing on the island

Climbing in Madeira - Journal of Nomads. Two rock climbing guides ascend a sport climbing route at a crag near São Lourenço trail, Madeira island, Portugal.

7.4) Coasteering in Madeira

If canyoning seems a little too daring and you want to opt for an activity more chill, why not try coasteering?

Coasteering takes place exclusively on the coastline and involves lots of cliff jumps, swimming and some scrambling. 

Coasteering is less committing than canyoning – if you want to sit it out, you can! Large groups can be taken for this reason and is more inclusive than canyoning. Many tour operators on the island also offer this activity.

7.5) Snorkeling and diving in Madeira

Staggered all along the volcanic coastline are rocky outcrops which harbor incredible marine wildlife. The eastern shores are some of the finest for seeing thousands of unique fish and sealife. 

I’d really recommend heading to Beach Pedra D’eira, Caniçal for snorkeling. It’s a tiny pier that’s tucked away from the tourist spots. The turquoise waters here shimmer in the sunlight so it’s generally a lovely place to chill. Once you start exploring beneath the water, there are so many brightly-coloured fish, marine animals and plants to swim up to. 

Beach Madeira Snorkeling - Best beaches Madeira - Snorkeling in Madeira - Journal of Nomads

If you’re wanting more of an organized snorkeling or diving trip, here are some tours we recommend:

7.6) Surfing in Madeira

Did you know Madeira is a surfing destination? The island is known for having constant swells which attracts surfers from across the globe . 

Something to note is that Madeira is a volcanic island with rocky crags and very little sand . This means it isn’t the easiest, especially when you’re just starting out learning.

Madeira Surf Centre has a great article with a map locating spots across the island . They also provide lessons ranging from total beginners to advanced. 

According to Surfer Today , the best site with one-to-six foot waves for beginners is Fajã da Areia (north of the island). Meanwhile, the west coast is a hit with intermediate and advanced surfers. There are also spots which can whip up 50-foot waves, like in Ponta do Pargo!

Note: If you’re heading out to Faja, be careful of where you put your feet. There are lots of sea urchins there!

Surfing in Madeira - Madeira Beaches - Madeira Travel Guide - Journal of Nomads

8. Madeira travel guide: Where are the best hiking spots in Madeira?

Madeira’s skyline of vibrant jagged peaks and its web of walking paths makes the island a hiker’s dream destination.

The island’s trails are clearly established and widely available on navigation maps. This energized me to create routes that linked the heavily-trodden tourist ones to peaceful wild paths.

Here are our recommendations for some lesser-known trails which are varying in ability and terrain. You can read my full hiking guide for Madeira here .

  • Caldeirão Verde Levada Trail :  13km out and back, 3 hours, easy-moderate, bring torch (tunnels) 
  • PR 8 – Footpath of Ponta de São Lourenço : 6km out and back, 3 hours, easy-moderate, can get very busy (go early or in late afternoon)
  • Pico Grande via Caminho Real da Encumeada PR 12 :  9.5 km out and back, 4.5 hours, moderate-hard
  • PR14 Levada dos Cedros : 10.5km circular, 3 hours, easy-moderate, not very busy
  • Levada do Larano – Boca do Risico : 9.2 km out and back, 3 hours, easy, part of bigger 24 km trail:  Caniçal’s Levada Larano Footpath
  • Levada do Moinho – Levada Nova :  10km loop, 3.5 hours, moderate, bring torch (tunnels)
  • Chao dos Louros to Pico Ruivo:   Point-to-point 13km, +1600m -1000m descent, 5 hours, hard

Levada do Ceidros PR14 Hiking in Madeira - Madeira hiking trails - beautiful hikes Madeira - Journal of Nomads

9. Money and currency in Madeira

9.1) currency in madeira.

The currency in Madeira is the Euro. Currently €1 equates to $1.01 USD or £0.85 British sterling.

9.2) ATMs in Madeira

The majority of hospitality businesses take credit/debit cards but it’s a good idea to have some cash with you, especially for parking in touristy spots or hiking trailheads.

9.3) Exchanging money in Madeira

Currency exchange offices are open Monday to Friday and Sundays from 09:00 to 19:00, closing for an hour between 13:00 to 14:00. On Saturdays the offices open from 09:00 to 19:00. Outside these hours, exchanges can be made at some hotels.

9.4) Tipping in Madeira

While tipping isn’t expected like it is in the United States, the wages in Madeira for hospitality services are fairly low so it’s a good idea to tip.

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

10. Packing list for Madeira

  • Waterproof coat and trousers : Madeira has a whole range of microclimates and the thunderstorms here are whoppers. It’s best to bring a lightweight coat that will battle a heavy, but short, shower.
  • Trail runners/ walking boots . What shoes should I bring to Madeira? Ah, the age-old question . This completely depends on what you prefer on your feet. I prefer trail runners that aren’t waterproof so they can drain and dry quickly. It also helps me move faster. Other people prefer better ankle support and waterproof boots. Keep in mind it is hot and you’re only really likely to get your feet wet if it rains or if you’re heading on some of the levada walks.
  •  Small ankle gaiters. I didn’t need to use these but brought them out with me just in case. Small lightweight gaiters help prevent dust/small rocks/mud from getting in your shoes. If you accidentally get caught in rain, they’re a pretty useful item to have.
  • Head torch . On average, Madeira gets about 8 hours of sunshine daily, so you’ll probably grasp as much of the day as you can. If you’re out hiking and you haven’t made it down to a village in time for dusk, it will get dark awfully quick. Also on some of the levada trails, there are long tunnels so a head torch is an essential piece of kit.
  •   Hiking pole s . Granted, you probably won’t need these on the shorter hiking routes, but Madeira does have some steep trails. Poles are like an extra pair of legs and are so useful for boosting you up high ascents, preventing falls and stabilizing you across streams.
  • Lightweight t-shirt. If you’re hiking on the island, you’re likely to sweat a lot. Don’t wear cotton because it absorbs moisture and is a nightmare to dry out. Stick to polyester.
  • Shorts/skort . Cynthia and I didn’t anticipate how hot the island would be, even in January. We had to head to Decathlon and pick up some skimpier clothes to hike in!
  • Longer leggings/midlayers . In the evening, temperatures can get cooler and it’s always smart to pack warmer bottoms and a fleece.
  • Battery pack and cords for phone/camera . Always an essential if you’re heading out for a long day.
  • European plug adapter . Madeira uses TYPE C, like many other EU countries.
  • Swimwear. It became a daily ritual for Cynthia and I to go swimming in the sea after a long day of hiking. Even when we went in January, the water temperatures were 22 degrees. Bliss.
  • Beach shoes . The island is essentially a whole plate of volcanic rock so many of the coastlines are pebbled beaches or rocky outcrops. Beach shoes are super useful to stick on your feet to get into the sea with ease or to explore the waterfalls.
  • Mosquito repellent . Sadly, yes you need this. Madeira has a sub-tropical climate meaning it has hot summers and mild winters.
  • Water bottle . Hiking in hot temps means it’s essential to keep hydrated. The water is clean in Madeira and you can drink from the taps.

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

11. Food and drink in Madeira

It won’t come as much surprise that Madeira is a seafood paradise . Most restaurants serve octopus, salmon, sardines and prawns accompanied with fries. 

The supermarkets are packed with typical Western food, great bakeries and super fresh fruits and vegetables.

11.1) What is Madeira’s signature dish?

One of the island’s specialties is its Bolo do Caco. This is basically a slab of garlic bread stuffed with delicious herbs. Many cafes serve Bolo do Caco with fillings like ham, cheese or octopus. We loved this dish and ate it really regularly!

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

Filete de Espada, also known as scabbard filet , is a type of black fish that swims deep in Madeiran waters. The dish is typically made with passion fruit and banana sauce. Head to Funchal for the best restaurants. 

Another seafood speciality to try are the lapas (limpets). These are usually fried and then served with a splash of lemon juice and some butter. 

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

Another common dish you can find is insalata di polpo (octopus salad). Let’s just say it wasn’t Cynthia’s favorite thing in the world… she likened it to pickled octopus on vinegar lettuce.

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

11.2) What is Madeira’s signature drink?

Poncha is Madeira’s signature boozy drink. It’s made up from rum, lemon and honey. The strength will hit you like a sack of spuds but it’s very tasty. Many restaurants and bars make the drink up in a huge jug, like rum punch. Look out for other variations too – I tried passion fruit and it was delicious.

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

12. Accommodation in Madeira

12.1) airbnb in madeira.

There are plenty of Airbnb rental properties available in Madeira , but they don’t come cheap. I’d recommend widening your search to camping pods, tipis or basic huts… there are some gorgeous little places tucked away in secluded spots that are often much cheaper than apartments.

12.2) Hostels in Madeira

There are a range of hostels to choose from dotted all along Madeira’s coast, but I struggled to find any situated in the mountainous regions. Take a look at Booking.com to check them out.

12.3) Co-living in Madeira

If you’re planning to stay longer than a fortnight and don’t want to fork out thousands on an apartment, there are co-living spaces available for like-minded people on the island. Search for co-living groups on Facebook here .

12.4) Camping in Madeira

With the island’s vast hiking opportunities, why not combine it with a camping trip? There are campsites across the island which you can find on this useful website .

If you fancy a multi-day hiking trip, the trails provide endless wild camping spots and you’ll be guaranteed some of the most magnificent views of the island .  Set up camp at dusk, pack away in the morning and follow the no trace rules .

Verada dos Balcoes - Central Madeira - Madeira Climate - hiking guide Madeira

13. What area to stay in Madeira

There’s no hard and fast rule about which area is best to stay in Madeira. As heads up, it’s not cheap to find accommodation on the island and you’ll likely be based around what can fit your budget (see above). 

Your location doesn’t matter too much because most places on the island take one hour or less to travel to . 

Cynthia and I stayed in the stunning southern town Ponta do Sol (it means point of the sun and it gets the most sun on the island) . It was a fantastic base for us to explore Madeira. There was a rocky beach, gorgeous sunrises and levada walks from the town. Practically, Ponta do Sol had a small shop, bank, post office and gas station. 

Ponta do Sol Madeira - Madeira beaches

If you’re more drawn towards the mountains, you’ll likely want to base yourself in the north/south, ideally below or above the mountainous region. The west is known for surfing , while the east has some of the best swimming spots . The north of the island is far less touristy and is considered wilder. 

Madeira roads - Madeira landscapes - roadtrip Madeira - Journal of Nomads

If you can’t drive, you’ll likely have to base yourself in Funchal and arrange transfers from the capital. However, I’d highly recommend hiring a car for your trip. It’s near impossible to get to some of the wilder spots in nature without a hire car.

14. What languages are spoken in Madeira?

Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal so the primary language is Portuguese . English is taught as a second language in schools, so many Madeiran people speak it.

14.1) Useful phrases to know for your trip in Madeira

I also suggest you install the Google Translate App for Portuguese and download it so you can use it offline.

15. What religions are practiced in Madeira?

The majority of people in Madeira practice Christianity , with Catholicism being its largest denomination. You’ll see that a lot of the houses are adorned with small shrines of saints and some of the trailheads have tiny chapels which are intricately decorated.

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

16. How is the internet in Madeira?

16.1) mobile data.

I use a British SIM card called EE. I bought a European add on and my coverage was excellent for the entire time I was there. The only time I obviously didn’t have coverage was in lowlands of the mountains and deep in the forests. 

Cynthia had the same experience with her Belgium SIM. Most European and American SIMs will have easy add on options available for your trip.

16.2) Wi-Fi

You won’t struggle to find Wi-Fi. It’s very established in hospitality facilities, homes and tourist destinations. 

17. Is it expensive in Madeira?

17.1) accommodation.

I’ve touched upon this earlier, but compared to other Portuguese areas, Madeira is more on the expensive side with rental homes. There are ways around this though, like co-living during your stay. Scroll up to 12. for more information.

17.2) Supermarkets

Madeira is a small island, so most things need to be imported which is why you have to be careful what you pick at the supermarket (for some bizarre reason pasta sauce was €6?). 

There’s always ways to eat cheaply though, and we found groceries that worked for our budget. 

On the plus side, some of the island’s fruits and vegetables come at a total bargain. Fish too is caught locally and is good value.

17.3) Restaurants

Cynthia and I ate out at a few cafe bars where the dishes were good value with good portion sizes. We were able to get a plate of food and a glass of wine for around €12-15.

18. Are drones allowed in Madeira?

Yes, drones are allowed in Madeira. You don’t need to declare anything but ensure you pack it in with your hand luggage , not hold luggage.

Also, please be respectful and safe when flying. If you’re at the top of a summit or in a precarious place, think about hikers and climbers who could be scared easily by the sound of a drone. Same goes for wildlife being disturbed by the sound or movement or a drone.

Pico Grande Madeira - Hiking in Madeira - Best hikes Madeira - Journal of Nomads

19. Culture and etiquette in Madeira

Although many of the elderly people practice Catholicism, the majority of people dress according to the weather and there aren’t any strict dress codes to adhere to. 

Spitting and littering is a big no-no in Madeira. Madeira is such a green clean island and its vast amount of thriving plants are no doubt partly down to Madeirans keeping their surroundings clean.

20. Tours in Madeira

There are plenty of tour groups and guides to choose from for all kinds of activities and excursions. 

During our trip, the adventure group Epic Madeira took us out for some climbing and canyoning. Their guides were super knowledgeable and friendly, with their focus being combining safety with having a laugh. 

Epic Madeira offers rock climbing, coasteering, climbing and hiking trips. If you’re looking for equipment or a specific transfer, they’ll also be able to help you out. The staff are really into supporting the island’s tourism so if you want to do an activity they don’t offer, they’ll be able to put you in touch with a popular tour group. Contact them here for more information . 

If you’re looking for transfers or heading to busy trailheads, take a look at GetYourGuide and get in touch with local tour companies.

Madeira Travel Guide: 20 useful Things To Know Before You Go

I hope this Madeira travel guide covers all of your questions and helps you with planning your trip. Madeira is such a spectacular place and we’re really excited to share what we’ve learned with you. If you have any other queries or insights, please comment below or contact us !

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Madeira On The Map

Welcome to Madeira On The Map:

Your one-stop Madeira travel blog

Tired of visiting the same old tourist destinations? This blog was created by travel writer Katie Treharne as a one-stop guide to destinations, hikes, and tourist attractions in Madeira, as well as other island necessities like poncha and pastel de nata.

Hikers wave from a large boulder on the Pico Grande hike in Madeira.

Madeira Travel Blog: Latest Posts

Viewpoint over a grassy bank above the Seixal natural pools.

Welcome! I’m Katie, a travel writer who has been in the industry since I was 19 years old. On a whim, I booked a two-month trip to Madeira in 2023, seeking fresh air and mountains. I was hooked .

I found the internet lacked one single Madeira blog which could provide everything you need to travel Madeira. That’s why I created this blog.

Having spent nearly six months on the island, I want more people to have the tools they need to explore the island of Madeira out of the box – and I want to put underrated parts of Madeira on the map .

Blonde woman sits at the top of Pico Grande in Madeira, looking at chiselled green mountains.

Please travel Madeira responsibly. When you visit this small island, pick up your litter, drink responsibly and be kind and courteous to the island’s residents. Support local businesses as much as possible.

Get a FREE Essential Travel Apps and Websites Checklist!

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7-Day Madeira Itinerary: How to See Madeira in One Week

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There are places on my endless bucket list that I’ve always wanted to visit and in order to do that I jumped into the world of seasonal work and planned it all way in advance. Then there are those places which are in my mind, but I actually end up  visiting rather spontaneously . However, some destinations I simply fall in love with just by seeing a photo of them. The latter is how we ended up in Madeira, Portugal, which is actually located closer to mainland Africa than it is to  Lisbon .

After seeing more photos of the island, I knew it would be an amazing trip, as it reminded me so much of Hawaii. Little did I know that Madeira would become an extra special place for me! 

If you’d like to know how you can spend 7 days in Madeira and why the island holds a special place in my heart, then keep on reading.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something. Clicking these links won’t cost you anything, but it will help us to keep this site up and running! Learn more about our affiliate policy.

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Our Top Travel Resources to Visit Madeira

  • ✈️ Search for flights to Madeira on Skyscanner
  • 🛏️ Find your accommodations with Booking.com
  • 🚗 Rent a car in Madeira with Discover Cars
  • 🎫 Book an organised tour in Madeira with GetYourGuide
  • 🛡️Don’t forget to buy travel insurance via SafetyWing

Table of Contents

The Ultimate 7-Day Madeira Itinerary

Day 1 – explore funchal, the capital city of madeira, landing at one of the world’s most challenging airports….

We arrived late in the evening to Madeira Airport or, as it’s now officially known since 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport. The airport was considered one of the world’s most challenging airports due to its very short runway of only 1600m. Madeira is not a flat island, so the runway had to use a tiny piece of land on the outskirts of Funchal, with the planes flying dangerously close to the cliffs on approach! However, about 20 years after its opening, expansion of the runway started to take place and the runway got extended by about 1 km. It was built on a giant concrete slab over the sea due to no actual land to expand into. Pilots still suffer with strong winds, making landing a bit more difficult, but I guess nowhere near as terrifying as it must’ve been before the extension.

Once you set foot on the island, I recommend getting either a local bus or the Aero-bus to Funchal. The bus only cost about €8 for a return ticket as Funchal is located about 25km from the airport and a taxi could cost around €30. It’s actually a very nice drive to the city with beautiful landscapes and countless tunnels. 

But be prepared: once you get off the bus you will definitely have some hills to walk up to reach your destination. We learned that the hard way on the first night! One direction in Madeira is always going to be uphill, so make sure to pack some comfortable shoes.

Find Flights to Madeira ✈️

madeira travel blog

How to Spend a Day in Funchal, Madeira?

On your first full day of the 7 days in Madeira, I recommend exploring Funchal. 

Start your day by visiting the beautiful gardens of  Monte Palace Madeira . The admission fee for the garden is around €12.50 per person. You can spend hours exploring the different types of gardens, African sculptures and the mineral museum. The easiest and most fun way to get there is by cable car. You have to find the  Madeira Cable Car Station  located in the Old Town which will drop you at the entrance of Monte Palace. One-way costs €11 (€16 for return). The ride takes around 15 minutes and provides you with magnificent views of Funchal and the surrounding mountains.

You can definitely visit gardens on your own, but if you want to learn more about the interesting history of the Monte Palace and Botanical Gardens, check out  this guided tour . 

Top Tip:  If you’d like to descend from the gardens in a unique way, do NOT buy a return ticket for the cable car! Instead, find the group of men dressed in white with straw hats and black rubber boots and ask for a  Toboggan Ride . It’s not cheap (€30 for two) but it’s a unique experience and absolutely worth the speedy 2 km ride down the seriously steep hills and crazy bends. Just a heads up, it doesn’t actually take you all the way to the city centre so you’ll have to walk the rest of the way.

After your crazy morning ride head into the centre of Funchal to find the famous Farmer’s Market ( Mercado dos Lavradores ). You can try at least 5 different types of passionfruit, admire the beautiful flowers and just enjoy the atmosphere.

You can then explore the Old Town of the city. Visit The Church of Our Lady of Monte and the Cathedral of Funchal (Se). Find crazy colourful doors along Rua de Santa Maria  and walk around the beautiful waterfront of Funchal.

Another fun activity would be to take one of the Tukxi tours around the city.  On these tours you can get both unique experiences and information about the history of the city.

Click here to learn some cool facts about Madeira that we bet you didn’t know about.

madeira travel blog

Day 2 – Hiking in the Valley of Nuns

How to get to the valley of nuns by public transport.

The first day trip you can easily do without a car is to the Eira Do Serrado Viewpoint, located at 1095m. 

Bus 81, departing from the centre of Funchal, will take you all the way up to the viewpoint for a price of around €6 return. It takes a good 45 minutes for the bus to reach the viewpoint. You have to walk a little further after getting off the bus to get to the amazing panoramic viewing area. I suggest spending about 15-20 minutes admiring the view. 

Top Tip – Watch how fast the clouds can change the view giving the valley a different look in seconds.

Be Prepared – The roads are relatively narrow and very windy with sheer drops on the sides which would make most drivers slow down. Well, take it from me, the bus driver who does this journey on a daily basis will take the turns at a pretty high speed. So, if you’d like to experience a bit of an adrenaline rush then make sure you visit the viewpoint via bus! That first day out of the city we definitely realised that crazy rides can lead to even crazier views in Madeira. (P.S. If you don’t believe me check out my  Instagram  stories from Madeira.)

madeira travel blog

The Valley of Nuns Trail and Curral das Freiras Village

From the viewpoint you will see the village of  Curral das Freiras (Nuns Valley) . You can actually walk down to it via a trail if you’d like to get some steps in and would like to really get a feel for how huge these mountain ranges are as you descend. You can take the same bus (Bus 81) back to Funchal from the village too so no need to climb back up. However, you can definitely do the trip the other way around and climb up the valley if you dare.

Once in the village, there isn’t much to do there other than to visit a few local shops and bars and try out their signature chestnut soup which the village is famous for. You can definitely explore the area within a half hour before you hop back onto your bus and take the most amazing, albeit scary, ride back to Funchal.

If you’d to get more information about the Valley, I recommend you take one of the professional tours. (For example, this one includes hotel pickup and drop-off from any hotel in Funchal).

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Day 3 (Road-trip) – Levada Walk​

Driving on the island of madeira – is it scary.

For the rest of the week, we agreed that the best way to truly explore the island would be to hire a car and drive around. When we read about what it’s like to drive in Madeira, lots of people suggested that it’s not always easy and can be quite scary at times. I can definitely confirm that after driving around the whole island. Especially when you are used to driving on the left in England. However, it is truly the best way you can fully explore this beautiful place!

To rent a car on Madeira you can use this company .

Whilst the south of the island is very well connected by the main highway and hundreds of tunnels, if you decide to drive around the entire island – like we did – well, then be ready to ‘climb’ some steep and windy hills. If you happen to get stuck behind a slow moving vehicle – like we did – then don’t get frustrated! Enjoy the many amazing views of the island, but also make sure you don’t get too distracted by the jaw-dropping waterfalls and vistas you will see on your way, as one wrong turn and nothing will stop you from rolling into the deep. (Hands up if you’re now singing the famous Adele song)!

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Risco Waterfall and 25 Fontes Falls Trail

Right, after my lengthy warning about driving, let’s get going shall we? 

Your main destination for the day is the  Valley of Rabaçal , located to the northwest of Funchal. Here you can walk alongside the ‘levadas’ and chase some waterfalls. It’s located high up on a flat plateau, so after slowly driving upwards for over an hour you can park at the car park just off the ER110. From there you can take a minor road leading you down to Rabaçal shelter house. From the house you can then carry on towards either the 100m high  Cascata Do Risco (Risco Waterfall)  or  25 Fontes Falls . It doesn’t really matter which way around you do the walk, but we decided to visit Risco Falls before we backtracked and, at the fork, headed towards 25 Fontes Falls.

Did you know?  – You’re probably itching to know what these ‘levadas’ are, am I right? They are basically man-made channels of water, created out of necessity in the 16th Century, to transport water from the west and northwest of the island to the south, where the climate is much drier.

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Good to Know Before You Go​

Be aware that this particular levada walk is very popular, so expect to meet with plenty of tour groups. My advice is to get there early to avoid the worst crowds. At Risco Falls we were relatively lucky as it wasn’t too crowded. We could really enjoy the show of different water streams merging into one and coming down the mountain. By the time we got to 25 Fontes Falls, however, the crowd was definitely bigger (as it is a popular lunch spot!) but we could still get a few decent pictures.

As it was September the falls weren’t as strong as I saw in some pictures taken at different times of the year, but it was still magical. (Well, if you can ignore the other 60-70 people around you)! Both waterfalls are definitely worth a visit and the whole trip took us about 4 hours. The trail is relatively narrow in places and believe me, you don’t want to be stuck behind a group of 40 slow moving tourists! On our way back to the car we passed at least 3 massive groups and had to pick up a faster pace to get ahead of them.

We definitely recommend you visit these waterfalls on your own. However, if you don’t want to rent a car and/ or would like to know more interesting facts about nature on Madeira, make sure that you take a tour with an experienced mountain guide .

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Angels Waterfall and Cabo Girão

After ticking two waterfalls off your list, I suggest finding another one. Thanks to social media, I spotted this cool waterfall cascading into the middle of the road before it flows into the ocean. Obviously, I just wanted to see it! It’s not too difficult to find but unless you know where it is you could easily miss it. The falls is called  Cascata dos Anjos (Angels Waterfall) and it cascades straight onto the old ER101 regional road in Ponta do Sol. 

Depending on which direction you come from, at the 4-arm roundabout make sure you head towards the ER101 road and don’t be confused if it says ‘local access only’. You can definitely drive the entire length of the road alongside the VE3 tunnel and will get to the same destination eventually (but in a more entertaining way). Even though the falls weren’t as powerful as I saw on other photos it was still a cool drive and a crazy way to get a free car wash don’t you agree?

If there’s still some light left in the day stop at  Cabo Girão  viewpoint. Cabo Girão Cliff is one of the highest in Europe with a vertical drop of almost 600m. So, it’s no wonder a glass skywalk has been built to test tourists’ fear of heights. We arrived later that afternoon so luckily it wasn’t busy at all, which maybe made the glass walk even scarier which I loved! There is no admission fee so during the day it is very crowded, therefore, make sure you time your visit well.

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Day 4 (Road-trip) – Driving Around Madeira

The east of madeira​, ponta de são lourenço​.

On Day 4 I suggest driving around the entire circumference of the island and stop at some amazing places along the way.

Start driving towards the east of the island bright and early because your first stop will be  Ponta de São Lourenço.  It’s the eastern-most point of the island and includes a couple of hours trekking. A car park is located just at the start of the trail so it’s easy to access if you arrive by car. The trail itself is relatively easy but absolutely beautiful.

The 4 km trail will lead you to the  Farol da Ponta de São Lourenço  where you can get some dramatic views of Madeira and the ocean. (After enjoying the view don’t forget that you also have to walk the 4 km back to the car park!)

As you can see on the photo above, the area was very dry at the time we visited. I think some of the locals had said that that summer had been particularly hot. So, it’s no wonder this naturally drier area of the island looked like a desert! But it made the differences in climate within the island even more noticeable.

The East side of Madeira is very historical and traditional so if you have a few extra days to spare, check out this full-day guided tour .

The North of Madeira​

After your morning trekking, head towards Santana to see  Teleférico da Rocha do Navio  (cover photo). This gorgeous cable car is located on the northeast coast of the island. It was built in 1997 to help local farmers in accessing their land. Rocha do Navio (‘ship rock’) comes from a Dutch shipwreck that was found in the 19th Century. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to actually go down and explore the area which I regret. So, if you’re there make sure you give yourself enough time and do it!

After a short but sweet stop at Santana head towards Porto Moniz, a little town located at the northwestern tip of Madeira. The drive is actually pretty amazing in itself, and the drive through  Sao Vicente  definitely reminded me of  Hawaii  because it was so lush with random waterfalls cascading everywhere. 

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It would be a mistake not to stop in  Seixal  and check out the natural black sand beach of  Seixal Beach  with its backdrop of lush green cliffs and countless waterfalls cascading into the sea. To make the place even more interesting, right next to the beach there are some volcanic natural pools ( Poças das Lesmas ) which are worth checking out. 

Top Tip – Have a late lunch here as the view is just way too beautiful to leave behind so quickly. We ate at the only bar by the beach which had some really good food for relatively cheap prices so go ahead and treat yourselves!

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Porto Moniz​

After leaving behind that beautiful scenery head towards  Porto Moniz . The main reason to visit this place is to see the amazing natural pools formed by volcanic lava and naturally filled by the sea every high tide. Once you arrive and park your car, you will realise that Porto Moniz actually has two sets of pools.

The ones overlooking the Ilheu Mole island are completely natural, where you can enjoy the ‘untouched’ version of the pools and can take a swim for free. You can also head towards the western pools which have been converted into Lido pools (Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz). Here, you have to pay a small amount to get in.

Top Tip – The second one is definitely much safer, especially if you are with kids. However, I personally enjoyed the pools to the east in their more natural setting. 

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The West of Madeira​

On your way back you can stop at Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse, the westernmost point of Madeira. The lighthouse was built in 1922 and stands 300m above sea level providing yet another amazing view of the west coast. 

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Day 5 – Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in Madeira

A special day above the clouds​.

I was so looking forward to finally seeing and climbing the highest peak in Madeira which was the main reason we actually booked our flight tickets to this island. Little did I know that there would be even more surprises waiting for me at this location. We got up around 5 AM, because the drive from our  hotel  took a good 45 minutes to Pico do Arieiro, where we wanted to see the sunrise before we started the 12 km long trail to Pico Ruivo.

We had to drive at a fast pace because we already saw that the sun was about to come up! Luckily, the roads were pretty good all the way because Pico do Arieiro is actually the site of a NATO radar installation. Once we parked, we ran towards the viewpoint and that first look at the place took my breath away.

We literally stood above the clouds and could still see the moon descending whilst also watching as the sun rose from below the clouds. It was truly magical. I turned around to find my boyfriend on one knee opening a little box and asking ‘The Question’! So that morning, whilst witnessing the most amazing sunrise, above the clouds at 1,818m, I said YES!

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About the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Trail​

Here is some useful information about the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo trail which will hopefully help you prepare:

Pico Ruivo –  standing 1,862m above sea level- is the highest peak in Madeira. Therefore, it provides a panoramic view over the entire island once you reach the summit. However, the route from Pico do Arieiro consists of steep ridges, slopes and steps, so you have to have at least a basic level of fitness. It also passes through tunnels, so either bring a torch or get your flashlight ready on your phone!  steep 

Make sure you don’t start the hike too late as the round trip takes around 5-6 hours. I recommend checking when the sun goes down at the time of visiting. The path gets busier later so for the best experience head up to watch the sunrise then start your walk straight away. Based on our photo taking time, we reached the summit within 3 hours. Of course, we stopped a lot for pictures and small breaks. The path is well signposted so don’t worry about getting lost. Just stick to the designated path and ‘follow’ the people on it.

Top Tip – If you don’t have a car and would like to take a guided tour, we recommend you take one of the tours that starts early .

What to Wear and Facilities

I was wearing shorts from the start but on the top I was wearing a few layers: a t-shirt, a lightweight shirt and a gilet, because it was rather chilly in the morning at that height. Both the weather and me warmed up pretty quickly so layers are always a good idea. Of course, your outfit could depend on the time of year you’re planning on hiking the trail, but I recommend wearing proper shoes! 

There is a rather expensive restaurant at Pico do Arieiro with toilet facilities, however these aren’t open early in the morning. Of course, there are no toilets along the way, but trust me that there are great opportunities if nature comes calling! There won’t be any chance to get water and food either so come prepared.

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Day 6 – Day Trip to Christo Rei in Madeira

On your last full day you can visit the small village of  Garajau  where you can find the  Cristo Rei viewpoint and  Garajau Beach. Luckily, you can easily reach it by public transport. 

You can admire the view and the windy road at the top and then go down to the beach to have a nice, chilled day after a week of constant hiking. You can either drive or walk down or hop onto a cable car (costs €2.50 round trip) which is probably the best way. The beach is located in the Partial Natural Reserve of Garajau and it’s great for scuba diving. It’s a rocky beach so it’s not the most comfortable to lie on. However, it’s still a nice way to end your 7-day long trip in Madeira.

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Final Thoughts on Madeira

The week we spent in Madeira was definitely filled with breath-taking scenery, numerous hiking and trekking adventures, countless waterfalls, cable car rides, crazy drives and tunnels, natural pools and lighthouse views. I guess these reasons on their own would be enough to fall in love with the place. However, the fact that I got engaged at the top of this island, above the clouds, inevitably made Madeira even more special to me.

As always, here is a map of our trip showing the places we managed to visit in a week. Have you been to Madeira before? How much of the island did you manage to explore? Let me know in the comments section below.

Now, let your adventure begin,

madeira travel blog

Our Top Travel Resources

Accommodation:  For hotels we always use  Booking.com  and  Hostelworld  for hostels. We also book longer stays on Airbnb or  Vrbo.

Flights:  To find the best flight prices we always check  Skyscanner ,  Google Flights  or  WayAway.  Then we also check the airlines’ websites too for comparison.

Car Rentals:  We use  Discover Cars  when we want to rent a car as it compares local, national and international companies.

Activities:  If we book organised tours we always check either  GetYourGuide  or  Viator.

Foreign Currency:  Whenever we can we prefer to pay in local currency and for that we always use our  Wise card.   We can easily withdraw money from the ATM or pay by card at most shops and restaurants.

Travel Insurance: We never go anywhere without travel insurance. You never know what will happen on your trip, so good travel insurance like SafetyWing can protect you in case of injury, illness, theft and cancellations.

eSIM and VPN: To get data abroad we use  Airalo which is an app that allows you to download a prepaid eSIM to your phone in over 190 countries. Make sure to have a VPN to avoid hackers accessing your personal data when using public WIFI. We use  Surfshark  which is the only VPN that offers one account on unlimited devices. 

Remember…It all starts with a Pin…

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44 comments.

Wow you’ve really included some awesome places in this itinerary! Curral das Freiras looks amazing! Pinned for future travel 🙂

Thank you Patricija I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed my itinerary. Nun’s Valley is definitely stunning so I’m sure you’ll enjoy the views as much as I did.

I’m dying to go to Madeira! I’d love to take the cable car and toboggan ride! What a great place to get engaged!

Madeira is such a beautiful island and I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun riding cable cars and sliding down some steep streets.

Ah Madeira has been on my bucket list for some time but now I REALLY want to go! It looks absolutely spectacular! What a stunning place! And what a beautiful spot to get engaged congratulations!

Thank you Hannah, I’m so happy to hear that you’d like to visit Madeira. The island is stunning and there’s so much to do there, I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip.

I would love to make it to Madeira one day – it looks so pretty! Thank you for sharing this informative itinerary.

I’m glad you found my itinerary useful Krista, I hope you can visit Madeira in the near future 🙂

Looks absolutely beautiful, I’ll definitely have to add this to my list! Congratulations on the engagement! <3

Thank you very much I hope you can visit Madeira in the near future 🙂

It’s amazing you can get this all accomplished in just one week. I’m going to bookmark this for next time!

Thank you Jamie, we never notice how much we actually do at a new destination until I sit down and summarise it all. Hope you can visit Madeira soon.

What a great post! On such a beautiful place as well!

Thank you Charlotte I’m happy you enjoyed my post.

This is such a great and detailed guide. I’ve been to Funchal but I’m dying to go back and explore these other places! Thankfully I arrived by boat so I didn’t have to deal with the scary airport! haha

So glad to hear that you’ve been to Funchal before and you would like to return to Madeira to see more of it. If you enjoyed Funchal then I’m sure you’ll love the rest of the island too. If you take a flight next time, just don’t watch any YouTube videos about planes landing at the airport 🙂

This is one of the best itineraries for Madeira I’ve read so far. Thanks for putting it together. The photos are stunning! Saving this for my next trip 🙂

Thank you for the lovely comment Nora, I’m so happy to hear that my itinerary is very informative. Hope you can travel to Madeira soon.

My hubby and I dream of the Azores and I actually might do this trip in 2021! It is only 5 hours from Boston and so doable! We want to start with Madeira and eventually make our way through more of the islands. My grandfather was born in the Azores and immigrated to the US and he never stopped loving these islands!

How amazing that your grandfather was born in the Azores. The islands are very high on my bucket list, especially after seeing all the amazing photos. Such a great idea to visit these stunning islands, I hope you can do the trip this year.

Your whole post is inspiring and the photos are amazing! My favorite, of course, is from Pico do Arieiro, congratulations! What an incredible place to commit your lives to each other, wishing you the very best.

Thank you so much for the lovely comment Erica. Pico do Arieiro definitely became one of my favourite places I’ve ever been.

What a gorgeous article, I could look at these photos all day! We are planning to travel to Madeira next year and I saved this article since it has so much useful information. I am especially looking forward to seeing North of Madeira​.Thanks for sharing

Thank you so much Bozena I’m glad to hear that Madeira is on your radar. The island is beautiful so I’m sure you’ll enjoy your trip.

Loved your post! We’re planning an April Madeira/Azores trip right now. Can’t wait to follow your itinerary. Congrats on your engagement! We’ll be celebrating our 41st anniversary. It’s wonderful to have a “partner in adventure”. Best, Jan

Thank you so much for the lovely comment Jan and also congratulations on your anniversary! We fell in love with Madeira so I’m sure you’ll also love exploring the island. The Azores have been on our bucket list for the longest time so I’ll keep an eye on your blog. Kitti x

This seems to be a perfect trip ! Did you stay at the same place during the whole trip or did you move from a hotel to another one ?

Thank you so much for your comment. Yes we stayed in Funchal the entire week and rented a car which we used for our day trips.

What a fantastic article! I visited a few weeks ago for 4 days and I loved it! The nature and outdoorsy feel to the island really left me wanting to come back to explore more!

Thanks for sharing this!

Thank you so much Bea. Glad the hear that you had a fantastic time in Madeira. Although we did a few hiking trails I felt the same as you at the end and really hope to return to hike even more.

Thanks for sharing your itinerary. Makes me want to be there right now. Do you think it is possible to see the island without a car? Ta

Thank you for your comment Lu, Madeira is really beautiful. Yes it is possible to tour around the island without a car. We visited the Valley of Nuns with public transportation, and there are other places to get to by bus. Alternatively there are also plenty of tours if public transport is more complicated.

thank you , it was very helpful!!

I’m happy to hear that you found the post helpful.

We are planning a trip in January, 2023. Your itinerary and photos are very helpful. Would you change anything in your itinerary given we will be visiting in January?

Thank you for your comment, we’re happy to hear that you find our guide helpful. Madeira will be a great destination in January as the average sea temperatures will be around 18 Celsius. Perhaps I would pack a few warmer layers for the evenings and when you go hiking as it’ll be cooler higher up. Make sure to also check the mountain weather before your hike as snow might be present this time around. Hope this helps and you’ll have a lovely time on the island.

Hello! Thank you for sharing all of this detailed information! It seems like it was a beautiful trip! I am curious, did you stay based at one hotel/accommodation in Funchal for the full time you were there? Or did you spend nights at other locations around the island? I am thinking about visiting and wondering if I should just stay in Funchal for 7 days or if I should move accommodations every few nights! Thank you so much !!

Hi Jennifer, thank you for your comment. We based ourselves in a hotel in Funchal for the entire week and just drove to places we wanted to visit from there. This worked for us just fine, but we had quite a few early mornings to beat the crowds and get to places for sunrise etc.

If you have a map of the places you want to visit, we suggest to perhaps split your time in Madeira between two locations, depending on which one is closer to most of the places and activities you want to do. We did the same when we visited Crete, Greece and it definitely helped us to get to certain spots without having to get up super early.

We hope this helps and that you’ll have a fantastic time in Madeira.

Thank you so much for the advice!! Very good insight – I may stay at 2 locations to change up the scenery (and avoid a few early early mornings! ☺️) Thank you again! Your post and photos are very inspiring – I am looking forward to visiting as a result of reading about your visit!! All the best to you from Chicago, -Jennifer

Thank you so much for your feedback Jennifer, hope you’ll have a fantastic time in Maderia.

Hi Kitti , Congratulations on the engagement!! Love the blog as well, really useful, and would be using it as my base for our upcoming travels to Madeira. We will be spending 7 days on the island as well. Your hotel was in Funchal for the entire time or you would move your accommodation around? Have a superb day, Hugs from a fellow Hungarian, Szilvi

Hey Szilvi,

Thank you for your lovely comment and feedback. We’re happy to hear that you’ll be following our itinerary on your upcoming trip to Madeira.

We based ourselves in Funchal for the entire week and just drove to places we wanted to visit from there. We didn’t mind it, but we definitely had some very early mornings to beat the crowds and get to places for sunrise.

Looking back now we would probably split our stay between two locations (especially if you’ll be renting a car), so you might not need to get up super early and drive a lot.

We hope this helps and that you’ll have a fantastic time in Madeira.

(u.i. Koszonjuk szepen a kommentet, es jo utat kivanunk 🙂

Thanks so much for this detailed itinerary! We’re hopefully going in February so this is really helpful! Did you stay at one place or different places depending on where you’re planning to go?

Thank you for your comment. We stayed in Funchal for the entire week, however, this meant that we had quite a few early mornings. You can split your stay between two places if you want to avoid early wake up calls and longer drives. Hope this helps and you have a lovely time in Madeira.

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madeira travel blog

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Trip to Madeira

Did you know that Europe had its own Hawaii?

Yes, that's right!

Portuguese archipelago Madeira is often compared to Hawaii and I do not wonder why anymore. During my visit in May 2018 it has surprised me so much how many similarities Madeira and Hawaii islands really had.

Madeira is such an incredible place to visit and for many reasons. Whether you are planning a romantic honeymoon , family vacation , if you travel for adventure or if you just wish to escape less gloomy weather . Another name Madeira has been called is the island of eternal spring, so expect pleasant temperatures and fresh air pretty much all year round.

Madeira truly is a European gem which suits to every traveller and you should visit the islands as soon as possible . Each year Madeira is experiencing more and more visitors. Whether you want to swim with dolphins, explore deep canyons, or enjoy delicious dinner at the beach, go and book your ticket now.

Madeira Travel Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Trip to Madeira

I spent in Madeira one week in May 2018 and wanted to share my experience and a little bit of knowledge. Let's take a look on this very detailed guide, where I share with you some of the best places to see, adventures to enjoy, how to travel around the island, where to stay, what to pack, what to eat and a few more handy tips . Are you ready with a big bowl of popcorn?

The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira

When is the best time to go to Madeira

If you want to avoid crowds

When I was searching for the best time to visit Madeira, many people were talking about how busy Madeira is at any time of the year. Honestly, that scared me a bit because as you might already know, I don't like crowded places. In fact, I love exactly the opposite. I am not looking for parties or any Eiffel Towers, or Niagara Falls, or Hollywood signs where I have to deal with too many people.

But my fear melted really quickly when we arrived to Madeira. Of course, there are crowded places like almost in any other destination, but it's very easy to avoid them if you want to. I am talking now especially about Funchal and some other places in the southern island. But nothing crazy  - and that means a lot coming from someone like me :)) Northern and Eastern part of Madeira is less crowded in general.

When you want to avoid crowds and book the best hotels without any problem, try to avoid summer holidays. In fact, try to avoid any kind of holidays in general, like Christmas or Eastern. But that's a tip for visiting almost any destination, right?

If you want the best weather... hmmm, what's the best weather?

Good news! Weather in Madeira doesn't have to play a big part in vacation planning. The temperatures are nicely stable throughout the year which makes Madeira a dream destination! Although winter can be slightly more rainy with lower temperatures in the night and early mornings.

Do you want to come when there's the most sunny and dry weather?  Then June is your best bet, but anything between March to September will work too

Are you planning to do lots of hiking and walking? Then April and May are the best months to visit. Any later might get a bit hot for walking, and winter/early spring can be rainy (can be, but not talking about rainy season like they have in Asia ,)

April and May are also the best months to go to Madeira for enjoying all the beautiful flowers ? So if you're keen to visit one of the world's most beautiful garden which is in Funchal, if you want to those iconic sceneries with flowers in the foreground, or rather flowers everywhere, April and May it is.

Madeira is also famous for swimming with whales and dolphins . If you are planning to do anything like this, then the best time to come is between April and October. That's when the highest number of mammal species are in waters of Madeira.

The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira

How to get to Madeira

Although, from one quick look at the map, it may seems that getting to Madeira is long and pricey journey, it's not really true.

Nowadays there are many direct flight from Europe which can cost you under 200 dollars return. Those flights can take only about three four hours. You can try connections from London , Amsterdam or Lisboa . But there are many more cities you can fly to Madeira. See them all here .

My go to website to find  the cheapest flights  possible is  Momondo , so definitely check that one first and go from there. If you have any doubts and questions about how to reach Madeira, feel free to send me a message and I'll be happy to help you.

How long should I plan my vacation for?

I only had a spare week and even before I went to Madeira, I had a feeling that it won't be enough. And I was more than right. Yes, you can see the most beautiful/popular places in Madeira in just a week, but hands down, you will be rushing. 

If you can, I would recommend you to stay at least 10 days ! And if you have three weeks, then fine, take it slowly and soak all the relaxing vibes in!

I know, I know, Madeira seems like a tiny island, so you are probably asking now, holly molly, what would I do there for three weeks?! But trust me, there are so many hikes, adventures, culture, and beautiful viewpoints to enjoy, that you will be thanking me for those three weeks :)

What to pack?

When packing for your holidays, please remember that it's not a tropical island you're going to . Frankly, if you are looking for a tropical vacation, white sand beaches and hot hot air, then Madeira is probably not the best pick. There are not so many beaches, all of them (on the main island) are black because of their volcanic origin and water for swimming is quite cold as well.

Madeira is a diverse island and even though at the beach is 25°C or more, within half an hour driving up to 1800 meters above sea lever, temperatures can drop down to zero and wind will be so strong that you will have troubles to stand straight.

Before I will write more detailed post on what to pack and what to leave behind, here is the quick sum up (linked products are the ones I have an experience with and that I am genuinely recommending):

  • day backpack
  • water bottle
  • comfortable walking / hiking shoes
  • flip flops / sandals
  • warm hoodie / sweater (some days and places are cooler than others)
  • softshell jacket (you can thank me later)
  • rain jacket
  • headlamp (if you plant to hike some of the trails with long dark tunnels)
  • waterproof camera/phone case (if you are going to do canyoning / coasteering / swimming with dolphins and whales)

The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira

How to get around

When in Madeira you will have have pretty much four options to explore this green island:

  • Base yourself in Funchal and hire a taxi driver
  • Base yourself in Funchal and book day tours
  • Base yourself in Funchal and get around by bus

1. RENT A CAR

Definitely the most convenient way how to explore the island. I probably don't have to name all the reason why renting your own car is the best. It will save you time, nerves and very probably lots of money as well.

  • The best deal we found was via rentalcars.com and we only paid around $250 USD for an economy class car for the whole week!!
  • I recommend to pay extra for a full insurance , especially if you are not use to drive tight roads. I've been travelling and driving a lot in my life, but nothing was as crazy as Madeira's roads.
  • Also, try to avoid renting mini cars . You will need a strong car to get you up the steep hills with no big issues. And make sure you get the most compact car possible. Especially in towns, parking spots are not very spacious and you will be sweating (at least if you're not a parking master just as me, haha).
  • Over a week we drove around the island, and criss crossed it many times and one tank of gas was sufficient. We paid 75 EUR for a full tank.

2. BASE YOURSELF IN FUNCHAL AND HIRE A TAXI DRIVER

If you don't want to/ can't drive yourself, but still you want to stay as independent as possible, you can hire a taxi driver. 

In Madeira there are plenty of taxi operators who are offering a various taxi excursions. It will cost you around 100-120 EUR per day (60 EUR / half day) per car (4 people). If you're a bigger group of people (up to 8), it's also possible for an additional cost.

Some of the taxi companies/drivers you can look into:

  • Daniel Madeira Taxis
  • Madeira Island Taxis
  • Manuel Taxi Tours
  • Madeira Travel Taxi

3. BASE YOURSELF IN FUNCHAL AND BOOK DAY TOURS

If you like things nicely organized and don't plan to rent a car, this could be a perfect option for you.

You can book some great tours in Madeira with Get Your Guide . They offer a wide variety of activities suitable for anyone.

4. BASE YOURSELF IN FUNCHAL AND GET AROUND MADEIRA BY BUS

Exploring Madeira is definitely the best option for those who seek the cheapest vacation possible. But it sure comes at a cost - you will spend lots of time waiting for buses, trying to figure out schedules and places, you won't afford to be flexible and free and most likely you will miss plenty of breathtaking places that are not on the route of the public buses. 

Yes, public transport in Madeira works well, but frankly, I don't recommend it.

There are three kinds of buses :

  • orange buses - operate only within Funchal city and its surroundings, you can buy one week unlimited bus ticket for 15 Euros (buses routes and schedules Horários do Funchal )
  • red buses - operate in the western part of Madeira (buses routes and schedules Rodoeste  bus service)
  • green buses - operate in the eastern part of Madeira (buses routes and schedules SAM  bus service)

Tickets for all bus services can be purchased onboard.

The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira driving

Driving those crazy roads

I am not a scared driver and I've been driving many insane roads around the world, but Madeira is special. Please note, that the last thing I want to do is to scare you. I am writing this so you know what to expect and so you can be more conscious. And I am convinced that driving Madeira roads is part of the travel experience. 

Madeira is full of long tunnels, steep driveways and sharp curves above the cliffs. Nothing for faint hearted. Roads are often not very specious, which is something you might won't be adjusted to when coming from North Americas or so. But again, you got this! Just drive slowly and you'll be sweet.

As I mentioned above, I recommend you to rent a more powerful car and get a car insurance.

Also it can take really long time to ge from point A to B. Sometimes we were driving 15 kilometres in 17 minutes. Why? Imagine rain, thick fog, steep and curvy roads and there you go. Always count with some extra time for driving in Madeira. Especially in the mountains and on the west and north coast.

Where to stay

Since Madeira is such a small island, you can get around the island in a day. That's the reason why most of the tourists stay in Funchal and do day trips from there. I did it differently which I will describe soon.

Advantages of having an accommodation in Funchal: 

  • you can choose from many delicious restaurants and vibrant bars
  • you can do shopping if that's something you like to do on your vacation
  • you can choose the accommodation that suits the best to your budget and other preferences
  • most of tour operators are offering tours from Funchal

Disadvantages of having and accommodation in Funchal:

  • because most of tourists stay there when visiting Madeira, city centre can get crowded
  • since the tourism boomed, Funchal centre is less authentic than other parts of Madeira
  • obviously, you will always have to drive back to Funchal after long day of touring to other sides of the island

What's my recommendation?

To each their own, but here's what I did during my one week in Madeira:

I am not a huge fan of cities and crowded in generally, but I still wanted to explore around beautiful and historical Funchal. Therefore I decided to  stay in Funchal for one night . After that I moved for three days to Ponta do Sol in the south coast of the island and last three days I was in Ponta Delgada at the north.

After our trip, me and my friend we agreed that it was the greatest plan for a week in Madeira we could have ever had. It was never too far to any places we planned to visit, therefore never too tiring to be coming back to our accommodation.

If you only have a week I wouldn't recommend to stay in more than 2-3 places as you will feel like always packing and unpacking.

Here is an interactive map of places where I stayed, so you can imagine the distances of places I stayed (and the airport) a little better:

Accommodation in Funchal

If you decide to stay in Funchal, you can choose from hundreds of different types of accommodation that suits your budget. As always, I recommend my favourite search engine  Booking.com   to find the best deals.

Since we were looking for a place just for one night, we had only a few conditions. It had to be a private room with bathroom, within a short walk to the city centre with free parking and under 50 EUR / night per room.

Free parking combined with the city centre of Funchal was the hardest one to find, but  Pensao Residencial Mirasol  seemed had it all. Free parking, in the city centre, with a private bathroom and also a cute little balcony with mountain views . We only paid 38 EUR / night per room including continental breakfast!! The owners and staff here are really friendly, so there's no wonder that budget travellers keep staying here for weeks.

Various high rated places to stay in Funchal:

Madeira Happy Hostel

Vitorina Corte Guesthouse

Monumental Apartment

Quinta Sao Goncalo

Residencial Pina

ARTS IN Hotel Conde Carvalhal

The Cliff Bay - PortoBay

Quinta Jardins do Lago

Belmond Reid's Palace

Accommodation in Ponta do Sol

Ponta do Sol is a lovely little coastal town and probably the sunniest place on the whole island . During our three days in Ponta do Sol it was really ALWAYS sunny although there was rain or overcast in other parts of Madeira.

We were invited to stay in Estalagem do Ponta do Sol and my oh my! We've never stayed in any similar place to this. It was such a paradise with the best views you could imagine.

Since Estalagem do Ponta do Sol hotel is built on the high cliff, you need to take multiple elevators to get to the reception and your room itself.The views from our room and basically from anywhere within the hotel were nothing short of spectacular and you could watch both sunrise and sunset from the infinite pool.

Estalagem is a peaceful complex with beautiful gardens and modern exteriors and interiors. You can relax in a hot tub with sunset views, you can get your favourite cocktail bar with crazy views or play a table pool in one of the public spaces. Oh, and did I mention breakfasts? Buffet breakfast is included  in the price of the room and something we looked forward to each morning. D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!

During our stay there was a lack of parking spots below the hotel, but it's because there was a festival and parking spots were precious. The staff of the hotel were super helpful and when we brought our car keys to them, they were more than happy to park our car for us.

madeira travel blog

Accommodation in Ponta Delgada

Our accommoddation for last three days was up in the north coast in Ponta Delgada. North was a completely different experience than the south. There was way less tourists, and moutains forests and cute vineyards were everywhere. 

We stayed in Casa do Miradouro and if you are looking for a place to find the peace, this magical villa has it all . Mountains and vineyards behind the house and amazing ocean views in front. From the photos I knew, that sunrises and sunsets from this place are incredible. Unfortunately we did not see the sun at all during our stay, but the rainy mood was suiting this place just as much plus it was a perfect for soak in the hot tub. The villa consist of only three apartments, so we have had plenty of privacy. And I can't imagine better place for my yoga practise and everyday meditation.

We loved the design of the villa, but even more we loved that it is enviromentally sustainable building  (for example cork insulation, natural materials used in interior, solar water heating, no chemicals in the garden). 

If you stay in Casa do Miradouro, please ask Zelio to cook for you! Zelio not only takes care of the villa but he's also amazing cook and a lovely company. We spent last evening with him and he cooked the best food we've tried in Madeira. Fresh fish and limpets with a light cheese dessert were amazing and he deserves nothing less than a Michelin star! So please please please, don't miss out this once in a lifetime opportunity! :)

madeira travel blog

Live like a local

Are you looking to live like a local or always keen to have unique accommodation experience? Then definitely check AirBnB in Madeira  (if you register through this link, you will get up to 35 dollars to spend for your first stay.)

AirBnB in Madeira is very popular and the list of accommodations is full of design villas, cottages on the clifs or luxurious tents in forests . Just hop on the AirBnB website and explore. The prices are really friendly!

Live with the locals

If you are outgoing and want to meet and live with locals and also if you are a lowcost traveller, you can also try Couchsurfing .

Insider's Tip: Please don't do couchsurfing just for the sake of free accommodation. That's not what this wonderful community is about. It's about sharing. Sharing time, sharing experience and making each others life richer. If you don't feel like talking to someone when travelling, but don't have money for hotels, please look for different options like hostels :) I barely do couchsurfing lately, because after long day of travelling or exploring, I am just happy to sit on my bed and don't talk to anyone, but if I want to talk to someone I can always get out of the hotel and go exploring.

What to see?

So much to see and so much to do in Madeira, that one month wouldn't be enough to explore it all throughout. (I am working on detailed itineraries, so feel free to subscribe to my newsletter . Once it's ready I can send it to you directly into your mailbox).

Here's an interactive map of interesting places, photography spots, view points, activities and restaurants I created for my trip. Of course I didn't have time to do and see everything in a week, but thought it could help you to create your own trip :)

Tropical Garden Monte Palace

Madeira is a paradise for flora lovers. So many flowers and trees, so many colours and heavenly smells.

One of the places you can admire flora the most is Jardim Tropical Monte Palace in Funchal. You will find there some rare flora species both from Madeira and the rest of the world. The entrance fee is 12,50 EUR.

The most popular way to get to the gardens is to take a cable car from the city center . Return ticket is 16 EUR (11 for one way). If you buy just one way ticket, you can experience something truly unique and something what only in Madeira can be experienced :) You can do tobogganing in a wicker basket mounted on wooden runners . It was invented by Madeirans already in 1850 as a form of transportation down the steep hills (did they have to drag it back after?). When you are at the top nearby tropical garden, look for handsome guys in white shirts holding onto the big basket sled.

Sunrise at Pico do Arieiro

Please, make yourself a favour, get up early and drive about 30 minutes from Funchal up to about 1800 metres above the sea level. Most likely you will be driving through the rain and clouds and will be cursing me why would I recommend you such a crazy thing. But hold on and you will eventually  get above the clouds and experience one of the most beautiful sunrises of your life. And all without any huge effort - you can get all the way to the top of the Pico do Arieiro just by your car. 

Tip: Get ready for strong winds and cold temperatures especially early in the morning. I was so happy I've had my icelandic sweater and softshell jacket with me. Wished to have a hat as well. Just be prepared, so you can enjoy the beautiful views. 

madeira travel blog

This is a must stop when you are in Madeira. I won't be taking it away from you, because with its 580m it's the tenth highest cliff that is above the sea (the highest one is Mitre Peak in New Zealand) and so the views are truly amazing. It's usually packed with lots of tourist and honestly, I enjoyed some of the views in Madeira way better. So, at the end of the day, I don't think I would miss much if I wouldn't go there. But if you are curious and have enough time, definitely give it a go.

madeira travel blog

Sugar Cane Factory Museum

In Calheta you will find this very unique exhibition , which can make a nice stop when you are driving on the south coast. You can see here how the rum is made from start to finish.

The admission is free and for a small fee you can try different rums.

Ponta do Pargo

To me, this was one of the most beautiful spots I've seen during a week of travelling in Madeira. It's the most western point in Madeira with a lovely lighthouse and absolutely gorgeous cliff views. I could have been sitting there for hours, watching the waves crashing along the shore!

This place is a perfect spot for watching sunset and you won't be sharing it with many. Very likely you'll be here alone when coming later in the evening.

the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira Ponta do Pargo

Achadas da Cruz

This place must be on of the best kept secrets in Madeira! By taking a 3 EUR (return) cable car ride off the cliff, you'll get to in Fajã da Quebrada Nova. It somewhat looks like a tiny village but in real, nobody lives there. Some farmers come down from time to time and take care of their land. You can only get there by a boat or a cable car, or hike a steep trail down and back up. It's so beautiful, colourful, remote and looks like a scene from a historic/fantasy movie. It's easy and worthy to spend there at least two hours. Just so you know :) 

The cable car operates from 10am to 6pm every day unless the weather conditions like strong winds won't allow it. It happened to us, so we called them and came back two days afterwards.

The phone number is +351 291 852 951.

(During this trip, my fog was foggy inside, hens this dreamy effect on the photos bellow).

madeira travel blog

Porto Moniz

On the western part of the island you find something unique, something you might have never seen before. Beautiful lava pools filled with turquoise clear water from the ocean were converted into something we can call a spa. For a small fee 1,50 EUR (free for children under 3yrs) you can go and have a swim in several pools of different depth while enjoying waves crashing against the beautiful cliffs.

The pools are the most popular between July to September when the air temperature is around sweet 25°C and water is bearable 21°C. 

Tip: If you will walk in Porto Moniz towards the eastern part of the town, where is the Cachalote restaurant, you will find there similar lava pools . They are a bit smaller, but they are free and usually with less people.

the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira Porto Moniz

Sao Vicente Caves

If you are a fan of geology, then you shouldn't miss these volcanic caves Sao Vicente.

A walk through the lava tubes takes about 30 minutes and admission is 8 EUR.

Traditional houses in Santana

Traditional Madeira houses are amongst the most popular attractions and nobody seems to be leaving Madeira without visiting them. It can be a nice short stop, but frankly, don't you expect more than seeing a few iconic houses that you know from the postcards and magazines. I know some people came from there disappointed and gave it bad ratings on Tripadvisor. It is nice, it is traditional and highly photogenic, so come without any expectations and enjoy. 

madeira travel blog

Ponta de São Lourenço

Situated on the eastern tip of the island Ponta de São Lourenço is a great place for sunrise. This place is quite unreal and looking totally different than the rest of Madeira. You can easily spend here the whole day, walking about 8 km of trails with spectacular coastal views. I recommend to stay reserve at least two hours, so you can enjoy a bit of this place without rushing.

Tip: Ponta de São Lourenço is a popular place and also it is very easy to reach from Funchal and other nearby towns. Hence the parking lot starts to fill up early in the morning. After 11 am the line of the cars is really long and there is quite a bit of tourists and hikers on the trail. So, wake up early, enjoy the sunrise and disappear before the crowds arrive.

madeira travel blog

Things to do

For such a small island, Madeira has so much to offer in terms of adventuring and activites . Just find something that suits you the best.

Swim with whales and dolphins

There are not so many places where you can swim both with dolphins and whales in one day. But did I already said that Madeira has it all?

If you only want to do dolphin and whale watching, I highly recommend to go with Lobosonda . They are environmentally responsible family owned company and I really liked that they always put animals on first place. On our complimentary trip with Lobosonda we had an amazing guide Fatima, a very kind lady with a great knowledge of the ocean mammals and also marine ecology.

We started at 10am and boarded Ribeira Brava, the traditional fishing boat and launched towards the open ocean. After some time Fatime has pointed her finger towards the ocean where a school of dolphins appeared. Since then we saw more and more dolphins and I am sure we saw more than a hundred that day. And four different species! The water surface literally looked like a one big marine party!

When to go? The best time to watch or swim with dolphins and whales is summer. That's when the highest amount of marine mammals species are gathering in waters of Madeira. Also the waves are more gentle and water warmer. But like any other tours and activities, you can also do this at any time of the year.

the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira dolphins whales watching swimming

Now, canyoning is a big thing in Madeira. I didn't know much about canyoning before I arrived. And surprisingly, it became a highlight of my trip.

Did you know that Madeira is one of the world's prime locations for canyoning (and there are not as many as you might would think)? Well, then put one and one together and you know you can't leave this island without trying canyoning at least once.

I did a wonderful tour with Francisco and Joao from Epic Madeira   and it was absolutely fabulous. Our Intermediate tour included rappelling down the 50m waterfall (you can try a beginner tour for the beginning if you are new to any kind of hiking or climbing). The tour took us almost five hours and I couldn't stop smiling of joy! 

the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira canyoning adventure

Coasteering

Have you heard about coasteering? No? Then it's two of us. Till now tho :)

Coasteering is basically walking along the coastline in the wetsuit and the helmet and jumping to the ocean whenever it's possible  and also includes snorkelling in crystal clear waters.

Yes, you hear me right! Doesn't it sound great? I was a little sad that we didn't have more days in Madeira as it sounds like a lots of fun (you know I love to dive to water from high cliffs :) ). I save it for the next time then!

You can do coasteering also with my friends from Epic Madeira .

Day boat trips to nearby islands

Madeira archipelago consists of four islands . If you have a little bit more time, you will love exploring some of them as they are so different from what you will see on the main island.

Porto Santo - once you start to miss sandy beaches, hop on the boat and enjoy a day on the small island of Porto Santo where you will find 9 km beach of golden sand and breath taking views

Deserta Island and Farol Island (by a catamaran) - while Madeira has black sand beaches and Porto Santo which beaches, Deserta and Farol islands are having white sand beaches , so it's a completely different world again

Kayak / SUP

You can take lessons or tours to breathtaking sea caves with Azul Diving Center .

Paragliding

Let's fly over the mountains, over the ocean with  Madeira Paragliding .

Horse riding

You can also see the island from the horseback if you want to! Check guys at  Quinta do Riacho .

Scuba diving and Snorkelling

Madeira is an outstanding scuba diving destination. And together with Azores it makes the largest whale sanctuary in the world! Scuba diving here is so diverse as you can spot anything from ship wrecks, manta rays, dolphins or the whales. Also the water visibility is amazing (talking about 20m!) 

There are a few diving centers like Atalaia Diving Center , Azul Diving Center Madeira , Explora Madeira Diving Center  (they also offer freediving).

Surfing and bodyboarding

There are some wonderful breaks for surfing. In fact Madeira is one of the best surfing locations in Europe.  All the breaks are in the west part of the island . For a beginner, there is only one sand beach to learn and it's in Porto do Cruz. Rest of the spots are quite rocky. If you want to learn surf in Madeira, then the best time is summer. In summer the waves are coming not so quickly, so you will struggle less. 

You can take classes, rent a gear with Madeira Surf Camp  or Calhau Surf School .

If fishing is something you enjoy, then you are in the right place! Madeira has some of best fishing areas in the world. Fish for Tuna and Blue Marlins! You can choose between half-day and full day fishing boat tours .

All around the island is about 2000 km of trails , many of them being popular levadas - irrigation channels. Various trails will take you along the coast, accross the mountains and through the valleys full of waterfalls and beautiful forests. Some of them are easy walks and some of them require certain level of hiking experience. But there is something for everyone.

There is a phone app for hiking in Madeira that is called  WalkMe . It includes navigation, offline maps and more than 50 hikes and is definitely worth the 5 Euros!

Remember that if you don't feel like hiking alone, you can always take a tour or hire a private hiking guide .

Some of the most beautiful and popular hikes are:

  • Vereda do Arieiro (PR 1) - Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo route is considered to be the hardest but also the most beautiful on the island. I would say it's not as hard if you are use to do some walking and hiking. Reconsider to go if you are too scared of heights tho :). To truly enjoy this hike without unnecessary rushing, allow yourself a full day.
  • Levada do 25 Fontes (PR 6)  - Probably the most famous levada, so early morning or late afternoon start is necessary if you want to avoid crowds.
  • Levada do Caldeirao Verde (PR 9) - Very fun hike going through a couple of long tunnels (take a headlamp with you) and it ends with fantastic 100m waterfall
  • Vereda do Larano  - This hike starting at Machico will allow you to see absolutely amazing ocean views. It is recommended for experienced hikers with sturdy boots as there are some sketchy parts. And if you are unsure, you can always do the guided tour .
  • Vereda da Ponta do Sao Lourenco (PR 8)  - this very east part of the island looks like another world. There are no trees, the rock formations you will see have incredible colours and the ocean and cliff views are nothing short of spectacular!

madeira travel blog

Mountain Biking

Seriously, who would voluntarily go and ride those crazy hills of Madeira? Haha, I wouldn't, but I know some of my friends would love that! Again, you can go with the epic team from Epic Madeira .

Jeep Safari

Explore secret and hidden places in the valleys and mountains with jeep tours . This way you will get the chance to also explore famous laurissilva forests , the evergreen and believed to be primary forests on Madeira. Definitely something you should see.

Catamaran Sunset Tours

Sunsets in Madeira are absolutely spectacular and to watch them from the boat will take your breath away!

What to eat and drink

Fish and seafood is very popular food of locals and tourist. Amongst the typical fish and seafoodd that you can try in Madeira is:

  • Codfish (Bacalhau)
  • Tuna fish (Atum)
  • Black swordfish (Espada) - my personal favourite, it has a fery soft meat which taste is very close to lobster
  • Octopus (Polvo)
  • Limpets (Lapas)

Important note : Before ordering a fish in restaurant, please ask them whether is the fish from a fish farm of from the ocean. Recently, in Madeira they are dealing with an ecologic disaster that are fish farms. For one kilogram of fish from the farm is needed about 12 kg of fish from the ocean - crazy, huh? Plus fish from the farm is treated with antibiotics, so not only you eat something you really don't want to eat, but also all the antibiotics go into the ocean, causing fatal problem in the ecosystem

Espetada Madeirense is another favourite meal in Madeira. It's beef cubes on skewer grilled on wood or charcoal.

Honey cake  (bolo de mel de cana) is one of the main desserts and you will be able to buy it in almost any souvenir shop. It's not made from honey but dark sugar cane molasses with nuts and sultanas in it. It is very rich, and should last long months after it's baked. Well, we ate it in two days because it was so delicious!

Probably the most popular drink on the island is wine which is world famous. Beautiful vineyards are all around the island! Also it's very cheap, be ready to pay for a bottle of wine in the store 2 - 3 euros, yay!

The most traditional drink of Madeira is poncha  and unless you are a person who never touches the alcohol, you shouldn't leave Madeira without trying it. It's made from brandy cane sugar, bee honey and lemon juice. I am a baby drinker and can't even smell rum without instantly feeling like throwing out, but surprisingly I really enjoyed drinking poncha. But be careful, it's as strong as it is delicious :) They say that the best poncha is to be found in Taberna da Poncha in Serra de Água.

the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Madeira food

Useful resources whilst you are in Madeira

Accommodation - www.booking.com

Live webcams all around the island - www.netmadeira.com

Weather updates - www.vedur.is

Flight connections to Madeira (from Europe) - Airlines & Airports

Phone app for hiking in Madeira - WalkMe  (available for Android and iOS) 

madeira travel blog

Have a question? Feel free to ask in the comments below.

Wanna know what camera gear I use?

Thank you for reading and go ahead and  follow me on facebook  or instagram to explore the world with me as I publish pictures and stories along the way.

*Thank you Estalagem da Ponta do Sol , Casa do Miradouro , Epic Madeira and  Lobosonda for having us. As always the opinions are of my own.

**Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a booking using the link. It won't cost you a penny but it will help me to maintain this website and write more helpful articles in future. 

madeira travel blog

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oh hello! Welcome to my page where we all are allowed to Dream Big and we all are encouraged to Wander Far. My name is Marti and  here you can read more about me . I am originally from Czech Republic and my story isn't different from stories of many other travellers - in 2011 I quit my well-paid job in film industry to travel the world which was always my dream. I visited 70+ countries and you can find me exploring deserted islands in South Pacific or diving with whale sharks in Philippines, prospecting for gold in New Zealand or building an igloo above the Polar Circle. Let's join me on my journey around the globe!

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Wanderers of the World

4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Are you wondering about all the incredible things you can see and do during a short 4 days in Madeira? I’m here to show you…

My Mum owns a timeshare out in Madeira via the Pestana Group and so I’m fortunate enough to have been to Madeira at least four times over the past twenty years. And yet I still have a strong desire to go back; this time taking my husband Scott along with me. I think that probably tells you a lot about just how incredible Madeira really is as a travel destination.

Anyway, it’s safe to say I’ve seen a lot of Madeira during those four trips, which has allowed me to come back here and show you all the very best bits – especially if you’ve only got 4 days to spare.

Psst! This itinerary is the first in a long line of Madeira travel blogs I plan to write over the next few months; subscribe now so you don’t miss them!

Bird of Paradise Flower in Madeira

Nicknamed ‘the island of eternal spring’, Madeira is a stunning island within the Portuguese archipelago and is full of treasures for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to uncover. 

It’s a small island, which means spending 4 days in Madeira will give you a feel for what this Portuguese archipelago is all about while allowing you to see more than just the capital city of Funchal . 

However, if you were to ask me how many days in Madeira is best for your first visit then I’d say that you’ll probably want to spend at least a week there instead. This would allow you to explore the island at a slower pace while still saving time for relaxing in the sun.

But for when you really can only spend 4 days in Madeira, here’s how to make the most of it…

Read Next: When Is The Best Time To Visit Madeira?

Views of Porto Moniz from afar

Day 1: Funchal

Funchal is Madeira’s capital city and is probably where you’ll be staying while in Madeira as it’s convenient, close to the airport and a popular pickup point for Madeira tours and day trips around the island . 

I’d suggest spending a full day exploring the best bits of Funchal such as:

Santa Catarina Park

A stroll through Santa Catarina Park is a relaxing way to start your 4 days in Madeira itinerary.

It’s important to note that this is one of the largest parks in Madeira so you won’t be able to see all of it. 

But a slow stroll for around an hour will allow you to take in all the flora, fauna, fountains and views (we nearly got a full alliteration of ‘f’s there!) Dotted around the park are also plenty of benches and tree-covered nooks, so do take your time here.

Santa Catarina Park, Funchal, Madeira

Madeira Botanical Garden

You’ll need to drive or hop on a bus or in a taxi to get to the Madeira Botanical Garden from the centre of Funchal. Alternatively, you could also use the Funchal Cable Car , which includes a stop at the botanical gardens en route to Monte and the lush tropical gardens found there.  Either way, a visit here is well worth the trip.

Madeira Botanical Garden

There are around 12 acres of gardens to explore so it warrants at least a couple of hours spent here. Alongside impressive landscaped gardens with sea views as their backdrop, you’ll also come across tropical fruit trees, sweeping lakes and even an aviary of exotic birds including cockatoos and parakeets.

From the gardens, either hop back in your car, bus or taxi or use the cable car to get to Monte in the suburbs of Funchal. 

Here you’ll find an interesting 18th-century church (note that there are over 50 steps in front of the entrance!), as well as yet more incredible gardens . 

Monte Church, Madeira

The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is home to beautiful areas to walk around at different levels; some of which are Japanese-inspired complete with stepping stones, arched bridges, ornate pagodas and torii gates. 

It’s a stunning place – and I’d wager that you’ll love it even more than the botanical gardens you saw earlier in the day.

Toboggan Ride

Monte is also where to come if you want to hop on a traditional Madeiran toboggan and squeal down a steep and zigzagging hill while suicidal men jump on and off behind you to steer and stop the basket! It’s great fun but definitely not one for the faint-hearted.

Alternatively, a gentler and more relaxing way to leave Monte is via the cable car , which you can stay on down to the main part of Funchal. The views from up here are beautiful and very green!

READ NEXT: One Day in Funchal Itinerary

Views of Madeira from the Cable Car

Day 2: Best of the West Island Tour

One of the most relaxing ways to get around Madeira without a car is to join organised day tours. I like to use Get Your Guide to find tours like this.

As you’ve only got 4 days in Madeira, I’d recommend taking two full-day tours; one to the western side of the island and the other to the eastern side. 

You’ll see a heck of a lot during each of them as well as some of the best (and most scenic!) parts of Madeira. 

Up first: the west and some of my favourite sights to see in Madeira! I really like this tour as it takes you  to all kinds of places like:

Câmara de Lobos

This quaint fishing town is close to Funchal and often one of the first stops on a day tour to the western side of the island. The harbour here is quite active, so there’s lots of boat and dog… I mean people watching to be had.

Getting Around Madeira: Camara do Lobos, Madeira

Cabo Girão is a famous clifftop viewpoint in Madeira. From here, you can see Funchal in the distance and how steep the drop is down to the coast.

Views from Cabo Girao

Ribeira Brava

Ribeira Brava is one of the many coastal villages you’ll explore during the tour. There’s a black sand beach here as well as high viewpoints you can enjoy too.

Pretty little waterfall in Madeira

Speaking of viewpoints, the ones from Encumeada are something else entirely. At over 1,000 metres high, you’ll likely be above the clouds. And if your tour guide gives you the option to follow part of the ‘levada’ walk here then be sure to take the opportunity for an unforgettable walk above the clouds.

Encumeada views in Madeira

São Vicente

Surrounded by eclipsing mountains and views out to the sea, São Vicente is a fabulous little town to wander around.

Sao Vicente sign in Madeira

Porto Moniz

Your final stop on this tour (and might I add one of the best places to end with!) is Porto Moniz along the north side of the island. Here you can take in the sea views and see how the island was created by volcanoes. You can even swim in volcanic rock pools!

Madeira Porto Moniz

These particular rock formations are made from the uneven spreading of volcanic lava, which have then filled up with fresh seawater. These pools are very popular with locals and tourists alike and only cost a couple of Euros to dip your feet or swim in.

Even just a walk around the town of Porto Moniz itself will show you yet more formations carved from volcanic rock such as caves you can walk through and explore.

Madeira Porto Moniz Volcano Caves

Day 3: Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour

Another must-do Madeira tour is to hop on a catamaran from Funchal Marina to go in search of whales and dolphins. 

What’s really incredible is that the dolphins seem to be so used to these tours that they actually swim alongside the catamaran scratching their backs across it!

Dolphin watching in Madeira

Most tours like this also give you time at the end to swim and snorkel in the Atlantic. It’ll probably be cold but a quick dip is always fun!

Check out Get Your Guide for various catamaran tours in Madeira and their prices >>

Day 4: Best of the East Island Tour

You’ve seen the best of the west of Madeira; now’s your chance to see all the best bits in the east.

Once again, check out Get Your Guide for various Madeira tours you can take. I love this one as it also includes a walk along part of the Levadas. 

Here’s what else you’ll get the chance to see and do:

Pico do Arieiro 

Pico do Arieiro is another of Madeira’s most famous viewpoints. Once again, you’ll probably find yourself above the clouds, this time looking across gorges and valleys from 1,818 metres up.

Views from the top of Pico do Arieiro, Madeira

Ribeiro Frio

Ribeiro Frio is a small village with another fabulous vista point. It’s also one of the most popular starting points for a Levada walk. And if you’re lucky enough, your tour guide may even allow you some time to follow the Levadas before hopping back on the coach.

Not sure what a Levada is? It’s a man-made channel created to carry water around the island to help with the irrigation of agricultural fields – and they’re a lot of fun to follow through the trees as you walk.

Walking along the levadas in Madeira

You’ve likely already heard about the triangular straw-topped houses that Madeirans used to live in. Now’s your chance to wander around an entire village of them and even see inside some!

Traditional straw huts in Santana, Madeira

Ponta de São Lourenço

If there’s enough time, then your tour guide will probably take you to Ponta de São Lourenço, which is the most easterly point of the island and home to stunning clifftop views across the sea.

Your final stop on a tour of the east of Madeira is likely to be Machico, which is home to a man-made sandy beach (one of only a handful in Madeira!) The beach is hugged by cliffs, which means you’ll be shielded from strong winds while you relax and watch the waves roll in. 

READ NEXT: How Many Days in Madeira is Ideal (+ Itinerary Suggestions)

Funchal Marina

Where To Stay In Madeira

As you’ve only got 4 days in Madeira, you’re best staying within Funchal. It’ll be more convenient for taxis to the airport and sightseeing – and it’s also the most common pick-up point for tours around the island. 

As mentioned earlier, my Mum owns a timeshare in Madeira through the Pestana Group, which has allowed me to stay at the following hotels:

  • Pestana Palms : 4-star aparthotel near the Lido with an outdoor pool overlooking the sea | Check Prices
  • Pestana Grand : Luxurious 5-star hotel with a large outdoor pool also near the Lido | Check Prices
  • Pestana Village : Charming 4-star apartments in picturesque grounds also near the Lido | Check Prices

If you’re after sea views then I definitely recommend staying at Pestana Palms . But I also loved the privacy and picturesque grounds of Pestana Village while Pestana Grand is worth the 5-star luxury price tag if you can afford it.

Alternatively, other top-rated hotels in Funchal include:

  • Belmond Reid’s Palace: Luxurious 5-star beachfront hotel and spa near Santa Catarina Park. I’m told by a fellow travel blogger that they also serve an excellent afternoon tea | Check Prices
  • Hotel Porto Santa Maria: Modern 4-star waterfront hotel and spa near Funchal Marina | Check Prices
  • Vitorina Corte Guesthouse: Simple 2-star guesthouse within easy reach of Funchal Farmers Market; some rooms have sea views | Check Prices
  • Sé Boutique Hotel: Stunning 4-star hotel and restaurant complex near Funchal Marina | Check Prices

Discover more hotels in Funchal on Booking.com >>

How To Get To Madeira

Although Madeira is a common pitstop on various cruise and ferry journeys, you’ll likely be flying into Madeira for your 4 day trip. 

What you might not know is that Funchal Airport has one of the trickiest runways to land on in the world! It’s short, juts out over the sea and is prone to strong winds. 

This means that not every airline flies into Funchal as it requires the pilot to have a very specific set of skills. Popular airlines that fly to Madeira from the UK though include British Airways, easyJet, Jet2.com and TUI.

That said, as Madeira’s popularity grows, more and more airlines are adding Funchal to their destination list. There’s certainly a lot more choice of airlines today than when I went on my first trip to Madeira nearly twenty years ago. (Gosh, how time flies!)

RELATED:  Tips & Tricks for Getting Around the Island of Madeira

Over to you now – I’d love to know what you think of this 4 day Madeira itinerary! Do you have any questions about your upcoming trip? Write me a note below; I always reply!

Need help planning your trip to Madeira? We also offer custom travel planning services !

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4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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20 comments

My friend told me about Madeira recently but I didn’t realise how pretty it was! I might just have to add this place to my list! Thank you for sharing

Ooh…. your friend has good taste 😉 Seriously though, it is so so so beautiful! I hope you’ll go there one day xoxo

I’ve always been afraid of traveling to Madeira because of its tricky airport. How do you usually find landing and takeoff? Does it ever get scary?

Ahh yes, the runway. It’s totally fair that you might be a little apprehensive of it.

I’ve personally never had a fear of flying. And Madeira was actually one of the very first places I flew to so I guess I was thrown in at the deep end early on 😉

That said, there was one slightly unnerving experience where the landing was a little bumpy because of strong winds. But I never once felt concerned. The pilots flying there are so experienced that they’ve really got it under control. Although everyone did cheer and clap once the plane had safely come to a stop 😉

But that’s been the only scary experience in all the times I’ve flown to and from Madeira.

I do understand that it’s worrying, but as I’ve said, only certain airlines and pilots fly to Madeira. And those that do are some of the most experienced pilots in the world so you’re in safe hands.

I hope you’ll consider visiting one day… it really is such a beautiful place 🙂 xoxo

Madeira is such a beautiful island! Would love to visit and your photos make me want to go even more.

Isn’t it just?! I adore Madeira and will happily keep going back… I hope you get to see it one day 😀

Oh Madeira is so beautiful and your photos look amazing! The island is high on my travel wish list so hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit one day.

I’m glad my photos could do it justice; it really is so beautiful! I hope you get to visit one day <3

There’s so much to do and see here! It truly is the land of eternal spring 🙂

Definitely! It’s such a pretty island and still fairly undiscovered… at least compared to other European destinations!

Beautiful Madeira! To be honest, I never thought of visiting but now Im definitely reconsidering, it looks so stunning! All I knew was the wine ?. Going to check skyscanner now hehe

Hehe I’m pleased I could change your mind 😉

wow this is awesome! Will check this out again when planning a trip to Madeira!

Sounds great, thanks Tyra! I hope you get to visit Madeira soon 😀

Wow, Madeira looks so beautiful! I love the diversity: from one village to another, the landscape seems to be totally different. I am definitely adding Madeira to my bucket list and will refer to the post for reference.

You’ve hit the nail on the head! It might be a small island but it’s definitely diverse… lots to see and do. I hope you get a chance to see it for yourself one day! xoxo

Hey, this is a wonderful article! Im going to Madeira next week, do you recommend any cab rental services?

Thank you so much; I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 And amazing! Lucky you! I’m sure you’re going to have a wonderful time! To be honest, we just used the standard yellow taxis you’ll see all over the island. From the airport, we just had to queue for a little bit to hop in a taxi straight from the airport. And if we wanted a taxi from the hotel, then they called one in for us. So I’m afraid I can’t name the companies we used. But Madeira taxis have an official price list approved by the government, so you don’t usually need to worry about being ripped off or anything like that (provided you’re using the yellow cabs). This article explains it a little bit more: https://www.madeira-web.com/en/madeira/travel-info/transport/taxis.html I hope this helps and enjoy your trip 🙂 Best, Justine

Here are some of my favs things to do/see from Madeira:

* Sunrise at Seixal beach * Day at Porta Moniz natural pools * Ponta de São Lourenço * Cable car to Achadas Da Cruz * Cascato Dos Anjos

Thank you for sharing Alice! 🙂

Madeira Island: Travel Guide

madeira island weather

This is a complete travel guide to Madeira Island, Portugal. I’m sharing tips of the best places to go, how to go around the island, where to stay and what to eat.

I spent one week in Madeira in January 2021 and wanted to share a bit of knowledge to guide you through a visit to this amazing island. It’s known as the Pearl of the Alantic for a reason!

When to go to Madeira?

If you ask me, the ideal time of the year to come to Madeira would be between April and June. Why?

  • If you’re looking to do whale and dolphin watching, just like in Azores , it’s the best time of the year.
  • April and May also feature a spectacle with all the flowers in full bloom.
  • It’s also perfect for hiking: past the rainy season but still not on the unbearably hot summer months.

Weather in Madeira

Madeira is an all-year destination. The very mild climate allows for very stable temperatures throughout the entire year. To give you an idea, in early January I got 20 C / 68F temperatures which were perfect for a swim in the sea! However, if you’re looking for the best chance of sunbathing, then anywhere from April to September is your best bet, with the months of June and July being particularly dry.

Keep in mind that the weather can change quickly and unexpectedly all year, specially in the mountain areas in the center of the island.

madeira island beach

Crowds in Madeira

Like any destination, avoid summer holidays (August) if you want to avoid crowds. Apart from this, Madeira has several popular events scattered throughout the year, which are also busy periods:

  • Carnival – a highly festive period traditionally filled with street parades and parties.
  • Flower Festival (Festa da Flor) – taking place in April/May when the flowers are at their best, it features a parade of hundreds of performers and beautifully decorated floats.
  • Christmas – The mild temperatures lure many tourists to choose Madeira as a Christmas family destination.
  • New Year’s Eve – Madeira is well known for the amazing light & music fireworks in Funchal bay – it was once considered the best firework show in the world!

That said, with the exception of the capital Funchal , Madeira hardly feels crowded. Venture out to the more rural areas and you’ll find plenty of space to relax. The northern coast is particularly less crowded compared to the southern coast.

How many days in Madeira?

I recommend staying for at least 5-6 full days. While the island seems tiny on the map, there is plenty of things to do. You also need to account for the driving time to get around the island and for the changing weather which can prevent you from visiting some places.

If you want a less rushed trip and extra time to do more hikes, aim for 8-9 days instead and throw in a few lazy days to lay around the pool or go to the beach.

What to pack for Madeira

Keep in mind that Madeira has a very diverse range of landscapes with ever-changing weather. It might be bright and sunny in the beaches in the southern coast, but you’ll quickly start to regret not bringing a warmer jacket on the way up to Pico do Arieiro , 1,8km above the sea level.

My point is when packing for Madeira, be prepared for that diversity. Have a range on your clothing and equipment:

  • Water bottle – keep yourself hydrated
  • Sunscreen – it gets HOT
  • Hiking shoes – needed for the rural areas of the island
  • Rain jacket – you’ll never know
  • Headlamp – some of the hiking trails feature long tunnels!
  • Day backpack – to bring all this gear
  • Warmer jacket – don’t play around if you’re coming during winter time; it snowed in the highest areas of the island this year.

Where to stay in Madeira

I recommend staying in Funchal. Not only it has the largest offer of places to stay in Madeira, it’s also where you’ll find the largest offer of restaurants, bars, and shops. Being close to the geographical center of the island, where most roads lead to and depart from is also an advantage for any trip.

That said, Funchal is also the most crowded, expensive, and touristy place in the island. If you are looking for a more relaxing and “closer to nature” kind of trip, perhaps consider staying elsewhere for a few days.

Hotels in Funchal

When looking for a place to stay in Funchal, I recommend looking for a hotel or apartment with free parking to avoid headaches at the end of the day. Being in walking distance to Avenida do Mar, the main seaside promenade (and the city center!), and not having to worry about parking, was also a great addition to my evenings.

madeira travel blog

Best hotels in Funchal

A shortlist of the best-rated hotels and apartments in Funchal with free parking and Superb rating.

madeira travel blog

My choice: ARTS IN Hotel

A restored Madeiran mansion with great breakfast and beautiful views over Funchal bay.

How to get around Madeira

Driving in madeira.

madeira island driving road

I have driven in many places but Madeira definitely wins the Craziest Roads Award. Long tunnels, narrow lanes, sharp curves, viaducts, steep roads and sometimes all of them at the same time. It felt like an intense Mario Kart course!

That said, you should be fine as long as you drive slowly and carefully. Maybe it’s part of the Madeira charm! Here are some tips for renting a car in Madeira:

  • Get full insurance (Super CDW) – potentially saves you a lot of nerves.
  • Rent a place with a parking spot/garage included – it’s almost impossible to find a spot in the narrow steep roads of Funchal.
  • Get a compact but powerful car – there isn’t a lot of space in Madeira but at the same time, any extra horsepower is welcomed when going up 30-degree roads.

To give you an idea, I paid 220 Euros for a fully insured car during a full week.

Taxis in Madeira

If you haven’t that much experience driving, I recommend getting around using tours or taxi drivers. Hiring a taxi driver for the day is the best way to stay independent while exploring Madeira, but is also the most expensive option: around 100 Euros/day.

Buses in Madeira

Public transport is inexpensive and works pretty well in the capital Funchal, but quite frankly, to explore the rest of the island it’s very inefficient. Planning a day out by bus is like solving a complex puzzle of bus schedules and routes that will still never get you to the most remote and awesome places.

Bus is still the cheapest option to get around. There are 3 types of buses in Madeira:

  • Horários do Funchal – orange buses operating in Funchal.
  • SAM – red buses operating in Eastern Madeira (Machico, Caniço, Santa Cruz, etc).
  • Rodoeste – green buses operating in Western Madeira (Câmara de Lobos, Ponta do Sol, Porto Moniz, Calheta, etc).

Places to go in Madeira

Madeira island map.

To help you get around the island and plan your trip, I’ve created this Madeira map with everything I’ve mentioned in this article: my favorite viewpoints, main points of interest, hiking trails, and restaurants.

In the meantime, here is an overview of my top 10 places to visit in Madeira.

1 Pico do Arieiro

pico arieiro madeira island

Standing at 1,8km high in the heart of Madeira, Pico do Arieiro is one of those landscapes that crush you and make you feel tiny. My favorites! Once you’re up there, watching the clouds revealing and hiding mountains, lush forests, and huge ravines is mesmerizing.

For extra adventure, you can start here the Vereda do Arieiro PR 1 hiking trail that goes to the highest peak in Madeira: Pico Ruivo.

You can go there by car, but keep in mind the road is curvy, steep and frequently has fog and strong winds. Tip: get there by sunset or even sunrise for extra beauty.

2 Porto Moniz

madeira island porto moniz lava pools

Almost. I almost got a glimpse of sun that would have motivated me to go for a swim at Porto Moniz lava pools. It’s the highlight of this little seaside village although there a few paths that lead to whale watching viewpoints ( vigia da baleia ).

The natural swimming pools are open year-round but obviously summer months is when they get real popular. Entrance fee: 1,50 EUR. To try and avoid crowds, there are other free smaller pools nearby, right next to the Cachalote restaurant.

Tip: On the road to Porto Moniz, arriving Seixal, stop by Véu da Noiva viewpoint ( Miradouro do Véu da Noiva ) for beautiful views of the Northern Coast of Madeira and for this incredible sight of a waterfall plunging into the ocean.

3 Monte Palace Tropical Garden

madeira island funchal monte palace garden

Many say that Madeira is a garden, so this technically is a garden inside another garden. Jardim Tropical Monte Palace is located in Monte, high up in Funchal , and boasts an incredible collection of exotic flowers and trees from all over the world.

The garden also has a collection of typical portuguese tiles describring social and cultural events of the country throughout the centuries. Entrance fee is 12,50 Euros (2021 prices) and the easiest way to get there is to hop on the Funchal-Monte cable car (prices and operation hours here ).

4 Ponta de São Lourenço

madeira island ponta sao lourenco

Ponta de São Lourenço was probably my favorite place during my week in Madeira. It’s the most eastern point in the island and has an entirely different landscape. No crowds, no trees, just stunning ocean views.

This is a great hiking spot, with almost 10km of trails to discover. I encourage you to park your car and adventure yourself a little bit to explore viewpoints with stunning ocean views. Get there early – the parking is limited!

5 Fajã da Quebrada Nova

madeira island achadas da cruz

Scary? Yes. Crazy? Yes. Immensely beautiful? Also yes. Fajã da Quebrada Nova is possibly one of the most unique places you can find in Madeira.

You can get to this little fajã by driving to Achadas da Cruz and then get down there by three ways: by boat, a steep 1h30 hike down or an unusual cable car ride. Keep in mind the cable car works from 10am to 6am, weather permitting.

6 Ponta do Garajau

madeira island ponta do garajau

Above the natural reserve of Garajau, this headland is famous for the Christ statue (Cristo Rei). Originally built in 1927 to welcome whoever arrived to Madeira by sea, it’s a great photo opportunity, with amazing views over Desertas (uninhabited islands) and the beaches of Reis Magos and Galo.

7 Balcões Viewpoint (Miradouro dos Balcões)

madeira island levada balcoes

This viewpoint is the finale of a small 1.5km levada trail (PR11 – Levada dos Balcões) starting at Ribeiro Frio . You’ll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring 300-degree panorama over the laurissilva forest of the heart of the island as well as the largest peaks of the island – Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo .

Miradouro dos Balcões is also a mecca for birdwatching enthusiasts. Pro tip: bring a bit of bread and you’ll have several curious little winged creatures flying around you.

8 Cabo Girão

cabo girao madeira island

Standing atop a 580-meter high cliff, Cabo Girão has some of the most incredible views over Funchal and the wild Atlantic Ocean. This viewpoint is the highest cape in Europe and is essentially a suspended glass-floored skywalk so it can be a… breathtaking experience (in every sense of the word!).

I visited it during pandemic times and it was still busy, so I recommend to come early in the morning to avoid crowds.

9 Curral das Freiras

madeira island curral das freiras

Nested in a mountain valley almost a kilometer deep, the small village of Curral das Freiras is certainly a dramatic sight. It’s literally translated as “corral of the nuns” because nuns from Santa Clara Convent in Funchal seeked refuge here to escape attacks from French pirates.

To take in the scenery in full, head to one of the viewpoints in the surrounding mountains. Miradouro do Paredão and particularly Eira do Serrado have amazing views over this special place. The little town is worth a visit to, just to have a glimpse of what is living at such a remote place. Make sure to try the local chestnut cornbread ( broas de castanha ).

madeira island monte palace japanese garden

Last but certainly not least: the capital of Madeira. Funchal was a surprise for me. Not only it’s much bigger than I anticipated, but the city was literally built on a natural amphiteather so everywhere you go you’ll set to enjoy stunning ocean views.

Because it’s so catered to tourists (expect crowds all-year round!), the streets are extremely neat, clean, and filled with restaurants and shops. It’s a joy to walk in. These are some of the sights to see in Funchal:

  • Avenida do Mar – the main seaside promenade
  • Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico) – boasting flowers from all over the world
  • Funchal Cable Car (Teleférico) – a 15-min ride all the way up to Monte where you can visit Monte Palace Madeira
  • Funchal Cathedral – gothic 15th-century cathedral
  • Lido – bathing complex with saltwater pools

Tourist traps in Madeira

Not everything was perfect though! I had the chance to visit Madeira in pandemic times, which clearly benefited my experience. But it’s clear the island can suffer a bit of the overtourism virus, specially around the Funchal area (where you pay just to go for a swim in the ocean!) and in some crowded hiking trails (which takes away the whole experience, if you ask me).

  • Mercado dos Lavradores – even though the largest market in Funchal is worth a visit, beware of the sellers giving you exotic Madeiran fruits to taste. They’re usually flavor enhanced with a bit of syrup and you can easily pay dozens of euros for a few pieces of fruit!
  • Santana Traditional Houses – I was expecting to see an entire village filled with the triangular-shaped iconic houses you see in postcards and are marketed as typically Madeiran. The reality is that there’s only a 3/4 of them in Santana, selling souvenirs and traditional food to tourists. A disappointment.

Things to do in Madeira

Hiking in madeira.

madeira island hiking

Madeira is a paradise for hiking lovers. The typical levadas – trails that follow old water canals through the forest – range in size, difficulty level, and landscape giving a bit of everything for everyone.

  • Levada das 25 Fontes PR6 – the most popular levada of them all leads to a stunning waterfall surrounded by lush forest. Avoid arriving late morning or early afternoon due to crowds!
  • Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço PR8 – the beautiful remote eastern tip of Madeira boasts amazing views over the ocean and the other islands of the Madeira archipelago.
  • Levada dos Balcões PR11 – easy and entirely flat 30-min path to one of the most iconic views over the Madeira forest.
  • Vereda do Arieiro PR1 – connects Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in something that can be described as walking on clouds. This trail was closed when I was there due to a landslide (January 2021).
  • Levada do Caldeirao Verde PR9 – another hidden waterfall, but you need to go through a few long tunnels to get there. Bring a flashlight or headlamp!

Swimming spots in Madeira

Although Madeira is not exactly known for being a beach destination, there are some spots around the island where you can go for a swim in the ocean.

Man-made swimming pools or even small harbors are great spots to dive into the Atlantic and they’re all across the island ( check my map !). Here are some of my favorites:

  • Porto Moniz – natural lava pools in the northwestern tip of the island, quite popular in summer.
  • Calheta – a couple of artificial beaches between breakwaters.
  • Prainha – small beach in Caniçal hidden among the hills, popular amongst SUP and scuba diving enthusiasts
  • Garajau – acessible by cable car or to a steep descent by car.
  • Machico (Banda D’Além) – artificial yellow sand beach (one of the largest in the island), imported from Morocco in 2008.
  • Porto do Seixal – volcanic beach surrounded by green cliffs and mountains.
  • Porto Santo – if you have some extra time, head to the neighbor island of Porto Santo for one of the best beaches of the country!

Other things to do in Madeira

These are other tours and outdoor activities you can find in Madeira:

  • Canyoning – the geological conditions of Madeira are fantastic to try out this sport.
  • Coasteering – jumping, swimming, and snorkeling amongst the rocky coastline
  • Cooking Class – food in Madeira is delicious, so this is something I highly recommend. Check Portugal Farm Experience for farm-to-table cooking classes!
  • SUP – experience Madeira from a different perspective: from the sea!

Food in Madeira

madeira island food lapas

What to eat and drink in Madeira

You’ll eat extremely well in Madeira. The level of restaurants in Madeira is pretty high and there’s a bit of everything: from hole-in-the-wall hidden gems to Michelin-worthy restaurants. Honestly, it’s great value for money overall.

These are some of the delicacies to try in Madeira:

  • Bolo de mel – made with dark sugar cane and nuts, it can last for a whole year after baked.
  • Bolo do caco – delicious flatbread, served with garlic butter. Served virtually everywhere as a starter.
  • Espetada – meat skewer with beef, bay leaf and garlic, grilled on charcoal.
  • Peixe-espada – black scabbardfish served battered and then fried along with a banana or/and with passionfruit sauce.
  • Lapas – limpets are my favorite seafood, also typical from my homeland Azores and I couldn’t be happier to find them in Madeira too!
  • Poncha – the most traditional Madeiran drink, made with aguardente , honey, sugar, and different fruit juices. You’ll hardly believe this has alcohol!

Restaurants in Madeira

Last but not least – some of my favorites restaurants and bars in Madeira.

  • Cachalote – not exactly the best value, but it’s compensated by good quality food is and the beautiful views over the Porto Moniz coastline.
  • Doca do Cavacas – even if the food was average, the ocean view would make any visit worthwhile. But the food is absolutely delicious. Specialized in seafood – order lapas !
  • Santo António – meat-focused restaurant in Câmara de Lobos. This is a great place to try the traditional espetada .
  • Taberna da Poncha – located in Serra D’Água, this is the place to try the typical poncha.
  • Taberna Madeira – all the Madeiran specialties can be found in this restaurant in Funchal, from milho frito to lapas and bolo do caco .
What else did you do in Madeira island? Let me know what I’ve missed in this travel guide!

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Hello, love your article. I’m planning to visit Madeira next month. I was about to buy ferri tickets (2hours 30 min). may I ask you for your opinion about this? I read many people recommending air flights

Thank you for sharing your experiences! We live in mainland Portugal and visited Madeira for 10 days in 2022. We loved it so much that we’re moving there for a year to fully enjoy the island. Thank you for sharing all these insights!

Thank you for passing by!

Hey! I saw you paid about 220 euros for a week-long car rental. I’m just going for two days and I’m having trouble finding a good rental car company with positive reviews online. What company did you use?

I used MadLobos.

What a great article! We’re currently dreaming of going to Madeira again – we’ve been there before and we love, love love it! Here’s to hoping for a better 2021 with loads of travel plans and new experiences!

– Cecilie // RejsRejsRejs If you want even more tips for your trip to Madeira, you’re welcome to read (link removed)

Definitely hoping for a richer 2021. Cheers to that Cecilie!

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Madeira Travel Guide: everything you need to know

Welcome to our ultimate Madeira travel guide, specifically written for backpackers. Ancient Greek geographers referred to the archipelago region of the Madeira Islands as Macaronesia, meaning “Islands of the Blessed”, a name that holds true to their beauty, nature, history, culture, and traditions. If the Madeira Islands were not already on your travel radar, they will be by the end of this complete guide!

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What are the Madeira Islands?

The Madeira Islands are cradled i n the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Europe and Africa and are recognized as Natural Reserves. This region of Portugal is autonomous and is made up of four islands: Madeira , Porto Santo , Desertas, and Selvagens . These islands are known for rich biodiversity, impressive waterfalls, hiking routes, and landscapes.

Not all these islands are inhabited. Can you guess why? A beautiful landscape is not always a livable one. The natural landscape in Madeira and Porto Santo permit people to live on these two islands.

The names of the Desertas and Selvagens Islands are a clue as to why they are uninhabited. In English, Desertas means Deserted, and Selvagens means Savage. Their rugged and harsh natural environment makes them difficult for people to access and live on.

HIKING : With over 130 hiking trails, there’s a trail for every backpacker! The Vereda dos Balcões is a great trail for beginners, and the hike from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo is great for the well-seasoned hiker!

No question, the Madeira Islands are a hot spot. This dormant shield volcano is known for its vibrant and lush vegetation thanks to the mineral-rich volcanic soil. With volcanic soil comes rocky and hilly terrain.

Craving the views below water? Say no more! Go diving and see the beauty surrounding the Islands. Or hit up the waves and go surfing.

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Getting Around Madeira Island

There are different ways of getting around Madeira Island depending on where you begin your trip and what your budget is.

🚌 GO BY BUS ON MADEIRA ISLAND:

Busses are reliable but a bit chaotic in Madeira. Each town has its own public transportation service, while different towns are connected by different bus companies, depending on the area. You have 4 main companies: Horarios do Funchal , SAM , EACL and Rodoeste .

In Funchal and suburbs: Horários do Funchal is a company that can easily get you in and out of Funchal. Besides Funchal suburbs and Câmara de Lobos, this urban bus service will also take you to several tourist attractions, such as Pico dos Barcelos, Monte or the Botanical Garden.

A bus ticket costs €1.35 EUR ($1.53 USD) if you purchase it ahead of time, €1.95 EUR ($2.21 USD) if you buy it on board and €4.50 EUR ($5.09 USD) for a day pass. For bus times , be sure to check out the timetable for urban and interurban trips.

On the go? Download the HF Bus App to know the schedule wherever you are.

From Funchal: by using SAM and EACL bus services you can go east to Caniço, Santa Cruz, Madeira Airport, Machico, Santo da Serra and Porto da Cruz. Rodoeste , whose buses stop in Câmara de Lobos, Ribeira brava, Ponta do Sol, Madalena do Mar, Calheta, Porto Moniz and São Vicente, ensures transportation to the western part of Madeira. Ceck out this map to see different areas served by Rodoeste, and the relative fares. The most expensive bus ticket is 6€, and allows you to reach Porto Moniz from Funchal.

🚗 GO BY CAR ON MADEIRA ISLAND:

The most common way to get around Madeira Island is by car. The roads are in great conditions pretty much all over the island, however they may be narrow or very steep at some points. Also, you will be driving on the right side of the road.

Here is everything you need to know about getting around by car on Madeira:

TAXI: The initial fare for your average taxi ride in Funchal starts at €3.50 EUR ($4 USD) and will cost approximately €3 EUR ($3.40 USD) per 5km. You can use the Táxi Madeira App to help plan your travels.

UBER: The base price for an Uber ride in Funchal starts at €1.00 EUR ($1.13 USD).

BOLT: The base price for a Bolt ride in Funchal starts at €1.09 EUR ($1.23 USD) and will cost € 0.59 EUR/km ($0.67 USD/km) and € 0.27 EUR/min ($0.31 USD/min). The minimum fare is € 2.50 EUR ($2.83 USD) /ride.

CAR RENTAL: For a standard sedan, renting a car will cost about €25 EUR ($28 USD) /day in low season. For a larger car or during busier seasons, expect to pay closer to €40 EUR ($45 USD) /day or more. Before booking, contact the rental agency via email to learn more about prices and what cars are currently available. We recommend booking your car rental prior to your arrival or renting it directly in Funchal, not at the airport. You can always ask for a pick-up at the airport!

GAS STATIONS: Unlike other European countries where you can find different prices depending on the brand, in Madeira, the price of gas is pretty much the same across the whole island, with differences of just a couple of cents. Also, you’ll have to refill the tank on your own. How does it work exactly? First, you park your car, you tap the amount (in €) that you’d like to refill and then you put the gas. Once you’re done with the refueling you will look for the cash desk and pay.

VISITING THE DIFFERENT ISLANDS:

PORTO SANTO : To reach the largest Island, Madeira, you can arrive by air at its capital Funchal. If you wish to start your travels in Porto Santo, you can fly to its capital Vila Baleira. Ferry rides allow you to travel to and from the Islands with the Porto Santo line . A roundtrip ticket (tourist class) for 1 adult is €59.44 EUR ($67 USD) for April-September and €48.60 EUR ($55 USD) for the rest of the year. NOTE: During the low season (usually January), the connection may be suspended as the ferry undergoes maintenance.

THE DESERTAS: You can reach the Desertas Islands by boat from Funchal, the capital of Madeira. The Deserta Islands are made up of Chão Islet, Bugio, and Deserta Grande. You’ll need to book a group tour to visit this island as access is restricted.

THE SELVAGENS: Visiting the Selvagens Islands can be a bit tricky. The freshwater surrounding the two Islands (Selvagem Grande and Selvagem Pequena) are filled with coral reefs that make accessing the Islands difficult. As a protected Natural Reserve, you need to obtain permission from the Madeira National Park to visit.

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B est Time to Visit Madeira

The climate of the Madeira Islands is mild and people often refer to the weather as an ‘ eternal Spring ‘. Sound enticing?

If you are looking for a warm, sunny destination, the summer months June-September would be the ideal time to visit. Temperatures are around 20-25°C from May to October, while they go down to 13-16°C during winter months, with higher chances of rain.

However, while the summer months may be the most ideal for hiking and beach, waterfalls will most likely be at their minimum in terms of their water flow. Also, during the winter months you will have higher chances to find moody clouds on your hikes, and the island will be greener in general.

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Top Things to Do in Madeira

  • The Madeira Islands are crawling with waterfalls! Most of them are located at the end of a Levada, which are usually very well-mantained trails. Our favourites are the Levada do Caldeirao Verde and the 25 Fountains Levada.
  • Looking for an epic hike? The summit with the highest peak on the Madeira Island is the Pico Ruivo (1,861m high). Don’t miss the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike!
  • Did you know the largest surviving laurel forest is the Laurisilva Forest of Madeira and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Its trees are over 500 years old and are found in Fanal!
  • Catch dolphins and monk seals in the waters surrounding the Desertas Islands.
  • Don’t miss the viewpoints! At the Cabo Girão lookout point (elevation of 580 m), you will have a breathtaking view of the coast from the glass platform known as the Skywalk. Miradouro do Juncal in Pico do Arieiro is another viewpoint you don’t wanna miss.

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Where to Stay in Madeira

Choosing where to stay in Madeira is quite easy as your location doesn’t have a huge impact on what you are going to see. In fact, you can travel from either end of the island in just over an hour, making it very easy to explore.

This means that no matter what your favourite activities are, you could either choose to spend your entire stay in a single accommodation or change it up every few days.

Understanding Madeira, however, is really important. There is a major difference between the northern and the southern side .

THE NORTHERN SIDE: The northern side of Madeira receives a considerably larger amount of rain and significantly less daylight. This means that this part of the island is usually slightly colder and dominated by more lush vegetation.

THE SOUTHERN SIDE: The southern side of the island is much sunnier and slightly warmer than the northern side. Places like Ponta do Sol rarely receive rain even during the winter months, and you can expect to have a good 1.5 hours more of sunshine every day. Also, don’t forget that you get to see the sunset on the ocean from Funchal to Calheta!

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FUNCHAL – Funchal is the largest city and the capital of Portugal’s Autonomous Region of Madeira. It’s where most hostels are located, it’s convenient to the airport (which is just 20km away) and it’s dotted with bars and restaurants. It’s the best base for travellers seeking parties, connections, fun, and experience the vibrant lifestyle of Madeira.

RIBEIRA BRAVA & CAMARA DE LOBOS – These two areas are also located on the southern coast of Madeira. The coast here has the most stunning cliffs of the whole island, including the one of Cabo Girão Skywalk. Riberia Brava is also the gateway to Calhau da Lapa , a must-visit place in Madeira. Consider sleeping in one of the old caves of Calhau da Lapa !

PONTA DO SOL & CALHETA – This area is dotted with some of the best surfing spots in Madeira. Ponta do Sol , Paul do Mar , Calheta , Jardim do Mar , Madalena do Mar are all stunning places to stay. This side of the island receives a considerably lower amount of precipitations and at least 1.5 hours more sunlight each day. These towns are also quite convenient for those who want to explore the western side of the island, as well as the north-western side. Stay at Canto das Fontes for an amazing glamping experience.

PORTO MONIZ & SAO VICENTE – This part of Madeira is is all about laid-back island vibes. Like in Ponta do Sol and Calheta, here you will find some great waves if you like surfing. Porto Moniz is popular for its natural swimming pools, and the town itself is pretty nice.

SANTANA – Santana is a good base for those who want to explore the Mountain range of Madeira but don’t like the idea of living in a big city like Funchal. Stay in one of the many accommodations in Santana, Sao Jorge, or Faial.

MACHICO – Porto da Cruz isn’t Machico’s main town. However, it is a cozy town of just 2500 people on the northern coast of the island and it’s the best place to surf for beginners in Madeira. Consider staying in Porto da Cruz as a base for your daily trips to the mountain or just to stay away from the hustle of the city. Porto da Cruz is also a good option for solo travellers and backpackers: we loved the atmosphere at Jaca Hostel , a place we would definitely recommend. Also, the town of Machico is quite interesting, on the southern side of the region.

SANTA CRUZ – Santa Cruz is a calm fishing village located near the airport of Madeira, not far from the city of Funchal. The village of Santa Cruz is one of the oldest on the island, characterized by palmeras, beaches, cliffs, and a stunning view of the Deserted Islands.

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Useful Apps & Websites for Madeira

  • HIKING: Check out the WalkMe App for maps and tips for hiking across Madeira. The app is free but we highly recommend paying the 4.99€ for the “explorer” version to grant access to all 60+ walks in Madeira, download the offline maps and more. Maps.me is also another great app to have on your phone. It’s free and you can download the map of the island.
  • WEATHER: Netmadeira.com is the go-to website for checking weather conditions on the island. The homepage features live webcams from different areas of Madeira. The island is famous for having many different bioclimates, so if you’re having back luck in one area, just visit this website and cross your fingers! Sun may shine not far from where you are! Windy is also very reliable when it comes to the weather forecast.
  • BUSSES: Visit Sam Bus Website for detailed information on bus rides around the island of Madeira.
  • ISLAND NEWS & TRAILS: Check out VisitMadeira.pt for updates and info on trail status. Some hiking trails may be closed in specific dates for safety reasons, so make sure to check their status before going.

Is Madeira Expensive to Visit?

This is usually one of the toughest questions to answer as the budget largely depends on one’s lifestyle. However, we tried to list here some of the most common expenses you will encounter on your trip, dividing them by category.

  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
  • Total Budget

ACCOMMODATION

Transportation.

AIRPORT SHUTTLE INFO: A bus ticket from the airport to Funchal only costs €5 EUR ($6 USD).

The local delights put the FUN in Funchal. Tasty, healthy, and seasonal food is what Madeira is all about. It’s also quite affordable! A one-course meal costs €10 EUR ($12 USD), and a multiple course meal including a main dish, side dish, dessert, and water will cost €20 EUR ($23 USD). An espresso costs anything from €0.60 EUR ($0.70 USD) to €1 ($1.15 USD). Tips are not included in the bill.

Foods to try are the renowned Espetada Pau Louro (skewered beef) €14 EUR ($16 USD), Milho fritto (corn and cabbage fried cubes), Polvo (octopus) €10 EUR ($12 USD), Lapas (limpets on a pan) €7 ($9 USD), Bolo do Caco (traditional bread with garlic butter) €3 ($4 USD), and the Prego (steak sandwich) €4 ($5 USD). Expect to pay slightly more in the Funchal area, while prices drop as soon as you go on the northern side and at some local restaurants.

Drinks to try are the Poncha , Madeira Wine, Green Wine and Licor de Ginja da Madeira (Cherry liquor).

Madeira offers a wide range of free and paid activities. The prices below are intended per person.

TOTAL BUDGET

BUDGET BACKPACKERS: If you want to stretch your dollar while still being able to explore Madeira, you should budget for about 30-40€ ($34-$45 USD) a day. This involves travelling in a group (possibly of 4) to split the costs of transportation, housing and more. Expect to rent one of the cheapest Airbnb’s on the island for 4 people ($12 USD/night per person), share a rental car for your day trips ($8 USD/day per person + gasoline), stick to the free activities and eat most of your meals at home. Total cost for 14 days: €420-€550 per person ( $480-$630 USD ).

MID-BUDGET COUPLE : Expect to pay around €60-€70 ($67-$78 USD) a day per person for a bit more comforts. For this budget, you will be sleeping in a mid-budget double room ($20-$30 USD/night per person), split the cost of a rental car ($15 USD/day per person + gasoline) and eat one meal per day at a restaurant ($15-$25 USD per person). Total cost for 14 days: €840-€980 per person ( $950-$1.100 USD ).

SOLO MID-BUDGET TRAVELERS: Madeira isn’t that friendly to solo travellers when it comes to budgeting. This is mainly due to transportation. A car is essential to explore the island and if you don’t have anyone to split the cost with, it can be pricy. Budget for about €70-€80 ($80-$90 USD) a day if you are on your own. Sleep in a hostel ($20-$25 USD/night per person), rent your own car ($30 USD/day + gasoline) and eat one meal per day at a restaurant ($15-$25 USD). Total cost for 14 days: €980-€1.120 per person ( $1.100-$1.270 USD ).

FLASHPACKER: Budget for about a similar amount as the previous 2 categories, plus add a few activities or more expensive accommodations here and there. Your daily average budget will need to be around €100-€120 ($110-$135 USD) if you are travelling solo, a bit less if you split some of the costs with others. Total cost for 14 days: €1.400-€1680 per person ( $1.580-$1.900 USD )

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Is Madeira Safe?

Madeira was voted the European Safest Destination in 2021, also due to its effort to apply measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In fact, the island is very safe to travel to, even if you’re going solo.

Crime is very low in Madeira. Crimes that do take place tend not to target travellers.

Hiking dangers do exist in Madeira, mainly around waterfalls along the Levada trails and on the drops of the Veredas. These are the trails that are nearby water sources like falls and you can expect some areas to be quite wet and slippery.

Driving risks in Madeira are due to its natural mountainous landscape. Many sites to explore on the island are the easiest to get to by car. If you’re driving here for the first time and you aren’t used to mountainous roads, be vigilant and take your time as some of the roads are winding and steep.

Swimming and surfing in Madeira can be wild (both in a fun and risky way). Things to keep in mind when taking a dip: the waves can be quite strong (especially in winter) and be aware of the large rocks below your feet.

What to Eat and Drink?

Have you heard of Madeira wine ? This fortified drink is a must to try. Madeira has a huge tradition when it comes to wines. In fact, wine has been produced here for over 500 years, and ancient traditions are well preserved. On the island, everywhere you look there are terraces, where grapes grow in abundance. The harvesting starts in August all the way to October.

And that’s not all! Don’t forget to taste Poncha , a typical drink with a lemon or orange juice base made with distilled alcohol (Aguardiente) made from sugar cane.

The food will get you going too! Try fish and seafood like lapas (limpets), octopus, grilled trout, or try the espetada – beef cubes (that melt in your mouth) served on a laurel skewer or the Bolo de caco wheat bread! And don’t forget to try the tropical fruits like Anona, Guava, Passion fruit and Tabaibo among many others.

Looking for a place to eat? Check out our favourite restaurants and bars recommended by locals.

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How Long Should You Stay?

While the island may seem small on a map, there is actually a lot to see. It may seem hard to believe, but there are about 200 Levadas, 30 Veredas and countless waterfalls in Madeira. So, how long should you go for? The answer is very subjective.

Plan the length of your stay depending on the activities you are interested in. For example, if you’re a hiking enthusiast, consider you can only do 1 “major” or 2 smaller Levadas/Veredas a day. Most of these trails, in fact, take up to 5 hours to complete, and you could spend a whole month exploring the over 60 recommended trails.

On the other hand, if you’re just coming to relax and visit a few sights, 7 to 10 days would be enough.

Recommended duration: 15 days – 20 days

Best Tips for Backpacking Madeira

  • There are two groups of hiking trails in the Madeira Islands: Levadas and Veredas . The first group are the Levada s trails. These trails are quite clean and near water sources. The second group, the Veredas trails, can be more challenging. These trails are more rugged and take you along the mountains. One thing is for sure – both types of trails will blow your mind!
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes . The right clothes and being comfortable can make your trek more enjoyable. Also, even though the weather is mild all year round it can get quite cold if you hike up the highest mountains. Snow is rare, but it can fall even in Madeira. Get yourself prepared.
  • Stay on the trail . This tip is for your safety and prevent dammage to local wildlife habitats and preserve the local environment. Bring a cellphone and let someone know where you’re going hiking, even someone at your place of accommodation.
  • Always bring a rain-jacket with you. It’s better to be prepared when the weather turns.
  • Don’t forget about electronics! The standard voltage in Madeira is 230V with a frequency of 50Hz. The sockets are categorized as type F , also known as Schuko. Type F (like other European countries) and is also compatible with Types C and E. Consider buying a power adapter for your electronics if the plugs don’t match that of the sockets.

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Useful Covid-19 Travel Information

MADEIRASAFE.COM – When travelling during the pandemic, stay up-to-date with all the travel requirements for visiting the Madeira Islands on Madeirasafe.com . Register on this portal before flying there to speed up the process upon arrival. If you submitted valid documentation before arriving in Madeira (Green Certificate, Vaccine, Test or Recovery), you can request a free Antigen test to return to your country.

VISITMADEIRA.PT For more information about requirements of entry, testing, exceptions, and testing upon departure read more on the region’s official website visitmadeira.pt . They have a handy App, the Madeira Tourism App that will keep you informed the whole way.

MORE! You can take a free rapid antigen COVID-19 test in Funchal. You’ll see several tents advertising tests with medical staff. But if you run out of time, don’t worry, you can take a test at the airport. Just be sure to arrive well before your boarding time in case there is a queue. The rapid antigen will cost €30 EUR ($34 USD) and take 30 minutes to receive results.

Disclaimer: The availability and costs of the rapid antigen test at the Madeira airport in Funchal are based on our trip in January 2022. This may be subject to change. You can check the airport’s website to stay informed on what measures and services they offer for travellers.

You will have a memorable time exploring and chasing adventure in the Madeira Islands. Be sure to share with us your thoughts on backpacking in the Madeira Islands, what’s useful in this guide/tips to add, and tag @backpackersintheworld . The Madeira Islands are calling!

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How to spend a week in Madeira: a 7-day itinerary without a car

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If you’re spending a week in Madeira, there are so many things you can do on the island that it can be a nightmare picking which ones to add to your plan and in what order. I’ve put together this one-week Madeira itinerary based on what I’ve done on past trips (there have been a lot of them and I secretly like to think of myself as some sort of Madeira expert) to help you decide.

Madeira is totally doable without a car, so if like me you don’t drive, you’re going to be pleased with how decent the bus system is for seeing plenty of the island. For the bits that are harder to achieve by bus, there are plenty of minibus private tours, but more on that later…

Anyway, here are my tips for how to use your days to explore Funchal and further afield, where to eat and drink and various stuff to do on each day if you’re spending a whole week in Madeira…

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A week in Madeira itinerary: day 1 – arriving, wandering and doors

You’ll probably land late afternoon or evening unless you’re an early-flight-getting sadist.

Arrive at your hotel (I massively recommend the B&B I always stay in ) to dump your suitcases, then head out to familiarise yourself with Madeira’s capital city,  Funchal , and to get your bearings. If my favourite B&B isn’t available, you could try Quinta B (a B&B in the old town);  Apartments Madeira Old Town ; or  Three House Hotel . All three of those are on the ‘good’ side of town, away from the built-up hotel area.

Wander through the old town and spot the amazing painted doors from the Painted Doors Project . Stroll down the front and watch the sea and the world go by. This is a good chance to get your head around the size of Funchal; it’s surprisingly big but still walkable. The seafront bit might feel quite a touristy area in busy season, but remember that Funchal is also a university town and there are plenty of areas where it’s all locals. The bit to avoid is up towards the hotel-filled area past Santa Catarina Park.

While you’re in the city centre, have a look at  Blandy’s Wine Lodge – a tour is a must-do when in Madeira and you get a free sample of the famous sweet wine too (which isn’t too bad, but would be better with some Blue WKD…. only those who went to uni in the UK will understand). It’s  about €5 for a 45-minute tour and you get to walk through the lodge, including storage vats and a little museum bit. 

You can also browse the market, Mercado dos Lavradores, which has a great atmosphere. I’d recommend checking out their ridiculously varied types of passion fruit. There are millions – I don’t know about you but I always thought there was only one breed. It is touristy with some of the usual over-inflated prices and pushy vendors (not all like, but still), so be aware of that.

Eat and drink

You probably won’t have got to Madeira for lunchtime, so your first nibble will be your evening meal.

I always recommend Combatentes to eat in Funchal on the first night. It’s tasty traditional Portuguese grub and centrally located – dead easy to find if you’re tired from your flight and don’t want to have to navigate too much. It’s also open on every day of the week so you don’t have to worry about it being randomly shut on Sunday/Monday like most of Europe tends to be.

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A week in Madeira itinerary: day 2 – cable cars, houses and gardens

Get the cable car  from the old town up to Monte. As you’re going up, it’s mandatory to wave to everyone passing by in other cable cars. You’re almost guaranteed a wave back from any woman over 60, but other demographics are harder work, so bonus points if you manage it.

Once you reach the top, you’re in Monte. And this is where you can do a double-garden whammy. The cable car will deposit you in the middle of Madeira’s two beautiful gardens. If you go round both gardens, this will take up all day, so you had better like plants or you’re going to struggle.

There’s the  Monte Palace  ones, which I usually start with. You’ll find Japanese-style gardens in them, with koi ponds and red bridges and loads of bright blue agapanthus flowers. This is also where you can see some of Madeira’s traditional little ‘Santana’ houses without actually making the epic journey to Santana itself (which is a bit of a pain to get to if you don’t drive).

The other gardens are the  Botanical  ones. They have patterns in their borders made from plants, spelling out their name and what year it is. In case you’d forgotten.

When you’re up in Monte for all your cable car and garden action, have lunch and a local craft beer at Local Shop , a little cafe just outside the cable car stop. You will not be disappointed. The views are brilliant and the salads and other lunchy options are top-notch.

If you have room, you can cram in a pastel de nata at the cafe in the botanical gardens as well, which is my favourite place for a pastel de nata in the whole island. I don’t know why. I don’t even know if they’re homemade. But there’s something very satisfying about them. Obviously when in Madeira you should be eating at least one  pastel de nata per day, so get it down you.

Later on, reward yourself for all that healthy walking around the gardens with a gigantic meal at  Zarcos  (don’t be alarmed by their 2001-style website). Zarco’s is slightly out of the centre of Funchal in a residential area, but only a brief bus or taxi journey. GO. Do not be tempted to just walk somewhere in Funchal’s centre because a bus/taxi feels like effort. Stop it. You’d be missing out. Zarco’s is excellent value and actual real-life local people eat there. The portion sizes may defeat you (if you’re an amateur) but it’s just fantastic all round.

Zarcos is also a good place to get yourself a  poncha , Madeira’s official alcoholic drink . It’s lethal and goes down like lemonade. Be warned.

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A week in Madeira itinerary: day 3 – a guided tour of the west

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I never recommend minibus/car tours usually. I like exploring on my own terms. But there are bits of Madeira that you can’t easily get to from Funchal on the bus, like the west. So I really recommend doing the Go West tour with Madeira Happy Tours  to see that area. And no, I’m not being paid to say that, it was just a good tour we did on our last trip (side note: if they want to pay me, feel free to get in touch…).

The tour lasts all day and you get to go to a good few places, including the highest plateau in Madeira, where you can befriend the local cows in incredible scenery. They’re up for selfies. The tour costs €25 per head and lasts 09-17:00. It goes to: Câmara de Lobos , Cabo Girão, Ribeira Brava, Paul da Serra, Santa, Porto Moniz, Seixal, São Vicente, Encumeada and ends back in Funchal. The only annoying thing about this (and all tours, TBH) is that if you’re not staying in the hotel-filled area west of Funchal, you’ll end up being picked up first and having to go all round millions of hotels (okay like five really)in that bit picking up the other tourists before you get going. You will also be last to be dropped off. But even with that slight annoyance, it’s worth doing and I don’t recommend things like that lightly.

Obviously the West Tour runs over lunchtime, so you’ll eat in Porto Moniz, one of the stops on the tour. They offer a discount if you eat in a recommended restaurant, but I declined so can’t say whether that’s any good or not. When we did the tour, we ate at one of the cafés on the front in Porto Moniz. You’re a bit of a captive audience so not much choice but I think they’re all alright. Stroll along the front and pick whichever has the best view.

Straight after your tour ends, head for a drink at Mercearia Dona Mécia . This is my favourite bar in Madeira. It’s tucked away in a pretty little courtyard off a side road in the nicest area of Funchal. It has poncha and bottled craft beers, but we normally have a small generic  cerveja  (beer) and they always bring over some crisps or olives or something too. You’ll be arriving at the best time of day (early evening). This is when you can usually get a good table and sit outside for a bit of a people watch. Lots of well-dressed locals start finishing work and heading home through the courtyard. Perfect.

Round off the night with a top-notch thin and crispy pizza at the unassuming Pizzaria Pico da Atalaia 2 . This is either empty or full to the rafters with locals. The food is cheap but really good.

You can then have a final cocktail or poncha at the bar opposite it –  Revolucion . This is my go-to stop for a drink before we get the bus ‘home’ (the bus stop for getting to my usual B&B is just round the corner). Given the way the bus drivers drive in Madeira, you really are better off with a drink inside you before getting on.

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A week in Madeira itinerary: day 4 – a day trip to Curral das Freiras (Valley of the Nuns)

My favourite trip from Funchal has got to be the journey up to Curral das Freiras: the Valley of the Nuns . Have you ever wanted to see your life flash before your eyes as you career along a precipice in a speeding bus? No? Well, here’s a chance to anyway.

Luckily, the views and village at the end of the trip are worth it. You’ll understand why the nuns made it their valley. You can read my entire post on the Valley of the Nuns here , so I won’t go into much detail here. Curral das Freiras can take up at least half a day, and I’d recommend going late morning and returning late afternoon so you can have lunch there. There are plenty of things to do in Funchal when you get back after, if you have time before your evening meal and have suitably recovered from the bus journey.

Curral das Freiras is famous for its chestnuts served with a sweet syrupy sauce but I have to warn you, that’s an acquired taste. I prefer chestnuts in an actual meal rather than on their own. The best place I’ve found to eat in the Valley of the Nuns is  Sabores do Curral . Good for a lunch with a seriously incredible view from their rooftop terrace. It does things other than sweet chestnuts though, don’t worry. Oh and remember you need your daily  pastel de nata  fix. They serve them, and so does the other café on the same side of the road in CdF so you have a choice of two good’uns.

When you’re back in Funchal later, have a seafood extravaganza at  O Tasco . We’ve eaten at O Tasco a few times now and it’s been consistently nice. It’s not really the kind of place I’d normally pick out but it’s so good. As well as all the seafood fun, they also do brilliant sweet potato with honey on. You may have to book because it gets very busy, especially at weekends.

O Tasco is handily located next to  one of my favourite bars for a pre-eating drink, Barreirinha Bar Café , where you can sit outside overlooking the sea with a beer/cocktail/ poncha before you walk up for your meal… And then return for another three after the meal. I recently had someone contact me on Twitter who’d been to Barreirinha Bar Café based on my recommendation (and the fact I’d mentioned they play good music like War on Drugs ) and he loved it. I was so chuffed with that.

Things to do in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal | PACK THE SUITCASES

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 5 – Camara dos Lobos, afternoon tea at Reid’s Palace, and shopping

You may not be up early if you followed my advice on Barreirinha Bar Café…

Spend a couple of hours at Camara dos Lobos , a fishing village that is the easiest place to get to outside of Funchal on the bus. It’s just 20 minutes on any Rodeste bus heading west from Funchal. I have a full guide to Camara de Lobos in another blog post here . You’ll have briefly visited the village during the West Tour if you did that, but it’s a nice one to go back to for a lazy morning – full of colourful boats and a picturesque harbour. Winston Churchill apparently did some painting there and there’s a church dedicated to St Anthony, where people used to go and pray that the fishermen would come home safe. It’s still a fishing village, so they might still do that, but it’s also full of bars and cafés so there are probably some prayers for good TripAdvisor reviews too these days.

Unless you’re a terribly early riser and got there are stupid o’clock, there’s enough to keep you entertained until it’s time to head to Reid’s Palace for afternoon tea (see eat and drink  below).

After that, you’ll probably be unable to move for a few hours, taking you into early evening. It’s a perfect chance to wander round the shops in Funchal. Don’t waste time in shops you can get at home, of course (although there’s the usual Zara, H&M etc if you need emergency t-shirts or anything). My favourite shop is  Dona Hortensia , a treasure trove of affordable, unusual jewellery and accessories that no one else will have. I even wore earrings from there for  our wedding . There’s also an excellent craft beer shop called  Vilhoa , which supplies bars around Funchal and is helping to make craft beer to become a ‘thing’ there. If you’re planning a picnic or have room in your suitcase for beer, enjoy.

It’s no secret that I enjoy afternoon tea. In fact, I have consumed so many tiny cakes and finger sandwiches over the years that I’d like to think I’m a connoisseur. Madeira’s  Reid’s Palace  does the best afternoon tea  ever,  in my expert opinion.

Reid’s is a big (pink!) posh old hotel and the afternoon tea is served on a balcony overlooking the sea and the city. It’s not that cheap at 30€ish a head and the first time we went, we were ready to be disappointed by what we got for the price. But actually, I think it works out pretty good value. I’ve paid £20-odd for posh afternoon teas at home in the UK and been disappointed. At Reid’s, it’s all top quality. Tea is unlimited and you can have seconds of both the sandwiches and the scones. Someone needs to push them to their limits and try to eat 3 scones. Please contact me if you manage this. I’ll fashion you a homemade medal.

You probably won’t want a massive evening meal after your afternoon tea. Have a craft beer or two at  FugaCidade  to work up a bit of an appetite again. I’d then recommend finding a ‘snack bar’ and sharing something simple –  this one  is my favourite snack bar. If you’re wondering what a snack bar actually is, they’re a bit of a Madeiran institution. They’re little bars full of locals meeting up over a beer/ poncha , eating cheap but tasty homemade food, with newspapers on the tables and the doors open so you can gawp at passers-by. Great vibes and never full of tourists. I love them!

How to do a day trip to Camara de Lobos, Madeira | PACK THE SUITCASES

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 6 – day trip to Porto da Cruz

Porto da Cruz is my favourite village in Madeira. So you must go there for a day trip at some point. Buses you can get there vary, so check the SAM bus website before you go. Although the main appeal of Porto da Cruz is relaxing with a lovely view of the sea, it’s quite entertaining as a place too. There’s a surf school, which is pretty good to watch as people learn to surf/spend a lot of time falling off. Equally entertaining is if it’s a windy day and the waves are really crashing and making it harder for them.

There’s a hill jutting out to sea that you can walk around, and in windy weather the waves can come up and crash right over the path. If you’re lucky, you might see someone getting an unexpected soaking. If you’re less lucky, it might be you.

There’s also the Sugar Cane Rum Museum to visit, which is pretty interesting. But the main thing is the village of Porto da Cruz itself, which is lovely and you can sit and watch the sea with a beer and some lunch.

Oh and there’s a very ‘unique’ art sculpture on the seafront of a gigantic vagina. No idea why. So er, don’t miss that. You can read my full post on Porto da Cruz here for more info on the village and getting there/back etc.

For lunch while you’re in Porto da Cruz, I recommend  Restaurante Praça do Engenho . We’ve eaten  here  twice on both of our recent visits. We do our usual salad each with a portion of chips to share (if you’ve been to Madeira, you’ll know that you end up taking any opportunity to avoid bread). I t’s nice grub and you get a great view of the sea and the mountains. 

In the evening, you might not want a massive meal after a fairly big lunch in Porto da Cruz. I eat vegan food most of the time at home, and finally I’ve found somewhere good for vegan stuff in Funchal:  Coraco Vegano . You can get different themed ‘ plates’ for around €14. I’d recommend the one featuring crispy seitan, Japanese-style veggies and rice. After a week of gorging on unhealthy Madeiran treats (and SO much bread), your body will be grateful for having something green in it.

You can then cancel out all the goodness of vegetables by heading to  Madeira Rum House  to drink your own bodyweight in poncha and/or rum. I t’s almost like a mini rum museum inside. I’m much more of a gin lover, but it would be rude not to at least sample some…

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A week in Madeira itinerary: day 7 – the last day

Depending on what time your flight home is, the last day of any holiday is usually a wrap up of things you’ve not got round to doing – or it tends to be for me anyway. Heading back to shops you’ve seen to pick up things you were um-ing and ah-ing over buying, going back to a favourite bar for one last drink, taking photographs of the sea, buying fridge magnets etc. Lovely stuff.

If you’re not cramming things in already, the last day is a good time to go for a walk around Funchal and spot the best street art. There’s a massive piece of art at Funchal port, next to the police station, that I like.  Here’s  the Google Maps link. Obviously, the aforementioned Painted Doors Project counts as street art too, but there are plenty of other individual pieces to spot around the city.

You should also visit my favourite photo spot in the whole island: the square with the pink church (pictured below). You can find it where the old town meets the main road along the seafront, where all the buses go from, if you’ve not already wandered through it at some point during your week.

Once you’re at Madeira airport, give yourself a bit of extra time to check out its  Parfois shop, which is a Portuguese chain that I love for bags and accessories. If you’ve not been to Madeira for a while, you’ll find that the airport has improved a lot and now has a bit more choice in places to eat, so it’s not such a painful experience as it once was. I’m always sad to leave but at least I’m no longer sad sat on the floor in an absolute hell hole with nowhere to get a cup of tea.

What you eat on your last day really depends on your flight time, but I’ll give you a few ideas.

There’s  Hamburgueria do Mercado , which does surprisingly good burgers and excellent veggie/vegan ones with brilliant chips for about €10 a head. This would do as a big lunch or an evening meal.

If you want something more traditionally lunch-sized, I’d recommend Opan Bakery. Now, this isn’t some cute and cosy hidden gem bakery, it’s a small chain and very modern. But everything I’ve ever had from  Opan  has been spot on and insanely cheap. There’s a branch on the seafront, which is perfect to pick up some delicious savoury breaded fish things and a selection of pastries to eat as you wander down the harbour. I can 100% recommend their salami cake, which isn’t some kind of terrifying concoction made from salami the meat. It’s a layered chocolate thing, all deliciously cold and creamy inside. There’s also some kind of custard-based sandwich that I’m always tempted by but it’s huge so haven’t quite worked up to it yet. That’s a personal goal for my next trip.

Another excellent bakery/patisserie is  A Confeitaria . There are quite a few branches, but the one like is on R. dos Aranhas, which is near my aforementioned favourite shop.

madeira travel blog

One week in Madeira itinerary – useful information for your trip

Where to stay.

There are SO many places to stay in and around Funchal, but I really recommend my all-time favourite, Quinta Sao Goncalo . It’s a pink and beautiful mansion, located in a residential area to the east of the old town, and is an absolute bargain (about £75 a night). Even if it doesn’t take your fancy I’d recommend staying in Funchal itself rather than in the hotel zone ( see point #34 on my list of things to do in Funchal ). At the time of writing, Quinta Sao Goncalo doesn’t seem to be taking bookings; the property is for sale so I’ve got a horrible feeling they may have accepted an offer on it! It may be worth checking back just in case, but in the meantime some other lovely options are:

  • Quinta B  (a B&B in the old town)
  • Apartments Madeira Old Town
  • Three House Hotel .

All three of those are on the ‘good’ side of town, away from the built-up hotel area.

How to get around

Most places in Funchal are walkable but to get further afield, the buses are great and really cheap. You can get a rechargeable bus card from a GIRO machine. The easiest one to find is just by the cable car station. All the bus info is here . People do hire cars, but it isn’t a necessity at all. I don’t drive and it’s no problem.

I always go to Madeira in January and February. It tends to be warm, even if you don’t get full-on sunshine every day. When the sun does come out, it’s proper sun so your Vitamin D levels will thank you. I’ve never been at any other time of year but I have heard spring is great. I don’t think the height of summer even would be a problem because a) they don’t get unbearable heat and b) it’s not a child-centred city (probably the main reason why I love it, being allergic to children) so you won’t be surrounded by summer holiday families: this makes it preferable to the mainland of Portugal . New Year is also a good time to go because they go ALL OUT for it with fireworks.

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If you found this itinerary for one week in Madeira useful, why not pin it to your Pinterest board?

How to spend a week in Madeira: 7-day itinerary | PACK THE SUITCASES

You might also like my other Madeira posts:

  • 40 things to do in Funchal, Madeira
  • Where to eat in Madeira – 14 of the best restaurants and cafés
  • The best bars in Funchal, Madeira: in search of poncha and craft beer
  • A day trip to Curral das Freiras from Funchal
  • A day trip to Porto da Cruz from Funchal
  • How to do a day trip to Camara de Lobos from Funchal
  • The best beaches in Madeira and how to reach them .

And if you’ve used one of my travel guides and enjoyed it, you can also buy me a drink . Cheers. 

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33 comments.

The essentials for a great week in Funchal. Wish I was there now!

I love this post! Madeira or the Azores don’t get nearly enough tourist love as mainland Portugal, although arguably the islands are more beautiful in terms of nature. Thanks for your reco’s!

Thanks Dina! The Azores is on my list too, never been as I always end up choosing to return to Madeira haha. But yes, they’re both a bit overlooked and unfortunately Madeira has a bad reputation here in the UK as only being for old people.

Hi Caroline – One of the ‘old people’ here :-). Great ‘expanded’ guide to Maderia – we went to the island for the first time last year and used one of your earlier blogs to sniff out the better eating/drinking places in Funchal (quickly becoming early evening regulars at Mercearia Dona Mecia!). BTW, under the ‘Where to Stay’ section you could also add Hotel Castanheiro as an option – it’s a boutiquey place in the centre of Funchal (away from the hotel zone) which has nice rooms, great rooftop pool and a cozy inner courtyard, where guests sit in the early morning sun for breakfast. Can’t wait to go back! PS. Is a visit to Vienna on the cards, soon?

Hi there David! Nice to hear from you and glad you like the week-long guide! Thanks for the hotel recommendation. That looks like a really good one.

We went to Vienna in 2012 (pre-blogging days!) but would like to go back one day. Perhaps combined with Bratislava…

Hi Caroline, Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your Bloggs. I’ve been going to Madeira now for over forty years and you still manage to find new places and restaurants for us to try. What a wonderful shop Hortensia is, very reasonably priced and such beautiful clothes and jewellery. My next visit is in three weeks’ time and I look forward to trying your new recommendations. Many thanks. Carol

Hi Carol, thanks for the lovely comment and glad it helped you out with your visits. D Hortensia is SO good, I am actually wearing a necklace from there as I type this. Hope you get some nice things on your next trip in 3 weeks. Enjoy! C

Have shared to Facebook and emailed it to Tobi so he can put on his blog. 👍

Love it! Really enjoyed reading it 🙂 it is much different from my trips to Madeira but that is what I love about Madeira – everyone can find something for themselves:) me and my husband we also never travel all inclusive and we try to experience new places like locals do. We have few favorites on Madeira and if I can advise you a great place to eat fresh fish or meat and have some cocktail it’s a nice reggae bar in Paul do Mar Maktub 🙂

Hi Kasia, sounds like you have a good time on Madeira too! Cheers.

Another great Blog Caroline, Thank you and have shared on my Madeira Island News blog.

Thanks Tobi, hope your blogging is going well too 🙂

As always, your tips about Madeira are very useful and so well picked!! Let me know next time you come to Madeira! I would love to host you in my airbnb 😉 Warm hugs Sofia

Hi Sofia, lovely to hear from you. Hope Madeira to Mars is going well! I will for sure get in touch when we next plan on coming. Will probably be next year now as we like to go Jan/Feb. All the best 🙂

Hi Caroline,

Really excellent tips about Madeira island. We went there with our 14 year old son in the third week of February and had an amazing time. We visited most of the places that you mentioned in your blog and a few more. The West Island tour via Madeira Happy Tours was excellent, the guide was professional and provided lots of information about the island and it’s flora and fauna. Unfortunately the East Island tour with the same company was a complete letdown as the guide seemed completely uninterested !

The people on the island are very friendly and the food is amazing.

I really recommend anyone planning to visit Madeira to read this blog thoroughly as it goes into great detail about places to visit and means of transport, a lot of hard work and effort has been put into it.

I’ll read up on the other European cities that you have mentioned on the blog and decide on our next trip 🙂

Thanks a lot.

Hello, I’m so glad you enjoyed Madeira and that the blog was a help for you. Sorry the other tour was rubbish though! Happy travels.

My husband and I are currently in Madeira for our last pre-baby holiday and are busy enjoying many of your recommendations – thank you! We have the trip round the west of the island and afternoon tea at Reid’s to come. Thank you for the informative, enjoyable blog. Philippa

So glad you found the blog handy and enjoyed your holiday 🙂

So glad I found your blog. Heading to Madeira in the near future. So looking forward to it.

I’m so glad you did too, and hope it helped! Enjoy your trip to Madeira x

This is lovely. I want to go there once this pandemic is over.

Going to Funchal in mid Feb 2022 to see the Carnival but now find out its cancelled, and Santana parade. So your recs on what to do will be useful. Great site thank you.

Thank you! Hope you had a great time (I’m very behind on replying to comments!).

Just read blog and laughing my head off – brilliant “what to do in Madiera” – I usually go to Azores in May (well…I’ve been twice!) – was looking at other destinations that are a bit warmer (Azores is 4 seasons in one day…but during daytime it’s Autumn and Winter mate) – the reason I go is cos it’s whale watching season – that’s why I’ve considered Madeira instead – so I’d replace a couple of the days being out on a boat, but the cable car, the scary bus tour west and the massive vagina are keepers !! Cheers for an hilarious blog (that’s my kinda travelling)… Oh and the nuns – I’ll do the nuns (that sounded bad) xx

Ah thank you so much for this comment, Nicola! Really glad you liked it. I’ve always fancied the Azores too; I think they have a lot in common but Madeira always wins out for me. Hope you enjoy it, especially the nuns! xx

Looking at Madeira for a winter break with the hubby. Loved this blog, very entertaining but also you have done so much of the legwork for me! Many thanks 😊 Trish

Off to Maderia for the 1st time in just over a week. Will make it my mission to try everywhere on your list 😁

Amazing information, thanks!! Just one question.. what is your favorite b&b because when I click on it there is no link to name of place. Thanks

Thanks! It closed down for a while but has now been bought and re-opened. So it is available again 🙂

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Madeira Itinerary: Incredible 3 to 7-Day Trips & Tips for First Timers

We fell head over heels in love with Madeira! If you are not familiar with Madeira, it is a Portuguese island sitting in the Atlantic Ocean between Portugal and Morocco.

Famous for its year-round warm climate, Madeira is one of the most mesmerizing destinations we’ve ever visited. Still relatively untouched, with wild eucalyptus forests, picturesque villages, and breathtaking views. We got rewarded with dramatic vistas stretching as far as the horizon anywhere we went around the island.

We spent one week in Madeira in December 2020 and wanted to share our experience . So let’s take a look at this very detailed 7 day Madeira Itinerary, where we share with you some of the best places to see, hikes to enjoy, how to travel around the island, where to stay, and a few more handy tips.

How much time do you need for a good Madeira itinerary?  

Madeira is a small island with tons of activities and opportunities for exploration. It’s best to take your time and spend at least a week scouting the island. Seven days are enough to get to know this enticing destination. But, if possible, stay and enjoy the island’s pleasures for longer. 

madeira travel blog

Madeira Itinerary: Incredible 3 to 7-Day Trips & Tips for First Timers

We left Germany and boarded a flight to the Portuguese island of Madeira. We hoped to get away from the darkness and cold for at least a week. 

Once in Madeira, we picked up our rental car before driving to our rented apartment in Funchal.

We enjoyed a quiet calm evening. It was actually raining, and after a short visit to the grocery store, we had dinner in the apartment.  The next day we were ready and looking forward to seeing what the island has to offer.

Day 1: Exploring Funchal Old Town, Monte Palace

Most tourists coming to Madeira stay in Funchal , the island’s capital and its largest city. Although separated from the mainland, it’s the sixth-largest city in Portugal. It is quite old as its first settlement dates back to the 15th century.

Packed with historical landmarks, it’s one of the country’s most famous touristic cities. Funchal combines the old town atmosphere and the island’s inspirational vibe.

church in madeira old town

Funchal Farmers Market

We arrived in Funchal before noon and parked our car in the center, just next to the market – Mercado dos Lavradores. Let me tell you that if you haven’t visited Mercado Dos Lavradores, you haven’t visited Funchal. 

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The Market was established in 1940 and is located on Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot and Rua Hospital Velho. Designed by Edmundo Tavares, it’s also an important local architectural site.

Open from Monday through Saturday, the market has fruit, vegetables, herbs, fish, and flowers. It’s the city’s “melting pot,” combining various cultures and uniting residents with tourists.

On the 23d of December, locals celebrate Christmas with drinks and traditional dishes. The market is busiest on weekday mornings, which is also when you have the most local goods options.

Funchal Old Town  

We continued our way up towards the historic buildings of Zona Velha, the first settlement’s place. History enthusiasts, architecture buffs like us will enjoy the area’s atmosphere. 

We enjoyed Corpo Santo Chapel, the original 15th-century building, and visited the Socorro Church. Then, we took a walk on Rua de Santa Maria, the oldest street in Funchal . Many local businesses, like boutiques and small factories, are also in the Old Town.  

At night, the Old Town comes alive and fills up with street artists creating a unique atmosphere. Bars and restaurants invite the city’s visitors for a delicious glass of the Puncha. It’s a local Madeira drink made from rum, lemon, and honey. 

old town church in funchal

Funchal Cable Car Experience  

See the city from the bird’s view in one of the comfortable cable cars in Funchal. Two cable cars connect various parts of the city. Enjoy incredible views of the town and its surroundings and the Port of Funchal. 

The Madeira Cable Car is a part of the Old Town and will take you from Funchal to Monte in 15 minutes. The admission is 16 euros per person, with a 50% discount for children (7-14), and a free entry for younger guests. 

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The Botanical Garden Cable Car connects the Botanical Garden Station with Monte. It’s somewhat cheaper than the Madeira Cable Car. You’ll pay 13 euros per roundtrip adult ticket and 7 euros for a child’s ticket (6-11). The trip takes about 9 minutes and is a cool way to enjoy the botanical garden and the city’s highlights from above.

Don’t miss an opportunity to come back down by a toboggan ride in a traditional wicker basket sled. Used by locals before, these sleds are one of the must-do things in Madeira. It can go at a speed of up to 30 km per hour and is a fun way to travel to Funchal. However, it will cost you from 25 to 40 euros, depending on how many people are riding. 

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

The Monte Palace is a 70,000-square-meter area featuring a beautiful garden, a small lake, and a museum. The botanical garden holds a collection of more than 100,000 species. They include orchids, azaleas, ferns, cycads, and more.

All plants are from different parts of the world. You can see swans and ducks at the small lake. Peacocks and chickens are wandering casually around the gardens. Visitors can also indulge in two oriental gardens’ beauty and see valuable and rare Koi fish.

Since 1991, the Monte Palace Madeira Museum has been displaying the region’s culture and nature. There are more than 1000 sculptures in one of the finest private mineral collections. About 700 kinds are on display, coming from Portugal, Brazil, South Africa, and North America.

There are also many tile panels representing one of the country’s largest collections. This collection comes second after the National Tile Museum. 

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The garden is open every day from 9:30 am till 6:00 pm, while the museum welcomes visitors from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. You can take a free guided tour, but you’ll need to book it in advance. The admission is 12,50 euros for everyone 15 years and older.

Santa Catarina Park

This amazing park is not far from Cristiano Ronaldo Museum. So you should definitely have walk and enjoy the peaceful vibes this park offers, while you are around.

The park has also great instagrammable places that you should not miss. We enjoyed a little break from the busy city of Funchal while we were there and I think you should do the same 🙂

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Where to Stay in Funchal?

We stayed at Santa Cruz Village Hotel . Teixeira Villa is also a great alternative. Both of them are beautiful stays, offer generous breakfast, and are strategically located on the island.

Day 2 : São Lourenço, Ribeiro Frio

Vereda da ponta de são lourenço.

Our first stop on the second day was Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço.

Situated in the East, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço features fabulous landscapes, unique flora, and fauna. This coastal 7km track took us to the furthest eastern point of the island. The area is famous for its rock formations, created by volcanic erosions over many years. Located about half an hour from Funchal, we got to the trailhead by car.

We spent a couple of hours clambering over rocks and walking along the peninsula. This area was surprisingly busy, but we managed to get off the beaten path and enjoy some isolated views.

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Balcões de Ribeiro Frio

Starting at Ribeiro Frio, a natural park north of the island, it’s a short walk to the famous Vereda Dos Balcões. After that, it’s an easy 3 km roundtrip hike, which follows the Levada of Serra do Faial. Finally, you’ll indulge in the majestic forest with laurel trees, Madeira mahogany, blueberry, and orchids.

The renowned Vereda Dos Balcões is a genuine treat with incredible views over the Ribeira da Metade valley. In addition, you’ll see the Laurisilva forest, classified as a World Heritage by UNESCO. The island’s highest peaks, Pico do Areeiro, Pico do Gato, and Pico das Torres, are also visible.

If the weather allows, you can see The Hydroelectric Plant of Fajã da Nogueira.

Day 3: Hike Pico do Ariero to Pico Ruivo (Madeira itinerary highlight!)

By far the highlight of our Madeira itinerary and, to be honest, one of the highlights of my entire life was Pico do Arieiro. The word ‘speechless’ is thrown around a lot but never have I been more speechless in my life. Madeira is just full of scenic hikes. Of course, you won’t be able to do all of them on your trip, but at least choose the best hikes on the island .

PR1 Pico do Arieiro Hike

This route is an unforgettable experience and provides stunning views of the island. Pico do Arieiro is the island’s third-highest peak. Most of the time, we were walking above the clouds at the height of 1500 meters. 

madeira travel blog

You can choose to take either one of the two trails – eastern (easier but longer) or western (longer, but steeper). Both will connect you with Pico das Torres and Pico Ruivo. It takes a 45-minute drive from Funchal, and there’s an enormous parking lot. At Pico do Arieiro, you’ll find an observation deck, a small cafe, and a gift shop.

madeira travel blog

On your hike, you’ll also see Ninho da Manta viewpoint (great for birdwatching!) and a vast area called Pedra Rija, a few short tunnels, and many other neat spots. The ending point of the hike is at the Achadas Teixeira.

If you’re not afraid of the challenge, hike back to Pico do Arieiro or hire a taxi, which will pick you up and bring you back. Unfortunately, it can cost up to 100 euros, and you have to book it in advance.

Insider Tip: Many adventurous people camp in this breathtaking place. If you want to try this unique experience, be sure you are well prepared and have all your camping essentials ready.

Day 4 : Santana, Parque das Queimadas, Ponta de São Jorge

After the challenging hike from Pico do Ariero to Pico Ruivo, we took the fourth day of the Madeira itinerary much easier. After that, we just drove around to explore a couple of different towns in Madeira.

Santana is a beautiful village stretching along the northern coast of Madeira. Known for its traditional triangle-shaped homes, this town is a must-visit stop. The homes are natural stone with a straw rooftop and used to be local farmers’ residences in the 16th century.

There are five historic houses. Each is a shop selling souvenirs, traditional foods, plants, and other local goods. There’s a parking lot not far from the homes, which is quite comfortable for those traveling by car. If you visit the village in July, there’s a massive festival of traditional music and dancing. 

madeira travel blog

Parque Florestal das Queimadas

Located in Santana, The Queimadas Forest Park is Madeira’s natural gem. Start at the parking lot and head deep into the park to reach the mesmerizing Levada do Caldeirão Verde. It’s a spectacular walk and an ideal opportunity to escape from urban life.

Enjoy the amazing flora and fauna, with waterfalls and exciting birds seen on-site. This natural area opens up from a different angle in any weather, whether rainy, cloudy, or sunny. Enjoy the views of the coast and a relaxing natural aura.

madeira travel blog

Farol da Ponta de São Jorge

Built in 1959 on the island’s north-eastern coast, Farol da Ponta de São Jorge is an active lighthouse. Located on the top of Sao Jorge cliffs, it grants fascinating views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a lovely place to take pictures before you continue exploring the island. 

Should you spend a night in Santana?

Because of the lack of available stays, we had to spend all our night near Funchal. But we highly recommend that you spend a night in Santana , as the city is worth it in the early morning and the ocean views with the morning fog are stunning!

Day 5: Levada das 25 Fontes, Fanal forest

Pr6 levada das 25 fontes.

Located in Rabaçal in Paul da Serra, Levada das 25 Fontes is an iconic trail in Madeira. You can access it via the regional road ER110, and from there, you can walk or take a bus to reach the start of the trail. 

madeira travel blog

There are two trails with two different parking lots. Both are part of one of the island’s most visited levadas. The walk is about 11 km roundtrip and will lead you to some of the island’s most outstanding sites.

You will see Lagoa das 25 Fontes, 25 water springs streaming down into the lagoon. If you feel courageous, you can take a swim in the cool refreshing water. You can also see Lagoa do Vento or Lagoon of the Wind and the impressive Risco Waterfall.

Fanal Forest

Located on the north-western end of Madeira, the Final Forest is a great Instagrammable spot. In addition, it is a scenic location for photography. It’s about 50 km from Funchal and 10 km east of Ribeira Da Janela. So it won’t be hard to find if you enter Faial Parking in your navigation. 

madeira travel blog

With its curled trees and mysterious fog, this ancient forest looks like a fairy tale scene. There are three main ways to enjoy the forest. The easiest way is to park your car in the parking lot and climb the stairs to the local viewpoint.

Then there are two trails available – Vereda do Final and Levada dos Cedros. The first one is an 11-km hike (one way!) through a well-preserved Laurissilva forest. The second one will keep you walking for about 6 km until you reach a magical tiered waterfall.

Day 6:  Bridal Veil Falls, Seixal Natural Pools, Ribeira De Janela, São Vicente

On our sixth day  Madeira Itinerary, we went on a road trip along the island’s West Coast and up to the North coast. Here’s where we stopped off at:

Bridal Veil Falls

The Véu da Noiva Viewpoint, located close to Seixal, is a very picturesque viewpoint. This romantic setting got its name thanks to the Véu da Noiva waterfall, which looks like a bride’s veil. It’s one of the best vistas on the island’s northern coast.

For the visitors’ convenience, there’s a parking lot right at the viewpoint. It’s about a 40 km drive from Funchal and is close to many popular attractions of the Seixal area. 

madeira travel blog

If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, take a short hike up to Ponta do Poiso for a better view of the Bridal Veil Waterfall. Also, look out for a hidden path on which you can discover another waterfall. 

Seixal Natural Pools

For epic views and photos, head out to explore Seixal Natural Pools. It’s one of the island’s top attractions, and it’s free of charge! Located near Laje Beach, it’s a secluded area, usually not overwhelmed by tourists.

It has all the amenities an explorer might need – bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, and even a snack stand. In addition, you can park on the main road and walk down the nearby path. 

madeira travel blog

The site’s trademark is a collection of tidal pools. They are rock formations created by volcanic activity in the past. There you’ll find photogenic rock caves and arches. The pools’ water is crystal-clear, so they are a popular swimming destination. It’s safe on a calm day, but watch out for the tide on a stormy day.

Ribeira De Janela

Ribeira da Janela is a small village in the Porto Moniz area, named after the island’s longest river. It’s an important agricultural area for the country, producing potatoes and grapes. However, the village is best known for its wonderful Levada. It’s easy to reach from the regional road ER101. Look out for the sign stating Ribeira da Janela or Lamaceiros. 

madeira travel blog

Levada’s highlights are exceptional coastal views, cliffs, and a couple of small waterfalls. The local greenery includes eucalyptus, laurel trees, ferns, banana plants, and passion fruit. 

São Vicente

If you want to add one more stop to your itinerary for today, drive to São Vicente.

Sao Vicente is a small village located between Santana and Porto Moniz. It’s a lovely stop with stunning beaches, restaurants, and bars. However, it isn’t easy to reach by public transport, so it is most appropriate for those traveling by car. 

The village is best known for the Sao Vicente Caves and Volcanism Center, open to the public since 1996. It is a series of volcanic caves formed 890 thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption. Take a walk through the labyrinthine lava tubes, see crystal-clear water pools and incredible stalactites. 

The Volcano Centre is open every day from Tuesday to Saturday. It offers various educational and entertaining exhibits about Madeira’s history. There is also a gift shop and a cafeteria available. The admission is 8 euros. 

Where to Stay in Seixal?

Seixal offers great hotel deals . Check them out! We wanted to spend a night there but -as we already mentioned- we didn’t find any available good deals.

Day 7: Dolphin and whale watching

As this is the last day of your Madeira itinerary, you can either just relax or go for a fun activity, depending on when your flight departs. Actually, Madeira is an ideal place for whale and dolphin watching.

madeira travel blog

Most companies offer a tour on a catamaran or a speedboat, both of which take about three hours. A catamaran tour is a luxurious experience. The boat has a bathroom, indoor and outdoor seating, snacks, and drinks.

The speedboat tour is the fastest way to cover long distances and see more species over time. It’s also more suitable for those who are prone to seasickness. The catamaran tour costs around 10 euros per person, while the speedboat is about 5 euros per person.  

What else to do in Madeira?

If you have extra days to spend on this amazing island (always worth it!), here is further suggestions that we also wanted to explore:

Explore the Valley of the Nuns

This mystical valley is about a 45-min bus ride from Funchal (check bus 81 that regularly goes there). The bus stops at a fantastic viewpoint, where you can watch the whole scenery from. The mountains from both sides that surround the tiny village down the valley form a great panorama.

Best of all: there will usually be clouds around making the landscape even more magic. Being at about 1000m above sea level, the clouds usually move fast and change the climate very quickly.

valley of the nuns from above

Day Trip to Christo Rei

Christo Rei is another great viewpoint in the island. It near the city of Gatajau and easily reachable by public transportation if you don’t have a car. The views up there are best during sunset and blue hour. You will fill the true charm of the island with the wind and the ocean view in front of you. It is an experience to remember.

You could also walk down to the beach after sunset and enjoy a refreshing (or warm) drink after a long day. That’s a reward to remember 😉

christo rei view point in madeira

How to get to Madeira?  

No railroads or highways are connecting Madeira Island with the rest of Portugal. It’s almost 900km away from the mainland, so you’ll have to fly or take a boat to reach this dreamlike destination. 

The best, fastest, and most convenient way is flying. There are direct flights from Europe with an excellent connection to the U.S. and other countries. If traveling by air, you’ll arrive at Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport in Santa Cruz. It’s 15-20 minutes away from Funchal. 

The most practical way is to visit Lisbon first and take a direct 90-minute flight by TAP Air Portugal. Lufthansa, Emirates, and Turkish Airlines offer great comfort at reasonable prices (check their deals by clicking on the respective links!). If on a budget, fly economy class with one of the low-cost airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair. 

Many cruise lines and ferries are arriving at the Port of Funchal. This option takes longer but allows you to indulge in the beautiful vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. 

How to get around Madeira? 

The most efficient and handy way to travel around Madeira is by car. We booked a rental car before the trip and picked up the vehicle at the airport. This was a great move as it helped us save time and money. When you click the link, you’ll find plenty of options, like Sixt or Europcar, which usually have great special offers.

We made sure to book a compact car, in perfect condition with full insurance for under 200 euros. We wanted to enjoy our week instead of worrying about the cost of returning the car and having a  hassle-free Island experience.

madeira travel blog

Renting a car is the most cost-efficient way to explore the area. It gave us lots of freedom as we could make a stop at any point on the map. Keep in mind that Madeira roads are most suitable for experienced drivers.

There are quite a few tunnels, steep driveways, and a few sharp turns above the cliffs. It might be intimidating for a new driver. Here are all our tips and advice about driving in Madeira .

Public transportation  

To save some money, you can alternatively travel by local buses operating around the whole island. It’s the cheapest way to get to places, but it’s also the most limiting for a 7-day Madeira Itinerary. Some of Madeira’s attractions might not be on the public transport route.

Some buses are operating only around Funchal, the largest city on the island. Then there are red buses operating in the island’s West and green buses operating in the East. You can buy a single ticket or a weekly pass, and both are available on the bus. 

What’s the best time to plan Madeira itinerary? 

Did you know that Madeira is known as the Island of Eternal Spring ? It’s because its climate is very mild, and there’s no bad timing to travel to Madeira. The temperatures are in their mid-20s and comfortable year-round. 

It’s a popular tourist destination so expect some crowds. If you want to avoid them, try visiting between October and February. There are no heavy rainfall seasons on the island. The sunniest and driest weather is between March and September. 

The island is home to fantastic hiking trails, so to do that, travel here in April or May. That’s also when charming and aromatic flowers and trees are in full blossom. 

Madeira itinerary: Final Thoughts

Madeira, the Atlantic Pearl, is a dream holiday destination. It’s ideal for romantic getaways, family trips, and fun vacations with friends. It is full of movie-like landscapes, historical and cultural attractions.

I  hope this 7-day road trip itinerary for Madeira will inspire you to visit this beautiful island!

While in Portugal, take the opportunity to extend your trip and discover the hidden gems of this beautiful country following our 10-day Portugal itinerary !

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Rym is the cofounder of Walk Beside Me Blog. With a knack for connecting with people and cultures, she's explored more than 70 countries over the last 10 years. Rym's passion for travel blogging shines through in her 50+ blog posts on Walk Beside Me, making her a true travel expert.

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EUROPE , PORTUGAL , ROAD TRIP · January 17, 2022 Last Updated on March 14, 2024

ULTIMATE 7-DAY ROAD TRIP ITINERARY FOR MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

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If you’re looking for a European adventure that is a little different from the mainland, then look no further than Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal. Dubbed the ‘Hawaii of Europe’, this small island in the Atlantic is truly a nature lover’s dream and the ideal destination for a summer break.

Whether you want to relax on a beach, hike some epic trails, be at one with marine life, or pay homage to world-famous footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, there is something in Madeira to suit everyone.

How Long Do You Need To Visit Madeira?

Madeira is a pretty small island, and so luckily you don’t need very long to see all of the incredible things that this destination has to offer. If you’re looking to experience the must-dos then a short four-day break would be fine. However, a week is the perfect amount of time to really make the most of the island.

Tips For Hiring A Car In Madeira

Although the island is small, public transport is limited, and so the easiest way to get around is by hiring a car. There are plenty of car hire options available at the airport or in the main city of Funchal. These are very affordable, however, it is worth noting that during peak seasons car hire can become fully booked pretty quickly. Driving in Madeira is easy, for the most part.

Bear in mind of course that they drive on the right, and always follow the speed limit and road laws while driving here. One useful tip is to pay the extra fee for an automatic since the island is very mountainous and some of the roads are very steep! Having an automatic on these roads will make driving a lot easier.

As mentioned, there is plenty to keep you busy on this island. From epic hiking trails to beautiful viewpoints, mountains, wildlife, flora and fauna. Below is the ultimate seven-day road trip itinerary for visiting Madeira.

Ultimate Seven Day Road Trip Itinerary For Madeira

This itinerary begins in Funchal and does an entire clockwise loop of the island so that you finish back in Funchal at the end of the trip. The best thing about Madeira is that nothing is too far of a drive, so if you are short on time, you can mix and match the below itinerary to suit your time frame!

It also means that if you prefer, you can keep Funchal as your base for your accommodation.

Day 1 – Funchal

Funchal is the main (and largest) town in Madeira, and home to footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. For that reason, you can expect to find a lot of statues, plaques and museums honouring him. You can also see his current home (from the outside of course) if you are into football. Wander a little further along the seafront from his house to the CR7 museum to learn more about the man himself.

If football isn’t your thing, then Funchal has an adorable old town that is worth exploring. It’s also the best spot on the island to take part in a Whale and Dolphin watching tour. The best time of year for this excursion is from April till October since this is when there are the most species in the area.

In Funchal, you will also find the cable cart, which takes you from the seafront up the hill to the suburb of Monte. It is definitely worth spending an afternoon taking a one-way trip up. When in Monte, you can visit Monte Palace botanical gardens, and take part in traditional sledging to get halfway back down the hill. From the sledging finish point, it is an easy walk back down to Funchal.

Day 1 Highlights

  • Funchal Cable cart
  • Monte palace botanical gardens
  • Monte sledging
  • Dolphin/whale watching

Total driving : 30 minutes (from Madeira airport – Funchal)

Day 2 – Ponta Do Sol

Leaving Funchal and heading west, the first stop of the day is Cabo Girão Skywalk. This observation deck juts out of some of the highest cliffs in Europe, giving you a fantastic view of Madeira’s coastline. Although the glass walkway is not for the faint-hearted, you will be treated to some stunning views, and it is also completely free to visit.

After the thrill of the skywalk, head to Calhau da Lapa. This hard to reach patch of coastline is well worth the visit since it is said to have the clearest waters in all of Madeira. For this reason, it makes an excellent spot for swimming and relaxing.

Once you’re done swimming in the crystal clear waters, head back to the car and drive to Miradouro do Espigão for epic views across the valley’s green hills! There isn’t anything else to do here apart from admiring the view and getting some great photo opportunities, so it is a short stop on the day’s itinerary.

The next stop is an 8.5km hike to Nova and Moinho Waterfall. The Levada do Moinho starts on Lombada da Ponta do Sol, near the Church of the Lombada. The hike itself is a moderate, circular route that should take you about 3-4 hours.

One thing to note about this hike is that it can get very steep, so for those with vertigo, or medical conditions such as asthma, you may find this hike more challenging than others.

Day 2 Highlights

  • Cabo Girão Skywalk
  • Calhau da Lapa
  • Miradouro do Espigão
  • Nova and Moinho Waterfall
  • Cais da Ponta do Sol

Total driving : 1 hour 30 minutes  (2 hours and 5 minutes if Funchal is your base)

Day 3 – 25 Fontes Hike And Beaches

The first stop on day 3 of the itinerary is probably one of the most iconic waterfalls on the island of Madeira. Cascata dos Anjos is a waterfall that actually cascades from the cliff onto one of the old coastal roads, which is still accessible. This is a really unique spot and makes for excellent photo opportunities!

Next up is Praia da Madalena do Mar, a relaxing beachfront with calm waters, ideal for chilling and swimming. If sitting around on the beach isn’t your thing and you’re itching to get active, then head straight to the start of the 25 Fontes trail. This is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira, where you will experience lush greenery, and plenty of lagoons and waterfalls (as its name suggests).

The hike is an 11km round trip, generally pretty moderate but with some steep parts. The entire hike will likely take you around 4 hours. As it is one of Madeira’s most popular trails, it can get very busy, so bear that in mind if visiting in peak season.

If you are looking for a hiking trail that is slightly more challenging, and less busy than the popular 25 Fontes, then Levada da Rocha Vermelha is another great option. Arguably a much more peaceful, yet more adventurous hike, it will take you right through one of the longest tunnels in Madeira before you get to fully explore Rabacal Valley.

The total distance of this hike is 15km, in and back out, and will likely take you 6 hours comfortably. For this reason, it is better to prioritise either 25 Fontes, or Levada da Rocha Vermelha, since you won’t have time to do both in one day!

The final stop of day three is Praia da Calheta, one of Madeira’s only sandy beaches! It is the perfect place to relax and cool down in the sea after your hike. A short 15-minute drive from the beach is Miradouro da Raposeira, a stunning viewpoint on the edge of the cliffs which makes for an incredible sunset spot!

Day 3 Highlights

  • Cascata dos Anjos, Ponta do Sol
  • Praia da Madalena do Mar
  • 25 Fontes Hike
  • Levada da Rocha Vermelha
  • Praia da Calheta
  • Miradouro da Raposeira

  Total driving : 1 hour 25 minutes (2 hour 30 minutes Funchal is your base)

Day 4 – Lombo Queimado And Santa Maria Madalena

Day four looks a lot busier than the previous three days. The first stop is Levada Prazeres – Raposeira, a gentle hike that is great no matter which time of year you visit. It is a very easy 6.7km hike which should take 2-4 hours and will give you a great opportunity to see lots of local flora and fauna. After the hike, head to Miradouro do Massapez for a short stop to admire more epic panoramic views of Madeira’s coastline. 

Next, head to the area of Lombo Queimado, where you can head to the viewpoint of Garganta Funda and hike to the lighthouse. In this area, you can also visit Pico Vermelho, an adorable red and white windmill that stands on the edge of Madeira overlooking the ocean. 

Miradouro do Teleférico das Achadas da Cruz is the next stop on the itinerary for today. This extremely steep cable cart offers you incredible views out to the crashing waves of the Atlantic ocean, whilst transporting you down to Fajã da Quebrada Nova, a tiny isolated town that is one of the most unique places on the island. 

The final stop on today’s itinerary is Miradouro Ponta da Ladeira, another incredible viewpoint, particularly to watch the sun go down. 

Day 4 Highlights

  • Levada Prazeres – Raposeira
  • Miradouro do Massapez
  • Garganta Funda Viewpoint
  • Pico Vermelho
  • Miradouro do Teleférico das Achadas da Cruz
  • Miradouro Ponta da Ladeira

Total driving : 1 hour 15 minutes (3 hours 5 minutes if Funchal is your base)

Day 5 – Porto Moniz & Seixal

Porto Moniz is a tiny coastal town in the northwest corner of Madeira. With a total population of around 3000 people, there isn’t a huge amount to do here, but the natural swimming pools on the coastline is what attracts most of its visitors. The pools are formed by volcanic lava and filled with crystal clear seawater, which makes it a very unique spot for swimming. 

The unique rock formations along the coastline at Mirador Ilhéus da Ribeira da Janela are a travel and landscape photographer’s dream. The tall rocks jut out of the Atlantic Ocean, with its waves crashing against them creating a pale white foam that contrasts the deep blue hues of the water. It is well worth a stop, whether that’s for a long wander along the beach or a quick snap of some photos. 

The third stop of the day is Fanal Pond / Fanal Forest. This area is described as one of Madeira’s most magical areas, since the mist that envelopes the area makes the forest feel like something out of a fairytale. Due to the pretty stable weather, Fanal forest is one place that is great to visit year-round. You can spend as little time or as much time as you’d like here, as there are also a couple of hiking options in the area. 

The final stop of the day is Seixal, a small town along the northern coast of Madeira. Here you will experience black sand beaches, incredible Jurassic-esque landscapes and the Poça das Lesmas (natural pools).  Next up is Ribeira do Inferno, arguably one of the most beautiful spots on the island. It is typically a lot quieter than some of the main attractions and offers lush green canyon views, which separate Seixal from São Vicente.

Day 5 Highlights

  • Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools
  • Mirador Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela
  • Poça das Lesmas
  • Seixal beach
  • Ribeira do Inferno

Total driving : 1 hour (2 hours 40 minutes if Funchal is your base)

Day 6 – Surfing, Hiking & Traditional Houses Of Santana

Once back on the road, a stop at Miradouro do Bom Jesus is well worth it for incredible views across the northern coastline. For wine lovers, you can find a handful of wineries and vineyards in Madeira, one of which is Terra Bona Nature & Vineyards.

Here you can either take part in a tasting experience in their vineyard, or you can opt for a sail & wine sunset tour! If you would prefer to do a bit more swimming, head to the Ruins of St. George, the stone ruins of an old sugar mill right on the beach. 

Levada do Caldeirão Verde is another popular hike on the island. With a name that translates to ‘Green Cauldron’, you can expect to see plenty of lush greenery, waterways and lagoons on this stunning 11.5km hike. It’s a fairly moderate hike that will take you on a 3-5 hour round trip, and will serve up some beautiful views across the valley. 

After the hike, head to the town of Santana to visit some of the traditional Madeiran houses! 

If you’re into surfing, then the beaches surrounding Porto da Cruz are an excellent spot to do so. If you’re a novice, then there are plenty of surf schools in the area where you can give it a try! 

Day 6 Highlights

  • Miradouro do Bom Jesus
  • Terra Bona Nature & Vineyards
  • Ruins of St. George
  • Levada do Caldeirão Verde
  • Santana + Traditional houses
  • Surfing in Porto da Cruz

Total driving : 1 hour 42 minutes (3 hours if Funchal is your base)

Day 7 – Sunrise, Snorkelling And Sunset

The final day of this itinerary begins with a sunrise hike along Sao Lourenco. The terrain here is very different to the other hikes encountered so far on this itinerary. Instead of lush green forests and cascading waterfalls, you will find a more desert-like landscape. Suncream will be very welcome on this hike since there is little shade and it can get very hot in the peak summer months. 

Praia de Machico is another of Madeira’s very few white sand beaches, of which the sand is actually imported from North Africa! This is the ideal spot for beach bums, as it makes for great sunbathing or swimming and those seeking something a little more adventurous can also jet ski here.

Anyone who wants to get a little more up close and personal with marine life can head to Garajau Partial Nature Reserve, where you can snorkel or dive to your heart’s content! This marine area is protected, and so you can expect to see an abundance of different varieties of fish and even groups of Atlantic Manta Rays!

The final stop on this packed seven-day itinerary for Madeira is at the top of the island’s third-highest peak. Head to Pico do Areeiro for a sunset you won’t forget, with a backdrop that spans Madeira’s central mountains, engulfed in cotton candy clouds. If you have time on the drive up to the peak, you can also take a quick stop at Balcões Levada – another great viewpoint.

Day 7 Highlights

  • Sao Lourenco 
  • Praia de Machico
  • Garajau Partial Nature Reserve 
  • Pico do Areeiro

Total driving : 1 hour 26 minutes (2 hours 35 minutes if Funchal is your base)

We hope this article has inspired you to visit Madeira, Portugal. If you have any questions or advice to share with our readers, please leave these in the comments below.

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Read More About Portugal

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Travel Done Clever says

June 22, 2022 at 1:48 am

Thanks for a great post about gorgeous Madeira. This pretty island has been on our bucket list for a long time and we cannot wait to explore it this summer! Safe travels, Martina & Andrej.

Barry Steamer says

August 16, 2023 at 1:29 pm

Do you have recommendations for accommodations and eateries for each day if we choose not to return to Funchal each evening?

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Perfect Day Somewhere

Full Guide and Things To Do in Madeira: A 5-Day Itinerary for Off-Season Travel

madeira travel blog

One of the first catchphrases you’ll notice when you google anything about traveling to Madeira is how often it’s described as the “Hawaii of Europe” promising year-round spring weather. When deciding on my annual Thanksgiving travels, I figured it would be the ideal off-season destination with fewer crowds, yet still pleasant temperatures. Most travel blogs reassured me that this was a good idea.

In my itinerary below, I will talk about my experience of visiting Maderia in December and why it will not give you the full island experience that you are probably expecting. While I am not trying to discourage you 100% from visiting during that time, I hope my experience will better prepare you compared to what I was expecting. If I knew what I’d see and what I’d miss out on, I’d plan my itinerary totally differently than how I did. That’s what I hope to give you with this post, an off – season-optimized Madeira itinerary. To compare, a couple of years back, I visited Madeira’s southern neighbor Tenerife, during a similar time . My off-season vacation there was much better in terms of weather even though geographically, these two islands are pretty close.

While this itinerary tells you additional information about traveling to Madeira off-season, you can use it all year round to plan your travels too.

At the end of the post, you can download this guide as well as a map for your travels.

Traveling to Lisbon as well? Don’t forget to check out my Lisbon guide!

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Madeira Logistics

Best time to visit madeira.

Let me just cut to the chase and tell you that if you want to experience all of Madeira, off-season time considered between November and April, might not be the best choice. Despite a lot of resources telling you that Madeira could be a year-round destination, I would argue otherwise. By visiting between May to late September, you’re maximizing your chances for clear skies and good temperatures.

There are some pros, however, to visiting during the off-season as I did. You will save on flights, accommodation, and car rental and you’ll avoid the crowds that come with the vacation season in Maderia. Although most attractions won’t be closed you might not be able to see everything, especially if the weather isn’t great.

Suggested length of stay

How long you will stay depends on what you’d like to do there. For example, some hikes can take an entire day, and there are multiple that people put on their Madeira itinerary. Again, when traveling off-season, you will not be able to check everything off your Madeira bucket list so 3-5 days is a decent time frame. In season, I’d say an absolute minimum of 4 days is needed to see everything, with 5-6 being more ideal for a short trip.

Traveling to Madeira

Flights to funchal.

Getting to Maderia is pretty easy with frequent flights from Lisbon and a couple of other European airports. I even saw one direct flight from NYC flying out once per week! I like breaking up my flights rather than automatically searching between origin and destination, meaning if I’m flying from NYC, I will search NYC to Lisbon and then Lisbon to Madeira. I compare my times with layovers and frequently find better deals, instead if I were to search NYC to Madeira in one shot. A round trip for the very end of November cost me under $450 for both flights. Although I’m here to argue that off-season travel isn’t ideal here, if you’re on a budget, Madeira in December might be a great money saver!

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Getting around – Car rental in Maderia

Madeira is a small island and you can drive from one end to the other in a couple of hours. North to South is even faster. Seeing the whole island is indeed possible during a Madeira 5-day itinerary.

When other travelers pointed out that driving in Madeira is an adventure in itself, I didn’t quite believe it. I drove in tricky conditions and places but driving there will get its own category in my personal driving experiences. Before my trip, one of my friends said, “If it doesn’t look like a road in Madeira, it probably is” and looking back at this, that was an extremely accurate description of driving there. Most roads in Madeira are freeways and tunnels but once you venture into towns, one-way roads will magically fit two cars and 30-degree hill roads will become the norm.

I don’t want to discourage you from renting a car there but rather prepare you for what to expect. Renting a car is the absolute best way to see the island and it will save you a ton of time on sightseeing. I normally book through Rental Cars but I found a better deal on Holiday Autos . While I am a creature of habit and don’t trust new websites on deals, I had a very smooth experience will them and will rent in the future. For your reference, an automatic car rental in Maderia during the off-season cost me ~$250 for 5 days using Rodavante with car pick up and return right at the airport. A manual rental is much cheaper but unless you drive it regularly, I would not get one there.

Although driving there was certainly a challenge, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. If you’re planning to do mountain driving, watch for an automatic car’s brakes as they might start smelling, especially in wet conditions.

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Where to stay in Madeira

Where you stay during your Madeira vacation depends on what you want to do. If you’re unsure, Funchal is the main city and can be a good base for taking drives throughout the island. If hiking is your main priority, consider staying in the mountains instead. Most importantly though, if you have a car, it’s fairly easy to see all nooks of the island no matter where you stay. Maderia has a ton of hotels, some hostels, and even more Airbnbs. Which you choose should depend on your personal preference. While Airbnb has its own issues, especially in bigger cities, I felt that renting one in Madeira where I was in communication with the hosts directly was the way Airbnb originally intended the platform to be.

Airbnb in Madeira

Traveling with my parents, we opted for two Airbnb in Maderia because we wanted a comfortable base for exploring. I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect combo of what we were looking for and I think I hit the jackpot with both of them. The first Airbnb located 7 min from the airport, was the entire first floor of a large house overlooking the ocean, with a beautiful pool and a walkway to the beach promenade. One of the downsides of traveling to Madeira off-season is that we didn’t get to use the pool or spend time in stunning outside space as much. As a bonus, the coolest part was watching the planes land at the nearby airport right from my bedroom.

The second Airbnb that we rented in Madeira was located near Sao Vincente. It was a huge home in the mountains with sick views and the best host I have ever experienced throughout my years of traveling. I loved having two locations, one with the ocean view and the other with the mountain one but for someone who doesn’t want to move between two locations, this might not be the best option. If you’re interested in booking either of these locations, send me an email and I’ll be happy to share the link.

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What to pack for Madeira in December

Ok, I am only including this section because I packed like an idiot for this trip. Let me explain. A couple of years back, I traveled to Tenerife during a similar time of the year. I falsely assumed that the two destinations would have similar weather and that packing 5 dresses for each day would be the way to go. My outfits consisted of light athleisure, dresses, and a couple of cute outfits for the barn (shoutout to those who get the reference). I ended up wearing two heavier sweaters and the jacket that I packed for the plane for pretty much the entire time I was there. These are the items not to forget when you travel to Madeira during the off-season :

  • A rainproof jacket and/or umbrella – The rain won’t last long but when it comes around, you want to have a raincoat on hand instead of looking for a place to hide.
  • Light coat or cardigan – During the day, while you won’t need a heavy coat, it will get chilly when the sun is not out.
  • Waterproof shoes – If hiking is on your list to do or if you want to check out the Fanal Pond, then sneakers won’t be sufficient. The ground is wet and puddly so good outdoor shoes that won’t soak are a must.
  • (Bathing suit) – I saw a couple of brave souls swimming in the chilly waters of Porto Moniz pools, if you like cold swims, don’t forget to pack a suit.

People & Safety

Overall, I’d say that most locals in Madeira were really nice. My Portuguese is non-existent but I tried to use my hello/please and thank yous whenever I could. Side note, do not use Spanish in Madeira or in any of Portugal , it is not Portuguese and it’s a faux-pas there. For the most part, the experience was very positive. In terms of safety, Madeira is a very safe destination. Some common travel scams to watch out for include the following:

  • Taxi scam – This isn’t so much a Madeira scam but rather a worldwide one where dishonest taxi drivers charge you ridiculous amounts for short rides. Always demand the meter to be turned on to avoid this. It has been reported to happen in Funchal on some travel forums.
  • Market fruit sample – When you go to Funchal, one of the main attractions in town is Mercado dos Lavradores. It’s a cute and colorful market filled with merchants offering you fruit samples. However, a lot of the fruit is enhanced with syrup and when you taste it, you’ll naturally want to purchase some for later. The fruit will cost you an insane amount and when you get home, it will not have the same taste as that first bite you had at the market. We bought fruit in Funchal, a couple of streets away from the market but I still got ripped off. While not a true scam, just be aware of this little selling trick.

WARNING! TRAVEL SCAM IN MADEIRA

Restaurant bill additions – As a former waitress/bartender, I’d like to think that my bullshit meter is pretty good when it comes to other waiters. I could easily tell when you’re actually in the weeds or if you’re just being lazy, because hey, I’ve done the same shit 🙂 What I always make sure to do though is check the itemized bill no matter where I’m dining. During busy moments, it is genuinely possible to make a mistake and charge extra or add a wrong item. However, when your bill magically increases by 100 euros, you know something is up. This was the case at Taberna , a small highly rated restaurant in Santa Cruz. While the nice waiter chatted with my family all dinner, when the bill came, suddenly he started rushing us with the credit card machine. That triggered a red light in my head and I asked to see the itemized bill before blindly swiping my card. Our small appetizers and a couple of drinks added to over 130 euros. I noticed that one 10 euro app was charged 10 times on the bill, a small trick that made the bill look legitimate.

Now, if I wasn’t a waitress in my past life, I would buy the story that this was an honest mistake. However, when I brought up the price discrepancy to the waiter, he quickly looked at it and said, “Oops, silly me” and didn’t apologize or display any sort of remorse for what had happened. The fact that he was quick to run to us with the credit card machine was also sus. I heard about this scam in cities like Rome or even in Lisbon but I never assumed it would happen in Maderia. So despite the food being tasty and the restaurant being super cozy, don’t assume it won’t happen even in less touristy parts of any town.

Food and Drinks to try in Madeira

Out of the entire time I spent on the island and the numerous meals I ate, I only had one mediocre meal and tbh at my own fault. The lesson I fail to learn over and over is never to order pizza outside New York or New Jersey or Italy of course. Back to Madeira food though, it is so so tasty and actually extremely affordable. Here are my top picks for food to try in Madeira:

  • Prego sandwich : This is the most amazing sandwich I had in my entire life. I’m serious, nothing compares. You can get it almost anywhere. It’s a steak sandwich on buttery and garlicky bread that comes in a couple of variations.
  • Espetada: A long skewer of hanging meat. Its simplicity makes it super tasty.
  • Espada or black scabbard fish : This was my mom’s favorite, it is usually served with bananas. This is one weird looking creature but it tastes delicious!
  • Bolo de molo de mel: This traditional honey cake is pretty tasty!
  • Madeira Wine: It’s heavy and has a very distinct taste and you’ll certainly feel it going down your throat! Blandy’s Madeira is a very popular spot to consume this beverage.
  • Poncha: Poncha is the most delicious alcoholic drink. It’s made of cane rum and had different fruit flavor options. Get the traditional kind and enjoy the happiness that comes after drinking this 🙂

For more interesting food finds, I used Brogan Abroad’s guide before traveling to Madeira for the tastiest food finds!

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Random Useful Tips for Madeira Travel

  • If the weather is acting up during your visit, check the live cams! I used these to see whether mountain peaks were clear from clouds or where I could find the sun on the island.
  • Miradouros are viewpoint spots all throughout the island. Some are simple pull-over style along the highway, others require short walks to reach the spot. My advice is to stop at all of them 🙂
  • When visiting Tenerife which has similar viewpoint parking areas as Madeira, my car window got smashed and all my belongings got stolen during that trip a couple of years back. When you leave your car anywhere, take everything with you. Even small stops that seem safe can be targets for petty theft.

Things to do in Madeira

In terms of the number of things to see in Madeira, I’d say you can stay pretty busy during your trip. The majority of the attractions throughout the island include outdoor activities. One of the most important things to consider when traveling off-season is how important certain attractions are to you. If you need a dense itinerary with lots of outdoor attractions, consider in-season travel. Instead, if you need a simple getaway with a couple of things to do here and there, the off-season is probably a better choice.

Below, I bring you a 5-day Madeira itinerary that also gives you an off-season expectation. However, you can use my travel plan for any time of the year. Since Madeira is a small island, for the most part, it doesn’t matter which order you do the days in. However, note that the first two days are optimized for the Funchal area and the remaining for the other parts of the island.

5-day Madeira Itinerary

At the bottom of this post, you can download this travel guide to Madeira to bring along on your trip. Additionally, you will find a map of all the attractions so you don’t have to worry about saving them yourself.

We’ll call your arrival day, Day 0. Arriving at Madeira airport (Ronaldo Cristiano Airport 🙂 ) can be quite the experience on a windy day. If you’re a nervous flyer, I wouldn’t YouTube any videos of landings there. However, despite its windy challenges, there only has been one accident in the late 1970s. Since then, the runway has been extended and only experienced pilots are allowed to approach a landing there.

The airport is on the east side of the island and is located a short ~25 min drive from Funchal. When you get off the plane, have all your paperwork ready as you’ll be asked for your Madeira Safe bar code. If you’re renting a car (which I highly recommend), the pick-up process once you land is super easy, my checkout took under 10 mins. The rental car lot is located across the street and you should be on your way within a short time of arrival. If you require public transportation, here is a helpful official link.

Flights arrive all day long so the timing of your Day 0 will depend on where you’re coming from. I personally arrived around 8 pm but my Airbnb was located 7 mins away from the airport so I was “home” very quickly. Note that restaurants and stores aren’t open too late so if you are planning a later arrival, make sure to eat before your flight.

Day 1 – Southern Part of Madeira

Valley of the nuns.

Now that you settled in, there is no better place to start your vacation than by seeing Curral das Freiras or Valley of Nuns in Madeira. It’s located a short drive from Funchal and it’s an in/out kinda trip. This small town has a couple of restaurants and tourist shops but aside from the views, there isn’t much to do there. However, these viewpoints are crazy beautiful and you shouldn’t skip this area on your Madeira adventure.

There are two major viewpoints, the first being Eira do Serrado , a very popular spot on the island. Once you arrive at the spot, there is a small parking spot with a café. In order to get to the viewpoint, you’ll have to take a short 5 min walk. I recommend grabbing a coffee and a pastel de nata at the cafe for a little longer appreciation of the area. The second point, Paredão Viewpoint , is located above the clouds and it’s not too far from the first one. It’s also a short walk from the parking area.

After admiring the views from the top, I recommend grabbing lunch in the little town which will give you a slightly different perspective of the area. Everyone recommends a restaurant called Sabores de Curral but I opted for La Perla instead. I was extremely impressed with the food but the views along with a cold beer made it even more delicious.

Off-season struggles: The area gets mixed weather during the off-season but the good news is that if it starts raining, the clouds will most likely pass. Pack an umbrella or a rain jacket. We waited out the rain having a coffee and then got rewarded with a beautiful rainbow!

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For the second part of the day, visiting Funchal will give you the exact opposite vibes from your nature-filled morning. Funchal is the capital of Madeira and is certainly worth spending some time in. If you’re driving in, the streets can get really narrow so rather than looking for street parking, I recommend finding a parking garage near the center. Garage prices are very cheap and it will save you time and a headache.

I would simply recommend walking around Zona Velha, seeing the market, and most important feeling the liveliness of the town by spending some time by the waterfront. Don’t forget a mandatory stop for some good poncha either. Note that I am not including the botanical gardens just yet. Funchal is safe but make sure to watch your belongings for pickpockets. Here are some known attractions in the city for you to check out:

  • Mercado Lavaradores: Yes it is a tourist trap but hear me out for a second. The market has really pretty colors and cute souvenirs to look at. I certainly wouldn’t buy fruit here (read my scam warning above) but I do like browsing through places like these.
  • Avenida Arriaga: Right next to the market, you will find this shopping street with a lot of tourists. It’s a good spot to take a stroll and window shop for a bit.
  • Zona Velha: This is the Old Town part of town which includes cobblestone streets, restaurants, bars and lively nightlife.
  • Cathedral of Funchal: A pretty local catholic church right in the heart of town.
  • Praça do Povo & Funchal Marina: Walk along the waterfront to catch the nice atmosphere of locals and tourists. When I visited in late 2021, that area had a cute little town fair with rides.
  • Parque de Santa Catarina: Cute little park with views of the town and the incoming ships.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo Statue : If you make your way by the park, grab a photo with the icon of Madeira, the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Since he was born on the island, you will see a lot of references to him. There is even a museum 🙂

Make sure to stop at Rei da Poncha , a very popular hole in the wall with some great tasting poncha and some great snacks too. The outdoor tables might be full but just linger around for a couple of minutes and a table will free up in no time.

Off-season struggles: Day one of your Maderia travel will actually work in your favor if you’re traveling off-season. Funchal won’t be too crowded with people and if you’re visiting in late November or December you will get to see fun holiday decor. The southern part of the island is usually sunny and even if it rains, the rain should pass by quickly. Places like Rei da Poncha won’t have a line and you won’t be annoyed with the crowds.

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(Pico do Arieiro)

Pico do Arierio was one of the most anticipated spots I wanted to see in Madeira. A simple google search will show you why. It’s the third-highest peak and one of the only that you don’t actually have to hike. Yes, you can simply drive there and see the most amazing views without any pain 🙂

I wanted to see the incredible sunrise overlooking Madeira under the clouds. However, we attempted this sunrise once in person and then checked the webcams for both, sunrise and sunset for the entire time we were there and were not able to successfully see this spot. One of the biggest risks you take with traveling off-season is missing amazing spots like this one. I’m including this on Day 2 because you might have to attempt to see it multiple times during your trip.

However, if you’re traveling in season, you have to check this couple’s guide to visit Pico Arieiro and actually all their Maderia guides which are extremely detailed and resourceful. There is a very popular day hike from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruvio and I recommend that blog to give you the best details on it.

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Back to Funchal

While the first day in Funchal consisted of exploring the basics of the city, I did don’t want to include the botanical gardens then, as the whole experience would have been very rushed. So for day two, you can explore either Monte Palace or Madeira Botanical Garden s (or maybe even both if you love gardens). I personally only visited Monte Palace and it was a super beautiful place that I’ll recommend to you.

Here is some info on them:

  • Monte Palace – An additional attraction to this place is the fact that you can take a cable car from Funchal on the Funchal – Monte line to get here scoring some awesome views from above of the city. A one-way ticket is 11 euros and a roundtrip is 16. Their Japanese-style gardens were stunning and I had a great time taking random turns and not following the map per se. We spend about 3 hours exploring which included a stop at the gift shop for some complimentary Madeira wine tasting. To get back to Funchal you can simply take a cable car back or take a ride in the famous Toboggan cart ride . It was a little too touristy for me but people swear this is a fun activity.
  • Botanical Gardens – The second gardens are located not too far from Monte Palace and are connected by the Botanical – Monte line in case you wanted to take the cable car again. I haven’t visited these gardens but people often prefer Monte over this location.

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Cabo Girão Skywalk

After exploring the gardens, take a short ride to the famous glass skywalk with great ocean and Funchal views. To be honest I expected a much bigger platform however it was still pretty impressive. There is no entrance fee and the spot gets pretty crowded. One thing that I loved more than the views was the strong eucalyptus scent from all the trees as you walk around. There is a small cafe with overpriced food and drinks on site but I recommend stopping there for a little break to enjoy the view even more.

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Options for the afternoon

Personally, this is where I would take a little break and head back to my hotel and Airbnb to relax. Sometimes I tend to overlook how important relaxing is during vacation 🙂 However, if you’d like to continue with your day two activities, here are some ideas for the afternoon:

  • Vinhos Barbeito : I found a nice family-owned winery near Funchal. It has great reviews and I imagine the wine tastes really good! Madeira wine is special within itself so why not drink it from someone that knows what they’re doing.
  • Ribeira Brava: Explore this cute little town with shops, restaurants and nice mountain and ocean views. Beaches in Madeira are located all over the island but I actually found people swimming in this one off-season as the sun likes this place no matter what the month.
  • Funchal at night: Local cuisine is bomb. So make sure to take yourself to a nice place, have some good traditional food and then walk around the town at night. Most towns should always be seen during the day and night. There is a whole new vibe that emerges when the lights dim!

Day 3 – Sao Lourenco toward Sao Vincente

For Day 3 of your awesome Madeira adventure, I recommend heading to the northern part of the island. Now that you got to see most of the Funchal area and its surrounding gems, it’s time to head to the super green part of the island. The one thing to note when you’re traveling to Madeira off-season is that the weather in the northern part is almost always more cloudy and wet compared to the southern part. This is what will make the biggest distinction between traveling in the off-months compared to peak season.

Ponta de São Lourenço

This awesome hike is certainly not a hidden gem of the island. If possible try to arrive before 10 am as the spot gets pretty crowded. Even better if you can make a sunrise hike! If you’re worried about weather conditions, don’t forget to check out the webcams.

This hike starts at the parking trail and goes all the way to the tippy top of Madeira. You won’t be able to reach the very end of these crazy rock formations because the very last part is separated by the ocean. The hike should take you between 1.5 to 2.5 hours each way depending on how many times you take picture stops. Towards the end, you will find a small cafe where you can use the bathroom or grab a coffee. This is a very popular part of the island so expect some crowds.

For a very detailed plan for this hike, I found this blog which does an excellent job of preparing you for it.

Off-season struggles: The weather is not going to be your best friend here. It might get more chilly and windy in the months of November and December. However, since peaks might not even be doable during that time, this is one of the few chances you have to experience Madeira’s nature.

Northern Drive Toward Sao Vincente

After the hike, you won’t probably want to do any more walking so I recommend a scenic drive along the northeastern part of the island. Here are a couple of stops to consider. Depending on the timing of your morning, you will not be able to do all of them so check out my photos below to see which ones you think you’d like best:

  • Faial Beach : This little beach is located about 25 minutes from Sao Lourenco parking lot. I found it on accident while driving in that area. I wouldn’t swim there per say but the landscape is really nice! Off-season you probably won’t see another soul there!
  • Miradouro do Guindaste : Right above Faial Beach, there is a nice coastal viewpoint offering the awesome view the beach does but from slightly above. I’d say do one or the other since the views will be very similar.
  • Miradouro do Curtado : This one is located a short 10 min drive from the point mentioned before. It offers a nice view of local town as well as the northern coast nearby.
  • Santana Houses: This was the most crowded place I encountered on my off-season trip to Madeira. Why you ask? I have no clue because as cute as the Santana Houses are unless you have some sort of historical curiosity about them, there really isn’t that much to see there. I don’t know what I expected but certainly not what I saw. I’d say you can pass this location if touristy places bother you.
  • Hotel & Restaurante Quinta do Furão: This is a good place for an early dinner but before you head to the restaurant, go on a little walk around the property. There is a vineyard in the back and a garden in that is accessible to walk around patrons and it was a (hidden) place during out little drive. It’s super pretty and you can even catch a view of a waterfall from there.
  • Miradouro da Beira da Quinta: Super quick stop but nonetheless a nice viewpoint of the local area.
  • Sao Vincente: This is a small town that’s the base of a lot of northern hikes for people. We stayed at an Airbnb for the second part of our trip here and loved the quiet atmosphere and more local vibe compared to Funchal. The small town has a couple of restaurants and bars by the water. If you’re not staying in the area, I’d recommend grabbing some food before heading back home. I ate at Restaurante Calamar which had delicious food for amazing prices and Poncha de Sao Vincente , a local bar with awesome apps.

Off-season struggles: The northern part of the island is the rainiest and most cloudy off-season. Consider that when packing clothes for your exploration there. All the spots I mentioned above were cloudy and chilly when I visited. Comparing photos of them in the sun from other travel blogs, I certainly feel like I didn’t get the proper experience of them.

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  • Quinta do Furão

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  • Miradouro da Beira da Quinta

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Drive toward Porto Moniz

Before you head to see the famous swimming pools of Porto Moniz, there is a couple of quick stops you can make before heading over.

  • Miradouro do Véu da Noiva : This is a very popular viewpoint on the island and while I think it was cute, I didn’t find it as fascinating as others have described. The main highlight of this stop is a waterfall that drops into the ocean but since it is pretty far and the road to access it is closed, it’s just a small stop. There is a gift shop there but it was very pricey compared to others I’ve seen.
  • Seixal: What many describe as the best beach in Madeira is located in Seixal, a small town on the northern coast. It’s all black sand contrasting with vibrant green nature and surrounded by mountains. There are also small natural swimming pools located in town. While during off-season travel you won’t be able to swim, it’s worth visiting for the picturesque views.

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Porto Moniz

The Porto Moniz natural swimming pools are swimming areas formed by lava and filled with fresh seawater on the northwestern side of the island. They are one of the coolest outdoor swimming pools I have seen. I hate to break it to you this early in the description but unless you like cold swimming, traveling during the off-season will unfortunately not allow you to fully enjoy them. I was super upset that I wasn’t able to swim in them, after naively reading some online comments claiming that late November is sometimes ok for swimming.

There are two pool areas in town. One with an entrance fee but only 1.5 euros, there you will find lockers and snack bars the other is free but more rocky and natural. The actual town is super small, you can walk from one pool area to the other in under 10 mins. However, my friends, I do not think you should skip visiting the town even without swimming. It is indeed impressive to see them and take some pictures in the area. I recommend making a stop in Porto Moniz for lunch or a drink.

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Fanal Forest

Quick Tip: If you’re heading to Fanal Forest or Fanal Pond from Porto Moniz, make an easy and quick stop at Miradouro da Eira da Achada for more island views from above.

Fanal Forest is the one place that should work in your favor during off-season travel. Why? Because people love this place for a mystical experience of the fog and creepy vibes. If you visit during the summer peak months, the chances of the fog are said to be greatest in the morning. However, in the “winter” months, you can catch it at pretty much any time. Simply put Fanal Pond in your GPS and you will arrive in a small parking lot, then walk towards the forest. I recommend packing waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket if you’re planning to walk around. I got soaked and cold while exploring and it wasn’t too pleasant. Overall it’s a cool place to visit for some awesome pictures. Put a pin in your map as the further you walk in the fog, the more likely you are to get lost.

There are many cows in that forest so be careful not to step in some cow poo as you’re taking your picture 🙂

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If you followed my itinerary, by day 5 you’ve seen top places that Madeira is known for. For this last day, I will give you options of things to do that are worth seeing on this stunning island depending on what you like to do.

Hikes & Levada Walks

Madeira is known for many hiking trails and Levada walks. I’m more of a drive-to-a-peak kinda gal unless I’m feeling inspired to hike as I did in Poland this summer (You can read my guest post on We Are Travel Girls about my super awesome hike in the Tatra Mountains). I did not hike in Madeira therefore I cannot give you solid advice on it. However, I found this amazing and super informative post from Claire on her blog and I recommend you follow her for the best hiking advice.

Small things to do in Madeira on the western side of the island

The western side is not as touristy as the other side of the island but that doesn’t mean if you should skip it. Although there aren’t as many attractions, here are a couple of spots to visit there:

  • Garganta Funda Viewpoint : Although you will need to walk about 15 minutes to reach this viewpoint, the awesome waterfall that you will see at the end will make it worth it. The nice thing about traveling off-season is that you’re likely to see it in full action compared to the summer when it dries up. I regret not seeing this place during my visit.
  • Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse : A small picturesque lighthouse on the far end of the island. It might not be a super exciting spot, but you can take a small walk in the area and admire the calm atmosphere.
  • Cascata dos Anjos : The famous waterfall that falls on your car as your drive on ER101 is certainly a cool experience. If you’re driving toward the west side, you can even pull over and see it up close.

Speaking of the western side …

There is a less-known thing you do on the western side which is Achadas da Cruz cable car bringing you in the (almost) empty small local village. It’s an area only accessible by cable car (between 8 am to 6 pm) or a super steep trail. Not many (if any) locals stay there full time, it’s more of a nature getaway for them. For you, it means exploring two remote villages with stunning surrounding nature. I found a very detailed and informative guide on this hidden Madeiran location. Journey Era gives you more than enough detail about this place, he even takes the hike back up the hill in the evening.

Madeira Beaches

Although you won’t be able to comfortably swim in the ocean if you’re traveling off-season, or if you like cold water, spending some time near the beach even at a local cafe or bar is really nice.

  • Calheta Beach has white imported sand and gives some nice tropical vibes. There are some all-inclusive hotels in the area too.
  • Seixal Black Sand Beach: I mentioned this beach earlier but if you like black sand vibes, you should spend some time enjoying the beauty of Seixal.
  • Ponta do Sol Beach: In the (almost always) sunny part of Madeira, you can find a nice small beach to enjoy without the crowds.

IMG 0372 Europe

Porto Santo

If you’d like to do something more unique, take a day trip to Porto Santo, a small island located a 2-hour ferry ride away or even a short plane ride. There are daily morning departures with evening returns. Some people recommend spending more than a day there, while others do a day trip and are content. Here are two contrasting opinions, a day trip one , and a longer excursion . Hopefully, this lets you decide whether a day trip is worth it for you. Nonetheless, Porto Santo is a stunning destination that could be added as a bonus if you’re already in the area 🙂

Madeira Tours

If organized tours are something you enjoy, consider booking one in Madeira. Some of the more popular choices include dolphin/whale watching boat trips, jeep tours through the island, or even organized hikes. While these are not something I would opt-in to do in Madeira, as the majority of the things can be done solo, a lot of people enjoy having a pre-planned day.

While short excursions are not my thing, I personally always recommend food tours through which not only can you learn about the local cuisine, but see the area, learn history and interact with other like-minded people. I found a highly-rated tour, Madeira Food on Foot which offers different tours and even pre-made picnic baskets. I’d say that’s the best Madeira tour there is 🙂

Download this Madeira guide

Here is a free downloadable guide for you of all the places I talked about above. It’s a pocket version so I recommend reading everything above before downloading the guide for your travels 🙂

Download It HERE

Map of Madeira

Final thoughts on things to do in Madeira in December or any other off-season month

As promised at the start of the post, I tried to give you a realistic expectation of Madeira off-season. I’d say that I romanticized it too much and imagined that I could do more than I did even in the “winter” months.

To recap, here are the cons of things to do in Madeira during off-season times:

  • Higher chance of poor weather : The rain and clouds will limit what you can see and do. What you imagine to be a sunny afternoon hike or a beach day will turn into hiding in cafes until the rain passes.
  • Not seeing the best sunrise and sunset spots : The chances of having a clear sky up in the mountains which would normally give you out-of-this-world sunrises and sunsets are very slim. For 5/5 days of travel, there wasn’t a single day that we were able to see any peaks. I anxiously kept checking weather cams and even drove to two spots to check myself and I was not successful of seeing either of them.
  • Natural Lava Pools: Despite having lava in its name, the swimming pools of Porto Moniz or Seixal will be chilly to comfortably enjoy in the colder months. They’re a really awesome way to spend a day in Madeira so the fact that I missed out makes me irked.
  • Hikes: Again, this being related to the weather, everything will be wet. Walking in chilly and wet conditions is not a pleasant experience to me.

BUT, here are some pros:

  • There will be very few tourists.
  • Prices are usually better for hotels and flights.
  • You will have a lot of places to yourself.

Sometimes off-season travel is the only time you have to take from work so you make it work. I wish I instead visited Madeira during shoulder season for example. Visiting in the months of May or September would give me the off-season vibes I love but not have limited me in the number of things I wanted to do. Knowing what I know now I would not have traveled to Madeira in December but I hope I gave you enough realistic expectations to make the decision for yourself.

Gladly, this itinerary is informative enough for any season so feel free to download it when you travel to Madeira. If you do, share a photo! Don’t forget to comment down below on whether you think Madeira is worth traveling off-season and what experiences you might have had there!

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Kasia is a travel blogger that loves to share her detailed itineraries and travel tips with her community. She's traveled to numerous countries and makes it a priority to explore her home state of New Jersey while still being passionate about her 9-5 career.

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Great info, thanks for putting this together in such detail!!

Thank you for reading!

Your blog is really helping us plan our Madeira trip for the end of the month. Do you mind sharing the links to the air bnbs you stayed at? Thank you

Hi Emily! Please send me a message via the contact form and I’ll be happy to send you the links!

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CHARLIES WANDERINGS

THE TRAVEL BLOG FOR HIKING LOVERS AND EFFICIENT TRAVEL ITINERARIES

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MADEIRA · February 20, 2023

The Perfect 7 Day Madeira Travel Itinerary

If there is one holiday that should be on your bucket list it’s an epic 7 day road trip in Madeira. Madeira, also known as the flower island , has still been able to escape the big tourist crowds. Yes, some places on the island can get a little busy from time to time. But you can easily avoid the ‘rush hours’ by planning out an itinerary!

Madeira is one of the most breathtaking places when it comes to nature . From moon like landscapes to lush forests and mountains that will make you feel like you’ve set foot on Hawaï. This island is a dream come true for anyone who loves to be outdoors!

So far I’ve already been twice to this wonderful island , both times in March! And while this is defintiely an ideal month to visit you can still get a bit unlucky with the weather. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

In this Madeira holiday guide you’ll find a ton of tips for visiting the island, our personal itinerary, the best places to eat and stay, the best hikes in Madeira , where to find the most stunning viewpoints and the most beautiful waterfalls in Madeira !

I hope you’ll enjoy this Madeira itinerary and if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment below.

Charlotte sitting on a concrete wall installed before the hilly and green looking valley with some small villages embedded in it, surrounded by the amazing mountains

While a 7 day road trip may seem a little long for a small island like Madeira . I do have a couple of very good reasons why you should take your time when visiting! First of all the weather can be very unpredictable . One side of the island can be basking in sunlight, while the other side can be very misty and rainy. It’s not uncommon for you to drive through one of the many tunnels and find yourself in a completely different climate. You can easily check the weather conditions before you leave through the local webcams spread out over the entire island.

Secondly, Madeira is known for it’s amazing hikes and if you don’t calculate in enough time you will have to skip a lot of them. This would be a terrible waste since some hikes are considered to be part of the most beautiful hikes in the world.

madeira travel blog

During this travel itinerary you will see incredible viewpoints, waterfalls and landscapes that will leave you wondering if you have actually stepped onto one of the sets of Jurassic Park. Not to worry, velociraptors are not included in this itinerary ;).

madeira travel blog

The best time to visit Madeira

Madeira is a wonderful island to visit throughout the entire year. But the best time to visit Madeira depends on the type of holiday that you are looking for.

Do you want a relaxing holiday and bask in the sun all day long or maybe a family holiday without a ton of adventure? Then June, July and August are an excellent idea. The temperature will be perfect for chilling by the pool and taking short day trips.

If an active holiday is more your jam and you want to explore some of the hiking trails then it’s best to avoid the hot summer months. Instead book your Madeira holiday from the end of March until the end of May. This way the island will be lush, the waterfalls will be roaring and the temperature will be nice for hiking up in the mountains.

Charlotte on a walking trail holding the balustrade enjoying the epic rocky environment in Madeira

How to get around in Madeira

Madeira is. apretty small island but the public transport system is pretty much non existant. And if you would need to take a taxi everytime you want to visit a more remote place you’re vacation will end up being insanely expensive.

The best advice I can give you is to rent a car on Madeira . You can pick it up at the airport and simply drop it off before leaving.

🚗 Rent a car in Madeira by using  SunnyCars . There’s never any hidden costs with them and free cancellation up to 1 hour before rental start. Their price is transparent and everything is included.

White car on curved road in Madeira with the wonderful cliffs in the background

Madeira Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 – arrival, picking up your rental car and a coastal hiking trail.

When traveling to Madeira you won’t have to wait long to witness its beauty. Score yourself a window seat (preferably on the right side of the plane) and admire the mountain peaks peeping through the clouds. The airport landing in Madeira is one of the most famous and apparently also dangerous ones in the world. It’s a very short landing strip so as soon as you hit the ground you will feel the plane hitting the breaks. For me it was the perfect start of an epic adventure!

After your arrival it’s time to pick up that rental car. I went with SunnyCars and was very happy with their service. When choosing a rental car for Madeira I strongly advise you to take an automatic . I am a very experienced manual driver but I was so damn happy I got the automatic. The roads in Madeira are steep and I am not kidding when I say that at times they had an inclination of 45°.

Now it’s time to check into your hotel. I chose Funchal as a base the first time because of it’s proximity to the airport. I had a wonderful stay at Sé Boutique Hotel and you can read my full hotel review here . There is a parking lot located only 5 minutes walking from the hotel (parking is €7/day if you validate your card at the hotel reception). For our first evening we decided to relax and enjoy a cocktail upon the hotel’s rooftop bar.

Now for our second trip to Madeira I wanted to stay on the other side of the island so we stayed close to Santana at Quinta das Hortênsias .

A cosy terrace filled with lounges, colorful flowers and green plants standing on artificial grass, surrounded by a beautiful blue and red wall and having an historic church tower in the background in Madeira

But no matter where you stay you’ll have time for a quick but beautiful coastal hike since the start of the hiking trail is only 20 minutes driving from the airport . The Vereda do Larano is one of the most scenic hiking trails in Madeira.

We started our hike in Porto da Cruz and followed the trail until the  Boca do Risco viewpoint . After relaxing a little and taking in the views we turned around and hiked back to our car. This way the total hiking distance was 13km .

madeira travel blog

Day 2 – Start your Madeira road trip with one of the most beautiful hikes in Madeira

Rise and shine! But honestly, it was more like rise and rain! Cause there was no sunshine to be spotted on the entire island.

One of the good things about Madeira is that there are two types of hikes. On the one hand you have the Vereda’s. Vereda hiking trails are up in the mountains of Madeira. They offer incredible vista’s but are often also a little more challenging.

And then there are the Levada’s. Levada walks are very popular in Madeira. They consist of maintained paths alongside man made water springs, making it a calming experience. You’ll be surrounded by lush nature and along the way you’ll see amazing panorama’s.

A Levada is also a little more sheltered so for our rainy day we decided to complete one of the most beautiful levada’s on the island of Madeira.

The Levada do Caldeirão Verde will take you through the lush jungles of Madeira, past several waterfalls and will even have you walk through tunnels! These tunnels can be very dark and have low ceilings in some places so one item you really have to bring is either a flashlight or a headlamp .

Cobblestone road leading to a fairy-tale white house in Madeira

The Caldeirão do Inferno waterfall hike is actually an elongation of the Levada do Caldeirão Verde and I highly recommend completing the entire trail! By doing so you’ll get to see a couple more spectacular waterfalls and walk through a mesmerizing canyon. I promise that you won’t regret it!

Charlotte on a hiking trail covered by leafs in a forest in Madeira

I do have to admit that by the time we got back to the car both of us were completely drenched. Our feet were soaking wet and even my underwear didn’t stay dry from all of the rain. But nonetheless this hike was so worth it and nothing a hot bath back at the house couldn’t fix.

Day 3 – Continue your 7 Day Madeira road trip itinerary by driving to the furthest point East

Well you know what they say… no rest for the wicked! Time for another spectacular hike today but rest assured, this one is a lot less wet!

Once you’ve parked your car you’ll quickly notice that the landscape here is completely different compared to the rest of the island. It almost looks like you landed on Mars! Welcome to the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço !

madeira travel blog

This is one of the more popular hikes in Madeira since it’s fairly easy to do. Do know that this part of the island can be extremely windy! Make sure to always stay on the hiking trail and don’t get too close to the edges!

The entire hike there and back will take 3 to 4 hours , depending on how many times you stop to take photos ;).

💡 TIP – There’s a beautiful viewpoint close to the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço called Ponta do Rosto . This is one of the best places in Madeira to watch the sunrise.

madeira travel blog

After this adventure it’s time to drive to Santana . This little town is known for it’s Casas Tipicas de Madeira, traditional stone houses with steep, triangular-shaped thatched roofs. These tiny houses are spread out through the small village so you are bound to run into a couple of them!

Charlotte wearing a nice dress standing next to a multiple colored flowerbed laying before a famous traditional stone house with a triangular-shaped thatched roof in Santana, Madeira

Day 4 – Time to explore the North Coast of Madeira

Today you’ll visit the lush side of Madeira, the part that will make you feel like you’re staring in Jurassic Park! One of the most beautiful towns in Madeira is Sao Vicente where you can also admire the Capelinha de Nossa Senhora de Fátima.

Charlotte balancing on a concrete wall in front of a very green hilly environment in Madeira, containing some typical white houses with orange colored roof tiles

Your next stop on today’s road trip is Miradouro do Véu da Noiva . A beautiful viewpoint that can get a little bit busy from time to time. The best thing to do is to just wait it out. Usually this is because a big tour bus just stopped by but they usually just hang around for 10 minutes and then leave for their next stop.

Charlotte sitting in a white dress on a small ridge in front of an epic view of a waterfall seeming to come from nowhere out of the cliffs and dropping its water in the ocean

Next up is the famous black beach in Seixal ! It’s pretty small but it does come with epic views that will make you feel like you’re in Hawaï. There is a parking lot right next to the beach and the drive from the previous waterfall is only 5 minutes.

Charlotte standing in her red bathing suit with her feet in the water of the ocean looking at the sky, contrasting perfectly with the black and sandy beach and dark hills in the background

There is one more stop that you can’t miss: Miradouro da Fajã do Barro . If you’ve ever been to Iceland these rock formations will look very familiar!

Epic rocky peaks rising out of the calm ocean surrounded by a blue sky

LUNCH – Have a delicious local lunch at Restaurant Lilinha in Seixal or go for a more fancy option at Cachalote in Porto Moniz.

Don’t forget to drive up to Miradouro da Santinha  for an incredibel panoramic view over the town of Porto Moniz.

Wonderful top view of the town Porto Moniz in Madeira located near the ocean, consisting of multiple white houses with typical orange roof tiles

If you want to add one more stop to your itinerary for today drive to Miradouro do Teleférico das Achadas da Cruz . Here you can take an epic cable car down the cliffs (€3 both ways). There is a short levada at the bottom but the views are absolutely amazing. And honestly, the cable car ride alone is worth the money!

Charlotte wandering on a paved and curved path in Madeira next to the ocean with a view n the cliffs located nearby

Next up is another incredible viewpoint along the West Coast of Madeira called the Miradouro do Ponta da Ladeira . Compared to other viewpoints in madeira this place is more of a hidden gem and not known by many people. So if you’re looking for a more off the beaten path sunset spot in Madeira then this is the one!

Charlotte standing between high grasses and plants admiring the epic view of the ocean hitting the wonderful cliffs of Madeira

Day 5 – Get ready for fairytale vibes and a ton of flowers

Do you want to know the best part? You don’t have to wake up super early today! Fanal is around 1 hour driving from Funchal or Santana but you don’t have to be here at sunrise. What you do have to do is check the webcams to see if there are clouds rolling in. Fanal is located in the North West part of the island and is actually part of the Vereda do Fanal! But you don’t have to do the entire hike to reach this enchanting forest. There is a parking lot right next to the Laurisilva forest ! On your way up there make sure to drive slowly. The local cows tend to also walk on the road in the area and they always have the right of way.

The same goes for when you are visiting the Laurisilva forest: watch where you are going! Especially when the area is covered with clouds your vision might be compromised and there is a lot of cow poop spread out through the meadow.

Make sure to take your time here. If you arrive and there is no fog simply enjoy the area and wait. We arrived at sunrise and around 10am the fog started to appear. In total we spent around 4 hours here, simply walking around and enjoying nature in all it’s beauty.

Charlotte standing in misty conditions in a white dress on a split tree, overlooking the mysterious forest of Fanal located in Madeira

Not far from Fanal you will find beautiful flower fields (that is if you’re visiting in March). On a sunny day you’ll be able to see yellow flowers as far as the eye can see! Almost all. ofthe locations that you’ll visit today are located on the Paul da Serra plateau .

Pico Ruivo do Paul is a spectacular viewpoint on the Paul da Serra plateau. Located at 1639 meters high this hidden gem in Madeira offers a stunning view over the valley of São Vicente and the highest peaks of Madeira.

Charlotte on a dirt trail on a very sunny day, enjoying the splendor of the yellow flowers and plants in Madeira

The Miradouro da Bica da Cana is another hidden gem in the heart of Madeira and also one of the best sunrise viewpoints in Madeira!

Bica da Cana is also located on the  Paul da Serra plateau  and at a height of  1560 meters . From here you’ll have a spectacular view over the highest peaks in Madeira and if you’re visiting during sunrise you might get extra lucky and have a sea of clouds below you.

Charlotte on a viewpoint overlooking the amazing surrounding mountains in Madeira.

There are two more hikes located on the Paul da Serra plateau.

The Levada do Risco and Levada das 25 Fontes. The actual hike itself starts about 25 minutes walking from the parking lot. From there you’ll reach the first waterfall in less than 20 minutes. Levada do Risco is an impressive double waterfall .

Epic cascade waterfall in a rocky but wooded area in Madeira

The second hike isn’t very far, simply turn around and follow the arrows that point towards Levada das 25 Fontes . This one is a little further but besides some steps going up and down it’s pretty okay.

Charlotte sitting in her yellow jacket on a rock in front of a waterfall, contrasting perfectly with the very green surrounding forest area in Madeira

Day 6 – The most beautiful hike on the island of Madeira

It honsetly doesn’t matter on which day you do this hike, you just have to make sure that it’s a clear day and that it doesn’t rain.

The PR1 Vereda do Areiero   connects the two highest peaks on the island : Pico do Arieiro (1818m) and Pico Ruivo (1862m). It’s one of the most incredible hikes in Madeira and you’ll definitely need at least 7 hours to complete it.

Ideally you’ll park your car at Pico do Arieiro from where you’ll follow the signs that say PR1 and will take you all the way to the highest point of the island.

Charlotte standing on a paved viewpoint in Madeira on the Pico to Pico trail holding the balustrade, admiring the peaks of the surrounding mountains coming above the clouds

Your first stop on this hike will be  Miradouro do Ninho da Manta , also known as the birds nest. Make sure to take out your camera and snap some photos.

People standing on a viewpoint above the clouds on the most famous hiking trail in Madeira

After this simply continue along the PR1 trail. On the way you’ll come across stairs, tunnels and insane panorama views. The reason why this trail is so tough is that you go almost entirely up and down the mountain. To add to that,  the PR1 is not a loop trail . Once you reach Pico Ruivo you have to hike the entire way back again.

Another option if you’re really too tired or if the weather doesn’t permit it is to take a taxi from the parking lot at Pico Ruivo. Do know that this will set you back around €65 and will take about an hour.

📖 READ MORE – Pico Do Arieiro To Pico Ruivo Hike – PR1 On Madeira

madeira travel blog

Day 7 – The last day of this perfect 7 day Madeira road trip itinerary

Depending on the time of your flight you’ll have time for one more hike. If you ‘re flight leaves in the morning not to worry! You can combine the following hike with the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço on day 3 of this Madeira travel guide.

Either way, you’ll be able to complete the Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova waterfall hike . Not only will you be face to face with one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Madeira. But you’ll also walk through a stunning valley the entire time. The The Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova waterfall hike is located in  Ponta do Sol  in the South coast of Madeira and is a 9km hike.

madeira travel blog

Not too far from Ponta do Sol you’ll find the Cascata dos Anjos . A truly unique waterfall in Madeira that you can actually drive underneath.

For more information about the best hikes in Madeira click here .

I hope this 7 day road trip itinerary for Madeira will inspire you to visit this beautiful island! If you have any questions about this itinerary simply drop them in the comment section below!

Favorite restaurants in Madeira

I pretty much love all the food that they serve on Madeira. The fresh fish, the typical potatoes and the juicy meat. There’s somthing for everyone! Some typical dishes you have to try on Madeira are: grilled octopus, lapas and steak with madeirasauce.

  • O Arco – Definitely try their Espetada (meat on long skewers)
  • Cachalote – The best restaurant in Porto Moniz with an excellent choice of seafood.
  • O Precipício – The food isn’t that spectacular but the view is one in a million!
  • A Pipa – The perfect place for dinner after finishing the Vereda do Larano

A local beer, a glass of red wine and a delicious plate of chicken and fries on a terrace of a local restaurant, with an amazing top view on a village near the coast

All rights reserved © Charlies Wanderings. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

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Charlotte Lint is the founder, main photographer and writer of Charlies Wanderings . She has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice. She is an expert on writing insightful hiking guides and creating unique and efficient travel itineraries . Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.

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April 25, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Wow I can’t believe I haven’t made it to Madeira yet, it looks incredible! I would love to do those hikes ? I’ll definitely save this post for whenever I get the chance to go!

Caroline says

April 25, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Nu wil in een ijsje en op trektocht gaan. Super mooie blogpost!

Charlotte says

April 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Dankjewel schat! Ik heb alvast ne pot Ben & Jerry’s standaard in mijne vriezer zitten deze periode :p

April 25, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Thank you Jen! Yes, Madeira really blew me away! I would go back in a heart beat!

Suvarna Arora says

April 25, 2020 at 12:46 pm

I never thought to spend a week in Madeira but you definitely convinced me. I have been dying to go.

April 25, 2020 at 12:50 pm

You would LOVE it! I can’t wait to go back one day!

April 25, 2020 at 2:06 pm

Your pictures are epic! Made me want to travel so badly 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Thank you so much Emma!

Jiayi Wang says

April 25, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Wow, I never knew Madeira was so beautiful!! But now I do thanks to this post – love the photos!! 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 2:54 pm

roshni says

April 25, 2020 at 4:18 pm

I have been before but missed seixal beach need to see it next time looks amazing

Katie | KatieGoes says

April 25, 2020 at 4:23 pm

WOW! Sounds like Madiera is massively under-rated! Looks like the European Hawaii.

April 25, 2020 at 4:24 pm

It was so beautiful! The beach itself is actually pretty small but the view you have from there is amazing!

Exactly!!! At times I felt like I was in Jurassic Park! Minus the velociraptors :p

Katja | placesandnotes says

April 25, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Such gorgeous photos, this post brings back memories! I was there with my girl friends for 6 days a couple of years ago and it was such a lovely trip with good food, some hikes, a bit of relaxing on the beack. Madeira is absolutely stunning. Great post 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 4:46 pm

Hi Katja!! Thank you so much! Aaaah that honestly sounds like the perfect holiday!!!

Zsuzsanna says

April 25, 2020 at 5:21 pm

Such a cool guide! Now I really want to take a road trip to Madeira! I will save your guide for a future trip 🙂

Ophelie says

April 25, 2020 at 5:22 pm

I have never seen any pictures from Madeira before! It’s a pleasure to discover it through your lens!

April 25, 2020 at 5:23 pm

Thank you so much!!!!

April 25, 2020 at 5:24 pm

Thank you so much Ophelie!!! It’s such a beautiful island!

Ellie Green says

April 25, 2020 at 5:26 pm

I’d never given much thought to Madeira but your pictures have added it to my bucket list! The coastline and landscape look so epic!

OMG Ellie! You would LOVE Madeira!!!

Simona says

April 25, 2020 at 6:12 pm

Madeira is actually one of my favourite European islands <3 Travlled there 3 years ago for my BD and fell in love. Thank for giving me some ideas for my next trip there 😉

Camilla says

April 25, 2020 at 6:13 pm

So beautiful ! Thanks for sharing all these tips, it’s like being able to travel again even if just with my mind 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 6:16 pm

Oh so happy to hear that Simona! That must have been one epic birthday!!!

I know! It also helped me to relax a little about the current situation while writing this!

Paloma Fts says

April 25, 2020 at 8:18 pm

Girl I looove your photos and your edition! I’m dying to visit Madeira as well!

Thank you so much Paloma!!!

Sandra // BlueMarble Vagabonds says

April 25, 2020 at 8:25 pm

Oh, that’s a great itinerary! As we are mountain bikers with hubby, Maderia is our bucket list destination, but we’re gonna include other things as well – so thanks for this, will definitely save for later! 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 8:29 pm

OMG Sandra! I applaud you! Like the hills in Madeira are absolutely insane! My mom and I often said how crazy it would be to bike up one of them! I guess if you would go for biking I think it would be best to switch between Funchal and Seixal 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Stunning photos! Definitely added this to my wishlist for travel ^_^

April 25, 2020 at 8:32 pm

Thank you so much Nele!

April 25, 2020 at 9:21 pm

I have been wanting to go here in forever!! It just looks so incredible and not even that far away! Thanks for all the guidance and tips 🙂

April 25, 2020 at 9:28 pm

Wow so beautiful. Madeira is climbing higher and higher on my top list, especially after ready this post and enjoying the beautiful scenery and landscapes. I can’t wait to discover soon. Thanks for sharing.

April 25, 2020 at 9:40 pm

My absolute pleasure! I hope you get to go soon!

April 25, 2020 at 9:41 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words Mayi!

April 25, 2020 at 9:43 pm

Such a beautiful place! Your photos make me want to travel there right now :). I’m saving this for my future trip.

April 25, 2020 at 9:46 pm

Thank you so much Emese!

April 25, 2020 at 9:53 pm

Incredible Views! Never thought that Madeira has such a beautiful nature. Definitely on my bucket list now. Thanks for the inspiration.

April 25, 2020 at 9:58 pm

Happy you like it! 🙂

Jen Nilsson says

April 25, 2020 at 10:35 pm

Wow! This is seriously comprehensive! I am very impressed. I saved this for later and put Madeira on my bucket list.

galatia savva says

Portugal is just full of suprises! makes me want to visit now!

Marika says

April 25, 2020 at 11:21 pm

I LOVE your pictures!! I have always wanted to go to Madeira. so I will definitely pin your post fro later!

Sujenne says

April 26, 2020 at 12:08 am

Omg! Your pictures are amazing!!! And this roadtrip got me hooked!! Booking as soon as I can … I need this trip in my life!

April 26, 2020 at 9:32 am

Thank you so much Jen! 🙂

Oooh so happy to hear that! 🙂

April 26, 2020 at 9:33 am

Aaaah Sujenne!! I am so happy to hear that! Honestly, you will have the time of your life!!

April 26, 2020 at 9:34 am

Thank you so much Marika! 🙂

Francesca says

April 26, 2020 at 10:48 am

Madeira looks like such a gorgeous place and I love your photos! They have such a dreamy fairytale quality to them.

April 26, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Thank you so much Francesca!!!

Miriam Menkarius says

April 26, 2020 at 4:15 pm

OMG these photos are amazing! Made me add Madeira to my list! Thanks for such a beautiful post!

April 26, 2020 at 4:16 pm

So happy to hear that Miriam!

April 27, 2020 at 3:53 am

Your photos are so incredible! I am dreaming to go!

April 27, 2020 at 7:09 am

Thank you so much Sam!

Lisanne says

May 9, 2020 at 9:23 am

Oh wow, I’ve been to Madeira myself yeaars ago, but didn’t do a road trip! Definitely regret it now! Have to go back haha!

May 9, 2020 at 9:36 am

You would love it!! It’s honestly the best way to see the island!

February 7, 2022 at 6:14 pm

Gorgeous photos!

Just a note on this: “This hike is a loop so you will have to go the same way back as you came.” This is not what loop means, in regard to hikes. You are describing an out and back hike.

Also, for those who are new to hiking and getting inspired by this post, you should NEVER wear jeans on a hike. They can get saturated (b/c they are cotton) if it’s raining and do not try quickly. This can lead to hypothermia if the temps drop. Maybe not a concern in Madeira (I don’t have first hand experience there), but a good rule of thumb for hiking in general.

February 7, 2022 at 8:45 pm

Hi Jen, Thx for the info! I should adapt that yes, good thing I am going back to Madeira so I’ll be able to update the post with a lot of new hikes. Honestly I just wore the jeans cause it was a super short and more like a walk honestly :p. I actually have a lot of hiking experience and know not to wear fabrics like that 🙂

February 13, 2022 at 7:43 pm

Thank you for your fantastic tour of Madeira. My 19 year old son and I have been deciding where to go on a father/son trip, and this has just about convinced me that Madeira is the right place to go to, indeed using much or all of your itinerary. I have a couple of questions, if you don’t mind.

Firstly, you based yourself in Funchal for the entire week, but do you think your itinerary would work well by staying for half of the week in Funchal, and for the other half of the week in a different location, perhaps up towards the north west of the island? I’m just thinking it might be fun to stay in two locations rather than one.

Secondly, I can’t see that your itinerary allows for a great deal of time in Funchal itself. Did you get to spend much time there, or not?

We’re hoping to go at the very beginning of March for a week, so will take appropriate clothing. I know that the sea temperature won’t be great, but probably warmer than in the UK at any time of the year, so we’ll hopefully do some sea swimming, which we love.

Thank you. Al

February 13, 2022 at 10:54 pm

First off thank you so much for your lovely feedback! And hell yes I think it’s an awesome idea to choose two locations and I would definitely then go more North towards Seixal or Porto Da Cruz! We’re actually heading back to Madeira as well in March so I can’t wait to explore even more! I’m not much of a city person, especially on an island like Madeira which has so much spectacular nature! The old town of Funchal is nice but you can’t compare it to other historic cities in Portugal. But we did make time to get lunch or some ice cream. But I highly recommend focussing on the nature! 🙂

kalaman says

November 5, 2023 at 2:27 pm

Hey Charlotte, ik scheef je eerder over Cathedral Valley (had toen per ongelijk mijn mailadres gebruikt als login). Mede dankzij jouw blog gaan we begin juni wellicht naar Madeira. Vind je het dan al te laat om van de bloemenpracht te genieten en heel wat hikes te doen? Verbleef je gedurende 7 dagen op dezelfde plaats? Is het dan niet veel over en weer gerij? Ik lees namelijk dat er heel wat wandelingen en uitzichtpunten zijn verspreid over het eiland. Het is nu wel niet zo groot, maar die smalle bergwegen schieten wellicht ook voor geen meter op. Ik zie dat het bvb van Santana naar Port Moniz al meer dan een uur rijden is (enkel).

November 6, 2023 at 1:20 pm

Hoi hoi, beide keren verbleef ik altijd op 1 plek maar je kan ook half/half doen en je tijd verdelen tussen het zuiden en noorden. Hiken zal zeker lukken maar geen idee of er dan nog veel bloemen gaan zijn, daar is de ideale maand mei voor.

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Say Yes to Madeira

Category: madeira travel blog.

Madeira Travel Blog – free video/photo guides and reviews helping you plan your own holidays on this beautiful island

Category Madeira Travel Blog includes guides on the best attractions and active trips in Madeira, the most beautiful hiking routes and viewpoints in Madeira, and interesting places worth seeing. Recommended stays and hotels around Madeira, Madeira festivals, ferry connections to/from Madeira, and many more:

madeira travel blog

Weddings & staying at the Golden Residence Hotel

Weddings at the Golden Residence Hotel – video, pictures & stay review.

madeira travel blog

Art Center Caravel Funchal

Funchal’s gem for all creative souls, nomad workers & visitors. Get inspired & explore the biggest International Art Center of Madeira with us!

madeira travel blog

10 questions about self-guided tours on Madeira (+promo code!)

Looking for self-guided tours in Madeira? Easiest ways to reach the most popular (and unreachable by public transport) hikes on Madeira? Or, would you like to learn more about…

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Staying at the charming 1905 Zino’s Palace Hotel

We arrived at 1905 Zino’s Palace hotel impressed with its architecture and design, and we left 1905 Zino’s Palace impressed with its service…

Dolina Zakonnic na Maderze - Curral das Freiras - Ciekawe miejsca w Dolinie Zakonnic na Maderze

Hidden gem: Poço dos Chefes

Poço dos Chefes is the icing on the cake during summer trips to the Valley of the Nuns in Madeira. Do not forget to pack your bathing suit and…

Digital Nomads village Ponta do Sol - remote working in Europe

New Digital Nomads Village on Madeira Island

Are you considering working remotely? You now have a lovely opportunity to work while living on a beautiful European island, where the Atlantic Ocean meets high mountains. An island…

Najpiekniejsze szlaki na Maderze - Lagoa do Vento Wind Pond

Madeira hikes: Lagoa do Vento (Wind Pond)

Lagoa do Vento is one of my favorite hikes in Madeira. It requires good condition, so if you think you can do it – you won’t regret it.

madeira travel blog

Madeira hikes: Levada do Alecrim

The Levada do Alecrim is a flat, easy, family-friendly levada. Are you looking for something more challenging? On your ways back turn right towards the Lagoa do Vento.

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Staying in an oceanfront cliff cabin/tent on Madeira

I really love Funchal, but sometimes I also like to leave it for a few nights, stay in an unusual place surrounded by nature and wake up to an…

Best unique nature stays Madeira Porto Santo

10 cool and unusual stays on Madeira Islands

Secluded cottages, huts, cliffside tents, domes, tipis, soul glamping, RV’s & more – 10 cool, unique and unusual stays on Madeira & Porto Santo

Madeira webcams - Madeira Weather

Webcams on Madeira & Porto Santo

A list of 10 most useful and interesting webcams in Madeira. Maps, nearby attractions, tips and… a surprise!

Best sunrise hikes on Madeira: Achadas do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo trail (PR1) I Sunrise Pico Ruivo

Spectacular Sunrise Hike to Pico Ruivo (PR1.2)

Sunrise we were blessed with on our way from Achadas do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo (Trail PR1.2). Best spots for watching the sunrise on Madeira…

COMMENTS

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    Below I've outlined my 7-day Madeira itinerary that includes the most scenic hikes and levada walks, volcanic beaches, viewpoints, picturesque towns and more. At the end of the article, you'll also find a map with all the stops on this travel itinerary as well as my recommendations for where to stay in Madeira. north coast of Madeira.

  2. 38 Amazing Things to Do in Madeira (In 2024)

    Garganta Funda Viewpoint - One of the highest waterfalls in Madeira, and just a 5-minute walk in each direction. Boa Morte Viewpoint - Location of both a viewpoint and a church of the same name, walk past some chilled out cows to this viewpoint of the East Madeira costline. 25. Swim in the natural pools at Porto Moniz.

  3. Madeira Travel Guide: 20 Things To Know Before You Go

    12.1) Airbnb in Madeira. There are plenty of Airbnb rental properties available in Madeira, but they don't come cheap. I'd recommend widening your search to camping pods, tipis or basic huts… there are some gorgeous little places tucked away in secluded spots that are often much cheaper than apartments.

  4. Madeira On The Map

    Welcome to Madeira On The Map: Your one-stop Madeira travel blog. Tired of visiting the same old tourist destinations? This blog was created by travel writer Katie Treharne as a one-stop guide to destinations, hikes, and tourist attractions in Madeira, as well as other island necessities like poncha and pastel de nata.

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    We're Marek and Inês, a Dutch-Portuguese couple, and we love spending time on the marvellous island of Madeira! On this blog we share practical tell-it-like-it-is travel guides based on our own experience. About.

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    The first day trip you can easily do without a car is to the Eira Do Serrado Viewpoint, located at 1095m. Bus 81, departing from the centre of Funchal, will take you all the way up to the viewpoint for a price of around €6 return. It takes a good 45 minutes for the bus to reach the viewpoint.

  7. The Perfect 5 Days in Madeira, Portugal Itinerary

    V. Best Restaurants in Madeira . TERRA ★: Vegan-friendly and multi-cultural dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the island and offering outdoor seating. Reservations required! Olivia ★: Over 47 different Mediterranean-style meals on the menu, outdoor dining, and a lively environment (can be loud). Affordable for Old Town Funchal. Kampo: A favorite in Funchal among locals, with ...

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    When in Madeira you will have have pretty much four options to explore this green island: Rent a car. Base yourself in Funchal and hire a taxi driver. Base yourself in Funchal and book day tours. Base yourself in Funchal and get around by bus. 1. RENT A CAR.

  9. Madeira Travel Guide 2024 · Itineraries, Top Hikes, Viewpoints

    What's more, you'll still be able to enjoy Madeira's mild climate, with temperatures of about 16°C to 20°C; it's the perfect time to take explore the island's epic hiking trails. Shoulder Seasons: Spring (April - June) and fall (September - October) is the best time to visit Madeira.

  10. 4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

    This itinerary is the first in a long line of Madeira travel blogs I plan to write over the next few months; subscribe now so you don't miss them! 4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors. Nicknamed 'the island of eternal spring', Madeira is a stunning island within the Portuguese archipelago and is full of treasures for nature ...

  11. Madeira Travel Guide: How to Discover Madeira Island

    6 Ponta do Garajau. Above the natural reserve of Garajau, this headland is famous for the Christ statue (Cristo Rei). Originally built in 1927 to welcome whoever arrived to Madeira by sea, it's a great photo opportunity, with amazing views over Desertas (uninhabited islands) and the beaches of Reis Magos and Galo.

  12. Madeira 10 Day Itinerary, Portugal (Ultimate Travel Guide)

    Costs of Traveling in Madeira. Travel on a budget in Madeira, from $550 − $410 USD weekly per person, mid-range $1070 − $2120 USD, and high-end from $2110 − $2930 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights.

  13. 18 Unmissable Things to do in Madeira, Portugal (2024 Guide)

    11. Sao Vicente Chapel (Unique Thing to do in Madeira!) Located in the very north of Madeira, the Sao Vicente Chapel (Nossa Senhora de Fátima) is a hidden gem on the island. The chapel is located in the coastal village of Sao Vicente, with an azure blue ocean on one side and vibrant green mountains on the other.

  14. A Madeira Travel Guide For Explorers

    Drop-off date. Driver's country of residence is United States of America (USA) and age is 30-65. Search for Car Rental. Exploring Madeira by car lets you easily explore far beyond Funchal and into the charming rural areas. The south has many sun-drenched coastal villages, such as Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol, and Calheta.

  15. Madeira Travel Guide: everything you need to know (2024)

    Tasty, healthy, and seasonal food is what Madeira is all about. It's also quite affordable! A one-course meal costs €10 EUR ($12 USD), and a multiple course meal including a main dish, side dish, dessert, and water will cost €20 EUR ($23 USD). An espresso costs anything from €0.60 EUR ($0.70 USD) to €1 ($1.15 USD).

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  17. Madeira Itinerary: Incredible 3 to 7-Day Trips & Tips for First Timers

    The Madeira Cable Car is a part of the Old Town and will take you from Funchal to Monte in 15 minutes. The admission is 16 euros per person, with a 50% discount for children (7-14), and a free entry for younger guests. The Botanical Garden Cable Car connects the Botanical Garden Station with Monte.

  18. Seven Day Road Trip Itinerary for Madeira, Portugal

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    The best time to visit Madeira. Madeira is a year-round destination, that's for sure. If you want to enjoy the hottest and driest months, then prepare for a trip from May to August. The averaging temperatures are in their mid-20s. Be sure to wear sunscreen during your hikes for when you get up the mountain.

  21. The Perfect 7 Day Madeira Travel Itinerary

    Day 7 - The last day of this perfect 7 day Madeira road trip itinerary. Depending on the time of your flight you'll have time for one more hike. If you 're flight leaves in the morning not to worry! You can combine the following hike with the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço on day 3 of this Madeira travel guide.

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    Madeira news blog. The best blog on the island of Madeira, bringing you all the latest news, events, videos and photos from the worlds leading island destination. ... Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Don\'t worry, I also hate spam. Email Address Subscribe Social Media. Car Hire.