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Best things to do in Madeira

Fun and unique things to do in Madeira. Top attractions and things you cannot miss during your next visit to the Madeira island.

Valley of the nuns waterfalls Madeira

There are so many things to do in Madeira, visitors keep coming back to discover even more. Madeira island together with Porto Santo island and Desertas form the Madeira archipelago. Madeira is a year round destination in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the best destinations for nature lovers.

Anywhere you visit in Madeira, you'll find natural wonders, top tourist attractions and incredible food. Drive on the rugged coastline, chill on the beach, or brave a long Levada walk. The entire island is filled with places to see and things to do.

Madeira is a fantastic and safe destination but remember to always purchase your travel insurance. You'll want to be covered and have peace of mind when you visit Madeira.

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Things To Do In Madeira

At first glance, Madeira feels like an untamed island with many Jurassic like vista points. Madeira is the perfect destination for adventure lovers, with impressive hikes and astounding treks along Levada. There are many outdoors things to do in Madeira, this island being one of the most phenomenal destinations in Europe for walks. For outdoors lovers, Madeira is the most natural choice for a holiday.

Visit Madeira if you want to escape to a sunny destination with plenty of beaches. Beaches here are of volcanic origin, some pebbly, other with black sand. The hotels along the south coast have great ocean views, balconies with lounging chairs and infinity pools.

Madeira is a relatively small island and driving in Madeira is one of the most exciting things to do. You'll be able to reach some lesser explored hiking trails and take day trips to main attractions dotted all around the island.

Here's what to do in Madeira, with the top attractions and adventures you should consider. You will love your time in Madeira, and you'll be back before you know it!

Destinations Madeira

Meander Around Funchal

Funchal is the capital of Madeira, and it's usually the first point of interest on the island. Funchal is a city with colourful streets, fantastic restaurants and vibrant markets. The best thing to do in Funchal is to take a food tour and eat all the great food Madeira has to offer.

Start the day with a trip to the local market and eat locally grown exotic fruit. Madeira grows a variety of passion fruits, bananas, mangoes and more. Continue your foodie trail to a local bakery and order a bola do caco, typical bread made with sweet potato.

At the markets, you'll likely see the underwater monsters, espada fish, a black and scary looking fish which turns into a real delicacy here in Madeira. Sit down in any traditional restaurants and order the Madeira traditional dish: espada fish with fried bananas.

When it comes to drinks, Funchal doesn't disappoint either. Try the famed poncha, a spirit mixed with passion fruit or orange juice. Drink ginjinha, a cherry liquor served in chocolate cups, and toast to your health with Madeira wine.

Of course, there's more to Funchal than just food. Once you have a full belly, it's time to see other main Funchal attractions. Visit the Funchal Cathedral, located right in the city centre, as a symbol of power and prosperity.

Take a cable car ride from the Funchal bay to Monte. Visit the Madeira Botanical Garden, then take a toboggan ride back into Funchal.

History lovers, immerse yourselves in the “Madeira Film Experience” 30-minute audiovisual journey that covers the 600 years of the history and culture of Madeira island.

Most visitors decide to stay in one of the affordable luxury resorts located in or near Funchal, then take day trips to the most interesting points of interest. Book your accommodation in advance, as the good hotels get booked weeks in advance!

Beyond Madeira Cake Funchal Streets

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Madeira is the island of eternal spring and has a perfect subtropical weather. This means you won't be short of lush vegetation all around. Head to Monte Palace Tropical Garden, one of the botanical gardens in Madeira which look incredible year around.

It offers stunning views all over the Funchal city and Funchal bay. The many paths take you to different parts of the garden, some of which have waterfalls, ponds, Asian bridges and stunning orchids. Allocate at least a couple of hours to take it all in.

The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is surrounded by purity and tranquillity, and the gardens are a stunning display of how well looked after nature looks like.

The easiest way to get to the garden is to take the Monte cable car from Funchal.

Book a private guided tour of the Tropical Garden.

Cory Botanic Garden Funchal Madeira Trees

Go on a food tour

Madeira island is perfect for foodie travellers. And the best way to experience it all is to take a food tour with a local. They know the newest and most exciting restaurants that come up with innovative dishes.

You'll want them to take you to historic shops such as the Fábrica Santo Antonio, a secret biscuit shop in Funchal that sells unbelievable bolo de mel, sugar cane biscuits and delicious jams.

Discover delicious food in the old town where you'll sample a bit of everything: locally grown fruits, octopus salad, chorizo sausage cooked right at your table, and grilled limpets.

A great guide will reveal countless hidden gems to try small dishes of Vinha D'Alhos, laurel skewers, local cheeses and a great glass of Madeira wine.

Book your food tour in Madeira.

Chorizo on flames in Madeira - a delicious food in Madeira you need to try

Drive Around The Island

You'll want to take at least a day trip to explore the whole of Madeira island, but we recommend renting a car for a few days. Driving in Madeira is a lot of fun, as the roads are narrower and a little more challenging.

Don't worry though, if you're an experienced driver you'll be just fine. Just respect the signs and the speed limit. We recommend renting an automatic with a good engine, so you don't struggle to go up and down Madeira's mountain roads.

Driving will enable you to visit many interesting points of attractions. See the volcanic cliffs at Ponta de São Lourenço and relax on the black sand beaches in Caniçal on the East Coast.

Take your car to the northern coast to swim in the natural pools of Porto Moniz or to visit the São Vicente caves.

Also located on the north coast, it's the civil parish of Ilha, a perfect getaway to some of the best Levada walks including Vereda da Ilha, Caldeirão Verde.

On the north-east coast, you must visit the gorgeous Santana traditional houses, the ideal location for a mix of culture and adventure. Purchase local souvenirs from Madeiran artisans, then venture on Levada da Silveira.

Book your car rental in Madeira.

Pico Ruivo Madeira Drive Fog

See The Incredible Ponta Do Pargo

The most famous viewpoint on the island has to be at the Ponta do Pargo. You'll see hungry waves crashing into the tall volcanic cliffs. On the west-most point of Madeira island, Ponta do Pargo offers unforgettable vantage points stretching for miles toward the horizon. Time your arrival well and admire a stunning sunset over the Atlantic.

Once you park your car, you'll head to the Farol da Ponta do Pargo, which initially looks like an ordinary lighthouse perched on a Madeiran cliff. Walk just a few minutes more, and you'll be rewarded with the best view of the island.

It takes less than an hour to drive to Ponto do Pargo from Funchal. This really is one of the best things to do in Madeira and well worth a drive.

Ponto do Pargo Madeira View from the Left

Hike To Pico Ruivo

Hiking enthusiasts will want to drive to the Pico Ruivo car park and venture to the top of Madeira island. The hike to Pico Ruivo is moderate, but it's the sun that makes it challenging.

Pico Ruivo, Madeira's highest peak, often pierces through the clouds, which means you'll likely hike under direct sunlight. It's not uncommon to drive in that looks like rainy and cloudy weather, then find yourself exposed to high UV lights as you make your way to the top of the mountain.

Drive through thick fog and mysterious lush forests all the way to the car park, already located in a key point for stunning photography. From your car, the return hike to the top of Pico Ruivo takes roughly 3 hours.

Bring a hat, plenty of sunscreen, good hiking shoes. There are resting huts along the hike, so bring water and snacks for a quick pick-me-up.

Book a guided hike to Pico Ruivo with a professional guide.

Pico Ruivo Madeira Path Cloud

Day trip to Camara De Lobos

Camara De Lobos, located on the south coast, is the perfect day trip from Funchal. Enjoy a sunny afternoon with good food and admire the many colorful fishing boats in the bay.

The village acquired its name thanks to explorers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira because of the shape of the bay and the seals (lobos) living there at the time. Today, the species of monk seals are rare, but you can see some on the Desertas Islands.

The location also inspired Winston Churchill to paint the surroundings.

Câmara de Lobos, has several points of interest, such as Pico da Torre, Curral das Freiras, Boca dos Namorados, Boca da Corrida and Cabo Girão.

Book a skywalk with Madeira wine tasting.

Fishing Village in Madeira

Photograph Cabo Girão

Since you are in Camara De Lobos for the day, you must carve some time to photograph Cabo Girão. Cabo Girão is a sea cliff on Madeira's south coast with dramatic views. But to be rewarded by the views, you must be brave and step on a glass floor built over the abyss.

Your legs might get a bit wobbly if you're afraid of heights because this is one of the highest cliffs in the entire world. The Cabo Girão skywalk is the second-highest skywalk in the world after the Grand Canyon.

Cabo Girão is a popular tourist attraction and considered one of the best things to do in Madeira. It can get a bit busy at times, so be patient and wait for your turn to take the best photos. If you visit on a sunny day, bring your sunscreen and a hat.

It can get windy, so hold on to the safety rails and grab a light windbreaker for your comfort. Now admire the beautiful world around you. Isn't Madeira island so stunning?

Madeira Cabo Girao Vista

Hike Near Santana

Santana is a delightful village in Madeira and a getaway to some of the best hikes in the Madeiran mountains. Santana is well known for the traditional Santana houses, the cute A-frame houses with straw roofs, and painted accents. Most of these houses have been transformed into souvenir shops where locals sell their artisanal items.

Santana is a fantastic location to start many Levada walks from. Choose from Levada Caldeirão do Inferno, Reserva Natural da Rocha do Navio or Levada do Furado.

There are a few observation points in Santana as well, including the gorgeous Miradouro Pico da Boneca, Ponta do Clérigo and Miradouro da Rocha do Navio.

Book a Santana houses tour in Madeira.

Madeira Santana Sea Balance Cory Lifestyle

Hike The Levada Do Cadeirão Verde

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Madeira, and many visitors come to Madeira for weeks to explore its most excellent Levada trails.

Levada do Cadeirão Verde is one of the most beautiful on the island which takes you through small and dark tunnels, narrow levada next to deep chasm and tall lush mountains. You'll pass waterfalls, see Japanese cedars, Madeiran blueberries and indigenous laurel.

Madeira Caldeiro Verde Levada Trail

See The Fantastic Porto Moniz

Visit Porto Moniz to see the beautiful natural pools. Open to the public, you can swim in these saltwater swimming pools naturally created in volcanic rocks. It's a unique attraction and one of the greatest things to do in Madeira is you ever wanted to swim in the ocean. There is a small, nominal fee to access the pools. Remember to always follow the signs and the lifeguard advise. Some pools might be closed because of the waves.

Once refreshed from your swimming session, take the car up to Santinha Viewpoint, a spectacular viewing platform above Porto Moniz. The drive itself is also fabulous. Take on the hilly, winding roads lined with eucalyptus trees and blooming hydrangeas.

Book your Porto Moniz tour.

Madeira Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools

Porto da Cruz

The small town of Porto da Cruz is a lovely spot in Madeira on the upper east coast. Take a promenade along the little harbour and sit down in one of the many bistros here.

There are two swimming pools here, but many prefer the actual shores for a surfing session. It's one of the best locations for surfers on the island, and a great one for amateurs too.

For something fiery, visit the old rum factory for a taste of authentic Madeira rum.

Porto da Cruz rocky beach in Madeira

Ponta de São Lourenço

A hike to Ponta de São Lourenço has to be one of the best things to do in Madeira. You've definitely seen it in pictures before, one of the most luring cliff scenery on the whole Madeira island.

This walk takes you on the long thin peninsula at the eastern end of the island. It is part of Madeira's natural park in Caniçal. It is one of the most popular walks in Madeira, which means it can get very busy during the daytime. Best to arrive as early as possible to start the hike.

Hike in a protected area with many endemic species, recognized as an Important Bird Area. The entire trail is 8 km, so allocate around 4 hours for the hike.

If the weather conditions are favourable, you can see the Porto Santo island from Ponta de São Lourenço.

After your hike, visit the Madeira whale museum in Caniço, then sit down and relax with a glass of port wine, admiring the stunning volcanic island you are on.

Book a Full-Day Jeep Safari East - Pico do Areeiro - Santana - Ponta de São Lourenço.

Driving in Madeira is super challenging

Hike around Ribeiro Frio Natural Park

Hiking around Ribeiro Frio natural park is by far one of the best things to do in Madeira. You'll be surrounded by aromatic forests and lush vegetation. The Ribeiro Frio is located at the intersection of several Levada walks.

The easiest is to take the Caminho dos Balcões Path, which also has the beautiful Balcões vista point, a viewing platform opened towards a lush, stunning landscape. Think high rocky peaks all covered in green vegetation. For a longer and a bit more difficult hike, join in with Levada da Serra.

The park is special as it still contains much of the original “Laurisilva”, the natural forest of Madeira. This laurel forest is the largest in the world, and the Laurisilva of Madeira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visit the trout farm, then sit down at the local restaurant to enjoy a freshly cooked fish or to try the chorizo sausage cooked at your table.

Madeira Levada Do Caldeirao Verde waterfall

Valley of the Nuns

Valley of the nuns comes with an interesting story, as it got its name from nuns who escaped to hide from the pirates on the coast.

The location is extraordinary, nestling between almost perpendicular mountains in the heart of the island. The Valley of the nuns is now a little village built on a crater of an extinct volcano.

Visit the Paredão viewpoint, which offers a different perspective with misty views over the valley or hike the Eira do Serrado, a path with 2000 steps.

Back in the village, sit down at the Restaurante Sabores do Curral and order the roasted chestnuts, or the traditional tomato soup. The restaurant's upper terrace offers some of the most stunning views in Madeira alongside its delicious food.

Book a Valleys of Nuns Tour from Funchal.

Valley of the nuns waterfalls Madeira

How to get to Madeira

To get to Madeira, you will have to take a plane to the island. You will arrive at the Funchal airport also known as Cristiano Ronaldo international airport. To land on Madeira, pilots need special training as this is a difficult airport to land. Because the landing strip is so small, together with the wind and other challenging weather conditions, landing in Madeira takes a lot of skill.

How many days do you need in Madeira?

To see the highlights in Madeira, you will need at least 7 days on the island. Many visitors come back and stay between 7-14 days to cover even more ground. There are so many things to do in Madeira, you will want to allocate at least a week to enjoy them all.

What is Madeira best known for?

Madeira is best known for its stunning vegetation, near perpendicular mountains, Levada walks and incredible gastronomy. Madeira wine is unique here, islanders grow their own exotic fruit and the landscape, including the laurel forest, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What is the best month to visit Madeira?

Madeira is a year round destination, but the months of August and September are the best time to visit. Madeira is blessed with subtropical climate with days of sunshine year around. However, the end of summer and beginning of autumn bring the hottest temperatures on Madeira.

What can you do in Madeira without a car?

You can rely on public transport to take you to the beginning of many of the Levada walks. You'll be able to take buses to various points of interest and to some unique villages on the island too. Most visitors without a car position themselves in Funchal and take day trips from there.

What should I not miss Madeira?

You should take a food tour to sample as much of the gastronomy Madeira is known for, venture on a Levada walk and swim in the natural pools in Porto Moniz. There are many things to do in Madeira, and you'll definitely want to see some of its viewing points such as Ponta do Pargo or Cabo Girão to admire the high cliffs towering to the sea.

What is Madeira like to visit?

Madeira is a fantastic place to visit, especially for nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts. Madeira feels like the whole island is a nature reserve with incredible landscapes, stunning peaks and breathtaking trails deep in the mountains.

Which part of Madeira is the best?

All parts of Madeira are astounding to visit and unique in their own way. The south coast receives more sunshine and is usually frequented by beach lovers. The West Coast has stunning trails and traditional villages. The north coast is known for its natural pools and caves. The West Coast is most raw and unpopulated, with stunning vista points and winding, hilly roads.

Madeira Pico Ruivo Hike Top

Are you ready to explore all the wonderful things to do in Madeira? You're going to have so much fun exploring Madeira. We've no doubt you will fall in love with Madeira so much, you'll be coming back over and over to enjoy all its riches.

What do you think?

Did you like this article? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.

Your Comment

S
Susan Turner
25 Aug 2018

Although not a hiker, I enjoyed reading about your experiences in Madeira, especially about the roads. (The search engine pointed me here when I asked about Madeira roads) We've just returned from a holiday there and I was scared witless with some of the roads our guide drove us up! You were very brave to drive. Stunning views but tortuous getting to them!
Susan

D
Donna
24 Jan 2018

Your blogs on Madeira are very helpful! Is it possible to send your itinerary as well as where you based yourself? We are avid hikers and I am planning for March and any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

C
Cory
24 Jan 2018

Hi Donna,

Thank you for your message. We are in the process of putting together a great itinerary for Madeira which will hopefully be released soon.
We def recommend: https://www.youcouldtravel.com/travel-blog/how-i-found-the-end-of-the-wo...

It's a must! We stayed in Caniço but we rented a car so we can drive anywhere. The most beautiful trails are in Santiago. Happy to send the itinerary over once it's done!

Kind Regards,

Cory

D
Donna
25 Jan 2018

Thank you, Cory!