A beautiful island located in the Atlantic, Madeira is one of the most mesmerising destinations I’ve travelled to. Still relatively untouched, with wild eucalyptus forests, quaint villages and breathtaking views, there are so many things to do in Madeira.
Anywhere I went around Madeira, I got rewarded with dramatic vistas stretching as far as the horizon. I spent over a week in Madeira and I felt it was not enough, to such extent that I would love to move and live amongst the super laid-back locals.
The best things to do in Madeira - Contents
Things to do in Madeira
Madeira is still very much a wild island in the process of being tamed. It offers myriad of walking opportunities, being known as the hiker's paradise. Rightfully so, as I dedicated almost every day of my travels around Madeira, to discovering a new trekking opportunity. For the outdoors lovers, Madeira seems like the most natural choice for a holiday.
Sleep in Caniço
First thing with any traveller is to find the right accommodation. I got really lucky to have found a cheap and beautiful apartment with sea views in Caniço. I decided not to rent in Funchal because Caniço seemed much cheaper than renting something in the capital. Besides, Funchal was located 10 min away by car. I ended up staying in a brilliant accommodation and saving a lot of money. I stayed in Apartments Madeira.
Get a rental
I really wanted to explore Madeira and travel all around the island. There are places which I couldn’t have managed to see without the aid of a car. Prices for cars were very cheap and I recommend going with a local company as opposed to a well-known brand which charges more.
Ponta do Pargo
This was by far my favourite point in Madeira. I spent over an hour admiring the hungry waves hitting the upright cliffs. The vistas were incredible and I really can’t imagine how lucky the locals must feel, to wake up and be walking distance away from such beautiful scenery. Take your time and visit Ponta do Pargo, you really won’t regret it.
This is a moderate hike which can be a bit challenging, especially if you do it whilst the Madeiran sun is shining brightly upon you. The heat slowed me down and I swear I got a sunstroke by the end of it. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks with you. Getting to Pico Ruivo is possible by car, a journey which proved to be incredible. I had to drive through thick fog and enjoyed mysterious sights of lush forests. Really beautiful! From the car park, the return hike to the top of Pico Ruivo takes roughly 3 hours. In the end, you will be rewarded with some of the most impressive sights of Madeira, especially if you get good weather and hike above clouds.
Funchal is the capital of Madeira and it’s the place to visit if you want to understand a bit more about how the locals live like. It’s a great place to check out the morning fruit and flower market and the best place to get an introduction to the local cuisine (which btw, it’s amazing). I say drive to Funchal in the morning, go to the market, take a stroll around town and indulge yourself in locally grown fruit and handmade specialities.
This is another impressive place which will leave you breathless in Madeira. A short drive away from Funchal, Cabo Girão is a sea cliff which offers dramatic vistas. There was a glass floor built over the abyss which allowed me to really feel the adrenaline kick in. Although it took me a minute to get over the fact that my knees were a bit wobbly, the whole experience around Cabo Girão was well worth the trip. It gets a bit busy as it is a tourist attraction, but there are plenty of photographic opportunities if you patiently wait for your turn.
Santana was my favourite village in Madeira. I actually liked it even more than the capital, Funchal. This is because Sanatana seems the best place to base yourself if you want to hike the best trails. I loved the foggy forests, the nearby village Ilha, the Levada walks and the food. It was also in Sanatana that I got to see the traditional Madeiran houses: cute little triangular building with roofs made of straw, colourful windows and doors. They looked as if they jumped straight out of a fairy tale.
Ilha is a small village located high up the mountain. I felt like one needs some serious driving skills to get up there by car. It is from this gorgeous little village, that I started the trail called Vereda da Ilha until I joined in with the Levada do Cadeirão Verde walk. It’s worth spending a couple of hours admiring the views from Ilha and having a beer in one of the super intimate local bars.
Levada do Cadeirão Verde
If you want to experience what hiking means in Madeira, then you must hike on the Levada do Cadeirão Verde. I hiked through small and dark tunnels, walked on the (super narrow) levadas, photographed mountains covered in lush vegetation and at the end, got rewarded with the views of a fantastic waterfall stretching high up for 100m.
There are two reasons why I wanted to visit Porto Moniz: First because I really wanted to drive through the small roads going up the mountain, all dotted with alliums and eucalyptus forests. Second, because I wanted to see the famed natural swimming pools of Porto Moniz. They didn’t disappoint. For a small entrance fee of 2 euros, I could go and swim in beautiful natural pools filled with fresh ocean water. For adventure lovers, this place looks very exciting.
Funchal Botanic Garden
When I travel to a new destination, I always check out the nearby botanic garden. I love nature, flowers and plants and what’s better than strolling through a botanic garden in an idle afternoon? Funchal has one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, with a lot of Oriental influence and designs. Towards the end of the garden, I could enjoy wonderful views over the capital's rooftops. Throughout the garden, there are plenty of benches where I could relax and read my favourite book. If I could offer one advice, know that this botanic garden is fairly up the hill, hence you might want to have a jumper with you in case it gets a bit cold, especially because a lot of the garden is in the shade, due to the sheer amount of gorgeous and majestic trees.