Wondering what are the top things to do in Madeira? You'll be surprised to learn that Madeira is one of the most mesmerising destinations I’ve ever visited. 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.
Here's what to do in Madeira with the top attractions and adventures you should consider. You will love it so much, I guarantee you will want to come back.
The best things to do in Madeira - Contents
Things to do in Madeira
So many things to do in Madeira, this wild island really stole my heart. Still not quite tamed, Madeira is the epicentre of adventure lovers, with impressive hikes and fantastic treks along levadas. 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 outdoors lovers, Madeira seems like the most natural choice for a holiday.
For beach bums, Madeira might not seem like an option, but with hotels all around the south of the island, you can always find a lounging chair by the pool, in order to admire the gorgeous vistas the island has to offer. For driving enthusiasts, know that Madeira is quite challenging, but also a lot of fun. Driving around the island in search of new hiking trails sure is one of the top things to do in Madeira.
Find the right accommodation
In order to get ready for all the things to do in Madeira, you should consider where you want to stay in Madeira. Do you want to chill by the hotel's pool, then consider a hotel in the South, in Funchal. Do you want to find yourself in a super remote area in the middle of the island, right next to mystical forests? Consider an accommodation up North.
If you just want a reasonably priced accommodation with quick access to the motorway, just 15 minutes from the capital city, Funchal but also accessible for the awesome hikes in the North, we recommend Caniço. I ended up staying in a brilliant accommodation and saving a lot of money called Apartments Madeira.
Drive around the island
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. Click here to check prices for car rentals.
Driving around the island is one of the best things to do in Madeira as you will find an array of amazing vista points, otherwise difficult to access.
See the incredible 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.
Hike to Pico Ruivo
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.
Meander around Funchal
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.
Photograph Cabo Girão
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.
Hike the levadas in Santana
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.
Drive and hike around Ilha
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.
Hike the 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.
See the fantastic Porto Moniz
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.
Relax in the 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 of 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.
Ponta de São Lourenço
If you ever wanted to see impressive landscapes with volcanic rock rising from the ocean, then a visit to Ponta de São Lourenço is a must. This is a nature reserve with fantastic hiking opportunities and postcard-perfect photography spots.
Its terrain is made up of rocks and herbaceous vegetation and the photos taken in this easternmost point of the island are probably the most popular representations of Madeira.
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Vereda dos Balcões
After a fantastic drive uphill through narrow and winding roads, you will eventually come across the hiking trail PR11 Vereda dos Balcões. A short and paved hike away will lead you to a natural balcony, overlooking some of the most impressive formations of the Madeiran mountains. Visit during a sunny day and the light will bounce from each peak, creating a shiny, serene landscape. Visit during a rainy day and you will be rewarded with a dramatic landscape.
Take a food tour
As with any island, one of the best things to do in Madeira is to eat your way around the island. With indigenous fruits like bananas and special passion fruits, you will indulge in some of the most incredible mains and desserts. Their drinks are pretty special too, starting with Madeiran port, through delicious liqueurs and specialty cocktails made with local produce.
Are you ready to explore all the wonderful things to do in Madeira? We recommend spending at least a week exploring the island and dedicating at least 3-4 days to hiking the levadas and seeing the wonderful scenery. As always, make sure to bring sunscreen and good hiking boots.