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The best things to do in Madeira

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.

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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.

Madeira Beach Canico Sunset Cory Dress

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.

For more info, read why Driving in Madeira is super challenging.

Drive in Madeira Roads From Above

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.

To read how I found the end of the world, click here.

Cory Cliffs Madeira Ponto do Pargo

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.

To read more about Pico Ruivo, click here.

Pico Ruivo Madeira Clouds Cliffs

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.

To read more about food in Madeira, click here.

Beyond Madeira Cake Funchal Streets

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.

Madeira Cabo Girao Vista

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.

Madeira Santana Sea Balance Cory Lifestyle

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.

Madeira Ilha Village Levada Trail

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.

Madeira Levada Do Caldeirao Verde waterfall

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.

Madeira Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools

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.

Cory Botanic Garden Funchal Madeira Trees

Waterfall Botanic Garden Funchal Madeira

Madeira Ponto Do Pargo Cory Fashion

Madeira Pico Ruivo Hike Top

Madeira Caldeiro Verde Levada Trail

Responses

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!

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