Discovering Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is truly an incredible adventure! This little island has so much to offer, from sunny villages to gorgeous nature, amazing views on every corner, delicious food and fine wine.
Madeira really surprised me. Honestly, I heard it is amazing, but didn’t expect much. However, when seeing the island from above before landing I liked it immediately. In total I spend only four days in Madeira but was able to see a lot. We rented a car and every day drove to one side of the island. In this blog post I am sharing all the places we visited and a few tips you need to know before going there!
You can also check out the highlights of the trip in blog post 5 top experiences in Madeira. It was hard to pick the best experiences, because most moments there were amazing. 🙂
What you should know before visiting
The roads in Madeira
Madeira is a hilly island which means the roads go uphill, they have many turns and are very narrow. People leave their cars on the side of the streets all the time, so the roads gets even narrower. Their highways are nice though, but they only have it on the south and east side of the island. They absolutely love tunnels though, they are everywhere! Even as a part of the walking tours in the mountains.
Madeira has a lot of viewpoints and that is with reason. They offer some really spectacular views and it’s definitely worth renting a car just so you can stop at every possible corner and admire its amazing view. There are also a lot of different walks with views – grab the “Walks in Madeira” guide at the tourist office in Funchal, it’s really useful.
The weather in Madeira is very unstable, moody and it can change very quickly. You can sip wine at the beachfront in Funchal and then head to the mountains in the middle of the island, only to get fog and rain. This means you have to be ready for summer and cold no matter the time of your visit.
Beware, food on Madeira is so delicious you will want to eat and eat and eat … It is so amazing, I prepared a separate blog post about it. It’s a guide into Madeiran cuisine and you can check it out here! They also have a special wine, called madeira. You can learn more about it here.
Itinerary for 4 days in Madeira
Funchal is the capital of Madeira and the largest city of this Portuguese Autonomous Region. There is much to see in Funchal – you have to visit market Mercado dos Lavradores, walk along the seaside promenade and stroll the lovely streets of the city centre. With delicious pastel de nata in your hand of course.
Just east of Funchal the Monte suburbs lies. It is most known for the Toboggan Sled Ride, but my favourite part was visiting Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. Here you can also see the Church of Our Lady of Monte and visit nearby Madeira Botanical Garden. Do walk up to the Sancta Maria Chapel and make the round walking path to see the presentation of Madeiran agriculture. I recommend taking the cable car Teleférico do Funchal from city centre to Monte, it offers amazing views of the city!
Lovely seaside town Machico is mostly known for having the only sandy beach on the island. The few beaches that Madeira has are mostly black rocks so the sand in Machico is imported from Morocco. You can also stroll nice town’s streets, see the church Igreja Matriz de Machico and the town house.
4 Ponta de São Lourenço
This eastern most point of the island offers an amazing hike along the thin and green peninsula. Here you can admire the gorgeous views that the cliffs falling into the Atlantic Ocean offer. A piece of advice, get to the Ponta de São Lourenço early, because there are not a lot of parking spots there and they fill up pretty quickly. And have reserved a few hours for the walk, although it is not too difficult, it is 4 kilometres one way. Also bring your own water and sun screen.
5 Porto da Cruz
Tiny charming seaside village Porto da Cruz has the best seafood I tasted in Madeira. Here you can get amazing grilled octopus and eat it with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. They also have really nice public pools and are known for hosting a grape festival.
Santana is the place to see the traditional Madeiran houses, which were used by the local farmers during the first settlements of the island. They are built in a triangular shape, have rooftops made of straws, white-painted walls, red doors and windows with green shutters and blue trims. They are really picturesque!
7 São Jorge
The hills around São Jorge are full of vineyards. It is the part of the island that produces the most grapes for Madeira wine production. You can also drive to the Ponta de São Jorge and see its lighthouse.
8 Pico do Areeiro
The third highest peak of the island is 1818 meters high and accessible by car. It is one of the starting points of the walk towards Madeira’s highest mountain Pico Ruvio. This walk lasts several hours, however, you can take a short hike to the view point Ninho da Manta from where you can see the surrounding mountains and also all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is worth it!
9 Câmara de Lobos
Just walk around this picturesque fishing village and admire the colours of its houses and fishing boats with the view of banana plantations in the back. The village is also known for being a favourite of Winston Churchill. When he was on holidays in Madeira, he liked to visit Câmara De Lobos.
10 Cabo Girão
Cabo Girão is the highest cape in Europe and also the second highest sea cliff in the world. At the elevation of 580 meters above sea the glass floor of its skywalk offers even more amazing views one can imagine. You get an overview of the Atlantic Ocean and a panoramic view of the municipalities of Câmara de Lobos and Funchal.
11 Ribeira Brava
We only stopped in Ribieira Brava for a delicious breakfast, but I can definitely tell the town has its charm.
Rabaçal is a starting point to the Levada das 25 Fontes walk. They say it’s more than beautiful. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know, because here we experienced the unpredictable Madeiran weather at its worst. When we left Funchal the weather was really nice, but up in Rabaçal we were greeted by rain, wind, fog and cold. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the levada walk. Levada is an irrigation channel specific for Madeira, so you have to put it on your “must see” list.
13 Porto Moniz
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Porto Moniz and swimming in natural lava polls which are filled with fresh water from the Atlantic Ocean. There are two sets of lava pools, I choose the western one and enjoyed overlooking huge sea waves and the village of Porto Moniz at the end of the infinity pool.
So far you know that Madeira has a lot of amazing walking tours. Prazeres is the starting point of another nice walk. You can descend from Prazeres down to seaside town Paúl do Mar. We started this walk but heavy rain prevented us to finish it. Now you can probably tell that you have to be ready for all kind of weather situation here in Madeira.
15 Paúl do Mar
This tiny seaside fishing village has one main street and a seaside promenade. It is mostly known as the end point of beautiful walk descending from Prazeres, but the village has its charm.
16 Madalena do Mar
Another picturesque and tiny seaside village where you can enjoy on the rocky beach and admire the view of bananas growing on the terrace fields above the settlement.