Located 1h30 from Lisbon, the island of Madeira has a very pleasant subtropical climate and is a place where you’ll have the opportunity to discover the most amazing landscapes. Of the things to do in Portugal, know that visiting the island of Madeira is perfect for you – you’ll soon realize that there are so many things to do in Madeira that you can’t do anywhere else.
In addition to its incredible beauty, the island will offer you its great wine, its wonderful gastronomy, its traditions and much more.
Here is my top 10 of things to do in Madeira and places you should visit
Information: at the bottom of the article, you will find my tips to better prepare your visit to Madeira (accommodation, restaurants, transportation).
1. Pico Ruivo
One of the first things to do in Madeira should be visiting Pico Ruivo. With its 1862 metres, Pico Ruivo is the highest point in the island of Madeira and the third highest peak in Portugal, after Ponta do Pico (in the Azores) and Torre (Serra da Estrela).
To get to Pico Ruivo you’ll have to take a walking route. My suggestion is that you take the one connecting Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo (2.8 km). You should take this walking route because it’s easy and because you’ll have the opportunity to admire the landscape and even get close to the sky.
Although this path is accessible to everyone, you’ll have to climb 300 metres from the starting point (Achada do Teixeira) and Pico Ruivo – on average, it takes 1h30m to conclude this route. Don’t hesitate to stop whenever you want to take some photos of this wonderful walking route.
- For more information about Pico Ruivo, read my article Pico Ruivo: Discover the most beautiful place in Madeira
2. Pico do Arieiro
Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak in the island of Madeira (1818 metres) and will offer you the most wonderful landscape you have ever seen.
This peak has the major advantage of being accessible by car, but know that you can go on one of the most beautiful and dangerous walking routes in Madeira.
This 7 km long walking route connects Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in a path that is carved on the rock; here you’ll have the chance to admire the surrounding mountains and the amazing landscapes.
Information: bring warm clothes! Temperature may reach 0 ºC on top of the mountain.
- For further information about Pico do Areeiro, read my article: Visit to Pico do Arieiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
Information: go for an 8-hour hike with an experienced guide on a difficult trail that will test your limits and your courage as it will take you to discover the highest point of the Madeira archipelago. Know that this experience takes place in the walking trail that connects Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo (affiliated link), among some of the most vertiginous paths that you will find in the whole island.
Alternatively, take a guided tour at the end of the day and enjoy a unique moment. You will go by jeep to Pico do Areeiro where you can admire a fantastic sunset above the clouds (affiliate link). The colours are enhanced at this time of day and make this a perfect place for romantics, photographers and more.
Another of the things to do in Madeira is visiting its capital. With over 100 000 inhabitants, Funchal is the biggest city in Madeira. It’s a modern city but, at the same time, it kept an authentic historic centre that will amaze you.
Funchal is most known for its handicrafts, the wine and the pleasant weather. Aside from the amazing historic centre, where you can visit the Sacred Art Museum, the Blandy cellars, the Mercado dos Lavradores, the city will also offer you one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, a surprising means of transportation and, of course, friendly and welcoming people.
- Read my article about this city and discover the 7 places you must visit in Funchal
Information: take a pleasant 2-hour sidecar ride (affiliate link) where you will have the opportunity to explore the historic centre of Funchal and then discover the island’s ancient roads towards one of the most beautiful places in Madeira, the Garajau Partial Natural Reserve, where you’ll find a statue of Christ the King.
4. Câmara de Lobos
Câmara de Lobos is a small and picturesque village located in the southern part of the island of Madeira, 8 km from Funchal.
Here you will discover a photogenic historic centre with its beautiful and colourful fishing boats, and, just outside of the village, you’ll find one of the tallest cliffs in Europe, Cabo Girão.
With a height of 580 metres, Cabo Girão will offer you an amazing view over the surroundings.
You can also test your limits on a suspended glass platform (Skywalk), where you’ll be able to see beneath your feet Fajã do Cabo Girão and the sea.
- For further information on these and other things to do here, read my article: Visit to Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Fajã dos Padres
5. Cristo Rei Viewpoint
Among the things to do in Madeira, you should definitely visit Ponta do Garajau. There you’ll find the statue of Cristo Rei de Garajau, carved by Georges Serraz in 1927 and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing view over the ocean.
On the left side of the statue you’ll find a walking route that leads to Ponta do Garajau. Get ready! When you start walking down the path, you’ll feel like you’re entering the sea but don’t be afraid and go all the way down so you can admire this wonderful show.
- Location: Estrada Nova de Cristo Rei, Caniço
- GPS: N 32 38.421 W 16 51.083
6. Ponta de São Lourenço
Ponta de São Lourenço is a place very different from the rest of the island. You’ll find a wild peninsula with underbrush, where trees are inexistent (except for some palm trees). A beautiful 8 km (total, both ways) walking path will give you the opportunity to stroll through the astonishing Ponta de São Lourenço.
- For further information about Ponta de São Lourenço and other things to do in Madeira, read my article: Visit to Pico do Arieiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
Information: do you want to start the day with a walk that will take you to the easternmost point of Madeira island? If that’s the case, don’t wait any longer and book a walk with an experienced guide to Ponta de São Lourenço (affiliate link)! Discover in this route one of the most popular points of interest on the island and be dazzled by the unique landscape and the fauna and flora that you will find there.
On the other hand, you can discover Ponta de São Lourenço in a sidecar ride. During this 4-hour tour (affiliate link), you will also have the possibility to visit the beautiful towns of Santa Cruz, Machico and Caniçal.
7. Curral das Freiras
Curral das Freiras is a small village at the valley of several mountains with the particularity of having been secluded from the rest of the world up until 1959 – it was when the first road connecting the village to the rest of the island was built.
When you look up, you’ll feel like an insect at the bottom of those amazing volcanic mountains.
Information: Don’t forget to taste the local gastronomy – sour cherry liqueur and chestnut soup.
You can also admire Curral das Freiras from Eira do Serrado Viewpoint, that offers you the most amazing view over this place and the 6 surrounding mountains.
- For further information about the village and the viewpoint, read my article: Visit to Pico do Arieiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
8. Porto Moniz
Porto Moniz is a small village located northwest of the island, famous for its natural volcanic pools, much appreciated by tourists. After a swim, you should visit the Fort of São João Batista (1730) where you’ll find the small Madeira Aquarium.
- For further information about Porto Moniz and other things to do in Madeira, read my article: Visit to Porto Moniz, Levada das 25 Fontes and Paul da Serra
9. Going for a walk in a Levada
When I visited the island of Madeira, the first thing I did was going for a walk in a trail in Levada das 25 fontes, a path that you should do if you want to see beautiful waterfalls and lush vegetation of great beauty. Surely there are many things to do in Madeira but you shouldn’t skip this one.
This vegetation will gradually change as you get close to the end of the walking route. At this point, you’ll find a lagoon created by small waterfalls – this levada was named after these waterfalls.
- For further information about this walking route and the definition of levada, read my article: Visit to Porto Moniz, Levada das 25 Fontes and Paul da Serra
Information: there are several options to experience the levadas, with different levels of difficulty, duration and distance. Below I will suggest 3 activities that will allow you to take walks on the levadas of Madeira with an experienced guide.
On the south coast of Madeira, you can discover Levada dos Prazeres (affiliate link). This hike is easy and takes about 2 hours to complete during which you can admire the fantastic Laurissilva Forest, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999.
Being 13 km long and of moderate difficulty, the Levada das 25 Fontes (affiliate link) is undoubtedly one of the best known and most beautiful! Enjoy the fantastic biodiversity that the Laurissilva forest has to offer and admire the beautiful waterfall and lagoon that you will find there.
For people used to hiking, who like difficult paths and who don’t have vertigo, the Levada da Vereda do Larano (affiliated link) is the ideal walk! Throughout this levada you will have the opportunity to admire the differences between the south coast and the north coast of the island, the viewpoint Miradouro Boca da Corrida where you can enjoy the fantastic views over part of the island and the Atlantic Ocean.
10. Garganta Funda Waterfall
After getting to Ponta do Pargo, you’ll have the opportunity to go for a walk through a path that will take you to the amazing Garganta Funda waterfall.
When you get to the viewpoint, you’ll be amazed with the surroundings. You’ll see the huge waterfall surrounded by cliffs and just next to the Atlantic Ocean.
- For further information about this magnificent waterfall and other things to do in Madeira, read my article: Visit to Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Fajã dos Padres
- Days you’ll need to visit the island of Madeira: 5 days (not counting with the arrival and departure days).
Where to sleep
29 Madeira Hostel (affiliate site)
29 Madeira Hostel is located in a renewed historic building in the centre of Funchal. This hostel, with affordable accommodations, is 3 floors high with mixed dorms and furnished according to local and traditional handicrafts. Guests that prefer more privacy can stay in double or single rooms.
Price: 40 €/night, double room or 16€ /night per person in a 4 bed room
Services: Free Wi-Fi, parking 4 €/day
Check-in: From 14h to 21h
Check-out: Until 12h
Location: Rua dos Netos, nº 29, 9000-084 Funchal, Portugal
I had the privilege to sleep in the apartment Formosa do Artur, located next to Formosa beach and just 5 km from Funchal historic centre. It’s a modern apartment located in an area with a pool. It’s perfect for those who enjoy peace and quiet and with everything you need just minutes away (restaurants, shopping centre, beach). They can give you suggestions on the many things to do in Madeira.
If you don’t have an account on Airbnb, by clicking this link you’ll get an 18£ discount on your first reservation and, at the same time, I’ll earn 18£ for my next trip.
Price: 57 €/night, apartment for a maximum of 4 people
Services: Free Wi-Fi, free parking
Check-in: After 15h
Check-out: Until 11h
Location: Estrada Monumental, Funchal
Apartamentos Santa Maria (affiliate site)
Apartamentos Santa Maria offer its guests modern accommodations right in the historic centre of Funchal. Here, you’ll stay in modern studios and apartments with air-conditioning, a living room with sofas, a flat screen cable television, a dining room and a private bathroom with natural light.
Price: 60 €/night, studio for 2 people or 70 €/night, apartment for 4 people
Services: Free Wi-Fi
Check-in: After 14h
Check-out: Until 12h
Location: Rua De Santa Maria, nº 61, Funchal
PortoBay Serra Golf (affiliate site)
Located in a place that exists since 1920, Porto Bay Serra Golf is surrounded by gardens and offers its guests direct access to Santo da Serra Golf Course. A heated interior pool, a sauna and a massage room are available as well.
Price: 78 €/night, double room
Services: Free Wi-Fi, free parking
Check-in: After 14h
Check-out: Until 12h
Location: Casais Próximos, Santo Da Serra, 9100-255 Santo da Serra, Portugal
Where to eat
How to get to Madeira island
The only way to get to the island of Madeira is by plane. The airlines that offer direct flights to Funchal are: Transavia, TAP (affiliate link), Easyjet (from Porto), TAP (affiliate link), Easyjet (from Lisbon), SATA (from Faro and Ponta Delgada).
The flight from the different airports to Funchal takes about 2 hours.
Getting around in Madeira island
The island has a good public transportation network but my suggestion is that you rent a car, which should be one of the first things to do in Madeira. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to move around more freely and stop at amazing places that don’t have a bus stop.
Useful information: when you rent a car, avoid renting the cheapest segment (Fiat Panda, Nissan Micra) – roads in some areas of Madeira are steep (mountain roads) so you may need a better car.
My suggestion is that you rent the next segment (Seat Leon, Polo), but don’t listen to the rent a car companies – they’ll try to lease the most expensive car (Nissan Qashqai).
When you get your car at Funchal airport, they’ll try to convince you to deliver the car with an empty tank so you can save time (one of their arguments).
You should refuse that because the price for a full tank in a rent-a-car company is much higher than in the normal gas stations and you should have no problem in finding one on your way to the airport.
If you don’t want to rent a car while visiting Madeira, you can go to local companies and ask for the different tours around the island. Prices are around 44 € per day.
Are you going to visit Madeira? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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- Madeira Hotels – the best places to spend the night!
- Visit to Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Fajã dos Padres
- Visit to Pico do Arieiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
- Visit to Porto Moniz, Levada das 25 Fontes and Paul da Serra
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