Located about 950 km from mainland Portugal, most of the islands in the archipelago of Madeira (consisting of 7 islands) have a very pleasant subtropical climate where you will be able to discover beautiful landscapes and much more!
If you are looking for mountains with stunning viewpoints, walking routes that will give you the opportunity to touch the clouds, or admire a beautiful sunset, know that the island of Madeira is perfect for you. Apart from the incredible beauty of this island, you will also be able to discover its wine, its gastronomy, its traditions and much more!
This archipelago, which was discovered by the Portuguese in 1418, is also composed of another main island, Porto Santo, as well as two groups of secondary islands: the Desertas islands, 40 km from Funchal, and the Selvagens islands, located at almost 300 km away from Funchal.
In this article, I will show you the wonders that you cannot miss in the Madeira archipelago, the itinerary to visit the main islands, the activities to do, where to sleep, where to eat and I’ll give you my advice to better prepare your stay.
Conteúdos do Artigo - Sommaire - Contents
- Top 40 things to do in the Madeira archipelago (Madeira Island, Porto Santo island and Desertas islands)
- Madeira island
- 1. Funchal
- 2. Praia Formosa
- 3. Câmara de Lobos
- 4. Miradouro do Cabo Girão
- 5. Ponta do Sol
- 6. Miradouro Cristo Rei
- 7. Curral das Freiras & Miradouro da Eira do Serrado
- 8. Paul da Serra
- 9. Pico do Areeiro
- 10. Pico Ruivo
- 11. Parque Natural do Ribeiro Frio
- 12. Miradouro dos Balcões
- 13. Machico
- 14. Ponta de São Lourenço
- 15. Santana
- 16. Miradouro de Cabanas
- 17. Grutas de São Vicente
- 18. Miradouro do Véu da Noiva
- 19. Porto Moniz
- 20. Miradouro das Achadas da Cruz
- 21. Cascata Garganta Funda
- 22. Go on a walking trail in a Levada
- How to get to Madeira island
- 23. Ilhas Desertas
- Porto Santo island
- 24. Vila Baleira
- 25. Praia do Porto Santo e Praia do Penedo
- 26. Miradouro das Lombas
- 27. Miradouro da Portela
- 28. Porto Santo Golfe
- 29. Pico de Ana Ferreira
- 30. Quinta das Palmeiras
- 31. Ponta da Calheta
- 32. Miradouro das Flores
- 33. Rock formations and Miradouro de Morenos
- 34. Miradouro do Furado Norte
- 35. Casa da Serra
- 36. Pico do Facho
- 37. Pico do Castelo
- 38. Miradouro da Fonte da Areia
- 39. Porto das Salemas
- 40. Walking trails
- How to get to Porto Santo island
- Itinerary to visit the most beautiful places in Madeira island
- Itinerary to visit the most beautiful places in Porto Santo island
- Where to sleep in the Madeira archipelago
- Where to eat in the Madeira archipelago
- Traditions and festivities in the Madeira archipelago
- When to visit the Madeira archipelago
- What will also interest you:
Top 40 things to do in the Madeira archipelago (Madeira Island, Porto Santo island and Desertas islands)
The island of Madeira is one of the largest islands in Portugal and, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful. There, you will find a unique biodiversity, reason of attraction for thousands of visitors who travel to this paradise every year.
In addition to the fauna and flora, the landscapes are breathtaking from sunrise to sunset and there are several walking routes that will take you to stunning places.
But it is not only nature that makes this island a must-see! Know that you will find authentic villages, a unique gastronomy and much more. See below some of the reasons that make Madeira island known as the “pearl of the Atlantic”.
With over 100.000 residents, Funchal is the largest city in Madeira. It was able to modernise while maintaining an authentic historic centre that will surprise you.
Funchal is known for its handicrafts, wine and pleasant climate. In addition to the fabulous historic centre, where you can visit the Museum of Sacred Art, the Blandy wineries, the market Mercado dos Lavradores, the city will offer you one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, an amazing means of transportation and friendly people who will know how to welcome you.
- Read my article and discover the 7 places you can’t miss in Funchal
2. Praia Formosa
Do you want to enjoy the warmth that is felt during your stay in Madeira? If that’s the case, do not hesitate and go to this beach which is the largest beach on the island.
Much appreciated by sunbathers, know that here you will find excellent water quality, lifeguards, medical posts, parking, bathrooms, bars and other facilities that make this a magnificent beach. It is no wonder, therefore, that it is constantly awarded with the blue flag.
3. Câmara de Lobos
Câmara de Lobos is a small picturesque village on the south coast of Madeira Island, 8 km from Funchal. In addition to discovering the photogenic historic centre with its colourful fishing boats, you will find, next to the village, one of the highest cliffs in Europe, Cabo Girão.
- For more information, read my article: Visit to Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Fajã dos Padres
4. Miradouro do Cabo Girão
Cabo Girão is one of the highest cliffs in the world with an approximate height of 580 metres and the viewpoint offers breathtaking views over the surroundings of Câmara de Lobos, the sea and the Fajã do Cabo Girão. In addition to the stunning views, know that this is a site of choice for paragliders and base jumping.
In 2012 a suspended glass platform (Skywalk) was built and it allows you to test your limits, especially if you experience vertigo.
5. Ponta do Sol
Located in the south of Madeira island and about 24 km from Funchal, this beautiful village is another destination to consider when visiting the archipelago! Here, you can explore the streets by the sea, admire the interior of the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Luz and, further away, the beautiful small palace Palacete do Lugar de Baixo.
When leaving Ponta do Sol, do not hesitate to follow the old road (ER101) that connects Ponta do Sol to Madalena do Mar to pass under the beautiful waterfall of Anjos and discover the old tunnels that will give you the impression of entering a cave.
- GPS waterfall: 32°41’11.9″N 17°06’49.8″W
Important information: after several landslides and rockfall near to the waterfall, the road ER101 connecting Ponta do Sol and Madalena do Mar got closed.
To access the waterfall, you’ll have to turn on the third exit of the roundabout located right after the tunnel of Ponta do Sol on the road VE3, that substitutes the road ER101. Here is the itinerary in Google Maps.
Even though the waterfall is accessible, proceed carefully since rocks can fall at any moment!
6. Miradouro Cristo Rei
When visiting Ponta do Garajau you will find the statue of Cristo Rei de Garajau, created by Georges Serraz in 1927 and you will be able to admire the magnificent view over the sea.
On the left side of the statue you will find a path that takes you to Ponta do Garajau. Prepare yourself, because when you start to climb down, you will feel that you are entering the sea – do not be afraid and go to the far end to admire this magnificent spectacle.
- Address: Estrada Nova de Cristo Rei, Caniço
- GPS: N 32 38.421 W 16 51.083
7. Curral das Freiras & Miradouro da Eira do Serrado
Curral das Freiras is a small village at the bottom of several mountains with the particularity of having been isolated until 1959, date of the construction of the first road that connected the village to the rest of the island.
When you raise your head, you will enjoy the view and you will feel like an ant when you see the impressive volcanic mountains.
Information: don’t forget to try the local specialities: ginja (a cherry liqueur) and chestnut soup.
You will also have the opportunity to admire Curral das Freiras from the viewpoint of Eira do Serrado, which offers you a breathtaking view of this unique place and the 6 surrounding mountains.
- For more information on the village and the viewpoint, read my article Visit to Pico do Areeiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
8. Paul da Serra
Paul da Serra is another place that you cannot miss when visiting Madeira. It is the largest plateau on the island and is located at about 1500 metres of altitude.
In addition to its extension, this place stands out for being where much of the island’s wind energy is captured. On the other hand, and due to the fact that this is a plateau located at a high altitude, rainwater is easily absorbed by the soil, helping to keep groundwater supply.
9. Pico do Areeiro
Pico do Areeiro is the third highest peak on the island of Madeira (1818 m) and will offer you breathtaking scenery.
This peak has the great advantage of being accessible by car, but know that you can also make one of the most beautiful and dangerous trails in Madeira.
This 7 km walking path connects Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo on a trail carved into the rock, where you will have the privilege of admiring incredible landscapes with several mountains around you.
Information: bring warm clothes! At the peak, temperatures can be close to 0 ° C.
- For more information on Pico do Areeiro, read my article: Visit to Pico do Areeiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
10. Pico Ruivo
Pico Ruivo, at 1862 metres, is the highest point on the island of Madeira and the third peak in Portugal (after Ponta do Pico, in the Azores, and the Torre, in Serra da Estrela).
To get to Pico Ruivo you will have to take a walking route. My suggestion is that you choose the trail that connects Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo (2.8 km). Besides being one of the easiest, this trail will amaze you for its beauty and for giving you the feeling of almost being able to touch the clouds.
Although this trail is accessible to anyone, you will have to climb approximately 300 metres between the starting point (Achada do Teixeira) and Pico Ruivo, which will take an average of one and a half hours. Do not hesitate to stop several times to take some pictures of this wonderful route.
- For more information on Pico Ruivo, read my article Pico Ruivo: discover the most beautiful place in Madeira island
11. Parque Natural do Ribeiro Frio
This is one of the best places to admire the wonderful Laurissilva forest that is present in a large part of the interior of Madeira. Here you will find several endemic species of fauna and flora which makes this place an ideal place for nature lovers and perfect for exploring with the family.
Apart from having the possibility to take a walk to the Balcões viewpoint, know that it is here that the Ribeiro Frio Aquaculture Station is located, where trouts are grown and later repopulate the water lines of the entire island of Madeira.
12. Miradouro dos Balcões
The splendid Balcões viewpoint is located at the Parque do Ribeiro Frio, 10 km from Pico do Areeiro. To get there, you will have to take the short walking route of Vereda dos Balcões, a trail that follows the levada of Serra do Faial. On clear sky days you will be able to see the central mountain range of the island, Pico do Areeiro, Pico Ruivo and Penha d’Águia.
Information: do not forget to take suitable shoes as the terrain can be slippery and muddy.
Located about 25 km from Funchal, the city of Machico is known for being the first place where the Portuguese Tristão Vaz Teixeira and João Gonçalves Zarco disembarked when they discovered the island in the early 15th century.
This city grew up along a valley and next to the sea you can find beaches of black sand, the result of volcanic eruptions from many years ago.
Among other reasons, know that here you can also admire the Machico aqueduct, the church Igreja Matriz of Machico and the Fort of São João Baptista.
14. Ponta de São Lourenço
Ponta de São Lourenço is a different place from the rest of the island. You will find a long wild peninsula with ground vegetation, where the trees are practically nonexistent (there are only a few palm trees). A beautiful trail of 8 km (round trip) will allow you to walk through the stunning Ponta de São Lourenço.
- For more information on Pico do Areeiro, read my article: Visit to Pico do Areeiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
Information: do you want to start the day with a trail that will take you to the eastern side of Madeira? Wait no more and book a walk to Ponta de São Lourenço (affiliate link)! Discover in this guided tour 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.
The city of Santana has some points of interest, but it is undoubtedly the typical houses, with thatched roofs, that delight those who visit this place. However, don’t get your hopes up because unfortunately you won’t find many of these houses. You can find some next to the City Hall and at the Madeira Theme Park.
Apart from the typical houses, know that you will find in the Madeira Theme Park three multimedia pavilions where you can discover more about the island’s history in a captivating way, making this place an ideal destination for families.
Also know that the entire municipality of Santana is listed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve due to its natural wealth, in which the Laurissilva forest stands out, where several endemic species of the island’s fauna and flora predominate. It is also here that you will find the highest peaks of Madeira: Pico Ruivo, Pico das Torres and Pico do Areeiro.
16. Miradouro de Cabanas
This beautiful viewpoint offers some of the best views over the north of Madeira island and the Atlantic Ocean and, on clear days, you will have the opportunity to gaze at the neighbouring island of Porto Santo. On your trip around the island, do not hesitate to stop for a few minutes to enjoy this spot.
17. Grutas de São Vicente
The São Vicente caves are the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred over 890.000 years ago in Paul da Serra and are formed by lava tubes created by low temperatures, which allowed the outer part to solidify, while the lava inside it continued to circulate, thus forming a series of tubes.
During your visit, you will be able to visit a 700 metre path where you will see several parts of these lava tubes.
After visiting the caves (30 minutes), you will have the opportunity to visit the volcanic centre where they explain how volcanic eruptions are formed and how the beautiful island of Madeira was created.
These caves are not the most spectacular in Portugal, but they are worth visiting. I loved walking through the tubes imagining the lava flowing.
18. Miradouro do Véu da Noiva
The Véu da Noiva viewpoint is one of the most beautiful on the island of Madeira. From there, you will be able to admire the beautiful waterfall with the same name and the north of the island.
When looking at the height of the waterfall and the high load of water flowing along the slope, you will have the impression of seeing a bride’s veil (hence the name).
The viewpoint is located on the old ER 101 road that connected Seixal to São Vicente. Until a few years ago, it was possible to pass under the waterfall, but in 2008 there was a huge landslide that destroyed part of the road and the tunnel that passed under the waterfall (see photo above).
Since then, the road has been closed 100 metres from the junction with the new VE2 road. In the first metres of the old road you will find a car park and a souvenir shop.
19. Porto Moniz
Porto Moniz is a small town located in the northwest of the island, famous for its natural volcanic pools, much appreciated by tourists. After a swim, don’t hesitate to visit the São João Batista Fort (1730), which currently hosts the small Madeira Aquarium.
- For more information on Porto Moniz, read my article Visit to Porto Moniz, Levada das 25 Fontes and Paul da Serra
20. Miradouro das Achadas da Cruz
Located in the northwest of the island of Madeira, the viewpoint of Achadas da Cruz will offer you a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Fajã das Achadas da Cruz. Next to the viewpoint you will find a cable car, inaugurated in 2004, which connects to Fajã das Achadas da Cruz, allowing you to visit the agricultural lands, the small huts and the beach.
21. Cascata Garganta Funda
After reaching Ponta do Pargo, you will have the opportunity to go for a walk on a small trail that will take you to the magnificent Garganta Funda waterfall.
When you arrive at the viewpoint, you will be dazzled by what you will see – a waterfall from an incredible height surrounded by the cliffs and close to the Atlantic Ocean.
- For more information on this waterfall, read my article: Visit to Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Fajã dos Padres
22. Go on a walking trail in a Levada
When I visited the island of Madeira, I began exploring by taking a hike in the walking trail at Levada das 25 Fontes, a route I recommend you do if you want to see beautiful waterfalls and natural vegetation of great beauty.
This natural vegetation will gradually change throughout the trail and, at the end, you will discover a lagoon, with several small waterfalls, hence the name given to this levada.
- For more information on this walking trail, 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 suggest 3 activities that will take you on hikes on the levadas of Madeira with an experienced guide.
Being 13 km long and a moderate difficulty, the Levada das 25 Fontes (affiliate link) is undoubtedly one of the most known and most beautiful levadas! Enjoy the fantastic biodiversity that the Laurissilva forest has to offer and be amazed with the beautiful waterfall and lagoon that you will find there.
Also with moderate difficulty and with an approximate duration of 4h30, the Levada do Caldeirão Verde (affiliate link) is another possibility to consider. Beginning and ending at the forest park Parque Florestal das Queimadas, this hike will reach its peak when it reaches the Caldeirão Verde lake, formed by the 100 metre-high waterfall.
For people more accustomed to hiking, who enjoy difficult trails and who do not have vertigo, Levada da Vereda do Larano (affiliate link) is the ideal walk!
Throughout this levada you will have the opportunity to notice the differences between the south coast and the north coast of the island, passing by the Boca da Corrida viewpoint where you can enjoy the fantastic views over part of the island and the Atlantic Ocean.
How to get to Madeira island
Being an island, it is natural that there are few options for travelling there, namely by air or sea. In fact, the best choice for those who really want to get to know Madeira is to travel by plane.
It is true that there is also a seasonal connection between Algarve and Madeira, but it takes a long time; large cruises, on the other hand, only make short stops, giving their passengers no time to explore the island.
With that in mind, I recommend that you buy a plane ticket (affiliate link) at one of the airlines that make the connection between Madeira and airports in mainland Portugal in about 1h30, or the main airports in central Europe just over 3 hours away.
23. Ilhas Desertas
Located about 40 km from Madeira island, the Desertas are composed of three islands, Ilhéu Chão, Deserta Grande and Bugio, which together form one of the most difficult natural reserves to reach in Portugal.
The biggest island, Deserta Grande, has a length of 11.7 km and a maximum width of 1900 metres. In terms of maximum altitude, this island reaches 479 metres. The coastal area is cut by small beaches, caves dug in the rock and fajãs (pieces of land next to the sea resulting from the collapse of the cliffs).
Information: know that you can book a 9-hour activity (affiliate link) and go by catamaran to this nature reserve and enjoy all the beauty and biodiversity. The icing on the cake will be going for a swim in the crystal clear waters, away from the crowds.
Porto Santo island
The island of Porto Santo was the first island in the archipelago to be discovered by the Portuguese, who, in 1418, were diverted from their route of exploration of the west coast of Africa by strong winds.
This island is only 11 km long and 6 km wide, but although small, the island of Porto Santo has a lot to see and enjoy!
24. Vila Baleira
Despite its name, Vila Baleira is the only city in Porto Santo and around 5500 people live there. Here, you will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful streets, lined with palm trees, and admire places like the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Piedade.
This church was built in the 15th century and suffered several looting and fires caused by privateers and pirates, reasons why it was rebuilt two centuries later.
The icing on the cake will be a visit to the Christopher Columbus House Museum. This museum is located where the Italian navigator and explorer Christopher Columbus is supposed to have lived and there you can get to know a little more about the history of this island and its role in the life of this navigator.
You can also admire the local handicrafts and enjoy the gastronomy as well as the famous poncha (a traditional beverage).
25. Praia do Porto Santo e Praia do Penedo
Seen by many as the living postcard of the island of Porto Santo, the sand of this island stretches for about 9 km. The fine golden sand and turquoise water of this location have earned it the title of one of the 7 best beaches in Portugal in 2012.
Due to the unique composition of the beach, the beaches of Porto Santo and Penedo are very popular among people who wish to treat, for example, orthopaedic and rheumatic diseases.
In addition to what has already been mentioned, know that along the 9 km of sand, there are several infrastructures that make this place perfect for families, but not only, as is the case of hotels, bars and restaurants. For all this, it is no wonder that the blue flag has been awarded to this site for more than 20 years.
26. Miradouro das Lombas
Lombas viewpoint offers some of the most beautiful views over the bay and beach of Porto Santo and, further away, the islet Ilhéu de Cima. Know that you can also admire a windmill and relax in a small bar.
27. Miradouro da Portela
You can find this viewpoint in the eastern part of the island, with a panoramic view over the city of Vila Baleira, which is about 1.5 km away, and over the Atlantic Ocean.
As a curiosity, know that next to this viewpoint you will find some windmills, a sign of other times and the contrast with the arid landscape of the island.
28. Porto Santo Golfe
For golf lovers or for those who want to try this sport, this is a place you can’t miss. It opened in 2004 and quickly became one of the top 100 golf courses in Europe.
The layout of this golf course, which is in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape, allows the golfer to enjoy the fantastic views over the island, both towards the north and south coast.
In addition to the 18-hole course, know that there are other complementary infrastructures of relevance, such as a bar, restaurant, golf shop, jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath.
29. Pico de Ana Ferreira
In addition to the beautiful views that this peak offers to those who pass through there, know that the main reason for visiting this site are the prismatic formations. This geological phenomenon occurred thousands of years ago due to the volcanic activity that was felt at the time and makes this place one of the places not to be missed in Porto Santo.
30. Quinta das Palmeiras
Quinta das Palmeiras was inaugurated in 1993 and is practically an oasis in the middle of the desert due to its location on dry land, just over a kilometre from the airport. Here you will have the opportunity to visit what is a unique place on the island, a place that is a mix between a minizoo and a botanical mini garden.
Know that here you will have the opportunity to admire various types of birds such as swans and parrots and lush vegetation of all kinds, including the palm trees that give the place its name; there is also a bar where you can relax and enjoy nature. Don’t miss this place!
31. Ponta da Calheta
Located in the southwest of the island of Porto Santo, at one end of the beach, Ponta da Calheta is one of the places that offers the best views at sunset, a perfect place to spend with the family or for photography lovers. You should also know that from here you will have the possibility to admire the islet Ilhéu da Cal.
32. Miradouro das Flores
This viewpoint is a must-see when in Porto Santo. Located in the southwest of the island, from here, you will have the opportunity to admire the breathtaking landscapes over the Atlantic Ocean, over the islets of Ferro and Cal and, of course, over the big sand extension that runs along the south of the island.
33. Rock formations and Miradouro de Morenos
Located in the western part of the island, these rock formations show the origin of the island of Porto Santo from a geological point of view. Here you will find an interpretive sign to know the details of this phenomenon.
Take the opportunity to enjoy the views of the Atlantic Ocean and the islet Ilhéu de Ferro, about 115 metres high, where a lighthouse was built in 1959.
34. Miradouro do Furado Norte
Inaugurated in 2019 and with a unique view over the north coast of the island, the viewpoint of Furado Norte is another place not to be missed on your visit to Porto Santo. Take a short walk to this westernmost point on the island and enjoy the surrounding landscape!
35. Casa da Serra
Located in the eastern and most rugged part of the island, Casa da Serra is an isolated place with a small museum that portrays a little of the island’s history. In addition to visiting this small museum, you will also have the possibility to purchase some regional products, liqueurs, wines and cakes.
36. Pico do Facho
Considered the highest point in Porto Santo, Pico do Facho is 516 metres high. Due to its altitude and the geographic position of the island, whenever pirate ships were seen, bonfires (fachos) were made here to alert the rest of the archipelago, especially the island of Madeira, in order to prepare for possible attacks.
Information: the only way to reach the top is on foot.
37. Pico do Castelo
Pico do Castelo (see photo above, furthest peak) is an elevation with about 437 metres of altitude that can be reached on foot, but also by car. Although there was never a castle there, the name is due to the fact that it was one of the places where the island’s inhabitants took refuge when it was attacked by pirates.
At the top, you can enjoy the fantastic views over the island from the viewpoint with panoramic terrace that is there and, if you want, you can also have a picnic.
38. Miradouro da Fonte da Areia
Located in the north of the island of Porto Santo and very close to the airport, this viewpoint offers some of the best views over the north coast of the island as well as over the Atlantic and the islet Ilhéu da Fonte da Areia.
The name of this viewpoint is due to the large amount of sand that can be found there, as a result of the huge erosion of the rocks. In other times, on this site and according to some sources, the water present here was used for medicinal purposes.
39. Porto das Salemas
Located on the north coast of the island, Porto das Salemas is one of Porto Santo’s best kept treasures. Here, you can go down to the small cove and enjoy the calm and serenity, especially on days when the tide is low.
Do not miss the opportunity to go for a swim in one of the natural pools found there – the water is inviting and pleasant and the views of the Atlantic are breathtaking!
40. Walking trails
As it happens on the island of Madeira, Porto Santo is also rich in walking routes. Next, discover some of the most beautiful.
The first trail I suggest you take when visiting Porto Santo is the one of Vereda do Pico Branco and Terra Chã. This walking trail is only 2.7 km long and can be done in about 1h30.
Along the trail, you will have the possibility to stop at the natural viewpoints to admire some of the island’s landmarks such as the beach, Pico Ana Ferreira and Vila Baleira as well as the endemic vegetation that still endures soil erosion.
Information: there are no fountains along the way so I recommend you bring water to hydrate yourself.
The Pico do Castelo walking trail is another trail to consider. You can choose between a shorter route of 3.2 km or a longer one (the longest on the island) with an extension of 4.6 km. In both cases, know that you will have the opportunity to pass through the base of Pico do Facho, through old agricultural areas and much more!
Along the way you will be in permanent contact with the island’s fauna and flora and, at the top of Pico do Castelo, you will be able to admire a statue of António Schiappa de Azevedo, a patron of the reforestation of Porto Santo that contributed to the controlling of the erosion that was taking over the island.
Lastly, another highlight on the island of Porto Santo is the Levada do Pico do Castelo. This trail starts at the foothill of Pico do Castelo and continues along 4.1 km. One of the highlights of this walk will be a stop to admire the chapel Capela de Nossa Senhora da Graça, built in the 1930s.
How to get to Porto Santo island
If you are on the island of Madeira, know that you can go to Porto Santo by ferryboat, on a journey that takes just over 2h15.
During the trip, enjoy the views over the Atlantic waters and take the opportunity to have a meal in one of the restaurants or have a drink in one of the bars. In addition, know that you will also have at your disposal a cinema room, a games room, a children’s room and a souvenir shop.
If you want to make a faster trip, then the ideal is to buy a plane ticket (affiliate link) with direct connection from mainland Portugal (about 1h45 minutes) or with a stopover on the island of Madeira (an additional 15 minutes of travel).
Itinerary to visit the most beautiful places in Madeira island
When visiting the island of Madeira, I recommend that you start your visit in the city of Funchal, a city with a lot to see and where you will easily spend a day exploring all points of interest such as the Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte, the historic centre and, if you want, you can also go for a swim in the waters of Praia Formosa.
For the following days, I suggest you hire a car (affiliate link) in order to get to the locations more quickly and easily.
On the second day, leave your accommodation and head to Câmara de Lobos to enjoy this beautiful fishing village. Visit the historic centre and admire the colourful boats that are in the bay. You can enjoy lunch at one of the local restaurants and try the famous Madeira poncha.
After leaving the historic centre, head to the Pico da Torre viewpoint to enjoy the view over the city and the sea. Then, go to the majestic Cabo Girão where you can enjoy the magnificent views.
Continue your day with a trip to the Paul da Serra plateau which is located about 25 km away from Cabo Girão.
Finally, end with a walk in the beautiful village of Ponta do Sol and be amazed by this welcoming location, which is partly at the bottom of a valley. If you have the opportunity, enjoy the magnificent sunset.
Spend your third day on the eastern coast of the island.
Start by going to Ponta do Garajau, which is just over 15 minutes by car from Funchal. There, you can leave the car in the car park and walk to the Cristo Rei viewpoint where you can admire the beautiful statue as well as the fantastic views. Amazing!
Continue your day and go to Machico, a city that grew up along the valley and next to Madeira Airport. There, take the opportunity to have lunch and admire some of the points of interest mentioned in point 13.
After lunch, there is nothing like wearing off your calories with a short walk at Ponta de São Lourenço, the westernmost point of the island.
To end your day, nothing like making a stop at the small city of Santana where you will have the opportunity to admire the famous typical houses, among other points of interest. When returning to Funchal, make a last stop at the viewpoint of Cabanas (or Beira da Quinta) to enjoy the view over the vast Atlantic Ocean and the north coast of Madeira.
Information: depending on the time of the day, when you return to Funchal, you can use the same itinerary (by the coastal area) or you can go inland to admire the Laurissilva forest.
For the fourth day of your stay in Madeira, I recommend that you explore the interior of the island, where you will have the opportunity to enjoy nature and discover the luxurious Laurissilva forest, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Start by going to the beautiful village of Curral das Freiras located at the bottom of a valley. Before getting there, do not miss the opportunity to stop at the Eira do Serrado viewpoint, where you will have the best views of the valley and the mountains.
Then, head to Pico do Areeiro but don’t worry because one of the advantages of this place is that you can get there by car.
The next stop will be at the Ribeiro Frio Natural Park where you can be dazzled by the fauna and flora. In this park, don’t miss the opportunity to go to the Balcões viewpoint, one of the island’s viewpoints with the best views.
Finally, head to the highest point on the island, Pico Ruivo. To do this, go to the Achada do Teixeira car park and then hike to Pico Ruivo.
Spend your fifth day exploring the western part of Madeira.
Start by visiting the São Vicente Caves, located on the north coast of the island, 30 km from Funchal. Then take the opportunity to admire the lava tubes that formed thousands of years ago.
Then, head to the viewpoint of Véu da Noiva and enjoy the magnificent views over the waterfall that kisses the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Continue your walk along the coast and head to Porto Moniz. Do not miss the opportunity to go for a swim in the natural pools of volcanic origin and, before continuing your trip, pay a visit to the beautiful Fort of São João Baptista.
About 12 km from Porto Moniz, you will find the viewpoint of Achadas da Cruz. This is a great place to enjoy the beauty of the west coast of the island and, if you want, you can even take the cable car that will take you to Fajã das Achadas da Cruz.
Before ending your day, pass by the viewpoint of Garganta Funda, where you will have the opportunity to admire this which is one of the largest waterfalls on the island, 140 metres high.
Return to Funchal by the south coast of the island.
Information: the itinerary suggested above is just a possibility. You can perfectly change the order of these 5 days in order to better adjust to what you are looking for, depending on the weather conditions and other factors. If you don’t have time, you can replace some of the points of interest and take one or more walks through the levadas.
Itinerary to visit the most beautiful places in Porto Santo island
Regarding Porto Santo, it will take much less time to explore the island due to its dimensions. It won’t take more than two or three days to visit all the points mentioned in this article.
Start by visiting the only city on the island, Vila Baleira, and don’t miss the opportunity to visit Christopher Columbus’s house.
You can choose to stay for a while on the famous Porto Santo beach or hire a car (affiliate link) and make your first stop at the Lombas viewpoint to admire the landscape on the south coast of the island.
If you want to have lunch in a quieter place and away from Vila Baleira, then I suggest you go to Porto Santo Golfe and enjoy all the refinement while enjoying the views over the countryside and beyond. Check out my restaurant recommendations below.
Continue your tour of the island and head to Pico de Ana Ferreira where you can admire the beautiful prismatic formations.
Then, drive another 4 km towards the western end of the island. There, make your first stop next to the rock formations and Morenos viewpoint and, further on, at the viewpoint of Furado Norte and enjoy the beautiful views of the Atlantic and the islet Ilhéu de Ferro.
To end the day, head to two other beautiful viewpoints on the western end of the island: the viewpoint of Flores and Ponta da Calheta. On both places , you can enjoy the beautiful sunset. Don’t miss it!
On the second day of the visit to the island of Porto Santo, leave Vila Baleira very early and head to the viewpoint of Portela, located about 2.5 km away. There, be sure to admire the views over the city and the eastern part of the island.
Continue for just over 1.5 km to Casa da Serra where you can visit the small museum.
Next, discover the highest points on the island, Pico do Castelo and Pico do Facho. Park your car and enjoy the views at the Pico do Castelo viewpoint. If you want, you can reach the top of the second via a vereda (narrow path) that connects the two locations.
After returning to your car, head to one of the island’s wonders, Porto das Salemas. There, don’t miss the opportunity to go for a swim in one of the natural pools and enjoy the pleasant temperature of the water.
Your last stop on the north coast of the island will be at the Fonte da Areia viewpoint where you can enjoy views of the ocean and the islet Ilhéu Fonte de Areia.
If you can, end your day at Quinta das Palmeiras, an authentic oasis that is 8.5 km away from the Fonte da Areia viewpoint.
Where to sleep in the Madeira archipelago
Pestana Promenade Ocean Resort Hotel **** (affiliate link) – Madeira island
This hotel is just a few minutes from the beach. The 4-star Pestana Promenade Ocean Resort Hotel in Funchal is close to some of the city’s landmarks and offers direct access to the promenade that goes all the way to Praia Formosa. It offers its guests both interior and outdoor pools, an outdoor hot tub, a spa and a gym.
Hotel Madeira *** (affiliate link) – Madeira island
This property is only at a 1-minute walking distance from the beach. Featuring a rooftop swimming pool, Madeira Hotel is a 3-star hotel in Funchal historic centre. It offers air-conditioned rooms, and a bar on site. It also offers free Wi-Fi access.
Hotel Vila Bela ** (affiliate link) – Madeira island
Located on the idyllic “Pearl of the Atlantic”, Vila Bela is just 100 metres away from Alagoa beach. Overlooking the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, this hotel has access to a communal outdoor pool adjacent to Porto da Cruz promenade.
Hotel Porto Santo & Spa **** (affiliate link) – Porto Santo island
Located a few metres from the pleasant beaches of Porto Santo, this 4-star hotel is one of the accommodations of choice for those visiting the island. Take advantage of all the amenities that the hotel offers, such as the pool, rooms with private garden or balconies with panoramic views. You can also enjoy regional dishes at the restaurant.
Vila Baleira Resort **** (affiliate link) – Porto Santo island
Vila Baleira Resort is another excellent hotel on the small island of Porto Santo. Away from the airport and the centre of the small city of Vila Baleira, here you will have what is necessary for a beautiful stay: indoor and outdoor swimming pool, sauna, games room and children’s club.
Paraíso Douro *** (affiliate link) – Porto Santo island
This location with tourist apartments is a great option, especially for families. Here, you can enjoy an apartment with an equipped kitchen where you can prepare your meals. Also enjoy the swimming pool and other options to keep in shape during your holidays.
Where to eat in the Madeira archipelago
Restaurante Goya (Funchal – Madeira)
Armazém do Sal (Funchal – Madeira)
La Vaca Negra (Funchal – Madeira)
Restaurante Vila do Peixe (Câmara de Lobos – Madeira)
Restaurante Lily’s (Machico – Madeira)
Restaurante Quinta do Furão (Santana – Madeira)
Sea View Restaurant (Porto Moniz – Madeira)
Casa do Velho Dragoeiro (Porto Santo)
Panorama Restaurant & Lounge Bar (Porto Santo)
Restaurante Torres (Porto Santo)
Traditions and festivities in the Madeira archipelago
Festa da Flor (Funchal – Madeira)
Taking place in the spring, this festival shows the country and the world the special relationship between Madeira inhabitants and flowers.
For many years, the island of Madeira has been known as the “flower island” because of the fact that this island gathers the perfect weather conditions for several and varied flowers to blossom.
On a historical level, the island has been a stopover for ships sailing to the African and American continents. When tourists disembark and roam the streets of Funchal, they are approached by florists selling all sorts of flowers; aside from that, visitors can also admire the beautiful gardens of several houses.
This relationship between Madeira and flowers lives on and attracts more and more visitors every year from all over the world.
This festivity has some moments you can’t miss such as the Children’s Parade (Cortejo Infantil), where hundreds of children dress as flowers and go to the square Praça do Município, where they “build” the Wall of Hope.
However, the Flower Parade is the highlight of this festivity. Constituted by hundreds of dressed-up participants and many floats, this parade spreads the joy and happiness so typical of these moments to all of those who are watching in the streets of Funchal – an event you can’t miss!
You can also take this time of the year and this festivity in particular to admire the beautiful flower carpets and the exhibitions related to this subject.
The Flower Festival is one of the most beautiful Portuguese festivities and is a living postcard to those who want to visit the island of Madeira, also known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic” and chosen for several times as the best island destination in the world.
New Year’s Eve (Madeira)
One of Madeira’s traditions that has been in greater evidence over the years for the Portuguese but also for tourists from abroad is the New Year’s Eve.
Before the long-awaited New Year, Portuguese and foreign visitors should take the opportunity to visit the most beautiful places the island has to offer.
If you’re visiting the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, you should take the opportunity and visit places like Pico Ruivo, Pico do Areeiro, the village of Câmara de Lobos and, why not, go for a stroll in one of several existing walking trails on the island.
In addition to these beautiful locations, you can’t forget to visit the capital of the island – Funchal. Here, you’ll find several interesting places like the fabulous Monte Palace Tropical Garden, the CR7 Museum and the beautiful historic centre.
The long-awaited night arrives and, as previously mentioned in other places, people take the opportunity to have a family dinner in one of several hotels on the island.
Close to midnight, everyone wants to be outdoors to watch one of the biggest and most impressive fireworks show in the world. In fact, the fireworks in Madeira were recognised by Guinness World Records as the biggest fireworks show in the world.
The reason why this happens is because the fireworks are launched from more than 50 different places throughout the island. It’s no wonder why there are several cruises that head to Madeira island every year – to present guests with a unique and unforgettable show. An amazing event!
São João (Porto Santo)
The month of June is one of the months that attracts the most visitors to the island of Porto Santo and the main reason for this is due to the events organised by the time of São João.
Despite not having the same crowds of Porto or Braga, the São João of Porto Santo is also a festivity you should consider. The highlight is, without a doubt, the popular parades in which several extras dress up for the occasion and parade through the main streets of the city.
In addition to the popular parades, there are many other events that liven up the island at this time, such as musical shows, gastronomic meetings and sports activities.
Colombo Festival (Porto Santo)
This festival takes place every year in September and is another reason to visit the island of Porto Santo and enjoy the last days of summer.
For a few days, this festival takes visitors back to the Discoveries, more than five centuries ago, especially the period when Christopher Columbus left his mark on the Madeira archipelago.
Enjoy this festival and admire some exhibitions, enjoy period music, street entertainment in which medieval environments are staged, focusing mainly on the time Columbus disembarked but not only. There is also a historic procession, so there are plenty of reasons to attend this event. Don’t miss it!
When to visit the Madeira archipelago
As you may have noticed, there are several reasons why you should visit the Madeira archipelago: a pleasant climate, breathtaking scenery, amazing walks, historical heritage and much more! Therefore, it is no wonder that this is one of the destinations of choice for thousands of people who want to spend their holidays in Portugal.
Find out below what are the best periods of the year to visit this archipelago taking into account, of course, your preferences.
Depending on the weather
Due to its mild and subtropical climate, you can visit Madeira at any time of the year – the average temperatures will vary between 18 ºC and 25 ºC, so it is very pleasant to visit this archipelago.
Despite the inviting temperatures, you should know that the months with the highest rainfall are the ones between October and February. In this sense, the most inviting months to visit the Madeira archipelago will be between March and September. The water temperature is also very pleasant at that time and can even reach 24 ºC.
If you want to sunbathe and enjoy good beaches, then don’t hesitate to go to Porto Santo; in Madeira you can enjoy the good temperatures in the natural pools of Porto Moniz, for example.
Depending on the festivities
As already mentioned, there are some festivities that are worth watching and that also make the archipelago one of the best holidays destinations in the world.
To admire the beautiful and colourful Flower Festival in Funchal, book your holidays for the spring months. Although the dates are not always the same, it is normal for this festivity to take place between April and May.
In Porto Santo, you will have the possibility to find more entertainment in the streets especially in the months of June and September with São João and the Colombo Festival, respectively.
If what you really want is a big New Year’s Eve, then book your holidays for December, to the island of Madeira. At that time, you can watch one of the biggest (or even the biggest) fireworks show in the world.
Best time to visit the Madeira archipelago
As already mentioned, the months in which you are more likely to have warmer and sunny days are those from March to September. Within these months and in order not to find so many visitors, avoid the festive seasons (Flower Festival in Madeira and São João and Colombo Festival in Porto Santo).
To avoid the months of July and August, which are traditionally the preferred months for taking a vacation, consider scheduling your holidays for late May and early June or September.
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!
What will also interest you:
- Visit to Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão and Fajã dos Padres
- Visit to Pico do Areeiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço
- Visit to Porto Moniz, Levada das 25 Fontes and Paul da Serra
- Pico Ruivo: discover the most beautiful place in Madeira
- What to do in funchal, Madeira – The seven places you must visit