Planning a week-long getaway to Madeira?
Get ready for an extraordinary adventure in this stunning Portuguese archipelago. From picturesque landscapes and captivating natural wonders to vibrant cities and cultural experiences, Madeira offers a diverse range of attractions that will leave you awe-struck.
In this blog post, I’ll provide you with a comprehensive Madeira itinerary for a memorable seven-day journey through Madeira. So let’s dive in and explore the highlights of each day!
Where to stay?
The little house we stayed in during our travels to Madeira was the definition of perfection – tucked away in the mountains and we were welcomed to help ourselves to the fresh fruits and veggies that grew in the farm that surrounded us. Plus, it only cost around £40 per night!
To top it all off, the farm had a cat who would greet us each day after our adventuring and walk us back to our house (we named him Pico!).
Sold out? Check out some more options for places to stay in Madeira below or check out the 10 best boutique hotels in Madeira:
When to go?
Keep in mind that Madeira has microclimates, so be prepared for varying weather conditions across the island. May is an ideal time to visit, with pleasant temperatures for hiking.
How to get around?
In my opinion renting a car really is a must in Madeira. While Madeira has a good public transportation system (if you’re based out of Funchal), having a car allows you to explore the island at your own pace and visit off-the-beaten-path locations that may not be easily accessible by public transport.
Day One: Ponta de Sao Lourenco, Praia de Maiata and Santana
Ponta de São Lourenço
The Ponta de São Lourenço peninsula, also known by the PR 8 trail, offers a mesmerising landscape that is both rugged and awe-inspiring. With its dramatic cliffs, striking rock formations, and panoramic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s no wonder that Ponta de São Lourenço is considered a must do when you visit the island.
To make the most of your experience, I’d recommended you start the hike before 10am to avoid the crowds, as if there’s a cruise ship in the port they’d likely start this hike on an excursion around this time.
Praia de Maiata
Now after a hike in the sun the PERFECT next stop is a beach to cool off in the sea!
When picturing a tropical paradise, pristine white sand beaches often come to mind. However, Madeira offers a unique twist to the typical beach scene with its volcanic beaches and captivating black sand. One such gem is Praia de Maiata, a hidden treasure nestled on the picturesque island.
Located on the north coast of Madeira, Praia de Maiata stands out for its contrasting beauty. As you step onto the beach, you’ll be greeted by the sight of black sand that stretches out as far as the eye can see. This distinctive feature is a testament to the island’s volcanic origins and adds a touch of mystique to the coastal landscape.
What makes Praia de Maiata even more alluring is its tranquil and secluded atmosphere. While Madeira is known for its popularity among tourists, this particular beach remains off the beaten path, making it a perfect retreat for those seeking solitude and serenity.
As you head into Santana, you’ll be greeted by a few colourful triangular houses known as “casas típicas.” These quaint dwellings, with their thatched roofs and vibrant hues, showcase the traditional architecture of the region. Walking through this small section of the town, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a storybook setting, where time seems to have stood still.
Now don’t expect to go and spend hours getting lost amongst rows and rows of these houses. In reality there’s only a few of them (maybe 5 or 6?) so it’ll really be just a quick stop on your way home – but still worth it in my opinion!
Day Two: Levada 25 Fontes and Porto Moniz
Levada 25 Fontes
Begin your second day with a visit to Levada 25 Fontes, a picturesque levada surrounded by gorgeous greenery and cascading waterfalls.
As you venture along the levada path, you’ll be surrounded by lush vegetation, towering trees, and the soothing sound of flowing water. The highlight of the hike is reaching the “25 Fontes” (25 Springs) waterfall, where a series of cascades plunge into a crystal-clear lagoon. Be warned there’s a section of around 800m where you’ll be walking through a dark tunnel, so make sure you have a torch on you (or enough phone battery!).
Now, while this hike is absolutely lovely I must admit it wasn’t my favourite of all the hikes we did. If you did want to cut back on the active-ness I’d say you could easily skip this one.
You’ll see the word ‘Levada’ a lot in Madeira. These levadas are irrigation channels that were built centuries ago to distribute water from the mountains and capture rainfall, ensuring a constant water supply for agriculture across the island. Today, levadas not only serve their original purpose but also offer incredible hiking opportunities, providing access to remote and picturesque parts of Madeira.what’s a levada anyways?
A coastal gem renowned for its unique natural pools and dramatic landscapes. The volcanic rock formations form a natural barrier against the powerful Atlantic waves, creating a series of stunning pools filled with crystal-clear seawater. These pools offer a refreshing oasis for visitors to swim, relax, and soak up the breathtaking surroundings. Beyond the pools, Porto Moniz boasts breathtaking coastal cliffs and panoramic views that will leave you in awe. The town itself exudes a laid-back charm, with its picturesque promenade lined with charming cafes and restaurants serving up fresh seafood delicacies.
The pools are open daily from 9am-7pm and cost €3 to enter.
Day Three: Canyoning and Levada dos Balcões Bird Watching
Madeira isn’t just a destination for stunning landscapes and picturesque beaches; it also offers an exhilarating adventure for adrenaline junkies: canyoning. With its rugged terrain, dramatic cliffs, and cascading waterfalls, Madeira provides the perfect playground for this thrilling activity. During my visit, I had the opportunity to embark on a beginner canyoning tour, and I can wholeheartedly say that it was an experience I would highly recommend to anyone seeking an adrenaline rush and a unique way to explore the island’s natural wonders!
One of the highlights of canyoning in Madeira is the accessibility of tours suitable for beginners. These tours provide a safe and guided introduction to the sport, ensuring that even those with little to no experience can participate and enjoy the thrill. With expert instructors leading the way, you’ll receive proper instruction, equipment, and guidance throughout the entire journey, ensuring your safety while maximising the fun factor.
Levada dos Balcões
This leisurely trail offers a serene and scenic journey through lush forests, leading you to a captivating viewpoint that will leave you in awe.
The highlight of Levada dos Balcões is the destination itself: the viewpoint overlooking Ribeira da Metade. One of the remarkable aspects of Levada dos Balcões is its accessibility. The trail is considered relatively easy, making it suitable for hikers of all ages and fitness levels.
Don’t forget to buy some birdseed to bring with you before going to the Levada – trust me!TRAVELLER TIP
Along the trial to the viewpoint is the absolute best hidden gem restaurant called Snack Bar Flor da Selva, the most amazing views, tasty food and friendly service. Be sure to time your visit with a stop here for a meal!
Day Four: Fanal Forest and Seixal Beach and Natural Pools
In the northern part of Madeira Island lies the mesmerising Fanal Forest. Nestled amidst the island’s captivating landscapes, this enchanting forest captivates visitors with its mystical charm and ethereal ambiance.
As you enter the Fanal Forest, you’ll be greeted by a sight that feels straight out of a fairytale. The majestic Ocotea Foetens trees, also known as “laurisilva” or Madeira Laurel, stand tall and proud, casting a magical presence over the forest. One of the most intriguing aspects of Fanal Forest is the frequent occurrence of a mysterious fog that blankets the area, adding an extra layer of enchantment to the already captivating surroundings.
For those seeking the best chance to immerse themselves in the foggy ambiance, a visit in the morning is highly recommended. The fog, with its ethereal quality, creates an otherworldly atmosphere that transports you to a realm of wonder. When we visited around 9 am, the fog was so intense that it almost felt surreal!
To reach Fanal Forest, follow the winding roads that lead to the dedicated parking area known as “Faial Parking” on Google Maps. The journey from Funchal takes approximately one hour by car.
Seixal is known for its volcanic black sand beach, a sight that showcases the island’s dramatic geological origins. The contrast between the dark volcanic sand and the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean creates a striking scene that is both mesmerising and awe-inspiring.
For those seeking a refreshing dip, Seixal offers a more rugged version of the popular natural pools found in Porto Moniz which are quite unknown and far less busy. These natural pools, formed by volcanic rocks, provide a unique swimming experience surrounded by the raw beauty of nature. What makes Seixal’s natural pools special is the absence of man-made structures, allowing you to truly connect with the untamed elements. Dive into the crystalline waters, let the waves crash against the rocks, and relish in the invigorating sensation of this untouched paradise. The best part? These natural pools are free to enter, making them accessible to all who seek a refreshing escape.
Day Five: Valley of the Nuns and Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike
Day five takes you on an unforgettable journey through the Valley of the Nuns, a hidden gem surrounded by towering mountains. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of this secluded valley and soak in the awe-inspiring landscapes. Later, embark on the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike, a challenging yet rewarding trail that offers breathtaking views of the island. Reach the summit of Pico Ruivo just in time to witness a mesmerising sunset.
Valley of the nuns
Set in the crater of an old volcano, the Valley of the Nuns, locally known as Curral das Freiras, is a hidden gem that offers a serene retreat from the outside world. To begin your journey into this enchanting valley, start by heading to the Miradouro Eira do Serrado, a stunning viewpoint that provides a panoramic vista of the valley below.
To truly immerse yourself in the Valley of the Nuns, you absolutely need to venture into the village itself. The village is famous for its chestnuts, and you’ll find an array of chestnut-themed foods and delicacies in the local restaurants year-round. One such restaurant that comes highly recommended is Restaurante Sabores do Curral, where you can savour the flavours of the region while enjoying the warm hospitality of the locals.
Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike
This out-and-back route takes you to two of the highest peaks on the island, offering breathtaking views, cloud inversions, and an immersive experience in nature’s grandeur.
The trail involves significant elevation changes, and by the end, your quads will certainly feel the burn. However, the sense of accomplishment and the awe-inspiring vistas that await make it an adventure of a lifetime.
Pico do Arieiro, known for its fame as one of the most renowned viewpoints in Madeira, offers the option to drive directly to the summit and soak in the panoramic views without embarking on the hike. However, I highly recommend taking on the challenge of the hike itself.
To avoid crowds and enjoy quieter conditions along the trail, we opted to start the hike in the mid-afternoon. This strategic timing allowed us to reach Pico Ruivo, the highest peak, and then make our way back to Pico do Arieiro to witness the breathtaking sunset. By doing so, we encountered fewer hikers along the route and had the opportunity to savour the tranquility of the surroundings.
Day Six: Exploring Funchal City
Dedicate your sixth day to exploring Funchal, the vibrant capital of Madeira.
Start your Funchal adventure by visiting the renowned Monte Palace, an exquisite botanical garden that has been voted one of the most beautiful in the world. Lose yourself in the enchanting displays of exotic flora and fauna, allowing the serene atmosphere to transport you to a world of tranquility.
To get there, hop on the cable car and ascend to the top of Monte, a hilltop neighbourhood that offers stunning vistas of Funchal below.
Now to get back down, take a toboggan ride into town. Glide down the streets in a traditional wicker basket toboggan, guided by skilled carreiros.
When it’s time to satisfy your culinary cravings, head to O Velho Pescador. This hidden gem offers amazing seafood dishes and exemplary service.
Funchal is a city that seamlessly blends natural beauty, cultural festivities, thrilling experiences, and delectable cuisine. So, embrace the vibrant atmosphere, stroll along the charming streets, and allow Funchal to captivate your senses.
A week in Madeira is a journey of discovery, where you’ll be enchanted by the island’s diverse landscapes, captivating activities, and rich cultural heritage. From scenic hikes and canyoning adventures to serene beaches and charming cities, Madeira has something for every traveler. Follow this itinerary to make the most of your seven-day escape, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Get ready to be captivated by the beauty of Madeira, an island paradise like no other.