Madeira Itinerary: 7 Days in Utopia
📅 11 October 2020 | Guides, Portugal | ⌛ 30 mins
Ever since Madeira became island of the year, more and more people are trying to get to it. If you are one of them, then you definitely need to check this Madeira Itinerary for 7 days!
Madeira is an idyllic island in the Atlantic Ocean and just 500 kilometers of the African coast. It is what many would refer to as a modern utopia. Trust me, they are not lying. Words can’t simply describe how beautiful this island is.
The island was found around the 14th century and was quickly settled by the Portuguese. Then, the locals started growing sugar cane, which became their main source of wealth. The island was one of the main stops for all of the Portuguese voyagers including Christopher Columbus.
Nowadays, Madeira is one of the best islands to visit for your vacation. However, it is always good to be well-prepared and know what to expect. Thus, I have curated this Madeira Itinerary for 7 days to get you out of the hassle.
Madeira Itinerary Map
Best Time to Visit Madeira
Madeira has probably the most perfect climate in the whole world. It rarely rains and it is never too hot. Although, there are some of the best times to visit the island:
✖ Christmas and New Year: Enjoy a jaw-dropping fireworks show in Funchal and an awesome weather – warm and sunny!
✖ September, October and November: The weather during these months is mild with less rainfall and lots of sunny days. In fact, the climate in Madeira in November is quite nice – it reaches 20 degrees and there are plenty of sunny days.
✖ January, February and March: The plane tickets around Christmas and New Year can get quite expensive, thus I would suggest visiting the island after that. The climate in Madeira in January and February is perfect if you want to enjoy some alone time, away from the crowds. This is also the perfect time to explore the mountains on the island – less rainfall and lots of sun.
✖ June, July and August: Nevertheless, visiting the island during the summer is the perfect time. However, there will be lots of people everywhere and your trip might turn into a nightmare
Madeira Itinerary: Day 1 – Exploring Funchal
Whether you are coming by plane or cruise ship, Funchal is the first place that you will visit in Madeira. It is the most charming and colourful city on the island. As the capital of Madeira, Funchal has a lot to offer – group tours, pub crawl and lots of free things to do. However, there are a couple of places that definitely need your attention!
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden
On the first day, it will be best to first climb the highest landmark of Funchal – Monte Palace Tropical Garden. This extraordinary tropical garden is probably one of the most mesmerizing sights in the city. It is spread on an area of 70, 000 square meters and is one of the biggest gardens in Portugal. It houses home to lots of exotic plants from all over the world, swans, peacocks, Koi fishes and many more.
Despite being famous for housing one of the biggest collections of exotic plants, it is also admired for its Oriental Gardens. Located on the hills of the garden, these Japanese inspired gardens promise to take you to another world with their beautiful temples. Along with that there are lots of ponds full of Koi fish, orchid gardens, and meditation spots which are truly mesmerizing!
Within the garden you will also find some garden art, which dates back to the 15th century and is in the Portuguese Manueline style. Then, you can explore the museums of the Monte Palace, which include a collection of Zimbabwean sculptures. There is also a museum “Mother Nature’s Secrets”, which holds a rich collection of minerals coming from Brazil, South Africa, Peru, Argentina and North America. Finally, you can visit the Tile Museum, which holds a huge collection of Portuguese tiles dating back to the 15th century.
Eventually, you will reach the famous Monte Palace, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and a beautiful lake with waterfalls. It was once a hotel, which was visited by the richest people in Europe who enjoyed romantic boat rides on the lake.
Madeira Botanical Garden
What would you do if you were wealthy in the 17th century? Probably create your own private garden to walk around it!
This is exactly the case with the Botanical Garden of Madeira. Built in the 17th century by the Reid family over 35 000 square meters as a private garden. It is now housing many exotic plants and small animals.
Nowadays, the garden is public and one can enjoy all of its parts. There is an area housing all of the indigenous and endemic plants that are coming from Madeira, Azores, Canary island and Cape Verde. Then, you can head to the Tree Garden, where you will see plants from all over the world – even the Himalayas! Eventually, you will end up in the Loiro park, which is home to some exotic and rare birds like Cockatoos and Loricos.
EarthOSea Travel Tips:
🎟️ Price: 9 EUR| 3 EUR children between 6 to 18 years old
⌚️ Opening Hours: Every day: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Funchal’s Old Town
Funchal’s city center is full of life and joy all year round. It is sunny, full of colours and lots of things to do! One of the main landmarks to visit in the city center of Funchal is its cathedral. Built in the 16th century during the time of the Great Discoveries, it is a symbol of the wealth and power of the Portuguese people. Inside the cathedral is covered in woodwork almost everywhere and is quite unique compared to other cathedrals in Portugal.
A couple of streets down from the cathedral is the São Lourenço Palace. It was in the 15th century as a fortress, it is now a museum showing the history of the complex. Right next to it is Funchal’s Marina, which offers one of the most mesmerizing views of the bay.
Eventually, you can visit the Mercado dos Lavradores, where you will find fruits and vegetables you have never heard about. From passion fruit to all sorts of mangos and maracujas to the anonas, which are sugar apples. Then, you can head to the fish shops and check for black scabbardfish which is the specialty of the island. This market has everything! For less than 20 euros you can buy some fresh unknown fruits and try them, which is a quite unique experience!
Madeira Itinerary: Day 2 – Hiking to the End of the World
The second day of this Madeira Itinerary will take you to the founding city of the island. Also, you will get the chance to enjoy Europe’s most scenic views and learn more about the history of the region.
Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço
Close to Funchal, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço is one of the most visited hiking trails in Madeira!
That is no surprise as the trail offers one of the most scenic landscape on the island. The hiking trails is set on the easternmost point of Madeira and is one of the windiest places.
As the story goes, this was the first peace of land that the voyagers reached when they discovered the island. Thus, they called it the “End of the World”, as it was quite hostile.
Nowadays, many tourists visit the trail to enjoy the beautiful views and serenity that surrounds this place. Some of those views include the nearby islands of Porto Santo and the Desert islands. On a clear sunny day it is possible to see Madeira’s highest peak – Pico Ruivo.
The trail takes around 5 hours in total to hike and ends at Morro do Furado, which is the last view point on it. Once there you can enjoy the most jaw-dropping view on the island!
Machico is the resort city of Madeira and is considered to be the favourite place for lovebirds on the island. As the local legend goes, a prince and a princess decided to elope, as they were forbidden to see each other. They sailed away from Europe and the strong winds took them to the pebble beach of Machico.
Nowadays, Machico is a preferred destination on the island, due to its golden sand brought straight from Morocco. It is for sure preferred by people that would like to enjoy some sunbathing and get plenty of rest.
Christ the Kind statue is one of the most visited Sacred places on the island. In the past, the non-catholic Christians were thrown from the cliffs, as only catholic Christians were allowed to be buried on the island. Thus, the statue was built in the beginning of the 20th century as a memorial for all of the non-catholic Christians.
While there, you will find the stairs and the lighthouse at the end of the cliff to which you can walk. From there you can get some amazing shots of the Atlantic Ocean and Christo Rei. There is also an option to get to the beach under the statue by using the cable car, which is near the parking lot of the landmark.
Madeira Itinerary: Day 3 – Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
If you love being outdoors and hiking, then the third day will be your favourite for sure! On day 3 in Madeira you will have the chance to reach the highest peak on the island.
The hiking trail starts at the Radar Station of Pico Arieiro and follows the paved path that leads to the main trail. Going further you will reach the Miradouro do Ninho da Manta, where you will get a glimpse of the northern mountain range. Along with that, on that spot you will also see Pico Arieiro in the distance and some buzzards flying around. Truly astonishing!
Then, following the path you will reach the Pico das Torres, which was leading to Pico Ruivo. However, in recent years, Pico das Torres became closed to the public, as there are lots of rockfalls. Thus, while you pass near it you should be very careful. Eventually, the path near it will lead you into a tunnel where you will be safe from the rockfalls.
In the end, climbing to the top of Madeira will feel like the most exhausting part of the whole trail. But, it is absolutely worth it. From Pico Ruivo you will be able to observe every part of the island and feel very energized and fulfilled.
The trail to Pico Ruivo takes 4 hours each way and goes through a tough terrain. Thus, a good equipment is a must and a good physical condition. To finish this journey you can either go back the same way or choose from the 2 trails paths.
🧐 Tip: On the way back you can stop by Miradouros do Paredão and enjoy the beautiful view over Nun’s Valley or the Atlantic Ocean.
Cabo Girão is a famous glass platform in Madeira with an elevation of 580 meters, it is the highest cape in Europe. The cape offers some of the most magnificent views over Funchal, Câmara de Lobos and the Atlantic Ocean. Honestly, it is definitely one of the spots you should visit for sure, especially during a sunset.
On top of that, if you are a fan of paragliding or base jumping you can try some exactly from this spot!
Madeira Itinerary: Day 4 – The North
On day 4 in Madeira you will get the chance to learn more on how the island has emerged from the ocean. Furthermore, you will get to learn more about the traditional way of living of the first settlers and enjoy some beautiful views.
Sao Vicente Caves
The Sao Vicente caves are one of the first volcanic caves to be opened to the public in Portugal. They were discovered by the locals and were later investigated by James Johnson, an English naturalist.
The formation of the caves happened sometime 890 thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption, which happened in Paul da Serra. Nowadays, the caves of Sao Vicente offer a very interesting representation of the earthy formations of Madeira. There is a Volcano Center where one can find lots of information about soil, rocks, formations and even observe the eruption of a volcano.
Along with that, the program includes a walk within the lava tubes where you will find the lakes of the caves. In these lakes, you will see lots of bottles of wine put inside of them. As per the locals, the longer the wine stays within this sweet water, the better it gets. Unfortunately, the tour does not offer any tasting. Nevertheless, you can find the wine in the local restaurants and try it~!
EarthOSea Travel Tips:
🎟️ Price: 8 EUR
⌚️ Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Santana is probably one of the places in Madeira where one can observe traditional ways of living. Th settlers of the region came in the beginning of the 18th century. Santana was one of the most remote and hard to reach places and due to that it preserved its traditions very well.
Nowadays, the city is mostly visited for its Theme Park where the famous houses of Santana can be found. The houses of Santana have the form of inverted V and a thatched roof, which helped in keeping them warm during the winters. Inside the Theme Park of Santana you will be able to learn more on how the Madeirans were living back in the days. On top of that you will be able to try their traditional meals at the restaurant there. And this is a thing you have to try!
EarthOSea Travel Tips:
🎟️ Price: 6 EUR
⌚️ Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Crane Viewpoint or as the locals call it – Miradouro do Guidaste is one of the breathtaking places on the island of Madeira. As the story goes, this was the place where the locals were welcoming the voyagers after their trips around the world. Nevertheless, Crane Viewpoint is a very serene and beautiful place to stop by and rest.
Vereda dos Balcoes is another hiking trail on the island, but it is a very easy and takes around 40 minutes in total. The special thing about it is its balcony that overlooks the mountain range that surrounds the city of Ribeiro Frio. This also includes the rock formation Penha d’Águia and the peaks of Madeira – Ruivo, Arieiro, Torres and Gato.
The view of the balcony is truly mesmerizing and is accompanied by the serenity of the valley and the gentle chirping of the canaries.
Madeira Itinerary: Day 5 – Exploring the Levadas
There are lots of Levadas on Madeira, but the Levada das 25 Fontes is probably the most enchanting one! The Levadas in Madeira are simply hiking trails that follow a complex irrigation system that usually leads to the springs on the island. Thus, Levada das 25 Fontes is famous for having 25 springs spread all over the area.
The Levada das 25 Fontes takes around 6 hours in total and is around 10 kilometers. During the hike, you will find the sweet café of Rabaçal, which is indicating the start of the trail. From there you can embark on this adventure to the 25 Fontes Falls, which is closer and is a waterfall situated in a semi cave. Going further you can hike to Risco waterfall, which is the highest waterfall on the island and is falling from 100 meters. Then, hike a bit more to Lagoa do Vento, which is exactly on top of Risco.
While on this mesmerizing hiking trail you will enjoy some of the most serene spots on the island. Along with that, you will get the chance to see some of the most magical views of the lush endemic vegetation on the island. It is also interesting to walk by the irrigation system, which supplies all parts of the island with fresh water. Quite fascinating, huh?!
Madeira Itinerary: Day 6 – Porto Santo
A trip to Madeira should never go without visiting the mesmerizing island of Porto Santo. Recently, Porto Santo became a favourite toursist destination for its beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise waters. On top of that, the water is always warm and you can enjoy swimming and doing all sorts of water sports.
Porto Santo is a peaceful and quiet island, which will captivate you with its beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, there are a couple of things that worth exploring the island for a day.
Christopher Columbus house
Just like Madeira, Porto Santo was found around the 14th century by Portuguese seafarers. They arrived at the island after a heavy sea storm. Believing that the island was their savior they named it Porto Santo, which means “Holy Harbour”.
Throughout the years lots of seafarers would arrive at the island for one reason or another. However, the most famous seafarer was Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America.
The museum of Columbus house proves that the famous discoverer indeed lived on the island. The legend says that Columbus fell in love with the daughter of the governor of the island. Although, he lived a very primitive life, judging by the findings in the house, we can conclude he was a happy man.
Inside of his house there are lots of portraits dating back to the 16th century. Along with that, there are lots of maps of the world showing his travelling routes and his diary. And this is quite fascinating to look at!
EarthOSea Travel Tips:
🎟️ Price: 2 EUR Adults| 1 EUR for children
⌚️ Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Vila Baleira is the capital city of Porto Santo and was home to world’s most famous seafarer – Christopher Columbus. The city was found in the 14th century by Bartolomeu Perestrelo, a Portuguese navigator and explorer. He was also a father-in-law of Columbus, whom married one of his daughters.
The city of Vila Baleira is not big and one can easily navigate around it on foot. There are a not many things to do in the city but visiting the main square and the Infante Gardens is a must. Then, you can easily head to the main beach of Porto Santo – Praia do Porto Santo.
The Miradouros of Porto Santo
There are lots of places to enjoy some of the most beautiful vistas in the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most visited are Ponta da Calheta, which overlooks to Ilhéu da Cal. Right, next to them is Praia do Zimbralinho, where one can enjoy swimming in the turquoise waters of the island.
If you want to enjoy a view over the whole island then head straight to Pico do Castelo viewpoint. It is only 800 meters high and is easy to climb it. I won’t even mention that the view from there is truly worth it.
Madeira Itinerary: Day 7 – Madeira's Beaches
The 7th day of this Madeira Itinerary has the focus on the natural beaches of Madeira. Most of them are set in the north part of the island, far away from the capital. Nevertheless, it will be a great way to enjoy a day trip to the north of Madeira and explore it further.
Porto Moniz is a small parish in the northwest part of Madeira, which is surrounded by mountain hills and the ocean. However, it is one of the most visited cities on the island and this is due to its natural swimming pools. The natural pools of Porto Moniz are formed by volcanic lava, which froze once it met the ocean. Nowadays, instead of lava there is crystal clear water and you can observe lots of marine animals swimming around.
🧐 Tip: There is a parking lot, changing rooms and bathrooms next to the swimming pools.
Ribeira da Janela
Ribeira da Janela is a small village built around the mountain ranges and is mainly known for its beautiful rock formations. Most of the tourists head straight to probably the most famous rock formation on Madeira – Ilhéus da Ribeira da Janela. Those are a couple of rock interesting rock formations resembling a window and are set near the city’s pebble beach.
To get to that pebble beach you need to stop by the parking lot in the city. Then, follow the stairs that go straight through a huge rock and lead you to the beach.
🧐 Tip: On the way to Seixal you can stop by Viewpoint of Eira da Achada, which offers a great view of the region!
Seixal is one of the most charming cities in the north part of Madeira. It is mostly known for its natural black sand beach, which offers a magical view of the mountains and the ocean. There you can simply enjoy the serenity and take a dip in the cold ocean. If you prefer warmer type of water, then you can head straight to Poças das Lesmas’ natural pools, which are nearby.
Eventually, you can check out the famous waterfall Véu da Noiva or Bridal’s Veil, which is nearby Seixal and on the road to São Vicente.
Where To Stay in Madeira?
Finding a place to stay at is not so hard in Madeira. The island has abundance of hotels, hostels, guest houses, campings and all sorts of accommodations. Of course, during the high season most of the places are taken, but you will never be left without a bed!
However, the best area to stay in Madeira is in its western part. Away from the big city, closer to the hiking trails and offering peace and quiet in abundance! Thus, you might want to look for accommodation in Calheta, Porto Moniz, Sao Vicente or Ponta Delgada.
To make your search for accommodation in Madeira easier I have prepared a list of the highest rated stays depending on your preferences:
Madeira Island Tours
This idyllic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has too much to offer. However, here are some of the tours that are worth your time:
Catamaran Dolphin and Whale Watching: If you want to sail along peacefully in a luxury catamaran. Then, this is the trip for you! On top of that you will get to see dolphins and may be some whales swimming around 🐳
Guided Tour to Pico Ruivo: Hiking to Pico Ruivo is not an easy job and you might need a good guide. If this is the case, check this guided tour to Madeira’s highest peak!
Levada Walk in the Rabaçal Valley: If you want to explore Rabaçal Valley like a pro, then go for this trip! Spend 8 hours in the deep Laurisilva forests of the island and chase waterfalls.
Toboggan Ride: The Toboggans were used by the locals as a means of transportation for centuries. Try the most traditional experience on the island by hopping on this Toboggan ride!
Canyoning for Beginners: Ever wanted to try something new?! Now is the time to get out of your comfort zone and enjoy some of the most beautiful spots on the island!
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I hope that you liked this one week in Madeira Itinerary. Did you visit any of the suggested landmarks?
Which one was your favourite?