Often overlooked in favour of the sun-bleached mainland or the breathtaking beauty of the Azores, Madeira could be Portugal’s best-kept secret. The autonomous archipelago can be found scattered many miles off the coast of Morocco. It boasts a subtropical climate and exotic, Jurassic Park-style scenery, with lush green volcanic cliffs rising from azure waters in the most dramatic fashion. I hope that you enjoy our Madeira itinerary. We have planned for 4 days, 7 days and 10 days for you.
Introducing Madeira Island
The island of Madeira was first inhabited in 1420 and made it the first discovery of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Porto Santo, the capital of Madeira for more than 500 years, is the best-laid out city known for its historical sites and climate.
Madeira has many kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches. Hop on a daily ferry to Porto Santo, the only other inhabited island of the Madeira archipelago, and you’ll discover beautiful six-mile beaches. The island of Porto Santos is just a two-hour ferry ride from Funchal, home to some of the best beaches in the archipelago.
Where to Stay in Madeira
Figuring out where to stay in Madeira is important if you want to make the most of your time. For this itinerary, we recommend staying in the capital, Funchal. Here you will find the biggest concentration of hotels, bars, and restaurants, with easy access to all the attractions, tours, and activities listed.
How to Get Around Madeira
You will either need to rent a car or book organised tours to reach some of the locations mentioned on this itinerary. Renting a car will give you the freedom to visit attractions at the time that suits you best, while going on tours means you won’t have to worry about driving on the island’s narrow winding roads. There are pros and cons to both options so be sure to select the one that’s right for you.
How long should I spend in Madeira?
A week is a great time to visit Madeira with the kids, but if you want to be a little more active and add some great walks around the island to your itinerary, I would suggest a good 10 day stay. Surprised and happy when we found Madeira on our map while booking a trip to the island.
A week in Madeira will show you the best things to do, including some of the best walks on the island. If you are looking for a relaxing trip, you can extend your stay so you can see all the sights of the ultimate 7-day Madeira itinerary while relaxing by the pool. A large part of Madeira remains untouched by man, so you should explore remote parts of the island.
With spectacular views, natural volcanic pools, botanical gardens and toboggan runs, you will find plenty of activities to fill your Madeira itinerary. Even if you don’t plan to spend your week sunbathing there, this route has plenty of time to visit the island. Madeira has some amazing walks to offer, so look forward to exploring them all.
Your Madeira itinerary will be a nice short break, with time to explore the area and take some nice postcard worthy photos. Hike to Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo, a beautiful mountain route that connects the highest peaks of Madeira and leads through a breathtaking landscape.
4 Days in Madeira
Madeira is a small island which means that 4 days on the island will give you a taste of the entire archipelago and allow you to see more than the capital Funchal.
One of the most relaxing ways to explore the island without a car is by taking part in an organised day trip. If you have 4 days on the island, I recommend two full day tours, one on the west side of the island and the other on the east side. The other two days can be a hike or beach day and Funchal.
7 Day Madeira Itinerary – A Week in Madeira
Summer brings scorching temperatures and plenty of sunshine, while winter is also a popular time to visit, offering the perfect climate for hiking and adventures. We have put together the perfect Madeira one-week itinerary to help you get the best of your time.
Day One: Explore Funchal
On arrival at Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, you can either take the Aerobus, rent a car, or take a taxi to find your accommodation in Funchal. Once you have deposited your luggage, stretch your legs by taking a stroll around Funchal Old Town. The city’s historic centre features cobbled walkways and centuries-old façades, with architecture dating back to the 15th century.
You can check out the vibrant farmer’s market while you’re here, or take the cable car up to Monte Palace for a bird’s eye view of the city. Here you’ll also find the city’s famous botanical gardens, which feature unusual sculptures and over 1,000 different plant species. If you’re feeling up for a thrill, take a traditional wicker basket ‘toboggan’ ride back down to the city. Once used by locals to get around, these hair-raising sleds can reach speeds of up to 30kmph.
Day Two: Explore the East of the Island
For your second day, it’s time to get out of the city on a tour of the east side of Madeira. Here you’ll find the highest driveable point on the island at Pico do Arieiro, above the clouds at an altitude of 1,818m. Other highlights in the east include Camacha, a rural village known for its colourful folklore and wicker basket-making traditions, and Santana, where the last of Madeira’s emblematic straw-roofed houses can be found. If time allows, you should also check out Ribeiro Frio, an area of stunning natural rock formations, and the trailhead of several short hikes with breathtaking views.
Day Three: Take a Boat Tour
The waters surrounding Madeira are rife with wildlife. Several species of dolphins and whales call these brooding Atlantic waters their home, and the best way to spot them is on an organised boat tour. Most tours depart from Funchal Marina with a range of different vessels on offer, from sleek catamarans to pirate-style flagships popular with families. Some tours also include stops at other areas of the archipelago, including the uninhabited Desertas Islands, and Porto Santo, which features a stunning beach of fine white sand.
Day Four: Hike to the Waterfalls in Valley of Rabaçal
Madeira’s tropical interior is full of spectacular surprises, none more so than the valley of waterfalls, located to the northwest of Funchal. There are plenty of well-marked trails to take you on an adventure through the jungle, most of which start at Rabaçal, where there is also a car park. Venture through the enchanting Laurisilva Forest to stumble on a series of lagoons and rushing cascades, perfect for cooling off during the summer.
Day Five: Relax on the beach
Rest your aching legs on day five with a rejuvenating day at the beach. You can check out the local beaches of the city, such as the historical Formosa Beach, or bustling Lido, complete with its own public saltwater pool. If you’d like to venture further afield, Praia do Porto do Seixal is an exceptional stretch of volcanic sand flanked by emerald cliffs, offering scenery that wouldn’t look out of place in Hawaii.
Day Six: Explore the West of the Island
Day six can be spent exploring the delights on the island’s western side, including Cabo Girão – one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Towering 570m above crashing waves, the views from the glass-bottomed skywalk make for a thrilling start to the day. More spectacular scenery awaits at Encumeada, where the landscapes of the north and south collide, and the winding valleys of Serra D’Água. In the afternoon, be sure to check out Porto Moniz, which features volcanic rock pools with crystal clear water, perfect for swimming.
Day Seven: Prepare to Travel Home
Your last day will most likely be taken up with preparing to travel, but if you have a few spare hours left before your flight, you could easily spend them in Funchal. Check out anything you missed on day one, or head to the Saudade Madeira to pick up local, handcrafted gifts for loved ones.
Those short on time could condense this itinerary by sacrificing a day at the beach, the waterfalls hike, and the boat tour. Instead, concentrate your two full days on the highlights of the east and west side of the island, while taking your arrival and departure days to explore historic Funchal.
Madeira 10 Day Itinerary
If you have a few spare days to spend on the island, you certainly won’t get bored! We recommend tackling another of the island’s incredible hikes, such as the challenging trek to its highest point at Pico Ruivo. You should also head back to the eastern side to visit the Ponta de São Lourenço nature reserve, home to unusual flora and fauna. Wildlife-lovers may like to spend another day checking out the whale museum in Caniçal. Meanwhile, Blandy’s Wine Lodge in the centre of Funchal offers an in-depth look into Madeira’s wine-making heritage, helping you learn all about the fortified beverage named after the island itself.
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