Are you embarking on a trip to Madeira and looking for the best places to visit in Madeira? Then you’re in luck, because this is the ultimate 1-week itinerary for Madeira that must go on your Europe bucket list!
In this blog post, I’m going to highlight the best things to do in Madeira, the best places to visit in Madeira and the best adventures to go on. This is the blog post for you whether or not you are looking for the best hikes in Madeira, the best places to visit in Portugal or the next destination for backpacking in Europe. The nature and the tranquility of a trip to Madeira couldn’t be further from the hustle and bustle that you might experience in your daily life or in other cities in Portugal such as Lisbon, and it’s definitely somewhere you should experience once in your lifetime.
This 1-week Madeira itinerary is perfect for those who want a real taste of the nature that Portgual has to offer. Madeira is a volcanic island and an autonomous region of Portugal. It’s variety and beauty is incredible, so whether you are into water sports, hiking, sightseeing or simply relaxing on the beach you will not be disappointed. It’s well-known for being one of the best places to go hiking in Europe, so don’t forget your hiking boots for this itinerary!
See all our hiking top tips here.
This Madeira itinerary assumes that you are based in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, which is definitely one of the best places to visit on the island and an excellent base for all the main attractions it has to offer. That doesn’t mean to say that you couldn’t adapt this itinerary to stay in the smaller towns around the island as you make your way around all the best places to visit in Madeira!
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Getting to Madeira…
Madeira is easy to fly to and relatively inexpensive if you fly with WizzAir or EasyJet. There is only one airport in Madeira, the Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport, and it’s easy to get to most places on the island from there.
If you’re stopping over in Lisbon because the direct flights don’t work out for you, check out our guide to Lisbon here.
Be mentally prepared for landing at Madeira airport. The runway is infamous for being quite short, and the pilots certainly have to press on the brakes on landing!
Make sure to buy some euros before your trip, because cash is king on the island. Buses, some cafés, and many attractions only accept cash.
There is an airport bus going directly to Funchal, the capital city, which costs €5. You can also get a Bolt (an uber equivalent, use this like to get €5 free), which works pretty well all around the island. See more useful travel apps here.
Best time to visit Madeira…
Madeira is lucky enough to have fairly good weather all year round! Winter temperatures (November-February) average at around 16-18 degrees celcius, and the summer (June-August) averages at 25 degrees celcius (although it can reach early 30s).
If you’re looking to visit Madeira on a budget, avoid the peak times of June-September, as well as Christmas and New Year.
Getting around Madeira…
The easiest way to get around Madeira is by car, but make sure to book before you travel, because availability can be limited in high season. Off-season you’d pay around €40 for one day, but you can get amazing deals if you book for longer. During high season the prices can reach €100 per day, but again do your research as this is very fluid.
You can easily enjoy Madeira without a car too. If you stay in Funchal, which is where this guide advises you to stay, you will be able to get everywhere by bus or Bolt. Most attractions will take at least half a day, so catching a bus there and back works out perfectly and still leaves plenty of time to enjoy your evening in the city.
Google Maps and other apps don’t function very well when it comes to buses in Madeira, but here is something that will make your life a thousand times easier. This bus map shows you all bus lines in Madeira. Different colours indicate different bus companies, so once you figure out where you need to go check the times on that company’s website. Online schedules are very accurate and ticket prices range from €2 within Funchal to about €5 if you’re travelling to the other side of the island. Longer routes can be very scenic. And remember to bring cash!
This map is accurate as of August 2021, but you can grab one at the information window at the bus terminal in Funchal.
Where to stay in Madeira…
There are plenty of hotels and hostels all around the island, but if you want to explore as much as possible pick one in the capital city Funchal, which has great links to other parts of the island.
If you like staying in hostels, Madeira 29 hostel is a good choice. It costs about £100 for a week in a 4-bed mixed dorm and £200 for a private room, and the standard is brilliant. There is a fully equipped kitchen, good wifi and a common area which makes it super easy to socialise and meet new people. The receptionists Joana and Andrea are very friendly and helpful too.
See our top tips for staying in a hostel for the first time here.
For more options on where to stay in Madeira…
Internet in Madeira…
If you want to avoid high roaming charges you can buy a data only SIM card at one of the official MEO stores in Funchal. For €15 you’ll get unlimited data for 15 days. Longer plans are also available.
The ultimate 1-week Madeira itinerary...
Day 1: Ponta de São Lourenço
This Madeira itinerary starts assuming that you spend Day 0 arriving in Madeira and settling into your accommodation in Funchal!
Start your Madeiran adventure with Ponta de São Lourenço (PR 6) hike located on the eastern tip of the island. This short hike is only 3 km long plus the final climb to the viewing point. It’s easy although you will be going up rocky hills, so sports shoes will be useful. There is a café and a toilet where the trail ends. You can either rest there or continue a few hundred metres up a hill to experience Madeira’s flagship view over the lighthouse islet, one of the best things to do in Madeira.
Near the café you will find a beautiful beach. It’s worth bringing swimsuits and towels as it’s one of the best places to visit in Madeira. You can rent a kayak there for about €5 per hour and explore the nearby beaches, which are inaccessible by land. There is also a boat bus, which will take you back to the parking lot/bus stop if you don’t fancy walking back.
This trail is easily reachable from Funchal by bus (113) or by car (there’s free parking). If you’re in Madeira during the summer, go early to make sure you’ll be on the beach before midday heat!
The hike is short, but if you relax on the beach this trip will take about ½ of your day.
After returning to Funchal, head to Santa Maria Street near the Marketplace for dinner and evening drinks. The Marketplace boasts a variety of exotic fruits and spices, but be careful as everything is massively overpriced. Santa Maria Street is full of restaurants, which offer €10 dinner set menus and give you a chance to try local food.
Make sure to try poncha at some point during your trip. This local drink is based on lemon, rum and sugar and has many variations including passionfruit, which is the Madeiran favourite. Rei da Poncha is right around the corner from Santa Maria Street and offers many flavours at low prices.
Day 2: Pico do Arieiro & Pico Ruivo
Start the day early by watching the sunrise on Madeira’s third highest peak Pico do Arieiro, one of the best things to do in Madeira. The view will take your breath away as you will find yourself watching the sunrise from above the clouds. Make sure to wear something warm as it can be chilly so high up in the mountains. The Bolt ride from Funchal costs around €21 one-way and you can split it with 3 other people. You can also drive yourself and use the free car park.
If you enjoy hiking, continue down Madeira’s best-known hiking trail from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (PR1), the island’s highest peak and one of the best places to visit in Madeira. This trail guarantees incredible views, as you descend down through the clouds, walk through tunnels in the side of the mountain and climb back up to Pico Ruivo. There’s a cafe on Pico Ruivo where you will be able to refill your water bottle and get a coffee or small snacks before you make your way back the same way.
Remember to wear sports shoes, take a waterproof jacket with you just in case and bring water and food. Going there and back takes around 6h depending on your fitness level. The warmer it gets the harder it becomes, so make sure to start early!
After the exertions of the morning, refuel with delicious food and drinks at MadCuba in Funchal. This Cuban restaurant offers just 5 delicious dishes (including a vegan option), which are slow cooked for hours before being served. You will not be disappointed! There is a happy hour Mon-Fri from 6-7 pm where you can indulge in 2 cocktails for €4, but even outside of it drinks are very affordable.
Day 3: Rock pools
Madeira offers many beautiful natural rock pools connected to the ocean. The most famous ones are in Porto Moniz, one of the best places to visit in Madeira, but you don’t need to go that far. Take one of many buses to the less crowded Piscinas Naturais da Doca do Cavacas and enjoy the ocean water. Entry costs €5.20 for half-day (until 1pm and then from 2 pm until closing) and it’s possible to rent sunbeds here.
For lunch or dinner take a 20 min walk by the coast to reach MadMarket restaurant. Indulge in a wide choice of Madeiran dishes as well as vegetarian options. Lunch with soft drinks will cost around €20 per person here.
Day 4: Caniçal to Porta da Cruz
Visit the northern part of the island on day 4 of your Madeira itinerary by taking an easy, but stunning coastal walk from Caniçal to Porta da Cruz. You can reach the beginning of this trail by taking the bus 113 a little further beyond Machico. Google maps will be helpful here – search for ‘Vereda do Larano’ (also saved in the Portugal Google Map legend), to easily find the beginning of the trail and press the stop button on the bus as you come near it. You can also drive here and take a Bolt back to your car from Porta da Cruz.
On the northern side you’ll be following the cliff path, enjoying the coastal views and sometimes even walking through the clouds as they are blown up the cliff to get to the southern side of the island. The end goal is Porta da Cruz, a small, scenic town known as one of the best spots to surf and one of the best places to visit in Madeira.
Once you get hungry make sure to go to A Pipa. This small restaurant is often full, but the wait is worth it as you can stuff yourself full of delicious local meat and seafood. Make sure to try lapas with garlic butter – these mussels are the Madeiran specialty. A meal of lapas, salad, ride and a big glass of wine costs less than €15.
Take the busses 53, 56, 103 and 138 from the bus stop in front of the church to get back to Funchal.
Day 5: Water!
Madeira offers almost all water sports imaginable. Whether you are already experienced or just want to try, take advantage of the extensive offer. Surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkelling, diving and canyoning are just some of the best things to do in Madeira. Most companies will also pick you up and drop you off, so there’s no need to worry about transport. I had a great experience canyoning with Lokoloko Madeira. They offer a wide variety of sports at reasonable prices.
If you don’t fancy water sports, book a trip to one of the less accessible spots on the island. Most will cost around €30 for the whole day and you’ll get a guided tour. 25 Fountains or a tour of Porto Moniz and the Seixal beach are good choices or if you have a car it’s worth driving over there yourself.
Day 6: Monte
Take the cable car from Funchal old town all the way up to Monte (€11 per person one way) and enjoy panoramic views of the city on the way up. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Madeira and something you shouldn’t miss on your itinerary for Madeira!
At the top go to the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens (€12.50), which will take your breath away. There are many beautiful sections in the gardens starting from the Koi pond in the oriental section to an indigenous Madeiran plants forest walk and many more. All the incredible greenery is topped off with a waterfall falling into a pond full of turtles, a huge cage filled with hundreds of free-flying green parakeets and a free Madeira wine tasting in the café at the bottom of the garden. Be ready to spend all day here.
The cable car closes at 5 pm, but you can always take the 21 bus back down to Funchal. This will also save you a lot of money (it’s just €2!).
Day 7: Formosa beach, Parque de Santa Catarina & dolphins!
Finish your holiday with a day of relaxing on one of the beaches and swimming in the ocean. The black sand Formosa beach, one of the best places to visit in Madeira, is just a short bus ride away from Funchal. On your way back make sure to walk through the stunning Parque de Santa Catarina. And if you are in need of gifts head to Praça do Municipio to find the little gift shops.
If you are still hungry for one last adventure book a dolphin and whale watching tour by the tourist dock. Make sure to book ahead of time as they get very busy, as it’s one of the most fun things to do in Madeira, but most of the time it’s worth it!
Where are your favourite places to visit in Madeira?
What are your top tips for planning a Madeira itinerary? Anything you’d add?
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