An Action-Packed 7 Day Madeira Itinerary
Heading to Portugal and planning your Madeira Itinerary? We have pulled together an action-packed schedule that will help you see the best this beautiful island offers. You could also use this itinerary for a 2-week trip to allow lots of beach time in between sightseeing.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira Portugal is a beautiful island, with breathtaking scenic hikes, amazing views over the Atlantic Ocean, and its UNESCO World Heritage-listed forests. Not only that, but Madeira Portugal offers all-year-round pleasant weather, making any time of the year great to visit Madeira.
Still, having Spring weather all year means several rainy seasons, so for less chance of rain visit Madeira between March to September.
What to know before going to Madeira
While Madeira is a small island, it actually feels quite big, with several cities, multiple incredible views, and many boat tours. All these attractions can make it hard to decide what to put on your Madeira itinerary.
You might like to consider getting a rental car in Madeira especially because public transport isn’t available in some of the more remote parts of this beautiful island.
One reason nature lovers head to Madeira is to experience the Levada trails found throughout the Madeira Archipelago. If you love hiking, then do some research and factor a few trails into your trip.
Levadas originated out of the need to bring large amounts of water from the west and northwest of the island to the drier southeast, which was more suitable for habitation and agriculture.
Nowadays, Levadas do more than supply water and hydro-electrical power. They have become popular hiking day trip routes, taking you anywhere from the north coast to the south and west coast through a network of beautiful paths.
Each Levada trail is classified by difficulty, so before choosing the Levada walk you wish to hike, make sure that it is suitable for your fitness level.
Madeira Itinerary: How many days should you stay in Madeira Portugal?
If you intend to explore the entire island of Madeira relatively well, the ideal time recommended for your Madeira itinerary is a week to ten days, depending, of course, on your pace and time in-between attractions.
Still even 4 days here will give you time to visit the most popular landmarks of this beautiful Portuguese island. In this case, follow the first 4 days of our 7 day Madeira itinerary.
A one week Madeira itinerary for first-time visitors
Our Madeira itinerary assumes you are based in Funchal, the island’s capital. The capital city is the best base from which to discover other places on this small island. If you have not already booked your accommodation, you might like to read our guide on where to stay in Madeira.
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Day 1- Funchal
On the south coast of Madeira, Funchal is the largest town on the whole island. It offers a wonderful variety of attractions, accommodations, things to do, and public transport.
Things to see and do in Funchal
Start your visit exploring Funchal and try to include several of the following spots on your first day.
- Rua de Santa Maria, a street famous for its beautiful street art, connects Funchal’s old town to the Funchal farmers’ market.
- Spend some time in the cafes of Funchal old town known as Zona Velha, taste the local food, and explore the local shops.
- Mercado dos Lavradores, the Funchal farmers’ market, is a great place to buy typical products from Madeira and exotic fruits.
- Catamaran tour, select one from the many available catamaran tours and embark on an ocean adventure for a dolphin and whale watching tour. We love the sunset tour.
- Ride the 30 stop Funchal Hop on Hop off bus if you want to cover a lot of ground quickly or save your legs for some hiking trails later in the week.
- Monte cable car, the cable car that takes you up to the beautiful botanical gardens: Monte Palace Tropical Garden and Madeira Botanical Garden. You can book a tour that takes in all these sights or do it yourself if you prefer to be independent.
- Monte Palace Tropical Garden is an oriental-inspired garden with several Japanese-style gardens and Asian sculptures.
- Madeira Botanical Garden, where 2500 exotic plants from all continents are spread across five areas.
- Monte Toboggan rides – head back down the hill on a traditional sled made of basketwork. Powered by two carreiros (drives), who control the sled throughout your journey.
Day 2 – Câmara de Lobos
Right next to the capital city, you can find the small colorful fishing village, Câmara de Lobos, on the southwest coast. Câmara de Lobos has a different pace to the busy city vibe of Funchal, but it still is quite lively, especially at night.
Câmara de Lobos is the home of the famous Madeira drink, Poncha.
Things to see in Câmara de Lobos
- Fajã dos Padres is a beautiful organic farm with a little restaurant beside the Atlantic ocean that is reached either by cable car or boat.
- Cabo Girão, the highest cape of Europe 580 meters above sea level, where you can look down on the ocean and the coastline of Madeira through the glass skywalk.
- Curral das Freiras is a valley surrounded by green mountains and an old place of refuge during pirate raids.
- Eira do Serrado, a viewpoint that looks down upon the valley Curral das Freiras and gives you an amazing view over the green mountains.
How to get to Câmara de Lobos
It’s a 10km drive from Funchal or you can take a rather scenic 40-minute bus trip from Funchal to Câmara de Lobos along the cliff tops. If you have the energy, it’s an 8.5km walk!
Day 3 – From Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
Pico do Arieiro, the island’s third-highest peak, is also the most visited. On arrival, you will find a lovely inn, dining hall, and souvenir shop. At the top of the island’s third-highest peak, you can see Curral das Freiras, Porto Santo Island, and Ponta de São Lourenço.
What to see on your day trip to Pico do Arieiro
- “Poço da Neve” (the snow well), can be seen on the way to the peak, a well built by an English family to store ice, snow, and hail from the mountains.
- Sunset/Sunrise – don’t miss the beautiful above the clouds view of the sun setting or rising from the top of the peak.
- Pico Ruivo, you can hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. This is one of the epic hiking trails visitors to the island sing the praises of. It takes 3 hours one way and 5 to 6 hours round trip, so be sure to leave early.
- Along the way to Pico Ruivo, there will be steep ridges, slopes, and steps, as well as tunnels (be sure to bring a torch or have your phone at the full battery for flashlight use).
- The path is well signposted, so don’t worry about getting lost, but if the fear still lingers, you can also take part in a guided tour.
If you don’t fancy a mountain day, you could spend the day relaxing at the beach
How to get to Pico do Arieiro
You will need a grab rental car to visit Pico do Arieiro. It’s only a quick road trip, about 20km or 40 minutes drive from Funchal, but there is no public transport. Alternatively, you can join a day tour.
Day 4 – Porto Santo Island
Porto Santo is the smallest of the inhabited islands of the Madeira Archipelago. It lies in the Atlantic Ocean, at the southwestern tip of Europe. This island in the Atlantic Ocean has 9km of golden sandy beaches, ideal for relaxing, sunbathing, and swimming. The golden sand of Porto Santo is fine, smooth, and is said to have therapeutic properties.
Day trip to Porto Santo
The day trip will allow you at least 8 hours to explore the island. We suggest:
- Vila Baleira is small town minutes from the harbor and right next to the beach, where you can stroll on picturesque streets or ride a carriola (carriage pulled by a horse).
- Christopher Columbus Museum, much more than a visit, here you can even get to know the house in which he once lived.
- Stroll the Island’s paths – get to know the primitive beauty of the landscape on foot or by bicycle, a hiker’s dream come true.
- Get underwater – Pull on a snorkel to explore the local marine life, or if you are experienced at scuba diving, don’t miss the underwater tour in a secret natural pool inside the Marine Protected Area in Porto Santo.
How to get to Porto Santo Island
From Funchal, you can get to the island by ferry and make it a round trip (or stay in one of Porto Santo’s all-inclusive resorts). The boat usually leaves daily from Funchal (in the harbor, near Loo Rock) at around 8h00, and returns around 18h00, though there are occasional variations according to season, and on Fridays to accommodate weekend traffic.
At this point, you could choose to split your time and book a hotel or apartment on the other side of the island for your final three days. Sao Vicente makes a good central base for the next few days. If you prefer not to move, you can still make these trips from Funchal, but the drive will be a little longer.
Day 5 – Porto Moniz and Seixal beach
On the northwestern coast of Madeira, you can find the refreshing Porto Moniz. Famous for its natural saltwater swimming pools, which are surrounded by volcanic rocks that protect them from the violent currents of the Atlantic Ocean.
From Porto Moniz, you can reach the small town of Seixal, known for its black sand beaches, the Seixal natural pools, and lush green mountains in the background.
Day trip to Porto Moniz
- Porto Moniz’s natural saltwater swimming pools were formed by volcanic lava, and are naturally filled with crystal-clear seawater. With a surface area of 3800 m², there is also a children’s swimming pool, a children’s play area, and disabled access.
- Ribeira da Janela Levada – a Levada course in Porto Moniz that is one of the most beautiful in Madeira. Relax with a picnic by the ocean when you have had enough hiking. The name Ribeira da Janela derives from a stream and the amazing rock formations located at sea which resemble a window.
- Fanal Forest and Fanal pond, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and magical home to six- hundred-year-old trees, is a scenery often compared to those from a fairy-tale book.
What to see on your day trip to Seixal
- Poça das Lesmas, a natural saltwater swimming pool, is characterized by its clear crystalline water and archway rock formations.
- Miradouro Véu da Noiva, the bridal veil waterfall, is in between Seixal and São Vicente, the strength of the waterfall and the way the water falls down the coast remind us of a bride’s veil. From this viewpoint, you can enjoy the amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean and the coast of Madeira.
How to get to Seixal and Porto Moniz
From São Vicente it’s a 15km (20-minute drive). There is no public transport, so you will need a car or a tour. If you are visiting from Funchal, it’s a 50km drive that takes about an hour.
This Western Madeira: Full-Day Jeep Safari Tour departs from Funchal.
Day 6 – São Vicente and Santana
On the northwest coast of Madeira, São Vicente is a municipality surrounded by mountains and green landscapes. A beautiful little town, perfect to visit for anyone interested in geology and volcanoes.
What to do on a day trip to São Vicente
- Go on a guided tour into the São Vicente Caves, where you can see how the volcano lava traveled and molded the shape of the tunnels.
- Centro de Vulcanismo de São Vicente is where you can learn about volcanoes and how the island of Madeira was formed.
Back on the road trip, enjoy the lush green mountains and random waterfalls on the way to your drive to Santana.
On the northern coast of Madeira Island, Santana is known for being the home to Madeira’s most renowned form of arts and crafts, the “Bordado da Madeira” (embroidery).
Day trip to Santana
- “Casas de Santana”, Madeira typical traditional colorful and adorable houses colorful and with straw made roofs. These houses are displayed in Santana’s town center.
- Miradouro da Rocha do Navio, this amazing viewpoint is an amazing starting point for a hike down to the ocean. On the way, you will pass through a magical landscape with waterfalls, rocks, small agricultural areas, and many wonderful, fragrant plants. The cable car with spectacular views is ideal when returning to the town of Santana.
- Levada do Caldeirão Verde, “Green Cauldron” in English, is an impressive Levada built in the 18th century that begins in the main stream of the Caldeirão Verde brook. Passing through steep cliffs and mountains, it carries the water that runs off the highest mountains of Madeira, to be used to irrigate the farmlands of the parish of Faial. On your walk, don’t miss the Caldeirão Verde lake.
How to get to Santana
It’s a one-hour bus trip or a 40-minute drive from Funchal to Santana. You could also choose a day tour.
Day 7 – Porto da Cruz and Caniçal
The picturesque small village of Porto da Cruz is on the northeast side of Madeira island. Tourism is scarce in this small village whose population lives mainly off the local agriculture. For beach lovers and surf enthusiasts, Porto da Cruz is a brilliant spot to spend some time.
Day trip to Porto da Cruz
- North Mills Distillery, built in 1927, the distillery still uses the same machines it did when it opened, being the only distillery in Europe still using steam to keep the engines working;
- Praia da Maiata, is a natural black sand beach that reminds one of Hawaii. It is a great sport for surf lovers or for anyone whole wants to relax by the ocean.
Drive your way to the eastern end of Madeira Island to find the fishing village of Caniçal. Prior to 1981, Caniçal was the center of a very successful whaling industry, a practice now forbidden.
Day trip to Caniçal
- Whale Museum, where giant whale bones remember the old and, now dismissed, whale industry.
- Boat tour, there are several boat tours to choose from at Caniçal, from dolphin and whale watching to exploring Ponta de São Lourenço’s Natural Reserve by kayak.
- Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost point of Madeira, the Levada of Ponta de São Lourenço explores the thin peninsula, with good paths through the cliff scenery. At the end of the Point there are two islets: the Cevada, Metade or Desembarcadouro Islet, and the S. Lourenço Point, Farol or Fora Islet. The stone partition marks where the Regional government’s land begins and is part of the Madeira Natural Park. The peninsula is classified as a partial natural reserve and the Desembarcadouro Islet is a total natural reserve. On the horizon, to the South, you can see Ilhas Desertas (Deserted Islands), and to the North the Porto Santo Islands.
- Sardinha Port is located at the end of Ponta de São Lourenço’s trail, and know that you can dive here. At this spot, you can also find the Sardinha house, a base for a group of Rangers who work for the Madeira natural park.
How to get to Porto da Cruz
It’s a 30-minute drive or 90-minute bus trip to Porto da Cruz. There are also day tours that explore Eastern Madiera.
We hope our blog post has helped to inspire you to leave mainland Portugal and make your way to Madeira. It is such a beautiful island. We think everyone should spend some time on its epic hiking trails and discover its interesting capital city Funchal and viewpoints on the northwestern tip.