google-site-verification: google9f3eb14845093e9b.html
Levada do Caldeirão Verde

Best things to do in Madeira; discover the whole island

What are the best things to do in Madeira? Discover culture in the capital Funchal, hike the levada walks, view stunning landscapes and relax on the beaches. Or enjoy the local cuisine, uncover colourful markets and track the highest mountains. Madeira is perfect for quiet holidays, adventure sports and nature lovers, so let´s explore all the sights on this Portuguese island.

Discover Portugal is fully reader-supported. For that reason, this article contains some affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you purchase through links on this page at no additional cost to you. All revenue is used to keep this website free and updated. I only recommend products or services that I would use myself. You’ll be able to read the full disclaimer here. Thanks for your support!

Discover the best things to do in Madeira

A quick overview

What to see? A Portuguese island full of hiking trails, waterfalls, towns and cities and local culinary treats.

Costs? From free to luxurious.

Where? Madeira is an island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Worth it? If you like nature, culture, and hiking, then YES!

Brief introduction to Madeira Island

Madeira (officially the Autonomous Region of Madeira) is a stunning archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, famous for its Madeira Wine, many hiking trails, the city of Funchal and unbelievable landscapes. Located approximately 1.000 kilometres (600 miles) southwest of mainland Portugal, Madeira consists of the main island of Madeira and its smaller neighbouring islands, including Porto Santo. If you visit Madeira any time soon, this guide is here to help you plan and navigate your trip. Mark your favourite spots, and enjoy one of the most beautiful places in Portugal!

Flights to Madeira from Portugal

There are direct flights to Madeira daily from mainland Portugal. Fly TAP AirPortugal, EasyJet or Ryanair from Lisbon or Porto. Or, if you’re in Faro, you can book flights with Azores Airlines and TAP. The flight takes around 1,5 hours from mainland Portugal.

You will arrive at Aeroporto da Madeira Internacional Cristiano Ronaldo, which is located just north of Funchal. The drive will take around 20 to 30 minutes to the capital. If you stay north of the airport in Santana or surrounding villages, the journey will roughly take the same time. Compare flight tickets and routes easily with Skyscanner.

A short history of Madeira

Madeira’s recorded history begins with its discovery by Portuguese explorers in the early 15th century. The Portuguese navigators João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira discovered the island in 1419. Before the discovery, the island was uninhabited, and the first settlers were farmers and fishermen.

The island became a major sugar market thanks to sugar cane cultivation, which was later replaced by wine. The tourists started arriving in the 19th century, and Belmond Reid’s Palace was the first hotel on the island. The hotel is still open and a magnificent place for a luxury stay in Madeira!

Geographical features and climate of Madeira

Madeira is known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic“, and the subtropical climate makes it perfect to visit all year round. The average temperature on the island is between 20 °C to 24 °C (73°F), so never too warm and never cold. It might rain a bit more between autumn and spring, but, to be honest, the weather in Madeira can change at any moment. You might wake up in the fog, and 5 minutes later, you’ll enjoy the blue sky.

On top of that, the island’s dramatic landscapes are inviting for nature lovers and rest seekers alike. The island has volcanos, towering cliffs, ancient forests, stunning waterfalls, lava pools, and beaches. Remember to bring your hiking boots or enjoy one of the many adventure sports on the island! Madeira is close to the Spanish Canary Islands and Morocco. The archipelago itself includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo and the Desertas.

Best things to do in Madeira; cities and towns

Exploring Funchal, the capital city

We start the journey in Funchal as most travellers will stay here on the first night or plan all trips from the capital of Madeira. Most inhabitants live in the city, and it’s the largest on the island. The centre is located close to the harbour, and you’ll discover the first sights in this area. Examples are Santa Catarina Park, Madeira Story Centre, Blandy’s Wine Lodge, and Sé Catedral do Funchal.

An easy way to get around is by Hop-on Hop-off bus in Funchal. Tickets are available from €18.50, are valid for 24 hours, and offer guides in nine different languages. The Hop-on Hop-off 3 in 1 tour is another option. A ticket is valid for 48 hours, and along the route, you’ll discover the city centre, the nearby town Câmara de Lobos (Winston Churchill came here a lot!) and Cabo Girão Skywalk.

Read the full story → Discover the best sights in Funchal.

Iconic landmarks in Funchal

One of the best things to do in Madeira is to visit Funchal. You can easily spend a few days exploring iconic landmarks such as Monte Palace Tropical Garden. It’s located atop a hill and easily reached by bus or taxi. The best way, however, is to take a cable car to the top! You’ll enjoy a fantastic view over Funchal, and it drops you off straight at the entrance of Monte Palace. The garden is filled with art and unique plants, flowers and trees from all over the world. After your visit, you can ride the famous toboggan down the hill! The wicker baskets reach a speed of 30 kilometres an hour, and it’s a thrill to slide back to Funchal.

If you like visiting markets, Mercado dos Lavradores will be heaven! Enjoy the colours, sweet exotic fruits and the hustle and bustle of the market. Other highlights in Funchal are Palácio de São Lourenço, Rua de Santa Maria, Jardim Botânico da Madeira, and Quinta da Boa Vista. Check out the complete Funchal guide to explore all the sights in the capital.

Visiting museums in Funchal

Funchal boasts several museums, of which the CR7 Cristiano Ronaldo Museum is the most famous. The footballer was born in Madeira and started his impressive career here. A fun museum to visit with children is the 3D Fun art museum in the city. Or maybe you’d like to learn more about the sugar cane history of Madeira? Then Museum of the City of Sugar (Núcleo Museológico da Cidade do Açúcar (MACA)) is the place to be. Madeira Story Centre is fabulous if you want to know more about the island’s history. 

Câmara de Lobos

You can visit the coastal town of Câmara de Lobos near Funchal. This colourful fishing village was a favourite of Winston Churchill, and there are some nice sights to discover. Find the seal street art made by Bordalo II, see the statue of Churchill in front of the Pestana Hotel and enjoy lunch or dinner in the harbour. Near, you can also visit the Cabo Girão Skywalk. The Skywalk is perfect for thrill seekers who aren’t afraid of heights! You’ll enjoy a magical view from a viewpoint at 580 meters above sea level! It’s one of the highest cliffs in Europe, close to the village of Cabo Girão.


One of the most famous towns in Madeira is Santana. You’ll find this gem on the island’s north side, and it’s well known for its A-frame-shaped houses. Besides the traditional homes, visiting Parque Temático da Madeira is also fun, where you discover what the typical houses look like from the inside. You’ll also learn more about traditional Madeiran handcrafts, and there are workshops all year round. 

Read the full story → Visit Santana and discover all the must-see places nearby

Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz is a lovely coastal town on the northwestern shores of Madeira. The place is mostly known for its natural pools and relaxed atmosphere. Porto Moniz is amazing if you like a more rural area to stay. There are nice hikes nearby, and it’s the perfect spot to discover more remote parts of Madeira.

Best things to do in Madeira; natural attractions on the island

Many travellers come to Madeira to enjoy nature. The landscape is diverse, there is much to see and do, and the surroundings are healthy. The following best things to do in Madeira are all related to special natural places.

The levada walks in Madeira

Madeira is known for its extensive network of levada walks. These levadas are irrigation channels that crisscross the landscape, offering scenic hiking routes with panoramic views of the valleys, waterfalls, and terraced hillsides. Some famous hikes are Levada das 25 Fontes, Levada dos Balcões, and Levada do Calderão Verde. For an exhilarating and challenging hike, Vereda do Pico Ruivo is perfect! Some organised hiking tours are available in Madeira, but most trails are easy to follow with the help of the WalkMe Madeira App.

Discover 5 easy hikes for your first visit to Madeira → Discover some of the best walks

Pico Ruivo

Pico Ruivo is the highest mountain in Madeira and is a whopping 1.862 meters tall. The perfect mountain to climb! There are two ways to get to the top. The PR 1.2 Vereda do Pico Ruivo hike is the easiest of the two. You´ll start from the car park at Achada do Teixeira and follow a 2.8-kilometre trail (1.74 miles) to the top. You’ll need about two hours to complete a return journey.

The other route is the more advantageous PR 1 Vereda do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo trail. The course is 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles) long and takes 4 to 5 hours to complete. There are several tunnels and high drops, but with an organised tour, you’ll easily master this hike! It’s one of the most popular ones on the island, and the views from the top are magical! Especially during sunrise and sunset.

Read the full story → Climb Pico Ruivo

Visiting the volcanic caves and lava pools

The vulcanic character of Madeira has left a mark on most corners of the island. You’ll see this first hand in the São Vicente Caves (Grutas de São Vicente – temporarily closed), a network of volcanic caves formed by lava flows, created around 890,000 years ago. Or enjoy one of the many natural pools you will find in Madeira. Especially the Porto Moniz Natural Pools and the Natural Pools in Seixal are popular.

Fanal Forest

When you’re close to Porto Moniz and Seixal, you can also visit Ribeira da Janela and the famous Fanal Forest. The Laurel trees create an enchanting experience, especially when it’s covered in fog! The Laurissilva Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site as the laurel trees stem from the Tertiary period (approximately 66 million to 2.6 million years ago)! Enjoy the lush vegetation and stunning views with clearer weather.

Anjos waterfall

A popular attraction in Madeira is Anjos waterfall, a stream of water that lands on the ER101 road and onwards into the sea. The ER101 is located between Ponta do Sol and Madalena to Mar on the island’s south side. The road is no longer the main road and is often closed due to rockfalls.

Miradouro da Garganta Funda

One of the tallest waterfalls in Madeira is at Miradouro da Garganta Funda, also known as Miradouro da Vaca. Sometimes the waterfall has run dry, but the views at this point are stunning nonetheless. The Garganta Funda Waterfall drops 140 meters down and can be seen after a short walk. Follow signs to Miradouro da Garganta Funda when you are close to Ponta do Pargo at the island’s western point.

Discovering the scenic viewpoints and cliffs

Speaking of viewpoints, there are so many places where you will want to stop your car to take pictures in Madeira! For example, you can visit Miradouro do Ponta da Ladeira near Garganta Funda Waterfall. Or enjoy the view at Miradouro Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela on the north side. Closer to Santana, you’ll discover Miradouro da Beira da Quinta. Other must-see places are Miradouro Ponta do Furado at the end of Vereda da Ponta de São LourençoMiradouro do Juncal at Pico do Arieiro, and Miradouro Eira do Serrado to see Valley of the Nuns (close to Ribeira do Cidrão).

Beaches in Madeira

There are several beaches in Madeira where you can spend a relaxing day! Most beaches, however, are volcanic, but there are some sandy beaches to discover. Praia de Machico is probably one of the most beautiful beaches, and it’s near the town of Machico. Calheta also offers some stunning beaches, such as Jardim do Mar and Praia da Calheta. Other recommendations are Praia Da Ribeira Brava (with natural pools), Praia da Maiata (rocks), Prainha do Caniçal and Praia Formosa (rocks).

Best things to do in Madeira; outdoor activities

With so much nature, it comes as no surprise that the island is ideal for outdoor activities! Let’s explore some of the options that are perfect for adventurers and nature enthusiasts.

Water sports and activities, such as surfing, diving, and sailing

Whether you like sailing, diving, surfing or swimming, the waters surrounding Madeira are inviting for anyone who loves the ocean! Fabulous tours and exciting water sports and activities are available in Madeira. The best surfing spots are on the northern coast, particularly in areas like Jardim do Mar, Paul do Mar, and Ponta Pequena. And numerous dive centres operate on the island, providing guided diving trips and courses for both beginners and certified divers. Enjoy stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking to discover hidden coves and sea caves, or step on board a sailboat for an unforgettable adventure!

Tip: For the complete guide to fantastic surf camps in Portugal, click here!

Whale and dolphin watching tours in Madeira

From the harbour in Funchal, there is a wide selection of whale and dolphin-watching tours available. It’s an amazing way to see the majestic marine creatures in their natural habitat, and you can spot various whale and dolphin species along the coast. You may spot a Bottlenose Dolphin, Short-beaked Common Dolphin or Sperm Whale on your trip! Responsible whale and dolphin watching is a priority in Madeira to ensure the well-being of the animals and the preservation of their natural environment. Tour operators follow guidelines to minimise disturbances and avoid altering animal behaviour. The use of eco-friendly boats and adherence to strict codes of conduct are common practices among all reputable operators.

Jeep safaris and off-road adventures

There are many fun ways to discover Madeira if you don’t have your own car! Join a 4WD Tour or join a Jeep Expedition on the island. You´ll see the best spots along the way, and the qualified guides will tell you much more about Madeira.

Canyoning and hiking

Canyoning and hiking are very polar in Madeira, and thankfully you can join guided tours to explore nature! Although most hikes are easy to follow, getting there isn’t always easy if you don’t have a car. Besides, real thrill-seekers will enjoy canyoning in the rugged landscape of Madeira!

Visit Porto Santo Island

When you have time, visiting Porto Santo Island is a must. It’s known as the “Golden Island” and is located 40 kilometres northeast of Madeira. Finding a sandy beach in Madeira can be challenging, but Porto Santo is known for its beautiful golden sandy beaches and crystal-clear water! Porto Santo Beach is 9 kilometres long and a true paradise on earth.

Another highlight is the Porto Santo Biosphere Nature Reserve, since 2020, part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The biodiversity on the island is amazing, and the best way to explore this is by hiking. Follow the trail to Pico do Facho for panoramic views of Porto Santo and Madeira’s neighbouring islands! Or enjoy some well-deserved spa treatments the island is known for.

Getting to Porto Santo is relatively easy, with regular ferry services and flights from Madeira’s main island. From Lisbon, there are even direct flights to Porto Santo!

Best family-friendly activities in Madeira

Madeira is a fabulous island for all ages, including children! There is a lot to see and do; your kids will enjoy the island as much as you will. Discover some of the best activities for families in Madeira!


✓ Visiting Madeira Theme Park in Santana
✓ Enjoy family-friendly beaches such as Praia de Machico
✓ Aquário da Madeira in Porto Moniz
✓ Visit Parque Florestal das Queimadas and enjoy a short walk
✓ Levada dos Balcões is a perfect and fast walk for children of any age
✓ Check out the CR 7 museum in Funchal if your kids like football and Cristiano Ronaldo
✓ Ride the Hop-on Hop-off bus in Funchal
✓ Visit the 3D Fun Art Museum in Funchal
✓ Swim in the natural pools in Porto Moniz
Dolphin and whale watching
✓ Ride the cable car from Funchal to Monte and take the toboggan back to Funchal
✓ Enjoy Santa Cruz Aqua Park
✓ Check out Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal

Trying traditional Madeiran cuisine and wine

Food lovers will also enjoy a visit to Madeira. Besides the fabulous market Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal, many restaurants serve traditional Madeiran foods. Examples are Espetada Madeirense (beef cubes on a skewer and grilled on wood or charcoal), Filete de Espada (fish), Prego no Bolo do Caco (steak sandwich), Picado or Picadinho (beef usually with chips), and Bolo do Caco (a typical bread). Tip: join a 3-hour-long food and wine tour in Funchal!

Poncha is the traditional drink, and Taberna da Poncha is the perfect location to try this. This speciality is made from Aguardente de Cana (alcoholic sugar cane juice), honey, sugar and lemon rind. Different flavours are available such as orange, lemon, and passionfruit. Visit Blandy’s Wine Lodge in Funchal to learn more about the famous Madeira Wine. A sweet Madeira Wine also tastes amazing after a meal!

Experiencing Madeiran music and dance

If you like to combine dinner with a folklore show, you can join a Traditional Madeiran Dinner in a typical Madeira restaurant. You’ll enjoy a 3-course meal as well as traditional performances with dance. Pick-up is available if you stay in Machico, Santana, Porto da Cruz, Faial or Caniçal, and besides a tasty dinner, you’ll get to try Madeira wine and other specialities. Bom apetite!

Attending local festivals and events

One of Madeira’s largest annual events is the Madeira Flower Festival. The island is covered in colourful flowers and is often referred to as “Flower Island”. Madeira Flower Festival occurs in May, but there are many other spectacular events to join!

Enjoy the Panelo Festival (in Chão da Ribeira) in January, Carnaval in Madeira in February, or Festa da Anona (in Faial) in March. The Funchal Book Fair also happens in March, and Rum lovers will enjoy the Rum Festival in April. Sporty travellers will appreciate the Funchal Marathon in January, the Madeira Island Ultra Trail in April, and the Porto Santo Nature Trail in May.

The Wine Harvest Festival (in Porto Santo) in August, the Madeira Wine Festival and the Harvest Festival in September are perfect for wine lovers. Are you in Madeira in December? Then you can join the amazing Christmas celebrations in Madeira!

How to get around; transportation options and getting around the island

Explore Madeira by car

One of the best ways to explore Madeira is by car. You can pick up your rental car conveniently at Funchal Airport and in Funchal. The roads are good on the island, and many tunnels make travelling a little faster. If you want to explore off-the-beaten-path locations in Madeira, a car is a must! Discover Cars has a wide selection of vehicles on the island for every budget. To learn more about car rental in Portugal, click here to read more.

Buses in Madeira

Madeira has a good public transport system, and you can explore most corners of the island by bus. If you travel off a budget and have time, this is a great way to explore Madeira. Buses depart regularly, but you’ll travel slower overall. Horários do Funchal operates in the capital, SAM and EACL operate in the eastern part of Madeira, and Rodoeste will take you west.

Taxis in Madeira

Especially in Funchal, there is an abundance of taxis available. And around the harbour, the capital is pretty flat, but Funchal and the rest of Madeira are super mountainous! Avoid having to walk up and down by using taxis if you prefer. Uber and Bolt are widely available. Some taxis can even bring you to some sights on the other side of the island. A taxi will be more expensive than a tour, but ideal if you like your privacy and want to get somewhere quickly. From the airport, it’s also super easy to get a taxi.

Book an organised tour in Madeira

If you want to avoid driving and you’re strapped for time, organised tours are the best way to explore the best things to do in Madeira. Many trips depart from Funchal, and it’s a fantastic way to meet fellow travellers! Enjoy a tour of Santana, explore the north and west or join a group hike on the island! Tours in Madeira are often run by locals or individuals with extensive knowledge of the island. This way, you’ll support the local economy and gain valuable insights into Madeira’s history, culture, and natural attractions.

Organised tours provide a hassle-free way to explore Madeira. They handle all the logistics, including transportation, entrance fees, and itinerary planning. This way, you won’t have to worry about navigating unfamiliar roads, finding parking, or figuring out public transportation. A win-win!

Tips for hiking in Madeira

You don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy Madeira’s many trails. Many routes are available for absolute beginners and have little or no elevation. You can even do them with your children! But, in nature, it’s always good to be prepared, which goes for easy and advanced trails. Check the below hiking tips so you’re ready for your adventures in nature.


✓ Download the WalkMe Maderia App. It only costs a few euros, and you’ll have access to all offline maps, find GPS locations, track your location, access emergency contacts, and read more about the route of choice.
✓ Plan your hikes according to your fitness level.
✓ Wear comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes and wear layers. The weather changes sometimes multiple times a day.
✓ Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for protection against the sun.
✓ Also, be prepared for wet conditions like rain and waterfall spray.
✓ Stay Hydrated and pack a lunch if the trail is long. Bringing some snacks is always a good idea.
✓ Respect nature and don’t leave garbage behind.
✓ Check the weather conditions beforehand.
✓ Take your time to enjoy the scenery!
✓ If you hike alone, notify someone of your plans.
✓ Consider hiking with a local guide if you’re unfamiliar with the trails.
✓ Bring some standard first aid kid items and plasters.
✓ Bring a torch or headlamp, as some trails have a lot of tunnels.

Souvenirs from Madeira

When you visit Madeira, there are some unique souvenirs you can bring home. Madeira Wine, Ponha and Rum da Madeira are easy to get here, and also tasty treats like Bolo de Mel. For a unique gift and a full list of souvenirs from Portugal, click here. There are also favourite stores, including where to buy what in Madeira.

Accommodation in Madeira

Between these fun activities, there is also the need for a place to sleep. But where do you want to book your accommodation in Madeira? There are hotels and B&Bs scattered all over the island, and it depends on your preferences.

If you like a city vibe, Funchal is an amazing place to stay. From luxury hotels in Funchal so hostels, the offer is enormous! Some favourite 5* hotels are Hotel Quinta das Vistas, Melia Madeira Mare and Quintinha Sao Joao Hotel & Spa. Budget-friendly places in Funchal are 29 Madeira Hostel, Hotel Catedral and Holiday Home Funchal Center. The benefits of staying in Funchal are that you’re always close to the restaurants, most tours depart from the capital, and you don’t need to rent a car.

If you visit Madeira for a hiking holiday, or you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, you might want to stay in a more natural environment on the island. There are plenty of amazing places on the island, such as Hotel Quinta Do Furao, Casa dos Reis and Quinta das Vinhas. Or discover stunning places like the Calheta Glamping Pods! Overall, the west coast is quieter, and many accommodations are close to the hiking trails. Tip: rent a home with a washing machine! You can easily wash and dry your clothes if you get dirty or wet during a hike.


If you have time, a week is perfect for enjoying some hikes, a beach day and a visit to Funchal. Ten days or more is ideal if you like to add Porto Santo to your itinerary. Two or three nights might be enough for a city trip to Funchal, so you can even fit an excursion to other parts of the island.

Madeira has a very mild climate, which makes it perfect all year round. The warmest months are typically August and September, and if you like to escape the colder weather you might have at home, the sub-tropical climate in Madeira is a welcoming change. The average temperatures are around 25 °C (77° Fahrenheit) in summer; between November and February, you can expect more rain. On a positive note: the waterfalls will be enormous after a good bit of rain!

Stunning nature including ancient laurel trees, Cristiano Ronaldo, Madeira Wine, Poncha, the traditional dish Espada com banana are all things Madeira is famous for!

Most shops are in Funchal, but you’ll also find plenty of places to buy souvenirs on the rest of the island. The A-framed houses in Santana sell Poncha, sweets like chocolate, Bolo de Mel (honey cake), and wine. Or find embroidery, magnets, lava salt, jams, cheese, and handmade wicker baskets in Funchal.


Madeira is a fabulous island where you can easily spend a week! Funchal has many sights to offer and the atmosphere is relaxed. You’ll enjoy traditional dishes in the local restaurants, and Madeira Wine and Poncha flows freely. Most visitors come to Madeira to enjoy nature. The hiking trails are amazing and if you look for some time alone in a green scenery, you’ve come to a good place! The best things to do in Madeira are hiking up Pico Ruivo, visiting Funchal, discover the A-framed houses in Santana, go whale watching and enjoy the many viewpoints on the island. Have a great trip!

Written by Marga

Written by Marga

Content creator, travel writer and photographer

All Posts

Pin to read later

Share :


I’m Marga, the blogger and photographer behind this site! I live in Lisbon, and I’m a cat-mum to 13-year-old Savage. I love coffee, cheese, a good book and exploring this beautiful country. I write about Lisbon and the rest of Portugal, and I hope this website will help as an inspiration for your holiday.

19 Responses

  1. Wow, I didn’t know there was so much to do in Madeira. It’s on the bucket list now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post! I’m thinking of moving to Lisbon, so Madeira is definitely on my travel list. Your post has so many details and beautfil picture. I’ll come back to your post, when I’m planing to visit Madeira 🙂

  3. Your post sure showed me we need to head back to Madeira and plan a longer stay. We saw quite a bit in Funchal but missed some of the other great spots there are to visit. I never realized there were so many great outdoor sites to explore. David would want to plan our visit around the Rum Festival!

  4. I was watching a youtuber (Jeff Pelletier) run around Madeira a few weeks ago and wooowza it looks incredible for hiking/running. But your posts shows there is sooo much more. My husband and I were just chatting about how we should look into visiting, and then I read this – perfect timing. 😀

    1. Ooooooh yes, some of the trails are amazing! What a great way to explore the island. I hope you and your husband get to visit!

  5. Wow! Those A-frame houses in Santana look so cute! Plus I would love to see all of those viewpoints. Looks like Madeira has a lot of great things to do! Thanks for the tips!

  6. I didn’t realize there was so much to do on Madeira. The levada walks look quite interesting

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *