10 Day Madeira Itinerary and Complete Guide
Admire numerous striking viewpoints, hike through beautiful dense forest next to levadas, explore quaint towns and villages, see endless cascading waterfalls and so much more. These are just some of the amazing things to do on your Madeira itinerary, read on for more!
Madeira; the Hawaii of Europe is known for breathtaking diverse landscapes and is a haven of natural beauty!
The ocean’s crystal clear water lapping at black sand beaches at the feet of steep-sloping cliffs, craggy mountain peaks nestled above a sea of clouds, narrow rugged coastline, waterfalls at every turn and lush dense forest with sweeping valley views.
The vast array of landscapes and Madeira’s year-round temperate climate, with winter temperatures hovering around 20°C make this small island an incredible outdoor playground.
Hike along rainforest trails next to levadas where water is ever-present and waterfalls appear out of the rocks, stay in traditional Santana houses in the mountains, visit so many wonderful viewpoints you lose count and see the sunrise above a sea of clouds.
These are just some of the many amazing things to do in Madeira and we’ll cover a lot more in this guide. Before we dive into the 10-day Madeira itinerary, however, let’s cover a very common question.
Where exactly is Madeira and how big is it?
Madeira is an archipelago located around 700 kilometres from Africa, 450 kilometres from the Canary Islands and 900 kilometres from mainland Portugal.
The archipelago is made up of 2 inhabited islands; Madiera and Porto Santo and 2 uninhabited islands; Desertas and Selvagens Islands.
Madeira is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal, the other being the Azores. It’s of volcanic origin which has led to its dramatic and diverse landscapes from its high peaks and dramatic cliffs to deep valleys and black sand beaches.
The compact island is 57 kilometres long and 22 kilometres wide; making it a perfect island to visit if you’re short on time and want to cover many activities and areas. Funchal is its beautiful and quaint capital city.
In this Madeira itinerary, we’re only going to cover the main island of Madeira as this is where we spent our 10 days. If you want to explore the other islands and spend some time on the white-sand beaches of Porto Santo, we’d recommend staying longer.
As well as sharing with you what we did daily, we’ll also tell you where we stayed, if we’d recommend it and why. At the end of this guide, there’s also a section for everything you need to know before visiting Madeira so make sure to check that out.
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10 Day Madeira Itinerary
Day 1 - Hike Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço
It’s time to kick off your itinerary with one of the best hikes in Madeira; Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço.
Rugged coastline, steep-sloping volcanic cliffs plunging into the ocean, intriguing rock formations and panoramic viewpoints out across the Atlantic make this hike a fantastic introduction to your Madeira itinerary.
This trail takes you to the easternmost point of Madeira that you can access on foot and the landscapes are spectacular the entire way!
The hike is a fairly easy 7-kilometre out-and-back trail with toilets and a bar/cafe close to Miradouro Ponta do Furado; the easternmost point of Madeira that you can access on land. It should take around 3 hours with a few stops.
Due to its ease and proximity to Funchal, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira so we’d recommend arriving early and either staying in Canical or Machico.
We stayed in Machico in Dom Pedro Madeira as it was a 5-minute drive from the airport after we landed. This good-value 4* hotel was a fairly basic, clean and comfy base for 1 night and that’s what we’d recommend it for.
From here, it’s a 30-minute drive to Santana; a beautiful village on the north coast known for its traditional colourful houses. We’d recommend staying here for the next 2 nights on your Madeira itinerary as they’re a really unique experience and a great base.
Our Top Tip: as you drive through Santana to reach the traditional houses in the mountains, you’ll pass the supermarket Continente Modelo Santana; stock up here as the houses are self-catering.
Day 2 - Hike Caldeirão Verde and Caldeirão do Inferno
Today is your first big hike and an absolute highlight of our Madeira itinerary! Caldeirão do Inferno is a little further on once you reach Caldeirão Verde so it makes sense to hike them at the same time.
This trail winds its way through Queimadas Forestry Park; an enchanting, mossy, dense rainforest that looks like it’s been plucked from the pages of a fairytale.
This forest is a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the best remaining examples of the Atlantic Laurel Forest due to its intact nature.
The trail follows a levada deep into the forest through narrow tunnels, passing sweeping views over São Jorge’s village and the neighbouring mountains, endless waterfalls and steep towering cliffs.
After 6 kilometres, you’ll reach one of the best waterfalls in Madeira! A 100-metre stream of waterfall plummeting into a circular lagoon below which, as you stand below it, makes you feel incredibly small!
The area is absolutely stunning! The waterfall towers above and the steep mossy green walls around you resemble a massive cauldron; hence the name.
Head back to the turn-off for Caldeirão Verde and continue along the trail for another 2.5 kilometres.
Pass through more narrow tunnels, even more waterfalls and sweeping valley views and up steep staircases until you’ll reach another impressive cauldron-esque spectacle; Caldeirão do Inferno.
Usually, there’s another waterfall thundering through the canyon into a pool below, however, on this occasion, it was dried up. The surroundings were still spectacular with the huge cauldron-like walls looming above you.
Hiking both Caldeirão Verde and Caldeirão do Inferno will take around 5-6 hours depending on how long you spend at each location soaking up the magnificent views.
In total it’s 17 kilometres and the only real incline are the staircases before Caldeirão do Inferno.
After you’ve finished the hike, head back to your traditional Santana house for a relaxing evening.
Day 3 - Drive the North Coast
Madeira has some magical sunrises and while you’re staying in the mountains, you should make the most of it and get up just before the sun as you might be above the clouds.
Sit in the upstairs of your traditional Santana house with your morning coffee as you watch the sky light up its many wonderful hues of yellows, reds and oranges and feel a world away from anywhere.
It’s now time for you to leave Santana and give your legs a rest as you drive along the spectacular north coast where you’ll tick off some of the best viewpoints in Madeira.
In your Madeira itinerary, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to whip out your camera and photograph some of Europe’s most awe-inspiring scenery; and today will be a full day of doing that!
Madeira’s north coast is characterised by steep-sloping cliffs plunging into the ocean, a lush green interior met by black volcanic sand beaches, villages nestled into the side of mountains and valleys and rock pools with fascinating rock formations.
Madeira is the Hawaii of Europe!
Tonight will be spent in Porto Moniz; an hour from Santana, however, spend most of the day doing the drive and stopping off at all of the best viewpoints.
We’ve outlined below which viewpoints we stopped at on our Madeira itinerary and in what order and we’d recommend stopping at all of them.
- Miradouro do Guindaste
- Miradouro do Curtado
- Miradouro de Cabanas
- Miradouro da Santinha
- Miradouro de São Cristovão
- Veu de Noiva
- Ribiera da Janela
For lunch, the quaint town of São Vicente, just before you reach Veu da Noiva, is the ideal spot.
The eateries on the seafront are mainly for the tourists but if you head into the Town Centre, you’ll find pretty cobbled streets and a selection of cafes with local options on the menu.
This was our first taste of bolo do caco; the traditional Madeiran bread which is absolutely delicious and a staple in our diet every day from then!
After Ribiera da Janela, head on to Porto Moniz. You can stop at Seixal if you have time but you’ll have plenty of time tomorrow to explore this area.
In Porto Moniz, we’d recommend staying at Hotel Aqua Natura Madeira. We treated ourselves to a little bit of luxury after our basic couple of nights in Santana and it did not disappoint.
The rooms were lovely, light and spacious and 2 of the best restaurants in Porto Moniz are found here; with particularly good seafood at Sea View restaurant.
There’s also a terrace overlooking the natural pools and the ocean which is perfect for sunset.
Sea View Restaurant also has some of the best seafood we’ve ever had! So fresh and delicious!
If you arrive with some time before dinner, head down to the natural pools which the hotel overlooks. You get free access and by the time you arrive, the day trippers should have left so they’ll be a lot quieter.
Day 4 - Fanal Pond, Seixal and Porto Moniz
One of the best things we did on our Madeira itinerary was book the spa at Hotel Aqua Natural Madeira for 7am on our first morning in Porto Moniz.
At this hotel, you book half-hour timeslots in the spa so you can have it all to yourselves, which is perfect as it’s not very big. A hot tub, a sauna and a terrace overlooking the ocean, and natural pools.
If you book a 7am timeslot you’ll be able to catch the sunrise as well which was a beautiful experience and the best way to start our day.
After a quick breakfast, make your way to Fanal Pond as early as possible.
This enchanting forest looks like it’s been plucked from the pages of a fairytale with a mysterious fog draped around the twisted branches of 600-year-old Ocotea Foetens trees giving it an incredible and eerie atmosphere.
There are several walking trails that start from here, or you can come for a wander with your camera which is what we did.
Our Top Tip: the fog is more impressive the earlier you get here and by 10:30am it’s usually disappeared. However, it’s still beautiful and worth a visit without the fog.
After you’ve taken enough photos of this mystical forest, head to Seixal via a couple of photo-worthy stops.
The first stop is Miradouro da Eira da Achada where you’ll find a couple of swings and an incredible view across the north coast of Madeira.
Your second stop is Praia da Ribeira da Janela; a small pebbly beach with some impressive and intriguing rock formations protruding from the sea.
Then you’ll head on to Seixal; a gorgeous volcanic soft black sand beach with an impressive mountain backdrop and steep-sloping cliffs plunging into the ocean below.
The verdant cliffs tower above the ocean and the highway wraps its way around the coast. Also, if you look closely you might be able to see some waterfalls flowing through the ridges of the cliffs.
A truly unique feature of Seixal Beach is the waterfall on the far side. A natural shower; perfect for getting the salt water off after a dip in the ocean!
To end your day, head back to Porto Moniz for a swim in the natural pools.
These pools were formed over thousands of years, through the cooling of volcanic lava and they naturally fill with seawater; swimming pools don’t get much better than this!
Day 5 - Hike Levada das 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco
Next on your Madeira itinerary is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira so get up and on the road early!
Levada das 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco can easily be hiked at the same time and are two of the most iconic levada trails in Madeira!
Twisted branches arch over the trail as you walk underneath, waterfalls appear out of the sides of the path and sweeping views across the valley all make you feel like you’ve stepped into the pages of a fairytale.
Both trails start from the same car park for a few kilometres and when the road forks, Risco Waterfall is 800 metres to the right and 25 Fontes Waterfall is 2 kilometres to the left.
Risco Waterfall, you’ll spot a while before you reach the viewpoint as it’s huge! Although the water wasn’t much more than a trickle when we visited, it’s 100 metres tall and seriously impressive.
After a big downpour, you’ll easily see multiple water streams pouring down the mountainside and the waterfall will be incredibly powerful.
Unsurprisingly, and as the name suggests, 25 Fontes Waterfall is made up of many waterfalls. Streams of water flow down walls into a natural pool below which, if the waterfall isn’t too powerful, is lovely and refreshing for a dip!
Our Top Tip: get to the car park no later than 8am. We arrived at about 11am which was a huge mistake! We had to park along the side of the road as the car park was full and there were so many people!
Tour groups were also arriving in the masses and as the first couple of kilometres are along a road, people were able to cut off a total of 4 kilometres meaning some who wouldn’t ordinarily have done the hike, were doing so.
After you’ve finished the hike, it’s finally time for some well-deserved rest and relaxation on your Madeira itinerary. Check in to Calheta Beach Hotel and for the best experience, make sure you take advantage of the all-inclusive!
Day 6 - Miradouro da Bica da Cana and Calheta
Although it’s time for some rest and relaxation, we’d recommend an early alarm to drive up to Bica da Cana Viewpoint for sunrise.
We’d seen some absolutely breathtaking photos of this viewpoint and it was one of the things we were most looking forward to on our Madeira itinerary!
The drive from Calheta is approximately 30 minutes and there’s a short, 10-minute trail through the trees to the lookout.
Unfortunately for us, the clouds weren’t playing ball on the morning we went and we could barely see 5 metres in front of us!
Please don’t let our experience of this viewpoint put you off. If you’re lucky enough to catch it on a good day, the view is out of this world!
You’ll be standing above a sea of clouds floating beneath you and jagged mountain peaks surrounding you. On a good day, you’ll be able to see Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro protruding through the clouds which creates an incredible and mystical atmosphere!
After you’ve hopefully experienced a dreamy and magical sunrise, head back to Calheta Beach Hotel for a day of relaxing by the pool and beach.
There’s a lot to keep you entertained throughout the day including an indoor and outdoor pool, a gym, board games, a spa, excursions, restaurants and bars.
Our Top Tip: make sure to book a meal in Onza Azul. If you’re on the all-inclusive, you can eat 2 meals here per week. You’ll be treated to the delicious richness of Madeira cuisine with inspirations taken from around the world.
Day 7 - Drive the South Coast
Time for what may feel like your first lie in on your Madeira Itinerary!
Today, you’re going to make your way along the south coast of Madeira to Funchal, which, if driven in one go is only half an hour but there are a few must-see stops along the way.
After a leisurely breakfast, jump in the car and your first stop is one of the most unique things on your Madeira itinerary; Cascata dos Anjos.
Cascata dos Anjos is a magnificent waterfall located just outside Ponta do Sol that falls down a sheer rock face and hits the middle of the road. Great if your car needs a clean!
It’s fed by a levada; one of Madeira’s numerous irrigation channels that transport water around the island for agriculture.
The road gets quite narrow around the waterfall but if it’s not too busy there’s a small space you can pull up, get out and watch cars drive through it.
After you’ve given your car a good clean, it’s 10 minutes on to your next stop; Ponta do Sol.
Ponta do Sol is incredibly photogenic with colourful buildings, vibrant red roofs and has an amazing view from the pier across the village nestled into the bottom of a valley.
The cobbly streets of the Old Centre are lined with quaint cafes, the pebbly beach is perfect for swimming as it’s sheltered from the wind and the viewpoint across the town is a must-see.
Next up is the most secretive location on your Madeira itinerary!
Calhau da Lapa is one of Madeira’s best hidden gems and is truly special. If you want to escape the crowds and don’t mind a bit of effort to reach, this is your place and we’d definitely recommend visiting.
Here, you’ll find some of the clearest water in Madeira and it’s incredibly pleasant for a swim.
You’ll also see impressive fishermen’s houses built into volcanic cliffs that you can even stay in!
The reason Calhau da Lapa is still off the beaten path is because of the effort to reach it. It’s quite difficult to get to without a car and you have to walk down approximately 700 steps which, at points, are extremely steep, slippy and uneven.
If you don’t mind the effort to reach it, do it. We had the place completely to ourselves; it was an absolute paradise!
Your last stop before Funchal, the final stop on your Madeira itinerary is one of the best viewpoints in Madeira; Cabo Girao.
Located at an elevation of 580 metres, Cabo Girao is the highest cape in Europe and offers striking views over the ocean and municipalities of Câmara de Lobos and Funchal.
In 2012, the viewpoint was renovated and a transparent glass skywalk was suspended in the air, making it the highest cliff skywalk in Europe!
Our Top Tip: due to its proximity to Funchal, Cabo Girao can get extremely busy so we advise visiting outside of peak hours if you have your own transport.
Alternatively, after visiting the viewpoint, continue up the road for a couple of minutes where, at one of the bends, you’ll have the same view with no crowds (just make sure it’s safe to pull over).
It’s now time to make your way to Funchal; only a 15-minute drive. It might be the final stop on your Madeira itinerary but you’ve got some really exciting plans for the next couple of days.
Our Top Tip: parking can be quite tricky in Funchal as it’s rare for accommodation to have parking and the car parks close overnight and don’t open until about 7am the following morning. You’ll be up a lot earlier than that tomorrow!
We parked in one of the car parks and moved the car at about 9pm, before the car park closed and onto some street parking that became available as it got later.
We stayed in Esmeralda Holiday Apartments which have a great location a 5-minute walk from the Old Town and are a very good price.
The apartment itself was lovely, clean and modern but we were quite unfortunate as I think they put us in the one that they usually keep spare or use as a last resort. There was a really bad sewage smell in the bathroom.
The service, however, was great. We told them about it and they sent someone the next morning to clean and give us an air freshener. It only helped for a few hours but they were very apologetic and offered us quite a big refund.
I think we just got unlucky with our apartment and if you can make sure you’re not in the first-floor studio, we’d recommend it.
You’ll find the majority of Funchal’s restaurants in the Old Town so head there for dinner and soak up the vibrant and friendly atmosphere.
Day 8 - Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
Today is going to be a real highlight of your Madeira itinerary!
Leave Funchal at 5:45am to drive 35 minutes to Pico do Arieiro; Madeira’s third highest peak. Here, you’ll watch the sunrise which is hands down one of the best things to do in Madeira.
The best time to arrive is half an hour before sunrise when the sky is on fire and lit up in reds, gold and oranges.
Located at 1,818 metres above sea level, you have a spectacular view of the neighbouring mountains sitting peacefully above a sea of clouds, giving way to an incredible and mystical atmosphere.
Once the sun’s up, it’s time to hike to Madeira’s highest peak; Pico Ruivo which truly is an experience of a lifetime!
The scenery is out of this world! The trail weaves its way around the jagged peaks of Madeira’s Central Mountains and the clouds float peacefully below you looking like fluffy marshmallows.
Mostly, you’ll hike above the clouds. However, as you’re hiking between the two peaks, you’ll probably come down through the clouds and back up again which keeps you nice, cool and slightly wet!
Steep narrow staircases, ledges and dark tunnels can make this hike pretty challenging and if you suffer from vertigo, which I do, you’ll most probably experience it on this trail.
Saying that, however, this hike was one of our favourite things to do in Madeira and we definitely recommend it. Just make sure you have proper hiking footwear, plenty of snacks and water, suncream and layers.
Our Top Tip: if you’re doing this hike after sunrise, the start of the trail is very busy. Don’t panic, most people will only be heading to the viewpoint 5-10 minutes from the trailhead. We found the hike to be fairly quiet in the morning.
The afternoons, however, are very busy with tour buses bringing in crowds of people to hike one way. Due to the narrow paths, on the way back to Pico do Arieiro, we had a lot of waiting around for groups to finish climbing stairs so we could continue.
Once you’ve finished the hike, we’d recommend driving straight to the airport and returning the car as you won’t need it for the final two days of your Madeira itinerary. A taxi to Funchal is only around €10.
Head back to Funchal and again we’d recommend visiting the Old Town for a well-deserved drink in one of the bars. If you haven’t yet tried poncha, now’s the time.
Poncha is a traditional Madeiran drink made with distilled alcohol from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar and either lemon or orange juice. There are now also a lot of other varieties which swap the lemon or orange juice for another fruit juice.
Day 9 - Funchal
After the early morning and challenging day yesterday, it’s time for a lie in and a relaxing day exploring Funchal. The city’s quite small and there isn’t a lot to do but it’s lovely for an amble and there are a few things to tick off.
Head to the Old Town to start your day which will look very different to when you were there in the evening.
In the evenings, the cosy cobbled streets are lined with bars and restaurants where locals and tourists alike come for a stroll and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
In the morning, the streets are quiet and still and you can really appreciate the street art.
Santa Maria is one of Funchal’s oldest streets and you’ll quickly notice something about the buildings here; none of them has the same door. You also won’t see a dull, ordinary door anywhere.
In 2010, photographer José Maria Zyberchem wanted to bring this historic street back to life and make it a centre of art so he started the Painted Doors Project.
Many local artists got involved and started painting the old doors on the street and completely revived the area. There are over 200 painted doors on Rua de Santa Maria and the neighbouring streets and it has become an attraction in itself.
Next, head to Santa Catarina Park which is on the other side of the city. It’s a 30-minute walk which we’d recommend doing as you see another side of Funchal to the Old Town.
Wide streets lined with shops, huge trees arching over the roads, traditional Portuguese-style pavements and large luxury hotels like The Ritz; it’s a very different and glamorous side of the city.
Santa Catarina Park is lovely for an amble and there are plenty of shaded spots to relax if you’re in need of a break from the heat.
There’s a huge lawn surrounded by flowerbeds full of plant species from all over the world where you’ll usually find people having picnics or playing games.
For us, the highlight of the park is the view over Funchal.
Also in this area is Museu CR7; the museum dedicated to Christiano Ronaldo and his trophies. We didn’t go but Andy refused to leave without taking a photo next to the statue!
Day 10 - Funchal
The final day of your Madeira itinerary has arrived!
Firstly, and one of the top things to do in Funchal is to ride the cable car.
Starting by the seafront in the Old Town, the cable car travels a length of 3,200 metres and rises 560 metres in 15 minutes to the village of Monte.
The cable car offers the best views of Funchal starting with the rustic red roofs of the city, to the quaint neighbouring suburbs and lush green countryside with the Bay of Funchal in the background.
At the top, you can visit the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. This appears on most of the lists of the top things to do in Madeira and while it’s alright for a stroll, we found it to not be at all worth the €25 per person.
There are some beautiful gardens and features but after you’ve seen all the jaw-dropping scenery that this Madeira itinerary has, we were left pretty disappointed.
The real highlight of Monte is the tobogganing!
Dating back to the 1850s, these toboggans were the primary means of transport for people living in Monte to get to Funchal. Today, they’re one of Madeira’s most popular tourist attractions and a great way to get the heart racing.
A maximum of 3 people can sit in the large wicker baskets and behind them, two men traditionally dressed in cotton clothes and a straw hat will push and steer you through the narrow winding streets to Livramento; a suburb of Funchal.
At times, you reach speeds of up to 48 km/hour on this 2-kilometre downhill stretch. It’s completely safe, a great source of income for the locals and you can enjoy some truly spectacular views over Funchal on the way down!
Once you get to Livramento, it’s a 15/20 minute downhill walk back to Funchal.
Our Top Tip: if Sunday is the last day on your Madeira itinerary, swap this day for Saturday as the toboggans won’t be running. Also, purchase your cable car ticket on the day as sometimes it’s stopped due to the weather and you won’t get a refund.
Well, that’s your Madeira itinerary come to an end, we hope you have an incredible time! Madeira has been one of our favourite trips and we can’t wait to return.
Before you go, make sure to read everything you need to know for your visit.
Everything You Need to Know for Your Madeira Itinerary
When is the best time to visit Madeira?
One of the best things about Madeira is you can visit it at any time of the year. It has a sub-tropical climate with hot summers and mild winters offering year-round sunshine.
However, the interior of the island is very mountainous and can be very unpredictable at any time of the year. Where you might have glorious sunshine by the coast, 20 minutes inland to the mountains, it might be raining and chilly.
How do I get to Madeira?
Madeira has 1 international airport which is located in Machico, not far from Funchal. It’s served by regular direct flights from the UK and is only a short hop from Lisbon.
Do I need to drive this Madeira itinerary?
If you can drive, we’d recommend doing so as this gives you the freedom and flexibility to explore the island at your own pace. It also means you can be one of the first at tourist hot spots rather than when the crowds descend.
If you can’t or don’t want to drive, one of the best things about Madeira is it’s relatively small so it’s never a long drive to get somewhere meaning you can use Funchal as a base and see most of the places on this Madeira itinerary on day tours.
Do I need 10 days?
We wouldn’t recommend anything less than 10 days for this Madeira itinerary. We moved at quite a fast pace with 1 rest day in Calheta and we wouldn’t have wanted to go any quicker as it would have taken away from the experience in each area.
We definitely could have stayed longer, however, as there were some areas that we’d have loved to spend more time in and other areas and hikes that we would love to have seen and done. 10 days to 2 weeks is the perfect amount of time to get to know Madeira.
What currency do I need?
Madeira is part of Portugal and uses the Euro. At the time of writing, $1 is approximately €0.95. We used our Monzo and Revolut cards for the majority of the time as most places accepted cards.
How expensive is Madeira?
Compared to London, where we live, it’s incredibly cheap and compared to the UK, it’s cheap!
We stayed in a range of places on our Madeira itinerary; a 3* apartment 5-minutes walk from Old Town Funchal for €90 a night, a 4* hotel in Porto Moniz for €110 a night, a traditional Santana house for €50 and a 5* beachfront hotel in Calheta all-inclusive for €250 a night.
A bottle of local beer or poncha costs around €1.50, a basic meal around €15 for a starter and main and one evening we had a lovely 3-course meal with a bottle of imported wine for €70 for both of us.
What plug do I need?
Like most countries in Europe, you will need either type C or F. Both of these have two round pins.