Located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 100 km from mainland Portugal, the island of Madeira is known by many as the Hawaii of Europe and, to tell the truth, there are plenty of reasons! Its combination of lush vegetation, subtropical climate and volcanic landscape make Madeira a destination with plenty to see, do and enjoy.
If you are determined to have the perfect vacation in Madeira today I share with you my ideal itinerary for a full week 's vacation. My selection of activities takes into account a little bit of everything Madeira has to offer looking for a traveler visiting the island for the first time to experience at least some of everything.
DAY 1: Explore the highlights of Funchal Island
On your first day exploring Madeira I recommend taking things slow and dedicating it to discovering the island's charming capital: the old city of Funchal.
This is the area where the vast majority of hotels are located, which is why you won't need to travel far.
Take a guided tour to get to know the old town of Funchal
This is also an adventure that I highly recommend to my friends visiting Madeira for the first time, as you will get to know a lot of the island in a short tour led by a local expert guide.
The tours come in different formats depending on the company you hire for the experience. So I recommend studying in detail the available options.
- Schedule: This tour is offered at different times, but I recommend doing it in the first group in the morning to make the most of the day.
- Price: Group tours are available from 15€ per traveler, approximately.
- Duration: You should book about 2 hours on average.
Take a break for lunch in the heart of Funchal
The old town of Funchal has become a paradise for food lovers, as it is the area that houses the highest concentration of restaurants on the entire island.
- Restaurant Do Forte A restaurant that combines the best of traditional Madeiran cuisine with a modern twist. The price is really affordable and its location in the heart of the old town makes it one of the best alternatives.
- Taberna Ruel Restaurant Its distinctive yellow facade is unmistakable. The gastronomic offer is a good mix of Madeiran gastronomy and the most traditional Mediterranean cuisine.
- Barreirinha Bar Café An excellent option for a light and informal lunch while enjoying the most charming views of the Bay of Funchal.
Visit the Fort of Santiago
Located in the historic area of the city, with a characteristic yellow color the fortress crowns the Zona Velha promenade and offers incredible views of the historic center.
It was built in the 17th century, when the city was vulnerable to pirate attacks. In addition to enjoying the views, spend some time touring the various rooms, towers, battlements and different hidden corners - take your camera ready!
- Hours: Open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. The fort is closed on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
- Price: Approximately 3 € the entrance ticket for adults.
- Duration: Spend 1 hour on this adventure.
Take the cable car to the top of Madeira.
Considered by travelers as one of the must-see attractions on any visit to Funchal, I recommend ending the first day of exploring the city by taking the Madeira cable car to enjoy the best panoramic views and visit Monte Palace Tropical Garden.
The lush garden was built in 1991 and represents an opportunity to discover the history and evolution of Madeira through the presence of numerous artistic panels.
- Hours: From 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
- Price: Access to the Garden has an approximate cost of 12€ per participant.
- Duration: Reserve 2 to 3 hours for this visit.
DAY 2: Organize a day trip to the western part of Madeira
On your second day of travel I recommend an adventure through the wild nature of the western part of Madeira Island, one of the most demanded experiences by tourists visiting the area. This popularity means that there are numerous local companies offering this type of tour.
Although some details may vary greatly depending on the company you hire for the experience, most companies use 4X4 vehicles to offer participants a Jeep safari around the island from Funchal.
I recommend carefully reviewing the program of activities and places to visit before booking. Among the attractions you can expect to see during this tour are the following:
Chamber of Wolves
This is the name of the most visited fishing village in Madeira, due to the beauty of its maritime bay and its restaurants full of typical dishes based on fish and seafood.
In Camara de Lobos I highly recommend taking the tour in tuk-tuk, a small and cozy traditional cab that takes travelers through the highlights of the city.
It is worth visiting this area of the island to take a dip and swim in the natural pools of Porto Moniz. The place is surrounded by an equally charming small town.
Cabo Girao and Rancho
People from all over Europe visit Madeira to be dazzled by the amazing suspended glass platform that makes up the viewpoint of Cabo Girao.
It is located at a staggering 580 meters above the highest promontory in Europe. The views are simply perfect.
- Schedule: The departure time for this type of excursion is between 08h and 09h.
- Price: You will have to reserve about 60€ to carry out this adventure. Generally meals are not included in the price but entrance fees to the attractions and parks are usually included.
- Duration: Reserve the whole day for this adventure, as it usually takes 7 to 8 hours to complete.
DAY 3: Do the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hiking route
You simply can't leave Madeira without doing one of its many hiking trails. The Portuguese island is a destination designed for adventure and hiking is just one of the many interesting activities you can do in Madeira.
Located in the very center of the island, the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo route is one of the most famous hikes on the island and is commonly called the "Queen of hikes" and no wonder! It is a round trip of 12.1 km and takes about 7 hours to complete.
This adventure takes travelers through the highest mountains on the island, as Pico do Arieiro is 1818 meters high while Pico Rubio climbs to 1862.
The views from this point of the island will leave you speechless. Due to its height, snow falls in this area of Madeira during the winter months.
Doing the entire route is considered moderate to difficult, so I recommend it to those travelers with some hiking experience, although no matter what your condition all first time visitors to Madeira should book an organized tour to undertake this adventure.
- Schedule: This type of adventure from Funchal starts early in the morning between 08 and 09 hours.
- Price: About 40€ per traveler. Includes a specialized guide, transportation to and from Funchal and other amenities.
- Duration: The adventure can take about 8 hours to complete.
DAY 4: Get to know the northeastern part of Madeira Island.
It is possible that on day 4 you may find yourself a bit tired from the previous day's hiking route. For this reason I recommend you to take things a little slower and hike those areas of Madeira that do not require a notable physical effort to enjoy them, such as the northeastern part of the island.
This is an adventure that you can do in different formats, such as an organized tour from Funchal or a solo adventure to explore some areas of the island at your leisure.
If you decide to hire a tour you may find an organized itinerary, but if you decide to go by your own means these are the highlights that you should not miss.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde
Start the day by hiking one of Madeira's most impressive trails, the Levada do Caldeirão Verde.
You can do the hike in less than 4 hours round trip, following a route that takes travelers through an impressive trail with tunnels and caves.
This is a humidity-laden trail where you can enjoy native species such as laurels and ferns, as well as the beautiful and huge Caldeirão Verde Waterfall.
Walk through the village of Santana
After the hike, head to the nearby village of Santana. This area of Madeira is famous for its traditional houses, which stand out for their colorful facades and triangular thatched roofs.
Although you will find many of these typical houses scattered all over Santana, I recommend my traveler friends who are in a hurry to head straight to the center of the village, near the local town hall.
Here you will find a beautiful flower garden, a market with local products and several perfectly preserved houses to take pictures.
End the day at the Guindaste lookout point
After resting and recharging your batteries, head to Mirador Guindaste to end your excursion to the northeast of the island on a high note.
The area is an incredible place to take pictures, as it offers the most impressive views of the ocean and the characteristic cliffs.
DAY 5: Visit the island of Porto Santo by boat from Madeira
Make the most of your fifth day adventure by venturing beyond the geographical limits of Madeira by embarking on an excursion to the sister island of Porto Santo.
By now, you probably know that Madeira and Porto Santo are the only two inhabited islands in the archipelago. What you may not know is that, despite their proximity, the two offer vastly different landscapes.
If you want an alternative to Porto Santo, another interesting excursion to do from Madeira is to visit the Desert Islands where you will find bird sanctuaries and idyllic beaches.
If you decide to go to Porto Santo during the day you will find two main alternatives.
Go on an organized excursion from Funchal
Going on an organized cruise from Porto Santo is usually the best alternative, as numerous companies in Funchal offer this service to travelers.
By hiring the service you will get numerous advantages such as round trip transportation from your hotel in the center to the island, the boat trip, a privately guided tour of the island of Porto Santo with its most outstanding attractions and finally time to explore the place on your own.
- Price: Approximately 135€ per traveler.
- Duration: You will need to reserve a full day for this experience, as the excursions depart early in the morning and return to Funchal in the evening.
Going on your own.
If you decide to visit Porto Santo Island on your own, you will have to take the ferry from Funchal, a comfortable and practical means of transportation used by locals to move from one island to another.
I recommend booking tickets in advance and taking the first trip (around 08h in the morning) to make the most of your trip.
- Price: The ferry ticket can vary between 48 € and 60 € depending on the season.
- Duration: The ferry trip has an estimated duration of 2 hours 15 minutes.
DAY 6: Go coastal hiking and visit the beaches of Caniçal
Your week of exploring the island is almost over, so make the most of your remaining days.
I recommend you to dedicate the sixth day to explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Caniçal area, also known as the "tail" of Madeira.
If you go by private car, Caniçal is only 20 minutes away; if you opt for public transport from Funchal, you will have to take the bus line 113.
Some of the areas not to be missed on this exploratory trip include the following.
Museu da Baleia da Madeira
This modern, small space features highly informative exhibits and interactive features that educate about the local history of whaling and the island's marine life.
Ponta de São Lourenço
After the museum tour, head to São Lourenço, located on the easternmost part of the island. It is an obligatory stop for the traveler exploring Maderia for the first time. Upon arrival you will encounter the spectacular cliffs and volcanic landscapes.
At the top of the cliff there is a hiking trail, where the barren earth rock formations are impressively framed by the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean bordering it.
Prainha do Caniçal
On your descent from São Lourenço I recommend directing your steps towards the coast and end the day enjoying the waters of Canical Beach;, one of the best natural sandy beaches on the island.
Without a doubt, it is the ideal place to relax sunbathing before setting off on your return journey to Funchal.
DAY 7: Spend the day in Funchal, visit the beaches and the local markets
On your last day of your Madeira vacation, I recommend spending it on more relaxed, but equally fun activities that involve getting to know Funchal's surroundings in more depth and enjoying some of the favorite activities of tourists and locals alike.
In the morning head to the Mercado dos Lavradores
If on your first day of exploring you didn't get a chance to visit the local market, make the most of the morning of your last day. Located right in the heart of the city you'll find the lively and colorful space that makes up Funchal's traditional farmers' market.
Full of produce, local flowers, spices and seafood, the place is a real feast for the eyes and senses. However, the best part is the huge variety of local exotic fruits that I recommend trying before leaving Madeira.
In addition to the stalls, you will find in this area small cafes and bistros where you can sit and enjoy a delicious meal surrounded by the locals.
- Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 07h to 19h; Saturdays from 07h to 14h and closed on Sundays.
- Price: Free of charge.
- Duration: Spend at least 2 hours exploring the place.
Dolphin and whale watching tour in Madeira
In a trip designed for you to enjoy Madeira's native fauna in its natural environment, a dolphin watching tour is one of the most demanded activities by travelers visiting the city for their vacations.
Depending on the company you hire, the tour may include snorkeling equipment to carry out this activity and, like other boat tours in Madeira, these are usually offered in several languages, predominantly English and Spanish.
- Schedule: This type of excursions are done at different times during the day, depending on the company you hire.
- Price: From 30 € to 60 € per traveler approximately, depending on the company you hire and the facilities.
- Duration: You should reserve approximately 3 hours for this experience.
Enjoy the nightlife in Funchal
Bid farewell to your perfect vacation on the island by enjoying **Madeira'**s nightlife. In the city you will find numerous bars and clubs to enjoy or, if you feel like something more intimate, a nice dinner under the starlight.
Below I recommend some alternative bars or clubs that you might enjoy, but it is always advisable to do your own research in order to find the atmosphere that best suits your particular tastes.