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Best Safaris in Madeira from Funchal

Touring Madeira aboard a 4x4 off-road Jeep will take you to the most hidden places of the island and enjoy incredible landscapes.

Ana C.R.

Ana C.R.

8 min read

Best Safaris in Madeira from Funchal

Jeep in Madeira | ©Lee Charlton

Madeira has many attractions to visit, but sometimes it is not so easy to access certain tourist spots on the island. To discover these places, one of the best options available to the traveler will be to take tours in an off-road jeep.

Most tour companies offer this service from the city of Funchal, capital of the island. This makes it very convenient, as most of the accommodation is in this part of the island.

Normally, most tour companies offer limited seating available for each jeep.

This makes you have to choose between the options that each tour company offers. In case you are traveling with a group of 6 to 8 people, I recommend that you hire a private tour that allows you to choose which sites you want to see.

1. Tour of the northwest of Madeira

By Jeep in Madeira| ©True Spirit
By Jeep in Madeira| ©True Spirit

This tour is one of the most interesting, as it combines the cultural richness of the island with panoramic views and fun activities.

This tour is considered a full day tour, so its price can be double that of the half day tours. Its duration can range from 7 to 9 hours, depending on the activities done.

Most safari companies start by picking up all tourists who are staying in Funchal to begin the tour. You will be given a short briefing explaining the details of the safari and then start.

The tour usually starts by climbing to the highest points of Madeira, until you reach the Pico do Arieiro, the third highest point of the island. Here you will be able to enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramic points of the island.

Some tours include a walk through Ribeiro Frio, a small village in the interior of the island that is surrounded by the Forest Park of the same name. One of the main attractions of this place is its location amidst the laurel forests, Madeira's characteristic tree, and the surrounding mountains.

Ribeiro Frio is also home to the Balcoes viewpoint, from where you can see the Ribeira da Metade valley and the island's central mountain range.

Here some tours start to use off-road trails, where the vegetation and terrain become much more challenging. But don't worry, this is where the adventure of crossing the forest with a 4x4 begins.

The tour leads to the village of Santana, where most tours stop for lunch. I recommend that you check with the organizing company before booking whether lunch is included and what the options are.

Especially if you do not eat meat, animal derivatives or have a special diet, sometimes the options in town are reduced.

Santana is located in the north of the island and its main attraction are the peculiar constructions of its houses. In them you can find regional products and taste the traditional cuisine of the island.

Then the tour begins the return to Funchal, but along the coast of the northwest of the island. Some excursions include visits to Porto Da Cruz, where a distillery dedicated to the manufacture of rum is often visited.

Also these tours often include strategic stops to admire the scenery at Punta de San Lorenzo and Canical. In some cases, the tour heads east to the lava pools of Porto Moriz or the black sand beaches of Sixal.

Many of these destinations vary depending on the tour, weather conditions and time of year, so please check before booking.

Book your jeep safari in Madeira

2. Madeira west tour

Ponta do Sol, Madeira| ©Paul Mannix
Ponta do Sol, Madeira| ©Paul Mannix

This safari is also a full day tour, so it usually lasts between 7 and 9 hours. It usually starts with a visit to Câmara de Lobos, Madeira's most famous fishing village. Its fame is due to pictures painted by Winston Churcchill in the 1950's.

Then continue to Ponta do Sol, Canhas and start entering the plantation area of the island. Here you will see grape, banana and sugar cane plantations.

Here begins the off road part, until you reach Caleta, where a stop is usually made. The tour continues into the only plateau that the island has: Paul da Serra, which is located at an altitude of 1400 meters above sea level.

The route continues with the breathtaking views of Verdeda do Fanal, the enchanted forest of Madeira. Some tours also make a visit to the small village of Ribeira da Janela, a beautiful village on the north coast of the island.

The advantage of booking a 4x4 tour is that you will visit off the beaten track, where very few tourists can access and many times you will have incredible views that few can enjoy.

During this journey you will pass among the island's endemic trees, in forests declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The goal of this tour is to reach the Porto Moniz lava pools, a unique place where tours usually stop and spend some time swimming and having lunch next to this beautiful landscape.

At this point, tours usually orient the destination to Funchal, but before that they usually stop in Seixal. This landscape is likely to steal a couple of sighs, thanks to the beauty offered by the contrast between the sea and the mountains. If your excursion includes a walk along the unique black sand beaches of Seixal, it will be a guaranteed success.

Also this tour usually includes the bridal veil waterfall, a place where the water from the cliff tops bathes the coastal route in a way.

3. Tour of the laurel forest

Laurisilva Forest| ©Dmitry Sakharov
Laurisilva Forest| ©Dmitry Sakharov

This is another type of tour offered by some tour companies and where the main protagonist is the 4-wheel drive of the jeep, due to the obstacles of the terrain.

It usually lasts between 6 and 8 hours, as it will depend on the activities to be done and the weather conditions.

This tour specializes in showing the beauty of the interior of the island, as well as the villages hidden among its valleys and mountains.

These tours depart from Funchal and head to Faja dos Padres, a cliff 310 meters above sea level. Some include the ascent to the cliff by cable car, but this will depend on the agency, so check beforehand.

The tour usually continues to go deeper into the island, continue climbing and visit the village of Jardim Da Serra.

You will enjoy the terraces of Faja Das Galhinas to reach Boca dos Enamorados, where you can enjoy the panoramic view offered by the village of Curral das Freiras or Valley of the Nuns.

Book your hiking activities in Madeira

4. 4x4 tour to see the sunset of the island

Funchal Charters| ©Dmitriy Fomenko
Funchal Charters| ©Dmitriy Fomenko

If you are not staying a week in Maderia and want to do shorter tours, maybe you can try a sunset tour or a wine tour.

Although some boat tours in Madeira offer you to enjoy the sunset of the island, there are others that are done by jeep.

These tours are focused on offering you a ride to the best places in Madeira from where to watch the sunset.

They usually depart from Funchal and visit Ponta de Sol, to continue through Loreto and follow alternative paths through the vineyards and sugar cane fields.

Some tours offer sunset views from Arco da Calheta. Others offer to do it from the Encumeda viewpoint, located on one of the highest points of the island.

Finally, you will also find options such as Cabo Girao, the highest cliff on the island and the second highest in Europe.

Book a boat trip in Madeira

5. Wine tour in 4x4

In 4X4 in Madeira| ©Lee Charlton
In 4X4 in Madeira| ©Lee Charlton

Another interesting option will be to tour the north of the island, but in a half-day tour, which will take less time of your agenda. One of the advantages of this type of tour is that it usually includes visits to different panoramic points of northern Madeira, such as the villages of Sao Vicente, Ponto Moriz Ribeira da Janela and Paúl da Serra.

To this beautiful adventure, which you can do in an open-top jeep, you can add a visit to local wine producers.

Wine in Madeira is one of the most interesting attractions. Produced in the heart of the Serra D'Agua Valley, where the delicious wines that you will taste during your stay on the island are produced.

This is because the growing conditions of its vines are unique in the region. On this opportunity you will be able to taste wines from local producers, while winemakers tell you about the history, tradition and culture behind Madeira wine production.

Although it depends on the tour, many times the tasting includes tasting different traditional dishes of the archipelago. I recommend that if you have the opportunity you try the Ginja liqueur, a cherry liqueur typical of the island.

Many tours also offer to visit other scenic spots on your way back to Funchal, such as Cabo Girao or Arco da Calheta, as depending on the time of the year at the end of the tour you can appreciate the sunset.

Additional tips to keep in mind

I recommend that you do not book the tour for the day you arrive in Madeira, as the island sometimes suffers from big wind storms. This causes some flights to be delayed and you may be forced to restructure your plans.

Also keep in mind that it is advisable to take full-day tours in the months with the most hours of sunshine. The months from November to February the hours of sunshine are less (10 hours) while from May to September you will have between 12 and 13 hours of sunlight.

This way you will have more time to enjoy all that the island has to offer, so it only remains for you to go on one of these off-road adventures.

What are the must-see villages in the interior of Madeira?

Curral das Freiras| ©Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Curral das Freiras| ©Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

For many years the island had several areas, which as a consequence of its intricate geography, were kept away from Funchal or were not easily accessible.

In recent years several of these roads were paved and made it easier to connect villages that for a long time were practically isolated. But there are still villages that can only be accessed by 4x4 and that you should not miss if you visit Madeira.

Curral das Feiras

This small village was built inside the crater of an extinct volcano. Its small streets and traditional houses are the perfect postcard for one of the most beautiful places in the interior of Madeira.

Its beauty is best appreciated from the viewpoint Eira do Serrado which is located more than 1000 meters above sea level. I recommend that if you visit the island in early November do not miss visiting Curral das Feiras, since at that time the annual festival of the Chestnut is celebrated.

Serra D'Água

Almost all the houses in this village are painted white and its contrast with the green of the crops on the hillsides make Serra D'Água one of the most charming villages in the interior of Madeira.

Being a small village, tranquility and peace reign here, so it will be a perfect place to relax and admire the beautiful mountain scenery.

In addition, a few kilometers from Serra D' Agua you will find one of the most important levadas of the island, which transports water for irrigation in this region.

Santo Antonio da Serra

Santo Antonio is a very quiet village, with beautiful houses that are lost in the green of the region. It is a perfect place to practice golf thanks to its famous 27-hole golf course, which is also a perfect place to admire the surrounding mountains.

If you stroll through the village you should not miss the opportunity to visit the small church of Santo Antonio Da Serra.