Can you see Madeira in 7 days?
If you don’t plan on just spending your week sunbathing, 7 days is plenty of time to see Madeira. While so much of the island is still left untouched for me, we covered a lot of ground in 7 days, visiting most corners of the island.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing trip, you may want to extend your stay so you can still see all the sights on this Madeira itinerary, while also having some downtime to lounge by the pool. Our trip was pretty knackering but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world!
The best way to see Madeira in 7 days
Public transport isn’t great in Madeira and unless you want to fork out some serious money for tours, either public or private, the best way to get around Madeira is to hire a car.
With tours, you are limited by a schedule. And you may not be able to spend as much time in places as you would like to. Hiring a car affords you the flexibility to see the island at your own pace and take detours when you see a nice view or change your mind. You’ll get a far deeper experience this way.
That being said, Madeira isn’t an easy island to drive on, so only take this approach if you’re a confident driver! Whether it’s heading up to the Valley of the Nuns or Pico de Ariero, some of the drives around these parts are sketchy, to say the least. You’ve got to have a head for heights, that’s for sure!
Madeira Itinerary: Day One
Madeira Itinerary: Day Two
On our second day in Madeira, we went on a road trip along the West Coast of the island and up to the North coast. Here’s where we stopped off at…
Early morning: Cabo Girão
Our first stop on our road trip was to Cabo Girão, Europe’s highest sea cliff and the second-highest sea cliff in the world. Definitely a spot to put on your Madeira itinerary! As you can see from the photo above, this attraction is a total hidden gem and was really quiet. But seriously, the views warrant the crowds.
At 580 metres above sea level and with its famous glass-floored skywalk, Cabo Girão is the perfect place to admire the views of Funchal and the almost sheer drop to the ocean! And best of all, it’s absolutely free.
Late morning: Ribeira Brava
Midday: Ponta Do Sol
Early afternoon: Paul da Serra
Driving inland you will find yourself in Paul da Serra at 1500 metres above sea level. Paul da Serra is the flattest place in all of Madeira with stunning views of the green mountains and valleys.
This area is the starting point of many paths and Levada walks so if you have the time I’d definitely recommend seeing more of what this area has to offer! We also enjoyed lunch at the Jungle Rain Cafe, the only shop or restaurant you’ll find for miles around here.
Late afternoon: Porto Moniz
Perched on the dramatic northwestern tip of Madeira you will find Porto Moniz, a town you definitely shouldn’t leave Madeira without visiting. Famous for its natural swimming pools, formed by volcanic lava, and naturally filled with crystal-clear seawater, it’s the perfect place to go for a dip or catch some rays!
The geography and volcanic terrain of Madeira mean that coastlines are rugged and sandy beaches are non-existent. This is pretty much the closest you’ll get to a beach holiday on the island.
Late afternoon: Seixal and São Vicente
Madeira Itinerary: Day Three
Morning: Valley of the Nuns
The Valley of the Nuns, ‘Curral das Freiras’, is a small, isolated village nestled between almost perpendicular mountains in the heart of the island. The valley acquired its name in 1566 when the nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled from pirates attacking Funchal and found seclusion here. The views from the main viewpoint of Eira do Serrado are nothing short of spectacular. You can also visit the villages at the bottom of the valley too though we decided against this.
The journey up to the Valley of the Nuns may as well be an attraction in itself too. So heads up, if you’re not a confident driver, maybe give the Valley of the Nuns a miss. Or you could take a tour bus up there instead. The drops from the roads are definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Midday: Fajã dos Padres
Searching for paradise in Madeira? Look no further than Fajã dos Padres. This quiet and unspoiled secluded coastal spot can be found at the bottom of a cliff approximately 250 metres high, on the southern coast of Madeira.
Fajã dos Padres is a secret haven home to its own vineyard, exclusive beach and a restaurant serving traditional Madeiran cuisine where we sat down for lunch. The fruit and vegetables served in the restaurant are organically grown on-site thanks to the island’s nutrient-rich volcanic soil.
But how do you access this hidden paradise? By cable car, of course! A return cable car ticket is ten euros per person but it’s worth it if you want to spend an afternoon away from the crowds. Plus the cable car ride itself is great fun. Through the cable car’s panoramic windows, you can enjoy beautiful views of the coast.
Afternoon: Pico dos Barcelos
Before heading out for the evening, we came back to Funchal to relax and grab food for a few hours. Madeira’s summer temperatures make a gal very sleepy indeed.
However, before we returned to our Airbnb we thought this would be a good opportunity to stop off at Funchal’s famous Barcelos viewpoint. At an altitude of 355 metres above sea level, this viewpoint offers fantastic panoramic views over Funchal bay and the city area!
Evening: Pico de Arieiro
Madeira Itinerary: Day Four
Our fourth and fifth days in Madeira were much slower and could easily be combined if you have less time on the island.
Morning: Cristo Rei Viewpoint
Early afternoon: Machico
Next, we stopped off in Machico for a wander and lunch at Baia Beach Club, accompanied by me singing It’s Chico Time on repeat. There’s a lovely little harbour here and a cute church, Igreja Matriz de Machico, in the town. Machico was the landing point of the discoverers of Madeira so from a historical point of view, it’s a really interesting town to explore.
Late afternoon: Ponta de Sao Lourenco
Madeira Itinerary: Day Five
Morning: Porto da Cruz
Day five was another reasonably quiet day. Our first stop was the quiet but charming Porto da Cruz. This area is great for surfing, swimming and nature walks. One of the many agricultural products here was sugar cane and today the processing factory is still in full operation mainly producing rum. You can enter for free so we spent a while walking around the factory and along the seafront.
On our way down to Porto da Cruz, we stopped off at the beautiful Miradouro da Portela viewpoint, from which you can see the whole of Porto da Cruz. I’d definitely recommend stopping at the viewpoint if you get the chance!
Madeira Itinerary: Day Six
Happy days! You won’t need to drive for days six and seven in Madeira. Instead, you’ll finally be getting a chance to explore Funchal.
Early morning: Cable Car up to Monte
One of my favourite things to do in Funchal is to take the famous cable car up to the mountaintop village of Monte. The fifteen-minute journey up to Monte offers spectacular views of Funchal’s bay and valleys. A single journey costs 11 euros per person and is definitely worth it for the views alone and the opportunity to explore Monte.
Late morning: Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Once you’ve reached the top you can treat yourself to lunch in one of Monte’s cafes then start exploring the magnificent Monte Palace Tropical Garden, one of my personal favourite attractions in Madeira.
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden occupies an area of 70,000 square meters and houses a huge collection of exotic plants from all over the world. Here you will also find the Monte Palace Museum, an exhibition space nestled within the garden. The museum houses sculptures and a unique mineral collection from across the globe.
Entry is 12.50 euros per person. As you can tell, this day is shaping up to be the most expensive of your time in Madeira. If you’re short on cash and/or time you can miss this day off your list but it was one of my favourites so I’d recommend it!
Early afternoon: Monte
There isn’t much to do up in Monte, aside from the botanical garden. But I’d recommend visiting Monte Church before making your way back down to Funchal.
Late afternoon: Wicker Toboggan Sled Ride
Madeira Itinerary: Day Seven
Afternoon: Old Town
Funchal’s Old Town is touristy for a reason. It’s just so bloody pretty! The Old Town is characterised by narrow cobblestone streets and colourful buildings. We ate dinner a couple of times in the lively and romantic square by the diddy Socorro Church. If you’re after a buzzing nightlife, the Old Town is bursting with bars and restaurants.