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7 Days in Madeira Itinerary: Everything You Need to See and Do

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I fell head over heels in love with Madeira! If you’re not familiar with Madeira, it is a Portuguese island located in the North Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Portugal. While it’s largely frequented by older generations and cruise ships, which tend to go hand in hand, Madeira really is a hidden gem for all ages, especially young travellers like myself wanting to get off the beaten path in Europe. From spectacular views and natural volcanic pools to botanical gardens and toboggan rides, here is the ultimate 7 days in Madeira itinerary.
 

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

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Depending on what time you arrive and how long you’ve been travelling for, you may either want to get out and explore straight away or you may want to kick off your 7 day Madeira itinerary by collapsing in bed. We were the latter. As we were in Madeira for 7 days we weren’t too pressed for time, but if you were visiting the island for only a few nights you’d probably rather get out straight away.
 
As soon as we arrived in Madeira, my parents picked us up from the airport and drove us into Funchal, the capital of Madeira, to check into our Airbnb. We stayed in this gorgeous, modern studio in the centre of Funchal for only £314 between us for seven nights. For only £157 each, this place was an absolute bargain and couldn’t be more convenient.
 
For the rest of the day, we just chilled and explored the surrounding area to get our bearings. An early night (and the latest episode of Love Island – don’t judge) was on the cards for us so we were ready to start exploring the island the following morning…
 

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…

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Early morning: Cabo Girão

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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 

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Next along the coast, we accidentally stumbled across a viewpoint looking over Ribeira Brava, which turned out to be one of our favourite viewpoints of the whole trip. Although we didn’t stop in the town, the views alone were beautiful and well worth the stop.
 
One of the things I loved most about Madeira is that it offers exceptional 360 views wherever you go. This small town, named Wild River after its river, is located on the southwestern coast of the island and boasts a picturesque seafront and promenade.
 

Midday: Ponta Do Sol

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Ponta Do Sol is a peaceful and beautiful little village with a church, scenic seafront and lido. Known as the sunniest and hottest point of the island, you can enjoy sunbathing and beautiful sunsets here.
 

Early afternoon: Paul da Serra

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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

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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

We didn’t stop in these two places for long so I didn’t get any photos, which is why they have been lumped together. However, you will find some spectacular views in both places. Seixal boasts more natural pools, which are much smaller and far less touristy. Here you’ll also find Laje Beach, a free of charge black sand beach, from which you will get great views of the Bridal Veil (Véu de Noiva), a waterfall that flows into the ocean.
 
Characterised by green nature and abundant forest, São Vicente is truly beautiful. Here you can visit the São Vicente Caves. Formed 890 thousand years ago, these are among the first caves of volcanic origin to be opened to the public in Portugal!
 

Madeira Itinerary: Day Three

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Morning: Valley of the Nuns

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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

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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 

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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 

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By far the highlight of the trip and, to be honest, one of the highlights of my entire life was Pico de Ariero. The word ‘speechless’ is thrown around a lot but never have I been more speechless in my life. At 1,818 metres high, Pico de Ariero is Madeira’s third highest peak and can be accessed by car.
 
We decided to drive up just as the sun was setting and it was the perfect time to visit. We counted only about five other people on the entire mountain. But I’m sure you’ll find hundreds of people up here in the daytime. Having Pico de Ariero to ourselves at sunset was truly something else. If you do anything during your time in Madeira, please make it this!
 

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.

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Morning: Cristo Rei Viewpoint

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Our first stop on day four was at the Cristo Rei viewpoint. With steps leading down to the sea, this viewpoint offers some amazing views of Funchal bay, the Garajau Reserve, Caniço de Baixo and the Atlantic Ocean. 
 
The majestic statue of Christ, not pictured, stands on top of a hill which drops into a ravine towards the sea. It’s so picturesque that the above picture currently serves as my laptop background! I will definitely never tire of looking at that view…
 

Early afternoon: Machico

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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

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Finally, we ended up at the long thin peninsula at the most eastern point of the island, Ponta de Sao Lourenco. Here you will find some of the finest cliff scenery in Madeira! We spent a couple of hours clambering over rocks and walking along the peninsula. This area was surprisingly busy but we managed to get off the beaten path and enjoy some isolated views.
 

Madeira Itinerary: Day Five

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Morning: Porto da Cruz

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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!

Afternoon: Santana 

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One of Madeira’s tourist hotspots that can’t be missed on your trip to the island is Santana. Characterised by its small thatched triangular houses, originating from the 16th century, Santana is a beautiful village on the north coast.
 
In Santana, you will also find Madeira Theme Park. And no, before you get excited, there’s no rollercoasters at this theme park. Madeira Theme Park is an exhibition for all ages to learn more about the history, traditions and cultures of Madeira. It’s great for tourists and locals alike wanting to brush up on their Madeiran knowledge!
 

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

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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

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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

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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

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Now for one of the most fun, albeit overpriced, parts of the trip. The wicker toboggan sled ride down to Funchal! Before the cable car was built, the wicker toboggan run was the traditional way to get back down to Funchal. This thrill ride is now a tourist activity in which you ride down the streets in a wicker sled with wooden runners driven by two carreiros (men dressed in white with straw hats).
 
The ride cost us 30 euros between us so it will make a bit of a dent in the bank. But it’s definitely worth the experience. Be wary though that the ride ends in the suburb of Livramento. Taxis and buses are available in Livramento to take you back down to Funchal. But personally, I’d recommend just doing the twenty-minute walk down to the bay by yourself to save money.
 

Madeira Itinerary: Day Seven

So it’s your last day in Funchal, one of the best cities in Portugal, and you finally get a chance to actually see it! We were knackered at this point in the trip so treated ourselves to a lovely long lie-in before heading out to the streets to explore.
 
Throughout our week in Madeira, we got lost in Funchal’s many squares while hunting down places to eat. We also went for a few strolls along the waterfront. But on our final day in Funchal, we dedicated time to visit the colourful and picturesque Old Town. This was also sadly accompanied by packing our bags for our flight home.
 

Afternoon: Old Town

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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.

Afternoon: Street Art 

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Funchal’s Old Town is probably most famous for its colourful street art. Covering the walls and doors of many buildings throughout the area, it is a collection of work from both local and foreign artists. Definitely worth a snoop around!
 
 
So have you ever visited Madeira? I’d love to know what you thought of the island! Or has this Madeira itinerary tempted you to visit now? Let me know in the comments below.
 
This post was written in collaboration with Bolsover Cruise Club but as always all opinions are my own.
 
The Ultimate Seven Day Guide to Madeira Island, Portugal. What to see and do in Madeira, the Portuguese Island. Travel blog. Travel guide. Funchal. Monte. Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Wicker Toboggan Sled Ride. Santana. Porto Moniz Lava Pools. Valley of the Nuns. Nun Valley. Pico de Arieiro. Pico Ruivo. Machico. Ponta de Sao Lourenco. Porto da Cruz. Fajã dos Padres. Cabo Girão. Ribeira Brava. Ponta Do Sol. Seixal. São Vicente. Click through to read more...
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    • Maja
    • Wednesday, 25th April 2018
    Reply

    This is a great and complete guide. I really like your pictures. Thank you for sharing this with us. It makes one want to discover this tiny island!

    1. Reply

      Thanks so much, Maja, and no worries at all! I hope one day you do 🙂

    • Jane
    • Wednesday, 25th April 2018
    Reply

    Thanks Lucy. Reading your block was very enjoyable and informative. We will make use of your knowledge when we visit Madeira in October. Lovely photos too.

    1. Reply

      So glad you enjoyed reading it, Jane 🙂 Enjoy Madeira, it’s so beautiful!

    • Zoya Parveen
    • Wednesday, 30th May 2018
    Reply

    Beautiful photos with amazing blog. Thanks for sharing. Great work and keep it up.

    Regards
    https://getzdestinations.com/honeymoon-packages/

    • Raluca
    • Wednesday, 18th July 2018
    Reply

    I absolutely loved your guide to Madeira, Lucy! My story with Madeira is somewhat of a fairytale. I work remotely, which means I get to live wherever I want to – given that it’s not crazy expensive So one day I took the map on the world and started looking for a nice place to move to. I was sure I wasn’t going to find it – after all, I “only” wanted nice weather, ocean, mountains, affordable prices and for it to be in Europe, so that I can move there without issues. I found Madeira, though, which ticked all the boxes and then some! When I first visited it, I knew that was THE place for me. Six months and a suitcase later, I was in Madeira to stay!

    • Milene
    • Sunday, 23rd September 2018
    Reply

    I’ve been to Madeira a few years ago. Such an amazing island! I’ve always wanted to see Porto Santo (the neighbouring island) though, but never had the opportunity.

    • Angela Lok
    • Wednesday, 16th January 2019
    Reply

    this article brings back so many memories from my 2018 trip to Madeira, one of my favourites ever! got to do some amazing diving at the Arco Da Badajeira (https://dive.site/explore/site/arco-da-badajeira-ZwN5), and I absolutely loved the waters, the beaches, the landscapes, the locals – ah! Madeira is truly a gem in this world, and you’ve done it justice with your writing <3

    • Veronica
    • Sunday, 10th March 2019
    Reply

    I’m travelling to Madeira this summer for one week and this guide is super useful. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • kirton rodrigues
    • Monday, 1st July 2019
    Reply

    I just came back from 4 days in Madeira and I wish I had your guide before I left. I hit quite a few of the spots you mentioned, and as a bonus I was able to connect with my cousins whom I had never met on my father’s side. It was quite an adventure, as our last contact was in 1990 and all I had was a street name in Sao Roque. Madeira is a truly amazing island with such awe-inspiring topography and physical beauty, and diverse flora. I fell in love with the island’s beauty and friendly people and plan to be back often.

    • Julia
    • Friday, 16th October 2020
    Reply

    Absolutely amazed by those pictures and I want to leave for Madeira asap! It’s on my list for November!

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