7 Best Things to Do in Madeira, Portugal

|   Last Updated on April 2, 2020

Madeira is considered Portugal’s most beautiful garden.

Though this idea may be debatable, the fact is that the island, only a mere 1h30 flight away from its Capital, Lisbon, is a flowery, green place of unique beauty and interest.

Many European Capitals have direct flights to Madeira and its airport is one of the busiest in Portugal, with dozens of flights bringing many thousands of visitors every year, all year round.

Madeira is sought by tourists that wish to enjoy its warm all-year round weather, its beautiful landscapes, great food and people at very affordable prices. The options are endless as the Island is very rich when it comes to what it has to offer its visitor.

Let’s find out what the best things to do in Madeira, Portugal, are.

1. Pico do Arieiro

The Pico do Areeiro is high up in the center of the island. Standing at 1818m. From here you can walk a 7km trail to the highest point in the Island, Pico Ruivo that stands tall at 1862m.

The walk of unique beauty and wonder as you stand on top of the island and gaze at its incredible views is achieved in approximately 3:30 hours involving tunnels, steep ascents and descents and fabulous views of Madeira’s central core of mountains.

You will be surrounded by beautiful nature and peaceful landscape and it is suggested that you take some trekking gear with you as the trails can often be slippery.

Along the way you will walk through caves that were dug out of volcanic tuff and were often used to shelter cattle and shepherds.

Birds that include those of prey are also a constant sight in these high grounds, circling the area for any smaller prey and making up for memorable photographs.

Being a colder and wetter area, some high-altitude plants are present, some of which are endemic of Madeira.

2. Cabo Girão

Cabo Girão is known by its incredible cliffs with a vertical drop of over 500m.

The location is stage to one of the most incredible tourist attractions you’ve ever experienced, with a glass floor skywalk that extends out the top of its cliff.

The walk is not for the faint of heart as you gaze down at its incredible height. If for one it’s terrifying, it’s also one of the most fantastic experiences you can have anywhere and it’s as fun to experience it as it is to observe others do it.

From this skywalk you’ll also be gifted with some of the most amazing views along Madeira’s coast and down to the village of Camera de Lobos.

Cabo Girão is a very sought after tourist attraction in the island and can get busy sometimes, but you’ll also be happy to know that it’s free.

Here you’ll find a tourist souvenir shop as well as a café to relax and further enjoy its beauty.

If you have the time and are on your own visit and not a tour guided one, you can actually enjoy the cable car down to Faias de Cabo Girão fields. The return trip costs a mere €5,00 and the ride is an incredible one as it faces the cliffs.

The fields down below were until recently only accessible by boat and this area is a fertile and unique one for vineyard cultivation that has been used for Centuries.

3. Madeira’s Botanical Garden

We’ve mentioned that Madeira is considered as Portugal’s Garden but it’s at the Botanical Garden that you will find it all concentrated in one beautiful and incredible place. The Garden is home to over 2500 plant species and 300 birds with 200 endemic species from Madeira Island.

The garden is visited by over 345.000 people every year and sits tall above Madeira’s largest City – Funchal – with amazing sights.

Recently the garden was also a victim of a severe wildfire that took over this area of the Island, destroying some of its amazing collection of plants and greenhouses but has since bounced back and ensures its visitor has a great experience in one of Portugal’s most beautiful and diverse gardens of all.

4. Monte Cable Car

The cable car is one of the most romantic and fun ways to travel from Funchal old town to the uphill Monte.

Its 15-minute ride is one of incredible sights as you can see not only the City of Funchal but also its surroundings and its incredible constructions uphill that defy both logic and engineering.

Being a very mountainous island, the visitor will find that Madeira is very often a proof of adaptability from its inhabitants with houses on the very limits of cliffs, surrounded by green lush vegetation that will appeal to everyone.

The cable car experience grants the visitor an aerial view of what life in Madeira is really like and though at times it may be one that induces vertigo, once you get over that unavoidable fact, you’ll be amazed by the ride and very likely thinking about going on it again. Or at least on your way down!

On top of the Hill you’ll find the Nossa Senhora do Monte Church, which is a great award for those that are scared of heights and have just endured the cablecar trip. You can walk to the top of its towers and glance again at Funchal and its coastline.

5. Carreiros do Monte

Once you’re up at Monte, there is one more nerve-wrecking experience for the tourist that has as much of uniqueness as it has of adrenaline-inducing. Just outside the Senhora do Monte Church is the departure point for this downhill tradition that initiated in the XIX Century.

The Carreiros do Monte are a set of wicker basket sledges that were initially used as a fast way to travel from the upper hill Monte to downtown Funchal.

The 10-minute descent covers 2km and is driven by two qualified operators. More times than not, the sledges race down the hill in a thrilling ride taking the visitor in perhaps the most exciting tour of all in the beautiful Island of Madeira.

A two-person ride is priced at €30 and three-person at €45. The ride is available six days a week with the exception of sundays.

6. Levadas

The Levadas are specific trekking walkways that are sided by a course of water. They were built as a way to capture the fresh water available in the higher grounds of the Island and carry it to its habitants living in the lower areas.

These days the Levadas make for a unique and astonishing trekking experience. With several options to consider, it’s hard to pick a favorite as you will be gifted with lakes, waterfalls, amazing sights and cliffs. Some of these are engineering marvels with tunnels and carved volcanic rock giving passage to both its water and its visitors.

If you’re unsure where to start, the Cedros Levada (PR14) is a magical option that ends up in a waterfall and a lagoon. Also consider the Levada do Rei (PR18), Vereda do Fanal (PR13), Ribeiro Frio (PR10) or Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço (PR8).

Make sure you take the right trekking equipment and start at the local tourism office to grab a Levadas Trekking Guide before you venture on them as some of these have a length that goes from only a couple kms up to 30km!

7. Curral das Freiras

© Patano Wikimedia Commons

At this point you already know that Madeira is a mountainous Island and the Curral das Freiras viewpoint is a perfect example. Sitting at 1095m, the panoramic view of the Curral das Freiras area is one of pure wonder and beauty.

The drive up to the viewpoint is one of incredible sights and the actual village that sits below offers great chestnut products with a particular market during the November month. In fact the chestnut is the base of most unique products that you will find in this area of the island and are worth trying.

Last Updated on April 2, 2020


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