Your Madeira Story: Backpacking & hitchhiking in Madeira


Ponta de Sao Lourenco PHOTO:

Every travel story is unique, and that is why to present the readers with different perspectives on the islands, I am starting a new series called “Your Madeira Story”, where I will post short interviews with other bloggers and travelers. Contact us if you would like to share your own. 

We are starting with a very interesting interview with, a couple of Polish travel bloggers, who can tell you a lot about backpacking, hitch-hiking and free campsites in Madeira. Enjoy their story!

SYTM: Intro: When did you visit Madeira, how long was your trip and with whom did you travel? Was it an organized tour or did you organize everything yourself? Where did you stay?

We visited Madeira in January 2018. We were there for 8 days, just the two of us. 

We organized everything ourselves. We saw a lot, visited many places across Madeira, and to most of these places we… hitch-hiked. We explored among others: FunchalPonta do PargoCamara de LobosPorto Moniz, the glass observation deck on Cabo GiraoPonta de São Lourenço, and we climbed Pico Ruivo & Pico do Arieiro.

Best of Madeira: Ponta de São Lourenço Madeira Island.

SYTM: Hitch-hiked? I know that hitch-hiking in Portugal is legal and that it would be a fantastic option for those that did not dare to rent a car in Madeira… Could you tell us more about hitch-hiking in Madeira? Is it easy to find someone willing to give us a lift?

We’ve been hitch-hiking in so many places in Europe and around the world … and it really depends. 

However, based on our experience, Madeira ranks among our top ten places to hitch-hike. Both in terms of speed and security. For example, when trying to catch a lift from the airport, we succeeded in just a couple of minutes.  The local driver told us about Madeira, he gave us some tips about the best markets in Funchal. It also took us less than two minutes to catch a lift from Pico do Arieiro. A friendly local and his two children gave us a lift, but as if it was not nice enough, he also invited us for a coffee, and he made a detour to bring us to our destination. 

The most difficult spot to hitch-hike was Porto Moniz. However, this was not the result of drivers’ reluctance to give someone a lift, but more because of the terrain. The roads are rather steep, curvy, sometimes by the edge of a cliff… and these are not the safest spots to stop a car to pick up hitch-hikers. In such places, we just had to be patient and wait a bit longer or … we simply walked 🙂

SYTM: Who offered you a lift more often: locals or other tourists? 

Usually the locals. They were always giving us tips and telling us about Madeira. Sometimes we were picked up by other tourists, but that did not happen often. Probably because their cars were already stuffed with their own baggage and there was no room for two extra people with two big backpacks 🙂

SYTM: So I understand that it is safe to hitch-hike in Madeira… You did not have any unpleasant incidents, right?

Correct. As we already said, people were always extremely helpful and nice. We never felt threatened or even uncomfortable while hitch-hiking through Madeira.

Atrakcje Madery - okolice Funchal: Suszenie ryb w Camara de Lobos na Maderze Fot: wnuczykije pl
Camara de Lobos PHOTO:

Let’s also talk about your camping in Madeira adventure. Where exactly did you stay and what were your impressions?

As we spent our days in the mountains, hiking, we did not stay in one place. We slept on a couple of different free camping sites in Madeira: Camping at Fonte do Bispo, Rabaçal, Chao dos Louros, Pico Ruivo and Casa do Sardinha.

Each one of these campsites was completely different. Fonte do Bispo is a green glade surrounded by a forest. The campsite in Rabaçal is small, but the views are amazing. There is also a restaurant and a bathroom nearby. At Chao dos Louros you can feel like you are in a real jungle! Perhaps the most beautiful views were at the Casa do Sardinha campsite on the Ponta de São Lourenço peninsula located just on the shore of the ocean. We were most disappointed with the “campsite” at Pico Ruivo. “Campsite” – deliberately in quotation marks – because it really turned out that the campsite wasn’t there! We spent the night in a covered barbecue building!

There was access to water on all campsites, and most of them had a toilet. And those beautiful views… I definitely recommend camping in Madeira.

What would you advise to other tourists planning on camping in Madeira?

It is important to remember, that in order to sleep on one of these free campsites, you need a permit from the Instituto das Florestas e Conservacao da Natureza, because the campsites are located within the national park. We explain how to get such a permit on our [blog].

SYTM: Back to your trip. Why did you choose Madeira? What was the main goal of your visit?

Our main goal was to see the beautiful mountains and explore the hiking routes in the central part of Madeira.

SYTM: What were your expectations? What were you most excited to do & see? 

We were expecting an active holiday, a nice break from the city life… and the sun that we missed so much during the Polish winter. That is why we spent most of our time hiking.

SYTM:  … aaand? Did Madeira meet your expectations? Were you a bit disappointed or just the opposite- positively surprised?

Madeira definitely lived up to our expectations. Beautiful views, well-maintained trekking trails, free campsites, spring in the middle of winter and well-functioning hitch-hiking… What else could we wish for? 🙂

SYTM: What did you like the most about Madeira? What do you think are the best things tourists should visit, do or try? Can you name three things on your personal “Best of Madeira” list?

The most beautiful was the Ponta de São Lourenço. If someone loves Iceland during the summer, they will certainly fall in love with this part of Madeira.

They also have to experience sunset watching at Ponta do Pargo – it is something truly magical. And of course, they should try some exotic fruits at the Funchal Market (Mercado dos Lavradores).


20 x Best of Madeira Island - Madeira News Blog & Travel Guide - Madeira bucket list.

SYTM: What did you like the least about Madeira? What disappointed you? What do you advise tourists to avoid (any tourist attractions they should rather skip)? 

We were only disappointed once: when we arrived in the evening and discovered that the Pico Ruivo shelter was closed. As a result of that we had to spend the night outside. We explained the full story in our post about free camping sites and shelters in MadeiraIn addition, if someone is not a fan of cities and city life, they can skip most touristic places like Calheta or Ribeira Brava.

SYTM: What about food and drinks from Madeira? Is there something you can not wait to eat again?

The local fruits in Madeira, unheard of anywhere else – it is definitely what we miss the most. 

SYTM: Did you have any funny and memorable situations? Any funny stories to share?

When you are backpacking and hitch-hiking, it usually means that you will get a chance to get to know some interesting people. This time, however, we spent most of our time hiking alone in the mountains. Although we have been invited several times to drink Poncha (a delicious local drink).


20 x Best of Madeira Island - Madeira News Blog & Travel Guide - Madeira bucket list.

SYTM: So, if you could give a short title to your interview, which would summarize your trip, what would it be?

Madeira for backpackers 🙂

Our guests were:​

Madeira on a budget: Backpacking in Madeira. Hitchhiking in Madeira. Free campsites in Madeira #madeira #portugal
Madeira on a budget: Backpacking in Madeira. Hitchhiking in Madeira. Free campsites in Madeira #madeira #portugal


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Comments (20)

  1. It’s so true that you meet some really interesting people when you travel. travels, Whats in a Poncha. Is it alcoholic?

    1. Hello Janine, Yes, Poncha is asmall, but pretty strong drink, made with aguardente de cana (distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice), sugar/honey + usually lemon juice.. Good medicine for your sore throat 🙂

  2. I live the sense of adventure this couple has. Now I want to try my hand at hitchhiking through Madeira too! Though truth be told, I’d travel through Madeira any way possible!

  3. I am glad that the place met your expectations and you manage to enjoy yourself there! Thats vry important! I dislike setting expectation only to be dissapointed after :((

  4. Loved to see a new perceptive on Madeira through this story. Budget travelers are always looking for options which would help save costs and hitch hiking and free camp sites sounds just perfect!

  5. Thanks for sharing this interview with such a niece couple of adventured with an interesting perspective on Madeira

  6. It’s great to discover so many interesting places like this in the world. I have never traveled to Portugal but will have to check this out when I do one day. 🙂

  7. Madeira is on my list of places to go but probably minus kids. From your experience is it more of an adult friendly location?

    1. Great point. I am actually going to post soon an interview with another blogger, who visited Madeira with her toddler twins. In her opinion, Madeira is a perfect destination for families with kids. Due to the mountains and difficult terrain, I would say it is not the easiest country to walk with a stroller. However, if you rent a car, that should not be a problem. Visiting Madeira with kids won’t be worse, it will be simply different. You won’t be able to take the difficult hikes or go diving with a go-pro, but you can still find a lot of easier hikes and interesting activities for the whole family. I hope you can check my blog soon to read the interview with her, as they are very experienced in discovering the world- always with their kids.

  8. A brilliant read! We actually just tried hitchhiking ourselves for the first time a couple of days ago. I know there’s a lot of stigma about it, but we had a great experience with a lovely man in Slovakia. I am yet to visit Portugal (my partner has), and we’ve talked about going soon. Maybe we’ll have to try some hitchhiking in Madeira ourselves!

  9. Maderia has been on my bucketlist for so log, I really enjoyed reading your post and the photos. Bookmarked for future reference, lots of great tips and info.

  10. Hey. Thanks for the post, it’s been really helpful in our research.
    Could you please give me some more details on the Pico Ruivo area since we intend (and have permission) to camp over there. From the videos I saw, the path around there is really narrow and there’s no place to actually set up a tent. Is this barbeque building hard to find, is it near the shelter?

    1. Hello Silviu,
      I suggest you contact our guests on their social media. They have the first-hand experience with camping there, which unfortunately I do not. I am sure they will get back to you. Enjoy Madeira!

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