Madeira Island Bucket List – 20 Awesome things to do in Madeira

UPDATED:  15-03-2020   ◊   ZMIEŃ JĘZYK: POLSKI

Madeira Holidays - Things to do in Madeira Island. Best attractions and most beautiful places on Madeira. Madeira Island travel blog.

What to see and do in Madeira? A bucket list for all first-time visitors.

Madeira is an island full of attractions, especially beautiful hiking trails and breathtaking viewpoints. It also has an interesting history, beautiful street art and offers a wide range of excursions and outdoor activities.

For a short introduction to the island, please go to our previous post:  MADERA – FOR DUMMIES. Our INSTAGRAM account will also be a great source of inspiration, as it is full of pictures presenting the most beautiful corners of the island. 

Today, the post many readers were asking for: a complete list of the most popular and famous attractions that delighted us and many other tourists, and which we think are worth seeing or doing during everyone’s first holidays in Madeira.

The purpose of this post is to inspire you and show you the most beautiful aspects of Madeira at a glance, while links to detailed blog posts or external sites will be a useful and practical guides.

Madeira Attractions: 20 x Best of Madeira

#1 Do at least one levada walk

Yes, the first thing you should pack are your trekking shoes as the island is a real paradise for hikers. It is famous especially for its levadas, i.e. small water channels built to transport water from the mountains and which currently serve as wonderful hiking trails.

There are many levadas on Madeira with varying degrees of difficulty. Some will take us the whole day, but many just a couple of hours. The entire list of routes along with difficulty levels and distances can be found on the official website: Visit Madeira. [HERE]  you will also find the brochures with all recommended hikes, available in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish and German.

The most beautiful (or most popular) levadas in Madeira are: Levada 25 Fontes & Risco, Levada do Alecrim, Levada Caldeirao Verde, oraz Levada do Furado.

To the list of my favourites and recommended I would also add: Levada Do Rei and Levada Fajã do Rodrigues.

*Click on the pictures for more info

Best of Madeira - Madeira Island News Blog & Free Travel Guide - Best Things to do in Madeira. #madeira #madeiraisland #travel

Levada das 25 Fontes & Risco (PR6 & 6.1) >

Beautiful, but popular levada with many beautiful waterfalls

20 x Best of Madeira - Madeira Island News Blog & Free Travel Guide - List of best attractions of Madeira.

Levada do Rei (PR18) >

Beautiful levada with amazing views and beautiful flora

20 x Best of Madeira - Madeira Island News Blog & Free Travel Guide - List of best attractions of Madeira.

Levada Fajã do Rodrigues (PR16) >

Less popular levada for those who like long tunnels

#2 Stop at every Miradouro you will encounter on the way

The best way to discover Madeira is by car. It is worth learning the meaning of the Portuguese word miradouro – an observation deck as there are plenty of marked signs leading to different observation decks. Some are right by the road and it is a matter of minutes, and to some, you will need to hike a bit. If you have time, it is worth checking out every viewpoint you will notice because sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised.

There are way too many beautiful viewpoints on Madeira to mention all in this post, but the most popular ones, which I also recommend, are: 

BalcõesCabo Girão, Eira do Serrado, Miradouro do Guindaste, Véu da Noiva and Eira da Achada.

In Funchal, Miradouro Pico Dos Barcelos is pretty popular, and on Porto Santo- Miradouro da Portela. Both Madeira and Porto Santo actually have equally beautiful viewpoints with the same name – Portela.

They are all definitely worth a visit. To my list of favourites I would also add: Pico do Facho, Pico da Torre, Rocha do Navio and Miradouro de São Sebastião, whose location is worth saving on Google Maps, because we won’t find it on TripAdvisor.

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

Pico do Facho >

360-View of the runway, Machico beach and valley up to Ponta do Sao Lourenco

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

Pico da Torre >

Great view of the colorful fishing village Camara de Lobos from above

Wakacje na Maderze - Madera atrakcje i najpiekniejsze miejsca

Miradouro de São Sebastião >

Beautiful view of the Ribeira Brava Valley and the south coast of Madeira

#3 Take one of the many cable cars

There are several cable cars in Madeira. The most famous of them connects the Old Town of Funchal with the top of the Monte hill and Monte Palace Tropical Gardens Park, and then this park with another park – Botanical Gardens. This cable car will allow you to enjoy the amazing view of the entire bay of Funchal for a couple of minutes.

Shorter, modern and comfortable cable cars can also be found on Fajã dos Padres and Garajau Beach.

The most unforgettable rides can be found in the north and north-west of Madeira: Cable cars to Fajã da Rocha do Navio and Achadas da Cruz. Both take us to secluded and unique places, allowing us to enjoy some really breathtaking views.

#4 Visit at least one (botanical) garden

The two most famous botanical parks in Funchal that are worth visiting are Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and Madeira Botanical Garden.

Madeira News Blog & Travel Guide - Best attractions of Madeira Island and Porto Santo, Portugal

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens >

Where exotic plants, architecture, geology and art meet

Madeira News Blog & Travel Guide - Best attractions of Madeira Island and Porto Santo, Portugal

Madeira Botanical Gardens >

2,500 exotic plants including an interesting collection of succulents

Both are beautiful, both are different from each other, both offer an amazing view of Funchal. In the city center you will also find Municipal Garden and Santa Catarina Park open to everyone. Apart from them, there are several other gardens and parks on the island. Many hotels on the island pride itself on its beautiful gardens.

#5 Swim in a lava pool

Volcanic pools built by nature are Madeira-specific bathing spots.

The most famous volcanic pools are the pools in Porto Moniz. Funchal also has its own pool complex called Doca do Cavacas. It is smaller and still remains in the shade of the Porto Moniz pools, but offers a magnificent view of the Cabo Girao cliff and … better weather, because this is usually the best on the southern coast.

#6 Fall in love with Madeira’s street art

The most famous street art is located in the Old Town of Funchal, where next to the murals you will find charming painted doors. In Funchal there are also several other murals, for example a beautiful, large whale mural – La Baleia and a well-made mural – a portrait of Cristiano Ronaldo in the district where he grew up.

The street art of the neighbouring fishing village of Camara de Lobos is also very interesting. In this case, the doors were decorated by volunteers with recycled materials. Beautiful street art can also be found in Machico.

#7 Visit at least one Fajā 

Fajā is a piece of flat land, built by flowing lava, which is located at the foot of the cliff, cut off on one side by a cliff, on the other by water. They are beautiful and secluded places and quite common on Madeira. Each fajā is different and has its own charm, it is worth visiting at least one of them.

My recommendation: Fajā dos Padres or Fajā da Rocha do Navio. 

#8 Let the mountain tops wrapped in a carpet of clouds amaze you…

Magical mountain peaks covered with dense clouds and the silence accompanying these views is a real pleasure for the eyes and ears. We will see them in many places when discovering the island by car, most often around Pico Ruivo, Pico do Arieiro, Encumeada, and even Eira do Serrado.

Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak of Madeira. However, it is easily accessible by car, which makes it one of the most popular attractions on the island. For advanced and intermediate travellers, the PR1 hiking route connecting the two peaks of Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo is strongly recommended. On this route, very close to Pico do Arieiro, you will find the famous “Stairs to the sky”. Whether hiking or just passing by car, this majestic mountain peak is definitely worth a visit.

#9 See the Nuns’ Valley from above … and below

Curral das Freiras (Valley of the Nuns) is one of my favourite places in Madeira. Located only half an hour from Funchal, it gives the impression of being on a different island.

From above, we can admire it from the beautiful Eira do Serrado viewpoint, a common stop during many day tours. For all mountain lovers I also recommed staying for at least one night in the hotel carrying the same name – Eira do Serrado Hotel and Spa.

However, we should not see the Nuns Valley only from above. It is worth hiking down to the valley and strolling around its villages, for example to the spring where you can swim in the summer – Poco dos Chefes. Getting lost somewhere in the narrow valley street we will see the real, somewhat hidden Madeira, which is far from the luxurious hotel districts in Funchal.

RELATED POSTS ON OUR BLOG:

#10 Walk where the mountains and cliffs meet the ocean…

If you are fit enough and do not suffer from vertigo – hike on Ponta de São Lourenço or Vereda do Larano.

Madeira’s routes are divided into “levada” and “vereda”. Vereda is in Portuguese every other route that does not run along the levada. It is worth also go on at least one other hike on Madeira, that is not a levada. 

In addition to the “trail in the clouds” already mentioned in point # 8 – Vereda do Arieiro – Ruivo, my two recommendations for you are definitely the Ponta de São Lourenço and Vereda do Larano.

Ponta de São Lourenço – is probably one of the most beloved attractions of Madeira. If we have such an opportunity, it is definitely worth hiking the PR8 route, especially during the sunrise. The trail is especially popular because you can easily get there by bus, which is a good option for tourists without a car.

We do not need a car for the Vereda do Larano either, because we can get to both Machico and Porto da Cruz by bus. It is not a trail for people with the fear of heights, because it often leads right by the edge. However, it is an incredibly beautiful trail, and the views during the route, as well as when entering Porto da Cruz, are unique.

#11 Enjoy the rainbow of colours

… of exotic fruit sold at the Mercado dos Lavradores market, small, colourful boats in the bay of the fishing village Camara de Lobos, colourful Santana houses and flowers in botanical gardens, parks and gardens.

Plus, if you’re visiting Madeira in May, don’t miss the colourful and beautiful Flower Festival, and above all its main parade through the streets of Funchal.

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

Mercado dos Lavradores Market >

Be careful, some fruit stands are a tourist trap!

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

Camara de Lobos Bay >

Colourful boats in this famous village beloved by Winston Churchill

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

Flower Parade in Madeira >

This spring Flower Festival will delight you. Flower Parade is it's main event

#12 Try Madeira’s signature local dishes and drinks (at a restaurant with a beautiful view)

There are many good restaurants in Madeira. Most of them serve typical beef, fish and seafood dishes. We recommend Espada, a fish served with baked banana pieces (“Espada com banana”), octopus (“Lulas Grelhadas”) or a starter called Lapas Grelhadas – limpets baked in a special pan with garlic and butter, sprinkled with fresh lemon. I recommend Lapas to everyone, even if you are not a fan of seafood dishes – you may like it very much. Espetada is a Madeira shashlik, usually made of beef (baked on a metal skewer or a bay laurel stick), seasoned with salt, garlic and bay leaves, grilled on wood or charcoal.

Typical for Madeira are restaurants specializing in Espetades – you can recognize them by the iron stands built into the tables on which the waiter hangs the finished Espetada. Here are some proven restaurants that specialize in Espetades:

O Lagar  

 As Vides 

Restaurante Santo António 

It will be hard to find options without meat in such Espetada restaurants, so I do not recommend it to vegetarians and vegans.

There are so many great restaurants on Madeira that it is difficult to recommend you the best ones. I will focus on those that are not only a pleasure for your taste buds, but also eyes. Here are examples of several restaurants with beautiful views:

Quinta do Furao with a beautiful view of the north coast

Restaurante Planka with a stunning view of Funchal from above

Sabores do Curral with a view of the mountains and the Nuns Valley

Design Centre Nini Andrade Silva Restaurant great interior restaurant overlooking the bay and the port of Funchal

Restaurante Marisqueira O Barqueiro with a view of the Cabo Girao cliff

On Porto Santo, a beautiful view is guaranteed especially at:

Panorama Restaurant with a view of the entire beach and Vida Baleira from above

Madeira is also famous for its extensive menu of local drinks, which I have already explained in detail in my post: LOCAL DRINKS OF MADEIRA. Even more popular than Madeira wine is the fruity Poncha. Meeting with friends for a Poncha is more popular than grabbing a beer together. A few Poncha bars we love to hang out at are:

In Funchal: Bar Venda Velha, Bar Rei da Poncha, Bar O Avo 

Outside Funchal: Taberna da Poncha  and  Bar Filhos do Mar

# 13 Check who lives in the waters of Madeira

Madeira is probably one of the best places in Europe, where you can not only observe dolphins and whales, but also swim with dolphins in their natural habitat. 

Delfiny Madera - rejsy obserwacji delfinów i wielorybów na Maderze. Pływanie z delfinami na Maderze. Delfiny - Ceny rejsów Funchal.

Swimming with dolphins tours Madeira >>

Book you swimming with dolphins tour

Best of Madeira - Madeira Island Guide - 20 Things to in Madeira. Holidays in Madeira 2020

All dolphins and sea life observation tours >>

Check, compare and book whale&dolphin watching tours

Swimming with dolphins in the open ocean was my dream and I’m glad I could fulfil it on Madeira. We frequently go on dolphin watching tours, so here is our post comparing different options:

SEE POST: SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS AND DOLPHIN WATCHING TOURS – COMPARISON 

#14 Try out a new sport or activity in nature

There are so many ways to burn those extra calories on Madeira… During those outdoor activities, you can not only gain new skills, learn something new, expand your comfort zone, but also discover places in Madeira that we would not otherwise see.

Sports and outdoor activities such as canyoning, coasteering, climbing, diving and paragliding allow you to discover Madeira’s hard-to-reach spots.

I have already tried most of them, and the others are on our list. I encourage you to find a sport that suits you best:

Best of Madeira - Things to in Madeira. Holidays in Madeira

Surfing on Madeira >

A tried out and recommended surfing school on Madeira

Best of Madeira - Madeira Island Guide - 20 Things to in Madeira. Holidays in Madeira 2020

Canyoning on Madeira >

A tried out and recommended outdoor activities tour company

Let me just add an important tip for all budget travellers: come to Madeira in the fall, during the Madeira Nature Festival.

During the Madeira Nature Festival tourists are invited to try out such lessons and outdoor activities free of charge! Be sure to check out our post with tips on getting the free tour tickets: Madeira Nature Festival

#15 Dare… to try out these two crazy Madera attractions

That is: Dare to enter the glass terrace of Cabo Girão or get on the Toboggan sled (Carreiros do Monte). Here are two crazy Madera attractions that some tourists do not dare to try. Will you?

The glass terrace on the Cabo Girão cliff is a place that will not take much time, if only you have the courage to enter it. In my opinion, the glass terrace is not as scary as they say. The glass is covered (for reasons I don’t understand) with tiny dots, which makes looking down less frightening. The view from the Cabo Girão cliff, however, is beautiful, so it’s worth visiting it, even for 5 minutes.

As for the sledge Carreiros do Monte (Monte Toboggan), this is a rather unusual attraction. Tourists, after getting to the Monte Hill, have the opportunity to ride down wicker sleds on public roads. Of course, they do not do it on their own, but with the help of two skilled sled drivers.

#16 Take the ferry to Porto Santo

Madeira is beautiful, but there is something that it does not have, namely large, natural, snow-white, sandy beaches. For such, you can go to the neighbouring, smaller sister of Madeira – the island of Porto Santo. It is usually possible to return from Porto Santo to Madeira on the same day. In addition to the ferry, Porto Santo can also be reached by a local plane and the flight between the islands takes about 20 minutes.

Porto Santo is famous for its comfortable, beautiful, sandy beach and azure water; you can also go sailing, dolphin watching or snorkelling. There are also several beautiful viewpoints and walking trails on the island. The most popular covered tourist attraction is the Museum – House of Columbus.

Best of Madeira - Things to in Madeira. Holidays in Madeira

Porto Santo - info >

Attractions, hikes, hotels, restaurants and more

#17 Watch the sunrise or the sunset at the right place…

Tourists usually watch the sunrise from the top of Pico do Arieiro or Ruivo, or on the easternmost point of the island – Ponta de São Lourenço.

However, even in Funchal itself, the sun also looks beautiful when it rises slowly from behind Ponta do Garajau. This is the view you will get from many port-facing balconies in the hotel district in Funchal, especially the Cliff Bay & Savoy Palace

A great view of the sunset spreads from many places in the south and west of Madeira. Many tourists view it from the area of Ponta do Pargo.

We still remember the sunset observed on the terrace of the Maktub bar in Paul do Mar and a December sunset above a stunning infinity pool on the roof of the Savoy Saccharum Hotel in Calheta.

Sunsets look great in Funchal as well, for example from the bathing complex Doca de Cavacas, where the sun sets with a view of the spectacular cliff of Cabo Girao. There are also companies offering romantic evening sunset cruises,

Wyspa Madera atrakcje - co warto zobaczyć na Maderze? Darmowy przewodnik po Maderze

Maktub in Paul do Mar >

Delicious food, great cocktails and a beautiful view during sunset

Best of Madeira - Things to in Madeira. Holidays in Madeira

Savoy Saccharum Hotel >

A modern, beautifully located four-star hotel in Calheta

Wyspa Madera atrakcje - co warto zobaczyć na Maderze? Darmowy przewodnik po Maderze

Sunset watching cruises >

A romantic, evening catamaran cruise from Funchal

#18 Visit at least one of the museums and one of the local art galleries

Depending on your interests, but I particularly liked and recommend:

Universo de Memorias for an amazing collection of beautiful exhibits from around the world, a jaw-dropping collection of horses, ties, Amalia souvenirs and a beautiful view of Funchal Bay

Madeira Optics Museum will impress all photography fans, but it is also a wonderful exhibition of the first photos ever taken in Madeira. You can see how much the island has changed throughout the years 

It is also worth visiting at least one museum related to the history of Madeira and its local products, especially the old sugar cane mills, such as, for example,Engenhos do Norte in Porto da Cruz, or Sociedade dos Engenhos da Calheta.

Madeira Film Experience or Madeira Story Centre are, on the other hand, two interactive exhibitions/museums that are not particularly extraordinary, but they are a good option for those who would like to learn the entire history of the island. They are also a great option for rainy days. You can learn a lot about Madeira’s history in the Sao Vicente Caves & Volcanic Centre.

Best of Madeira - Things to in Madeira. Holidays in Madeira

Madeira Museums >>

All museums of Madeira Island

Wyspa Madera atrakcje - co warto zobaczyć na Maderze? Darmowy przewodnik po Maderze

Madeira Art Galleries >>

Art Galleries on Madeira

As for the most famous museum in Madeira, it is probably the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum. And since we’re talking about Mr. Ronaldo …

#19 Discover the traces of Ronaldo on Madeira

Almost at the end of our list something for football fans. Madeira is after all the famous island of Ronaldo. On the island you will find several places related to the football player and I mapped them in my post:

13XCR7 – PLACES RELATED TO RONALDO IN MADERA

#20 Discover the usual-unusual Madeira 

Last but not least and above all – do not hide in comfortable and shiny hotel districts! Get out and discover this ordinary-extraordinary Madeira that you will stay in your heart. You can find the real Madeira by strolling through small towns, narrow paths between fields of local farmers.

I remember several incidents from my travels, where I was surprised by the everyday unusuality of Madeira. For example, when I entered Porto da Cruz in September, I passed dozens of farmers with buckets of freshly harvested grapes, which they offered to me smiling. I also saw how one of the families had to use a… cable car to get to their own field.

By taking the bus or walking through the dead-end roads of the villages in the Nuns Valley, I couldn’t get over the magical views and the locals’ way of living. Similarly, when I got lost climbing up the village of Machico on narrow … walls actually, because you could not call them roads. I passed by simple gardens and even an animal pen at the top of the hill, with a view that many hotels would wish to have.

I am delighted with all the buildings and roads, and even the football fields built on the slopes of mountains, all the houses that we cannot reach by any vehicle and to which we need to climb primitive trails. I just love all Madeira’s hidden corners, and the true face of Madeira without any make-up and I highly recommend you discover it too… 

What do you think is worth adding to the list of things to do in Madeira? Share your tips!

Are you interested in Madeira or Porto Santo as a place for your next holiday? Don’t miss new posts – subscribe!

Would you like to organize a wedding on Madeira or on a beautiful beach in Porto Santo and are looking for a reliable, local wedding planner? Contact

Things to do in Madeira Island - Ultimate Madeira Island bucket list - 20 best attractions of Madeira

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This form collects your name, email and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our privacy policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.