Destinations

Destinations

Destinations

Enchanting Madeira: A Journey Through the Island's Must-Visit Marvels

Alina

Nov 23, 2023

35

min

Alina

11/23/23

35

min

Madeira: A Tropical Paradise in the Atlantic Ocean

Here's my travel guide to make your visit to this stunning island easier.

Let's start with the largest city and the capital of the Autonomous Region of Madeira - Funchal.

Here are some recommended spots to visit, dine, and have fun in Funchal:

  1. Stroll through Funchal's old town. This beautiful fountain and mosaic tiles on the walls are located on Rua dos Ferreiros in Paços do Concelho do Funchal.

  2. Discover the beauty of Funchal Cathedral, a historic monument commissioned by King D. João II in 1493. Completed in the early 16th century, it brings to view the elegant styles of the Manueline and Gothic periods and stands as Madeira's principal place of worship.

  3. Visit the Capela de Santo António da Mouraria in Funchal, which offers travelers a unique glimpse into the rich historical and cultural tapestry of Madeira. This charming chapel, nestled in the heart of Funchal, is a hidden gem that dates back to the 16th century, providing a peaceful retreat from the bustling city.

  4. Visit the Municipal Gardens; try a Piña Colada (they offer two versions, including a non-alcoholic one which tastes very nice), and take a picture of the yellow cabs. Still, my personal advice is to rent a car rather than use a taxi. Take a look at the amazing architecture of the Bank of Portugal building (Edifício do Banco de Portugal) in Funchal.

  5. Discover the oldest factory in Funchal -Fabrica Santo Antonio; established in 1893. Here, you can purchase the traditional Madeiran Christmas cake (Bolo de Mel de Cana) along with other handcrafted sweets. Don't leave without buying the homemade jams and marmalades.

  6. Visit Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers’ Market), which has been operating since 1940. There, you will be able to see sellers dressed in traditional Madeiran costumes and enjoy a variety of fruits and flowers.

  7. Discover the Praça da Autonomia in Funchal (a vibrant square that celebrates the autonomous state of the archipelago).

  8. Use a cable car (Teleferico Fucnhal-Monte) to see the beauty of Funchal from above. This route is often referred to as "A Journey between Heaven and Earth." You can buy tickets online or at the ticket office. Don't worry about food; you will find nice cafes there too.

  9. Near the cable car station, you will be able to visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden (Information about opening hours and ticket details can be found here). This is one of the most unique places on the island, featuring exotic flora and art with a fascinating creation history. You will be fascinated by the plants and fountains, historical masterpieces, and flowers.

    I liked the part of the garden with the flamingo the most.

  10. After visiting the Monte Garden, you can explore the Church of Our Lady of Monte (Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte). Established around 1741, it stands as one of the most significant pilgrimage sites today.

  11. Situated high in the mountains, these wicker basket cars provide a thrilling ride with amazing views of the lush green landscapes and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Riding down the winding roads in these traditional toboggans is a must for anyone who is looking for an adventure.

  12. One of the most enchanting spots to witness the sunset in Funchal is a Green Lighthouse, where the sky's vibrant colors meet the ocean.

  13. Discover a world of creative art ideas on Rua de Santa Maria in Funchal's Old Town. Once considered a less desirable neighborhood and often overlooked by tourists, this area has transformed into one of the most beloved attractions. Thanks to the talent of local artists, you can now stroll down the streets, admiring artworks that adorn doors, walls, windows, and balconies. Plus, you can enjoy a delightful meal on this charming street, making it a must-visit spot in Funchal.

  14. Ronaldo Museum in Funchal, officially known as CR7 Museum, offers a comprehensive journey through Cristiano Ronaldo's extraordinary football career. If you're a football fan, don't miss the chance to snap a photo with the Ronaldo statue.

  15. Don't miss the chance to experience the enchanting terrace at Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira. Revel in the sweeping panorama of Funchal city and its picturesque port. Let the ocean breeze caress your skin as you immerse yourself in the beauty of the day in Funchal.

Where to stay?
If you're visiting Madeira and planning to stay in the heart of Funchal city, explore my guide on Madeira Palace Residence—a perfect location for immersing yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Funchal while staying in the city center. Alternatively, for those seeking a tranquil escape surrounded by nature, Villa São Lourenço attracts with its serene atmosphere.

Places to Eat and Try Traditional Cuisine:

  • O.Giro (address: Rua Carreira 77, Funchal, Madeira 9000-042 Portugal).
    Must try is a delicious sandwich made with Bolo do Caco and savored some exceptionally crispy churros.

  • Prima Caju (address: Rua Carreira No 108, Funchal, Madeira 9000-042 Portugal).
    This place is incredibly cozy and inviting, perfect for enjoying healthy breakfasts.

  • Petite Pâtisserie (address: Estrada Monumental 188, Funchal, Madeira 9000-098 Portugal).
    The pastries were delightful, the cafe was cozy, and the staff was incredibly welcoming. A must-try is the Pastel de Nata, which promises a taste of authentic local flavor.

  • Loft Brunch & Cocktails (address: Estrada Monumental 10 Seculo XXI Building, Funchal, Madeira 9000-236 Portugal).
    A good choice for a delightful breakfast and a nice atmosphere.

  • Casa do Bolo do Caco (address: Rua Doutor Fernão Ornelas, 26, Funchal, Madeira 9050-021 Portugal).
    One of the most delicious sandwiches is made with Bolo do Caco bread and white coffee (Garoto).

  • Three House (address: Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot 2, Funchal, Madeira 9060-209 Portugal).
    A must-try experience: savor the steak and indulge in the special bread (Lentil Papadums) served with butter. Don't forget to make a reservation.


  • Villa Cipriani (address: Reid's Palace Hotel Estrada Monumental 139, Funchal, Madeira 9000-098 Portugal).
    Experience a bit of Italy by the Atlantic Ocean at our Funchal restaurant. Sit on our outdoor terrace, enjoy the view with a glass of wine, and savor classic Italian dishes with a modern touch by Chef Marcelino Fernandes, inspired by Tuscan chef Daniele Sera. Open every day from 6:30 pm to 10 pm, and the last orders are at 9:30 pm.

  • Peixaria no Mercado (address: Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot 24, Funchal, Madeira 9060-209 Portugal)
    If you're craving delicious seafood, don't hesitate to visit this place, where you'll find freshly prepared dishes featuring a variety of fish sourced directly from the Mercado dos Lavradores.

  • Jasmin Tea House (address: Caminho dos Pretos 40 Sao Goncalo, Funchal, Madeira 9060-251 Portugal)
    Discover the tranquility of Jasmin Tea House, a cozy haven nestled in the midst of stunning nature. It stands out as one of the coziest spots I've encountered in Funchal, offering homemade cakes and aromatic teas. Managed by a welcoming English family who chose to call Madeira their home, this place invites you to savor a cup of tea paired with a delectable cake. Immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere and enhance your Funchal experience at Jasmin Tea House.

  • UAUCACAU (kindly refer to their official website for the address details)
    If you adore chocolate, this spot is a must-visit. Here, you'll discover a delightful variety of chocolates infused with the flavors of Madeiran fruits. It's the perfect place to find a gift or simply try the chocolate itself.

My tips for making the most of your visit to Funchal:

- Based on my experience, seeing all of Funchal in just one day is a challenge due to its wealth of attractions and sights. I highly recommend dedicating 1-2 days to truly enjoy this beautiful city. Make sure to take a ride on the cable car and visit the Botanical Garden for some unforgettable views.

- When it comes to parking in Funchal, it's handy to have some coins ready for street or underground parking fees. A convenient option for underground parking is located beneath the Three House Hotel and Restaurant, right in the city center.

- For those who love to try unique and tasty foods, don't miss out on the delicious Madeiran chestnuts. They're a real treat!

Essential Drone Flying Tip:
Before flying a drone in Madeira, remember you must register it with the National Aeronautical Authority. Visit their
website first to make sure you follow the rules. This helps to use drones safely and legally.

After wandering along the charming streets of Funchal, and exploring its delightful cafes and scenic spots, let me guide you through the other enchanting places on the island.


25 Most Scenic Spots to Visit on Madeira Island:
  1. Camara de Lobos
    This charming little fishing village, in Madeira, gained fame when it caught the eye of Sir Winston Churchill, who visited in the 1950s and was captivated by its scenery. He immortalized its beauty through his artwork. The landscape surrounding this town is characterized by the presence of fishing boats called ‘Xavelhas.’
    Here’s an interesting tidbit: In Portuguese ‘Lobos' means seal. The name originates from a time when a colony of seals once inhabited the area but sadly disappeared due to hunting as they were a source of food for the locals.

    This city is located near Funchal and it takes 10 - 15 minutes, by car to reach this town. I highly recommend paying a visit and experiencing its beauty firsthand.

  2. Ponta Do Sol
    This destination is famous for basking in the highest number of sunshine hours each year, with its most famous products being grown there: bananas and sugar cane. Explore the charming villages of Ponta do Sol and the picturesque beach that grace the area.

  3. Bridge (ER101, 9360, Portugal)
    Make sure not to overlook the ancient bridge and the stunning viewpoint on your journey to the Angels Waterfalls. You can find this spot on Google Maps listed as "Bridge (ER101, 9360, Portugal)".

  4. Cascata dos Anjos
    Discover one of Madeira Island's most breathtaking and unique waterfalls, cascading down to the ER101 road and then flowing into the ocean. It's one of the most picturesque spots on the island and a must-visit destination for any traveler.

  5. Miradouro da Garganta Funda
    A truly unique spot in the Madeira archipelago is the Garganta Funda Waterfall. What makes it so special? The waterfall disappears when it hasn't rained, vanishing from sight as shown in the picture. Remember this fascinating detail when you plan your visit.

  6. Ponta do Tristão
    Ponta do Tristão is located at the northernmost tip of Madeira, and offers visitors a breathtaking glimpse into the island's raw beauty. This rugged, untouched piece of paradise is where the Atlantic Ocean meets dramatic cliffs, creating a spectacular natural landscape. The area is known for its panoramic views that stretch across the horizon, offering some of the most stunning sunrises and sunsets on the island.

  7. Miradouro do Fio
    Miradouro do Fio, nestled in the heart of Madeira, is a viewpoint that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the island's stunning landscape. This serene spot is perfect for those who love to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature. As you stand at Miradouro do Fio, you are greeted by a panorama of lush green valleys, majestic mountains, and the endless blue of the sky meeting the ocean at the horizon. It's a place where the air feels fresher and the hustle and bustle of daily life seem a world away. Just a stone's throw from this tranquil viewpoint, you'll find "O Fio" Tea House, a charming spot where you can have a cup of aromatic tea or coffee while enjoying the picturesque scenery.

  8. Natural pools of Porto Moniz
    Located on the northwest coast of Madeira, the Porto Moniz Natural Pools are a stunning testament to nature's artistry. Formed by volcanic lava, these pools are filled with the crystal-clear and refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Entrance to the Porto Moniz Natural Pools requires a fee, while the Piscinas Naturais do Aquário are open to everyone free of charge.

  9. Achadas da Cruz
    An agricultural village, Achadas da Cruz in Madeira is a quiet, beautiful place that feels like a secret. It's famous for its cable car ride, which takes you down the side of a cliff. As you ride the cable car, you get to see the deep blue ocean and the bright green land below. This ride is special because it makes you feel like you're floating over some of the most beautiful parts of Madeira, seeing views you can't get anywhere else. Achadas da Cruz is perfect for anyone wanting to step away from busy places and enjoy nature. Here, you can take a deep breath of fresh air, look at the amazing views all around, and enjoy a peaceful moment. Going here is not just about seeing a new place, but experiencing the quiet beauty of Madeira in a unique way.

  10. Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela
    Ilheus da Janela is a magical place in Madeira that captures the essence of natural wonder. This spot is famous for its stunning sea cliffs and unique rock formations that rise from the ocean. As you stand on the shore, the sight of these majestic rocks, shaped by the waves and winds over time, is truly inspiring. The crystal-clear waters surrounding Ilheus da Janela add to its beauty, creating a sense of peace. It's the kind of place that makes you appreciate the simple and extraordinary beauty that nature offers.

  11. Piscinas Naturais do Seixal
    This place is a hidden gem in Madeira where nature's magic is at its finest. Imagine natural swimming pools carved out by the ocean into the rocks, filled with crystal-clear, refreshing water. This beautiful place lets you swim and relax right at the edge of the sea, with stunning views of the mountains and the soothing sound of waves gently crashing against the rocks. The water is so clear that you can see little fish swimming around, making it feel like you're part of a living postcard.

  12. Seixal Beach
    Seixal Beach is like a piece of paradise tucked away on Madeira's north coast, offering a peaceful retreat for beach lovers. Imagine stepping onto soft, black volcanic sand, feeling it warm under your feet as you gaze out at the stunning contrast of the bright blue ocean against the lush green mountains. This beach is not just a place to sunbathe and relax; it's an invitation to explore the natural beauty that surrounds you.

  13. Véu da Noiva viewpoint (Miradouro do Véu da Noiva)
    The Véu da Noiva viewpoint offers a breathtaking view that seems like something out of a fairy tale. Imagine standing at a spot where you can see a beautiful waterfall that flows down the mountain like a bride's veil, hence its name, which means "Bride's Veil" in English. This stunning waterfall cascades all the way down to the deep blue sea below, creating a mesmerizing sight. The viewpoint is surrounded by lush greenery, making it a perfect place to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the serene beauty of nature. It's an ideal stop for anyone traveling along Madeira's north coast, offering a moment of peace and a chance to capture incredible photos. Flying the drone there and seeing the waterfall from different perspectives is great.

  14. Miradouro Água d'Alto and VE 2 road.
    Miradouro Água d'Alto is a scenic lookout offering breathtaking views of Madeira's lush landscapes and the shimmering ocean. Situated along the VE 2 road, this hidden gem provides an ideal setting for unforgettable photos. The VE 2 road takes you on a journey through some of the island's most picturesque scenery, meandering through green mountains and revealing glimpses of the ocean on one side and a waterfall cascading down the mountains on the other.

  15. Capelinha de Nossa Senhora de Fátima
    A charming little chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. Nestled in the picturesque town of Sao Vincente, this small but beautiful chapel is a testament to faith and devotion. Whether you're religious or simply appreciate the peacefulness of sacred sites, a visit to Capelinha de Nossa Senhora de Fátima offers a moment of quiet contemplation amidst the beauty of its surroundings.

  16. Estrada Municipal Eng. Perry Vidal in São Vicente and Miradouro do Teatro
    Discover the breathtaking view from Miradouro do Teatro, where the beauty of Madeira unfolds before your eyes. Follow the nearby road as it leads you through scenic landscapes, offering picture-perfect moments at every turn. A must-visit spot for anyone looking to capture the island's charm.

  17. Fanal Forest
    Step into the mystical world of Fanal Forest, where the magic of foggy weather wraps around ancient trees, creating a dreamlike scene. Fanal Forest is a place where the presence of fog adds to its allure. While there's no guarantee of catching a glimpse of the fog that’s part of what makes it so intriguing.
    Tips to Catch the Fog in Fanal Forest:
    🌿 Morning Magic: Don't miss the mystical fog – plan your visit in the morning.
    🌿 Rapid Changes: Weather shifts quickly; be prepared for fog within 10-20 minutes.
    🌿 Timing Matters: Opt for a morning visit, the forest's mystical fog is best experienced then.

    What sets Fanal Forest apart is its designation, as a UNESCO World Heritage site and its status as an example of laurel forest found in Madeira, Azores, and the Canary Islands.
    (One useful tip: if you’re driving there you’ll find parking nearby. Just be cautious, on the road as adorable cows might make an appearance!)

  18. Miradouro Da Beira Da Quinta
    The Beira da Quinta viewpoint reveals breathtaking views of Madeira's north coast, a must-visit spot in the Santana area. Nestled between São Jorge and Arco de São Jorge, this scenic lookout offers a clear day treat: the distant, enchanting outline of Porto Santo Island, gracefully adrift in the sea to the northeast.

  19. Miradouro do Guindaste
    This viewpoint is nestled in the charming Faial parish and offers a captivating glimpse of the vast Atlantic Ocean. Additionally to its attraction, the Guindaste boasts two glass viewing walkways that extend over the ocean, providing an exhilarating experience for visitors to capture unforgettable photos and immerse themselves in the breathtaking scenery.

  20. Ponte Velha do Faial
    A charming old bridge with a rich history stands as a silent witness to the passage of time. Built centuries ago to connect communities and facilitate the movement of goods, this bridge has seen countless footsteps and shared in the daily lives of those who crossed it.

  21. A Ponte Velha
    Discover a scenic gem nestled on the ER103 road as you journey through the town of Faial, heading towards Central Electrica da Faja da Nogueira. A perfect spot for drone enthusiasts, this location promises breathtaking aerial photos. Don't miss the chance to capture its beauty from above.

  22. Ponta do Castelo
    To reach Ponta do Castelo, take Rua Das Feiteirinhas Street from the city of Caniçal in Madeira. Use the parking spot which is near Cemitério do Caniçal. It’s a short 3-5 minute walk from there to reach the perfect spot for taking pictures of Ponta do Castelo. Ponta do Castelo is a beautiful spot on the northern side of Ponta de São Lourenço the most eastern tip of Madeira Island where the ocean meets the sky in a stunning display of nature's beauty. This rugged coastline, with its dramatic cliffs and the endless blue of the Atlantic stretching into the horizon, offers a peaceful retreat from the world.

  23. Vulcão Penha de Águia
    The road around Vulcão Penha de Águia takes you on a beautiful adventure. As you go along this road, you'll see amazing views of cliffs and green valleys, with the tall Penha de Águia mountain reaching up into the sky. The journey feels like a trip through a wild and wonderful place, with every turn showing you something new and breathtaking.

  24. Miradouro da Ponta do Rosto
    Nestled at Ponta de São Lourenço, this breathtaking viewpoint offers a unique sight where both the north and south coasts of Madeira Island embrace your eye. It's a magical spot for witnessing the sunrise, with the first light of day painting the cliffs in warm hues. From here, you can go on a hike to the serene Cash do Sardinha by the sea. A visit to this spot is an unforgettable memory, promising awe-inspiring moments and scenic beauty at every turn.

  25. Hiking in Madeira
    Hiking in Madeira offers trails for every level, from easy paths suitable for beginners to more challenging routes for experienced hikers. You can find a wide selection of trails on the Madeira Best website and pick the one that best fits your preferences. For me, the essential hikes were from Pico Areeiro to Pico Ruivo and from Pico Ruivo to Achada do Teixeira. The hike from Pico Areeiro to Pico Ruivo is one of Madeira's most iconic adventures, offering an unforgettable journey through the heart of the island's stunning mountain landscape. This trail connects two of Madeira's highest peaks, Pico Areeiro, and Pico Ruivo, presenting hikers with breathtaking views, rocky landscape, and the island's unique flora and fauna.

    My hiking adventure began with witnessing a stunning sunrise at Pico Areeiro. It was quite cold in the early morning, so I highly recommend bringing a coat with you.
    (Please note that the parking area is very close to Pico Areeiro. However, it's wise to arrive early to secure a spot that's closest to the starting point.)

    The adventure started. The path ahead promised breathtaking scenery and my excitement knew no bounds. On your way to Pico Ruivo, you'll witness numerous picturesque viewpoints, pass through intriguing tunnels, and navigate through narrow passways. Proceed with care and keep in mind, that you can do it! Don't miss an opportunity to observe the Red-Legged Partridge, charming creatures.

    In the heart of Madeira's mountains, you can see white dead trees standing against the sky. These trees, changed by the sun and time, look a bit spooky but also really interesting. They show us how nature works, with things growing, then fading away, and new life starting again. Even though they're not alive, these trees make the mountains look even more amazing.

    The hike distance is about 5 kilometers in one direction and typically takes around 4 hours to complete. Along your journey, you'll find a resting spot at Casa de Abrigo do Pico Ruivo, where you will be able to use the restroom and refill your water bottles. It's the perfect place to pause and take a rest in the beauty of Madeira's heart. If you're fortunate, and the café is open, you might even treat yourself to a warm cup of coffee with the mountain view.
    (Heads up: it's a good idea to carry some coins with you for the restroom fees.)

    Once you reach Pico Ruivo, you'll be shown to the most stunning views of Madeira Island. On clear days, you can admire the Atlantic Ocean, glimpse charming towns, and marvel at the other mountain ranges. Trust me, this journey is worth every step!

    If you're feeling tired, consider the path to Achada do Teixeira. (However, taking a ride back to Pico Ruivo might be challenging. For a more budget-friendly option than a traditional taxi, use the Bolt app to book your ride.) This route is less demanding, and by the afternoon, you might be rewarded with the breathtaking sight of a cloud sea below you.



I hope my guide will make your trip to Madeira easier and stress-free. If you plan to visit, I would love to hear about your experiences! Feel free to tag me on Instagram at @backpackroaming when you share your Madeirian adventures. I can't wait to see your amazing moments there!

With Love,

Alina @backpackroaming


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