You’re heading to Madeira and you’re in for a TREAT! It is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have visited, especially if you love nature. In this blog post you’ll find the 12 best places to visit in Madeira. From awe-inspiring natural marvels to cultural gems, these 12 destinations promise an unforgettable journey.

#1 Sunrise at Pico do Arieiro

Quite possibly the most popular thing to do in Madeira is watch the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro. It is a great place to watch the sun come up, surrounded by peaks and clouds that come to life with hues of pink and gold. From the summit, you can enjoy sweeping vistas of the island, including rugged mountains, deep valleys, and the Atlantic Ocean.

There is a mirador, but if you wish to escape the masses, you should start the trail towards Pico do Ruivo and find a quieter spot. Please note you will not be alone!

If you plan to watch the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro, you need to arrive early! It’s now May (time of writing) and the sunrise is at 07:10AM. We arrived to the parking at 06:15AM and it was already full. We, alongside many other cars parked down the road. You MUST arrive early to get a spot. On our way back, it was 09:10 and the entire road was full of parked cars.

You should choose to either come for sunrise, or wait until late afternoon / sunset.

Best Things to do in Madeira - Pico do Arieiro

#2 Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

The hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is one of Madeira’s most iconic trails, offering breathtaking scenery and a rewarding challenge. The hike typically takes around 4 to 6 hours one way, depending on your pace and trail conditions. It’s recommended to start early in the day to avoid the heat and allow plenty of time to enjoy the journey.

The trail is well-marked but can be steep and rugged in places, with sections of uneven terrain and occasional stairs carved into the mountainside. Here is a detailed blog post about the hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo.

Best things to do in Madeira - Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike

#3 Visit Levada da Nova

The Levada da Nova hike is a 6.5-kilometer round trip journey through Madeira’s verdant landscapes, following one of the historic irrigation channels. The hike takes around 2 to 3 hours, and is mostly a flat trail. Along the way you’ll walk through amidst lush forests and mountain views with glimpses of waterfalls, tunnels, and bridges.

I recommend wearing sturdy shoes, sun cream, and take enough water and snacks with you.

Best things to do in Madeira - Levada da Nova

Best things to do in Madeira

#4 Go to Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools

The natural volcanic rock pools of Porto Moniz are definitely worth a visit. The pools are surrounded by dramatic cliffs and crashing waves, and have many different shades of blue. There are 2 parts to the pools, the area that is free (but aren’t lifeguarded and the sea can be very dangerous) or, the paid area for a small fee.

This side includes changing rooms, toilets, and concrete for you to sit on (as opposed to sharp rocks).

Best things to do in Madeira - Porto Moniz Swimming Pools

#5 Hike to 25 Fontes Falls & Risco Waterfall

The hike to the 25 Fontes Falls and Risco Waterfall, spanning approximately 9 kilometers round trip and taking 3 to 4 hours, leads through lush forests and along levadas to two stunning waterfalls. The hike down consists of a slight decline, lasting approximately 40 minutes, with a few stairs scattered throughout.

You might be thinking the exact same thing I was as I hiked to the bottom (Oh, the way back up is not going to be fun!).

Luckily, there is a shuttle bus that runs to and from the Rabacal cafe. It costs €5 one way and runs every 15-20 minutes. The last shuttle leaves the cafe back to the top at 6pm.

It’s not very common to have a shuttle service at a hike, but I was so glad this existed! We paid the money and got a lift back up.

Bring sturdy hiking gear, plenty of water, snacks, sun protection, and your swimsuit incase you fancy braving the freezing cold water!

Best things to do in Madeira - 25 fonts and Risco Waterfall

Please note: The shuttle service is available in both directions. This means even those with a lower level of fitness can enjoy these waterfalls. You do however need to walk down (and back up) a significant amount of stairs to reach the falls from the drop off spot.

#6 Fanal Forest

Fanal Forest is nestled in Madeira’s Laurissilva Forest and is one of my favourite places in Madeira. It boasts ancient trees and ethereal beauty, with enchanting fog-filled landscapes and diverse flora. It is best visited in the cooler months, but if you’re visiting in the summer months, choose to go early morning or at sunset when it’s a cooler temperature.

Dress in layers, Madeira is known for its microclimates and this is one of the coldest places on the island. I was at the beach sunbathing before coming here and I had to wrap up in a jumper and a coat! The difference is crazy.

Make sure to wear sturdy shoes, and bring water, a raincoat and a camera for this mystical and serene experience!

Best things to do in Madeira - Fanal Forest

#7 Visit Santana Traditional Houses

Discover the charming village of Santana, known for its distinctive triangular-shaped houses with thatched roofs. These houses showcase the island’s rural heritage with some dating back centuries. They offer a captivating glimpse into traditional Madeiran life, with many houses converted into museums, craft shops, and accommodations.

Surrounding the houses are picturesque walking trails and scenic viewpoints.

Best things to do in Madeira

#8 Enjoy Seixal beach

Seixal Beach, located on Madeira’s north coast, is a dramatic black sand beach, surrounded by lush green cliffs. This paired with the ocean create a striking contrast and unlike many of Madeira’s beaches, Seixal offers a more secluded and peaceful atmosphere.

It is however becoming more popular, especially among content creators at sunrise (guilty!). This beach is a beautiful spot to watch the sun come up over the ocean, casting a beautiful light over the cliffs. No matter what time of day you come, a visit to Seixal beach is worth it.

Best things to do in Madeira - Seixal beach

#9 Hike Levada do Calderão verde

Calderão Verde is best visited during the cooler months for optimal waterfall flow, however is still beautiful in the summer. The hike along the Levada do Caldeirão Verde offers scenic views and relatively easy terrain suitable for all hikers. Amidst the ancient trees and rich biodiversity of the forest, you’ll find a tranquil atmosphere. Remember to bring water, snacks, and a camera to capture the beauty of this picturesque destination, and dress appropriately for variable mountain weather.

Caldeirão Verde is a 12km hike and takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete.

#10 Take the cable car to Achadas da Cruz

Achadas da Cruz is a breathtaking area with coastal cliffs and a scenic cable car ride down to the pebble beach below. The cable runs from 09:00 until 18:00, however the last car down is 16:30. This is to ensure they can get all of the people back up before closing time.

Make sure you arrive early! We got there at 3pm and we waited an hour in line to go down. We were also one of the last people to be allowed on and those behind us were told to come back tomorrow.

The cable car costs just €5 return. There are no dogs allowed so if you are travelling with your furry pup, you’ll have to go down and back up on foot. There are many beautiful photos taken from this place with the sunset light, but those people have clearly then had to hike 2 hours back to the top of the steep cliffside! Kudos to them.

Anyway, once you arrive in achadas da cruz, you can unwind on the beach, explore the rocky shoreline, or indulge in refreshments at the onsite cafe. Just make sure you’re back at the cable car around 17:45 to not miss the last one.

best things to do in madeira - achadas da cruz

#11 Tobogganing in Monte

Tobogganing in Monte, located just outside of Funchal, is a thrilling and iconic experience unique to Madeira. The tradition dates back to the early 19th century when wicker toboggans were used as a mode of transportation for wealthy locals.

Today, we can partake in this exhilarating ride, which involves sitting in a large wicker basket mounted on wooden runners and being guided down the steep streets by two carreiros (drivers) dressed in traditional white clothing and straw hats.

The journey takes you along a winding, narrow road (where there are also cars!) overlooking the city of Funchal below and is completed in around 10 minutes on a total course of 2 km.

There are 2 ways to go Toboganning in Monte:

  1. You drive yourself there (or take a taxi). There is very limited parking, but if you go early morning (it opens at 9am) then you should be fine. Park on the hill on the way down to the starting point, around this point:

    Tickets cost:
    1pax = €27,50
    2pax = €35
    3pax = €52,50

    TIP! If you are a group of 3, it works out to be the cheapest option! Please also note that when doing it this way, you will need to pay for a taxi back up the hill (or walk a very sweaty hike back up to the top). The taxi’s tried to charge us €20 (INSANE!) so we ordered a bolt (most of the taxis are also bolts), and it arrived within 1 minute and cost around €6!
  2. The second option if you don’t have a car, or prefer to go on a tour, is to book an experience. This one is extremely well priced, includes a a hotel pickup and drop off, a tour of the nearby valley, wine tasting, the toboggan experience, sampling of some local cake and it also picks you up at the bottom of the hill after the sleigh ride, saving you the cost of the taxi! I’d definitely recommend if you don’t fancy doing it on your own terms.

#12 Whale and dolphin watching tour

Madeira is a great place to see whales and dolphins so if this is something you’re interested in, you could be in for a treat. With knowledgeable guides and a commitment to responsible tourism, these tours offer the chance to observe whales, dolphins, and other marine life in their natural habitat while ensuring their welfare and conservation. This is something I truly value! I like that this tour has a biologist on board so you can learn about the dolphins and whales while trying to spot them 🙂

Best things to do in Madeira – Bonus:

Driving is Madeira is no joke! The roads are so steep and narrow, and every time we got in the car we were stressed. My friend Ellie and I decided to book a jeep tour for the day and it was one of the best days we had. We were driven around in the back of a jeep by a local tour guide and got to visit Seixal beach, Porto Moniz Swimming Pools, Fanal Forest and also do some off-roading through the thick jungle. It was a lot of fun and I’d definitely recommend, especially for the price!

This is the tour that we did.