If there is one holiday that should be on your bucket list it’s an epic 7 day road trip in Madeira. Madeira, also known as the flower island, has still been able to escape the big tourist crowds. Yes, some places on the island can get a little busy from time to time. But you can easily avoid the ‘rush hours’ by planning out an itinerary!
Madeira is one of the most breathtaking places when it comes to nature. From moon like landscapes to lush forests and mountains that will make you feel like you’ve set foot on Hawaï. This island is a dream come true for anyone who loves to be outdoors!
So far I’ve already been twice to this wonderful island, both times in March! And while this is defintiely an ideal month to visit you can still get a bit unlucky with the weather. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.
In this Madeira holiday guide you’ll find a ton of tips for visiting the island, our personal itinerary, the best places to eat and stay.
I hope you’ll enjoy this Madeira itinerary and if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment below.
🇵🇹 The perfect 7 Day Madeira road trip itinerary
While a 7 day road trip may seem a little long for a small island like Madeira. I do have a couple of very good reasons why you should take your time when visiting! First of all the weather can be very unpredictable. One side of the island can be basking in sunlight, while the other side can be very misty and rainy. It’s not uncommon for you to drive through one of the many tunnels and find yourself in a completely different climate. You can easily check the weather conditions before you leave through the local webcams spread out over the entire island.
Secondly, Madeira is known for it’s amazing hikes and if you don’t calculate in enough time you will have to skip a lot of them. This would be a terrible waste since some hikes are considered to be part of the most beautiful hikes in the world.
During this road trip you will see incredible viewpoints, waterfalls and landscapes that will leave you wondering if you have actually stepped onto one of the sets of Jurassic Park. Not to worry, velociraptors are not included in this itinerary ;).
Plan your trip to Madeira
🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com
💰 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
👩 Find a reliable tour guide, such as this Madeira Canyoning Adventure or this Dolphin & Whale watching tour from Funchal
💸Madeira Travel Insurance
I highly recommend you to get a travel insurance before your trip cause the risks are never worth the costs. If you’re going on a more adventurous trip you can always get yourself injured! So far I have sprained my ankle in Jordan, got food poisoning in India, turned snow blind in the Dolomites and have fallen multiple times during many hikes. It’s always best to be safe than sorry in such cases and with a good travel insurance you don’t have to worry about medical bills piling up.
I personally love World Nomads, their prices are affordable, their coverage is great, and they also offer 24/7 on-call customer service! When I got super sick in India they even covered an extra night for me at the hotel that I was staying it and rearranged my flight home at no extra cost!
The best time to visit Madeira
Madeira is a wonderful island to visit throughout the entire year. But the best time to visit Madeira depends on the type of holiday that you are looking for.
Do you want a relaxing holiday and bask in the sun all day long or maybe a family holiday without a ton of adventure? Then June, July and August are an excellent idea. The temperature will be perfect for chilling by the pool and taking short day trips.
If an active holiday is more your jam and you want to explore some of the hiking trails then it’s best to avoid the hot summer months. Instead book your Madeira holiday from the end of March until the end of May. This way the island will be lush, the waterfalls will be roaring and the temperature will be nice for hiking up in the mountains.
How to get around in Madeira
Madeira is. apretty small island but the public transport system is pretty much non existant. And if you would need to take a taxi everytime you want to visit a more remote place you’re vacation will end up being insanely expensive.
The best advice I can give you is to rent a car on Madeira. You can pick it up at the airport and simply drop it off before leaving.
🚗 Rent a car in Madeira by using SunnyCars. There’s never any hidden costs with them and free cancellation up to 1 hour before rental start. Their price is transparent and everything is included.
Madeira Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival, picking up your rental car and a coastal hiking trail
When traveling to Madeira you won’t have to wait long to witness its beauty. Score yourself a window seat (preferably on the right side of the plane) and admire the mountain peaks peeping through the clouds. The airport landing in Madeira is one of the most famous and apparently also dangerous ones in the world. It’s a very short landing strip so as soon as you hit the ground you will feel the plane hitting the breaks. For me it was the perfect start of an epic adventure!
After your arrival it’s time to pick up that rental car. I went with SunnyCars and was very happy with their service. When choosing a rental car for Madeira I strongly advise you to take an automatic. I am a very experienced manual driver but I was so damn happy I got the automatic. The roads in Madeira are steep and I am not kidding when I say that at times they had an inclination of 45°.
Now it’s time to check into your hotel. I chose Funchal as a base the first time because of it’s proximity to the airport. I had a wonderful stay at Sé Boutique Hotel and you can read my full hotel review here. There is a parking lot located only 5 minutes walking from the hotel (parking is €7/day if you validate your card at the hotel reception). For our first evening we decided to relax and enjoy a cocktail upon the hotel’s rooftop bar.
Now for our second trip to Madeira I wanted to stay on the other side of the island so we stayed close to Santana at Quinta das Hortênsias.
But no matter where you stay you’ll have time for a quick but beautiful coastal hike since the start of the hiking trail is only 20 minutes driving from the airport. The Vereda do Larano is one of the most scenic hiking trails in Madeira. This point to point hike will take you from Machico to the coastal town of Porto da Cruz and back. And in the meantime you’ll get to enjoy the most epic views over the rugged coastline of Madeira.
We started our hike in Porto da Cruz and followed the trail until the Boca do Risco viewpoint. After relaxing a little and taking in the views we turned around and hiked back to our car. This way the total hiking distance was 13km.
Day 2 – Start your Madeira road trip with one of the most beautiful hikes in Madeira
Rise and shine! But honestly, it was more like rise and rain! Cause there was no sunshine to be spotted on the entire island.
One of the good things about Madeira is that there are two types of hikes. On the one hand you have the Vereda’s. Vereda hiking trails are up in the mountains of Madeira. They offer incredible vista’s but are often also a little more challenging.
And then there are the Levada’s. Levada walks are very popular in Madeira. They consist of maintained paths alongside man made water springs, making it a calming experience. You’ll be surrounded by lush nature and along the way you’ll see amazing panorama’s.
A Levada is also a little more sheltered so for our rainy day we decided to complete one of the most beautiful levada’s on the island of Madeira.
The Levada do Caldeirão Verde will take you through the lush jungles of Madeira, past several waterfalls and will even have you walk through tunnels! These tunnels can be very dark and have low ceilings in some places so one item you really have to bring is either a flashlight or a headlamp.
The Caldeirão do Inferno waterfall hike is actually an elongation of the Levada do Caldeirão Verde and I highly recommend completing the entire trail! By doing so you’ll get to see a couple more spectacular waterfalls and walk through a mesmerizing canyon. I promise that you won’t regret it!
I do have to admit that by the time we got back to the car both of us were completely drenched. Our feet were soaking wet and even my underwear didn’t stay dry from all of the rain. But nonetheless this hike was so worth it! and nothing a hot bath back at the house couldn’t fix.
Day 3 – Continue your 7 Day Madeira road trip itinerary by driving to the furthest point East
Well you know what they say… no rest for the wicked! Time for another spectacular hike today but rest assured, this one is a lot less wet!
Once you’ve parked your car you’ll quickly notice that the landscape here is completely different compared to the rest of the island. It almost looks like you landed on Mars! Welcome to the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço!
This is one of the more popular hikes in Madeira since it’s fairly easy to do. Do know that this part of the island can be extremely windy! Make sure to always stay on the hiking trail and don’t get too close to the edges!
The entire hike there and back will take 3 to 4 hours, depending on how many times you stop to take photos ;).
After this adventure it’s time to drive to Santana. This little town is known for it’s Casas Tipicas de Madeira, traditional stone houses with steep, triangular-shaped thatched roofs. These tiny houses are spread out through the small village so you are bound to run into a couple of them!
TIP – There’s a beautiful viewpoint close to the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço called Ponta do Rosto. This is one of the best places in Madeira to watch the sunrise.
Day 4 – Time to explore the North Coast of Madeira
Today you’ll visit the lush side of Madeira, the part that will make you feel like you’re staring in Jurassic Park! One of the most beautiful towns in Madeira is Sao Vicente where you can also admire the Capelinha de Nossa Senhora de Fátima.
Your next stop on today’s road trip is Miradouro do Véu da Noiva. A beautiful viewpoint that can get a little bit busy from time to time. The best thing to do is to just wait it out. Usually this is because a big tour bus just stopped by but they usually just hang around for 10 minutes and then leave for their next stop.
Next up is the famous black beach in Seixal! It’s pretty small but it does come with epic views that will make you feel like you’re in Hawaï. There is a parking lot right next to the beach and the drive from the previous waterfall is only 5 minutes.
LUNCH – Have a delicious local lunch at Restaurant Lilinha in Seixal or go for a more fancy option at Cachalote in Porto Moniz.
Don’t forget to drive up to Miradouro da Santinha for an incredibel panoramic view over the town of Porto Moniz.
If you want to add one more stop to your itinerary for today drive to Miradouro do Teleférico das Achadas da Cruz. Here you can take an epic cable car down the cliffs (€3 both ways). There is a short levada at the bottom but the views are absolutely amazing. And honestly, the cable car ride alone is worth the money!
Next up is another incredible viewpoint along the West Coast of Madeira called the Miradouro do Ponta da Ladeira. Compared to other viewpoints in madeira this place is more of a hidden gem and not known by many people. So if you’re looking for a more off the beaten path sunset spot in Madeira then this is the one!
Day 6 – Get ready for fairytale vibes and a ton of flowers
Do you want to know the best part? You don’t have to wake up super early today! Fanal is around 1 hour driving from Funchal or Santana but you don’t have to be here at sunrise. What you do have to do is check the webcams to see if there are clouds rolling in. Fanal is located in the North West part of the island and is actually part of the Vereda do Fanal! But you don’t have to do the entire hike to reach this enchanting forest. There is a parking lot right next to the Laurisilva forest! On your way up there make sure to drive slowly. The local cows tend to also walk on the road in the area and they always have the right of way.
The same goes for when you are visiting the Laurisilva forest: watch where you are going! Especially when the area is covered with clouds your vision might be compromised and there is a lot of cow poop spread out through the meadow.
Make sure to take your time here. If you arrive and there is no fog simply enjoy the area and wait. We arrived at sunrise and around 10am the fog started to appear. In total we spent around 4 hours here, simply walking around and enjoying nature in all it’s beauty.
Not far from Fanal you will find beautiful flower fields (that is if you’re visiting in March). On a sunny day you’ll be able to see yellow flowers as far as the eye can see! Almost all. ofthe locations that you’ll visit today are located on the Paul da Serra plateau.
Pico Ruivo do Paul is a spectacular viewpoint on the Paul da Serra plateau. Located at 1639 meters high this hidden gem in Madeira offers a stunning view over the valley of São Vicente and the highest peaks of Madeira.
The Miradouro da Bica da Cana is another hidden gem in the heart of Madeira and also one of the best sunrise viewpoints in Madeira!
Bica da Cana is also located on the Paul da Serra plateau and at a height of 1560 meters. From here you’ll have a spectacular view over the highest peaks in Madeira and if you’re visiting during sunrise you might get extra lucky and have a sea of clouds below you.
There are two more hikes located on the Paul da Serra plateau.
The Levada do Risco and Levada das 25 Fontes. The actual hike itself starts about 25 minutes walking from the parking lot. From there you’ll reach the first waterfall in less than 20 minutes. Levada do Risco is an impressive double waterfall.
The second hike isn’t very far, simply turn around and follow the arrows that point towards Levada das 25 Fontes. This one is a little further but besides some steps going up and down it’s pretty okay.
Day 6 – The most beautiful hike on the island of Madeira
It honsetly doesn’t matter on which day you do this hike, you just have to make sure that it’s a clear day and that it doesn’t rain.
The Vereda do Areeiro connects the two highest peaks on the island: Pico do Arieiro (1818m) and Pico Ruivo (1862m). It’s one of the most incredible hikes in Madeira and you’ll definitely need at least 7 hours to complete it.
Ideally you’ll park your car at Pico do Arieiro from where you’ll follow the signs that say PR1 and will take you all the way to the highest point of the island.
Your first stop on this hike will be Miradouro do Ninho da Manta, also known as the birds nest. Make sure to take out your camera and snap some photos.
After this simply continue along the PR1 trail. On the way you’ll come across stairs, tunnels and insane panorama views. The reason why this trail is so tough is that you go almost entirely up and down the mountain. To add to that, the PR1 is not a loop trail. Once you reach Pico Ruivo you have to hike the entire way back again.
Another option if you’re really too tired or if the weather doesn’t permit it is to take a taxi from the parking lot at Pico Ruivo. Do know that this will set you back around €65 and will take about an hour.
Day 7 – The last day of this perfect 7 day Madeira road trip itinerary
Depending on the time of your flight you’ll have time for one more hike. If you ‘re flight leaves in the morning not to worry! You can combine the following hike with the Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço on day 3 of this Madeira travel guide.
Either way, you’ll be able to complete the Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova waterfall hike. Not only will you be face to face with one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Madeira. But you’ll also walk through a stunning valley the entire time. The The Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova waterfall hike is located in Ponta do Sol in the South coast of Madeira and is a 9km hike.
Not too far from Ponta do Sol you’ll find the Cascata dos Anjos. A truly unique waterfall in Madeira that you can actually drive underneath.
For more information about the best hikes in Madeira click here.
I hope this 7 day road trip itinerary for Madeira will inspire you to visit this beautiful island! If you have any questions about this itinerary simply drop them in the comment section below!
Favorite restaurants in Madeira
I pretty much love all the food that they serve on Madeira. The fresh fish, the typical potatoes and the juicy meat. There’s somthing for everyone! Some typical dishes you have to try on Madeira are: grilled octopus, lapas and steak with madeirasauce.
- O Arco – Definitely try their Espetada (meat on long skewers)
- Cachalote – The best restaurant in Porto Moniz with an excellent choice of seafood.
- O Precipício – The food isn’t that spectacular but the view is one in a million!
- A Pipa – The perfect place for dinner after finishing the Vereda do Larano
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.