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!
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 ;).
All photos are edited with my ‘Dream Away With Me’ Presets
Day 1 – Arriving, picking up your rental car and explore Funchal
Highlights: A spectacular airport landing, rooftop vista’s
When traveling to Madeira you won’t have to wait long to witness it’s 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 Centauro rental cars and was very happy with their service. They picked us up from the airport and since we had a very early flight back home they allowed us to simply leave the car at their parking lot at the airport. With my code ICHLRL15 I am able to give you a 15% discount on your next booking! 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 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.
Afterwards we went for dinner at O Calhau. The food and drinks here were so good that we came back every single evening.
Day 2 – Start your road trip with one of the most beautiful hikes in the world
Highlights: Pico do Arieiro, Pico Ruivo, Miradouro do Juncal
Rise and shine! It’s time for your first early wake up call of this trip. But I promise you it will be completely and utterly worth it. The drive from Funchal to Pico do Arieiro takes about 45 minutes and you want to take it slow. There are a lot of steep hills and hairpin bends leading up to this epic viewpoint. But hey, life’s an adventure right? Well, tell that to my mom who was in the passenger seat :p.
I can’t even remember the amount of times I said OMG or Wooooow, and this was while I was still driving. Pico do Arieiro is located 1818 meters above sea level so you’ll find yourself high above the clouds.
Try to be there before sunrise so that you can reach Miradouro do Ninho da Manta when the sun starts to come through the clouds.
When you start your hike make sure to wear proper shoes and dress in layers. In the morning it can be really cold up here but once the sun hits the mountains you’ll want to ditch the extra layers. Oh, and take some sunscreen with you! You’ll be hiking for a couple of hours and you don’t want to end up looking like a lobster at the end of the day…
The hike to Pico Ruivo is a tough one that’s for sure. To reach the top you’ll go through a few different mountain passes and even encounter a couple of steep ladders. But again, it’s all worth it!
For detailed information on the best hikes in Madeira click here.
Make sure to rest a little after you’ve reached the top. There is a small refugio here where you can have late breakfast (or early lunch) before you make your way back to Pico do Arieiro. This hike is a loop so you will have to go the same way back as you came. This is the main reason why this hike is so rough: you have to go all the way back up and down the mountain. And now you know what’s around the river bend. Except the river bend is a bunch of endless steep stairs! And then around the next bend there will be more stairs and so on and so on…
Once you’ve made your way back take a breather and walk to Miradouro do Juncal. Not to worry, it’s only 10 minutes walking to this amazing viewpoint!
Now, after all of this you absolutely deserve an ice cream. Or maybe a second one if you already had one at the refugio ;). Drive back to Funchal and go to The Ritz to treat yourself to a scoop or two. Or better yet, make that three!
Day 3 – Continue your 7 Day Madeira road trip itinerary by driving to the furthest point East
Highlights: Ponta do Rosto, Ponta do Castelo, Ponta de São Lourenço and Santana
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 easier!
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!
This is one of the more popular hikes in Madeira since it’s fairly easy to do. As you can see on the photos I was wearing a dress. However, I do not recommend this, I repeat, I do not recommend this. This peninsula can get pretty windy and I was lucky enough to have a long coat with me in the car to wear over my dress. Otherwise I would have probably flashed the entire island.
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!
When you drive back to Funchal try to make another stop at Pico do Arieiro for sunset! It will be way less crowded compared to sunrise and there is a higher chance at spotting cloud inversions during sunset! Of course you don’t need to do this entire hike again. Let’s not get too crazy shall we?! No, all of these photos were taken within the first 200 meters of the hike. The refugio at the start of the hike closes at 6pm so if you still want to eat something hear before admiring the sunset make sure to be there 30 minutes before closing time.
Day 4 – Time to explore the North Coast of Madeira
Highlights: Waterfalls and beaches
Today you’ll visit the lush side of Madeira, the part that will make you feel like you’re staring in Jurassic Park! Your first 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.
While you’re there head down to Ponta do Poiso. It’s only 10 minutes walking from the parking lot and offers another amazing view over this area! And on the plus side, almost no one else knows about this spot so you’re bound to have it all to yourself!
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.
There is one more stop that you can’t miss: Miradouro da Fajã do Barro. If you’ve ever been to Iceland these rock formations will look very familiar!
Today is a rather easy day, especially if you decide to hang out at the black beach. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon siësta. For lunch I recommend Lounge Bar Clube Naval do Seixal and Restaurante Cachalote in Porto Moniz. The last one comes with spectacular views over the cliffs! You can literally see the waves crashing while enjoying your food.
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!
Day 5 – 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 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!
Day 6 – Levada’s, waterfalls and epic viewpoints
Highlights: Levada das 25 Fontes, Levada do Risco and Vereda dos Balcões
Time to put on those hiking shoes again! But not to worry, these walks are pretty easy, especially compared to the one you did on the first day!
I would advise to start with the Levada do Risco. 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. If you can start your hike around 8am to avoid too many other tourists. Especially the levada to the second waterfall is pretty narrow. If there are a lot of other people on the trail you might have to wait a while before you can pass by.
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.
On your way back up you’ll come across a diner. However I don’t recommend the food here. It was way overpriced and honestly just bad :D. Just so you’re warned ;).
Okay now off to the next little hike: Vereda dos Balcões. This one is super easy and definitely a good bargain when it comes to effort versus reward! There is no parking lot here so just park your car alongside the road. The hike itself is only 15 minutes and there is zero elevation!
Day 7 – The last day of this perfect 7 day Madeira road trip itinerary
What you’ll be up to today mainly depends on the time of your flight back home! If you have some time to spare I recommend to drive to the Levada Faja do Rodrigues. Make sure that you don’t miss this epic viewpoint right after the parking lot!
By now it will be time to head towards the airport! Do know that almost all flights out of Madeira make a stop over in Lisbon! So if you can it might be a good idea to combine your road trip in Madeira with a lovely city trip in Lisbon.
For more information about the best hikes in Madeira click here.
To plan your perfect city trip to Lisbon click here.
For all the best photography spots in Lisbon 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!