Top 10 things to do in Madeira

Visiter Madère

Visit Madeira: Discover the must-see sights and activities on this island off the coast of Morocco!

Madeira is an island in the middle of the archipelago of the same name, off the northwest coast of Africa. In this autonomous region of Portugal, many tourists come to enjoy the wild beauty of the place. Known for its luscious wine and favorable tropical climate, the island remains relatively untouched by urbanization.

Yet there are plenty of places of interest to visit on the island, which is also organizing some grandiose New Year’s Eve festivities! Whether you’re looking for a relaxing break, a sporting vacation or a romantic weekend away, a visit to Madeira is sure to please.

So, you’re wondering what to do in Madeira during your stay? Here’s a selection of must-do activities when you visit Madeira and want to make the most of your trip!

1. Visit Funchal

Forteresse, Funchal, Madere

Photo credit: Shutterstock – photobeginner

This pretty town is the capital and largest city of the Madeira archipelago, with a population of 110,000. It is the economic, political and cultural heart of the island, and offers many fascinating tourist attractions. When you’re looking for something to do in Madeira, Funchal is obviously the place to be!

With its cathedral blending Gothic and Romanesque styles, the historic center is well worth a visit. We also recommend the Santa Maria district, with its ornate doors and farmers’ market. You can also explore the remains of the colonial period, the wine cellars or the São Tiago fortress. The latter houses a fascinating museum of contemporary art!

2. Explore Madeira’s botanical gardens

Jardin tropical du Monte Palace à Madère

Photo credit: Shutterstock – A_Mikhail

Still in Funchal? Perfect: high above the city, the Madeira Botanical Garden with its rare plants is waiting to be explored. Accessible via the famous cable car, the garden is home to over 2,000 varieties spread over 35,000 m². This verdant paradise is a visual delight for young and old, plant lovers and non-plant lovers alike. Even higher up the hill, a second plant park awaits you: the famous Monte Palace Tropical Garden. This one, too, is well worth a visit!

One more thing: to get back down, why not use Funchal’s famous little wicker sledges? They’re a typical Madeiran ersatz tuk-tuk! Propelled by two seasoned drivers, their wooden runners offer a thrilling ride back to the historic center.

3. Climbing Pic Ruivo

Pic Ruivo, Madère

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Anna Lurye

For hiking enthusiasts, a visit to Madeira is a unique opportunity to enjoy unforgettable walks. The island boasts over sixty signposted itineraries offering optimum safety and varying degrees of difficulty.

We’ve selected one that’s sure to please you if exceptional panoramas are your thing. This is the trail leading to the summit of Pico Ruivo(see route). At 1862 meters, it’s the island’s highest point – and Portugal’s third highest. The trail is easy to follow, with numerous safety features such as climbs, steps and signs.

Don’t wait any longer, put on your boots: the reward is a splendid view of the island and the ocean!

4. Take a boat trip

visiter-madere

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Pawel Kazmierczak

After taking in the splendid views of the island and ocean from Pic Ruivo, embark on a boat trip and admire the landscape from the open sea!

By renting a boat in Madeira, you can explore the surrounding area at your own pace, stopping to swim in the clear waters surrounding the island. You’ll have the chance to discover the landscape in a different way, as seen from the water. It’s the perfect way to round off your stay in Madeira!

5. An immersive levada hike Madeira

visiter Madère

Photo credit: Shutterstock – aldorado

When visiting Madeira, why not try hiking along the levadas? These famous irrigation canals are one of the island’s treasures. Over 2,100 km long, they supply water to the island’s south-eastern slopes. Most of Madeira’s most beautiful hikes follow the course of these levadas.

The Levada25 Fontes e Risco, theLevada do Caldeirão Verde and theLevada do Alecrim are among the most beautiful levadas to explore.

6. Discover Cap Girão

Cap Girao

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Valentina Photo

Cape Girão? Say no more, it’s simply « the place to be » when you’re looking for something to do in Madeira. This 600-metre-high cliff is one of the highest on the entire European continent! So, geologically and culturally, the site is quite remarkable. But it’s a recently introduced activity that prompts us to tell you about Cap Girão.

Since 2012, a glass platform overlooking the void has been installed at the very top of the rocky promontory. Perched on it, the most adventurous visitors can experience the thrill of looking down. Thrills guaranteed, provided you’re not afraid of heights! A cable car takes you to the summit from Sitio do Rancho. You can also hike to the summit(see itinerary).

7. Visit Porto Moniz

Vue aérienne de Porto Moniz

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Vitaly Fedotov

Porto Moniz is a charming little town on the northwest coast of the island. When visiting Madeira and looking for the most charming spots, Porto Moniz is a must. And it’s easy to see why: the town boasts splendid natural rock and lava pools. The refreshing salt water is very popular with locals and tourists alike.

Once you’ve finished swimming, we recommend you sample some freshly caught seafood in a local restaurant. Then take a leisurely stroll to the Miradouro da Santa, overlooking the bay and offering exceptional views.

8. Canyoning on Ribeira das Cales

It’s in this sublime valley in the heart of the island that you can indulge in a natural activity: canyoning! Served by numerous buses from the surrounding towns, you’ll be able to enjoy it with ease. Canyoning involves descending a low-lying river on foot, right in the middle of its bed.

To do this, you can take advantage of a variety of techniques, such as the famous abseil, well known in climbing. Naturally, you’ll be accompanied by a team of guides who’ll help you get through the trickiest passages. Waterfalls, cliffs, sheer rock, no obstacle will stand in your way.

We think this is one of the best things to do in Madeira. Will you dare to take the plunge and slip into the shoes of an adventurer at Ribeira das Cales?

9. Observe Madeira’s cetaceans

Observation des baleines à Madère

Photo credit: Shutterstock – xavier gallego morell

We’d like to introduce you to one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions. Finally, off the coast of the island: take a beautiful sea excursion to see whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. Fancy it? Just head for the Calheta marina on the west side of the island.

From here, speedboats depart at regular intervals, taking visitors to the meeting point with the cetaceans. Not all encounters take place in the same place, of course. The boat driver’s assistants, positioned on a cliff, scan the waves and guide him.

This unforgettable experience will appeal to young and old alike. Don’t hesitate to say hello to these spectacular specimens! For the curious, there’s also a whale museum on the island, at Canical.

10. Visit Madeira’s ethnographic museum

Ribeira Brava, a small town on the island’s south coast, is the place to go for an enriching outing. It’s quite possible to be cultured when visiting Madeira, and its ethnographic museum proves it. Housed in a historic building – a former convent which later became a distillery – it was inaugurated in 1996. Here, you can learn more about the habits and customs of the island’s people and their history. The island’s mentality is deeply rooted, and its inhabitants are proud of their rich culture.

A visit to this place of cultural interest will give you an insight into the very special history of this little piece of land. For example, you’ll be able to put yourself in the shoes of the first Madeirans and discover their winemaking techniques. Madeira wine is an institution here, so go and taste it after your visit!

How to get to Madeira

Madeira has its own airport, the Madeira Cristiano-Ronaldo International Airport. The famous footballer, a native of the island, gave it such an aura that the airport now bears his name! Located in the east of the island, it offers many regular flights to destinations all over the world. If you’re coming from afar, the best way to get here is by air.

In fact, our partner Ulysse will help you get there by finding you a flight at the best price. Ferries are also available from Portugal to Madeira. Although slower, this is a great way to enjoy a boat trip, and will delight young and old alike.

Once on the island, you can take a bus, an excellent way of getting around while admiring the scenery. Cabs are of course available, but we recommend renting a car or scooter. In our opinion, this is the best way to get around Madeira freely!

Where to stay in Madeira?

When you’re looking for something to do in Madeira, you inevitably have to think about accommodation. In fact, you’ll find several types of accommodation to choose from, depending on your wishes and your budget. Madeira is a very touristy island, with several hundred hotel establishments. These are obviously a simple and flexible solution for the occasional traveller looking to visit Madeira! You’ll find your ideal hotel on this hotel comparator.

What’s more, a wide range of rental properties are available on the island, which boasts some splendid typical villages. So it’s a good idea to check out the apartments for rent on Airbnb, for example, or on other platforms. These solutions can be adapted to your budget, allowing you to choose between a villa or a small, more affordable studio. The aim is simply to make you feel at home!

Now you know how to explore Madeira and take advantage of the best activities on offer on this incredible island. But it’s up to you to choose the ones that will win you over!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Madeira,pt