Madeira is a big island, if you want to know it relatively well, the ideal is a week. However, depending on the time you have available you can set up a script, knowing which are the mandatory places to visit on the island of Madeira.
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The whole trip through the island of Madeira must pass through in the capital, Funchal. One day you get to know and experience what Funchal has to offer, such as the Monte cable car, the basket carts, the Lavradores market, the historic area around Santa Maria street or the magnificent gardens. Funchal is the ideal place to start visiting on the island of Madeira.
Where to stay?
If you are traveling to Funchal know that the best hotels to stay, according to Booking are: Casa da Praça, Quinta B., Belvedere Boutique, Babosas Village, Belmond Reid’s Palace, Quinta da Casa Branca, Castanheiro Boutique Hotel, Hotel Porto Santa Maria – PortoBay and Hotel Baia Azul.
The magnificent Cabo Girão is the largest natural promontory in Portugal, with a verticality of 589 m. A recent, glass-bottomed gazebo allows you to contemplate even better the fajãs grown at the base of the promontory. The views of the gazebo extend from Câmara de Lobos to Funchal, with these cities facing the Atlantic.
Curral das Freiras
With a little more than two thousand inhabitants, Curral das Freiras is a small village in the heart of the mountains of Madeira. Once practically isolated in an enclosed valley, accessible only by a dizzying road, today it is possible to cross a tunnel and reach the village easily. It is worth to feel the claustrophobia of the place, but also contemplate the village of some of the most beautiful viewpoints of Madeira, as is the case of Mirador Paredão and Miradouro of Eira do Serrado. This is one of the must-see places on the island of Madeira.
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Pico Areeiro, on clear days, is one of the most beautiful places on the island. The colorful rocks of the peaks of the island of Madeira extend on the horizon and are lost sight of. This is one of the must-see places on the island of Madeira. For the more adventurous, it is necessary to make the PR1 – Pico Areeiro – Pico Ruivo trail, but for those who do not have the time or do not want to, it is advisable to start the route to the mirador over the counter, about 1 km. By the way, you will already enjoy the most superb views of the island.
The Pico Ruivo is the highest point of the island of Madeira, with 1861 m of altitude. Getting there requires walking. You can go to Achada do Teixeira, in Santana, and then walk about 1h30 (round trip) to get to the peak. On clear days the views are magnificent.
The traditional houses of Santana are the postcard of the island and the archipelago of Madeira. But let yourself be discouraged if you think you will find a village of colorful houses in Santana. Once thatched houses were once more common, but with the rising standard of living, the majority of the population abandoned traditional houses and lived in communal dwellings. Although there are some houses scattered around the area, especially in small towns, to see the traditional houses will have to go to the town square, where there are six houses, four of which converted into tourist shops. The houses are all recovered and you can visit them from the inside. There are also two that function as private housing. These are not visitable. If you want to see one of these traditional houses inside, as they were used, you have to go to the Madeira Theme Park in Santana and pay € 1 / entrance fee.
Caves and Volcano Center of São Vicente
São Vicente, in the northern part of the island of Madeira, was built in a lava corridor, where the incandescent and fluid material flowed from erupting volcanoes towards the sea. To realize this and much more, especially as it formed the island of Madeira, it is worth visiting the Volcanism Center of São Vicente. The visit to the center includes a visit to an exhibition on volcanism in the world, where the volcanic origin of the world reliefs and archipelagos is contextualized. Below is a video showing the formation of Madeira and another one in 3D. After the geological and geomorphological contextualization, a visit to the caves is followed, the lava tunnels through which the fluid material expelled by the volcano and that moved towards the ocean. This is one of the most fascinating places in Madeira.
Natural pools of Porto Moniz
The Povoação of Porto Moniz grew around the tip of the island where natural pools, cornered in the volcanic rocks attracted the vacationers. Once completely natural, today there are more and more structures, such as stairs, walkways and various infrastructures to support tourists. You can bathe in the natural pools or the modern ones, already arranged, but the essence is still there, swimming in the midst of the solidified lavas of the volcanic eruptions that formed the island. All with a magnificent view over the Mole islet. Although it is a tourist place, it is a place to visit on the island of Madeira.
Ponta de São Lourenço
Photo by Erwin Doorn on Unsplash
The Ponta de São Lourenço, in the extreme northeast of Madeira, is a magnificent place for a walk. You can opt for the PR8 – Vereda de São Lourenço rail, with 4 km of extension (you have to make the round trip which gives 8 km of the route from Baia d’Abra to the Sardine Pier). The complete route takes about 5 hours and has magnificent views of the point where you will have landed the boat of Gonçalves Zarco when he discovered Madeira. If your time is more limited, there is a rail to the right of the closet that skirts the slopes and has magnificent views over the very tip. Another option to contemplate this place is to climb to the Belvedere of Ponta do Rosto. This is one of the must-see places on the island of Madeira.
Madeira Island has this and many other amazing places to visit. If you are planning your trip to Portugal, schedule your transfer to and from the airport.