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A week in madeira without a car: an easy 7-day itinerary.

Driving in Madeira is not for the faint-hearted. If the narrow roads, hairpin bends and steep inclines don’t freak you out, driving within a hair’s breadth of precipitous drops may do the trick.

It’s not for me.

But the good news is that you can explore Madeira without a car. I know because I have visited the must-see attractions of this beautiful island using its bus services and taking day tours.

Are you ready to find out how to do it?

Leave your driver’s licence at home with my tried and tested 7-day Madeira itinerary using public transport and local tour operators.

waves crashing against rocks with a small raised island with a lighthouse in madeira portugal

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7-Day Madeira itinerary

DAY 1: Highlights of Funchal

DAY 2: Western Madeira tour

DAY 3: Monte & Botanical Gardens

DAY 4: Eastern Madeira Tour

DAY 5: Putting the fun in Funchal

DAY 6: Valley of the Nuns

DAY 7: Cãmara de Lobos

Recommended day tours

  • Walking tour of Funchal
  • Western Madeira tour
  • Eastern Madeira Tour
  • Food and Culture Walking Tour of Funchal
  • Nuns’ Valley Half-Day Tour with Cãmara de Lobos
  • Whale & Dolphin Watching Cruise

Where to stay

Apartamentos Sousa

Sé Boutique Hotel

Castanheiro Boutique Hotel

IN THIS ARTICLE

Suggested Madeira 7-Day Itinerary

Day 1: hit the highlights of funchal.

marina in funchal madeira

Start your week in Madeira by getting to know your home base, Funchal.

Home to 40% of the island’s 260,000-strong population, the attractions in this attractive harbour city hint at its riches and past glories. Far from being somewhere that has sold its soul to tourism, Funchal is a working city and one in which Madeiran culture is alive and kicking.

From colonial churches to gorgeous gardens, there are lots of things to see in Funchal and its pedestrianised streets, paved with distinctive limestone and basalt mosaics, are a joy to explore.

Joining a walking tour is an excellent way to get your bearings and gain insights into the local way of life. I did this one that was guided by a Polish Erasmus student at the University of Madeira which was well worth the (very) modest cost.

Make Praço do Municipio your first stop. Funchal’s elegant main square is paved in a mosaic of black and white stones and is lined with historic buildings.

larke square laid with mosaic black and white tiles with a fountain in centre and large two storey building

Igreja de São João Evangelistica do Colégio (Collegiate Church) occupies the northern side of the town square. Founded by the Jesuits in 1574, it is richly decorated with gilded wood carvings, paintings and 17 th and 18 th Century tiles.

Facing the Collegiate Church is the former residence of the bishop of Funchal, which now houses the Museu de Arte Sacra (Museum of Religious Art). It is renowned for its outstanding collection of Flemish paintings and sculptures.

The Cámara Municipal (Town Hall) stands at the eastern edge of Praço do Municipio. Take a peek at the statue of Leda and the Swan in its courtyard.

fountain if face of mythical being gushing water

A few minutes walk south of the town square is one of Funchal’s main landmarks, its cathedral or Sé . Built between 1493 and 1517, the Sé is one of the few survivors of the early days of colonisation.

Don’t let its plain exterior fool you. Its lavish interior is a fabulous fusion of Gothic and Moorish architecture and features a recently restored inlaid cedar ceiling, gilded altars and a smattering of azulejos .

gilded and wooden ornate altar and choir of funchal cathedral

Ten minutes east of the cathedral lies the two-storey Mercado des Lavradores (Workers’ Market) where women in traditional dress sell flowers and there are more types of fruit on display than you can shake a stick at. Visit on a Friday or Saturday when the lower floor is crammed with stalls groaning with produce from across the island.

woman dressed in traditional dress of madeira

The market marks the western edge of Zona Velha (Funchal Old Town) . With its breezy seafront promenade and cable car station, this is tourist central, although not in a bad way.

This former fishermen’s quarter was once a no-go area, run-down and frequented by drug pushers and ladies of the night. The transformation of Funchal Old Town was thanks to the Painted Doors Project .

In 2010, photographer José Maria Zyberchem invited artists to paint the doors along Rua de Santa Maria and the neighbouring streets. Today, around 200 doors are painted.

painting of a woman mixing a drink in a bar

Stroll around Old Town Funchal and pick a favourite door. As the sun sets, this is a great place to finish your first day in Madeira with a glass of poncha – a fruity cocktail made with local sugarcane liqueur – and a fish meal.

DAY 2: WESTERN MADEIRA TOUR

As lovely as Funchal is, Madeira’s real treasures lie in its rural interior. From the terraces of banana plants clinging to the terraces in the balmy south of the island to its windswept mountain peaks and emerald valleys, its scenery is nothing short of rapturous.

Joining a group tour is by far the easiest way to visit the west of Madeira. Although some of the destinations we visited on the tour are doable by bus, you would not be able to see them all in one day or be able to access the viewpoints.

Trust me; I checked before I handed over my modest amount of Euros. Here’s what you can expect to see.

>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS TOUR OF WESTERN MADEIRA

view from high cliff towards funchal in madeira with granite cliff face and ocean

Towering 589 meters above the Atlantic, is the 3 rd highest cliff in Europe. From east to west, the views are sensational.

Step onto the Skywalk if you dare. Through this reinforced glass platform, there is nothing between you and the ocean 1,900 feet below.

Ribeira Brava

small town with white buildings on the banks of a river bed with reflections in water

This town’s name – “Wild River” – is at odds with its sleepy nature, and outside of winter, the river is less gushing, more tinkling.

São Bento (St. Benedict’s Church) is the main sight in town. This 16 th Century church has lavish gilded and carved woodwork, light-catching Bohemian chandeliers and a handsome façade.

Encumeada viewpoint

landscape in madeira with a deep valley and forested slopes

Driving through the ravishing Serra de Agua (Forest of Water), the next stop on this west coast tour was this popular viewpoint, at an elevation of a touch over 1,000 metres. Set on a ridge that runs through the island’s centre, the Ribeira Brava valley lies to the south and the São Vicente valley to the north.

orange flowers of cactus plant in front of deep valley covered in tress

Lombo do Mouro viewpoint

landscape in madeira with a deep valley and granite slopes and small house

This viewpoint at almost 1400 metres is often obscured by cloud, leaving only a few curious cows visible. Not so on the day that I visited when laurel forests stretched out as far as the eye could see under a light canopy of clouds blown in by the trade winds.

Paúl de Serra

And we continued to climb.

Sitting at an average altitude of 1500 meters, Paúl da Serra is Madeira’s largest plateau. It is home to a number of wandering cows and is the starting point of the popular 25 Fountains levada walk .

Forest of the Laurels

The UNESCO-listed Laurisilva of Madeira is home to many subspecies of laurel, unique to the island, the Azores, the Canary Islands and, to a lesser extent, Cape Verde. This forest covers 20% of the island, mainly in this area of the north coast, and is the largest preserved area of Laurisilva in the world. 

Porto Moniz

red roofs of small village of porto moniz in madeira next to crashing waves of ocean

This town of 20,000 souls sitting on the extreme north-western tip of Madeira is famous for its natural volcanic swimming pools. Thousands of years ago, a tongue of volcanic lava flowed into the Atlantic and was carved and cooled by the sea into a series of natural pools.

There are two lava pool areas. They are both free to use.

The larger pool is the most pleasant and has a bar and changing areas. However, this area is closed when the waves are at their most vigorous, as was the case when we visited.

A smaller pool area to the east of the large pool is always open.

Véu da Noiva

small waterfall tubling down a high cliff into the ocean

The last viewpoint of the day. To the east is a waterfall cascading into the ocean; to the west is the town of Seixal .

DAY 3: CABLE CARS, GLORIOUS GARDENS AND (MAYBE) A TOBOGGAN

On the slopes just northeast of Funchal are two of Madeira’s most beautiful gardens: Jardim Botãnico (Botanical Garden) and Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Garden in the hilltop town of Monte.

Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Garden

terraces and lake and villa of monte tropical gardens

Visiting the Monte Palace Tropical Garden should be high on your Madeira bucket list. Occupying an area of 70,000 square metres, it is home to about 100,000 plant species from across the globe. Water gushes, fountains cascade and the resident peacocks strut their stuff.

fountain of urinating boy

But is so much more than a collection of exotic plants and trees.

There is a wonderful collection of Zimbabwean stone sculptures, an exhibition of minerals and precious stones, and tiles and wall panels dating from the 16 th to the 21 st Centuries. I love oriental gardens and there are two here, complete with Buddhas, pagodas, koi carp, wooden sculptures of Samurai solemnly standing in a line and stone lanterns .

line of brightly painted wooden samurai soldiers

Address: Caminho das Babosas, 4A (Entrada Junto ao Teleférico), Caminho das Babosas, 4 (Entrada Norte) and Caminho do Monte, 174 (Entrada Este – closed at weekends) 9050-288 Funchal

Opening hours : Open daily except for 25 th December from 9.30 am until 6 pm

Jardim Botãnico

formal garden laid out like a chequerboard with a palm tree and cacti

Half the size of Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Jardim Botãnico is located in the grounds of a quinta (villa) that once belonged to the Reid family (of Reid Palace Hotel in Funchal). This glorious outdoor space houses around 3,000 exotic species from all continents.

There are four main areas to visit across its terraces (like Monte Palace Tropical Garden, expect to do a lot of walking up and down):

  • Indigenous and endemic plants – from Madeira and other Atlantic islands, including the Azores, Canaries and Cape Verde.
  • Arboretum – trees from across the globe
  • Tropical/Cultivated/Aromatic/Medicinal – I spotted sugar cane, coffee bean pods and avocado trees as well as other tropical and subtropical trees

Vibrant Birds of Paradise – Madeira’s national flower – form a curtain through which there is a stunning view of Funchal. I loved the geometric patterns created by purple and green acanthus in the formal garden.

orange bird of paradise flower with blue sea in background

But there is not just flora. Lizards scamper, butterflies flutter and terrapins sunbathe by the pond.

There is also a small self-service café on site.

Address: Caminho do Meio, Bom Sucesso, Funchal

Opening hours : Open daily except for 25 th December from 9 am until 6 pm

How to get to Jardim Botãnico and Monte Palace Tropical Garden

By cable car

cable cars travelling between monte and funchal with the rootfops and bay below

Gliding high above the hills in a cable car is far and away the most scenic way of getting from Funchal to both of these gardens.

From the base station next to Funchal’s seafront promenade, take the Teleférico do Funcha l (Madeira Cable Car) to Monte Palace Tropical Garden. It’s a wonderful 20-minute ride and you can check current prices and opening hours here .

From Monte, catch a second cable car – Teleférico do Jardim Botãnico – to the Botanical Garden.

Before you buy a two-way ticket, you will need to decide whether you will take one of the world’s most unique forms of transport for the return journey.

>>> Buy your cable car ticket in advance here .

Monte’s famous wicker toboggans

two men dresssed in whote ouching a wicker toboggan at seppd down a hill in monte madeira

Monte has downhill toboggan boy racers who will happily push you down the slippery slope towards Funchal.

At the beginning of the 19 th Century, these wicker toboggans were used to carry freight down the steep 5km hill between Monte and Funchal. Today’s ride covers 2km of the original route.

Each of these toboggans is controlled by two carreiros , wearing traditional straw boaters, the rubber soles of their boots acting as brakes.

From the endpoint, it’s an easy walk downhill back to Funchal.

This is not a cheap way to go. In 2024, the Monte to Funchal toboggan ride cost €27.50 for one person and €35 / €52.50 for 2 / 3 people. You can check the current prices here .

Buy your ticket from the booth and join the line to wait for the next available ride. When I visited the queue for the toboggan ride was epic.

The wicker toboggan service does not operate on Sundays.

Buses 20, 21, 22 and 48 serve Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

To get to the Botanical Garden, catch bus 31 or 31a. You can check routes and fares here .

DAY 4: EASTERN MADEIRA TOUR

You are now halfway through your 7-day Madeira itinerary and it’s time to leave Funchal again. I explored the east of the island on this superb tour that includes the highest peak in Madeira accessible by car and its famous traditional houses.

>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS TOUR OF EASTERN MADEIRA

Terreiro da Luta

aerial view of funchal in madeira with trees in foreground

From this viewpoint, an enormous statue of Mary and the infant Jesus (Our Lady of Peace sanctuary) blesses the good citizens of Funchal below. Until 1943, a cog railway connected this area north of Monte with Funchal.

Continuing north from here, through the Ecological Park of Funchal and Poiso at 1412 meters, the dense clouds suddenly lifted to reveal blue skies (a common occurrence, our guide told us). Blueberry bushes and gorse clung to the sides of the road.

Pico do Arieiro

swirling cloud brushing the jagged peaks of mountains in madeira portugal

There are some sights that you will never forget. For me, the views from Pico do Arieiro rank amongst the best of these.

At 1818 metres, Pico do Arieiro is the 3 rd highest mountain in Madeira but the only one that doesn’t involve a hike. From its windswept viewpoint, there is a 360-degree panorama, featuring plunging canyon walls and frozen lava that are kissed by an ethereal sea of clouds.

Pico do Arieiro marks the start of the famous hiking route to Pico Ruivo and is also one of the most popular sunrise spots on the island.

a few people waling across a path at the top of a mountain plateau

Ribeiro Frio

Driving through an avenue of eucalyptus trees as tall as cathedral spires, we reach sleepy Ribeiro Frio. This is home to a well-known trout farm – you have to pay to enter but can take a peek at it from the roadside – and is the start of two popular levada walks.

The shorter one is an easy one-mile there-and-back stroll (PR11) to a panoramic viewpoint known as the Balcöes (balconies). Starting on the opposite side of the road, a longer walk (PR10) is one of Madeira’s most popular.

winding path through trees next to a levada in madeira

Santana is home to reconstructions of palheiros , a traditional form of housing unique to this side of the island. These white stucco A-framed buildings feature a bright red front door, red and blue window frames with shutters and a thatched roof.

a lush bed of pink and red flower in front of a house with thatched roof and red and blue window frames

There are five of these structures clustered around Santana’s town hall. One of these is the Tourist Information Office; the remainder are shops.

An additional palheiro in the grounds of O Colmo restaurant has a reconstructed interior that you can visit for free.

Pico do Facho

Panoramic viewpoint overlooking Machico and Caniçal.

Ponta do Rosto

red and grey granite cliffs next to waves of ocean

Perched on the eastern tip of Madeira, the Miradouro da Ponta do Rosto offers sensational views of the russet-coloured cliffs of Ponta de São Lourenço.  This is another popular spot to watch the sunrise. 

DAY 5: A FUN DAY IN FUNCHAL.

Day 5 of your week in Madeira and an opportunity to relax and let your hair down. Here are a few of my suggestions for things to do.

Food and culture walking tour

group of people sitting around a wooden table

There are few better ways to get to know a country and its culture than through its food. I joined this highly-rated walking tour with a local guide who introduced us to typical Madeiran food and drink whilst weaving in stories of the island.

>>> CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Wine tasting at Blandy’s Wine Lodge

a funchal blandys wine 3

Well. It would be almost rude not to.

Blandy’s Wine Lodge is a Funchal institution and has been distilling wine for seven generations using the traditional canteiro method. You can take a tour of the wine lodge, which ends with a tasting, or simply go for the tasting alone.

Whale and dolphin-watching cruise

Led by a marine biologist, these hugely popular catamaran cruises give you the chance to spot these beautiful mammals in the waters off Funchal.

Although several species can be seen year-round, whales and dolphins are most plentiful between May and September.

>>> CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION, OR TO FIND OUT ABOUT SUNSET TOURS CLICK HERE .

DAY 6: NUN’S VALLEY (CURRAL DAS FREIRAS)

deep canyon of nuns valley in madeira with village at bottom

Madeira’s Valley of the Nuns is an easy and hugely rewarding day trip from Funchal.

A narrow road climbs ten miles along hairpin bends to Curral das Freiras, nestled in a deep canyon. The nuns in question found refuge here in the 16 th Century when they fled Santa Clara Convent to escape from pirates.

The village, which is famous for its chestnuts – and all manner of goods made from them – was isolated from the outside world until roads were bored through the mountains in the 20 th Century.

Whilst the village is nice enough, it is best seen from the lookout point of Eira do Serrado . The views are sensational.

row of orange flowers against a backdrop of deep canyon of nuns valley with village at bottom

Getting to Nun’s Valley from Funchal

The frequent #81 bus runs between Funchal and Curral das Freiras. Many of the services also stop at Eira do Serrado. You can check the timetable here .

From Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras, take the steep downward path into the village, a one-hour walk, or wait for the next bus. There is a hotel and restaurant at Eira do Serrado.

Alternatively, you can take a half-day tour from Funchal. This is a good option if you don’t fancy the walk down to Curral das Freiras – did I mention the sheer drop at one side of the not-that-wide path? – and don’t fancy waiting around for the next bus.

Many of the half-day tours also include a stop at Cãmara de Lobos.

For a memorable and fun day trip to the Nun’s Valley, take a look at this tuk-tuk tour here .

DAY 7: CÃMARA DE LOBOS

attractive harbour of camara de lobos in madeira

Cãmara de Lobos is one of the easiest day trips from Funchal by bus.

Just five miles west of Funchal, this picturesque fishing town is famous as the place where Winston Churchill liked to set up his easel. Brightly coloured boats bob around its natural harbour and grizzled fishermen play lively card games.

Getting to Cãmara de Lobos

From Funchal, hop on the frequent local #1 bus. This will drop you off at Ponta da Laranjeira from where it is a ten-minute walk to Cãmara de Lobos.

Alternatively, catch one of the many westbound Rodoeste buses that run along Funchal’s Estrada Monumental or Avenida do Mar.

Stretch your legs by walking back some of the way along the seafront promenade that links Cãmara de Lobos with Funchal’s Praia Formosa.

Getting Around Madeira Without a Car

I explored Madeira using public transport and a few day tours.

Bus services in Madeira

white red and grey bus in madeira

Unlike places like Tenerife or Lanzarote , which are served by just one bus company, on Madeira you have to contend with four different operators. But once you get your head around which company serves which part of the island, it’s not that difficult.

The buses are also helpfully colour-coded.

HORÁRIOS DO FUNCHAL BUS COMPANY

Urban services around Funchal (yellow buses)

Interurban services (yellow and white buses)

These services connect Funchal with places such as Ribeiro Frio, Faial, Santana, São Jorge and Camacha.

These gold and red striped buses serve destinations on the north and west of the island, including Câmara de Lobos, Cabo Girão, Calheta, São Vicente, Porto Moniz and Seixal.

SOCIEDADE DE AUTOMÓVEIS DA MADEIRA (SAM)

These green, yellow and white buses serve the east of the island, from Funchal to the airport and to Caniço, Machico, Caniçal, Porto da Cruz, and Santo da Serra.

EMPRESA DE AUTOMÓVELS DO CANIÇO, LDA (EACL)

These maroon, grey and white buses also serve the east of the island, including Assomada (Portinho), Moinhos (Fontes), Vargem & Garajau and Ponta Da Oliveira.

However, getting around Madeira by bus is far from perfect.

As many of the routes serve commuters, you may find that there are services at the beginning and end of the working hours and little – if anything – in between. There is no public bus service to Pico do Arieiro, a place you must visit.

That said, a local bus will take you to many of the places you want to visit at a very affordable price.

I strongly recommend getting hold of the Madeira Bus and Touring Map before you travel. This excellent map includes detailed information on bus routes across the island and popular services in and around Funchal.

It will be your best Madeira bus travel buddy.

Day tours of Madeira

An organised tour from Funchal can be a godsend.

Some places are impossible to reach by public transport and joining excursions allows you to pack as much into your week as possible. You’ll also benefit from the local knowledge of your guide, and these tours are fabulous opportunities to meet people if you are a solo traveller in Madeira.

These day tours are super affordable. For a full-day tour in 2022, I paid €34 which I consider excellent value. Half-day tours come in at around €20 or so.

Group sizes were small, between 6 and 14. The big coach groups you see around the island are usually shore excursions.

Although I used and can personally recommend Lido Tours, other well-established companies are also available that offer similar itineraries.

Where to Stay in Madeira If You Don’t Have a Car

Funchal is the best base If you are not hiring a car in Madeira. As the island’s capital, it is the main transport hub and there are several tour operators in town.

Many of Funchal’s high-end hotels are clustered on the road heading west out of town. Although these are right on the ocean’s edge and will have fabulous sunset views, it is quite a schlepp into town from here.

To be close to Funchal’s main attractions, I recommend staying east of here, in Funchal Town Centre or the Old Town. Although there are some gorgeous properties in the hills above Funchal, your calf muscles will pay the price for choosing one of these.

I stayed in this lovely apartment with sea views on the eastern edge of the Old Town, a ten-minute walk to the cable car station. Spacious, comfortable, very affordable and benefits from a washing machine.

lounge and kitchen of apartment with view of bay outside window

>>> CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

Here are a few other places that I have found that may suit other tastes and budgets:

Located a stone’s throw from Funchal’s Cathedral, this chic hotel has a swimming pool and rates include a good breakfast.

In an excellent location just off Funchal’s main square, this 4-star hotel has an outdoor pool and hot tub.

>>> None of these places take your fancy? Search for other great places to stay in Funchal here .

Where to Eat in Funchal

Eating out in Funchal is a joy. There are plenty of restaurants from which to choose, food quality is generally good and it’s relatively inexpensive.

Here are a few of the places that I tried and liked.

Bela 5 Snack Bar

Address: R. Bela São Tiago 5A, 9060-291 Funchal

Don’t be put off by the modest appearance of this place in the Old Town.

This simple café is also a favourite with locals and serves excellent grilled fish. The catches of that day are on a blackboard.

Service can be on the slow side but it’s worth the wait and the staff are very friendly.

GALERIA Restaurante

Address :  Rua de Santa Maria 68, 9060-291 Funchal

Another superb choice in the Old Town where I had the best prawn risotto of my life.

Taberna do Capitão

Address: R. da Alfândega, 135, Beco do Açucar 3, 9000-059 Funchal

Housed in a historic building close to the cathedral this cosy restaurant serves authentic food at a reasonable price.

woman walking along a narrow street paved with black and white mosaics in funchal

Planning Your Week in Madeira

What is the best month to visit madeira.

Madeira is a year-round destination.

I visited in November and had wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures in the low to mid-20s for my entire stay. If you want to see the wildflowers for which Madeira is famous, visit in April and May. The wettest period is between October and January.

The island is busiest during July and August and at the end of December when the crowds – and cruise ships – descend on Funchal to watch the magnificent New Year’s Eve firework display.

Getting there

Madeira Airport (FNC) is the gateway to the island and will be one of the most dramatic landings of your life. Its short runway has mountains on one side and ocean on the other, plus troublesome crosswinds, making it one of Europe’s trickiest landings.

The airport has just one terminal, which is mostly underground.

Getting from Madeira Airport to Funchal

To get from Madeira Airport to Funchal, catch a taxi, book a transfer or take the airport bus.

A taxi from the airport to Funchal will cost anywhere from €30 to €45, depending on the taxi driver and where you are staying in town.

It’s worth taking a look at what a pre-arranged taxi transfer will cost. I booked a taxi transfer via Booking.com .

Shared shuttle transfers are more cost-effective but will increase your transfer time.

The Aerobus operated by SAM leaves the terminal building every hour bound for Funchal. The journey time to Central Funchal is 30 minutes and it costs €6 in 2024. You can check the route, current fares and timetable here .

How to get around Funchal

yellow bus in funchal is one of the ways of exploring madeira without a car

Central Funchal and the Old Town are very walkable. Unless you stay in the hotel zone or in the hills above the city, or choose to take the bus to Monte, you shouldn’t need to use public transport within Funchal.

The cheapest way to use the city’s urban buses is to load credit onto a contactless GIRO card. You can buy these cards and recharge them at one of the GIRO machines – there’s a handy one at the cable car station – or at one of the kiosks.

Get more information on using buses in Funchal, including fares, here .

Is Madeira Safe for Solo Travellers?

Portugal is a fabulous solo travel destination and Madeira is no exception. In my many years of solo travel , it is one of the best places that I have travelled to alone.

It is safe, relatively inexpensive and home to some of the friendliest people on the planet. The climate is wonderful and the landscapes are spectacular.

The biggest risk is the lack of pavements in Funchal’s Old Town.

Even if you are visiting Madeira without a car, the local bus services and abundance of day tours make the island easy to explore. If you are someone who fears solo travel loneliness , these excursions are excellent opportunities to meet other travellers.

But the very best of all, this is one place where it is not unusual to see other solo travellers. You will not be in a tribe of one.

If you don’t relish dining out alone , this is not a big deal. I have never been anywhere where I have seen so many tables for one.

But as with anywhere, don’t make yourself a target and follow these basic travel safety tips . Lock up your valuables at your accommodation and don’t flash your jewels. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.

Final Tips for Visiting Madeira

To make the most of your week in Madeira I’ll leave you a few pearly words of wisdom.

Madeira is known for its microclimates. When the sun is splitting the palm trees in Funchal, it could be raining five miles to the north.

The weather can change several times a day, particularly if you are moving around the island. I learnt not to trust weather forecasts.

Bring layers

Putting the fickle nature of Madeira’s weather to one side, consider also the altitude of where you will be visiting during the course of the day. On the day I visited Pico do Arieiro, it was 10 degrees outside but with the wind chill it felt a lot colder. I was never so grateful for my down jacket.

50 cents for toilets

Yep. Most public loos need you to deposit 50 cents in a slot to gain entry. Don’t be caught short.

Have a fabulous week in Madeira. If you have found this article helpful, check out my other destination guides to help you plan your vacation:

  • Solo Travel in Madeira: The Ultimate Guide
  • 35+ Fabulous Things to Do in Funchal, Madeira
  • How to Visit Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Madeira
  • How to Do a Day Trip to Câmara de Lobos, Madeira from Funchal
  • How to Visit the Sensational Valley of the Nuns, Madeira from Funchal

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at [email protected] or follow her on social media.

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How to spend a week in Madeira: a 7-day itinerary without a car

visit madeira without a car

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If you’re spending a week in Madeira, there are so many things you can do on the island that it can be a nightmare picking which ones to add to your plan and in what order. I’ve put together this one-week Madeira itinerary based on what I’ve done on past trips (there have been a lot of them and I secretly like to think of myself as some sort of Madeira expert) to help you decide.

Madeira is totally doable without a car, so if like me you don’t drive, you’re going to be pleased with how decent the bus system is for seeing plenty of the island. For the bits that are harder to achieve by bus, there are plenty of minibus private tours, but more on that later…

Anyway, here are my tips for how to use your days to explore Funchal and further afield, where to eat and drink and various stuff to do on each day if you’re spending a whole week in Madeira…

visit madeira without a car

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 1 – arriving, wandering and doors

You’ll probably land late afternoon or evening unless you’re an early-flight-getting sadist.

Arrive at your hotel (I massively recommend the B&B I always stay in ) to dump your suitcases, then head out to familiarise yourself with Madeira’s capital city,  Funchal , and to get your bearings. If my favourite B&B isn’t available, you could try Quinta B (a B&B in the old town);  Apartments Madeira Old Town ; or  Three House Hotel . All three of those are on the ‘good’ side of town, away from the built-up hotel area.

Wander through the old town and spot the amazing painted doors from the Painted Doors Project . Stroll down the front and watch the sea and the world go by. This is a good chance to get your head around the size of Funchal; it’s surprisingly big but still walkable. The seafront bit might feel quite a touristy area in busy season, but remember that Funchal is also a university town and there are plenty of areas where it’s all locals. The bit to avoid is up towards the hotel-filled area past Santa Catarina Park.

While you’re in the city centre, have a look at  Blandy’s Wine Lodge – a tour is a must-do when in Madeira and you get a free sample of the famous sweet wine too (which isn’t too bad, but would be better with some Blue WKD…. only those who went to uni in the UK will understand). It’s  about €5 for a 45-minute tour and you get to walk through the lodge, including storage vats and a little museum bit. 

You can also browse the market, Mercado dos Lavradores, which has a great atmosphere. I’d recommend checking out their ridiculously varied types of passion fruit. There are millions – I don’t know about you but I always thought there was only one breed. It is touristy with some of the usual over-inflated prices and pushy vendors (not all like, but still), so be aware of that.

Eat and drink

You probably won’t have got to Madeira for lunchtime, so your first nibble will be your evening meal.

I always recommend Combatentes to eat in Funchal on the first night. It’s tasty traditional Portuguese grub and centrally located – dead easy to find if you’re tired from your flight and don’t want to have to navigate too much. It’s also open on every day of the week so you don’t have to worry about it being randomly shut on Sunday/Monday like most of Europe tends to be.

visit madeira without a car

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 2 – cable cars, houses and gardens

Get the cable car  from the old town up to Monte. As you’re going up, it’s mandatory to wave to everyone passing by in other cable cars. You’re almost guaranteed a wave back from any woman over 60, but other demographics are harder work, so bonus points if you manage it.

Once you reach the top, you’re in Monte. And this is where you can do a double-garden whammy. The cable car will deposit you in the middle of Madeira’s two beautiful gardens. If you go round both gardens, this will take up all day, so you had better like plants or you’re going to struggle.

There’s the  Monte Palace  ones, which I usually start with. You’ll find Japanese-style gardens in them, with koi ponds and red bridges and loads of bright blue agapanthus flowers. This is also where you can see some of Madeira’s traditional little ‘Santana’ houses without actually making the epic journey to Santana itself (which is a bit of a pain to get to if you don’t drive).

The other gardens are the  Botanical  ones. They have patterns in their borders made from plants, spelling out their name and what year it is. In case you’d forgotten.

When you’re up in Monte for all your cable car and garden action, have lunch and a local craft beer at Local Shop , a little cafe just outside the cable car stop. You will not be disappointed. The views are brilliant and the salads and other lunchy options are top-notch.

If you have room, you can cram in a pastel de nata at the cafe in the botanical gardens as well, which is my favourite place for a pastel de nata in the whole island. I don’t know why. I don’t even know if they’re homemade. But there’s something very satisfying about them. Obviously when in Madeira you should be eating at least one  pastel de nata per day, so get it down you.

Later on, reward yourself for all that healthy walking around the gardens with a gigantic meal at  Zarcos  (don’t be alarmed by their 2001-style website). Zarco’s is slightly out of the centre of Funchal in a residential area, but only a brief bus or taxi journey. GO. Do not be tempted to just walk somewhere in Funchal’s centre because a bus/taxi feels like effort. Stop it. You’d be missing out. Zarco’s is excellent value and actual real-life local people eat there. The portion sizes may defeat you (if you’re an amateur) but it’s just fantastic all round.

Zarcos is also a good place to get yourself a  poncha , Madeira’s official alcoholic drink . It’s lethal and goes down like lemonade. Be warned.

visit madeira without a car

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 3 – a guided tour of the west

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I never recommend minibus/car tours usually. I like exploring on my own terms. But there are bits of Madeira that you can’t easily get to from Funchal on the bus, like the west. So I really recommend doing the Go West tour with Madeira Happy Tours  to see that area. And no, I’m not being paid to say that, it was just a good tour we did on our last trip (side note: if they want to pay me, feel free to get in touch…).

The tour lasts all day and you get to go to a good few places, including the highest plateau in Madeira, where you can befriend the local cows in incredible scenery. They’re up for selfies. The tour costs €25 per head and lasts 09-17:00. It goes to: Câmara de Lobos , Cabo Girão, Ribeira Brava, Paul da Serra, Santa, Porto Moniz, Seixal, São Vicente, Encumeada and ends back in Funchal. The only annoying thing about this (and all tours, TBH) is that if you’re not staying in the hotel-filled area west of Funchal, you’ll end up being picked up first and having to go all round millions of hotels (okay like five really)in that bit picking up the other tourists before you get going. You will also be last to be dropped off. But even with that slight annoyance, it’s worth doing and I don’t recommend things like that lightly.

Obviously the West Tour runs over lunchtime, so you’ll eat in Porto Moniz, one of the stops on the tour. They offer a discount if you eat in a recommended restaurant, but I declined so can’t say whether that’s any good or not. When we did the tour, we ate at one of the cafés on the front in Porto Moniz. You’re a bit of a captive audience so not much choice but I think they’re all alright. Stroll along the front and pick whichever has the best view.

Straight after your tour ends, head for a drink at Mercearia Dona Mécia . This is my favourite bar in Madeira. It’s tucked away in a pretty little courtyard off a side road in the nicest area of Funchal. It has poncha and bottled craft beers, but we normally have a small generic  cerveja  (beer) and they always bring over some crisps or olives or something too. You’ll be arriving at the best time of day (early evening). This is when you can usually get a good table and sit outside for a bit of a people watch. Lots of well-dressed locals start finishing work and heading home through the courtyard. Perfect.

Round off the night with a top-notch thin and crispy pizza at the unassuming Pizzaria Pico da Atalaia 2 . This is either empty or full to the rafters with locals. The food is cheap but really good.

You can then have a final cocktail or poncha at the bar opposite it –  Revolucion . This is my go-to stop for a drink before we get the bus ‘home’ (the bus stop for getting to my usual B&B is just round the corner). Given the way the bus drivers drive in Madeira, you really are better off with a drink inside you before getting on.

visit madeira without a car

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 4 – a day trip to Curral das Freiras (Valley of the Nuns)

My favourite trip from Funchal has got to be the journey up to Curral das Freiras: the Valley of the Nuns . Have you ever wanted to see your life flash before your eyes as you career along a precipice in a speeding bus? No? Well, here’s a chance to anyway.

Luckily, the views and village at the end of the trip are worth it. You’ll understand why the nuns made it their valley. You can read my entire post on the Valley of the Nuns here , so I won’t go into much detail here. Curral das Freiras can take up at least half a day, and I’d recommend going late morning and returning late afternoon so you can have lunch there. There are plenty of things to do in Funchal when you get back after, if you have time before your evening meal and have suitably recovered from the bus journey.

Curral das Freiras is famous for its chestnuts served with a sweet syrupy sauce but I have to warn you, that’s an acquired taste. I prefer chestnuts in an actual meal rather than on their own. The best place I’ve found to eat in the Valley of the Nuns is  Sabores do Curral . Good for a lunch with a seriously incredible view from their rooftop terrace. It does things other than sweet chestnuts though, don’t worry. Oh and remember you need your daily  pastel de nata  fix. They serve them, and so does the other café on the same side of the road in CdF so you have a choice of two good’uns.

When you’re back in Funchal later, have a seafood extravaganza at  O Tasco . We’ve eaten at O Tasco a few times now and it’s been consistently nice. It’s not really the kind of place I’d normally pick out but it’s so good. As well as all the seafood fun, they also do brilliant sweet potato with honey on. You may have to book because it gets very busy, especially at weekends.

O Tasco is handily located next to  one of my favourite bars for a pre-eating drink, Barreirinha Bar Café , where you can sit outside overlooking the sea with a beer/cocktail/ poncha before you walk up for your meal… And then return for another three after the meal. I recently had someone contact me on Twitter who’d been to Barreirinha Bar Café based on my recommendation (and the fact I’d mentioned they play good music like War on Drugs ) and he loved it. I was so chuffed with that.

Things to do in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal | PACK THE SUITCASES

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 5 – Camara dos Lobos, afternoon tea at Reid’s Palace, and shopping

You may not be up early if you followed my advice on Barreirinha Bar Café…

Spend a couple of hours at Camara dos Lobos , a fishing village that is the easiest place to get to outside of Funchal on the bus. It’s just 20 minutes on any Rodeste bus heading west from Funchal. I have a full guide to Camara de Lobos in another blog post here . You’ll have briefly visited the village during the West Tour if you did that, but it’s a nice one to go back to for a lazy morning – full of colourful boats and a picturesque harbour. Winston Churchill apparently did some painting there and there’s a church dedicated to St Anthony, where people used to go and pray that the fishermen would come home safe. It’s still a fishing village, so they might still do that, but it’s also full of bars and cafés so there are probably some prayers for good TripAdvisor reviews too these days.

Unless you’re a terribly early riser and got there are stupid o’clock, there’s enough to keep you entertained until it’s time to head to Reid’s Palace for afternoon tea (see eat and drink  below).

After that, you’ll probably be unable to move for a few hours, taking you into early evening. It’s a perfect chance to wander round the shops in Funchal. Don’t waste time in shops you can get at home, of course (although there’s the usual Zara, H&M etc if you need emergency t-shirts or anything). My favourite shop is  Dona Hortensia , a treasure trove of affordable, unusual jewellery and accessories that no one else will have. I even wore earrings from there for  our wedding . There’s also an excellent craft beer shop called  Vilhoa , which supplies bars around Funchal and is helping to make craft beer to become a ‘thing’ there. If you’re planning a picnic or have room in your suitcase for beer, enjoy.

It’s no secret that I enjoy afternoon tea. In fact, I have consumed so many tiny cakes and finger sandwiches over the years that I’d like to think I’m a connoisseur. Madeira’s  Reid’s Palace  does the best afternoon tea  ever,  in my expert opinion.

Reid’s is a big (pink!) posh old hotel and the afternoon tea is served on a balcony overlooking the sea and the city. It’s not that cheap at 30€ish a head and the first time we went, we were ready to be disappointed by what we got for the price. But actually, I think it works out pretty good value. I’ve paid £20-odd for posh afternoon teas at home in the UK and been disappointed. At Reid’s, it’s all top quality. Tea is unlimited and you can have seconds of both the sandwiches and the scones. Someone needs to push them to their limits and try to eat 3 scones. Please contact me if you manage this. I’ll fashion you a homemade medal.

You probably won’t want a massive evening meal after your afternoon tea. Have a craft beer or two at  FugaCidade  to work up a bit of an appetite again. I’d then recommend finding a ‘snack bar’ and sharing something simple –  this one  is my favourite snack bar. If you’re wondering what a snack bar actually is, they’re a bit of a Madeiran institution. They’re little bars full of locals meeting up over a beer/ poncha , eating cheap but tasty homemade food, with newspapers on the tables and the doors open so you can gawp at passers-by. Great vibes and never full of tourists. I love them!

How to do a day trip to Camara de Lobos, Madeira | PACK THE SUITCASES

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 6 – day trip to Porto da Cruz

Porto da Cruz is my favourite village in Madeira. So you must go there for a day trip at some point. Buses you can get there vary, so check the SAM bus website before you go. Although the main appeal of Porto da Cruz is relaxing with a lovely view of the sea, it’s quite entertaining as a place too. There’s a surf school, which is pretty good to watch as people learn to surf/spend a lot of time falling off. Equally entertaining is if it’s a windy day and the waves are really crashing and making it harder for them.

There’s a hill jutting out to sea that you can walk around, and in windy weather the waves can come up and crash right over the path. If you’re lucky, you might see someone getting an unexpected soaking. If you’re less lucky, it might be you.

There’s also the Sugar Cane Rum Museum to visit, which is pretty interesting. But the main thing is the village of Porto da Cruz itself, which is lovely and you can sit and watch the sea with a beer and some lunch.

Oh and there’s a very ‘unique’ art sculpture on the seafront of a gigantic vagina. No idea why. So er, don’t miss that. You can read my full post on Porto da Cruz here for more info on the village and getting there/back etc.

For lunch while you’re in Porto da Cruz, I recommend  Restaurante Praça do Engenho . We’ve eaten  here  twice on both of our recent visits. We do our usual salad each with a portion of chips to share (if you’ve been to Madeira, you’ll know that you end up taking any opportunity to avoid bread). I t’s nice grub and you get a great view of the sea and the mountains. 

In the evening, you might not want a massive meal after a fairly big lunch in Porto da Cruz. I eat vegan food most of the time at home, and finally I’ve found somewhere good for vegan stuff in Funchal:  Coraco Vegano . You can get different themed ‘ plates’ for around €14. I’d recommend the one featuring crispy seitan, Japanese-style veggies and rice. After a week of gorging on unhealthy Madeiran treats (and SO much bread), your body will be grateful for having something green in it.

You can then cancel out all the goodness of vegetables by heading to  Madeira Rum House  to drink your own bodyweight in poncha and/or rum. I t’s almost like a mini rum museum inside. I’m much more of a gin lover, but it would be rude not to at least sample some…

visit madeira without a car

A week in Madeira itinerary: day 7 – the last day

Depending on what time your flight home is, the last day of any holiday is usually a wrap up of things you’ve not got round to doing – or it tends to be for me anyway. Heading back to shops you’ve seen to pick up things you were um-ing and ah-ing over buying, going back to a favourite bar for one last drink, taking photographs of the sea, buying fridge magnets etc. Lovely stuff.

If you’re not cramming things in already, the last day is a good time to go for a walk around Funchal and spot the best street art. There’s a massive piece of art at Funchal port, next to the police station, that I like.  Here’s  the Google Maps link. Obviously, the aforementioned Painted Doors Project counts as street art too, but there are plenty of other individual pieces to spot around the city.

You should also visit my favourite photo spot in the whole island: the square with the pink church (pictured below). You can find it where the old town meets the main road along the seafront, where all the buses go from, if you’ve not already wandered through it at some point during your week.

Once you’re at Madeira airport, give yourself a bit of extra time to check out its  Parfois shop, which is a Portuguese chain that I love for bags and accessories. If you’ve not been to Madeira for a while, you’ll find that the airport has improved a lot and now has a bit more choice in places to eat, so it’s not such a painful experience as it once was. I’m always sad to leave but at least I’m no longer sad sat on the floor in an absolute hell hole with nowhere to get a cup of tea.

What you eat on your last day really depends on your flight time, but I’ll give you a few ideas.

There’s  Hamburgueria do Mercado , which does surprisingly good burgers and excellent veggie/vegan ones with brilliant chips for about €10 a head. This would do as a big lunch or an evening meal.

If you want something more traditionally lunch-sized, I’d recommend Opan Bakery. Now, this isn’t some cute and cosy hidden gem bakery, it’s a small chain and very modern. But everything I’ve ever had from  Opan  has been spot on and insanely cheap. There’s a branch on the seafront, which is perfect to pick up some delicious savoury breaded fish things and a selection of pastries to eat as you wander down the harbour. I can 100% recommend their salami cake, which isn’t some kind of terrifying concoction made from salami the meat. It’s a layered chocolate thing, all deliciously cold and creamy inside. There’s also some kind of custard-based sandwich that I’m always tempted by but it’s huge so haven’t quite worked up to it yet. That’s a personal goal for my next trip.

Another excellent bakery/patisserie is  A Confeitaria . There are quite a few branches, but the one like is on R. dos Aranhas, which is near my aforementioned favourite shop.

visit madeira without a car

One week in Madeira itinerary – useful information for your trip

Where to stay.

There are SO many places to stay in and around Funchal, but I really recommend my all-time favourite, Quinta Sao Goncalo . It’s a pink and beautiful mansion, located in a residential area to the east of the old town, and is an absolute bargain (about £75 a night). Even if it doesn’t take your fancy I’d recommend staying in Funchal itself rather than in the hotel zone ( see point #34 on my list of things to do in Funchal ). At the time of writing, Quinta Sao Goncalo doesn’t seem to be taking bookings; the property is for sale so I’ve got a horrible feeling they may have accepted an offer on it! It may be worth checking back just in case, but in the meantime some other lovely options are:

  • Quinta B  (a B&B in the old town)
  • Apartments Madeira Old Town
  • Three House Hotel .

All three of those are on the ‘good’ side of town, away from the built-up hotel area.

How to get around

Most places in Funchal are walkable but to get further afield, the buses are great and really cheap. You can get a rechargeable bus card from a GIRO machine. The easiest one to find is just by the cable car station. All the bus info is here . People do hire cars, but it isn’t a necessity at all. I don’t drive and it’s no problem.

I always go to Madeira in January and February. It tends to be warm, even if you don’t get full-on sunshine every day. When the sun does come out, it’s proper sun so your Vitamin D levels will thank you. I’ve never been at any other time of year but I have heard spring is great. I don’t think the height of summer even would be a problem because a) they don’t get unbearable heat and b) it’s not a child-centred city (probably the main reason why I love it, being allergic to children) so you won’t be surrounded by summer holiday families: this makes it preferable to the mainland of Portugal . New Year is also a good time to go because they go ALL OUT for it with fireworks.

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How to spend a week in Madeira: 7-day itinerary | PACK THE SUITCASES

You might also like my other Madeira posts:

  • 40 things to do in Funchal, Madeira
  • Where to eat in Madeira – 14 of the best restaurants and cafés
  • The best bars in Funchal, Madeira: in search of poncha and craft beer
  • A day trip to Curral das Freiras from Funchal
  • A day trip to Porto da Cruz from Funchal
  • How to do a day trip to Camara de Lobos from Funchal
  • The best beaches in Madeira and how to reach them .

And if you’ve used one of my travel guides and enjoyed it, you can also buy me a drink . Cheers. 

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33 comments.

The essentials for a great week in Funchal. Wish I was there now!

I love this post! Madeira or the Azores don’t get nearly enough tourist love as mainland Portugal, although arguably the islands are more beautiful in terms of nature. Thanks for your reco’s!

Thanks Dina! The Azores is on my list too, never been as I always end up choosing to return to Madeira haha. But yes, they’re both a bit overlooked and unfortunately Madeira has a bad reputation here in the UK as only being for old people.

Hi Caroline – One of the ‘old people’ here :-). Great ‘expanded’ guide to Maderia – we went to the island for the first time last year and used one of your earlier blogs to sniff out the better eating/drinking places in Funchal (quickly becoming early evening regulars at Mercearia Dona Mecia!). BTW, under the ‘Where to Stay’ section you could also add Hotel Castanheiro as an option – it’s a boutiquey place in the centre of Funchal (away from the hotel zone) which has nice rooms, great rooftop pool and a cozy inner courtyard, where guests sit in the early morning sun for breakfast. Can’t wait to go back! PS. Is a visit to Vienna on the cards, soon?

Hi there David! Nice to hear from you and glad you like the week-long guide! Thanks for the hotel recommendation. That looks like a really good one.

We went to Vienna in 2012 (pre-blogging days!) but would like to go back one day. Perhaps combined with Bratislava…

Hi Caroline, Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your Bloggs. I’ve been going to Madeira now for over forty years and you still manage to find new places and restaurants for us to try. What a wonderful shop Hortensia is, very reasonably priced and such beautiful clothes and jewellery. My next visit is in three weeks’ time and I look forward to trying your new recommendations. Many thanks. Carol

Hi Carol, thanks for the lovely comment and glad it helped you out with your visits. D Hortensia is SO good, I am actually wearing a necklace from there as I type this. Hope you get some nice things on your next trip in 3 weeks. Enjoy! C

Have shared to Facebook and emailed it to Tobi so he can put on his blog. 👍

Love it! Really enjoyed reading it 🙂 it is much different from my trips to Madeira but that is what I love about Madeira – everyone can find something for themselves:) me and my husband we also never travel all inclusive and we try to experience new places like locals do. We have few favorites on Madeira and if I can advise you a great place to eat fresh fish or meat and have some cocktail it’s a nice reggae bar in Paul do Mar Maktub 🙂

Hi Kasia, sounds like you have a good time on Madeira too! Cheers.

Another great Blog Caroline, Thank you and have shared on my Madeira Island News blog.

Thanks Tobi, hope your blogging is going well too 🙂

As always, your tips about Madeira are very useful and so well picked!! Let me know next time you come to Madeira! I would love to host you in my airbnb 😉 Warm hugs Sofia

Hi Sofia, lovely to hear from you. Hope Madeira to Mars is going well! I will for sure get in touch when we next plan on coming. Will probably be next year now as we like to go Jan/Feb. All the best 🙂

Hi Caroline,

Really excellent tips about Madeira island. We went there with our 14 year old son in the third week of February and had an amazing time. We visited most of the places that you mentioned in your blog and a few more. The West Island tour via Madeira Happy Tours was excellent, the guide was professional and provided lots of information about the island and it’s flora and fauna. Unfortunately the East Island tour with the same company was a complete letdown as the guide seemed completely uninterested !

The people on the island are very friendly and the food is amazing.

I really recommend anyone planning to visit Madeira to read this blog thoroughly as it goes into great detail about places to visit and means of transport, a lot of hard work and effort has been put into it.

I’ll read up on the other European cities that you have mentioned on the blog and decide on our next trip 🙂

Thanks a lot.

Hello, I’m so glad you enjoyed Madeira and that the blog was a help for you. Sorry the other tour was rubbish though! Happy travels.

My husband and I are currently in Madeira for our last pre-baby holiday and are busy enjoying many of your recommendations – thank you! We have the trip round the west of the island and afternoon tea at Reid’s to come. Thank you for the informative, enjoyable blog. Philippa

So glad you found the blog handy and enjoyed your holiday 🙂

So glad I found your blog. Heading to Madeira in the near future. So looking forward to it.

I’m so glad you did too, and hope it helped! Enjoy your trip to Madeira x

This is lovely. I want to go there once this pandemic is over.

Going to Funchal in mid Feb 2022 to see the Carnival but now find out its cancelled, and Santana parade. So your recs on what to do will be useful. Great site thank you.

Thank you! Hope you had a great time (I’m very behind on replying to comments!).

Just read blog and laughing my head off – brilliant “what to do in Madiera” – I usually go to Azores in May (well…I’ve been twice!) – was looking at other destinations that are a bit warmer (Azores is 4 seasons in one day…but during daytime it’s Autumn and Winter mate) – the reason I go is cos it’s whale watching season – that’s why I’ve considered Madeira instead – so I’d replace a couple of the days being out on a boat, but the cable car, the scary bus tour west and the massive vagina are keepers !! Cheers for an hilarious blog (that’s my kinda travelling)… Oh and the nuns – I’ll do the nuns (that sounded bad) xx

Ah thank you so much for this comment, Nicola! Really glad you liked it. I’ve always fancied the Azores too; I think they have a lot in common but Madeira always wins out for me. Hope you enjoy it, especially the nuns! xx

Looking at Madeira for a winter break with the hubby. Loved this blog, very entertaining but also you have done so much of the legwork for me! Many thanks 😊 Trish

Off to Maderia for the 1st time in just over a week. Will make it my mission to try everywhere on your list 😁

Amazing information, thanks!! Just one question.. what is your favorite b&b because when I click on it there is no link to name of place. Thanks

Thanks! It closed down for a while but has now been bought and re-opened. So it is available again 🙂

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Madeira Itinerary: Visit Madeira without a car

visit madeira without a car

Madeira intro

Madeira, one of the Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean, also called the flower island, or even the Hawaï of Europe is a must-visit! It’s known for its flowers, a year-round pleasantly mild climate, epic hiking trails, spectacular landscapes, levadas, gorgeous coastlines, Ronaldo (who is born there), toboggans, lizards, poncha (the local drink), and its airport that is in the top 10 of Europe’s most dangerous ones (Because of the narrow runway and the quite windy place)! But don’t let that last one stop you from visiting this beautiful place! Also don’t worry if you don’t want to rent a car, because you can see a lot of the island, even without a car. Which I will explain to you in this Madeira itinerary!

Is it possible to visit Madeira without a car?

I want to start by saying that renting a car in Madeira can give you more freedom. You can get around the island on your own and have control of where and when you want to visit something. Just keep this in mind: if you want to drive there, the roads can be very narrow, and most hills are very steep. If you don’t want to drive there, you can still visit Madeira without a car. I went for a week and saw a lot of the island without renting a car! So yes, it is possible. I found it even more relaxing not having to worry about driving!

visit madeira without a car

Where to stay in Madeira without a car?

The best place to stay would be Funchal, the capital of Madeira! It’s where most public transport starts, where the location of the cable car is, and where most day trips start. There are many things to do in Funchal, and it is a great starting place to explore the rest of the island. Everything in Funchal is within walking distance, so you can see and do a lot by staying there. I recommend staying in the Sé area or Zona Velha, which are both centrally located. Funchal is also easily reached from the airport, which is located 20 km from the capital, near Santa Cruz. To get to Funchal from the airport, you can take a regular bus or the Aerobus for 5 euros to the city center of Funchal. Another option is taking a taxi, which will cost you more (around 25 euros) to get you to your hotel or hostel. It’s best to agree on the price beforehand. Depending on where exactly you are staying in the city, the ride from the airport to Funchal will take about 30 minutes.

Madeira Itinerary

This itinerary is about staying seven days in Madeira, without a car, while being located in Funchal. Seven days is the perfect amount of time to stay in Madeira and to see a lot of the island. If you want to stay longer, you could change your location for some extra days on another part of the island, like Porto Moniz or Ponta Do Sol. But let’s say you’re staying seven days in Funchal. Then, you can spend at least three full days in and around Funchal, with Monte included. On the other days, you can go for hikes or day trips. Let me explain this more in this 7-day Madeira itinerary.

Madeira itinerary: a quick overview.

Day 1: Monte: Botanical garden(s), toboggan Day 2: Exploring Funchal Day 3: Hiking trip Day 4: Day trip east side Madeira Day 5: Dolphin and whale watching, harbor Madeira Day 6: Day trip west side Madeira Day 7: Hiking trip or a day trip to Porto Santo

visit madeira without a car

Day 1: Monte

How to get there: On your first day in Madeira, you can start by exploring Monte for a full day. Monte is another town next to Funchal. The village is 500 meters above Funchal, and the best way to get there is by cable car. The cable car station is located in Funchal in Zona Velha, near the coast and next to Promenade Almirante Reis. You can buy a one-way ticket up for example, and slide back down with a typical toboggan. But you could also walk back down to Funchal, or buy a return ticket on the cable car. It’s best to think beforehand about how you want to plan your day in Monte because there are a lot of possibilities! There are two botanical gardens you can reach by cable car. If you only want to visit Monte palace, you will only need tickets for the first cable car from Funchal to Monte. If you also want to be visiting the Madeira botanical garden, you will have to buy tickets for the second cable car that will bring you from Monte to the botanical garden. The first cable car is called ’teleférico do Funchal’ (Madeira cable car) and will bring you from Funchal to Monte. A one-way ticket for an adult costs about 11 euros, and a round trip is 16 euros. The journey takes about fifteen minutes and is open year-round, except on Christmas. The opening hours are from 9h till 17h45. So it’s convenient to keep the closing hours in mind. The second cable car is ’teleférico Jardim’ (Botanical garden cable car) and takes you from Monte to the botanical garden of Madeira.

visit madeira without a car

What to see in Monte?

Madeira botanical garden: I recommend you start with this one if you want to see both botanical gardens. The other one (Monte Palace) is, in my opinion, more impressive. Like this, you can visit them in proper order ;). So once you’ve arrived from Funchal in Monte, you will have to take the second cable car to the botanical garden. This cable car is a bit more hidden, but there are some signs (in the right direction) to find your way. This garden has a range of beautiful tropical plants from all over the world. And you will have stunning views over Funchal! A visit will take about two to three hours and costs 6 euros for an adult. A combination ticket with the cable car costs 13 euros.

visit madeira without a car

After visiting this first garden, it must be around noon. There are some cafes and restaurants in Monte that are perfect lunch spots. ‘Local shop’ is a great place to grab a bite and drink while enjoying a great view. You can find this spot between both cable cars.

Monte palace tropical garden :

In the afternoon, you can give this garden a visit. If you only want to visit one garden in Monte, I recommend visiting this one! Monte palace tropical garden is a real gem where you could spend all day (although I could!)! A regular visit takes about three to four hours. It’s convenient to bring lunch, so you can picnic in the garden if you want to spend the whole day here. This tropical garden opens at 9h30, closes at 18h (the museum has different hours from 10h till 16h), and is open every day of the week. Adults pay 12,50 euros for entry. This little paradise is a not-that-little and multileveled place that houses many exotic plants, flowers, koi fish, birds, fountains, oriental gardens, a collection of minerals, and much more. You will do a lot of walking and climbing stairs here, so it’s best to wear comfortable shoes. Another tip, at the west side of the garden, you can see some toboggan sliding! So if you aren’t going to take the slide down, you can still enjoy some happy people sliding down the hill from the garden! Don’t forget to enjoy the stunning views you will see overlooking the bay of Funchal.

visit madeira without a car

Monte church and Monte Municipal park:

Behind Monte palace, after walking some more uphill (and some more stairs), you will reach the church of Monte. This church is the most important place of pilgrimage on the island and is home to the tomb of Charles I of Austria. Enjoy the views over Funchal while standing in front of the church. You can combine this visit with a walk in the park next to the church.

Wicker toboggans:

These ‘Wicker Basket sledges’ or ‘Wicker toboggans’ are one of the top tourist attractions on Madeira! If you have visited the church, you will have seen where the toboggans gather. The starting point is in front of the church and close to the park. The toboggans, made of wicker and wood, are driven by two runners or Carreiros (the men dressed in white and wearing the typical hats). They are using their boots as brakes and are taking you on a 2 km long ride down. For a single person, it costs 25 euros, for two people 30 euros, and 45 euros for three people. For more information, you can have a look at: www.carreirosdomonte.com

Day 2: Exploring Funchal

visit madeira without a car

On the second day of this Madeira itinerary, I will tell you more about what you can see on a day in the place you are staying: Funchal. You can easily walk around and explore Funchal on foot, which is convenient since you’re in Madeira without a car. Some areas to explore are:

Zona Velha: The old part of town is very charming with narrow cobbled streets. Rua De Santa Maria is the best-known street with most restaurants and bars. When strolling around Zona Velha, you will discover a lot of street art on the doors. If you get closer to the coast, you will see the beautiful yellow Sao Tiago fort. If you walk a bit further to the east side, you can also spot the church of Soccoro.

Great places to eat and drink something in this area (Zona Velha): Padaria Pasteleria Mariazinha : A bakery in Rua Santa Maria, where I went almost every morning during my stay. You schoud try the pasteis de Nata! You can also order some coffee here. A great place to get your breakfast and start your day! Xarambinha : They have good pizzas! It has a cozy atmosphere sitting outside on the square next to the Capela do Corpo Santo. Santa Maria Restaurante : A restaurant with many good options! Sushi, risotto, pasta, vegan food, and yummy desserts! Revolucion Rock bar : A must-stop on an evening out! Here I had the BEST Poncha during my stay in Madeira! They also make personalized cocktails, which you have to try! (Poncha is the traditional drink of Madeira made with sugar cane rum called Aguardente, honey or sugar, and either lemon juice or orange juice)

visit madeira without a car

Historic center: You can stop at the Mercado dos Lavradores when you’re walking from the old town in the direction of the historic center. Even if you’re not buying anything (because it’s pricy), you can still enjoy the colorful and well-organized fruit and vegetable stands and the activity at the market. Don’t forget to take a look at the fish section. In the historic center, you can stroll around and visit the Sé do cathedral of Funchal, the City Hall, the municipal garden, and several museums like ‘Universo de memorias’ museum, 3D-museum and the sacred art museum ( Museu de Arte Sacra). There are also a lot of shopping possibilities. These last activities can also be perfect things to do on a rainy day in Madeira.

Great places to eat and drink something in this area (historic center): O Giro Churros & Paninis: The name says it all, they have delicious churros! Or you can grab a panini. Hamburgueria do Mercado: A perfect lunch stop with lots of burger choices. Restaurante Informal: Make sure to make a reservation for dinner! Portaliano: I had some heavenly risotto :). They have Pizza, pasta, risotto, and more. Rei da Poncha: Another great bar with super fun vibes! You can try Poncha in all different flavors :).

visit madeira without a car

Santa Catarina park: Next to the historic center, you will find Santa Catarina park and the chapel. The park is a lovely place to relax, hang around, read a book, people watching, or even sunbathe on the grass. Don’t forget to enjoy the view overlooking the harbor. You could also take a break at the Santa Catarina Café.

visit madeira without a car

Day 3: Go on a hike

Madeira is known for its epic hikes! So when you are here, you have to do some hiking! While being in Madeira without a car, it is still possible to do these. You can book a walking tour! Most of them are group walks, but there are also private ones (although this will cost you more). These group walks are a perfect way to meet new people, especially when you travel solo. I did book a full-day walk with ‘Madeira sunrise tours’ through my hostel the first day I arrived in Madeira. It’s best to book these tours a bit in advance to be sure you have a spot (depending on the season). There are also several tours you can book online on Viator and GetYourGuide. A bus with a guide will pick you up at a place close to your hotel in Funchal. They drive near the point where the hike starts. Like this, you don’t have to worry about driving, navigating, or finding your way on the walk. It’s nice to be guided by someone who knows the place like the back of his hand.

Prices of guided group tours are around 35 euros per person for full-day walks. They also offer half-day walks if you want to do a shorter walk. These cost around 23 euros. On Madeira, there are so many possibilities for hikes that it is hard to choose one! I did the North route, or Rota do Norte, also called Vereda do Larano (from Machicho to Porto da Cruz). On this walk (with a moderate difficulty), we saw the most breathtaking views from the north side of Madeira! We also walked past levadas and many other beautiful landscapes.

visit madeira without a car

Other epic hikes in Madeira are : (I hope to do more of them one day!) Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (difficult): This is a mountain walk to the highest peak of Madeira (1862 meters)! Rabacal-Risco-25 Fontes (moderate): This is one of the most popular hikes on Madeira! It’s a Levada hike through the Laurisilva forest, and you will see the Risco waterfall. Levada do Alecrim or Rosemary walk (moderate): This walk starts at Rabacal (same as the 25 Fontes walk) but goes in another direction. This trail takes you along Levadas, Laurisilva forest, and waterfalls. The spring of Levada Alecrim is where you arrive. Ribeiro Frio to Portela (moderate): This is another Levada walk through the Laurisilva forest. This hike ends in the village of Portela. Queimadas to Caldeirao Verde (moderate): The starting point of this walk is the Queimadas Forestry park, which then takes you along the walkway of the Levada Caldeirao Verde.

They don’t do all walks every day, so it’s good to check beforehand which walk you want to do on what day. The north route, for example, is only on Sunday and Thursday (with Madeira Sunrise Tours). Don’t forget to wear your comfortable walking shoes, waterproof jacket, a picnic, and water. Enjoy your epic hike!

visit madeira without a car

Day 4: Day trip east side Madeira.

visit madeira without a car

Day trips are a perfect way to see more of the Island since you are in Madeira without a car. There are several options for small group tours with a minibus that you can book via Viator, GetYourGuide, or in your hotel or hostel. The ones I did with FloraTravel were excellent and affordable (28 euros per person)! You meet new people and see a lot of stunning places! The driver/guide picks you up and drops you off close to your hotel, so you don’t have to worry about driving! Just sit back, relax, and look outside to enjoy the views.

visit madeira without a car

So what did we see on this east tour of Madeira? First, we went to Monte and made a short stop at the Monte Sanctuary of our lady of peace . After that, we went to the Pico do Arieiro miradouro . It wasn’t too cloudy at the viewpoint, so we were lucky to have clear views! It was one of the highlights of the day! Before having lunch in Santana, we made a quick stop at a small trout farm close to a waterfall.

After lunch in Santana, we had some time to explore the village and see the typical houses of Santana . There weren’t as many houses as I thought there would be, only a few! I was happy to see them as they are typical Madeiran, but don’t expect Madeira to be full of these houses! Later that afternoon, we went to Porto da Cruz and stopped at Casa do rum. After this stop, we headed to Canical, where we saw another highlight with spectacular scenery: Miradouro da Ponta do Rosto ! From this last long stop, we headed back to Funchal! So this was a full-day trip with everything included except lunch.

visit madeira without a car

Day 5: Dolphin and whale watching

Madeira is a perfect place for spotting whales and dolphins! It’s a popular activity to do, and you will find several companies selling their tours in the harbor of Funchal! You can book a tour over there, or you can book them online. There are tours in the morning at 10h30 and the afternoon at 15h. Remember that they can change or cancel trips due to bad weather conditions. I made a tour during the afternoon with Seaborn for 30 euros (for one person). We sailed away with a catamaran for three hours, and it’s a fantastic way to see the island from another angle! We saw a lot of dolphins and whales, and that was great! After this dolphin and whale watching, we could relax on the catamaran, which was a nice break from all the sightseeing and hiking!

visit madeira without a car

After or before this catamaran trip, you can explore more of the harbor of Funchal. There’s a long promenade worth walking, with food stands, bars, ice cream shops, and more! You will arrive near the cruise harbor if you keep walking along the promenade. That is also the location of the Christiano Ronaldo statue and museum (CR7), so football fans can have a look here!

Day 6: Day trip west side Madeira

visit madeira without a car

There are still so many things to see on the island! And since you are in Madeira without a car, you can book another day trip, this time to the west side. For this trip, I booked again with FloraTravels because the previous one I did was excellent! So what did we see during this west tour? First, we stopped in Camara de Lobos , a charming seaside town with colorful boats in its harbor. The next stop was at the Skywalk platform of Cabo Girao , the highest Cape in Europe! After that, we headed to the mysterious Fanal Forest . The forest has a unique beauty, and the trees seem to come straight out of a fairytale. It was sunny when we were there, but often there is some low-hanging fog around the trees, which makes the place even more mysterious!

visit madeira without a car

We made a short photo stop at the breathtaking Miradouro da Eira de Achada on our way to Porto Moniz, where we went for lunch. Porto Moniz is known for its natural rock pools, formed by volcanic lava! So if you have some time to swim, you should do that (there is a small entrance fee). During lunch, I had a perfect view of the ocean! The waves were spectacular, and I couldn’t get enough of watching them!

visit madeira without a car

Later that afternoon, we continued our day trip to the Miradouro/viewpoint Veu da Noiva (which means bridal veil), where you can see a beautiful waterfall next to the ocean at this incredible scenic lookout! After this, we made one last stop to taste some Madeira wine before heading back to Funchal. Same as with the day trip I did before, they picked us up close to our ho(s)tels, it was affordable (28 euros per person), we had a well-informed tour guide, and it was a great way to meet new people. These minibus day trips are the best option to see a lot of the island while being in Madeira without a car.

visit madeira without a car

Day 7: Go on a hike, relax, or go on a day trip

On your last day in Madeira, there are still many possible things to do! You could go on another hike if you feel like it. There are so many hiking possibilities in Madeira that you could never do them all in one trip! I’ve put some extra epic hikes on day 3. You could go on another day trip, attend a Madeira wine tasting, visit some museums in Funchal, or relax at the pool or beach.

If you plan to stay more than seven days on your holiday, you could add some extra relaxing days on Porto Santo, the neighboring island of Madeira (Or you can go on a day trip)! Porto Santo is known for its endless gold sand beaches. From Funchal, a boat called ‘Porto Santo Line’ leaves every day at eight in the morning and returns from Porto Santo around six in the afternoon. The ticket price depends on the season. You can find more information on PortoSantoLine .

I hope you enjoyed reading this Madeira itinerary! Enjoy your trip to Madeira! And know that you can see a lot of Madeira, even without a car!

visit madeira without a car

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visit madeira without a car

Welcome to my travel blog! I'm Steffie, originally from Belgium, living in the fairytale-like city of Bruges. I love exploring new places and want to see as much of the world as possible. On my blog, I want to share my travel tips and ideas. You will find articles about solo female travel, city guides, itineraries, food blogs, and more!

visit madeira without a car

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visit madeira without a car

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Self-guided walking tour of Porto

One-week madeira itinerary without a car.

50 catamaran tour madeira thesanetravel.com P1122762

Day 1. Funchal

35 funchal madeira thesanetravel.com P1122151

Day 2. Funchal and catamaran tour

51 catamaran tour madeira thesanetravel.com P1122815

Day 3. West tour

61 west tour madeira thesanetravel.com P1132973

Day 4 Levada tour

80 25 fontes levadas thesanetravel.com P1133684

Day 5. East tour

70 east tour madeira thesanetravel.com P1133266

Day 6. Full or half-day Levada tour

93 half day levadas thesanetravel.com P1133889

Day 7. Half-day Nuns Valley tour

103 nuns valley thesanetravel.com P1144051

Practical information

60 west tour madeira thesanetravel.com P1132961

Disclaimer. I paid in full for all tours described in this article.

MadeiraS

What did you think? Have you visited Madeira? I’d love to hear from you so please add your comment below.

  • Published by Anita on December 03, 2021

Author: Anita Sāne

Anita 03 18

About the author Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia,  travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years.  She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new  experiences. Follow her on Facebook ,  Instagram ,  Pinterest ,  Twitter  and Bloglovin .

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How To Get Around Madeira (With & Without A Car)

Need advice for getting around Madeira? Read on for our top tips – whether you’re going to drive in Madeira or get around without a car.

My family are fortunate enough to own a timeshare out on the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira .

This means that I’ve had many trips out to the island, and in that time, it’s safe to say that I’ve used almost all forms of transport that are available there.

But just how do you get around Madeira – an island so famously made of volcanic rock?

Well, Madeirans are renowned for their inventive and clever ways of using the space they have.

Whether this is building deep and long tunnels into the many mountains, or shooting toboggans down steep hills, they’ve thought of everything (especially in terms of transport options).

1. Hire Car

If you’re hoping to see a lot of the island in the time you have, then hiring a car is a great option.

However, please don’t think this is an absolute necessity as you’ll see from the rest of this article.

First things first, I would only recommend driving yourself around the island if you are:

  • 100% confident as a driver
  • Used to challenging roads and conditions

The roads in Madeira can be really quite hazardous in places – think narrow roads with sheer cliff drops on one side plus steep hills.

There are also lots of road tunnels that cleave through the mountains across a long distance (the longest runs for over 3km), so you’ll also need to be used to driving in the dark!

But if you’re a confident driver or even a fan of this type of adrenaline, then you should be okay (although make sure you stay safe and don’t get too complacent)!

When hiring a car, ensure you ask for one that will have enough power behind it to climb the steep hills already mentioned.

Also, Madeira is part of the EU, so ensure your driving license is accepted there, or you may have to apply for an international driving license ahead of your trip.

However, if you’re not such a confident driver or would prefer to have a more relaxing adventure out in Madeira, then there are still lots of transport options open to you.

2. Cable Car

The cable car lines run from Funchal to Monte, and back again, making this a fantastic way to scale mountains. The cars offer you views across the island as you travel and are a quick way to get around and see the sights.

So if you’re vacationing down in Funchal and fancy a visit to Monte, then it’s more than possible for you to do it as a return trip. Admittedly, this one is more for tourists than the locals!

Monte offers you fabulous views across part of the island and the opportunity to visit a traditional church.

This is also the spot where you can catch a toboggan back down the hill if you would prefer not to use the cable car both ways.

READ NEXT: One Day in Funchal Itinerary

3. Toboggan

Toboggans are such a thrill-seeking way of getting down the steep hill from Monte – but only try this if you love speed, sharp corners and suicidal men jumping off and on the toboggan behind you!

This is usually a tourist’s mode of transport when leaving Monte, but did you know these were also a more widely used form of transport in the 19th century?

And what I absolutely love is that CNN included the Monte toboggans in their round up of 7 of the world’s coolest commutes!

4. Walking & Hiking

All around Madeira, there are various hiking and walking trails that you can embark on. Some are more challenging than others (especially up in the mountains).

If exploring the Funchal area, you can easily see the main sights of Funchal and surrounding areas on foot.

Remember the cable car can take you up to Monte – so no excuses for not seeing that during your visit!

READ NEXT: Is Madeira Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons Why My Answer’s Yes!

5. Coach Trips

I’d recommend enquiring at your hotel about whether they offer any coach tours for the day. These are quite common, so you should find that they do offer them!

Our timeshare is part of the Pestana Group, so we’ve stayed at several of their hotels over the years including Pestana Palms , Pestana Village and Pestana Grand .

All of these hotels offered tours around the island when we visited and are stunning places to stay at.

You can also book your own tours using websites such as Get Your Guide. Two tours that were particularly interesting to us during our most recent visit to Madeira were as follows.

Coach Tour – East Side of the Island

This was a full day tour covering the Eastern side of the island, which allowed us to see:

  • Ribeiro Frio – A fabulous viewpoint overlooking the dramatic landscapes of Madeira.
  • Pico do Arieiro – Another viewpoint with even more incredible views!
  • Pico Ruivo – This is the place to come to if you want to walk above the clouds!
  • Santana – Home to the famous traditional Madeiran houses that we all love to rave about!
  • Caniçal – This is the most Eastern part of the island, offering fantastic views across the ocean and a fabulous place to stretch your legs for a decent walk.
  • Machico – A man-made yet beautiful beach surrounded by the dramatic cliffs of Madeira. These cliffs help shield the beach from strong winds, so it’s a great little spot for sunbathing on.

Check tour prices and availability now >>

Hiking through the clouds in Madeira

Coach Tour – West Side of the Island

This was a full day tour covering the Western side of the island, which allowed us to see:

  • Câmara de Lobos – This quaint little fishing town is perfect for a relaxing stroll, and if you’re a boat lover. This is quite an active harbour in Madeira, so there’s plenty of boat and people watching to be done.
  • Cabo Girão – This is another viewpoint well worth a look at. From here, you can see right down to the coast line and see just how steep the drop is!
  • Ribeira Brava – This is one of the coastline villages you can explore. From here, the views of the sea look fantastic and there are also plenty of viewpoints to walk to and explore.
  • Porto Moniz – Along the Northern side of the island, this is a town where you can really see the volcanic base layer of Madeira. You can even swim in volcanic rock pools!
  • Ribeira da Janela – This place is ideal for dramatic views and picture perfect sights.
  • São Vicente – This is a fabulous little town to explore – the churches here are particularly lovely!

Camara do Lobos, Madeira

Given how much we got to see each day, we thought tours like these were fantastic value for money!

RELATED: 4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

There are plenty of bus routes dotted around the island.

If you’re staying in the capital city of Funchal, then you’ll find catching a bus particularly easy.

Some bus routes even allow for a free audio tour (available via an Audio Trip app download ), so you can learn about the history of the place you’re visiting whilst catching a normal bus .

From Funchal, it’s possible to buy tickets in advance as well as on-board from the driver.

But in areas a little more off the grid, buying a ticket on-board is your only option. So ensure you carry some spare change just in case .

During my own travel planning, I found this great guide about Madeira buses , which should tell you all you need to know. You can even save it as a PDF – I’d recommend saving it on your phone so you always have a copy with you! 

You may be able to find a taxi driver willing to chauffeur you around for a day for a surprisingly good rate. ‎

€80 saw us get a day tour around the island by taxi for just the four of us. In that time, it was super easy to see The Valley of the Nuns, Sao Vicente and Pico Ruivo all in one day.

And the best bit? The driver dropped us off at each point and hung around until we were ready to move on to the next attraction. How’s that for first-class service?

Golden Retriever dog in Camara do Lobos, Madeira

8. Cliff Lifts

Faja dos Padres is a cove on the island’s coast, home to a farm and hotel that’s inaccessible by land (except at the lowest tide).

Instead, you can catch a giant cliff lift! This is not one for those of you (like me) who are not fans of heights as it’s essentially a glass elevator navigating a 350-metre sheer drop!

But if you’ve chosen this hotel (or are just a major adrenaline junkie), then by all means go right ahead!

The harbour at Funchal is the main harbour operating in Madeira, and is perfect for doing a little bit of island hopping whilst you’re in Madeira.

I’d strongly recommend visiting the neighbouring island, Porto Santo.

This smaller island has beautiful golden sandy beaches and you can easily catch a ferry from Funchal and back again for a delightful day trip .

You might want to take some motion sickness pills with you if you think you may suffer from sea sickness. This trip across to Porto Santo can be fairly rocky (even in the height of summer).

On board our trip over, most, if not everyone was feeling some form of seasickness!

READ NEXT: 11 Incredible Day Trips From Funchal in Madeira

10. Catamaran Tours

Another option from Funchal Harbour is to hop on a catamaran boat tour to do some whale and dolphin watching.

These trips are frequent, fairly inexpensive and are great fun! Some of the dolphins even like to scratch their bellies along the side of the catamaran as you glide along. This means you can catch some amazing views of the dolphins!

If it’s an especially nice day during your trip, your catamaran driver may even let you jump into the ocean for a bit of a splash around (not near the dolphins though).

A few of us opted to try it out as the water was a deliciously warm temperature!

I hope you’ve found this guide to getting around Madeira useful – enjoy your trip! Do you want to know anything else about transport in Madeira? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll reply asap!

Read Next: When Is The Best Time To Visit Madeira?

Did you like this guide to getting around Madeira? Why not pin or bookmark it now, so you can refer back to it later .

Need advice for getting around Madeira? Read on for our top tips about driving in Madeira and getting around the island without a car.

Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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Very interesting and informative post about Madeira and how to get around. Thank you for sharing !

I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Maja!

That view from the cable car is breathtaking!

It really is… there are so many stunning views in Madeira!

Since Madeira is such a small island, you can get around the island in a day. That’s the reason why most of the tourists stay in Funchal and do day trips from there. I did it differently which I will describe soon.

You’re absolutely right, it’s definitely possible to see a lot of the highlights in one day. But we took several trips from Funchal across the time we spent there so we could take a more relaxed approach to sightseeing and also be able to see a few sights that don’t usually make it onto other Madeira bucket lists. This is what we’d recommend doing.

I am regularly walking in Madeira !

The basket factorty at Camacho is now closed due to the pandemic.

I appreciate you letting us know; thank you. That’s a real shame, but we’ve now updated our blog posts 🙂

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Madeira WITHOUT a car: How to travel around the island

  • October 6, 2023 May 9, 2024

In September, I hav spent one amazing week in Madeira . The Portuguese island is renowned for its natural beauty and stunning landscapes. To my delight, I discovered that exploring Madeira without a car was not only possible but also an excellent way to soak in the island’s charm. Here’s my firsthand account of navigating Madeira without the need for a rental car.

visit madeira without a car

Table of Contents

1. Airport to Funchal: An Easy Start

My Madeira adventure kicked off – just as for most people probably – at Funchal Airport, where I found it remarkably easy to reach the island’s capital without a car. I can recommend taking the bus – it’s not only affordable but also efficient. A one-way ticket cost me just 5€, and the return ticket was a steal at 8€. The airport bus service seamlessly connects with Funchal’s city center, making it a convenient and cost-effective choice. You can find the schedule here . Alternatively, there are taxis and ride-sharing apps like Bolt available, but taxis tend to be pricier and there aren’t always cars available on bolt so it’s not too reliable.

2. Funchal Exploration: Public Transport Abounds

Once I arrived in Funchal, I was pleased to discover that the city boasts a well-developed public transport system, which made getting around without a car a breeze. The city buses crisscross Funchal, making it easy to access major attractions, shopping areas, and the picturesque seafront promenade. Armed with a bus schedule and a sense of adventure, I was able to explore Funchal conveniently.

Horários do Funchal , a prominent transport company, plays a crucial role in facilitating travel in and out of Funchal, the island’s capital. Within Funchal and its suburbs, this urban bus service offers an excellent way to explore both the city and its outskirts. You can effortlessly reach popular tourist attractions such as Pico dos Barcelos, Monte, and the Botanical Garden. Look for buses displaying the ‘TB Horários do Funchal’ sign at the front, as these allow passengers to transport a maximum of 2 bicycles per bus, and this service is free of charge.

For convenient navigation within Funchal’s city center, consider the ‘Linha Cidade 05’ and ‘Linha Eco Cidade O5A’ routes. These routes feature environmentally friendly electric minibuses equipped for wheelchair access, offering a practical and eco-conscious means of getting around the various parts of Funchal center. Note that for route paths 1 and 2, you can hail these buses directly, as they don’t have fixed stopping points. However, for route number 3, designated urban bus stops must be used. The service operates on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is unavailable on weekends and public holidays.

3. Island Adventures: Madeira’s Extensive Bus Network

My exploration of Madeira extended beyond Funchal, thanks to the island’s comprehensive bus network. Madeira’s buses provide access to various towns and breathtaking sights, and they are both cost-effective and reliable. SAM and EACL bus services provide connections to the eastern part of the island, including Caniço, Santa Cruz, Madeira Airport, Machico, Santo da Serra, and Porto da Cruz. On the western side of Madeira, Rodoeste ‘s buses come into play, making stops in Câmara de Lobos, Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol, Madalena do Mar, Calheta, Porto Moniz, and São Vicente. Some of their busses are quite old, but I guess that adds to the charm.

visit madeira without a car

4. Car Rentals for Day Trips

While I enjoyed navigating Madeira without a car, there were occasions when having one would have been advantageous. Some of the island’s more remote attractions and viewpoints are less accessible by public transport. So I did end up renting a car for one day. I paid around 70€ for a full day of car rental, which included insurance and fuel. This allowed me to explore areas less frequented by tourists. For me, it was the right decision even though I am pretty sure it would’ve been possible to get around completely without a car. I definitely think it’s not necessary to rent a car for your whole trip if you don’t want to.

5. Hitchhiking

Before my trip, I had read about hitchhiking being a feasible way to get around Madeira, but during my stay, I didn’t encounter any hitchhikers nor locals offering rides to tourists. Consequently, I primarily relied on conventional modes of transportation to ensure a safe and reliable journey.

visit madeira without a car

In summary, my week on Madeira was a remarkable adventure filled with natural wonders and cultural experiences. Navigating the island without a rental car proved not only feasible but also an enjoyable way to soak in the island’s beauty. With efficient public transport, dependable buses, and ride-sharing apps, I was able to explore Madeira with ease, reserving car rentals for those special, off-the-beaten-path moments.

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Getting around madeira with no car: it’s easy.

visit madeira without a car

If you’re looking to get around Madeira with no car, this blog post for you!

The beautiful volcanic island of Madeira is becoming an increasingly popular destination, particularly among nature lovers.

But all Madeira-focused blog posts seem to suggest that you can’t visit the island without a car.

After a trip to Madeira with no car, I can attest that this isn’t true!

Here’s how to travel in Madeira with public transport and through tours.

Getting around Madeira with no car: the best way to do so

Whether you can’t drive or don’t want to operate a car on Madeira’s windy mountain roads (I’m a fairly confident driver, but I’m glad I didn’t have to drive on them !), there are some excellent ways to travel around Madeira with no car.

They include:

  • buses from Funchal and around Madeira
  • cable cars around Funchal
  • Get Your Guide to book both tours and transfers.
  • Bolt works well around Funchal as well, although you might not be able to pick it up elsewhere

Here are all my top tips!

Stay in Funchal 

visit madeira without a car

I’d recommend staying in Funcha l if you’re visiting Madeira with no car. It’s near the airport, most tours depart from here and are on most of the bus routes! 

I stayed in the city centre of Funchal in an Airbnb.

There aren’t many hotels in the centre of Funchal, but here are a few recommendations of highly-rated apartments to check out which are close to the city centre and cable car (where most tours depart from and from where you’ll travel to Monte). 

You can click through on each accommodation name to go to its Booking.com page.

  • 3 bedrooms house at Funchal 400 m away from the beach with city view and wifi
  • Atlantic Studios
  • Endemic – Concept Apartment
  • OurMadeira – Taberna Apartments, old town

If you’re a backpacker, Santa Maria Hostel comes highly recommended.

Travelling from the airport

There is a bus from Madeira Airport to Funchal city centre, which costs €3.50 per person and takes around 45-50 minutes. It drops off at many major hotels and in the city centre. 

However, we took a Bolt taxi for just €10 – as there were two of us, it was only €3 more and it took just 20 minutes. 

Exploring Funchal

visit madeira without a car

You can easily explore Funchal on two feet ; it’s a small, very walkable city, so you can head to the Funchal Farmer’s Market, Funchal Cathedral and Blandy’s Wine Lodge without needing a car or taxis!

You can also take the cable car up to Monte , which is a suburb of Funchal known for its wonderful views, church and toboggan rides back to the city! 

Toboggan rides

We didn’t opt for a toboggan ride, but we did take a look at them – they looked fun, but they were €27.50 for a ride for a single person and when the ride ends, you have to take another bus back to the city (or walk!). 

That said, you can do a tour involving the toboggan ride which works out much better value for money.

Take a look at this one on Get Your Guide.

If you want to take the cable car both ways (this is what we did) it costs €18 for a return trip on the cable car.

Buses in Funchal

For longer journeys, buses link the centre with places like Funchal Botanic Gardens and Reid’s Hotel – it’s €1.95 for a bus anywhere in the city and we just paid with cash (they don’t accept contactless). 

If you’re doing a lot of journeys, it is cheaper to use a Giro card .

You can buy these at many of the newspaper shops in the city centre and the more tickets you buy, the cheaper they are. 

So, this will save you some money, and it’s also more convenient than needing to have cash all the time, but you do usually need to pay for the Giro card in cash anyway!

Buses around Funchal 

visit madeira without a car

One of the best money-saving hacks for Madeira is that it’s also €1.95 to take a bus to places like Ponta de São Lourenço , the easternmost point of the island, and Santana , which is famous for being the home of the traditional Madeiran houses. 

So, you can see some spots around Funchal for extremely budget-friendly prices! 

That said, these buses aren’t that regular so I would recommend double-checking bus times before you go. 

  • Bus 113 goes to Madeira’s East , including close to Ponta de you can then take the PR8 hike which leads right to the easternmost point of Madeira. 
  • Bus 103 leads to Santana , crossing part of the island and bypassing the start of some of the Levada walks – so you can take these buses for hiking! Just be mindful of the times for the buses back and have a backup plan in case you miss it. 

Get Your Guide Tours

Another excellent option to see the island is to book a tour with Get Your Guide – you can see virtually the whole island by guided tour. 

Many people do feel a little resistant about going on guided tours, but the ones we took in Madeira had free time at pretty much every stop so it didn’t feel like we were being herded around with a group!

We did these two tours: 

Madeira’s West Highlights Tour

visit madeira without a car

This went to Cabo Girão Skywalk , which is the highest in Europe.

Then we visited the Ribeira Brava and Serra D’Água , stopping for a coffee.

We crossed a mountain pass and the highest plateau in Madeira before heading to Porto Moniz to see its volcanic swimming pools (it’s possible to swim here!).

Then we went to Paul da Serra , which is one of the largest natural reserves on the globe!

Click here to see more information about the tour.

Madeira’s East Highlights Tour

visit madeira without a car

We started this tour by driving to the viewpoint of Terreiro da Luta which is close to Funchal.

We then drove to Pico do Arieiro (which I’d already been to on my hike the day before!) this is the third-highest peak, and the highest driveable peak, in Madeira!

We drove through a stunning forest and went to Ribeiro Frio , a popular starting point for some of the levada walks.

We then went to Santana , which is famous for its traditional Madeiran houses and had lunch there. Then, we headed to Ponta de São Lourenço which is the easternmost peninsula of the island.

Finally, we took in the view over the town of Machico , home to one of the only sandy beaches in Madeira!

Click here to read more about it.

Transfer tours for hikes 

visit madeira without a car

Madeira is one of the best places in Europe for hiking , and you don’t need a car to explore some of its best walks either!

In fact, I’d recommend you don’t come with a car because many of the hikes are one-way only – so you’d need to do the walk in reverse to get back to the start point! 

When I did the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike, I purchased this transfer service.

It wasn’t a guided hike (although these are available as well – take a look at one here ), but I was picked up from my accommodation at 5am and along with some other travellers was taken up to the start point of Pico do Arieiro. 

The company provided me with maps and directions via WhatsApp, and when we arrived at Pico do Arieiro the driver gave us full instructions. 

I watched the sunset and then started the hike to Pico Ruivo – it’s around 8.3km, so not too long but there’s a lot of uphill with some of the summits just being ladders built into the mountains! 

visit madeira without a car

Cars can’t access Pico Ruivo, so after I submitted the mountain I walked to Achada do Teixeira (another 1.7km) which is the nearest place for cars to reach and meet the transfer there. 

I had five hours in total to complete the entire walk, and my total moving time was three hours, so I could plan my stops accordingly.

We were warned that if we took longer than five hours the transfer would leave without us, but the driver said on average it takes people 3 hours and 30 minutes. 

This was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done, and I would highly recommend visiting Madeira just to do it!

Click here to read more about it and book.

Are you ready to explore Madeira?

As you can see, it’s easy to explore Madeira with no car!

With a combination of buses, tours and transfers you can easily explore the island without having to get behind the wheel.

Take a look at my YouTube video for more information.

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How to get around Madeira without a car

How to get around Madeira without a car

Madeira is a destination increasingly sought after by both national and foreign tourists.

Car rental is probably one of the most attractive options for visitors, however this is not always possible, especially in times of high season on the island, when most affordable cars are no longer available.

So the question arises: how to visit Madeira without a car?

How to get around Madeira without a car

In the city of Funchal , the public transport system (namely buses and taxis) is easy to use and inexpensive, and visitors can buy charging cards for bus trips within the urban area.

However, if you want a more detailed experience with an audio guide of the main attractions in Funchal, Câmara de Lobos and even the highest maritime cliff in Europe, Cabo Girão, you can opt for the Yellow Bus . a focus on the line that goes to Monte there is also the Red Bus .

Outside the urban area of ​​Funchal

While in Funchal and Câmara de Lobos it is easy to walk around the city or use the hop on hop off buses, outside Funchal there is no such option. Public transport is much more infrequent and tends to have a large number of stops, making a trip from Funchal to one of the other sides of the island long and this is not ideal for those who want to know and explore Madeira.

So what to do?

Don't worry, there are options! It is easy to integrate group tours organized by the various areas of the island. This is a good way to get to know the island through the best guides and, possibly, even make new friends, as the groups tend to be smaller, providing a more differentiated experience. Let's see:

How to get around Madeira without a car

One of the most popular excursions in Madeira Island is the excursion to the East side of the Island. This tour has Santana as its main focus. Departing from Funchal (and any of its hotels), the first stop is at Terreiro da Luta, right above Monte, where you can have a truly unique and panoramic view of Funchal. Then you will head to one of the biggest mountains in Madeira, Pico do Areeiro , a place where, under perfect conditions, you can see the clouds below you, giving the illusion of being in the sky! From the top of the mountain, the group will continue to Ribeiro Frio, passing through Laurissilva , a UNESCO World Heritage Forest. Lunchtime is spent at the main location of this tour, Santana. Here you can explore the famous triangular thatched houses and learn a little more about the history and way of life of these rural populations in the past. After a relaxed lunch, we pass through the town of Faial and Portela heading south towards Machico , the place where the Portuguese first landed in the 15th century. The last stop is at Ponta de São Lourenço , the easternmost point of Madeira Island with fabulous views of the sea and the rock formations that accompany it.

How to get around Madeira without a car

Probably the most popular tour and with good reason! Starting from Funchal, the first stop is at the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos with its scenic bay full of fishing boats, from there you go up to Cabo Girão , where you can walk on the famous Skywalk, the glass floor allows a perspective that stirs the senses (if you have vertigo it is not recommended). The group will head west to Ribeira Brava , and from there cross the island towards Encumeada on the crest of the mountain range that crosses the interior of the island, providing dramatic views over the Ribeira Brava valley. The trip continues to Paúl da Serra , a fabulous plateau from where it is possible to see both the south and north coasts. The landscape is made up of undergrowth, but also witches and endemic heather. you can see cows grazing freely everywhere or even on the road saying “hello” to visitors. In this area there are several walking paths or levadas in the middle of the forest. After witnessing such natural beauty, the main stop is Porto Moniz . Here, visitors can have lunch by the beautiful natural lava pools and witness the charm of that deep blue sea and constant restlessness. it is after lunch that we head to Seixal , with its beautiful black sand beach surrounded by green vegetation coming from the cliffs to the village of São Vicente , before returning to Funchal at the end of the day.

How to get around Madeira without a car

Why not go to the Southwest of the island? This coast is full of small towns planted by the sea. Leaving Funchal heading west on the expressway, the first stop is in the village of Ponta do Sol , the hottest place in Madeira, with a beautiful historic center right by the sea and a distinctive yellow pier dating back to the mid-19th century and that can be seen from a great distance. The group will head from here to Moledos, where you can have a panoramic view of the village of Madalena do Mar before continuing on to Calheta , where you can enjoy the calm waters and non-native yellow sand beach that allows a calm entry into the sea. After lunch, head further west to the picturesque towns of Jardim do Mar and its labyrinthine houses and Paul do Mar , where you can have the best mojito on the island right in front of the sea. The trip arrives at the westernmost point of the island of Madeira, Ponta do Pargo, where you can see a dramatic seascape from its famous lighthouse . On the way back, you will make a short stop at Madalena do Mar, surrounded by beautiful banana plantations that reach almost to the sea.

How to get around Madeira without a car

There is also the option of getting to know a little bit of the Northeast of Madeira. Starting in Funchal and crossing the island from Ribeira Brava, we arrive at São Vicente, a town known for its vineyards and volcanic caves that are currently still closed (to assess possible structural damage caused by an earthquake in March 2020). From there, keep heading east, mostly along the coast, passing by Ponta Delgada, by Arco de São Jorge, where you can take beautiful pictures framed by the sea and the ruins of an old arch belonging to the mills that were established there at the beginning. of the population of the island in the 15th and 16th century. This is a rural landscape, full of mountains, sea and with an indomitable air. The route continues this time a little further south, stopping at Porto da Cruz , with its beautiful bay suitable for surfing and also passing by the viewpoint of Pico do Facho and finally the city of Santa Cruz .

How to get around Madeira without a car

Photo: A ticket to take off

Apart from sightseeing, there are also many options for other activities , such as levadas and hikes (in which transport and a guide are always included), extreme activities such as canyoning or even boat trips that reveal another facet of parts of the island.

How to get around Madeira without a car

Photo: Digital Travel Couple

As you can see, it is quite possible to discover Madeira without a car, do not hesitate to visit us!

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One week in Madeira without a car worth it? - Madeira Forum

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One week in Madeira without a car worth it?

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' class=

Is it easy to move around in Madeira without a car ? We could do maybe 3-5 day or half day trips to different destinations where it's possible to do nature walks (max 10 km). We are especially interested in levadas, fountains, lakes, abandoned villages (if there are any) and lush forests. We don't want to go on guided tours.

Is it best to stay in Funchal ? What is the whale watching like in mid April? What about weather? Is it very rainy?

' class=

Whale and dolphin watching is good all year arpund and sealife is often seen. Several companies do the three hour trips, cost arpund €25 - €30 per person, tickets can be bought in the Marina area for all craft.

I am listing a few sites which may help you and also give you lots of insight to the landscape and scenery.

http://www.madeira-seekers.com

http://www.madeirahappytours.com

http://www.madeia-fauna-flora.com

http://www.rodoeste.pt

http://www.horariosdofunchal.pt

http://www.madeira-explorers.com

http://www.madeira-levada-walks.com

Weather - anybodys guess but not usually too wet in April which is the end of the Winter.

I agree with Flowercity (post 1).

I am sure someone on here will be able to help you regarding transport .

' class=

Can i assume that the levada tour companies will pick you up from a Machico hotel if needed?

Funchal is definitely the place to stay, you can get to almost everywhere by bus from there, and even walking round the city with its gardens and parks is a delight. In just a week you will be able to see so much of the island- even after many visits I have only seen and done a tiny proportion of what I want to. I do hope you choose to visit Madeira as it's definitely a nature lovers' paradise and perfect for walking.

Roseandvine, do you know where I can find information about the bus routes? Can you recommend any specific walks that are easily accessible?

Ok thanks for the responses.

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Pati's Journey Within

Best Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car

Everything you need to know about reaching some of the best hikes in Madeira without the car!

Madeira is one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. This stunning archipelago on the Atlantic Ocean boasts the most spectacular nature, magnificent mountains and treks with dramatic views that will take your breath away.

Hiking in Madeira is one of the best things to do ever, and hiking in Madeira without a car is totally possible. 

So if you are travelling to Madeira and are excited about all those incredible hikes awaiting you, I get it! Madeira is spectacular!

But let me guess, you have heard all over, that the best way to travel Madeira and to get to the best trailheads is by car?

Most travel guides out there will advise you to rent a car while travelling and hiking around Madeira. But it’s definitely not necessary. There are many amazing hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.

It is true that some trails in Madeira can only be reached by car but definitely not all of them. So don’t think that only because you are not willing to rent a car you cannot visit or hike in Madeira. 

I spent a glorious six weeks on this stunning island and managed to see almost every corner of it, and did many hikes all by public transport. Ok maybe a couple of times I had to get a taxi but this was mostly due to my poor planning and trouble-prone actions. 

So without further ado,  here is my guide on the best way to hiking in Madeira without the car!

There are 2 types of hikes in Madeira – Levadas and Veredas

Table of Contents

What is Levada?

Levadas are irrigational channels created to carry rainwater and natural springs water from the north and west of the Madeira island where the climate is more humid and participation more frequent.

Every Levada has a narrow trail attached to it, which these days is used to walk and discover Madeira. 

The Portuguese started building Levadas in the 16th century to provide water to the agricultural regions. Ever since, this incredible network of over 1,400 kilometres of channels has continuously been built, with the most recent built in the 1940s.

Best Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car

Building the Levadas was often very difficult, and men frequently had to hang on ropes over steep mountain slopes to dig the channels.

Until these days, Levadeiros walk these paths every day to repair and manage the water distribution.  

Levadas, apart from providing water for irrigation and agriculture, are also used to generate power which makes up nearly 40% of the island’s power source. In fact, around 50% of Madeira’s electricity consumption comes from renewable energy sources. 

What is Vereda?

Best Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car

Vereda means ‘trail’ in Portuguese (as well as Spanish). This is a general term for a hiking trail in Madeira, so every trek that is not a Levada will be called a Vereda. You will find all types of veredas in Maderia, coastal walks, mountain ridge walks, Laurisilva forest hikes and so on. All are stunning and unique in their own way. 

So the time came to ask the most important question …

Can I hike in Madeira without renting a car?

Definitely yes! There are many trails in Madeira you can get to with the use of public transport. Admittedly, Some trailheads are only accessible by car or taxi, yet you can reach some spectacular hikes by bus and a little walk. 

If you have a little more time, I recommend staying few days in Funchal but additionally in Machico , Santana or Sao Vincente where you can access some hikes more efficiently with public transport. You can also stay in Ponta do Sol or Calheta if you are not ruling out using taxis. 

In case a taxi is a necessary option – I recommend using  Bolt. The app works very well in the southern part of the island and are much cheaper than yellow taxis. 

But if you only have time to stay in Funchal, most of the hikes in Madeira you can do without the car are accessible by bus from Funchal. 

There are 3 different bus companies covering various parts of the country. 

Navigating different bus companies and their timetables gets highly confusing for the majority of visitors. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you ages to figure it out.

Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

The  SAM buses (above)  serve the east of the island, including stops in Porto da Cruz, Santo da Serra, Machico, Santa Cruz, Caniço and Madeira Airport. On the SAM website , you will be able to find the map and individual times tables. 

BEST HIKES IN MADEIRA YOU CAN DO WITHOUT THE CAR

Rodoeste (busses with red stripes like on the above photos) is the bus line that operates between Funchal and all the municipalities located on the western side of Madeira island. Those buses will take you to Porto Moniz, Ponta do Pargo, Ribeira Brava, among many others.

Here you will find the schedule for Rodoeste.

BEST HIKES IN MADEIRA YOU CAN DO WITHOUT THE CAR

The yellow buses of Horários do Funchal, marked with GIRO symbol, serve the Funchal urban areas. 

Next to each hike, I will provide all the essential information regarding the bus company and the bus number.

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11 Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Levada do furado (pr10) – best hikes in madeira you can do without the car.

Levada do Furado was the very first Levada I hiked in Madeira. I took advice from Hit the Road Madeira and followed their tutorial video. They recommend combining Levada do Furado and Vereda dos Baloes (below) into a beautiful 4 hours hike. It’s a great walk to do at the beginning of your trip. You will get yourself accustomed to the concept of walking Levada and experience some fantastic scenery and breathtaking viewpoints. It is also very straightforward to do by bus. 

Levada do Furado is one of the most accessible hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.

How to get to Levada do Furado by bus?

Take bus number 56 (SAM bus company) from Funchal Teleferico (Cable Car Station in Old Town), which goes to Santana. You can get off at the Ribeira Frio, where the trail starts. The Levada ends at the Portela Viewpoint, from where you will be able to take the bus back to Funchal. It is recommended you take the first bus in the morning, which at the moment leaves at 8:15. This will give you enough time to walk the Levada and catch the return bus from Portela. 

As recommended in the video by Hit the Road Madeira, you can also take the next t stop after the Ribeira Frio, by the ‘Faisca’ bar. This way, you can walk to Miraduro dos Balcoes taking the Vereda dos Balcoes trail, which from that point will take you only around half an hour to get to. From there, you can take a signposted path towards Ribeira Frio and start the Levada do Furado trip.

You can read a detailed post on Hit the Road Madeira blog as well.

Bus company – SAM Duration from Funchal – 50 minutes Ticket price – €3.35

Levada do Furado overview

Levada do Furado is 11 km long, a relatively easy hike and one of the oldest Levadas belonging to the state. It starts at 880m elevation at Bibeira Frio, where you will find the famous trout pond. 

You will walk along the Ribeira Frio valley surrounded by the magnificent Laurisilva forest with occasional views over the deep valley. At times you will come across river crossings, all of them easy to pass. 

As you will approach the Portela Village, you will be welcomed by panoramic views over Porta do Cruz village and the magnificent rock formation of Penha de Águia. It’s a stunning Levada walk, and it got me completely hooked. 

Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car - Levada do Furado

Vereda dos Balcões (PR11) – Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Vereda dos Balcoes is a short and easy walk that follows the Levada of Serra do Faial and leads to the Balcões Viewpoint with magnificent views over the valley of the Ribeira da Metade.

As I mentioned above, the best way is to combine Vereda dos Balcoes walk with hiking Levada do Furado; otherwise, it’s a short walk for a long bus journey. Nevertheless – very much worth it. Please read the above description of Levada do Furado if you’d like to combine both hikes.

How to get to Vereda dos Balcoes by bus?

In order to get to Vereda dos Balcoes, take bus number 56 from Funchal, which goes to Santana. You can get off at Ribeira Frio and walk around 1.5 km there and back or you can get off at the next stop by the Bar Faisca and reach Vereda dos Balcoes from there. You can then turn into the path signposted ‘Ribeira Frio’, and you can either take a bus back from there or continue hiking into Levada do Furado (recommended – see above)

Vereda dos Balcoes overview

Vereda dos Balcoes is a short and easy walk that is often integrated into island trips and tours. It only takes around an hour to see it; therefore, if you are taking public transport, I recommend combining it with another hike like Levada do Furado. Vereda dos Balcoes ends with a fantastic viewpoint and is definitely worth visiting!

It was the first Miraduro (Viewpoint) I have done in Madeira, and I was mesmerised. Not only I was the only human there at the time (rare), but the views were dramatic, and I was surrounded by incredible nature.

Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car - Vereda Dos Balcões

Be safe while hiking in Madeira!

Always check the weather forecast and trail closures. During heavy rains there are many landslides, if the trail is closed, there is a reason for that!

Be prepared! Wear good hiking shoes , and carry a rain jacket and warm fleece in case the weather changes. Remember, mountains are unpredictable.

Dress appropriately for the season. Summers are hot in Madeira so wear appropriate hiking gear for hot weather. Always carry enough water and some snacks in case your hike ends up being longer than you planned. Things happen, be ready.

If you hike in the winter, sometimes there is snow up at the peaks in Madeira. The best way to dress for the weather like this is to layer up. 

Be sure to have enough mobile data on your phone, credit to call in case of emergency and carry a power bank. 

Leave no trace! Respect Mother Nature, enjoy your hiking trail but be sure to leave it as you found it. 

Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco (PR8) – Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

If you don’t do any other hikes – this is the only one you need to do!

Vereda Ponte do Sao Lourenco walk is one of the most breathtaking hikes in Madeira and one not to be missed. This trail is located at the easternmost point of Madeira, where you will hike along a long thin peninsula of dry, sandy land characterised by dramatic cliffs.

The selling point of that hike is definitely the stunning and dramatic views of the ocean combined with unusual land formations. A must-do hike in Madeira!

How to get to  Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco  by bus?

It is very easy to get to Ponta de Sao Lourenco by bus which makes it one of the best hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.

You can get to Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco by bus either from Machico or Funchal . There are numerous direct busses from Machico bus station. From Funchal, there is a direct bus number 113, which departs several times a day, with the earliest one leaving from Funchal Edificio 2000 bus stop at 7:30 am. You can also take a bus to Machico and change there. The bus’s last stop is Baía d’Abra – this is where you will get off.

Bus company – SAM Duration from Funchal – 1.5 hours Ticket price – €4.00

Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco overview

Vereda Pote do Sao Laurenco walk is one of the most breathtaking hikes in Madeira and one not to be missed. This trail is located at the easternmost point of Madeira, where you will hike along a long thin peninsula created by the lava. It’s a very unusual landscape for Madeira.

The selling point of that hike is definitely the stunning and dramatic view of the ocean combined with unusual land formation. A must-do hike in Madeira! 

The trek ends at Sardinha house, the base for a group of Rangers who work for the Madeira natural park. You can stop there for a drink before your way back. When I was there, there was also an option to take a boat back for 10 euros, taking you around the peninsula. I was definitely tempted but decided to walk back instead.

It’s a 6 km there and back type of hike and takes just under 3 hours to complete. If you plan to take your camera (recommended), allow additional time for photo taking. You will need it!

It is classified as a moderately difficult hike, probably primarily due to steep stairs and paths winding up and down, often at the cliff edge. I personally didn’t find it too difficult and have seen hikers of all ages and fitness levels taking the trail. 

Be aware, however, that This region of Madeira is both sunny and windy, and there is no shade on the trail, hence gear yourself with a sunhat and plenty of water. and 

At the bus stop, you will find a small kiosk offering drinks and snacks as well.

Madeira is one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. Yet geographically, it is not Europe anymore. This stunning archipelago on the Atlantic Ocean boasts the most spectacular nature, magnificent mountains and treks with dramatic views that will take your breath away. Hiking in Madeira is one of the best things to do ever, and hiking in Madeira without a car is totally possible. 

Some trails indeed can only be reached by car or taxi. Yet, I was determined to do the majority of hikes without a car or hiring a cab. There are many hikes in Madeira you can do without the car. And here is my guide on the best way to do it.

Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car / Best things to do in Funchal

Vereda do Larano – Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Vereda do Larano is one of the most spectacular hikes in Madeira, yet for some reason, you will hardly find it in the walking guides. This walk starts with Levada do Canical leading up to the Viewpoint of Boca do Risco and then turning into the breathtaking Larano walk. Many articles will describe this hike as difficult, and if you are suffering from vertigo and are scared of heights – I do not recommend it. Otherwise, the hike is not very difficult. The path is clearly marked, always wide enough to walk comfortably and at the most narrow parts, guided by the railway.

I will admit, there was one point at which I decided not to look down and missed some extraordinary photo opportunity, yet I was not brave enough to face the fear, hahaha. Other than that – this is one of the best hikes I have ever done.

How to get to  Vereda do Larano by bus

The best way to reach Vereda do Larano is from Machico. Take a bus to Canical and get off just before the tunnel. This is the same bus which goes to Baia D’Arba taking you to Ponta do Sao Lourenco.

Ask the driver if in doubt and he will point you to the bus stop for you. You can also walk all the way up from Machico town centre, which I did once, yet the walk is long and steep and given the length of the whole trek, I do recommend getting there by bus or taxi. 

You can get to Machico from Funchal by taking bus number 113. If you are travelling from Funchal I recommend taking the earliest possible bus going directly to Baia D’Arba. 

Once in Porto da Cruz, you can take bus 208 or 53 back to Funchal. Keep in mind that the last bus to Funchal from Porto da Cruz leaves at 6 pm but always check the timetable beforehand as this can often change. 

Bus company – SAM Duration from Funchal  – around 1.5 hours depending on the route Ticket price  – €4.00

Vereda do Larano   overview

For the first 3 km, you will walk along the Levada do Canical, which in itself isn’t the most interesting. Make sure you don’t miss the turn into Boca do Risco like I did the first time. Look for it after around 3 km from the starting location. From that point, you will start climbing up on a clearly marked path, and views will start changing, making it much more exciting.

Once you reach the Boca do Risco, you will be rewarded with fantastic views over the island’s northeast coast. Many walkers will end the hike here and return back. It is an option. If you decide to continue, you will be walking towards Porto da Cruz following a cliff-side trail for the next 5 km.

The last part of the walk takes you down the paved road towards Porto da Cruz where you can stop for a meal or, of course … Poncha 🙂 I took an Uber from there back to Machico, where I was staying at this point.

The trail point-to-point is around 13km and will take you 4 to 5 hours, depending on the speed and breaks.

Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car - Vereda do Larano

Levada do Rei (PR18) – Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Levada do Rei is a beautiful Levada walk taking you to the head of the river and offers some adventurous views and stunning waterfalls on the way. It is one of my favourite Levadas in Madeira, and I really enjoyed this walk.

How to get to Levada do Rei by bus

Levada do Rei is best reached from Santana by bus nb 103, but it is possible to get there from Funchal as well, yet it could be a bit tight. As for now, there is one very early direct bus from Funchal. After that, you would have to change in Santana.

From Santana, you can take the bus to Sao Jorge and walk from there to the head of the trail. I made a mistake and got off the bus at the ‘centre’ of the village, which is right at the bottom.

If I got off 2 stops before, I would save myself around half an hour of the steep hike up the road. Nevertheless, it’s completely doable.

I will pin the head of the trail below, which should allow you to get off at the nearest bus stop.

Bus company – SAM Duration from Funchal  – around 2 hours depending on the route Ticket price – €4.00 – €5.5

Levada do Rei overview

The walk starts at the Water Treatment Plant at Quebradas in São Jorge and follows the Levada all the way to its source – Ribeiro Bonito stream. On your way, you will walk along the path offering spectacular views over surrounding valleys and farmlands.

After that, you will enter a near Amazon-like native forest while entering a few short tunnels. Also, This is a fun and very diverse walk ending at a beautiful stream where you can replenish before heading back.

Levada do Rei is an 11 km, there and back route and will take you around 3 to 4 hours to complete it depending on your speed and amount of photo breaks. It is officially rated as moderate in difficulty. However, I didn’t find anything difficult about this trial. But I guess if you suffer from vertigo or fear of heights, there are a few moments where it could potentially be dangerous.

Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car - Levada do Rei

Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley)

In theory, Nun’s Valley is neither a Levada nor a Vereda. Most visitors drive here or take a bus to admire the Viewpoint of Eira Do Serrado and the spectacular Vally of Nun’s. Yet you can make it a walk if you want to (i did), and the place is magical and really worth it. Also, extremely easy to get to from Funchal, and, trust me, the bus journey is an experience in itself. There are no excuses. 

Nuns Valley (Curral das Freitas)  is a village sitting at the bottom of a vast cauldron nestled within almost vertical mountains in the heart of the Madeira island. 

When the French pirates attacked Madeira in 1566 , the nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled from their homes and found refuge here. The village is very isolated; therefore, locals mainly live off what they grow. The local chestnuts are delicious and are used in everyday cooking. I was also told that chestnuts were used in cooking before rice was introduced to the island.

How to get to Curral das Freitas (Nun’s Valley) by bus

It is very easy to get to Nun’s Valley by bus from Funchal. There is direct bus number 81 from in front of Palácio de São Lourenço – just opposite the FX Sports Bar on Avenida do Mar. 

For the return, you can either catch the bus from the same place or from the Nun’s Valley below.

Bus company – SAM, bus number 81 Duration from Funchal  – around 40 minutes  Ticket price  – €4

Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley) overview

I recommend getting off the viewpoint of Eira Do Serrado. This is one of the best viewpoints in Madeira (personal opinion) and allows you to see the whole valley from a height of over 1000 m above sea level. It can get chilly, thus do pack a jacket or a hoodie. 

From there, you can take a steep walk down the valley. It takes around 45 minutes, but it is pretty steep and wet at times. Make sure you take comfortable shoes with a good grip for that walk. 

The village itself is a bit sleepy, but I really liked it. There is a little museum where you can find an example of how nuns used to live and few restaurants where you can try chestnut soup, cheesecake, roasted chestnuts or chestnut liquor – delicious!!

You can take a bus back to Funchal from there, but you can also continue hiking. Walk down to Poço dos Chefes, one of the valley’s deep stream swimming points where locals meet in the summer to swim and relax.

Few trails start at Curral das Freiras. 

You can walk up to Pico Ruivo from there, taking the very challenging 17km trail with over 1000m of elevation gain. Not for the fainthearted.

There are also walks to Boaventura, Corticeiras and Caminho das Voltas trails , but neither is very well known nor mainstream, and I could not find extensive info. I would not recommend taking them alone. But this part of the island is amazing so if you are hiking in a group – definitely go for it!

The most popular trek starting at Nun’s Valley is  Vereda Do Urza l which gives you the option to join PR 1.3 Vereda da Encumeada to Pico Ruivo.

Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car - Curral das Freitas (Nun’s Valley)

Please note – I have not managed to complete the below hikes due to bad weather conditions at the time, or I have simply run out of time. I have however passed the head of the trail or know personally someone who did those hikes and managed to get there by bus.

Levada do Norte – Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Levada do Norte starts above Camara de Lobos in the village of Estreito De Câmara De Lobos and is one of the largest and most important in Madeira. Given it’s located in the southern part of the island, it can be done all year round. It’s a lovely walk taking you all the way to Cabo Girao and offering spectacular views over the parishes of Câmara de Lobos and Campanário. 

I have not managed to walk this Levada. I did pass the head of the trail on my way to Camara dos Lobos, and the bus stop is located just a few meters from the entrance to the path.

The opinions on the difficulty of this hike are divided, but there are a few parts where the path leads next to a sheer drop; therefore, I recommend you are aware, especially if you are suffering from vertigo or fear of heights.

You can end or start the hike at Cabo Girao Skywalk, which is incredible in itself and a must-see when in Madeira.

How to get to Levada do Norte by bus

To get to Levada do Norte take bus 96 from Funchal to Estreito De Câmara De Lobosand and get off near Continente supermarket at Estreito De Câmara De Lobos main square. 

If you start your journey at Cabo Girao, take bus number 7, which goes to Ribeira Brava. Check before the journey as not all buses to Ribeira Brava will stop at Cabo Girao.

Levada do Norte overview

At the start, Levada do Norte offers spectacular views over the parishes of Câmara de Lobos and Campanário. 

Once the Levada leaves the village, it then winds through a wide and long valley. The trail will cross the road couple of times. Hence be careful not to miss the course. 

You can either make the trip as there and back hike, or once you reach the road to Cabo Girao, hike up the road and enjoy the highest viewport in Madeira and one of the highest in Europe. There are busses to Funchal from there but not very frequently so check the timetable before choosing this option. 

If you choose a there and back option, it is just under a 16 km walk with a total elevation gain of 720m. 

It is possible to do just a section of this really long Levada. The excellent option is also to start at Cabo Girao and walk to Boa Morte. 

There are parts of this walk that are pretty dangerous due to the abrupt slope next to the path, so be aware before taking a walk. 

If you prefer, there are also organized hikes offering this route as well as a Cabo Girao visit, so this might also be a good option if you prefer. 

Levada do Norte - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Levada do Caldeirão Verde (PR9)- Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

Levada do Caldeirão Verde is meant to be one of the most beautiful Levada hikes in Madeira. However, I did not manage to walk it. At the time when I was based in Santana (ideally located for this trek), the weather had gone awful, and a bad storm had prevented me from doing this hike. I am gutted, but hey, I guess I will have to return and do this one next time 🙂

Levada do Caldeirão Verde is partially accessible by public transport, but it should definitely be on your to-hike list.

How to get to Levada do Caldeirão Verde by bus

To get to Levada do Caldeirão Verde take a bus from nb 56 from Funchal to Santana. From there, unfortunately, you would either have to walk to the head of the trail (1.5 hours) or take a taxi from Santana to Queimadas, which I personally recommend. 

Caldeirão Verde is also a pretty popular Levada, so if you prefer, you will be able to find an organised tour as well. 

Levada do Caldeirão Verde overview

Levada do Caldeirão Verde is a 13km there and back hike starting at the elevation of 990m. It takes around 5 to 6 hours to walk the whole length and to return.

This Levada is an impressive work of art built in the 18th century. Levada do Caldeirão Verde starts at the bottom of Ribeira do Caldeirão Verde river near Santana and crosses steep hills and mountains.

It then goes into the deep valley of Ribeira de São Jorge, offering a spectacular view of the mountains and the possibility of passing through man-made tunnels carved in the rock. Do not forget a flashlight – you might need it in the tunnels.

This Levada is like a fairytale walk amongst waterfalls and lush green forest. At the end of the Levada, you will find yourself arriving at e huge waterfall falling on the cold and crystalline lagoon. Great place for a short picnic before returning back.

Levada Do Caldeirão Verde - Best Hikes In Madeira You Can Do Without The Car

Caminho do Paúl do Mar, Jardim do Mar, Ponta do Pargo – Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car

You can get by bus to both Paul do Mar and Jardim do Mar and whether you decide to walk the hike or just visit the village – it will be worth it. You can also go all the way to Ponta do Pargo and visit the lighthouse and do some hiking there.

This is a great part of the island, and there are few walks located in the area.

The most popular one is the Caminho do Paúl do Mar, part of the greater Caminho Real trek. It will take you down steep stairs to Paul do Mar village. It is graded as moderate, but I have heard many opinions saying it is pretty hard and challenging. The person I met in the hostel who did this part of the trek said it was very hard and not that exciting for the effort.

A much better walk to take in the area is the Levada do Ponta do Pargo, which starts at Ponta do Pargo in the Pedregal and will take you to Lombada Velha. This walk will take you into the forest but will also offer incredible views of the sea cliffs.

It is a loop hike 10.5 kilometres in length and takes approximately 4 hours to complete. I recommend adding an extra couple of hours to visit the Garganta Funda waterfall.

It is a pretty pleasant hike, with a total incline of around 500m. As I didn’t actually walk this route (gutted), you will find a great description and a map of the hike.

How to get to Paul do Mar and Ponta do Pargo by bus?

The bus ng 142 by Rodoeste from Funchal will take you all the way to Ponta do Pargo leaving early in the morning. It leaves around 8 in the morning from Funchal, and it does take under 3 hours to get there, so plan your day accordingly. The return bus is just after 5 p.m., which should give you over 5 hours to explore.

Bus company – Rodoeste, bus number 142 Duration from Funchal  – 3 hours  Ticket price  – €4

visit madeira without a car

Where to stay in Madeira for reaching the best hikes without the car

If you travel around Madeira without a car, where you stay will make it either really easy or really hard to explore the island. If you still aren’t sure where to base yourself for your Madeira trip, make sure you head to this complete guide to all towns and areas to stay in Madeira. 

The best place to base yourself for exploring Madeira Island is Funchal. You can find busses departing from here to most destinations. You will also find the majority of affordable accommodation options here, including some great hostels.

The two hostels really worth mentioning are Santa Maria Hostel and 29 Madeira Hostel. I stayed in both and I really enjoyed it. It was by far the cheapest quality accommodation and I made some great friends in both hostels.

I considered staying in Porto da Cruz  but decided not to, mainly due to the high costs. I went on a jeep day trip instead and it was super fun! To be honest, it is not an area you want to stay in for more than a day if you don’t have a car.

Machico, on the other hand, is a good place to stay for a few days. You can chill, laze by the beach and take a couple of the greatest hikes from here – Vereda Ponte do Sao Lourenco and Vereda do Larano. However, there are no hostels here. I stayed 10 days in Machico, so I rented this apartment. I was given a good deal as I stayed for a bit longer and it was a good way for me to catch up on some washing (there was a washing machine) and some blog work.

Another great place to base yourself for a few days in Madeira is Ponta Do Sol – the sunniest place on the island, or Ribeira Brava . Both are small fishing villages with great beaches and both are pretty close to some of the great hikes like Levada Nova or Levada das 25 Fontes.

I didn’t stay in either, but I went there for a day and made some bus changes as well. It is not a great place to travel to the rest of Madeira, however. Buses exist but not in abundance.

The area is lovely though, so if you don’t mind spending a few days chilling in a beach town and taking some local hikes, then go for it! And if you feel super lazy, just book yourself a guided Levada walk. because why not!

You will find a good hostel in Riveira Brava – Hostel Casal São João . Ponta do Sol can be pricy, but if you want to treat yourself 1905 Zino’s Palace has awesome reviews (and views!)

Some travellers recommend Calheta. However, I found it really tricky to get to by bus.

You can not only see the whole of Madeira by using public transport but there is plenty of amazing Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car.

It will be a little more challenging, but it is definitely doable. It also adds to the adventure. I am sure you will enjoy it!

If you decide to do any of the hikes or believe some of the information provided could be improved – do not hesitate to comment below.

Until then – Happy Hiking!

This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you purchase the product or make a booking via one of my links, I will receive a small commission. Please know that I will never recommend or promote a product I don’t believe in or haven’t used. This way, you are supporting this blog at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Exploring more of Madeira?

If you are staying in Funchal, check out my article about the best day trips you can take from Funchal both by public transport and by car including one to Camara do Lobos !

If you are wondering where to stay in Madeira I have a complete overview of the best areas and accommodation recommendations for yo u.

Madeira Know Before You Go –  Important Information and Travel Tips

  • Currency – Euro
  • Language – Portuguese but English is widely spoken (don’t take it for granted though, it’s always good to learn few basic terms)
  • Power plugs and sockets – Type F (European). The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
  • Driving – on the right-hand side. Watch this video before renting a car
  • Climate and Weather – Madeira is called the island of eternal spring. It enjoys a subtropical climate with mild weather all year round. It is never too cold or too hot. The temperature hardly ever falls below 15 degrees in the winter or exceeds 25 degrees in the summer. Sea temperature varies between 17 and 21 degrees throughout the whole year. Expect more humidity and rainfall in the North of the island. For lounging by the pool, visit between April and October. 
  • What to pack -Hiking trousers and shorts, rain jacket, walking shoes, one warm sweater or hoodie, one pair of sandals, some light summer clothing, a warm dawn jacket if you go up the mountains, a camera (you won’t forgive yourself if you don’t!), adventurous spirit. 
  • Most popular supermarkets – Continente Modelo and Pingo Doce. Pingo Doce in Madeira has a great restaurant section as well. Much better than in mainland Portugal. You have to try the Octopus!
  • Remember about Travel Insurance. I recommend SafetyWing, especially for those nomads and long term travellers among us . No need to specify the destination not the duration of travel. And you can cancel at any time. 
  • For accommodation search , I recommend Bookings.com and Hostel World . Although a dorm room is not always an option, especially these days, however,  I still prefer to stay in a hostel as I get to meet and befriend other travellers. Most of the time I book a small private room in a hostel. This is my preferred form of accommodation. But on both websites, you will be able to find anything from a dorm room bed to a self-catering apartment for the best prices.

10 Comments

Hi Pati, Thanks for your inspiring blog about Madeira’s hiking routes reachable by public transportation. It’s especially nice that start and stop locations can be in separate places.

A small correction and response to Clive’s question. Horários do Funchal is not operating only in the urban area but also on the interurban routes leaving from Funchal Teleferico, incl eg. route 56. So it’s not the SAM bus company.

I did hikes PR8, PR10, PR11 and Vereda do Larano. For the Larano route, I took bus 103 at 7.30 from Funchal Teleferico to Santana. I left the bus at P.cruz before the tunnel at 8.10 and walked first to Porto da Cruz. I hiked a very nice Larano route to Machico, about 16 km. From Machico, there are several options to take a bus back to Funchal.

Local bakery cafes are opening at 7.00 so you have time to get a perfect breakfast and some packed lunch before early buses are leaving. Thanks, Regards, Timo

Thank you, Timo! How great that you found this post inspiring, it means a lot to me! Thank you so much for all your updated tips and info I am sure this will help everyone reading this post! Take care and happy travels!

Hi, great help for a first time visitor like me to Madeira. I looked at the first Levada Walk (PR10) and tried to find the SAM 56 bus on their website. However, it was not listed. Do you know which bus it now is? Many thanks

Hello Clive, I’m glad you found this post useful! I looked into the PR10 and it still shows that bus 56 goes to Ribeira Frio. It could be that this has recently changed but I couldn’t find any info on this. It could be seasonal, but I will dig deeper and update the post once I find some information. I recommend you pop into the bus station at the Teleferico and maybe they will be able to give you some updated info. Enjoy Madeira!

Hi Pati, Thanks for this very usefull post. We did the PR11 combined with PR10, the vereda do Lorano and PR9 (with a short taxi trip from Santana). All hikes by bus from Funchal. Just get up early and enjoy the day. We used your post and hittheroadmadeira to prepare our beautifull stay in Madeira, so thank you for your nice work.

Hi Allert! I am so happy I could help! Vereda do Lorano is my favourite! I am really chuffed that my post came in handy, have wonderful travels and take care!

Hi! I really appreciate this post and am glad I found it just before my trip! Did you hike solo? If not, would you think it’s safe to hike solo? I’m a moderately experienced hiker, more concerned with if there are others on the trails (PR8 and PR10)?

Hi Patricia! Yes, I have hiked solo and felt very safe. On most popular hikes there was also plenty of people and even on those less popular, I was never completely alone. I am a moderate hiker myself 🙂 The Pico to Pico was the most challenging but also the busiest. Great hike and very rewarding. Please be careful tho and don’t underestimate the mountains. There were cases where solo hikers went missing as they went hiking when the trails were closed due to bad conditions. Always check if the trail is safe as when it rains there are landslides and they close the trails. Other than, that hiking in Madeira is most spectacular! Have a wonderful time!

Hi Pati, Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your work on this article – it is super comprehensive, saves bunch of time and helps avoid mistakes like getting off the bus at the wrong stop! It has literally made all the Madeira by bus planning super easy and I keep following your recommendations. So big thanks for this!!! Lucie

Hi Lucie! Thank you very much for your comment! I am so happy I could help! This is exactly the reason I wrote this article. During my stay I had to research it all, ask around, watch random videos and often went the wrong way lol So the idea was to spare all that hussle for future travellers and put all I know into one post. I’m so glad you found it helpful. I hope you loved Madeira as much as I did! Love, Pati x

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One week in Madeira without a car worth it? - Madeira Forum

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One week in Madeira without a car worth it?

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' class=

Is it easy to move around in Madeira without a car ? We could do maybe 3-5 day or half day trips to different destinations where it's possible to do nature walks (max 10 km). We are especially interested in levadas, fountains, lakes, abandoned villages (if there are any) and lush forests. We don't want to go on guided tours.

Is it best to stay in Funchal ? What is the whale watching like in mid April? What about weather? Is it very rainy?

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Whale and dolphin watching is good all year arpund and sealife is often seen. Several companies do the three hour trips, cost arpund €25 - €30 per person, tickets can be bought in the Marina area for all craft.

I am listing a few sites which may help you and also give you lots of insight to the landscape and scenery.

http://www.madeira-seekers.com

http://www.madeirahappytours.com

http://www.madeia-fauna-flora.com

http://www.rodoeste.pt

http://www.horariosdofunchal.pt

http://www.madeira-explorers.com

http://www.madeira-levada-walks.com

Weather - anybodys guess but not usually too wet in April which is the end of the Winter.

I agree with Flowercity (post 1).

I am sure someone on here will be able to help you regarding transport .

' class=

Can i assume that the levada tour companies will pick you up from a Machico hotel if needed?

Funchal is definitely the place to stay, you can get to almost everywhere by bus from there, and even walking round the city with its gardens and parks is a delight. In just a week you will be able to see so much of the island- even after many visits I have only seen and done a tiny proportion of what I want to. I do hope you choose to visit Madeira as it's definitely a nature lovers' paradise and perfect for walking.

Roseandvine, do you know where I can find information about the bus routes? Can you recommend any specific walks that are easily accessible?

Ok thanks for the responses.

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visit madeira without a car

Madeira Solo Travel: A Magical Solo Trip Guide (2024)

Misty golden sunsets. Lush tropical forests. Dazzling ocean views. Solo travel in Madeira is an adventurous traveler’s dream come true! As a remote worker, I’m always looking for a great place to call home while traveling alone throughout Portugal. Thanks to its world-class hiking, unique natural pools, and impressive, towering waterfalls, my trip to Madeira was nothing short of magical!

Known as the Hawaii of Europe, this Portuguese island offers a clean and safe environment along with a range of coworking spaces that made it perfect for a two-week stay. There are an astounding 6 different climates spread across Madeira’s landscape with unique levada trails, the black sand beach of Seixal, and its fascinating fanal forest.

With beautiful fishing villages, awe-inspiring sunsets, and charming traditional thatch roof houses, this island is chock full of delicious food, world-famous wine, and a heavy dose of nature and relaxation. It’s easy to see why Madeira is one of the best places for solo travel in Portugal !

Keep reading for all the best tips on things to do and see in Madeira, plus where to stay, how to get around, and epic places to go like Funchal, Ponta do Sol, Pico Arieiro, Santana, and Pico Ruivo.

Let’s take a look at all the magnificent things this island has to offer!

Table of Contents

What is Madeira Known For?

Madeira, a volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, is an autonomous region of Portugal with a unique geographical location. Despite being part of Portugal, this slice of paradise is actually closer to Africa!

Among the five islands, Madeira stands as the largest, captivating visitors with breathtaking landscapes and extensive hiking trails. With its black sand beaches and magnificent mountains, this volcanic haven has some seriously remarkable natural beauty.

Madeira is also renowned for its winemaking heritage. And it’s the birthplace of soccer/football legend Cristiano Ronaldo. His hometown is so proud, they even named the local airport after him!

At just 35 miles long and 13 miles wide, the island of Madeira is a small oasis brimming with adventure. Be aware that the northern part of the island is quite different from the south. The southern side is known as the “sunny side” thanks to the mountainous wind barrier that shields the south.

However, Northern Madeira isn’t without its own wild charm. Steep, rugged cliffs, untamed jungle-like forests, and plunging waterfalls await explorers on this side of paradise.

While Madeira is certainly incredible, be aware that it may not be the best place for anyone looking for a tropical, pina-colada-in-hand kind of beach getaway. Only a few of its beaches, like Machico and Calheta, have soft, golden sand, and even that was imported.

Additionally, navigating the island can be challenging without renting a car, something you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re planning a solo trip to Madeira.

MADEIRA WINE

Unlike the wineries in Porto or the hilly vineyards of Douro Valley , Madeira wine differs from port and vinho verde. This unique, fortified wine is available in different styles that range from dry to sweet.

The Taste of Madeira Wine: Madeira wine gets its unique taste from the process of repeatedly heating it, resulting in flavors reminiscent of sweet syrups and toasted nuts. It’s common to taste notes of caramel, walnut oil, peach, hazelnut, orange peel, and burnt sugar.

How to Drink Madeira Wine: Dry styles of Madeira, such as Sercial and Verdelho, are best served chilled with starter courses. Sweeter styles are perfect for enjoying after dinner.

Why Travel Solo to Madeira?

Traveling solo to Madeira is an unforgettable experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Boasting some of the most beautiful nature in the world, incredible hiking opportunities, a mild climate and affordable prices, this hidden gem offers unique cultural experiences and delicious food.

Let’s take a look at the top reasons to enjoy solo travel in Madeira:

  • Nature: Nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, you’ve found your place! On Madeira, you can savor breathtaking views of the largest laurel forest in the world, as well as stunning natural waterfalls and coastal views.
  • Hiking: Explore the island’s unique levadas , irrigation channels built by hand hundreds of years ago, while taking in lush greenery and spectacular cliff-side vistas. Afterward, take a dip in a natural lava pool to unwind. Just make sure to be careful with the terrain, and take precautions if you’re a badass woman hiking alone .
  • Weather: Locals claim this Portuguese island has one of the best climates in the world with warm temperatures year-round.
  • Affordable: Prices here are lower than many other popular European tourist destinations so your budget will stretch further than ever.
  • Hidden Gem: Madeira is not as well known internationally (yet!) so you can enjoy all the adventure and relaxation without the annoying crowds.
  • Unique Culture & Experiences: This volcanic island is filled with black sand beaches and tons of interesting historical sites to explore, like the typical Santana Madeira houses thatch roof houses.
  • Delicious Food: Try some local specialties you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll be craving lapas and bolo do caco before you know it!
  • World-Famous Wine: Sip on Madeira’s world-renowned wines while enjoying your solo travel experience.
  • Digital Nomad Communities: Madeira has built some impressive digital nomad communities, making this a great remote work destination where you do plenty of relaxing after an adventurous solo trip to Porto.

Solo Travel Tip: Even if you don’t want to stay at a hostel, you can still reap all the benefits! Sign up for tours run through reputable hostels, grab a drink at their bar if there is one, and seek out restaurants near hostels for a good shot at meeting others who are traveling alone!

Is Madeira Safe for Solo Travel?

Is Madeira safe? Why, yes, in fact, Madeira is even known as one of the best European cities for solo travel, and one of the safest European cities for solo female travelers! This island offers one of the most secure environments for anyone exploring on their own.

Just like with Porto solo travel , I felt totally at ease strolling through Funchal’s streets at night. The locals are friendly, patient and welcoming, and crime is rare here. The only thing to watch out for is potential overcharging from taxi drivers!

Without any wild animals or dangerous places to avoid, the main thing to be cautious of is the terrain. You’ll want to be careful while hiking Madeira, especially after it’s rained, and make sure to avoid swimming in any strong currents on the northern side.

Not only is Madeira a safe and crime-free destination, this island takes health and sanitation seriously. It was awesome to see that the majority of local restaurants voluntarily participated in a clean & safe stamp initiative, sort of like sanitation grades in the US. Starting to see why so many people call this place paradise?

Best Places to Visit in Madeira

There are so many incredible places to visit while traveling solo through Madeira. As soon as I arrived, I realized that one trip just wouldn’t be enough!

From the charming streets of Funchal to the breathtaking cliffs of Cape Girao and the tranquil beaches of Porto Santo, you’ll never run out of new places to discover. Here are the top can’t-miss destinations in Madeira.

Funchal, Madeira’s vibrant capital city, offers a delightful blend of charming old streets, picturesque waterfront views, and a bustling atmosphere filled with cultural attractions and lively markets.

Funchal is the largest town in Madeira with approximately 100,000 inhabitants and is the most common place for travelers to stay. This city is highly walkable so you can easily explore its enchanting corners and unique ambiance.

Things to do in Funchal

  • Visit the Funchal Cathedral , a 16th-century historical landmark said to have one of the most beautiful ceilings in Portugal with intricate wood carvings. Good news: it’s totally free to visit!
  • Explore the charms of Funchal’s Old Town. Make sure you visit Mercado dos Lavradores , the local farmer’s market, to check out its beautiful exotic flowers and souvenirs. Open every day.
  • Take a cable car ride up to Monte where you can visit Monte Palace Tropical Garden , one of the best photo spots on the island.
  • Visit Madeira Botanical Gardens to enjoy gorgeous flowers from all over the world alongside an epic seaside view from a hill above Funchal.
  • Participate in a centuries-old Madeira tradition by taking a wicker basket toboggan ride from Monte back down to Funchal.
  • You can’t go to Madeira and not do a little wine tasting! Visit Blandy’s Wine Lodge to try Madeira’s diverse range of fortified wines and learn about the unique wine-making techniques that date back to the 15th century.

READ NEXT: 16 Phenomenal Wineries in Porto, Portugal

2. Ponta do Sol

Ponta do Sol, a small village on the southwest coast of Madeira, derives its name from its unique position as the “point of the sun,” the best spot to see breathtaking sunsets on the island.

Reminiscent of the miradouros that make up the most Instagrammable places in Lisbon , this charming destination is not only great for swimming, it’s also home to Europe’s first digital nomad village. An ideal spot for a peaceful remote work retreat. In fact, it may even be one of the overall best beach towns in Portugal!

Things to do in Ponta do Sol

  • Walk the trails of the Paul da Serra Plateau , the flattest location on the island. (AKA my favorite location on the island!)
  • Catch the world’s dreamiest sunset from above the clouds at Pico Ruivo , Madeira’s highest peak.
  • Feel like the star of your own wanderlust movie as you drive underneath the Anjos waterfall on the old coastal road.
  • Join a digital nomad dinner with incredible coastal views. One takes place every Friday night at the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol restaurant, a great way for anyone on a working vacation to socialize!

3. Pico do Arieiro

Just wait! The jaw-dropping views and plunging cliffs of Pico do Arieiro, the third-highest peak in Madeira, will fill you with an unforgettable sense of awe.

Things to do in Pico do Arieiro

  • This peak is famous for its beautiful 6-mile hike surrounded by mountains and clouds. Keep in mind the terrain is difficult with a 3000-foot (1000m) incline on the return trip. Don’t worry, there are handrails for support!

4. São Vicente

Sao Vicente, nestled on the northern coast of Madeira, captivates adventurers and solo travellers with its dramatic volcanic caves, cascading waterfalls, and enchanting geological wonders.

Things to do in Sao Vicente

  • Explore the Sao Vicente Caves , a mesmerizing underground network of volcanic tunnels where you can journey through the island’s geological past. ( Important Note: the caves are currently closed after a 2020 earthquake.)
  • Hike the  La Levada do Norte  through the dense Folhadal forest and explore lush vegetation, serene forests, and picturesque waterways.

Santana, a quaint village in Madeira, is full of picturesque charm. It’s known for its palheiros , white stucco A-framed houses with colorful doors and thatched roofs. These traditional Madeira houses are unique to the north side of the island.

Things to do in Santana

  • Visit the traditional houses at Santana Old House and Casa Tipicas de Santana .
  • Stop by Miradouro Rocha do Navio to enjoy epic views of a waterfall along the lush cliffs of the eastern coast.

MUST-SEE ARCHITECTURE

Love unique architecture? Solo travel in Spain is full of stunning Spanish royal palaces and jaw-dropping Moorish buildings that make up the absolute best photo spots in Seville . The influence of the Moors can be seen across all of Portugal, Morocco , and Andalusia. For more dazzling historic marvels, visit The Mezquita on a day trip to Cordoba or explore The Alcazar on your next solo trip to Seville .

6. Porto Moniz

A visit to Porto Moniz is a must when visiting Madeira. This coastal town leaves a lasting impression thanks to its natural rock pools, stunning ocean views, and unique volcanic landscape.

Things to do in Porto Moniz

  • Visit the two free saltwater lava pools this town is famous for. Where else can you float in a pool carved from a tongue of volcanic lava flowing into the ocean?

7. Porto da Cruz

Porto da Cruz, a gorgeous seaside village on the northeast coast of Madeira, is an enchanting little corner of the island. While there’s not much to do here, it sure is a beautiful place to do nothing.

Things to do in Porto da Cruz

  • Tour Engenho do Norte, the sugarcane factory and rum distillery . If you’re visiting between March and May, you’ll get to see the whole plant in action.
  • Dying to learn how to surf? Hit up the surf school here for a few lessons.

SURFING IN MADEIRA

Did you know there are tons of epic surf towns in Portugal? This European gem is known as a surfing mecca thanks to its consistent surfing in Peniche, Ericeira, Sagres, and more! Plus, there are a diverse array of wave types, and a sunny year-round climate, with destination suited for all skill levels.

Madeira, with its unique volcanic coastline, provides a challenging and exciting surf experience best suited for experts. The biggest draw is Jardim de Mar, a competition-pedigree right break. However, there are still a few beginner-friendly sandy-bottomed breaks available at Porto da Cruz, Machico and Seixal.

8. Cape Girão

Cape Girao is a magnificent sea cliff on the south coast of Madeira. This spot is the second-highest seacliff in the world, offering awe-inspiring panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding island.

Things to do in Cape Girao

  • Head to the Cabo Girao Skywalk , a glass-floor viewpoint that sits 580 meters above the ground on Europe’s highest seacliff.
  • Explore the darling little town of Câmara de Lobos , its picturesque bay dotted with the traditional fishing boats known as xavelhas .

9. Porto Santo

Porto Santo, another island in the archipelago, is definitely worth a visit thanks to its sandy golden beaches, turquoise waters, and a tranquil atmosphere perfect for a little rejuvenation. With its oceanside bars and lovely boardwalk, this spot definitely reminded me of a more laidback version of the beaches in Cascais .

Things to do in Porto Santo

  • Rent a scooter after you arrive and head to the town of Vila Baleira to explore.
  • Have a beach day at Ponta Calheta , filled with rocky pools, soft golden sand dunes, and crystal-clear water.

Getting from Madeira to Porto Santo

  • Take the Lobo Marinho ferry, operated by Porto Santo Line.
  • Ferries run daily and take about 2.5 hours.
  • Boats depart from Funchal’s South Harbor.
  • A roundtrip ticket costs about €60.
  • From October – June, no ferry runs on Tuesdays.
  • Short inter-island flights are also available.

Learn more about Madeira to Porto Santo by ferry.

Seixal is a charming village with one of the most unique black sand beaches set amongst a majestic mountain backdrop studded with cascading waterfalls. Near Porto Moniz, Seixal Beach is a 40-minute drive from Funchal with plenty of easy parking.

Things to do in Seixal

  • Visit the free Seixal Natural Pools where you can swim in volcanic, lava-rock tidal pools, surrounded by towering arches made of rock, and giant caves.
  • Make your way to Seixal Bech before dawn to watch an incredible sunrise from atop the soft black sand.

BEST BEACHES

More epic views and stunning beaches are waiting on mainland Portugal! Book Algarve solo travel so you can explore Albufeira, Lagos, Faro, and more of this region’s amazing coastal beauty. PS: You can cover the most ground by planning a couple epic day trips from Faro .

11. Machico

The first settlement on Madeira island, Machico is a charming fishing village that rests in a picturesque valley beside the ocean. With plenty of great food, hiking, and beautiful beaches, Machico is a great addition to any Madeira solo travel itinerary.

Things to do in Machico

  • Enjoy a relaxing beach day at Praia de Machico, where you can sunbathe on soft, golden sand imported from the Sahara Desert.
  • Explore Madeira’s history in the old fishing quarter in the eastern part of the city.
  • Head to the nearby village of Santa Cruz to check out Quinta do Revoredo and Praia das Palmeiras.

READ NEXT: 13 Breathtaking Public Beaches in Laguna Beach, CA

12. Fanal Forest

The Fanal Forest in Madeira is the most unique spot on Madeira, especially on rainy days when it becomes the go-to spot in the Northside. This Laurissilva forest is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site and subtropical rainforest that is said to be… get this… 20 million years old!

With its ancient, eerie-looking trees, the park-like area exudes a spooky and mystical atmosphere, making it perfect for capturing extraordinary photos and embarking on an extraordinary adventure. However, to fully experience the mystical fog, it’s recommended to visit on a cloudy or rainy day, as the charm of the forest may not be as pronounced on clear days.

Best Tours for Solo Travelers in Madeira

Discover the wonders of Madeira through a variety of captivating tours that showcase the island’s natural beauty, rich culture, and breathtaking landscapes. These Madeira tours are perfect for anyone traveling alone who wants to stay safe and make new friends!

  • Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour: Discover the ultimate dolphin and whale watching experience on an eco-friendly catamaran before visiting Cabo Girão for a refreshing swim. Book now!
  • Hiking Tour: Experience one of Madeira’s most famous levada walks and get up close and personal with a number of stunning waterfalls in the Rabaçal Valley. Book now!
  • Funchal Walking Tour: Taste traditional products from local markets, restaurants, and wine producers as you learn about the history of Funchal. Book now!
  • Best of East Madeira: Explore the eastern parts of Madeira on a full-day tour from Funchal. Head to Pico do Arieiro, see the emblematic thatch roof houses in Santana, before taking in stunning views from Penha d’Águia in Porto da Cruz. Book now!
  • Best of West Madeira: Witness the natural beauty of the west of Madeira’s deep valleys and traditional fishing villages. Enjoy breathtaking views at Cabo Girão Skywalk and marvel at the volcanic pools of Porto Moniz. Book now!

Check out all of the best tours in Madeira!

Best for solo travelers in a hurry: Only have a few days to see Madeira? This 2-day tour will take you to all the top landmarks including Girao Cape, the Porto Moniz natural pools, the fishing village of Camara de Lobos, and the Arieiro and Ruivo summits.

Book your 2-day Madeira experience now!

What to Eat in Madeira

Madeira Island is a culinary paradise with some of the best food in Portugal! Full of fresh seafood, delicious traditional meat dishes, and mouthwatering desserts, keep reading for a look at the best things to eat during Madeira solo travel:

  • Espetada: Skewers of marinated beef cooked over an open fire, often served with traditional bolo do caco bread.
  • Black Scabbard Fish: A local delicacy, typically served with banana or passion fruit sauce, showcasing the island’s abundant seafood.
  • Bolo do Caco: A traditional Madeiran bread, usually served with garlic butter and enjoyed as a side or as a base for sandwiches.
  • Poncha: A popular Madeiran alcoholic beverage made with sugar, lemon juice, and Aguardente de Cana (sugarcane spirit), available in various flavors.
  • Espada com Banana: Black Scabbard Fish paired with caramelized bananas, creating a unique and delicious flavor combination.
  • Madeira Wine: Renowned worldwide, the sweet fortified wine produced in Madeira is a must-try, offering a wide range of varieties and vintages.
  • Milho Frito: Fried maize cubes, often served as a side dish or snack, providing a delightful crunch and flavor.
  • Passion Fruit Pudding: A delightful dessert made with fresh passion fruit juice, combining a tangy and tropical taste.

Best Madeira Restaurants for Solo Travelers

Good news for anyone planning to do some solo dining in Madeira! This small island is surprisingly full of people eating alone at restaurants, thanks in part to its thriving digital nomad communities. Here are a few of my favorite places to eat in Madeira:

  • Bela 5 Snack Bar – For something low-key and local-approved, head to Bela 5 where you can enjoy plenty of poncha and grilled fish in a cozy bar setting.
  • Restaurante O Portão – For a comfortable, relaxed, atmosphere and well-prepared dishes, head to O Portão. The Espetada is top-notch!
  • Kampo (Funchal) – A great option for foodies, Kampo is an upscale restaurant in central Funchal with an inventive seasonal menu.
  • William’s Restaurant – This Michelin-starred restaurant is located inside the posh, pink hotel called Reid’s Palace. Don’t miss the afternoon tea, served on a balcony overlooking the ocean!
  • Prima Caju – A great option for vegetarian and vegan-friendly travelers, this spot serves up healthy couscous, poke bowls, salads, smoothies and more. Not to mention, they have a gorgeous, hip interior filled with plants and greenery.
  • A Tendinha – For a budget-friendly meal, head to this beloved Funchal establishment with hearty dishes like fish, burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

Funchal Nightlife

If you’re looking for a party, Funchal is where it’s at. Checking out the exciting nightlife is one of the best things to do alone in Madrid , and in Madeira, the story’s the same!

While I, unfortunately, had to work most evenings due to the time difference, these bars and nightclubs came highly recommended by fellow travelers:

  • Madeira Rum House : Check out this spot for rum flights, some of the island’s best poncha, along with a quick education on how rum is made!
  • Vespas : In the mood to dance? This house music club is has the best dance floor in town!
  • Trap Music Bar : Though the name is a little misleading after the emergence of the trap music genre, this is the rooftop in town with live singers and even a highly-recommended weekend brunch.
  • Maresia Shisha Lounge Bar : Papaya trees, themed parties, and tropical cocktails. Need I say more? This Madeira beach club is just as heavenly by day as at night.

PORTUGAL NIGHTLIFE

If it’s nightlife you’re after, a solo trip to Lisbon may be just the trip for you! From rooftop bars to never-before-seen speakeasies, Portugal’s capital is the perfect place to party the night away.

Coworking in Madeira

Great news for remote workers! Madeira is a digital nomad hub full of coworking spaces with fast, reliable internet and wifi. The prices vary between €10-20 per day

  • Funchal : Cowork Funchal was a lifesaver thanks to the 24/7 access it provided while I worked remotely from Madeira island.
  • Ponta do Sol: Home to Madeira’s first digital nomad village, Working Space @ Ponta do Sol is a fantastic option for working and networking.

READ NEXT: 35+ Things to Do Alone in Lisbon as a Solo Traveler

Where to Stay in Madeira

Madeira has a variety of accommodations to suit every need, from luxurious five-star resorts with stunning sea views, to charming guesthouses and coliving spaces within the island’s lush landscape. Whether you prefer to be surrounded by Funchal’s vibrant city life or the tranquility of nature, there are plenty of hostels and hotels for solo travellers in Madeira!

29 Madeira Hostel

Best for budget travelers or anyone who prefers a social, lively hostel, 29 Madeira Hostel offers a cozy, friendly ambiance conveniently situated in the heart of Funchal. They offer plenty of tours, pub crawls, and social events that are easy ways to meet your next travel bestie.

Book your stay at 29 Madeira Hostel now!

Estalagem do Mar

Estalagem do Mar is an incredibly attractive accommodation option in Ponta do Sol, renowned for its serene seaside setting. Offering comfortable rooms with panoramic ocean views, this hotel is an ideal choice for anyone looking to unwind amidst the island’s natural beauty.

Book your stay at Estalagem do Mar now!

Ponta do Sol Coliving

Ponta do Sol Coliving is a unique design villa in Madeira, that caters to digital nomads. With modern amenities, high-speed internet, and a communal environment, it combines work and leisure, all while overlooking the stunning ocean views of the island’s southern coastline.

Book your stay at Ponta do Sol Coliving now!

Reid’s Palace

Reid’s Palace, a landmark of luxury hospitality, (and very cute pink hotel!) offers a unique blend of classic charm and modern comfort. Get lost in the Funchal hotel’s rich history while enjoying top-tier amenities, including a spa, fine dining options, and rooms with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Book your stay at Reid’s Palace now!

When to Visit Madeira

Madeira offers a range of great times for solo travelers based on your preferred activities and weather preferences. Spring and Autumn are the prime seasons for hiking, with mild temperatures and vibrant landscapes. If you’re a beach enthusiast, summer is the best time to enjoy the inviting coastal areas.

March and April bring a unique possibility of snowfall, adding an extra touch of beauty to the mountainous regions. However, keep in mind that the island experiences its highest rainfall between October and January, so those seeking drier weather should plan their visit accordingly.

Madeira, Portugal in winter is one of the warmer destinations and can offer a nice, relaxing escape into nature. The island is also a fun place to spend New Years, setting off the largest annual fireworks display in the country!

Check out my guide to the  best time to visit Portugal  for more information on weather during every season.

Local’s Tip: The most beautiful time of the year to visit Madeira is by and far in April when the purple jacaranda trees are in full bloom, covering the island with their ethereal, blossoming beauty!

How to Get Around Madeira

Getting around Madeira can be challenging without a car, as public transport options are limited. However, the roads on the island are generally in good condition, and there are several tunnels that facilitate travel between different regions.

If you prefer ride-hailing services, Bolt, similar to Uber, operates on the island. It’s worth noting that remote areas may have little to no transportation options available, so planning ahead and considering car rental can provide more flexibility for exploring Madeira.

If you plan to rent a car in Madeira , pre-book online so you can pick it up at the airport when you land.

Navigating Madeira Without a Car

Getting around Madeira without a car is easier than it may seem, thanks to alternative transportation options like buses, taxis, and organized tours. Discovering hidden gems and exploring the island’s breathtaking landscapes and vibrant attractions is convenient and hassle-free, even without a personal vehicle.

  • Day Tours: Day tours are the best way to get around Madeira if you’re traveling solo. They typically cost less than €40 and have small groups so it’s easy to meet new people.
  • Taxis: You can actually book a taxi to chauffeur you around for the day. The typical rate is about €90, but make sure you negotiate. You can typically find a line of taxis across from the tourist office on Avenida Arriaga.
  • Rideshare: Bolt (an Uber equivalent) is available on Madeira, but since the island is small, there aren’t a ton of drivers. Wait time and availability can be a problem, and you should avoid attempting rideshare if you plan on going to any remote locations.
  • Buses: The buses in Madeira, run by Horários do Funchal, typically serve commuters with limited routes so they aren’t the best way to get around. However, if you still want to use public transportation, you can buy a bus ticket when you board so be sure you have spare change.
  • Coach Tours: If you’re staying in a hotel, they may offer daily Coach bus tours that will take you around the different sides of the island for free.

Tips for Driving in Madeira

Overall, driving in Madeira is not as scary as some make it out to be. The roads are in great condition, and there are a few major highways and tunnels that connect the main parts of the island. Reaching remote hikes may be the most difficult part, but rest assured that the mountain roads have barriers between your car and the cliffs.

  • Sharp Turns: Some mountain roads have sharp turns. Make sure to slow down in advance and use GPS to anticipate upcoming turns.
  • Steep Inclines: If you want to explore remote locations, plan on navigating a few steep roads. Rent a larger car with plenty of power to easily propel up any sharp inclines.
  • Passing Vehicles: On mountain roads, prepare to encounter trucks and buses. Pull over as far as you can to let them pass. While it might look like a tight squeeze, they’re accustomed to navigating these roads so they’ll know how much space they need.
  • Patient Locals: Locals are patient with tourists so don’t stress about honking or tight squeezes. I actually had a tour bus driver hop out and direct a struggling tourist during one of my Madeira day trips. He even did it with a smile on his face!

Madeira Airport

Madeira’s International Airport is small and easy to navigate. (It’s actually named after their favorite local celebrity, Cristiano Ronaldo!)

Here are the easiest ways to get from the airport to your accommodation:

  • Taxi: Take a 30-minute taxi from the airport to Funchal for around €25-€40.
  • Book Private Transfer: If you’re staying anywhere other than near Funchal, it’s best to hire a car through your hotel or hostel, or book through a provider.

Where to Visit Next

Combine your trip to Madeira with 2 days in Marrakech on a Morocco solo travel adventure. Can’t get enough island time? Book your flight and enjoy epic week of solo travel in Azores ! Or head to mainland Portugal and discover the best things to do in Obidos or the incredible Douro Valley wineries.

If you’re in the mood for some seriously good food, you could also plan a solo trip to Spain where you can eat all the best tapas in Madrid or Barcelona! No matter where you go next, the magical memories from Madeira will stay with you forever!

RELATED POSTS:

  • Santana Madeira Houses: Traditional Island Homes
  • Fanal Forest, Madeira: Tour the Mysterious Woods
  • Azores Solo Travel: An Epic Adventure Guide
  • Portugal Solo Travel: 21 Best Places for a Solo Trip
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  • 10 Best Places to Stay in Lisbon for Solo Travelers
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MORE PORTUGAL TRAVEL GUIDES

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  • Porto Viewpoints: 11 Mesmerizing Miradouro Views
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  • Portugal in Winter: Things to Do in December, January, & February

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Red White Adventures

Everything you need to know about driving in madeira.

Driving in Madeira: Is it as sketchy as people make it out to be? All we can say is that we’re quite lucky to be driving around Madeira now compared to 10 years ago.

Before the EU turned Madeira into a big Swiss cheese with tunnels everywhere, driving in Madeira was a lot more dangerous and took forever (yay for tunnels).

Now with over 150 tunnels around the island connecting the most isolated towns and villages to the main roads, it makes driving in Madeira quite fun and enjoyable.

visit madeira without a car

All the tunnels around the island have basically helped tourism boom over the years in Madeira because it’s now easy to drive from one side of the island to the other.

Back in the day, you had to take sketchy and dangerous roads around the coast that would take up to 12 hours (!) to get from one side to the other.

Now thanks to the tunnels the time has been cut drastically and you can get across the entire island in less than 2 hours. Also, it is now very safe to drive around Madeira as a tourist.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means if you decide to use the links and make a valid purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Table of Contents

Everything you need to know about driving in Madeira

Madeira is a super easy island to get around – with or without a car! There are buses that can take you almost everywhere and anywhere on the island (we use buses quite often).

There are also lots of awesome tours to all the Levada hikes that pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation (especially if you’re staying in Funchal). So you really don’t need a car when visiting Madeira.

However, the freedom of having your own car and being able to go wherever you want without having to wait for a bus is the best.

We recently spent a few months in Madeira and we liked to switch things up.

We did some guided tours, did some hikes that we could access by bus, and we also rented a car a few times from downtown Funchal.

It was really fun being able to stop at waterfalls or some of the beaches in Madeira and that’s just one of the many perks of renting or driving your own car.

Where to rent a car in Madeira

Pebble beach in Funchal with buildings in the background.

The best and cheapest place to rent a car is going to be in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, and Funchal airport.

You can look online here first for car rentals from Madeira Airport since that’s more convenient.

If you’re looking for a car just for a day or two when you plan to do a trip it’s best to rent from a company in Funchal.

We went with Five Rent a Car in downtown Funchal and dealt with a guy named Bruno (not sure if he works there anymore) and it was probably the best rental car experience we’ve had.

In general, though, Five Rent seems like the best rental car in Funchal and we’ve also had friends use them and they’ve said the same thing.

Their prices do change day to day depending on the supply and demand of the cars but we paid roughly $30 a day for the car.

Full insurance was also included but that was during the quiet season (in February and March). You can probably expect to pay a little more than that!

A simple tip when it comes to renting a car (and this applies anywhere, not just when driving in Madeira) is to look at a general booking site and compare prices.

There are so many different companies and since the prices change based on supply and demand, it’s easier to compare and keep an overview when you look at a bigger booking site instead of on each individual car rental company’s site.

The one we usually use is DiscoverCars since we have found them to have the best customer service, but there are lots of other comparison sites out there.

Picture of a car rental from Madeira Airport in Portugal.

Why having a car is convenient in Madeira

Even though we just said you can take public transport and go on guided tours so you don’t actually need a car there are some exceptions.

If you’re staying in Funchal during your trip to Madeira, all of the above applies to you. Funchal is a really good place to stay when visiting this beautiful island. 

However, if you’re anywhere else on the island like Porto da Cruz or Ponta do Sol then having a car is just that much more convenient.

Also if you want to get to some of the more remote levada walks on the island or hidden beaches in Madeira having a car comes in handy.

You’ll pay less money for accommodation staying in some of these smaller cities and coastal towns. With that extra money, you can rent a car and use it for driving around Madeira.

The fact that the roads and tunnels are built for getting around the island that much easier, it really is quite fun driving in Madeira.

Add in the fact you can get almost anywhere on the island within an hour or so and you have endless possibilities for day trips and hikes in Madeira .

Also read: Everything You Need to Know About the Cost of Living in Madeira

Random facts about driving in Madeira

  • Like most of Europe, you need to be 18 to legally drive in Madeira
  • By law, it is required to wear a seatbelt while you’re driving in a car
  • Driving in Madeira is a lot safer and easier than people make it out to be
  • In case of emergency, you can call “112” for police, ambulance, and firefighters
  • Like in mainland Portugal, you drive on the right-hand side in Madeira
  • There are over 150 tunnels around Madeira that make travelling to different areas a lot easier
  • Diesel in Portuguese is called gasóleo. It’s slightly confusing but remember gasóleo is diesel
  • In Portuguese the word for gas is gasolina. Yes, it’s slightly confusing because of the similarity of the words but gas is gasolina. 

Other related questions to driving in Madeira

Is it easy to drive in madeira.

Driving in Madeira is very easy. There are a few main highways on Madeira that connect you around the island and also through the middle from south to north. Overall, the roads are really good.

The only challenging part about driving in Madeira is when you go to some of the hikes.

The incline on some of the smaller roads can be pretty crazy and something you may not be used to. It’s a volcanic island so steep inclines are to be expected!

We found that the local drivers were mostly really good drivers, and on the roads with a lot of inclines, the speed is obviously slower which makes it easier to navigate steeper and more narrow roads.

It’s not often there are steep drop-offs so it feels safe even for someone like Jo who isn’t a huge fan of driving.

If you take your time and pay attention as you drive then driving in Madeira is very easy.

Is it expensive to rent a car in Madeira?

The price of car rentals in Madeira depends on the supply and demand of people renting the cars on any given day.

Based on tourism in Madeira, May through September are going to be the most expensive months of the year to rent a car in Madeira. 

During February and March, we rented a car multiple times from Five Rent a Car and it was roughly $30 a day including insurance.

However, looking at the prices now, the cost seems to have gone up. Thankfully, the distances aren’t that far in Madeira so you won’t be paying too much for fuel for the car.

Again, you can also check DiscoverCars or another booking site to find the best deals.

The sooner you book, the better the prices usually are.

Do you need a car to get around Madeira?

You don’t need a car to get around Madeira because there is public transport all around the island, especially in Funchal and on the east side of Madeira.

Having a car is definitely more convenient though and you won’t have to worry about waiting for buses and trying to time it perfectly so you don’t miss the bus that comes every few hours. 

So even though you don’t need a car in Madeira we do recommend renting one if you plan to explore and hike around Madeira.

How steep are the roads in Madeira?

A fun fact about Madeira is that it has some of the steepest roads in the world. There are sections in Madeira, up in the mountains, where you can find sections with a gradient of 45% .  

Of course, 45% isn’t all around the island but there are definitely sections that are pretty steep where it feels a little icky to drive at first.

If you plan to do a lot of hiking around the island you will experience some very steep roads.

The steepest road we drove our rental car on was 32% incline up to Levada do Alecrim !

What is the best time to visit Madeira?

Madeira is honestly beautiful all year round but some locals say May is the best time to visit Madeira.

In May you see the wildflowers come to life. May is also a great time of year for whale watching.

Also, May isn’t the peak tourism season in Madeira so things will be less busy than other times of the year such as August and September.

Can you go to Porto Santo by car?

Photo of the Porto Santo ferry.

You cannot go to Porto Santo by car. Porto Santo is a neighbouring island about a 2-hour ferry ride away from Madeira.

The only ways to get to Porto Santo from Madeira are to either take the 2-hour ferry or a 30-minute flight.

What are the best day trips in Madeira?

There are so many day trips you can do around Madeira so picking the best is really hard. Visiting some of the beaches and natural pools in Madeira is a lot of fun.

Also, some of the famous Levada walks like Levada 25 Fontes or Levada do Alecrim are great options. 

Visiting the historic city of Santana or even the magical Fanal Forest are some other awesome day trips you can do from Funchal. Madeira isn’t that big so anywhere on the island will be a day trip or half-day trip!

One of the best one-day tours you can do is also a Madeira West tour where you see famous viewpoints like the Cabo do Girao Skywalk and the natural pools Porto Moniz .

We could go on and on but there are just so many fun things to do on the island.

What side of the road do you drive on in Madeira?

In Madeira, like in most of Europe, you drive on the right-hand side of the road. You drive on the same side of the road as in mainland Portugal.

Also, most of the rental cars are manual but you can find automatic cars but you will have to pay extra for those.

Is Madeira Mountainous?

A man hiking in the mountains of Madeira.

Yes, Madeira is very mountainous and that’s why driving in Madeira is quite unique.

The centre of Madeira has a very mountainous landscape which also leads to some crazy driving conditions.

You may also like…

  • 12 of the Best Hikes to do in Madeira
  • 26 Best Things to do in Funchal, Madeira
  • 21 Pebble and Sandy Beaches to Visit in Madeira
  • The Best Sunrise Spot in Madeira: Pico Ruivo
  • The Most Famous Hike in Madeira – Pico do Arieiro (PR1)

Recap of driving a car in Madeira

Driving in Madeira is a lot of fun and it’s also the best way to get around the island if you plan to get off the beaten path and away from all the tourists. Especially on the less touristy Levada walks and hikes it’s nice to have a car. 

The best piece of advice we can give is to plan in advance and maybe rent a car for 2-3 days at a time and try to plan the trips and hikes that you need a car for.

That way, you can take advantage of having the car and see everything you want in those 2-3 days.

At the end of the day, there are great options to get around the island whether you’re driving in Madeira or getting around by public transport.

We hope you have an amazing time in Madeira and that you enjoy this beautiful island!

If you have any questions related to driving in Madeira and the island in general, leave a comment below, and we’ll try our best to help you out 🙂

Found this post helpful? Save it for later!

visit madeira without a car

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ZigZagonEarth

Plan unforgettable road trips!

4 days in Madeira: tips + itineraries (unforgettable!)

Last updated on November 1, 2023 by Claire Robinson - this article contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them, I get a small commission ( more )

When visiting Madeira in 4 days, you can see a lot: coastal cliffs,  natural pools, mountain peaks, levadas, dolphins and so much more. But there is so much to see and do, that it can be difficult to choose. I have visited every corner of the island, and created 3 itineraries of 4 days in Madeira to help you plan:

  • to see the best of everything,
  • to explore without driving a car,
  • to enjoy the most beautiful hikes if you are more of an outdoor traveler.

I wish you an unforgettable trip to Madeira!

Before my tips + photos, here are my favorites for Madeira:

visit madeira without a car

My favorite platform to rent a car in Madeira: DiscoverCars

The unmissable boat tour: Catamaran tour to go whale watching

My favorite excursion from Funchal:   4×4 tour of East Madeira

MMy favorite places to stay in Funchal:  Les Suites at the Cliff Bay  (Luxury) –  Sé Boutique Hotel  (4 stars) –  Market Place by Storytellers  (apartments)

My favorite places to stay outside Funchal:  Saccharum Resort  near a beach (Luxury) –  Estalagem da Ponta do Sol  (4 stars) –  Engho Velho Hotel  (mid-range)

Visiting Madeira in 4 days – essential to know

Is 4 days enough to visit madeira is it worth it.

I’ll be honest, 4 days is a little short to have time to soak in the beauty of the island. But you can still see a lot of what the island is about in that timeframe: some coastal scene, some gardens and some mountains views. You won’t have time to enjoy everything that the island has to offer but you can enjoy a lot. I think it is worth it, if you are flying from Europe, especially if you can find a direct flight.

My selection of the places not to be missed for first-time visitors

Rocha do Navio

The following itineraries include some of my favorite places and things to do ( see our complete list ). But if you want to create your own, I think the things you should not miss during your trip:

  • the historical center of Funchal and its market
  • one small village-towns such as Camara de Lobos
  • one area of coastal pool made of lava, for example Porto Moniz – see my list
  • one of the cable cars, my favorite is Rocha do Navio – see my list
  • a small collection of viewpoints including Pico do Arieiro – see my list
  • one walk along a levada (irrigation system from the mountains) – see my list
  • one boat tour to find dolphins and – see my tips or check out the available tours directly .

And get more tips in my complete guide to visiting Madeira .

A levada

Do you need a car?

With 4 days, you can plan an itinerary with and without a car. However, to have more freedom to explore you favorite places, the car is the best options. Don’t worry, it is not as crazy as some people write. Read my article about driving in Madeira .

Need to rent a car? My tips:

  • Compare car rental prices on my favorite platform:  Discovercars.com  – one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
  • Choose the car and company you prefer (with enough power for steep roads)
  • Consider their full coverage option – I always take it for peace of mind!
  • Book early  to have a large choice of vehicles!

See my  36 tips about renting a car in Madeira

driving in Madeira

Where to stay in Madeira for 4 days

With only 4 days, I recommend you stay in a single place and get around from it every day. However if you want to be able to see more, you can plan a road trip and change hotel every night.

  • If you are staying without a car stay in Funchal for rentals or in the Lido area for hotels with pools For example, consider the Castanheiro Boutique Hotel – see photos and availability or see best rated accommodations in the area
  • Otherwise, I recommend Machico to easily explore the East of the island. Here you will find mostly rentals. – See best rated accommodations in Machico
  • And for the most central location to explore both east and west, north and south, I recommend Ribeira Brava or Ponta do Sol (which adds a 15min drive). – See best rated accommodations in the town

More tips on  my article about where to stay in Madeira with hotel suggestions .

Les Suites the Cliff Bay hotel Madeira

In Funchal, some hotel suggestions:

  • LUXURY  – Les Suites The Cliff Bay in a stunning environnement –  see photos and availability
  • Luxury in Old Town:  Hotel the Vine, in the old center –  see photos and availability
  • Boutique:  Sé Boutique Hotel, in the old center –  see photos and availability
  • 4 stars:  Hotel Alto Lido, in the Lido area –  see photos and availability
  • Apartments:    Market Place by Storytellers in a pedestrian street in the heart of Funchal  –  see photos and availability

Find our more in  my article about the best place to stay in Funchal .

Itinerary 1 – 4 days in Madeira with the best of everything!

Personally, I love to see as much as I can when traveling. So below is the itinerary I would plan for myself if I had 4 days.

Best place to stay for this itinerary + getting around

If you want to see a lot, I recommend you either change hotels every night to reduce driving times and see every coast. Or stay in the center of the island with easy connections to everywhere, in Ribeira Brava – See best rated accommodations in the town .

And for this itinerary, a car is essential. Compare rental prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com .

Stop 1 – Cabo Girao

Cabo Girao

Head to Cabo Girao at opening time to avoid the largest crowds. Get dizzy because, here, the cliffs reach 589m (1932ft). They are the tallest in Europe. The locals have built a transparent platform to appreciate the height. It is quite impressive to see the height, but apart from that, I thought the views were very limited. Learn more in my article about Cabo Girao .

Stop 2 – Head west to the charming village of Camaro dos Lobos

Camaro dos Lobos

Stroll around the old village and the port: Camara de Lobos. The most famous in Madeira. It is considered the most charming and I agree. Promenades that offer different views surround the tiny fishing port with colorful boats. It is worth spending half a day here, soaking in the atmosphere and maybe enjoying a delicious lunch with fresh fish. See my article .

Stop 3 – Valley of the Nuns

Eira do Serrado - Curral das Frieiras

Head inside the mountains to enter a unique areas. You will feel so small in the Valley of nuns a.k.a.  Curral das Frieiras .

First head to the viewpoint Eira do Serrado – from higher grounds, you can see the hidden valley with giant vertical mountains surrounding the “couldron”. And then, visit the village of Curral das Frieiras. Appreciate the perspective from the bottom of the valley and taste the famous chestnuts!

Stop 1 – Pico do Arieiro

sunrise at Piro do Areiro

Get up early and go watch the sunrise at Pico do Areiro. Plan to arrive at least 30minutes before to see the colors changes and hopefully see the sun rise over the clouds. If you feel like it, do some of the hike towards Pico Ruivo. You can walk 1h one way for a 2h return a hike and see a lot. Learn more .

Stop 2 – drive down to the North Coast and visit Santana with its traditional houses

Santana Houses

One of the largest attractions in Madeira,  the Park is an ethnographic village where you can learn more about the culture, traditions and crafts. The most appreciated feature is the set up inside old traditional houses with triangular thatched rooftops. You can also explore the whole park with gardens and a lake.

Stop 3 – Take the  Rocha do Navio cable car

Rocha do Navio cable car

Finish the day with my favorite cable car. First enjoy the view from the top. The green mountains dropping into the deep blue sea are spectacular! And, as you ride down to sea level, you will be able to several waterfalls. In my opinion, it has be best scenery. You can even see a traditional Santana house in the gardens. The name Rocha do Navio’ refers to the sinking of a Dutch ship in the nineteenth century. Learn more on my Rocha do Navio article .

Stop 4 – Ponta de Sao Lourenço

Ponta do Rosto

Ponta de Sao Louranço is the best place on the island to admire the volcanic origin of Madeira. You walk along the famous “dragon tail” of Madeira surrounded by bare landscapes and colorful rocks. You may not have the time to do the hike, if you decided to hike in the morning. In that case just enjoy the views at the side viewpoint of Ponta do Rosto. You can do as much as walking you want on the trail and turn around. It is impressive and colorful!

You can just admire the views near the carpark or walk as long as you want along the hike. The entire hike is 6.4km/4mi which means 3 to 4h to the Sardinha Caféa and return

I don’t drink coffee

But I also like other drinks and sweets! Do you like the free content you find on my blog? All my tips and practical information, without intrusive advertising…

visit madeira without a car

Stop 1 – 25 Fontes Levada Walk

25 Fontes Levada Walk

Wake up early to enjoy the famous hike: 25 Fontes. This is the most famous Levada walk in Madeira. Head down in the valley to reach the Levada (traditional irrigation channel) and follow the path in lush vegetation. It leads to a small lagoon and many tiny waterfalls crying on a wall, hence the name of 25 springs.

Plus, on that same path, you can also enjoy a quick detour to the Risco waterfall, dropping 100m (330ft) on the side of the mountain. See my complete guide to this hike

Stop 2 – Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz natural pools

Bring your swimsuit. After this long hike, you deserve to go swim in the Porto Moniz Natural pools surrounded by lava. A wonderful and unusual experience. There are 2 areas: the ones that have been made smoother for public use and the more natural ones, near the fort. I recommend first enjoying them on foot: the long strips of lava, the shades of blue and green, the island in the background. But then, make sure to get into the water (seawater). The place is ideal for those who love swimming and the views are mesmerizing. Such a relaxing place to swim. However, don’t swim between 10am and 3pm, when groups are visiting on day trips. I recommend staying later and even spending the night to have a more peaceful experience. See my complete guide .

Stop 3 – Photo stop on the drive back along the North Coast

 black sand beach of Seixal.

On the drive back, stop to see the rock formations at Ribeira da Janela . And then, stop at the black sand beach of Seixal. In my opinion, this is clearly the most beautiful beach on the island. It is what I imagine when thinking of an old volcanic island: smooth black sand with steep cliffs with lush vegetation. There is even a small waterfall on the beach! A beach that has it all: sand, scenery, nice waters… Learn more

And then you can also stop at Miradouro Veu da Noiva for the waterfall.

Day 4 

Stop 1 – Dolphins and whales

dolphins in Madeira

Go on a boat tour to spot dolphins and whales. A great number of whales pass through Madeira each year. Research says that 28 different species of the 78 known can be seen on this island, from various dolphin species to great blue whales. Tours are running year round. The highest quantity of species is from April to September. Learn more

See available tours:

  • Catamaran tour including swimming under Cabo Girao – See options & availability
  • Speed boat tour –  See details & availability
  • Swim with dolphin tour –  See details & availability

Stop 2 –  Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Take the Cable car to high above town. There you can visit one of the gardens. Madeira is s also famous for its man-made natural beauty a.k.a. its gardens. There are several in Funchal, but if you have time only for one, I strongly recommend the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Lush vegetation surrounds the walking paths that lead to water feature, stones, sculptures, tiles, museums and various structures.

Stop 3 – Sled Ride

Toboggan Funchal

Get back downtown by enjoying a toboggan sled ride. It is one of the most unique experiences in Madeira. Very unusual. You are sitting in a basket and transported down the steep streets back to the center of Funchal. And how are you breaking, may you ask… well, 2 men in traditional costumes will use their feet to balance, steer and brake the ride.

Stop 4 – Historical Funchal

Historical Funchal

Explore downtown Funchal. I am not a city person, I prefer nature. But I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the old center of Funchal. It has a lot of charms with lots of trees lining the streets.You should take the time to just stroll around, appreciate the buildings (fort, cathedral, churches…) and enjoy the vibe.

4 days in Madeira – itinerary map

To help you get oriented, here is a map of the areas covered with this itinerary:

Map - 4 days in Madeira

You can find all those stops and more, with practical information (maps, driving times, difficulty to access) in my eBook:

Plan your dream trip in Madeira thanks to my guide

eBook Travel Guide Mallorca

  • 7 maps to easily plan your itinerary
  • 120+ pre-selected locations
  • GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
  • Tips to make the most of your time
  • 260+ original photos to help you choose

Itinerary 2 – 4 days in Madeira without a car, based in Funchal

For this itinerary, I recommend staying in Funchal. 2 options:

  • for apartment and house rentals choose the city center and the hills above –  see best rated accommodations in Funchal
  • for hotels with pools, choose the Lido area – see best rated accommodations in the area

And for this itinerary, you can take a few bus and guided tours. For more ideas, see my article about the best madeira tours .

Day 1 –  Hop-on hop-off in Funchal and learn about the city

Hop-on hop-off Funcha

Take it easy to get to know the island. Use the hop-on hop-off bus to explore Funchal. Don’t miss:

  • the old town,
  • the Jesuit College
  • and Farmers Market

Plus it goes to the village of Camara de Lobos , a fishing village with a charming old center. Great place to relax, walk and have lunch.

Camara de Lobos

How long it takes

  • If staying on the bus – 1h35 loop
  • Hop-on and Hop-off to see as much as you want See hop-on hop-off tickets

If you want to learn more about Funchal, you can join a guided walking tour –  See details, availability & book

Day 2 –  Porto Moniz natural pools

Book a tour to the northeast tip of Madeira.  The highlight of the tour are the natural pools bu you will see much more! Swimming in the natural pools of Porto Moniz was one of my favorite experiences on the island. Even just looking at them with the island in the background and the fort on the side. I love lava rock formations… Note – not all tours include time to go swimming.

  • Porto Moniz  Natural Pools – created by lava and filled with sea water
  • The Fanal Forest – with ancient Laurrissilva trees 
  • Seixal natural black sand beach – sand beaches are rare on the island, and this one is stunning with the green lush cliffs next to it.
  • But you can also book other tours that combine Porto Moniz with other parts of the island, such as wine tasting or the Skywalk at Cabo Girao
  • Porto Moniz is 1h drive away from Funchal

See details, availability & book Or  see alternative tours that also include Porto Moniz

Day 3 –  Pico do Arieiro,  Santana & East Madeira

East madeira day trip from Funchal

It is a day with a little bit of everything: coastal views, mountain views, town, history, culture… You will learn a lot about the history and geology of Madeira and visit iconic locations. Main stops

  • The viewpoint of Portela, one of the most beautiful on the island with views of the Eagle Rock (Penha D’Aguia)
  • The Santana traditional thatched houses, iconic of Madeira island
  • The magnificent Pico do Arieiro, 3rd summit of the island with impressive views of the jagged mountain peaks
  • Full day – a loop around the Eastern part of Madeira island 
  • Machico is 30min from Funchal
  • Santana is 20min away from Machico
  • Pico do Arieiro is 45min away from Santana, and 40min away from Funchal
  • Group tours a 4×4 but you can visit all those locations renting a normal car

See details, availability & book

Day 4 – Boat, cable car, garden and sled ride

Dolphins in Madeira

Go on a boat tour to spot dolphins and whales. A great number of whales pass through Madeira each year. Research says that 28 different species of the 78 known can be seen on this island, from various dolphin species to great blue whales. Tours are running year round. The highest quantity of species is  from April to September. Learn more

Monte Palace Tropical Garden waterfall

Itinerary 3 – 4 hiking days in Madeira

Madeira has some of the most fascinating hikes I have every done. Between high mountain peaks, lush levada walks and bare landscape, you can have a wonderful time in 4 days. Here is my selection of the 4 best to complete on your trip but you can see my complete list with all my favorite hikes .

The best hikes are mostly on the east side of the island. So you can stay in Funchal with rentals in the old center and hotels with pools in the Lido area – see best rated accommodations in the area

Or stay in the center of the island with easy connections to everywhere, in Ribeira Brava – See best rated accommodations in the town .

And for this itinerary, a car is essential. Compare rental prices on my favorite platform:  Discovercars.com . But if you don’t want to drive, I have also listed guided hike options.

Day 1 –  Ponta de Sao Louranço (PR8)

Ponta de Sao Louranço is the best place on the island to admire the volcanic origin of Madeira. You walk along the famous “dragon tail” of Madeira surrounded by bare landscapes and colorful rocks. Along the hike there are many viewpoints with steep cliffs, sea stacks and magnificent views towards the sea or back toward the island. The peninsula has been beautifully shaped by the elements. It is impressive and colorful!

Ponta de Sao Louranço (PR8)

  • The best times to do this hike are for sunrise – less crowded, not as hot, good colors (if not cloudy), facing the sun – or late afternoon – less crowded, great colors
  • If you are worried about doing this hike on your own, or if you want to learn more about the area, you can join a guided tour –  Learn more and see availability
  • 6.4km/4mi return to the Sardinha Café 3 to 4 hours return Add 1.4km return if you climb to the last viewpoint towards the lighthouse (trail with sign closed)

Day 2 –  25 Fontes (PR6) + Risco waterfall (PR6.1)

This is the most famous Levada walk in Madeira. Head down in the valley to reach the Levada (traditional irrigation channel) and follow the path in lush vegetation. It leads to a small lagoon and many tiny waterfalls crying on a wall, hence the name of 25 springs.

25 Fontes

  • I do think that very early is the best time to start. I arrived at sunrise. I was alone on the walk all the way to the lagoon. It was fantastic to enjoy the path and the silence. It also means that I had finished walking the levada when the larger groups were arriving. So it was perfect. The only drawback was the shuttle was not operating yet when I arrived. But it had started when I was going back up and there were not queue at this hour to take it up to the carpark. PERFECT.
  • 2 to 5 hours depending on your shuttle options
  • You can also join a small group tour to complete this hike with transportation and guide. Just know that they don’t always respect the fact that they write “small group” and that the groups don’t take the shuttle. See options

Day 3 –  Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (PR1) 

This is one of the most impressive hikes I have ever done. It connects Pico do Areeiro (1817m – 5961ft) to Pico Ruivo (1862m – 6108ft), the 3rd and 1st highest peaks on the island. The peaks are sharp and the cliffs dropping straight down around you. You can see mountains all around, as well as the sea on each side. Plus, along the way, there are caves into the volcanic tuff that were shelters for shepherds. You will never get bored (unless you are in the clouds). More pictures on my article about Pico do Arieiro

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (PR1)

  • come for sunrise for 3 reasons: to easily find a spot to park, to have more chance of having the summits about the clouds, and to see the sunrise!
  • Option 1 – return the same as the departure point 14km (8.7mi) – 7 to 8h for total return walk
  • Option 2 – finish at Achada do Teixeira and call a cab to come pick you up and drive you back to the first carpark (important budget + take a cab company phone number with you) 7km + 2,8km = 9,8km (6mi) – 3,5h to 4h to get to Pico Ruivo + 1h to 1h30 to walk down to Achada do Teixeira on PR1.2
  • If you are worried about doing this hike on your own, or if you want to learn more about the area, you can join a guided tour. The group hike does version 2 and the transportation is there, waiting for you, to take you back to your hotel in Funchal. Learn more and check availability Or book a private transfer (option 2 of the walk as well).

Day 4 –  Levada do Caldeirao Verde (PR9)

Another famous Levada walks in Madeira starts at the Parque Floresta das Queimadas. It is a long flat walk in lush vegetation. It leads to a tall waterfall known as Caldeirao Verde. This walk is pretty special. First, there are the weeping walls with green vegetation. And it is also an adventure, because you have to make your way through 5 tunnels. Some of them are quite long and very dark. Kids love it! Adults have mixed feeling, especially when they bump their head… This waterfall walk can also be completed with a loop to a canyon and other waterfalls known as Caldeirao do Inferno, which is quite impressive (although difficult to photograph).

Levada do Caldeirao Verde

  • Once again, I think early morning is best. I arrived at sunrise and was first at the carpark. There was absolutely enough light on the trail and I was alone to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the silence. What a blissful moment! (the return was more frustrating with all the people talking lol).
  • To Caldeirao Verde – 13km/8mi return – 5h30 return To Caldeirao do Inferno – add 4,4km/2,7mi return – add 2h return (worth it!)
  • Here again, if you don’t have transportation or want the services of a guide, you can opt for a guided walking tour. Check out the options

4 or 5 days in Madeira, what is best?

If you can plan 5 days instead of 4, I strongly recommend it. The island is magical and deserves as much time as you can. Plus know that when it is windy, there are often delays for flights, so it can cut short your trip. See my 5 day itineraries

Is 3 days enough to visit Madeira

To be honest I would not go to Madeira for just 3 days. Yes you can enjoy a little bit of the island, but with the unpredictability of the flights, it could really reduce your weekend. Plus, it could be frustrated to have only a glimpse of such a place. I think with only 3 days, it is best to visit a city such as Porto or Lisbon – see my guide Porto or Lisbon

Want to see more of the best Madeira offers?

  • 42 Madeira travel tips to plan an unforgettable trip –  read article
  • Where to stay in Madeira – best areas – read article
  • 35 best things to do in Madeira – read article
  • The best landscapes in Madeira in 40 pictures – read article
  • The 7 cables cars in Madeira and their amazing views – read article
  • 10 best hikes & levada walks in Madeira – reach article
  • Tips to rent a car and drive around Madeira – read article
  • 12 Madeira Hidden Gems – read article
  • 4 Madeira Natural Pools (and 6 coastal alternatives) – read article
  • 18 best beaches in Madeira – read article
  • 7 best Madeira boat tours & trips – read article

Planning a trip to Madeira?

Check out my travel guide to help you plan:

And keep track of your own trip!

Madeira travel Journal

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3 days in Madeira – weekend itineraries

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DRIVING IN MADEIRA: ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR FIRST TIMERS

April 8, 2024

visit madeira without a car

Driving in Madeira is the best way to discover this island of flowers in the Atlantic. A Madeira Road trip will take you to the most spectacular regions of the island.

Follow mountain roads to amazing viewpoints. Experience natural pools and travel to scenic beaches, all under your own speed.

We have the best travel tips for your trip, including the types of roads you’ll drive on, best parking spots, plus what to expect when driving on Madeira.

  • Is driving in Madeira easy?
  • What are Madeira driving rules?
  • Is driving in Madeira safe?
  • What is it like driving around Madeira?

In a rush? Why not save this article to your Pinterest Boards to read later!

visit madeira without a car

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION FOR DRIVING IN MADEIRA

Can you visit madeira without a car, where we rent our cars, is it easy to drive in madeira, madeira map with driving distances between places, madeira driving rules, driving conditions in tenerife, types of roads in madeira, speed limits when driving madeira roads, driving in towns and villages, driving through tunnels, potential dangers for madeira drivers, what to do in the event of a road accident, parking in madeira, petrol stations, renting a car in tenerife, scenic roads and routes in madeira, more posts on madeira.

animals in the road

Whether your Madeira driving route takes you on main roads, side roads or through towns, these tips will help you prepare.

If you are visiting Madeira Island for 3 or 4 days and staying in Funchal, you probably don’t need a car rental. You can visit many attractions without driving in Funchal.

However, driving on Madeira gives you greater flexibility to:

  • Explore popular areas such as Ponta do Garajau Madeira
  • Adjust your itinerary around the weather.
  • Easily reach all the cable cars in Madeira

Having a Madeira car rental is the best way to discover the island. It makes getting around Madeira and being able to explore all those Madeira hidden gems located in tucked away corners.

You can easily pick up your rental car from the airport in Madeira on arrival and start travelling around Madeira straight away.

HOW TO GET AROUND MADEIRA WITHOUT A CAR

It is possible to see the main attractions in Madeira either on an organized tour, or by public transport, which is very efficient.

We always compare prices on Discovercars.com , which is one of the best customer-rated comparison sites on the market.

We always find great prices and the platform is extremely user-friendly and easy to use. You can use several filters to narrow your search and we always take the “extra cover” option for peace of mind and nil excess.

Click to check out the current deals in Madeira.

If you are looking for more help renting a car in Madeira, read our tips for a worry-free experience.

Overall, driving around Madeira is safe and relatively straight forward. Locals are used to tourists visiting on a Madeira Road trip, and are patient and friendly.

Main roads are surfaced with asphalt, and in good condition, with good signage and visibility.

  • Some mountain roads are narrow, steep and have hairpin bends. Just slow down and take your time. Best advice is to hire a car with a powerful engine, that isn’t too big.
  • If you cross the path of a large vehicle such as a coach, slow down and let them pass.
  • Traffic is lighter outside of Funchal, where there are very narrow steep roads.

Below is a map of Madeira with some driving distances between popular places.

  • Funchal to Machico – 25 kms/25 minutes
  • Funchal to Ribeira Brava – 20 kms/25 minutes
  • Funchal to Santana – 41 kms/45 minutes
  • Porto Moniz to Sao Vicente – 16 kms/20 minutes
  • Calheta to Ribeira Brava – 20 kms/26 minutes
  • Calheta to Porto Moniz – 30 kms/41 minutes

visit madeira without a car

The following are rules and regulations you need to be aware of.

  • To drive in Madeira, ensure that you have a valid driver’s license.
  • You must be 18 years of age (check requirement of your rental company)
  • Carry vehicle documents, insurance details and ID with you in the vehicle.
  • All cars have the steering wheel on the left, and driving is on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Legal blood alcohol limit is 0.5g/litre.
  • Mandatory insurance in Madeira is third party liability, which is included in rental agreements.

If you look at a Madeira Road map, you can see the road network goes almost all the way around the island. Given the size of Madeira, you can drive around the island in a day, as most towns are within an hour’s drive of Funchal.

However, to road trip Madeira, half the fun is driving along the regional roads and heading through the mountainous interior of the island.

VR1 road in Madeira

The majority of expressways have highly engineered tunnels due to the island’s mountainous terrain and allow you to travel around quickly. There are no tolls, and the roads are free.

  • Roads are numbered VR1 (Fastway) around Funchal
  • VE1 to VE7 (Expressway)
  • There are over 100 tunnels on the island.

VR1 (Southeast Expressway)

  • the island’s main axis, with some long bridges and tunnels.
  • serves Machico, Santa Cruz, Funchal, Ribeira Brava, Canico, Canical and Camara de Lobos.

VE1 (North-East Expressway)

  • runs from Machico to Santana (resumes Boa Ventura to Sao Vicente)

VE2 (North-Western Expressway)

  • Links Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz, with access to Seixal and Ribeira de Janela

VE3 (South-Western Expressway)

  • Access to Ribeira Brava to Ponta do Pargo. Also serves Calheta and Ponta do Sol.

VE4 (South-North Expressway)

  • runs across the middle of the island, linking Ribeira Brava and Sao Vicente.

VE5, VE6 AND VE7

  • Shorter expressways to go via tunnels to Camacha, Curral das Freitas.
  • VE7 links Paul do Mar to Jardim do Mar.

A secondary network of regional roads known as Estrada Regionale, allow access around the island. These roads go through the mountainous interior, so are winding, and can be steep.

They are numbered ER101 to ER220. Some of the narrowest and steepest are in Funchal, and towards miradouros, or viewpoints.

ER101 (Coastal Road)

  • The old coastal roads are often narrow and run close to the edge of steep cliffs. they are winding and steep, but very scenic.
  • Expressways are smooth and relatively flat, passing through tunnels.
  • Secondary roads are winding and some, particularly steep.
  • Drive right, drive slowly and watch your speed limit, especially on steep roads.

road in Madeira

Speed limit signs are circular, with a red border and a number indicating the maximum allowable speed in kilometres per hour.

  • Unless otherwise indicated, there is a speed limit of 80km/hour on secondary roads, and 100km/hour on the VR1.
  • Residential Areas – 30 to 50 km/hr
  • Speed limits can change between sections of the same road, so always be attentive.
  • Some streets are cobbled and narrow, with cars parking on the side of the road.
  • Roads can be very steep.

tunnel on road in Madeira

The tunnels allow access over Madeira’s Mountain terrain, saving you time on your journey. Highly engineered, they are modern and well lit, although some tunnels can be very long.

  • Watch for speed limits which can change within the tunnel.
  • Tunnels are 2 lanes in the same direction, or one lane in each direction.
  • Roads can branch off within the tunnel.

road in fog

Apart from adhering to speed limits, being mindful of other cars, and slowing down when passing through villages, here are some things to be aware of:

  • Don’t be distracted by the wonderful scenery if you are driving.
  • There can be a very short run-up to joining expressways, so you will have to stop.
  • Animals in Madeira like to stroll in the road, especially in central plateau regions. You will commonly see sheep and cows in the road, so slow down, especially if it is foggy.
  • Dogs like to chill out on the road too!
  • Straying out of lanes – some drivers drive too fast around corners and veer across the middle white line, into part of your lane.
  • Tour coaches and buses take no prisoners! They are used to the winding steep roads and not intimidated by other cars. Just slow down, and if appropriate, pull over to let them pass.
  • To avoid getting distracted, use a GPS or Google Maps as your guide.

Others are distracted by the scenery and simply stop to take photos without checking in their rear mirror beforehand. Many tourists don’t know where they are going, are confused by road-signs, looking for a parking space or are just lost.

The emergency number in the event of an accident is 112.

  • Make a note of the other driver’s details including vehicle license plate number, insurance and name.
  • Take photos of damage to all vehicles.
  • Don’t admit liability but contact your insurance company or rental provider.
  • Contact police or ambulance.

visit madeira without a car

While a road trip is a great way to explore the island, finding available parking spaces can be a time-consuming endeavour.

The parking spaces at many attractions and activities in Madeira are inadequate for the number of visitors.

We visited Madeira in September and found parking in some towns, tourist locations and close to beaches difficult, especially in the middle of the day.

  • Try to visit walking trails early in the morning, or late afternoon, to avoid tour coaches.
  • Please be considerate (unlike many visitors we encountered), and park responsibly in designated areas. Do not simply abandon your vehicle and block a lane of traffic.

Parking in Towns: Blue marked spaces are for taxis. If you are driving in Funchal, there are plenty of paid parking lots along the waterfront. Most machines take coins.

Parking at Attractions: Best solution is to visit early. Be aware that sometimes you will have to back up past parked cars to turn back. This is mostly due to people parking where they shouldn’t.

TOP TIP: Check your choice of accommodation in Madeira, includes parking onsite, before booking.

petrol station forecourt

Fuel is relatively expensive. Unleaded is called “gasolina sem chumbo” and diesel “gasoleo”. Rental vehicles usually take unleaded petrol. You will find petrol stations in all the main towns.

If you are driving an electric car check for charging stations ahead of time.

Car rental in Madeira is easy for any nationality and a great way to navigate the island. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Basic Car Hire Requirements:

  • You must be over 18 years of age, sometimes 21 to rent a vehicle.
  • You must show a hard copy of your valid and up-to-date driver’s license.
  • You need to provide insurance. Purchase at the time of booking as it will be cheaper.
  • A major credit card must be shown.

Driving tips for Americans or outside the EU :

  • For those from outside of the EU or have an international driver’s license, you are required to present both documents upon rental.
  • Most rental companies also require that you have at least 1 years driving experience before you can rent a car.
  • Most vehicles are manual, so check beforehand if the rental company has an automatic.

Type Of Vehicle To Rent:

  • Cars are generally manual transmission and automatic rentals are more expensive. We recommend an automatic as constantly changing gears on windy roads is a pain.
  • Choose a medium-sized vehicle with enough power to get you up the steep roads.
  • You do not need a large vehicle on the narrow and steep roads.
  • Book early to get the best price and choice of vehicle.
  • Take out the extra cover to reduce your excess to nil, for peace of mind.

Where To Rent Your Vehicle:

There are numerous car rental companies on the island. If you rent a car Madeira Airport is the most practical place to collect from.

  • It is cheaper to hire a car before leaving home. We have used both DiscoverCars.com and RentalCars.com and have been very happy with the service given.
  • The largest car rental companies include Avis, Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, and more.
  • Don’t be fooled into taking out extra cover when you pick up your vehicle, as it is overpriced.

General Tips For Hiring A Vehicle:

  • Walk around the entire vehicle and take pictures and/or video coverage, before driving away.
  • Read the small print!
  • Book your vehicle early for the best prices.
  • Make sure you can take your rental car on the ferry to Porto Santo. Additional fees may be charged.

To check before renting, select your choice of vehicle then click “Rental Conditions” and “Additional Conditions”. This is where you will find the geographical restrictions for your rental agreement.

CHECK PRICES WITH DISCOVERCARS.COM HERE

a tree lined road in Madeira

There are some incredible drives in Madeira. Here is a quick overview of some really nice road trip routes.

  • ER 110 (Paúl da Serra): The plateau of Paúl da Serra has an average altitude of 1500 meter.
  • ER 228 (Serra de Agua – Encumeada): The views are fantastic.
  • ER 101 (Porto Moniz, Seixal, Sao Vicente, Ponta Delgada,Boaventura): Scenic roads joining many attractions.
  • ER107 (Curral das Freiras): Road to the “valley of the nuns” is stunning.

In summary, driving in Madeira is easy and the best way to appreciate the wonderful landscapes. So hit the road and start exploring this beautiful island on your own road trip!

Looking for some more inspiration? Check out our other destinations !

We have several interesting articles for you to read and help with your planning:

  • Driving in Madeira – a guide for first timers
  • Cable Cars in Madeira for a thrilling ride
  • Visit Ponta do Garajau Madeira
  • Renting a car in Madeira
  • Best Towns in madeira
  • Ponta Do Sol, Madeira
  • Madeira Hidden Gems

And click  here  to find guides to other destinations.

Found this guide useful? Don’t forget to bookmark it and share with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images .

visit madeira without a car

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COMMENTS

  1. A Week in Madeira Without a Car: An Easy 7-Day Itinerary

    Madeira's Valley of the Nuns is an easy and hugely rewarding day trip from Funchal. A narrow road climbs ten miles along hairpin bends to Curral das Freiras, nestled in a deep canyon. The nuns in question found refuge here in the 16 th Century when they fled Santa Clara Convent to escape from pirates.

  2. How to spend a week in Madeira: a 7-day itinerary without a car

    A week in Madeira itinerary: day 6 - day trip to Porto da Cruz See and do. Porto da Cruz is my favourite village in Madeira. So you must go there for a day trip at some point. Buses you can get there vary, so check the SAM bus website before you go. Although the main appeal of Porto da Cruz is relaxing with a lovely view of the sea, it's quite entertaining as a place too.

  3. Exploring Madeira without a car: A detailed itinerary

    4 Madeira itinerary: a quick overview. 5 Day 1: Monte. 6 Day 2: Exploring Funchal. 7 Day 3: Go on a hike. 8 Day 4: Day trip east side Madeira. 9 Day 5: Dolphin and whale watching. 10 Day 6: Day trip west side Madeira. 11 Day 7: Go on a hike, relax, or go on a day trip. Madeira is a stunning island in the Atlantic Ocean and is part of Portugal.

  4. Madeira Itinerary: Visit Madeira without a car

    4 Madeira Itinerary. 5 Madeira itinerary: a quick overview. 6 Day 1: Monte. 7 Day 2: Exploring Funchal. 8 Day 3: Go on a hike. 9 Day 4: Day trip east side Madeira. 10 Day 5: Dolphin and whale watching. 11 Day 6: Day trip west side Madeira. 12 Day 7: Go on a hike, relax, or go on a day trip.

  5. One-week Madeira itinerary without a car

    Madeira is a mountainous island, and if you, like me, come from a flat country, it's better to enjoy tours of local travel agencies in full instead of renting a car. So here is my advice for a one-week Madeira itinerary without a car. Day 1. Funchal. Before you see Funchal, visit a local travel agency to set your whole trip up.

  6. How To Get Around Madeira (With & Without A Car)

    2. Cable Car. The cable car lines run from Funchal to Monte, and back again, making this a fantastic way to scale mountains. The cars offer you views across the island as you travel and are a quick way to get around and see the sights. So if you're vacationing down in Funchal and fancy a visit to Monte, then it's more than possible for you ...

  7. Madeira WITHOUT a car: How to travel around the island

    Here's my firsthand account of navigating Madeira without the need for a rental car. 1. Airport to Funchal: An Easy Start. My Madeira adventure kicked off - just as for most people probably - at Funchal Airport, where I found it remarkably easy to reach the island's capital without a car.

  8. One week in Madeira: my ideal 7-day itinerary (with pictures!)

    Visiting Madeira in 7 days - essentials to know. One week in Madeira: where to stay. 7-day Madeira itinerary map. Day 1 - Skywalk, Camara de Lobos and more. Day 2 - Best views ever: Pico do Arieiro and more. Day 3 - Northwest coast lava. Day 4 - Relaxing day in Funchal. Day 5 - Volcanic East Coast. Day 6 - Levada and sun.

  9. Visiting Madeira in 5 days (magical!): tips + itineraries

    My favorite places to stay outside Funchal: Saccharum Resort near a beach (Luxury) - Estalagem da Ponta do Sol (4 stars) - Engho Velho Hotel (mid-range) Content. Visiting Madeira in 5 days - essential to know. Itinerary 1 - 5 days in Madeira to see a lot of everything! Itinerary 2 - 5 days in Funchal (Madeira without a car) Itinerary ...

  10. Getting around Madeira with no car: it's easy!

    Travelling from the airport. There is a bus from Madeira Airport to Funchal city centre, which costs €3.50 per person and takes around 45-50 minutes. It drops off at many major hotels and in the city centre. However, we took a Bolt taxi for just €10 - as there were two of us, it was only €3 more and it took just 20 minutes.

  11. 3 days in Madeira: tips + itineraries (for long weekend)

    My favorite places to stay outside Funchal: Saccharum Resort near a beach (Luxury) - Estalagem da Ponta do Sol (4 stars) - Engho Velho Hotel (mid-range) Content. Madeira in 3 days - essentials to know. Itinerary 1 - Best of nature with 3 days in Madeira. Itinerary 2 - Madeira without a car: 3 days in Funchal.

  12. How to get around Madeira without a car

    In the city of Funchal, the public transport system (namely buses and taxis) is easy to use and inexpensive, and visitors can buy charging cards for bus trips within the urban area. However, if you want a more detailed experience with an audio guide of the main attractions in Funchal, Câmara de Lobos and even the highest maritime cliff in ...

  13. One week in Madeira without a car worth it?

    2 reviews. 1 helpful vote. One week in Madeira without a car worth it? 10 years ago. My mom and I are planning a trip to Madeira, Croatia or Slovenia in April, and we could use some help with deciding which to choose. We won't be renting a car but would like to visit national parks and do some nature trekking.

  14. How to travel around MADEIRA with no car

    In this video, I travel around Madeira without renting a car! I take a cable car to Monte, walk around Funchal and take tours to east and west Madeira. I als...

  15. Do you really need a car in Madeira?

    Our attempts to not use a car. On our very first visit to Madeira, we ignored the advice to rent a car and tried to just do without. ... Madeira without a car. While not ideal, you can still plan a trip without using a rental car. Our advice in this case is not to search generally for "things to do in Madeira" as then you might be ...

  16. Best Hikes in Madeira You Can do Without the Car

    11 Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car. Levada do Furado (PR10) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car. Vereda dos Balcões (PR11) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car. Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco (PR8) - Best Hikes in Madeira you can do without the car.

  17. One week in Madeira without a car worth it?

    I have been visiting Madeira every couple of months for nearly 3 years, and have never hired a car or gone on a guided walk - and do not intend to - and yet I have done all the things you want to do. It is perfectly safe to do many walks without a guide, just arm yourself with up to date guide books, walking books and maps, and follow the safety information in them.

  18. Madeira Solo Travel: A Magical Solo Trip Guide (2024)

    Navigating Madeira Without a Car. Getting around Madeira without a car is easier than it may seem, thanks to alternative transportation options like buses, taxis, and organized tours. Discovering hidden gems and exploring the island's breathtaking landscapes and vibrant attractions is convenient and hassle-free, even without a personal vehicle.

  19. How to Spend 4 Epic Days in Madeira

    It is possible to get around Madeira without a car and it is probably best to use a combination of public transport and private transport to allow you to explore as much of the island as possible. ... As the most popular time to visit Madeira, this is the busiest time and coincides with the best time to see whales. The peak summer season ...

  20. Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Madeira

    Madeira is a super easy island to get around - with or without a car! There are buses that can take you almost everywhere and anywhere on the island (we use buses quite often). ... 21 Pebble and Sandy Beaches to Visit in Madeira; The Best Sunrise Spot in Madeira: Pico Ruivo; The Most Famous Hike in Madeira - Pico do Arieiro (PR1) Recap of ...

  21. Visiting Madeira without Car : r/Madeira

    Hello! I stayed 12 days in Madeira without a car and these were my routes planned. I honestly did not enjoy this trip as expected and i recommend that if you are doubting about going just skip this trip. I enjoyed the Praia Formosa walks, The Pico Areiro-Pico Ruivo hike, Caldeirao Verde and Sao Lorenco. Reply.

  22. 4 days in Madeira: tips + itineraries (unforgettable!)

    If you purchase through them, I get a small commission ( more) When visiting Madeira in 4 days, you can see a lot: coastal cliffs, natural pools, mountain peaks, levadas, dolphins and so much more. But there is so much to see and do, that it can be difficult to choose. I have visited every corner of the island, and created 3 itineraries of 4 ...

  23. Driving in Madeira: Ultimate Guide for First Timers

    You can visit many attractions without driving in Funchal. However, driving on Madeira gives you greater flexibility to: Explore popular areas such as Ponta do Garajau Madeira; Adjust your itinerary around the weather. Easily reach all the cable cars in Madeira; Having a Madeira car rental is the best way to discover the island. It makes ...

  24. 5 Reasons to Escape to Madeira This Summer

    Madeira offers stunning vistas, outdoor adventures, low tourist traffic, gourmet food and posh hotels. And getting there is easier than ever. Direct flights from Boston's Logan International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport are now available, so it's the perfect time to plan a trip.. Travelers who have discovered Madeira enjoy a slower pace and fewer crowds ...