You can't visit Madeira without a pair of good hiking boots! :D We are super happy with our Lowa Renegade GTX, which we are wearing for 8 years now! You can also check out this hiking packing list for more information and tips :)
Best things to do in Madeira
As you plan your next vacation, consider adding the Portuguese island of Madeira to your list. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is a stunningly beautiful island with friendly locals and plenty of things to do. From hiking and swimming to checking out the local culture and cuisine, Madeira has something for everyone. But to get the most out of your trip, you'll want to check out some of the island's hidden gems-places that most tourists never get to see. I will share 7 secret gems in Madeira that you'll want to add to your travel bucket list! If you would like to know more about the capital Funchal you need to check out my other travelogue about the best things to do in Funchal :)
How to visit Madeira?
There are a few different ways to visit Madeira. You can fly to the airport on the island, or you can take a ferry from the mainland of Portugal. Once you're on the island, there are plenty of ways to get around. You can rent a car, take a taxi, or use the local buses. However, the best way to see all of Madeira's hidden gems is by renting a car. Renting a car costs more than taking local transportation, but it's well worth the money to cut down on travel time and increase your chances of seeing everything you want to see. Plus, if you rent a car, you are way more flexible.
Is Madeira safe for tourists?
Madeira is a safe place for tourists, and there is no reason to be concerned about your safety while visiting. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and there is a lot to see and do on the island. You can rest assured that you will have a great time while visiting Madeira! In the current situation, you should check the covid-19 rules before booking. When we visited, we didn't experience any limitations. Just make sure you have your tests or certificates with you and wear a mask when needed.
1. Soak up Some Sun at Porto Moniz Lighthouse
Madeira is home to some fabulous beaches, but Porto Moniz Lighthouse takes the cake. Here you can sunbathe on volcanic rock pools or take a dip in the chilly waters (the pool is heated with seawater). Additionally, you'll get an amazing view of the ocean from atop a cliff, followed by a hike down a long spiral staircase to a lighthouse.
2. Explore the Lava Tunnels at Pico do Arieiro
But what lies beneath? Next, make your way to Pico do Arieiro and explore the dark lava tunnels that lie beneath the mountain. The entrance is found by following a trail laid with red and white stones, and once you get inside, you can explore it on your own. The caves twist and turn and take you deep within the mountain-a truly unique experience!
3. Sip some Wine at Quinta do Pessegueiro
When in Madeira... While there's no shortage of wineries in Madeira, one particularly stands out: Quinta do Pessegueiro. This is a unique winery that offers an interesting wine tasting process-you can try different types of grapevines and then choose the ones that suit your taste the best! You'll also get to see how they make their famous Madeira wine.
4. Visit a Local Market
If you want to experience local culture, visit one of the weekly markets that are held around the island. You'll get to see how locals go about their day-to-day lives, along with things you can buy for souvenirs! It's also an opportunity to sample some authentic Madeiran cuisine.
5. Take a Hike
You can't go to Madeira without doing some hiking! There are plenty of trails, including the Levada do Caldeirão Verde Walk, which takes you deep into the woods with incredible views along the way. You'll feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, despite being in the center of everything!
6. Check out a Church
There are over 500 churches on the island of Madeira, and one of the best is Nossa Senhora do Monte Church. Here you can climb a ridiculously long series of stone steps up to the top of a hill for some truly spectacular views-and then head down to enjoy a delicious meal at one of the restaurants on the pier. It's the best of both worlds!
7. Enjoy a Delicious Meal
Madeira is home to some of the best cuisine in all of Europe, and you'll want to make sure you try as many dishes as possible while you're there! The local specialty is a rich soup called Caldeirada, which everyone has to try when visiting Madeira. You can also get a taste of local wine by ordering Vinho Verde, which is much lighter than the famous Madeira.
I hope that these secret gems in Madeira help you plan your next vacation!
Where to stay in Madeira?
I highly recommend you booking in advance. We did book several accommodations for our road trip across the island. This is where we stayed ( And I would 100% book them again! :) ) 1. Funchal For our first night, we stayed at the ASPA - Alegria Studios. This is the perfect location to start exploring Madeira's capital - Funchal. We only stayed one night, because the next day we picked up our rental car and started our road trip. 2. Ponta do Sol This time we stayed 3 nights at 1905 Zino's Palace. This place is stunning! We had an amazing view and the location is perfect for all kinds of activities. 3. Sao Vicente You definitely need to book at least 2 nights in Sao Vicente and visit Rubina! She is a lovely host and you will enjoy your stay at Casa Da Piedade. Make sure to book the breakfast! 4. Porto Moniz When in Porto Moniz, there is only one choice to stay for smart people :P The Aqua Natura Madeira! With your booking, you can also enter the amazing nature lava swimming pools below for free! On top of that, the Hotel is located right above them. Every room has a balcony with one of the most beautiful views. Furthermore, you can enjoy the jacuzzi and sauna on top of the roof for free. There are even more benefits but I don't want to ruin your surprise :P 5. Back in Funchal For the last couple of days, we stayed at the Madeira Panoramico Hotel to relax after some exhausting hiking days :P This hotel has a wonderful pool and a free city shuttle.
Recommended tours in Madeira
One of the great things about Madeira is, that you can explore amazing nature and do so many activities for free. However, we did also book some guided tours. Our highlight was swimming with dolphins in Funchal! You can check out details about the tour and book at a great rate here: Swimming with dolphins
Where to hike?
We did 4 different hikes. Two of the most popular trails are the PR6 - Levada 25 Fontes e Risco and the PR1 Pico do Arieiro - Pico Ruivo. But our favorite trails are PR13 - Vereda do Fanal and Ruinas de Sao Jorge! I did write another travelogue about these two amazing hiking trails at Madeira
Distance and time
The times vary greatly. But you should always plan at least half a day for a hike in Madeira. Of course, you can control the distances a bit yourself. Madeira is a hiker's paradise and offers trails for beginners as well as for experienced hikers.
How challenging is this hike?
Madeira has many mountains! Basically, this makes the hikes more strenuous and the appropriate equipment is an advantage. One of the most demanding (but also beautiful) hikes is the PR1. I would recommend the PR13 for beginners to try and get a sense of hiking in Madeira :)
Where to photograph?
The whole island is one of the most beautiful places on this planet. So just make sure you have your camera ready when going outside :D
A Nikon D5300
Is any special equipment needed?
A camera belt or clip makes it much easier to carry your camera when hiking.
Where to snorkel?
Is there a special snorkeling tour here? Do I have to bring my own equipment?
Yes, we did book a guided snorkel tour to swim with dolphins. They are providing the equipment at no additional cost.
What is special about snorkeling here?
Swimming with dolphins is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We choose to book our tour with this company because they are eco-friendly and not feeding the dolphins at a certain spot and then driving there with hundreds of boats full of tourists each day. They are always spotting wild dolphins and are treating them with respect.
Best things to do in Ponta do Sol
If you're looking for a charming, picturesque town to explore while on the island of Madeira, look no further than Ponta do Sol. This town is located in the southwest of the island and is known for its dramatic cliffs and stunning ocean views.
There are several attractions in Ponta do Sol that you'll want to check out while you're there, including the following.
You need to visit the local church, Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, which was built in 1791 and features beautiful blue and white Portuguese tiles. This church holds several festivals during the year, including a candlelit festival where visitors can watch traditional Flemish dances.
Best things to do in Sao Vicente
Sao Vicente, and it's the perfect spot for those who want to explore the island of Madeira.
One of the best things to do near Sao Vicente is to visit the Mercado dos Lavradores, which is a local farmers' market. Here, you'll find a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as freshly caught seafood. Be sure to try some of the local specialties, such as the specialty cheese from Madeira or the bolo de caco, a type of bread that is popular on the island. Go to the market before leaving for Sao Vicente and buy some fruits for a picnic at the beach.
Furthermore, the beach in Seixal is one of the most beautiful beaches in Madeira!
Best things to do in Porto Moniz
The residents of Porto Moniz believe that their port has been in existence for over a thousand years. Back when the Moors invaded the island, they found that Porto Moniz was an ideal location to berth their ships and keep them safe from pirates.
Today, this is a popular spot for tourists to come and check out its black sand beaches, volcanic rock formations, and naturally occurring "hot tubs". These hot tubs are formed by volcanic rock that has been eroded into pools. Some of them even have natural water slides!
A visit to Porto Moniz wouldn't be complete without a tour of the many natural hot springs here. You can either go all out and book a full day tour or treat yourself to a quick, 30-minute tour by taxi.
The full-day option is the most popular, offering visitors plenty of time to experience all that Porto Moniz has to offer while also giving you a chance to do some swimming in the ocean.
If you've got more time on your hands, make sure to check out some of the other adventures that Porto Moniz has to offer, such as surfing and seafood picnics.
Best things to do in Porto Santo
If you're looking for a beautiful, peaceful island to relax on while in Madeira, look no further than Porto Santo. This small island is located just off the coast of Madeira and is known for its stunning beaches and gentle waves.
Some of the best things to do in Porto Santo include swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. The beaches here are absolutely beautiful and are perfect for a relaxing day in the sun. If you're looking for something more active, however, Porto Santo also offers some great surfing opportunities. The waves here are perfect for beginner and intermediate surfers.
In addition to the great beaches, Porto Santo is also home to some excellent restaurants. Be sure to check out some of the local recipes, such as Warm bread with tomato and cheese or baked chicken with potatoes.
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Who I am? A passionate traveler, sun seeker, food lover, cat mom and traxplorer. :-) Why I love to travel? Because it helps open my mind. I love to meet new people, experience new cultures and learn to see the world from a different perspective. Sometimes that also means to embark on an adventure - however it always worth it!