The Ultimate 5 Day Madeira Itinerary

Madeira island is an autonomous region of Portugal. This archipelago consists of four islands, two of which are inhabited. Located on the northwestern coast of Africa, Madeira island has a gorgeous sub-tropical climate, making it an ideal holiday location.
The mystical and leafy suburb of Monte, Funchal. Photo: Piotr Musiol | Unsplash

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Known as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’ or ‘The Land of Eternal Spring’, this Portuguese Island is known for its gorgeous weather, green, rugged terrain, volcanic landscapes, pebbly beaches, and stunning coastal towns.

If you have five days in Madeira, this guide will help you experience some of the famed attractions and some smaller, hidden gems.

Explore Funchal from dizzying cable car heights. Photo: Charlotte Marais | Earth Curious

When it comes to traveling around Madeira, there are a few options. Some parts of the capital Funchal are easily walkable. However, when traveling further afield, you’ll need to hire a car, hail a taxi, catch a local bus, or use Bolt. Tours are a great way to see regional treasures and traverse the Island without the stress of self-driving.

You can either rent a car or book a scenic day trip with one of the local tour companies. If you want to try some famed Madeira wine or Poncha (a local delicacy made from sugar cane brandy and lemon juice), you can do so happily if you’re on a driven tour.

Day 1: Funchal

It’s day one in Madeira, and there is so much to see!

Day one is all about exploring Funchal, the capital of Madeira. This is likely where you’ll be staying for the entireity your trip since it’s a popular starting point for many tours and day trips. It takes approximately four hours to drive around the Island, and Funchal (located in the South) is a great base point if you are traveling in any which direction.

There is so much to do in Funchal, and it’s a fantastic city to explore by foot, though you might need to hail a taxi or use the famous cable car for one or two stops. Here are some must-see sites in the capital:

Funchal offers a wonderful juxtaposition of centuries-old architecture and bright coastal charm. Photo: Dimitri B | Unsplash

What to do and see in Funchal?

Santa Catarina Park: This is one of Madeira’s biggest parks and offers visitors a fantastic abundance of flora and fauna. Explore the lush green lawns, duck ponds, aviaries, and Santa Caterina chapel. You can also stop by the café in the park and enjoy a cup of local coffee or a sweet treat. 

Madeira Botanical Garden: A trip to Funchal should include a visit to the botanical gardens. The immaculate garden is comprised of exotic flowers, bright juxtaposing colors, and an array of birdlife, including parakeets and cockatoos. Visitors will need to catch a taxi to the gardens, or they can use the city’s cable car. The gondola lift transports people from the lower part of the city to the upper suburb of Monte.

Monte: The cable car goes right up to the suburb of Monte. Here you can find a spectacular 18th-century church (with over 50 steps to the entrance) and more enchanting gardens.

The Monte church peaking out behind the bright foliage. Photo : Charlotte Marais | Earth Curious

Toboggan Ride: What’s a trip to Funchal without trying the Toboggan? If you’re feeling brave and want to feel a thrill as you whizz down the slopes of the city, try a classic toboggan ride.

Zona Velha: Stroll through the old town with its quaint cobbled streets and enjoy a plethora of restaurants and bars. You’ll definitely have to stop for a coffee, a glass of Madeiran wine, and a delectable pastel de nata.

Where to eat in Funchal?

There is so much for foodies to enjoy in Funchal, here are some places worth a squiz.

  • William Restaurant: For a fine dining, Michelin Star experience.
  • Vinhos Barbeito: A lovely, family-run winery.
  • Casa Da Penha Funchal: A traditional Portuguese tavern characterised by pink bougainvillaea and a sun-soaked outside terrace. Local favorites include the shrimp paella and the charcuterie board.
  • Restaurante dos Combatentes: A great spot for lunch after a morning of exploring. They offer an array of seafood dishes and veggie options and are located near the Municipal Gardens.

Where to stay in Funchal?

  • $$$ – Hotel The Cliff Bay, Savoy Palace or Quinta Jardins do Lago
  • $$ – Porto Mare Hotel or Porto Santa Maria Hotel
  • $ – Muthu Raga Madeira Hotel or FX Pena

Day 2: The South of Madeira

Travel time: Funchal to Ponta do Sol, 33.7 km, 48 minutes by car.

There is much to see in the Southern part of Madeira. Put on some comfy clothes and walking shoes and pack some beach gear today. It’s a day of driving around the island and stopping off at some spectacular attractions.

Ponta do Sol with its colourful buildings and popular beachfront. Photo: Reinaldo Photography | Unsplash

What to do and see in the South of Madeira?

Câmara de Lobos: Start the day with a visit to this stunning seaside town with its small, sheltered bay. The town is popular amongst fisherman and colourful fishing boats charmingly dot the bay. Here you can also stop at one of the Island’s most famous wineries, Henriques & Henriques.

Cape Girão: This impressive site is the highest cliff in Europe. Visitors can enjoy views from the incredible glass-bottomed viewpoint, which sits at an altitude of 580 meters. Be warned though; it isn’t for the faint-hearted!

Ponta do Sol: Stop for lunch and a swim at Ponta do Sol or relax at one of the beach bars with a cocktail in hand. Known as the ‘sun point’, this area enjoys the most sun on the Island, making it an ideal location for beach bums. Visitors can also stroll through the quaint streets and spend the afternoon souvenir hunting.

Curral das Freiras/ Valley of the Nuns: This small village is located within the crater of an extinct volcano. The village houses the 16th-century Santa Clara Convent. It was here that the nuns would seek refuge when pirates attacked the capital of Funchal. Stop at two prominent viewpoints, Eira do Serrado and Paredão Viewpoint (which is dreamily located above the clouds, making for a magical experience and photo opportunity.) Once you’ve soaked up the views, enjoy a bite in the town of Curral das Freiras.

Where to eat in the South of Madeira?

  • Restaurante Vila do Peixe and Restaurante Vila Da Carne(Câmara de Lobos)
  • Caprice Restaurant or The Old Pharmacy (Ponte do Sol)

Day 3: Porto Moniz

Travel time: Funchal to Porto Moniz, 49.7 km, 56 minutes by car.

Today we’re heading to the town of Porto Moniz, famous for its seawater lava pools. We’ll enjoy a few exciting stops throughout the day. Pack your cozzie!

Swim in the natural volcanic pools at Porto Moniz. Photo: Charlotte Marais | Earth Curious

What to do and see in Porto Moniz and Surrounds?

Miradouro do Véu da Noiva: Our first stop is an incredible lookout point. Here you’ll find a waterfall cascading into the ocean and a small gift shop for some local delights.

Seixal: Seixal has been dubbed as Madeira’s best beach. Enjoy the fine black sand and the dense, green forest backdrop as you have a splash or relax on the soft sand. There is a beachside cafe for snacks, making this the perfect place picnic and unwind.

Porto Moniz: Porto Moniz is one of the most interesting places on the Island. Comprised of two natural volcanic rock pools filled with crystal clear ocean water, this is an incredible swimming spot for visitors. One of the rock pools is free and the other has a small entrance fee of a couple of euros. However, this also includes changing facilities and towels. After your swim, stroll around the small town itself and grab a bite at one of the local restaurants.

Fanal Forest: If you love nature and all things mystical, the Fanal Forest is a must. This enchanted forest is known for its foggy atmosphere and 600-year old Laurel trees, making it the perfect photo spot. The area is part of the larger Laurisilva Forest which is a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to its environmental importance and sheer beauty.

Where to eat in place name?

  • Lounge Bar Clube Naval (Seixal)
  • Restaurante Cachalote and Sea View Restaurant (Porto Moniz)

Day 4: The West of Madeira

Travel time: Funchal to Achadas da Cruz, 58 km, 1 hour and 9 minutes by car.

The west coast of Madeira is a little off the beaten track when compared to the southern parts of the island. However, there is still much to experience. Here are some top attractions on the western part of the island.

What’s a trip to Madeira without a sip of Poncha? Photo: Charlotte Marais | Earth curious

What to do and see in the West of Madeira?

Cabo Girão cliff viewpoint: This famous viewpoint is a must for a seriously Instagram-worthy snap. From atop the cliffs, you’ll see the city of Funchal and the incredible coastline that surrounds it.

Ribeira Brava Beach: Spend a few hours at this gorgeous coastal town. The black sand beach is a brilliant spot to have a dip or catch a tan. The beach-side complex also offers a whole host of facilities, including swimming pools, changing facilities, a café, and a restaurant.

Achadas da Cruz: Catch this cable car and descend down a huge cliff to the remote traditional village of Fajá da Quebrada Nova in the northwest of the city. Here you can swim at the beach or walk along the coastal path and explore traditional stonework. Grab a snack at the Calhau Snack Bar before you go and if you’re a keen surfer, be sure to check out the local surfing spot.

Where to eat in the West of Madeira?

  • D. Luís restaurante, Restaurant & Grill Muralha Terrace, and Restaurante Borda d’Água (Ribeira Brava Beach)

Day 5: Funchal/ Pico Ruivo

Travel time: Funchal to Pico Ruivo, 49 km, 58 minutes by car.

While you’ve seen some of Funchal’s top attractions, there is still much to see in this gorgeous city. Spend your last day exploring some of the Island’s gems or hike the Island’s highest summit in the north.  

See the world from atop Pico Ruivo. Photo: Charlotte Marais | Earth Curios

What to do and see in Funchal /Pico Ruivo?

The Pico Ruivo: If you want to see a little more of the Island and enjoy outdoor walks, visit The Pico Ruivo. This is the highest mountainous point of the Island, standing tall at an impressive 1862 meters above sea level. Enjoy the site at sunrise and if you’re so inclined, hike the 2.8 km trail, which starts at Achadas Teixeira and takes about an hour and a half. 

Mercado Lavaradores: If you want to get your shop on and explore a local farmers market, this is worth a squiz. While it’s a little bit of a tourist trap, you will definitely find some tasty local treats and enjoy the vibrant buzz of color and noise.

Avenida Arriaga: This shopping street is located next to the farmer’s market. It’s an excellent location for window shopping and buying gifts.

Praça do Povo & Funchal Marina: Meander along the waterfront and enjoy the boats sailing by. The marina has a bustling atmosphere of tourists and locals alike, and sometimes there is a town fair with stalls and rides.

Funchal Cathedral: This gothic-style cathedral was built in the 1400s and named a National Monument in 1910.

The gorgeous coastline framed by palms. Photo: Charlotte Marais | Earth Curious

The Takeaway

Madeira is a gorgeous island, known for its splendid landscapes and captivating coastline. Five days will give you plenty of time to explore some of its famed attractions, however if you add a few extras days to your agenda, there’s always more to see! If you have an extra day, consider a whale watching tour! And if you love Madeira, check out these other Portuguese island delights.


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