To the Portuguese island of Madeira I’ve been planning to return to Portugal for almost eight years. And even though I’ve literally travelled halfway around the world between those visits, my opinion of Madeira hasn’t changed, it’s definitely one of the most beautiful islands on our blue planet. In our article you’ll find out when to go to Madeira, where to stay and how to schedule your time on the island of flowers. We take a look at the top 10 places to see and have put together an itinerary for your ideal roadtrip.
When to go to Madeira?
Madeira has a fairly stable temperature climate, so you can go at any time of the year, even in December and January temperatures can be around 20 degrees, although the average daily temperature is about 17 degrees.
Spring is probably the most popular time , when temperatures are at their most pleasant and the Funchal Flower Festival takes place. However, you have to take into account that it can rain some days.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Madeira if you want to go whale-watching, but temperatures can be around 33°C, which can be uncomfortable for those who plan to do some walking.
Autumn (September-November) is usually quieter in Madeira, temperatures are still pleasant (we had around 25°C in September), but it can rain again. The beginning of autumn is ideal if you plan to hike in the mountains and along the coast.
I have been to Madeira in June and September and both times I experienced quite pleasant weather, although it rained sometimes.
Current weather in MadeiraMadeira Weather
In general, mosquitoes are most active during periods of higher humidity and temperatures, which often correlate with the summer months. Due to Madeira’s subtropical climate, it is likely that most mosquitoes will be on the island during the summer months.
But there is not a big problem with mosquitoes in Madeira, it will always depend from year to year. Madeira has the advantage of being surrounded by water and is relatively well protected from mosquitoes due to its steep terrain and windy conditions.
Is Madeira suitable for travelling with small children?
Madeira is not the most ideal island to travel with small children, there are many cliffs, mountains, but few nice beaches. Similarly, there aren’t many resorts where you can frolic with small children. If you have little ones at home, you can enjoy travelling around Madeira with them, but Madeira is not the best place to relax by the pool or on the beach.
Is it better to stay in one place or move?
Before our second visit to Madeira, we looked very closely at whether we should go on excursions from Funchal or move around Madeira as we did on our first visit.. Madeira is a relatively small island and it is therefore possible to find a nice hotel in Funchal and go on trips from here.
However, just like the first time, we finally decided that it would be quite a waste of time and planned our itinerary so that we moved almost every day. It is definitely worth it, not least because you can watch the sunrise and sunset in some beautiful places.
Madeira roadtrip: what car to rent in Madeira
Rental shops will discourage you from small cars, as Madeira has some pretty steep hills. We had a small car on both visits and never had a problem. But if you are not an experienced driver, book a more powerful car and especially an automatic, starting up their extremely steep hills is sometimes not fun. We booked the car through Rentalcars.
Price of petrol in Madeira
As on other islands, the price of petrol in Madeira is higher than in Portugal itself. You can see the current price here.
Madeira experiences: the 10 most beautiful places to visit
Before we move on to the ideal itinerary for your visit to Madeira, here’s a list of the best things to do in Madeira. Let’s take a look at 10 tips on what to see on the island of flowers:
- Funchal: Madeira’s capital is full of historic buildings, picturesque streets, colourful markets and beautiful botanical gardens.
- Pico do Arieiro: Madeira’s third highest peak offers breathtaking panoramic views, which are particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset.
- Cabo Girão: One of the highest sea cliffs in the world, offering breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding landscape.
- Porto Moniz: Famous for its natural pools made of volcanic lava, this is the perfect place for swimming and enjoying the sun.
- Santana: This picturesque town is famous for its traditional triangular houses covered with thatched roofs.
- Levady: These traditional irrigation canals have created a system of hiking trails that pass through some of the island’s most beautiful landscapes.
- Fanal Forest: this UNESCO-listed forest is one of the most magical places in Madeira.
- São Vicente Caves & Volcanism Centre: this place offers the opportunity to explore the caves created by lava flows and learn more about the volcanic history of the island.
- Jardim Botanico: This botanical garden in Funchal is home to countless exotic plants and beautiful floral arrangements.
- Ponta de São Lourenço: This wooded headland offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and is ideal for hiking.
7-8 day itinerary: what to see in Madeira
Our itinerary was very relaxed, we could enjoy and explore everything to the fullest. You can probably do more in seven days, but if you’re looking for a relaxing sightseeing holiday, follow in our footsteps.
Day One: Arrival in Funchal
We landed in Funchal in the evening, so we decided to stay in Funchal and not to go anywhere else. I can recommend the Inn & Art Madeira, a romantic if older hotel where you can dine overlooking the cliffs at sunset.
The hotel also has a vegetarian menu and you get free wine with your stay. Although we weren’t expecting much from this retro accommodation, which doesn’t even have air conditioning, it was a great start to the holiday. Plus a really great price.
Day Two: São Vicente and Porto Moniz
After breakfast, head towards São Vicente, Madeira’s most beautiful town, where you can explore the centre in the morning before heading to the promenade along the ocean.
São Vicente is set in a narrow, romantic valley stretching inland from the Atlantic coast, where it widens into green hills dotted with villas and farmhouses; if you arrive in time, there will probably still be soft cushions of cloud over the hills.
The small historic centre is dominated by the beautiful 16th century Igreja de São Vicente church. century, which is built in a typical colonial style.
From the promenade, head towards Seixal, and if you like a little unusual attractions, stop at Ribeira do Inferno, where you can walk along the original road that led from here to Seixal.
There are countless official and unofficial viewpoints along the way to Seixal, and if you have good weather, you’ll probably be stopping all the time. By now you’ll probably be used to the fact that you feel like stopping every five minutes in Madeira.
In Seixal, stop at the Miradouro do Véu da Noiva viewpoint, Ponta do Poiso, the black sand Seixal Beach, and if you want, you can take a dip in the Seixal Natural Pools.
Continue on to Porto Moniz and don’t forget to stop at the breathtakingly beautiful Miradouro da Ribeira da Janela, a Game of Thrones-esque viewpoint. If you can’t do any of the sightseeing due to weather or time, don’t worry, you’ll still have the opportunity when you go back.
You will be staying in Porto Moniz, so we recommend that you leave your sightseeing until the evening or early morning, when there are fewer tourists in the town and you can enjoy the sunset or sunrise over the natural pools.
Instead, take the world’s steepest cable car, the Achadas do Cruz, which runs vertically from the cliff to the beach. Buy your tickets before you change your mind, the journey looks terrifying. When you arrive at the bottom, you will find that it is not just a promenade along the beach, but a gardening colony. You’ll look in vain for a way for people to bring material here other than by cable car. He’s really being taken by cable car.
If you still have time, you can go to the viewpoint above Porto Moniz – Miradouro da Santinha.
- Where to eat in Porto Moniz: Recommended Sea Vie Restaurant where they have very good food and a menu for vegetarians and vegans.
- Where to stay in Porto Moniz: We recommend Hotel Salgueiro, which is also with breakfast and is close to natural pools.
Day Three: Fanal Forest
Get up early and explore Porto Moniz before breakfast, which will be in the red. Porto Moniz is usually quiet at sunrise in the morning, and you may be the only one far away.
After breakfast at the hotel, head to Fanal Forest. It is important that you arrive first thing in the morning. Fanal Forrest is one of the most popular locations for photo shoots. Once the fog rolls in, there is no more magical place in Madeira.
You will probably spend several hours in Fanal Forrest. Be patient, the fog will almost always come eventually. But if you arrive late, you may be out of luck. The best time to fish for fog is until about eleven o’clock and then later in the afternoon.
After Fanal Forrest, head to Seixal or São Vicente for lunch.
Stay in Estalagem do Vale in São Vicente, which has a pool and mini-golf, so you can spend the afternoon lounging in the hotel, or head out to further explore the town, at the Miradouro do Passo viewpoint or the Levada dos Cardais walk, we also enjoyed the Capelinha de Nossa Senhora de Fátima.
If you would like to dine with a view, make a reservation at Restaurante Lavrador São Vicente . Without a reservation, you’re not guaranteed a good seat. For vegetarians, they only have appetizers and soups.
- Where to stay in São Vicente: Estalagem do Vale
Day Four: Ponta de Sao Lourenco Walk / Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco
If you like bizarre things, head to Santana in the morning, where there is a rather run-down “amusement” park. Along the way, there are again many wonderful views and you can have lunch in Santana.
Those of you who don’t need a bizarro can go straight for the shorter 3-4 hour hike Ponta de Sao Lourenco Walk / Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco. It’s definitely worth it, even if you’re not really into walking.
We started from the upper, more distant car park, where the route is a bit more challenging, but you have better views. You walk along the cliffs to the oasis where the Sardine House cafe & snacks are. From the cafe you can use the boat to take you back to the car park.
- Where to stay: Portobay Serra Golf, make dinner reservations early or you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Day 5: Levada do Caldeirão Verde (can be interchanged with Day 6)
If you have not been to Madeira for a Levada, it is as if you have not been, they say. I visited at least one on every visit. What is Levada? Levada refers to the irrigation canals in Madeira bringing water from areas rich in groundwater to agricultural areas, especially in the south of the island, nowadays mostly walkways in the countryside.
They all seem similar, but we chose one that goes through tunnels, the Levada do Caldeirão Verde, which is 12 km long and takes about 3-4 hours.
There is also a café at the beginning of the Levada where you can have a coffee or something good before starting your simple hike. Or reward yourself with coffee when you return to the car park.
This Levada is extremely popular, and it’s very simple, so don’t count on being alone.
Then you have time to relax at the hotel with a pool, take in the sights you may have missed due to the weather, or explore other towns.
- What to visit on the way: Miradouro to Guindaste
- Where to stay: You can stay again at Portopay Serra Golf, or at Machico
Day Six: Whale and Dolphin Watching
If you’re heading to Madeira at a time when whales and dolphins are around the shores, you definitely shouldn’t miss a trip to the sea. We set aside a whole day for it, because we bought the trip with insurance that if we didn’t see anything, we could go again for free.
In the afternoon, head to the centre of Funchal, where there’s plenty to explore. We booked accommodation at Hotel Terrace Mar in Funchal, where there is a swimming pool and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day lounging and swimming.
Day Seven: Pico do Arieiro
If you want to know what paradise would look like, you have to go to the third highest peak in Madeira…right at sunrise. Pico do Arieiro and crossing I think Pico Ruivo is the most beautiful trek in the world. If the weather cooperates, the mountain views will alternate with a hike drenched in soft clouds.
You don’t have to go all the way to Ruivo, it’s a fairly strenuous trek of 6-7 hours round trip, climbing 1000 meters of elevation gain.
We were unlucky on my second visit, it rained all day on Pico Areiro, so we are going to Madeira again.
- Where to stay: Again, we recommend Hotel Terrrace Mar, where we liked it very much. Book without breakfast if you plan to go to Pico do Ariero for sunrise.
Day 8: Funchal
Depending on when you leave, we had an afternoon departure, so we spent the morning in Funchal. We rode the cable car to the botanical gardens where we walked around.
We also explored the farmers’ markets in the centre of Funchal and took a look at the Forte de Sao Tiago. A common question from travellers is whether Funchal is worth a visit.
It’s a pleasant little town that stretches up the hillside and at least the cable car ride is worth it. However, if I was short on days, I would keep Funchal more as a backup plan if the weather was bad in the mountains.
Fishing Madeira – everything you need to know
A dream fishing experience awaits you on the island of Madeira. We don’t fish, but from what we’ve learned from Jaromir Knorr fly-fishing in Madeira is a unique opportunity for every fishing enthusiast.
It seems that one of the challenges of fishing in Madeira is to adapt to the specific conditions of the island. When trying to fly fish offshore, it can be difficult to rent a boat as local boat owners are more focused on “Big Game Fishing” or whale and dolphin watching.
Sea fishing can also be challenging in terms of technique. There tend to be bigger waves and stronger sea currents, so choosing the right baits and techniques is essential.
Fly fishing in the backcountry, especially on streams and natural reservoirs, is a different kind of experience. Trout fishing is less common in Madeira, which means that permits are generally cheap. Here you can catch fish of various sizes, including pieces up to 40 cm.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Is there a mosquito problem in Madeira?
Madeira is known for its subtropical climate and abundance of vegetation, which can attract insects including mosquitoes. However, they are not generally considered a big deal, especially compared to many other travel destinations. Still, it is always a good idea to protect yourself with repellents, especially in the rainy season.
What is the weather like in Madeira in summer?
Madeira in summer has similar temperatures to the rest of the year. Average temperatures range from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for exploring the island. The sea is also warm enough for swimming. It is also the period with the lowest probability of rain.
Is Madeira enough for a week?
Yes, you can visit the best of Madeira in a week
What are the best experiences in Madeira?
Although you can swim with dolphins and ride the ocean, the most beautiful thing here is the local nature. Beautiful mountains, flowers and breathtaking coastline.
What are the fishing opportunities in Madeira?
Madeira is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. You can take part in deep sea fishing and try to catch tuna, swordfish or marlin. It is also possible to practice inshore fishing, where you can catch, for example, barracuda or hake. For those who prefer freshwater fishing, it is possible to take advantage of the many rivers and streams on the island.