Nestled in the Atlantic Ocean lies Madeira, the Portuguese island that offers a perfect escape for those seeking natural beauty, relaxation, and adventure. This stunning island has a subtropical climate, lush greenery, rugged coastlines, and evergreen mountains, making it a dream destination for travellers from all over the world.
Are you unsure about what things to do in Madeira? Whether you are a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, Madeira has something to offer for everyone. We will take you now on a journey to explore the 10 must-see gems of this island, including its stunning landscapes, unique culture, and mouth-watering cuisine. So pack your bags and get ready to experience the magic of Madeira! Are you in?
1. The natural pools
Even though Madeira isn’t huge with its 714 km2, there are incredibly lot of amazing things to do. One of our favourites are definitely the natural pools. And the best thing is that since it’s nice, warm weather all year round, you can always take advantage of them. Since the water comes from the Atlantic Ocean it will be a bit colder during winter times but hey, the experience will be amazing either way, don’t you think?
So dare to take a dip in the fresh water and let us introduce you to our favourite spots for a natural bathing experience: The biggest pools are the natural pools of Porto Moniz. The swimming area is 3800 m2 big and the sun lounging area is 3210 m2. It offers everything you could need on a long, sunny day since it has a kids’ pool and playground, a bar, parking possibilities, and is also accessible for people with disabilities.
The natural Pool of Doca do Cavacas is a much smaller place, but it stands out because of its beautiful view. Located between Lido and Formosa Beach you will have a view over the highest cape in Europe (Cabo Girão) and also over Formosa Beach. It is breathtaking every time, especially during a colourful sundown.
2. Porto Santo beach & water sports activities
One of the things to do in Madeira that you shouldn’t miss is water sports at Porto Santo Beach! The beach, which is 11km long, is known for its crystal-clear waters and fine golden sand. Porto Santo Beach is perfect for you when you want to experience a relaxing vacation at the beach but need some adventure once in a while as well.
Water sports are an integral part of the Porto Santo Beach experience. You can participate in a wide range of activities, from windsurfing and parasailing to jet skiing and paddle-boarding. Windsurfing is a popular water sport at Porto Santo Beach. With the help of strong winds and waves, it is a thrilling experience for everyone who needs some action. The beach has several schools that offer windsurfing courses for beginners and advanced surfers as well.
If you are also fascinated by the mysterious underwater world, you should go for some diving, which allows you to explore the depths of the ocean and observe the fascinating creatures that inhabit it.
Whales and dolphins are among the most popular marine animals to watch during a diving trip in Madeira. These intelligent and playful creatures are known to swim close to divers, providing a unique and unforgettable experience.
3. Laurissilva forest
If you’re looking for things to do in Madeira in nature, visiting the Laurissilva forest is a must. It is a remarkable and unique ecosystem that has attracted visitors and scientists for centuries. This forest, which covers almost 20% of the island, is a relic of a bygone era when the climate of Madeira was much wetter and cooler than it is today. Now it is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its beauty and ecological importance continue to inspire awe and admiration for everyone who visits it – it’s truly one of the best adventure activities in Madeira.
As a visitor to the Laurissilva forest, you can explore its many trails and paths, which wind through its dense foliage and lead to stunning viewpoints and waterfalls. Along the way, you may encounter some of the forest’s inhabitants, including rare birds such as the Madeiran firecrest and the laurel pigeon, as well as reptiles and amphibians that are found nowhere else on Earth. Amazing, isn’t it?
4. Fajã dos Padres
Fajã dos Padres translates to “the priests’ farmstead,” is a breathtakingly beautiful spot with a rich history and a unique blend of natural beauty and man-made marvels. Back in the days, sugar cane and other crops were cultivated here.
Today, Fajã dos Padres is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its stunning natural beauty. The only way to reach the fajã is by cable car, which descends 300 meters from the cliff top down to the valley floor. For this ride alone it is worth a visit!
Once you reach the fajã, you’ll be greeted by a lush oasis of greenery, dotted with palm trees and fruit orchards. There are mango and banana plantations through which you can have a walk.
Another highlight of Fajã dos Padres is the restaurant that serves delicious traditional Madeiran cuisine. The restaurant is located in a former sugar cane mill, and its terrace offers stunning views of the fajã and the small pebble beach. Be sure to try the local specialty, espada com banana (swordfish with banana), which is a surprisingly delicious combination!
5. Pico do Areeiro
One of the most popular hikes on Madeira is the trek to Pico do Areeiro, the third-highest peak on the island, standing at an elevation of 1,818 meters (5,965 feet) above sea level. The hike is not for the faint-hearted, but the effort is worth it for the stunning panoramic views of the island that await at the summit. Also there are some rest areas along the way for hikers to catch their breath and take in the stunning scenery.
Once you reach the summit, the views are nothing short of breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, as well as the capital city of Funchal and the rugged coastline of Madeira.
You are looking for more things to do on Madeira and can’t get enough of stunning views? We got you! From high cliffs to picturesque terraces, from city to beach views, there are plenty of places on the island where you can soak up the island’s beauty. Let us introduce you to our three favourite viewpoints in Madeira:
Cabo Girão is located on the southern coast of Madeira, it is one of Europe’s highest sea cliffs, standing at a height of 580 meters. You can walk along the glass-floored skywalk, which extends over the cliff edge, providing incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Balcões viewpoint is one of the most popular and stunning viewpoints on the island. It is located in the Ribeiro Frio area of Madeira’s Santana municipality, about a 45-minute drive from the island’s capital city of Funchal. To reach the viewpoint, you have to take a short hike through a small forest. The trail is well-marked and not too difficult, making it accessible to also inexperienced hikers.
Ponta de São Lourenço is a stunning peninsula on the eastern tip of Madeira, a natural reserve that offers dramatic views of volcanic cliffs, turquoise waters, and wild flora. You can take a hike along the rocky coastline and stop at various viewpoints along the way. A breathtaking experience!
7. Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Garden
The Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Garden is a 70,000-square-meter botanical garden that was opened to the public in 1991. The garden was built around the ruins of a historic hotel that dates back to the 19th century and was designed to showcase a vast collection of tropical plants and trees from all over the world.
One of the most remarkable features of the Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Garden is its vast collection of exotic plants and trees. In the garden, you can see an array of stunning specimens from all over the world, including rare orchids, cacti, bromeliads, and a lot of colourful flowers.
One aspect of Madeiran culture that stands out is its traditional crafts and embroidery. Madeiran embroidery is known for its intricate designs and exquisite craftsmanship, making it a popular souvenir for tourists and collectors alike.
The art of embroidery has a long history on the island, dating back to the 19th century. It was first introduced to Madeira by wealthy British tourists who brought it with them as a way to pass the time during their vacations. The local women soon learned the art and adapted it to their own style, creating unique patterns and designs that reflected their island’s flora and fauna. And still today, new styles and patterns are found.
9. Madeiras Cuisine & Wine Festival
Are you a big seafood fan? Then Madeira is your spot! Since Madeira’s cuisine is heavily influenced by its location, seafood is playing a prominent role in many dishes and it reflects the symbiotic relationship the island has with the Atlantic. The cuisine in Madeira is an exciting fusion of the richest Mediterranean flavours that is sure to satisfy any food lover’s appetite. One of the most popular dishes includes Espetada, a skewer of grilled beef. Another local favourite is the “Bolo do Caco,” a type of bread baked on a hot stone, served with garlic butter or olive oil. So good!
If you are looking for things to do in Madeira and you can not say no to a good glass of wine then, one must-visit event is the phenomenal wine festival held in the first two weeks of September.The island is famous for its unique Madeira wine, a fortified wine that is aged in oak barrels for years, resulting in a rich and complex flavour. Madeira wine is also used in several dishes, including the famous Madeira sauce, which is typically served with steak or grilled fish. It is also a popular dessert wine, often paired with biscuits, chocolates and exotic fruits from the island.
At the wine festival you can do some exquisite wine-tasting, listen to live music in the vineyards, and celebrate with all the locals at the end of the harvest.
10. Atlantic Festival & The Flower Festival
One of the best ways to experience Madeira’s unique culture is by attending its annual festivals, including the Atlantic Festival and the Flower Festival.
The Atlantic Festival is a spectacular event that takes place every June. It is a month-long celebration of Madeira’s connection to the sea, with a series of events that includes fireworks displays, live music performances, street parties, and a grand parade. The festival is held in Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, and attracts visitors from all over the world. The highlight of the Atlantic Festival is the International Fireworks Competition, where countries from around the world compete to create the most impressive display of fireworks. You definitely want to be a part of this big celebration!
The Flower Festival is another popular event in Madeira, held in April. It is a celebration of spring and the island’s incredible flora, which is known for its variety and beauty. The festival is a colourful happening, with parades, concerts, and exhibitions showcasing the island’s flowers and plants. The main event is the Flower Parade, which features floats with flowers and dancers in bright floral costumes.
Both festivals are a great opportunity to experience Madeira’s unique culture and hospitality. They offer a chance to interact with locals, enjoy traditional cuisine, and witness some of the island’s most spectacular sights.
As you know now, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Madeira, the whole year round. The island is only waiting for you to be explored. Pack your bags and get ready!