Itinerary for a Road Trip Along the Most Beautiful Places in Madeira

Creating an itinerary for a round trip in Madeira can be quite challenging. The Portuguese flower island is home to numerous unique places and beautiful hiking routes that are scattered across the island. It can be a puzzle to organize all of this into a logical route while also finding nice hotels in the right locations. Therefore, we have planned an itinerary for Madeira that you can follow as is or customize according to your preferences. With this 10-day itinerary for a Madeira round trip, you will visit the most beautiful places and stay at exceptional accommodations along the way!

Note: We do not sell tours, but we provide tips for independently arranging a Madeira round trip. We share tips for an itinerary and enjoyable planning that you can use. You will book the rental car, flights, and hotels yourself. We also provide all the necessary tips for that. This way, you have all the freedom and save a lot of money as well.

Transportation for this Madeira itinerary

If you ask us, renting a car is definitely the way to go in Madeira. You can also explore the island through day tours, but they often allow limited time at attractions and restrict your freedom to go wherever you want. For our itinerary, a rental car is essential because public transportation on the island is quite limited. Curious about driving on Madeira? Read our tips for renting a car and driving in Madeira.

Choosing between a round trip or a fixed home base

Depending on your preferred travel style, you have different ways to explore Madeira. You can stay in the capital city of Funchal for the entire vacation and explore different parts of the island from there, or you can embark on a round trip where you change accommodations a few times. Both the round trip and the fixed home base have their advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll outline below.

The differences between a round trip and a fixed home base

The best way to travel depends on your preferences. In this article, we describe the itinerary for a round trip in Madeira. If you choose a fixed home base, you can use our article on the 15 most enjoyable things to do in Madeira and decide each day what you want to do. With the round trip described below, you will cover all these attractions and activities in a logical travel route.

Exploring Madeira with a round trip

  • Enjoyable variation between unique hotels
  • Logical travel route between attractions
  • Less variety of restaurants
  • Requires a bit more adherence to a schedule

Exploring Madeira from Funchal

  • No need to move between hotels
  • Driving to and from visited regions every day
  • Wide selection of restaurants in Funchal
  • Freedom to choose which region to explore each day

Itinerary for a 10-day round trip in Madeira

Below, we have outlined the entire itinerary for the round trip day by day. To keep it organized, we provide concise descriptions of all the attractions. If you want to read more about the places or activities, you can click on the links. To make it even easier, we also recommend centrally located hotels for each night that are convenient for the planned attractions. At the end of this article, we provide detailed descriptions of these hotels so you can learn what makes them special.

Day 1: The start of your round trip in Madeira

Here’s the start of your trip! Take it easy and book a nice hotel on beforehand, to make sure you can chill and relax after your long flight.

Unique accommodation for day 1:

Day 2: Explore the capital city of Funchal

The first full day starts with exploring Funchal, the charming capital city of Madeira. Take the cable car to the higher botanical gardens. These romantic gardens are filled with exotic plants and beautiful artworks. On your way back down, you can take the toboggan ride, a typical means of transportation in Funchal. This sled is operated by two men who often sing Portuguese songs at the top of their lungs as you glide downhill on the asphalt at full speed. A visit to the Mercados dos Lavradores fresh market is also a must, and you can end the day on a high note with a refreshing Poncha. This is a typical Madeiran drink made with passion fruit, sugarcane brandy, honey, lemon, and ice. It’s a delightful and relaxing start to your round trip in Madeira!

Attractions on day 2:

Unique accommodation for day 2:

Day 3: Conquer the highest peaks of Madeira

After a day in Funchal, it’s time for the most impressive hike in Madeira. The PR1 trail starts at Pico do Ariero, where early birds can enjoy a spectacular sunrise, often above the clouds. From here, you’ll walk along the ridges of Madeira to the highest mountain, Pico Ruivo. Along the way, you’ll be treated to the most breathtaking views. Due to the changes in elevation, it’s a challenging workout, but you can relax by the pool for the rest of the day. Before starting the hike, make sure to read our tips for the PR1 (see link below) as there are several things you should know. It can be helpful to arrange transportation, even if you have a rental car, as the end of the hike is in a different location than the starting point. With a transfer, you don’t have to walk all the way back. So, inform yourself well in advance to fully enjoy the most beautiful hike in Madeira. If this hike seems too strenuous, you can also walk only a portion of it, visiting different viewpoints.

Attractions on day 3:

Unique accommodation for day 3:

Day 4: Highlights of the South

Today, we’ll explore the literal and figurative highlights of the south. Madeira was once nicknamed the Hawaii of Europe, and you’ll see why. The steep cliffs with the azure waters below are reminiscent of the Hawaiian landscapes. The best way to experience this is by standing on the 580-meter-high (1902-feet-high) Cabo Girão Skywalk. Afterward, it’s just a short drive to Fajã dos Padres. This bay is enclosed by the same high cliffs and can only be reached by a thrilling cable car ride. Once you’re down there, you can stroll through a green oasis. The gardens are filled with vegetables and fruit trees. It’s a lovely place to have lunch and take a refreshing dip in the blue water. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to do something unique, you can also go paragliding in the south. We found it to be an amazing activity and something you shouldn’t miss in Madeira. Lastly, it’s also worth driving to the Cascata dos Anjos waterfall. This waterfall comes down onto the road, allowing you to drive through it with your car.

Highlights on Day 4:

Unique accommodations on Day 4:

Day 5: Viewpoints and Waterfalls

This day begins with a drive along Madeira’s most beautiful roads. You’ll leave the south and head into the mountains towards the rugged interior. Soon, you’ll pass by Miradouro Lombo do Mouro viewpoint, where you’ll have a view of the mountains and the winding road you just traveled on. A few miles further, you’ll find another viewpoint called Bica de Cana, from where you’ll have a view of Pico Arierio, which you hiked on Day 2 (1,810 meters / 1.12 miles).

After a day without hikes, it’s time for another remarkable walk today. Levada hikes are characteristic of Madeira. A levada is an irrigation channel, and there are more than 3,000 kilometers (1864 miles) of levadas on Madeira. Some of them were built as early as the sixteenth century. Levadas meander along the rugged mountain slopes, carrying rainwater from one side of the island to the other, as it rains much more frequently in the north than in the south. These levadas form beautiful hiking trails through the mountains. The PR6 25 Fontes & Risco waterfall is a popular levada hike that features multiple waterfalls along the way. Start your day early to arrive here on time and beat the crowds. Another tactic could be to do this hike later in the afternoon when many people have already left. After a walk through the jungle, continue driving towards the east of Madeira. Check in at the next hotel and make sure you’re at Miradouro Ponta da Ladeira for the sunset. This is a magical spot to watch the sunset.

Highlights on Day 5:

Unique accommodations on Day 5:

Day 6: The Beautiful Northwest of Madeira

With this travel itinerary, you’ll quickly discover that Madeira is an incredibly diverse island, partly due to its different microclimates. One of these microclimates can be experienced in Fanal Forest, where it’s misty almost all year round. This enchanting primeval forest is one of the last laurel forests in the world. The ancient laurel trees often have peculiar shapes and are covered with up to 20 different species of moss.

After a short walk through Fanal Forest, it’s time to drive towards the northern coast of Madeira. Take a moment to stop at the remarkable rock formation of Ilhéus da Ribeira da Janela and continue your route towards Seixal Beach. This dark volcanic beach is one of the few sandy beaches found in Madeira. Nearby, you can visit the Miradouro do Véu da Noiva viewpoint, where a waterfall cascades directly into the sea. The rest of the day is for relaxation. In this region, you’ll find several natural pools with infinity pools and sea views. These pools are filled with seawater. Piscinas Naturais do Seixal and Porto Monìz Natural Swimming Pools are the most beautiful ones and both worth a visit.

Highlights on Day 6:

Unique accommodations on Day 6:

Day 7: Explore the Jungle of Madeira

We continue the road trip along coastal roads from the north towards the west. Make a stop along the way at the traditional palheiros in Santana. It might be a bit touristy, but these cute little houses give a good glimpse into the way the locals used to live. The next stop on the itinerary is another viewpoint. This time, it’s not from a high mountain but right by the sea. Miradouro do Guindaste is the perfect spot for a picnic. Grab some delicious treats from the supermarket along the way and enjoy the view over the ocean. Afterward, embark on one of the most beautiful levada walks in Madeira. The PR9 Levada do Caldeirão Verde takes you deep into the jungle, leading to a 100-meter-high (328-feet-high) waterfall. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were in South America. Tropical plants grow everywhere, and you’ll encounter several tunnels along the way, so don’t forget to bring a flashlight. It’s also time to change accommodations on this day, so after the hike, check-in at the next hotel. We have two exceptional hotel recommendations for this region, which you can read more about below!

Highlights of Day 7:

Unique accommodations for Day 7:

Day 8: Hiking Along High Cliffs

As we near the end of the journey, we’ll slow down the pace a bit so you can return home relaxed after your tour. Start the day at the Vereda dos Balcões viewpoint and don’t forget to bring some unsalted peanuts and crush them a bit. Birds will come and eat from your hand here. If you feel like going for another hike, the Boca do Risco hike is highly recommended. It’s a fantastic coastal trail with spectacular views once again. The trail is often peaceful, making it a perfect alternative to the more popular hiking routes.

Highlights on Day 8:

Unique accommodations on Day 8:

Day 9: The Wild Peninsula of Madeira

This Madeira travel itinerary is almost coming to an end, but not before we explore the far eastern part of the island. Here lies the 6-kilometer-long (3.7-mile-long) peninsula of Ponta de São Lourenço. Long ago, there were multiple volcanoes here, but now only a strip of land remains. This tail-end of Madeira features a landscape that you won’t find anywhere else on the island. At first glance, it may seem like not much grows here, but there are actually 138 different plant species, 31 of which are unique to Madeira. Before embarking on a beautiful hike, it’s worth driving to the Ponta do Rosto viewpoint. Here, you’ll be treated to a view of the rocky peninsula. You’ve almost completed the entire drive and can enjoy dinner in Funchal on the last evening of the tour. Funchal is only a half-hour drive from here.

Highlights on Day 9:

Unique accommodations on Day 9:

Day 10: End of your Madeira Tour

Your Madeira tour comes to an end. You have explored the entire island. If you have done everything we recommend, you have completed 5 diverse hikes, visited 8 impressive viewpoints, driven under a waterfall, swam in natural lava pools, and stayed at some of the most beautiful addresses in the Hawaii of Europe.

The Best Accommodations on this Travel Itinerary

Below, we recommend our favorite places to stay that perfectly align with this travel itinerary for Madeira. A great hotel can make your trip even more special. There is a wide range of hotels on Madeira, but due to its rapid popularity as a holiday destination, it’s necessary to book your accommodations well in advance. This is especially true if you want to stay at one of the small-scale hotels we recommend. We suggest one luxury option and one more affordable option for each region.

Recommended hotels for Day 1, 2 & 3

The Tree House Hotel is the most charming hotel in Funchal. The staff welcomes you with great hospitality, making you feel at home right away. There is an excellent restaurant with fantastic views over Funchal, as well as a lovely rooftop bar with a refreshing swimming pool. It’s ideal because the beaches in Funchal are not the best. When you step out of the hotel, you’re right in the heart of the lively city center. Unfortunately, the affordable rooms tend to book up quickly, so if you’re on a tighter budget, the Guesthouse Vila Lusitania is a great alternative. It’s located a bit further up the hill, offering a beautiful view of the city and the sea. You can choose between a comfortable double room or a fully-equipped studio. Once again, the highlight here is the swimming pool. Please note that this guesthouse is about 2.5 km away from the city center, but if you have your own car, it’s not a problem at all.

Recommended hotels for Day 3 & 4

For the next two nights, you can stay at the unique Dazkarizeh73. This hotel is decorated in Balinese style with vibrant colors, palm trees, and beautiful flowers. From the swimming pool or the jacuzzi, you can enjoy the sunset, and a delicious breakfast is served every morning. This hotel brings together the best of Madeira and Bali, along with the exceptional hospitality that comes with it. If these rooms exceed your budget, you can book a room at Dazk Golden Estate. It’s the same hotel, but they offer more affordable rooms through this link. You can still enjoy the lovely swimming pool and other facilities, but the rooms are simpler.

Recommended hotels for Day 5 & 6

Madeira Sunset Cottage is situated in a beautiful location in the west of Madeira. Perched high on a mountain, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean from the infinity pool. The sunset views from here are particularly spectacular. You’ll stay in a spacious wooden chalet equipped with all the luxuries. A delicious breakfast is included in the price. This is a perfect hotel for a relaxing stay. For those on a smaller budget, the charming Casa Das Videiras is highly recommended. Located within walking distance of Seixal Beach and the natural pools, this beautiful 18th-century house offers comfortable rooms and a serene atmosphere.

Recommended hotels for Day 7, 8 & 9

Quinta da Moscadinha is a charming B&B with character, beautiful rooms, and a lovely green garden. They also have various animals on-site, including chickens, dogs, sheep, and goats. The owners will make you feel right at home and serve a delicious breakfast in the morning, including fresh eggs from their own chickens. Another unique accommodation option is Valle Paraizo. Here, you’ll have your own cottage nestled in a beautiful garden. Light up the fireplace in the evening and enjoy freshly baked bread delivered by the owner in the morning. There are only two cottages available, so early booking is recommended.

Day 10

Enjoy a good night’s sleep in your own bed! ;)