When you’re in Madeira, there’s so much natural beauty to see & experience, and you can do so by driving around this verdant Portuguese island, hiking its coastal & mountain trails, visiting its many waterfalls and swimming in natural lava pools. There are beaches, Laurel forests & levadas to see, too. Here are the top 10 things to do in Madeira.
1. Take in the views of Cape Girão
One of the most popular attractions on the island of Madeira is Cabo Girão or Cape Girão. It promises some spectacular views! From the lookout on the cape, you can see the capital city, Funchal, the settlement of Câmara de Lobos, some farmland at the foot of the cape and views of the Atlantic Ocean. Another attraction here is a skywalk — a bridge made of glass that allows you to look down into the rocky depths.
Located on the southern coast of the island, Cabo Girão is said to be the highest seacliff in Europe and the second highest in the world. It’s just west of Funchal and an easy 20-minute drive from the capital city. While you’re here, you also go down to the foot of the promontory and spend some time on the beautiful beach of Fajas do Cabo Girão.
2. Drive through Cacata dos Anjos
Another things to do in Madeira that’s not to be missed is what locals & tourists like to call the natural carwash of the island. Cacata dos Anjos is a waterfall that drops off a high cliff and right onto a road, such that you can drive through it, or stop, get out of your car and take pictures of.
This ‘Waterfall of Angels’ is also on the southern coast, and is situated just outside the settlement of Anjos. It’s just a little over 20 minutes’ drive from Cabo Girão. The water falls onto the coastal road ER 101 and then goes on to flow into the ocean.
3. Go Sightseeing in Funchal
Funchal, the capital city built on the green mountainsides of Madeira is a sight to see! There’s a lot to see & do in this town from strolling through its mosaic walkways to taking a look at the architecture, visiting its churches & enjoying its Botanical Garden.
Other must-dos include going on a cable car ride and visiting Monte Palace to see its tropical gardens, birds & sculptures. Make sure to also see its Mineral Museums and the Azulejos in the premises.
Another unique thing to do in the area is to go on a toboggan ride. You can get onto the wicker baskets at the Church of Our Lady and have men in uniform hats & clothes transport you down the hill to Livramento.
4. Relax in Natural Swimming Pools
Yet another thing to do in Madeira that’sMadeira Travel Guide on most itineraries are some pools lodged in some volcanic rocks up in the northeastern part of the island. Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools are some of the more popular ones on the island.
These pools get filled with seawater during high tide. The depth of these pools, however, differs. So you can swim here or just soak in seawater in the shallower parts. As you relax in these saltwater lava pools you can catch views of the ocean & the cliffs on that part of the island.
These pools in the municipality of Porto Muniz come with other amenities like parking, changing rooms & lockers where you can store your belongings as you lounge in the seawater.
5. Do the Ponta de São Lourenço hike
Of the many scenic trails that Madeira Best Restaurants in Madeirahas, one of the most-hiked ones is that on Ponta de São Lourenço in the town of Caniçal, on the eastern end of the island. The trail runs through a rugged peninsula often referred to as the tail of Madeira.
The trail here is a well-defined out-and-back one with some ups & downs, and some steep steps through basalt & limestone landscapes. It also comes with views of the Atlantic and some fauna & flora typical to the area. There’s even a cafe at the end of the trail if you’d like to pick up some refreshments before you hike back.
6. Hike to Pico do Arieiro & Pico Ruivo
If you’d like to venture into the interior parts of the island, a hike to do is the one to Pico do Arieiro. Situated near Santana and rising to a height of 1818m, it’s among the highest peaks on the island.
This trail is a challenging one but it’s sure to be a memorable one with the views it offers. On a clear day, you might be able to even see the neighboring island of Porto Santo. On other days there might be a cloud inversion and that’s a sight to see as well.
Pico do Arieiro is also a much-loved sunrise point and one of the more popular things to do in Madeira. From here you can even hike onto Pico Ruivo, which is a taller peak. It might be a bit of a steep hike but worth it. If you’d like to take an easier route to Pico Ruivo, you could take the trail from Achada do Teixeira.
7. Visit Seixal Beach
Madeira is home to several beaches most of them rocky ones, owing to the rugged nature of the area. Among the most visited beaches on the island is Seixal Beach, and one of the things that sets this beach apart is that there’s sand here!
That’s not all; Seixal Beach’s sand is black. Also called Praia do Porto do Seixal, this black sand beach lies on the northern coast of Madeira and is a good sunrise spot as well. It’s surrounded by mountains & greenery, and there are some waterfalls & natural pools nearby.
8. Walk up to 25 Fontes
To further take in the natural beauty of Madeira, go on a waterfall hike. One of the best and most popular to do in Madeira has to be the 25 Fontes hike.
In the forests of Rabaçal on the western part of the island, you can follow the 25 Fontes Levada to the 25 Fontes. As part of the irrigation system that has been in place on the island for a long time now, streams were manually channeled from the mountains to the lower levels via Levadas to provide farms with the water they needed for crops.
Walk by the 25 Fontes Levada and you’ll be led to the 25 fountains or the group of smaller waterfalls that fall over tall cliffs and into a pool in this forested area. There are two trails that lead to 25 Fontes. On the way, you’ll also see Risco Fall, which is the tallest waterfall on the island.
9. Stroll through the Fanal Forest
As far as the forests are concerned, there’s another forest you don’t want to miss while you’re in Madeira — Fanal Forest. Located within the Madeira Natural Park, Fanal Forest is known for its Laurel trees (some of them as old as 500 years). It’s also known for the greenery in there & the mist that almost always blankets the area.
It’s a beautiful & photogenic place. However, there’s more to Fanal Forest than just its heavenly atmosphere. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site as it protects the very few laurel forests that remain in Europe.
There are 2 trails that can be taken to hike into the area: Verada do Fanal & the Cedar Levada Fanal.
10. Photograph the traditional homes
Before you leave the island make sure to go see where the early inhabitants of the island lived. It’s such an interesting thing to do in Madeira!
In Santana there are some public homes that visitors are allowed to go see and depending on when you’re there, you might even be able to look inside these triangular houses.